Sunday, April 1, 2018

Project CRS Part 1 - Introduction

If you are an early follower of this blog you must have read countless posts about me picking up new parts at Nissan Prince Motorsport Tokyo as well as a good number of visits to Omori Factory. I did mention a few times that I had plans to start working on my car, but, in retrospect, I must admit that I’ve been very vague about it. Well, not anymore: starting from June I’m happy to announce that my GT-R will undergo a year-long rebuild at Omori Factory.

One of the reasons why it took me so long to get started is the nature of the work that will be done to the car. Right from the beginning I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to be done, but since the process entails having the car pretty much torn apart, I had to be sure that I had all my due diligence and preparatives done in advance. Specifically, I wanted to make sure that, once started, I will be able to follow my plan and avoid sudden and unexpected changes of direction due to unforeseen events, like lack of parts availability or just Nismo not being able to execute the work due to their reasons.

Acquiring parts might seem a fairly straight forward affair, but when thinking a ground-up rebuild it gets slightly more complicated and requires an understanding of the parts production system itself as well as the different channels. Basically, four different type of parts will go into the car: genuine OEM Nissan parts, standard, mass produced Nismo parts, bespoke and made to order parts from Omori Factory and parts that Nissan/Nismo outsource to third parties. So, quite a few planets had to align before I felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger; being OCD surely didn’t make the process any smoother.

As much as possible, I will document and share the journey on this blog; I will include most of the details, but will also leave some to be discovered only by those who will see the car in real life. I think things like this add to the allure of one car and remind me of my younger days, when I spent hours surfing the web on a 56K modem connection trying to grasp details of low resolution photos from Japanese bloggers. As the build progresses I will share the details of the work with dedicated posts, but what I can say so far is that the frame, aero, chassis, mechanics and interior will all be worked on. The car will also be painted in a non standard color.

So, in this first introductory post I thought I’d share the origins and the thought process behind the project, starting from the big question: why modifying a rare and sought after car that survived 16 years unmolested in its almost pure stock form?
The reason is simple: because it’s my car! Jokes aside, I really feel that the GT-R was meant to be tuned from its very beginning: Nissan mass produced a car that was already very capable in its stock form, but clearly just scratched the surface of its potential. As we all know the engine block is capable of handling way more than the standard output, and the dynamic capabilities of the chassis can be immensely transformed once freed from the restrictions imposed by its factory components. 

Nissan itself was also quite funny in the way it handled this aspect. On one side, launched on the market a car with a (falsely) declared power output of 280ps, in accordance with the gentleman’s agreement between Japanese carmakers of that time. On the other hand they went ahead with Nismo and released in parallel an endless list of parts, engines and options to turn that same machine into a completely different beast.

Hiroshi Tamura himself sold his own personal BNR34 because it reminded him of the stressful times spent during the development of the model: too much had to be sacrificed and the final product was a bit too tamed compared to what he had originally in mind. Eventually Nismo itself couldn’t resist and, following the tradition started with the BNR32 and the 400R, released the Z-tune, showing what the BNR34 was supposed to be like without the restriction that mass production entails. 

What about the value? Well, my car is a mid-mileage, very well cared for model, yet far from being one of those under-10,000km speculation opportunities that are coming out of the woods these days. Keeping it stock to maintain value wouldn’t add much premium compared to those garage queens. Not that I have any plan to ever sell it, but, if anything, I’m pretty sure that an in depth and well documented restoration carried out at Omori Factory can only increase value, especially thanks to the unique touches that I’m planning. So, no, I’m not worried at all about this aspect.

Why now? I thought a lot about this and came to the conclusion that timing couldn’t be better. We have all seen prices of Nismo parts rising, even doubling in some cases, not to mention an endless list of parts just becoming discontinued. Yes, the project will be expensive, but looking at the prices trend I can’t even begin to imagine what this would cost in, say, 5 years from now. Probably double, if not more, which means that I would never be able to justify it. 

Why Omori Factory and not other tuners? Isn’t it overpriced? I guess you could say this about every other maker and brand in the word: you will surely find an aftermarket tuner that can offer sometimes better quality at lower prices. To me it’s just the natural course of action: I spent hours as a kid watching those brief shots inside the old Omori Factory in Shinagawa when the Z-tune was released and I can’t believe that I’m in a position to actually have some of these mechanics build my very own car and, most importantly, be able to be there when it will happen. The restoration alone will require more than 200 parts being replaced: why would I go to have this done in a random shop? It’s a combination of memories, heritage and personal value: sports cars are not supposed to make sense, you posses them for what they mean to you and I’ve been dreaming of having my own BNR34 since I was 16. Omori Factory it is.

That’s it for this first post, I’m excited for what’s to come and I look forward to this journey.

Until next time.

18 comments:

  1. Should be interesting. These kinds of huge projects are always a gamble. I'm contemplating something similar in the near future so I'm looking forward to seeing what your experiences are like.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and please stay tuned! What do you mean by gamble?

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    2. Big projects are always subject to unforeseeable delays, parts sourcing issues, unexpected problems, (~15-18 year old plastic parts breaking... etc) and more. Working with Nismo Omori Factory probably helps as they seem to have a lot of experience at this point but I would just be prepared for it to cost more and take longer than you expect.

      I am curious about the kind of payment structure that Nismo has with these kinds of big jobs. Do they ask for a deposit upfront and you start paying some fraction of the estimate every month or do you have to pay the entire balance in one go?

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    3. Yes, very good points, but I did take precautions (hence the long time before getting started) and acquired all the big ticket parts in advance and put an order on the other ones, so I feel pretty safe. As for delays I’m not too worried at all: they can take all the time they want as I will enjoy documenting the process as much as driving the car itself.

      A 50% down payment is required. This was pretty painful, but the big kid in me keeps telling that it’ll all be worth it ; )

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    4. Fingers crossed it is. I have been following what kinds of tuning parts are out there and a lot of it is not balanced in approach the way Nismo is.

      Do you know if Nismo will deviate from the standard S2/R2? Something I've been exploring the possibility of for a while is adding intake side VVT as both a method of improving engine response and internal EGR for emissions. I would also probably go for GT-SS/GT2859R-9 turbos instead of R1/R34 N1/GT2860R-7s.

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    5. Not sure about future plans for new engines. Maybe S3 and R3 will come in the future?

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    6. The S2/R2 changes were fairly minor tweaks, I believe it boiled down to R35 injectors and a new cam profile? The S2 also got a 0.9mm head gasket which raises compression ratio to 8.7:1 for improved off-boost response but you trade peak power as a general rule.

      Something I noticed on the mostly stock RB26 is that the boost threshold is already somewhere around ~3000 RPM and it doesn't really wake up until ~3500 rpm. I wasn't expecting modern direct injection levels of response but in tight mountain roads it really felt like it was very easy to lug the engine because of the low boost threshold.

      I'm really interested in the HKS GT-SS/Garrett GT2859R-9 turbo setup combined with HKS' VCAM Step 1 system. It seems to produce some really impressive low-down power due to the VCAM and the turbo seems to be well-sized for the 2.6L displacement. HKS has some pretty impressive dyno graphs here: https://www.hks-power.co.jp/en/product_db/turbo/db/17763

      It would be interesting if Nismo could integrate some bespoke touches like this.

      Another thing I've been looking at is water injection, my region basically only has the equivalent of Japanese 95 octane (91 AKI) so anything to help reduce the chances of knock and pick up some fuel efficiency in the process is a good thing in my book.

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    7. So far looks like they don’t have any plan to steer away from the S2 and R2 packages, but who knows in the future.

      Yes, I agree that not much happens before 3,000rpm; in that sense I think that the lack of power is a little less evident if the car is completely stock. Conceptually the RB26 is almost 30 years old and unless you decide to go all out and put 1,000ps in it, it will always feel outdated compared to current standards.

      This leads to the big question: is it worth keep chasing the next tuning step, it wouldn’t it be better to enjoy the car for what it is? This could be worth a post on the blog actually.

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    8. I think the issue you're talking about really goes to the heart of a sort of dichotomy in the second generation GT-R community. There's one side that wants to keep things 100% stock or as close to it as possible, and another side that says it's a tuner car and it's made to be tuned.

      I personally don't think that there should be any particular attachment to an engine design, but I'm an engineer by training with some experience as to how the sausage is made. There is always, always something to be improved in an engine. What is worth improving is a question of time, money, and effort.

      Stuff like VCAM can greatly widen the powerband. Expensive but worth it. Little changes like closed loop boost controllers can help too with the midrange.

      The idea of the Nismo S2/R2 engines is something similar, just more focused on tried and true vs getting more into the weeds.

      My goal is to make something like a personal Singer 911. An idealized Skyline GT-R that never really existed but exists now. Water injection, VCAM, possibly 2.8L stroker, etc... but fully emissions compliant in my country and no extra random electronics/gauges/etc in the interior.

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    9. To be clear, I'm not interested in 1000 PS. I'm after a broad powerband. Being able to have a wide torque band that truly starts at 3000 RPM or less and goes all the way to ~7000 RPM.

      HKS has a neat dyno curve of the GT-SS + VCAM setup which is roughly where I hope to end up, maybe some mild changes to the cams and bottom end to help with response: https://www.hks-power.co.jp/en/product_db/turbo/db/17763

      I think there is some fun in "old school" turbo lag where you can really feel the turbos come on song as you roll on the throttle vs instantly feeling the surge like you do with modern GDI-T engines but pinning the throttle and sitting there with nothing until you hit a surge of torque at 4500 RPM isn't great either.

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    10. No, I get it, but my question is: when do you stop?

      It’s 2018 and companies are still producing aftermarket parts for the 34 to increase performance. With technology advancing you can always make it a bit more responsive, etc. But doesn’t this take away from the identity of the car? It’s always “evolving” and while that concept is cool for race cars I feel it takes a bit away from street models...you end up with a car that is never finished, thus never has its defined identity.

      Make sense?

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    11. I don't think you can always make the RB26 "more responsive". There is a definite point where you hit diminishing returns. There is only so much you can do before you're spending a million yen to chase after maybe 5-10% gains.

      You could figure out direct injection and make some kind of RB26DITT but no one in the aftermarket actually knows how to make such a thing properly. You would have to have a good engineer friend at one of the major OEMs figure this out for you and you would have to pay them for their time on top of the enormous machining costs of making a bespoke cylinder head and piston design for an RB26. Then you would have to run a Motec ECU with direct injection support and find someone capable of actually tuning it. I can't even begin to estimate the costs associated with actually doing this.

      That's just one example but you can apply this fairly broadly. There are definite limits once you start constraining your design parameters.

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  2. Was gonna say noooo!! It's not gonna be stock anymore!! But knowing how you handle and care for your GTR, I know it'll be tasteful, and I'm right! Nismo Omori it is! It'll not loose value, maybe even add up! All parts recommended to be replaced will, even plastic clips right?? :D Man, it'll be just like factory!
    Was also thinking about doing this before, but sad we're not living in Japan, wish we were!

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    1. Thanks for the nice words. I will share all the details in due time, but yes, I will make sure to avoid anything that could detract from the original character of the car. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. this is too exciting ! cant wait to see how much controversy you will create among the blog followers lol. but from following this blog since the start I can rest sure it will be the right way and rest assured when you feel the amount of pride and joy driving this project at the end it will be worth every single yen. All the best and keep us updated !

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    1. Thank you for the nice message! Definitely, exciting times ahead and I look forward to each step of the process. The goal is to enhance the car without taking away from its essence and true spirit. Hopefully also others will appreciate the project and the philosophy behind it!

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  4. Congradulation on your built. One question I have is that for Omori Factory to re-built a R34 GTR body (Rust and chassis parts replacment due to Oxydation and wear and tear) How much would it cost? As they do not mentioned in their website. I've heard that for a base CRS Transformation cost about 17M jpy. And 5M jpy for complete body repair and repaint as per their dark grey CRS Demo car (Originally a Midnight Purple 2 Vspec base with 100k km) ??? Is it fair to say around 5M jpy to say just for complete body repair and respray?

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    1. Hey there, thanks a lot for stopping by and for the message!
      Price may vary depending largely on the condition of the car: they will give you a quotation only after inspecting your car and providing proof that it is legally registered in Japan. Price for the respray is slightly less than what you mentioned, but it doesn’t include any serious body or mechanical repair, so you will need to sit down with them to discuss these options as well.

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