Sunday, April 15, 2018

Project CRS Part 2 - Prologue

The response to the first post of this series, where I announced my plans to rebuild and tune my GT-R, has been overwhelming, with lots of comments both on this platform and the Facebook page. A big thank you to everybody who stopped by and showed support! With almost two months to go before I will leave my car in the hands of the Omori Factory guys, I though I’d share a bit more background and the philosophy behind the project.

If you are an early follower of this blog you might remember that, during my first years in Japan I took a break from my passion for cars as I was busy exploring the country and settling here. Additionally, owning a car in Tokyo is a rather expensive hobby and back then didn’t look like a realistic possibility. Things eventually turned out well and by the time I was toying with the idea of buying a car, I was obviously looking at the newer R35: with ‘08 models going for 5.5M ¥ it just looked like the bargain of the century. This, until I paid my first visit to Omori Factory in 2014.

The freshly restored R34 Clubman Race Spec was sitting in the middle of the impeccably clean workshop area, looking sharper than any other car, including the R35 Nismo. Needless to say it didn’t take me long before I ended up buying my own BNR34.

Now, if you live in Japan and happen to pay attention to the nuances of the local culture, you might have noticed that Japanese people are great at taking care of their possessions. From the old businessman carrying a pristine suitcase that he has cleaned and treated for 20 years, to the car owner who has religiously collected every maintenance receipt, I have always been fascinated by such a level of care. This is a philosophy that I genuinely share and I love the idea of preserving things of sentimental value in great condition. Besides the obvious mechanical benefits, this is one of the main reasons behind my choice for such an in-depth restoration: what if I can bring the car to a new life, in better than new condition, and create something unique that I can treasure for the years to come and eventually pass on to my kids?

The second philosophy at the base of my project draws inspiration from the concept of tetsukuri (手作り) - literally, handcrafted - which truly embodies the attention to detail that Japanese artisans are known for. If you have ever experienced a dinner in a high quality sushi restaurant, then you have probably witnessed first hand one of the maximum expression of this concept. Every time I visit my favorite secret place I am always in awe by how the restaurant looks brand new and spotless, despite having been open for more than 15 years

This is one of the concepts that Nismo has clearly incorporated in designing the Omori Factory showroom, with perfectly clean customer cars rigorously aligned in a spotless environment. Finding a mark of dirt or an oil drop on the shining, epoxy-coated floor is basically impossible, which is rather impressive considering that, after all, you are in a car workshop area.

The second aspect is the attention to the finest details, like Koizumi-san, who presents his customers with old and pregiate chopsticks rests made of kiriko (切子) - Japanese cut glass - that he cares to change according to the season.

The same little details can be found in the best workshop areas, like these toolboxes with carbon fiber handles.

And lastly, the craft itself. Years, decades spent perfecting the same movements over and over again, an endless quest to master something that looks so simple yet is so difficult. 

I have enormous respect for those who dedicate a lifetime to their craft. 

Some of the senior staff at Omori Factory have built over 1,000 RB26 engines throughout their career and Ochiai-san has literally hand built the original CRS by himself. When asked if he had needed a manual to complete the task he smiled and pointed a finger towards his head. Watching him inspect my car was a fantastic experience.

I remember going through some of these thoughts during my last visit at Omori Factory just to eventually run into a very well travelled customer car. A full stock Midnight Purple BCNR33 whose owner, after enjoying it for the past 20 years, decided to send all the way from Kyushu in southern Japan to have completely restored and give it a second life.

I always thought how cool must have been to pick up a brand new BNR34 from a Nissan showroom back in the days, which is also one of the reasons why I chose to buy a stock model in the first place. With the rebuild project and the spec selection not only the car will be completely refreshed from the ground up, but it will also feel like finally picking up my own GT-R instead of somebody else’s used car.

The main specs for the first half-year of work have been decided and the GT-R is now in storage until June, for what it will be its last drive of the year as I won’t have it back until 2019. I will spend the coming months documenting the progress as well as studying ways to further improve the project. The ultimate goal is to create a unique spec that honors the original essence of the car.

Until next time.

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