Sunday, January 27, 2019

Writing a Page of Nismo Catalogue?

No, I haven’t engineered a new engine, but it’s still a cool little story that I thought would be worth sharing, but first let’s make a step back to my several visits to Omori Factory over the past 12 months. As enjoyable of an experience, resto-modding a car can reveal a bit of an excruciating one if you have OCD. Not all the parts need to be swapped for brand new ones and in my personal experience, as I’ve been documenting the build of my own BNR34, there have been plenty of occasions where replacing wasn’t deemed necessary, nor made financial sense, if you can live with such a choice. Let me explain.

Think about polishing your favorite pair of shoes: they clean up very well, you take care of a couple of scratches here and there eventually ending up with a great looking pair - all is well in the world. Now you move on and proceed to put them back in the closet and in doing so, place them besides your latest, yet to be worn pair. All of the sudden those small marks that you were able to almost completely buff out, those little wrinkles that used leather naturally produces over time, that minor scuff on the left toe, they all pop up so much more! If you have even just a bit of OCD or had to endure the pain of dealing with a dent on your car, you know the feeling.

That is exactly what happens when you start re-fitting used parts in a car that has been restored from the frame up: the patina, the little marks, the slight yellowing, all those things that you didn’t notice before because they blended together in their used state, they now clash agains fresh, generously coated paint, shining carbon fiber, new plastic and anodized brackets. Replacing these items with new ones might appear to be the obvious remedy, but that’s not always the case. Certain parts, due to their location or function, are simply subject to wear and tear more than others and even a brand new unit will be indistinguibile from the one it just replaced after a few thousands kms. 

This is where I got creative and, thanks to the support of the staff, was able to formulate some “mini-refresh menus” using special powder coating, clear coating and anodizing treatments to make parts better than OEM. One of these ideas seems to have been noticed and well received from the management, so much so that, there is a 80-90% chance of it ending up on the Factory Line menu and offered as an option to regular customers. Now, bragging on the Internet is not the classiest thing to do on a Sunday evening, but when else will I ever have the chance to say that one of my ideas served as a pilot for Nismo to release a new refresh service? Jokes aside, it is a relatively simple option and nothing earth-shattering, but I find it really cool that this is actually happening!

I can’t reveal more at this stage, but keep your eyes on the Omori Factory website for an announcement in the coming months.

Until next time.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tokyo Auto Salon 2019

Crazy to think about it, but we are already halfway through January, which according to the Japanese car event calendar means one thing: Tokyo Auto Salon.

This year I woke up nice and early on a mission to go through the whole exhibition in less than 3 hours. If you are a fan of aftermarket parts and highly questionable bodykits TAS is as close as it gets to heaven on Earth, but for me is more about spotting the really interesting stuff while dodging hordes of middle aged men going crazy with their cameras over Japanese models.

Spreading across that behemoth of a convention center that is the Makuhari Messe, navigating TAS (and attempting to take photos) can be a lengthy affair, so I directed myself straight towards the booths that I really wanted to visit.

Starting from HKS: their restored BCNR33 democar was definitely one of the highlights of the stand and one of the very few Skyline GT-R present at the show.

Seems that, not only the car was brought back to its former glory, but also updated with new engine components.

I don’t play video games as much anymore, but it’s incredible to see how Gran Turismo has evolved over the years: from a simple game on the original PlayStation to a global partnership with the FIA and car manufacturers. Their virtual driving academy has even allowed young players to have a go at professional racing and some of them, like Jann Mardenborough, now compete full time for Nissan in the top class in Super GT - amazing.

Speaking of Nissan, their stand was huge and hosted a few interesting creations, like this curious Juke that could be fit for a Star Wars movie.

One of the crowd favorite was the GT-R Naomi Osaka Edition: finished in an unique Midnight Opal color and limited to 50 units for the Japan market only.

Definitely an interesting color option, although it needs really strong lighting to shine, otherwise it tends to be a really dark purplish maroon most of the time.

The GT500 machine was also on display, although 2018 has been a disastrous season for Nismo in Super GT. The new drivers and teams lineup for this year are going to be announced in early February and a major reshuffle is expected.

The Top Secret stand was pretty much same as last year, so I didn’t spend much time visiting. Interesting though, every single car on display was for sale and it’s not unusual for them to actually close some deals during the three days of the show.

Finally, I headed towards the huge Toyota booth to have a close look at the Supra. And no, not the new A90 (which was still wearing its camouflage wrap) or the Super GT concept that everybody came to see.

But rather this Supra: the 2002 JGTC winner machine. This, along with three other cars, was on display behind the main area as a tribute to the racing heritage of the new model.

I wrote about this many times, but watching (well, watching photos) of these cars racing back in 2001-2002 was one of the main reasons behind my growing interest for Japan as a kid.

The exaggerated lines combined with some of the coolest liveries ever (little did I know that au is a major mobile phone carrier in Japan) and the unique landscape of the old Fuji Speedway were Japanese GT racing at its very best.

These cars are usually stored at TRD in Yokohama and it’s much harder to run into them compared to the old Skylines that are often on display either at Omori Factory or Nissan Global HQ.

I spent a good 30 minutes drinking in all the details and couldn’t help but think how cooler the new Supra would have been had it retained a bit more of the DNA of its predecessor.

Another TAS is in the books; hope everyone’s 2019 is off to a great start.

Until next time.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year, everyone! End of the year holidays are the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy a less hectic Tokyo, as well as a good moment to look back, reflect and do some planning for the year ahead. 

I started my new year with a nice little surprise in my mailbox as the guys at Omori Factory had care to send me a nengajo (年賀状  - Japanese traditional New Years greeting card, usually delivered on January 1st) and then paid my visit to a local temple early in the morning, as per local tradition. 2019 is the year of the boar in Japan, as you can tell by the little lucky charm that I received at the temple.

2018 has been fantastic and I’m really excited for what 2019 has in store. As I wrote in my last post, building my GT-R has been a great experience that I will treasure forever, but also extremely time consuming (over 3 years in the making) and nerve wrecking at times: I’m looking forward to move onto new projects this year. Some of them I have already decided, some I am still planning, but I’m really motivated to work extra hard and keep enjoying and sharing my passion for cars and the BNR34 on this platform.

Speaking of sharing, it’s now been over two and a half years since I started this blog; I can’t believe that what began as a hobby to relax during weekends and give some order to the photos I take with my phone today has turned into a website visited by thousands of people all over the world every month. A huge thanks to all of you who have stopped by, especially the more loyal readers!

The past few weeks have been just pure relaxation and not much has happened besides a brief visit to Nissan Crossing in Ginza where the Formula E car and the Leaf Nismo RC were on display.

Both these cars did some demo laps at Fuji Speedway during Nismo Festival in December. Hybrid powertrain technology is already a reality today and will surely play a big part in the future of cars and motorsport.

As much as I love my RB26, I am all for innovation and it will be interesting to see how the new GT-R will implement the use of hybrid power.

Thank you for stopping by today and wish you all a fantastic 2019!

Until next time.