Thursday, July 23, 2020

Protecting the GT-R: PPF Installation

In my previous post I picked up the GT-R after maintenance at Omori Factory and left it loaded on a flatbed, which I followed en route to Tokyo. After fresh, new and improved clear coat on the front carbon splitter and rear wing flap there was only one course of action that would make sense before driving the car again: paint protection film (or PPF) installation.

The first step was to find a good, reputable shop that had the necessary tools and know-how to properly install the film. After months searching I ended up choosing Active Garage, a PPF specialist shop that takes care of most supercars in east Tokyo. Abe-san, the owner, not only is a PPF fanatic (attending conventions, seminars, etc.), but also extremely knowledgeable about car paint in general and, bonus point of them all, was the person who polished and detailed the R35 GT-R used in the launch event at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show!

Before leaving I arranged a short briefing between Abe-san and the staff at Nismo, for him to learn about the car. That is because, despite the paint being the same Nissan OEM Dark Metal Grey (KAD), all the other materials used are completely different, with a dedicated application process for the carbon parts vs. normal body panels. This is the main reason behind the peculiar look of the CRS demo-car (since many people have speculated whether it’s actually painted in KAD).

Once at the workshop (and after a through check and clean) Abe-san jumped straight to work and began to map the templates by hand. I decided to apply PPF to all the carbon body parts (bonnet, front bumper, fenders, front under-spoiler lip and rear wing flap), headlights, high impact areas such as side skirts, wheel arches covers and inners, and the lower sides of the car. Given how much (or little) I drive the GT-R and the fact that PPF is a temporary (3 years lifespan) application, this was the best cost-performance option for me.

Today PPF has become a quite popular solution to preserve cars and manufacturers happily lend 3D CAD design models to protection film makers so that perfectly fitting templates can be applied. This, unfortunately, is not the case for the older BNR34, so the quality and precision of the application solely depends on the craft of the artisan that has the task at hand. 

During the following week I received regular photo updates from Active Garage; the application process went on smoothly and the protection film was fitted without removing any part (like side winkers or emblems). Whenever you entrust a new shop with your car for the first time it’s always a bit of a gamble, but lots can be guessed by how the workshop is kept, the materials used and overall care and attention to detail that you are given throughout the process. In this sense I had no complaints at all.

Part of the service included re-delivery of the vehicle with the flatbed (which is great as I hate driving through Tokyo traffic), so I paid a visit to the workshop for a final inspection the day before. My first thoughts after seeing the car completely clean were - wow, does it look good! 

The XPEL protection film surely does add extra gloss to the car and, with its self-healing properties, is able to repair minor scratches and damages with the application of just a bit of heat. Tell tale sign of a good PPF application is that you shouldn’t be able to notice that is there in the first place and this is exactly what I experienced. Beside looking in obvious areas where the film had been wrapped in, I would have never noticed the difference, at least at a glance. 

The R-tune bonnet and all the front end are quite intricate and took a lot of time to prepare, but Abe-san and his team did a great job in making sure that they would be protected without using too many smaller pieces of film, as they tend to lift a bit easier than bigger areas that can be wrapped inwards. 

Obviously some of the lines can be seen if you really search for them, but stand even just one or two meters away and it’s literally impossible to see anything! I’m very happy with the result, even though a proper evaluation should be given after a year or so, to assess how the installation is standing the test of time. 

The next day I greeted Abe-san nice and early in front of my apartment when, as a final surprise, he told me that he applied glass coating free of charge to all the PPF - now that is a welcome bonus!

Crazy to think about it, but between maintenance, Golden Week and paint protection film installation it took about 3 months to have the GT-R back, but it was all worth it, especially now that I can drive it without worrying about scratches and stone-chips. I thought it would be a crime not to drive it pretty much right away and so I did and enjoyed a couple of laps around the C1 - I almost forgot how good this car is!

And on the good news side, my new parts which have been in the making for almost a year now, are finally ready to be picked up! Stay tuned.

Until next time.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Back with the Fairlday

These days decent weather is a luxury in Japan, as such I’ve found myself sneaking out for a quick drive to make the most out of these few hours of clear skies we are lucky to get every now and then.

The rain can be quite unpredictable, making proper drives out of Tokyo a true gamble. After all, who wants to drive all the way to Hakone Turnpike just to find damp roads and zero visibility? So, for the most part, I’ve been staying local, enjoying some of my favorite spots.

Hanegi in Setagaya-ku is one of them; I used to live in this area many years ago and one of my best friends still resides here.

It’s a great place to walk around and enjoy some of the local architecture as well as a bit of car spotting. Not to mention visiting the local bakery more times than I should have.

The neighborhood is also not too far from Nismo Performance Center Tokyo in Sakura-shinmachi. All you need to do is drive down the Kannana-dori and take a right at the first intersection with the Tamagawa-dori. 

I recently paid a visit to order some new parts and found out that Yamazaki-san - the tuner advisor who helped me secure lots of the OEM stock for my BNR34 - has moved to a new Nismo dealer closer to his place. So this time the branch chief Nefuji-san helped me out (more on the new parts in a coming post).

Staying local has also allowed me to discover some new areas in the city, like this new gas station on the way to Odaiba: bigger than most, it has a nice dedicated area where you can clean up your car and tidy things up before leaving. 

From there you can easily reach the Rainbow Bridge and I’ve made it a habit to cruise around the wharf and the surrounding industrial area after work.

If you have ever driven a loop on the C1 on your way to Tatsumi, chances are that you have passed above this area as well, but it never occurred to me that it would make for a great spot to take photos or enjoy the sunset from the opposite side of Odaiba.

This specific place is located exactly beneath the supporting tower on the Tokyo side and you can really appreciate the sheer size of the structure and intricate architecture of the bridge. Hard to believe it, but it’s all perfectly hearthquake-proof!

This place has quickly become one of my go-to spots for and evening coffee; it has a decadent, noir feel to it that reminds me of Blade Runner or some Luc Besson’s movies. 

Definitely stop by if you get a chance.

Until next time.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Will the Rain Stop?

You know you’re running out of ideas when you start blogging about the weather. However, like every year and in true Japanese summer fashion, the past month and a half has been nothing but unceasing rain, making it pretty much impossible to plan a proper drive.

But fear not: just a few more days and rainy season will be over. Then we will be off to 6 weeks of intense humidity and heat, followed by typhoon season in September. Ah, you got to love the Land of the Rising Sun.

Since most people likely won’t be able to visit Japan this year I thought you may enjoy some shots of Ginza and Tsukiji in the wet. The first is a great area for car spotting on weekends and the latter hosts some of the best eateries and hidden sushi bars in the city.

However, when the rain does go away for a few moments, we are rewarded with some pretty sunsets, especially here around the bay area.

Driving in the wet is not my cup of tea (the car gets soaked, plus where do you go?), so rain equals lots of killing time at home, which is when my trusty PlayStation 4 and Gran Turismo Sport come handy.

June 30th marked my 13 year anniversary since I first landed in Japan in 2007 and dusting off Gran Turismo for a few laps on the older 90’s machines always make it for a good throwback.

2020 has been a massive rollercoaster of events so far and I must admit that unplugging for a few minutes and look back at simpler times is a great way to relax.

On a serious note, the R33 is really growing on me and I have been itching for one for a while now. I have a few ideas in mind and I think it would make for a great gran touring car. Time for a new project?

Back to regular programming from the next posts with a R34 update, new parts and driving reports. Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.