Sunday, August 9, 2020

CRS Drive & Engine Bay Detailing

As I mentioned in my previous post, between maintenance at Omori Factory and PPF application it took over 3 months to get the GT-R back. Finally time for a long overdue drive! All was well in the world until I realized just how much dust can accumulate in the engine bay after a mere few kilometers of gentle driving. As you can guess this triggered my OCD beyond imaginable levels, but let’s start from the beginning.

First of all - yes, I don’t drive the GT-R as much, but I have always maintained that it’s about the experience rather than the quantity (or the price tag). With the Fairlady on touring and track duty I can enjoy the CRS on the smooth and debris free highways around Tokyo bay. I know it may not sound like a lot, but trust me, driving this thing in its natural habitat turns everything up to eleven. Who knows, I guess my approach would be different if I wasn’t living here.

Some asked if I don’t feel like I missed out on the fun of tuning it step by step, but to me it’s rather the opposite: jumping from a 100% stock R34 to a freshly rebuilt CRS allowed me to appreciate how good these cars really are in their ultimate form. It feels complete and robust in a way the stock car never did: maybe it’s a placebo effect, but all components work perfectly in tune with each other in a way that only a car hand-built by a single individual can feel. Different tuners have different philosophies (and use parts from makers they are affiliated with) and I have always maintained that having too many hands working on one machine can be detrimental to its character, not to mention potential future reliability issues. It’s all about balance.

I’m not going to attempt to write a review, but personally this is the most immersive and engaging driving experience I can ask for. The increased body rigidity makes the GT-R so much more responsive to steering inputs, while the BNR34-specific Öhlins cope beautifully with the smooth conditions of Tokyo asphalt. The car feels so planted yet much more nimble compared to its stock version and the R35 brakes deliver that peace of mind that OEM calipers and rotors never could. I am not going to digress much on the engine, but whoever claims to need more than 500ps on normal roads is simply boasting. All hell breaks loose after 3,500 rpm and the R2 catapults the car to speeds that would get you in trouble faster than you can say “V CAM”. 

Add the fact that this is my car, bespoke to my own specifications, and that I’m lucky to drive it where it belongs and I really couldn’t ask for more. I’ll say it again: it’s all about the experience. Now - back to the title of the post - all was going great until I saw this photo that I took at Tatsumi PA, where I opened the R-tune bonnet to let the heat dissipate: look at all that dust! This shouldn’t be a surprise given that by design the whole front end is engineered to scoop up as much air as possible (not to mention the radiator fan), but I must confess that I had mini heart attack. Once recovered I started to map down a plan to make things right.

The following day I jumped behind the wheel of the Fairlady and headed towards Super Autobacs in Shinonome. I think I wrote about it before, but basically it’s a huge parts and car care center where you can buy everything from a simple sticker to HKS engine parts and everything in between. 

The parking area is also great for car spotting. You’ll run in all sort of JDM and exotics on any given day, and they even have washing bays if you feel like giving your ride a good cleanup. As much as I like the GT-R, I absolutely love the look of the Z, especially with these wheels.

Once inside it’s quite easy to get distracted and the place was recently redesigned, clearly with the intent to have customers spend as much time as possible in it. There is even a Starbucks and the selection of magazines and car-related books available is off the scale. Definitely stop by if you are around Tatsumi area.

I didn’t have time to check them out, but these reprints of old Hyper Rev issues were interesting. They did come with a price-tag to match though: over 3,000¥ each! Without wasting any more time I then moved onto the cleaning products area in search of the tools I needed.

So what did I buy? Since this is more about dust removal rather than cleaning actual dirt or oil I decided to keep it fairly simple: a can of compressed air, a set of super soft microfiber towels and some high quality wipes to dry things out. I also bought a soft brush (not in the photo). Following Ochiai-san’s advice I steered clear of all chemical products as they are never a good combination with the massive heat that engine produces, and rather opted for demineralized water.

The quality of the towels is actually rather impressive and you have to love the attention to detail of the packaging. Before using them on the car I conducted a scratch test on a much weaker clear plastic surface that produced reassuring results: no scratches whatsoever.

I also used this pretty handy LED torch that Aki gifted me for my birthday to spot dirt and make sure I wouldn’t damage the car due to poor lighting in the garage. I have to admit that this is probably the best gift the old man gave me so far, and besides being super helpful it also allowed me to take some pretty good photos - thanks, Aki!

For obvious reasons I wasn’t able to shoot while cleaning the engine bay, but after over 1 hours of blood, sweat and tears (ok, maybe no blood and no tears), I was finally satisfied with the end result. What do you think?

The process was actually quite simple; I first blew off the dust with compressed air and caught as much as I could with a damp cloth before it would fly away. I then soaked one of the super soft towels with demineralized water and gently swiped the surface making sure to use the weight of the towel alone and not my hand to avoid any damage. I repeated a couple of times and then dried up with the blue wipe.

The LED torch allowed to take some good photos of the engine with lighting and angles I never used before.The bespoke colorshift finish was one of the most agonizing decision and it took months to come up with the perfect shade, but is one of my favorite features of the car. While it might look like paint it’s actually a high grade powder coat, both heat and scratch-resistant, designed to endure endless heat cycles without fading or turning matte like the crackle finish does.

It felt a bit therapeutic: 1AM in the quiet of my garage, sipping on an iced Coke while cleaning, taking photos or simply enjoying the details and craftsmanship of the car. 

Discovering the pink torque marks on the various bolts reminded me of my visit to Omori Factory a bit over a year ago, when I watched Kosaka-san at work on my engine; it feels like yesterday. After over 1,000 RB26 assembled I hope he’s enjoying retirement.

Small details like this may seem irrelevant from afar, but the memories and people connected are what makes them so special and the reason why I love my car so much. Let’s face it, this was a futile exercise and the dust will reappear as soon as I’ll drive the car again. 

But with Kosaka-san spending the last weeks of his career building the engine and Ochiai-san having to keep up with my silly requests for over a year (and still today), I just feel obliged to keep it as clean as the day it left the factory. It’s the little things.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.


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