Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Very Important R33 GT-R (for R34 GT-R fans)

Wow how time flies - one month since my last post!

As I've told NISMO to take their time with checking over my car, no real updates that I can talk about here. Hopefully soon...

In the meantime, I recently had an opportunity to drive my other car up to the Prince & Skyline Museum up in Nagano.  I will do a full blog post on the history of Prince Motors, the Skyline, and the cars in this museum, but there was one car that I felt deserves special attention. The R34 GT-R development car.
At first glance a BCNR33 with Series 3 headlights and matte black paint...
 With an official name of "Stealth," many Nissan test drivers at the time instead chose to call it the "Karasu" (the Crow). Note, here in Japan the indigenous crows are known for being supremely intelligent birds that not only remember people's faces, but will later attack/purposely drop stuff (their crap... seriously!) on people that have messed with them in the past. And they are large birds, very intimidating... so not sure if the nickname was good or bad...

Anyway, back to this car.

 Here is what it says:

R34 GT-R Development Car
Objective of testing: This car was constructed for the main purpose of evaluating aerodynamics
Specs:                 Base car is R33 GT-R V-Spec
                            Installation of Front Diffuser (Dry carbon construction)
                            Installation of Rear Diffuser (Dry carbon construction)
                            Changed Rear spoiler to R34 equivalent (height, angle, etc.)
                            Changed Tires to 245/40ZR18
                            Strengthened rigidity inside the rear fenders and rear pillars
Testing period: Around 1996-97. Mainly in Tochigi, and extreme test runs at the Hokkaido testing grounds

Behind the Scenes:   While this car was officially nicknamed the "Stealth" most of the test drivers at the time lovingly called it the "Karasu."

Let's take a closer look at some of the items listed:

I guess they decided on the 34's 18 inch wheel design fairly early 
In this photo, I was checking to see if the brakes were special. They don't appear to be. On the other hand, those lug nuts look weird...

Ok so let's check out the front diffuser. The car is wearing a Series 1/2 front lip spoiler, with the one piece dry carbon diffuser attached underneath.

I'm guessing the rivets on the side are for a bracket of some kind to attach the carbon diffuser. The tape appeared to be covering some damage.

Here, you can see some obvious curb damage - but you can also see that the diffuser extends back to the rear of the oil pan.

Here you can see how the front outlet on the diffuser extends to air in the back. Also, they've used what appears to be flexible black tubing used to cover wires to cover up the cuts made to the lip spoiler and the diffuser.
Can anyone make out what it says there?
Obviously, the car was jacked up quite a bit. And someone messed up at least once.
Exhaust looked pretty normal and OEM - makes sense as they weren't trying to improve power.  Also, you can see how far back the front diffuser extends.
 Ok and what about the rear diffuser?
Looks pretty boring...standard muffler too...
But when you take a closer look - the fins are different front to back.
Inside ones get taller towards the back, while outside ones taper off.
Looks like they just cut around the muffler. No need for the clean finished look. 
And here is a close up of the rear spoiler. Looks like they simply raised the OEM BCNR33 one, to be honest.
yeah, that 34 in the back... see below
 For me the most interesting improvement were those made to the C pillar and rear fenders.
In the 34s, the rear C pillars have foam that hardens- in this car, looks like maybe a plate or something was welded in place?
 Here is a better shot, you can see both weld lines clearly.
Any readers with welding expertise? What would these lines suggest to you?
Incidentally, I DID take a look inside the car, and found it to be a very normal car with the Series 2 interior.

And finally, here is one for the 34 fans. This is the car you can blame for not beating the 33's sub 8 minute Nurburgring lap time.

The description talks about how the R33 was fast enough but they wanted to make the R34 easier to drive - which is consistent with articles on the issue as I've covered before (you can also see photos of this same 34).
No excuses given as to why it wasn't faster than the 33. What is interesting is the claim that testing of improvements to be included in the next GT-R began 6 months after the 1995 R33 GT-R was released - my guess is this is where the trunk bracing for the Series 3 came about.  Apparently the objective was to beat the 33 by 10 seconds, but since Nissan didn't release any numbers, the public will never know the truth.  Of course, no doubt some diehard 34 fans will take this to mean that the 34 must have beaten the 33 by up to 10 seconds (but not more so Nissan couldn't announce) but of course they can dream on...

In the meantime, they should thank the Karasu 33 V-Spec for contributing to the improvements made on the 34.  In any case, a very interesting car that belongs to be better recognized for its contributions to the GT-R, both the 33 and the 34.

Check in again soon, I have a few dozen photos of the rest of the cars in the museum I will be uploading very soon!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Dropping My Car Off at Nismo Omori Factory!

Remember how I described in my last post how I had to get the paperwork fixed? Well, I figured I might as well for a reason that will be clear in an upcoming post, which has almost nothing to do with my car.  So I took the car to my go to guy, Ninomiya-san at BeAmbitious a few weeks after meeting with Takasu-san, and then 2 weeks later Ninomiya-san called me to tell me it was all done.

So, I called back Takasu-san about our previous conversation and he offered that his guys could take a close look at my car - do a complete shakedown by first replacing all the fluids, then test driving, after which Nismo technicians would come up with a list of things that could be improved, repaired or perfected.


So, I took a morning off and picked up my car from BeAmbitious...

Damn this car looks good!
 And then drove over to Nismo. Found a spot open next to a classic:

 And then went inside where I met up with Takasu-san again - apparently Omori Factory is currently FULL with customer cars - they were doing me a favor to accommodate me.  After some pleasantries he had Ochiai-san, the guy who would probably actually work on my car, take me outside to inspect my car.

Here is Ochiai-san explaining my car's body rigidity to my friend Takashi who picked me up from Nismo
Ochiai-san had some interesting things to say about the choice of injectors on the Mine's engine - he immediately saw that the injector sizes were 600cc, and not the 555cc (pink color) ones he would have recommended.  Said that larger injectors might cause excessive gas to be injected - which yes I knew - and that too much could result in fouled exhaust gases leading to premature failure of the catalytic converter. Which is spot on - or at least the fact that the HKS cat didn't seem to last long, on both occasions I've installed one since the Mine's engine.

He also didn't like the Garage Defend panel, saying that it prevented the snorkel from getting enough air into the engine.  I explained this one was for looks only and that I had in fact, developed my own panel with ram-air. And that my friend Tom had also made a nicer version and actually recorded a difference in air temperature!

Along with this mod and the other things he saw I had done, he was impressed - it sounds like most R owners in Japan that bring their cars to Nismo don't work on them too much....

In any case, I am on pins and needles as I wait to get the phone call... and then hopefully some very good news and not much bad news... we shall see. I told them I was in no rush.

Which means people visiting Nismo Omori Factory over the next few weeks might see something like this:

Thanks to my friend Matt B who's visiting from the UK and dropped into Nismo! Will have to catch up in person next time!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Quick Visit to NISMO Omori Factory...

As long as I've owned my car, I've never had my car actually worked on or even inspected by the guys at Nismo Omori Factory. Granted, I've had many many different Nismo parts installed on my car over the years, and Nismo trained mechanics (the guys at Nissan Prince Tokyo Motorsports Factory (Yamada-san in particular) as well as Ninomiya-san at BeAmbitious) but maybe it's not quite the same? 

Time to find out! A few weeks ago I received an introduction to Takasu-san at Omori Factory, and went down to visit him. I show up at the appointed time, and had to park next to this very nice Nismo Z34. 
Cannot believe how small my car looks next to the Z! Maybe it's the angle?

After the pleasantries, I first made clear to the guys at Nismo that I was a regular working man with a growing family - i.e. I'm not going to be able to spend as much as some people and reproduce a Clubman Sport car. And in any case, I am not going to change the way my car looks  - I just want to see what they can do to fix/improve/modernize.
Master Mechanic Takasu-san checking out the Mine's engine...
I know my car intimately - both good and bad - and so what I thought was going to be a short conversation ("how about this?") turned into a long one.  Truth be told, to make the car perfect/brand new would simply cost too much. Basically anything Nismo Omori does is NOT cheap - whether engine work, body work, restorations, etc.  And apparently more and more owners throughout Japan (as well as a select few from overseas) are now contacting Nismo Omori with the same thing in mind - can you make my car better/newer/more special. So basically, Nismo has no incentive to give me a discount on anything...(time to start playing the lottery?).

Here is the view walking BACK to the public area. Love that R30, and that 33 is actually PURPLE, not black!
As a Nissan employee, even though they didn't give me a corporate discount (yet...), they DID let me walk around and check out some cars they were still working on (Ale's car, for example) as well as a very special R34 Z-Tune from Australia. And of course the cars shown above - most of which had come in for body work - except for the R30 which is being gradually rebuilt from the ground up (this time it was for an engine refresh, previously it was the body, maybe next the interior....??)

Just LOVE the way my car looks. Classic lines, smooth body, still looks fresh.
Unfortunately for me - Nismo Omori in the end told me that they could NOT work on my car - at least in its present state. You see, as an OEM manufacturer they apparently can't take any short cuts. Takasu-san had noticed that my shaken (registration) papers weren't quite up to par.  This is because when I got my GETRAG 6-speed installed, I had failed to properly re-register my car - technically it's no longer a "BCNR33" but a "BCNR33-kai" (BCNR33改).  At the time - it just didn't seem important and no one at the inspection center seemed to care.

Anyway - I guess if I really want Nismo to take a look I'll just have to fix the problem - take the car in and get the paperwork sorted and then see what Nismo believes they can do to improve the car...hopefully I can get this project started soon. It sure would be interesting to see what they suggest I do to improve my car.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Real Life History: The Nurburgring Car in the Flesh!!

So anyone who's an R33 GT-R fan knows that the 33 was the first production car to lap the infamous Nurburgring in under 8 minutes - 7'59" to be precise. (FYI, the BNR32 did so in 8'20" but it was a struggle with the car understeering heavily and the brakes not up to par...)

As a result of the 7'59" lap time, Nissan engaged in a media campaign which highlighted this 21 second difference, starting with this TV commercial:

And here is the promotional video that was shown at Nissan dealerships all around the country when the car went on sale:

I've never been interested in any of the pre-production GT-Rs, 33 or otherwise, until now.  That's because this week at the Nissan Gallery at Nissan's Global Headquarters, I spotted this being displayed (cars that are stored in the Nissan Heritage Collection at Zama are rotated on a 2-3 week basis):

Initially, I have to admit I was more interested in the Z31 - haven't seen one since I was a teenager back in the USA.
 I thought the 33 was just another AL0 silver R33 GT-R...
But wait a minute - what's up with the red brake lamp in the bumper??
That's when I decided to read the plaque up front and...

So this is the ACTUAL CAR that did the 7'59"!! Factory test car, chassis number 000055!

I posted these photos to my Facebook account, and I think some of my R33 Facebook friends were just as excited - some of them were asking for more close up photos... so I went back down later and took the following. (Note, I did NOT open any doors or step over the barriers - hey I follow the rules!)

You can make out the padded rollcage showing in the left A pillar and front of the roof lining.
Better view of the rollcage - and barely used seats. Note the degradation of the door rubber though.

Best view of the rollcage set-up
Ok but I also heard rumors of other mods other than just body rigidity improvements (plus a cage would be needed presumably if they crashed on the track so it makes sense from that perspective too). So I walked around to see what I could find. Obviously not allowed to pop the hood, but I have an idea for that in the future...

Brakes look like the OEM 4 pot Brembo calipers

Note how the caliper paint looks messed up, as if they spilled too much brake fluid when bleeding the brakes. However the Brembo logo is still white, which means the caliper didn't get as hot as I had on my car - better driving by the pros probably lol.
Underneath the car - I did look under the FRONT side as well, but it looked very OEM. The rear underside, however, was interesting:

Note the oil cooler on the right

And this exhaust. Looks OEM - 2 pipe muffler, but from the down pipe to the muffler itself that looks like about 90mm...!

And what about mileage? How much has this car run?
Oh, the 300km Speedometer is interesting...

10,416 kms!
And if you look closely, looks like they installed extra padding for the driver's left knee and right knees. Check out this post and you will see it.

Anyway, I'm still curious about what other mods this car had. From what I could see, looked pretty stock except the exhaust pipe suggests not all is stock in the powertrain. Maybe a personal visit to the Heritage Collection is in order soon.

Meanwhile - here are a few more photos for Z31 fans. Pretty cool car, considering at the time it was sold I thought it was a bloated, tech loaded and slow car.
That turbo scoop and pop up lights are pure awesome!

T-Roof, leather seats... and auto transmission. Yeah, rich housewife's car
Please, someone tell me what this "Bodysonic Amplifier" is!!!

Actually, thanks to Mr. Google I know what this is. Very cool feature! Ah, the 80s....

PS - I found an article about Gan-san and his trip around the Nurburgring in a 33...enjoy!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Why the Silence??

So yes my friends, I have been very very bad about posting here. And I apologize.  But I have two good reasons.

The first, as many as you know, is that for the last 2 years I have been working as an in-house lawyer at Nissan. Yes, Nissan Motor Company. And, as a senior lawyer in the company, if you have been following the news since last November, it's been a pretty busy time for us.

In other words, my work has been keeping me extremely busy.

The second, is that I am rebuilding my house, and that means each weekend we are meeting with the builders and the architects.  I plan on doing a series of blog posts to show the difference between the old and new house, with emphasis, of course, on the garage!

Meanwhile, I have some fun stuff coming up for my car, and the R33 GT-R in general. Appreciate the patience as I will have some blog posts coming up later this week!


Sunday, February 24, 2019

OK OK - Maybe I have an LED addiction?

So in my last LED post for 2018, I mentioned that I had been tempted to replace the rear turn signal bulbs with LED ones as well.  But, I was too lazy to figure out how to wire in the resistors - but a couple of you quickly educated me on replacing the OEM turn signal relay with one that works for LEDs.

I may just have to go that route in the end, but for now, I was able to find some orange LEDs that not only claimed to be super bright, but had the required resistors already built in! I am too lazy to figure it out, but one question I had on the relays was, would using such relay require me to change out ALL bulbs in the turn signal circuit (so all of the orange ones - front, side and rear) or would the relay be able to handle a mix?

So for now, since I wanted to experiment and see how much brighter LEDs were for the turn signals, I went ahead and ordered these:
Pricing wasn't that bad - around 3400 yen for the pair.

Here are the specs, for those interested

Saying it has good heat dispersion and is high quality. We shall see...

Flash forward a few days and I got this in the mail:

With apologies to my Chinese friends, yes, it appears Chinese quality cheap... But hey since most  smart phones and electronics are now made in China, I'm not going to just on packaging... for now. After all, performance is everything in the end.

So here is how my car looks with regular bulbs:

And then the difference between the LED on the left and the regular bulb on the right (check out how the incandescent bulb on the left turns on slightly before the LED bulb does).

And finally with these LEDs on both sides:

So what do you all think? Frankly, while I like the brightness, here is what bothers me - the light isn't as evenly diffused across the lamp housing. It's more pinpoint really. Also, yes it is very bright - I wonder if it's too bright?  Finally, while I was handling the bulbs and switching between the LEDs and the regular bulbs (to take these videos - I neglected to take the one with regular bulbs until AFTER I put one LED bulb in), I realized these LEDs run VERY HOT!  Is this normal?

In any case - I think more research is needed here. Maybe a cool upgrade would be an LED strip that lights up directionally, like the newer cars? Keep the outside housing the same but just replace in the inside with such a strip... that might work?

But I'll keep these for now!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

First Mod of the Year - Super Easy!

Welcome to 2019 - and yes it's already one month old!  Here in Japan it's been cold which is always an excuse for me to not work on the car.  Luckily, the first mod of the year was a super easy one, thanks to my misguided 34 owner friend Ale who kindly came over to drop it off.

I have no idea whether what he told me is true (you know those Italians), but he told me "this is a NISMO item that's not even in their catalog."  Duly curious, I popped open the hood and waited to be surprised.

What does the nice NISMO bag contain?
What's this? Large thin rubber rings with holes in them.
It turns out that Nismo Omori Factory uses these to prevent galvanic corrosion between their titanium tower bar and the steel body chassis mount point. Of course, I beat them to this idea, because about five years ago I found a tower bar modified with rubber strips on Yahoo Auctions, for the same reason.  But because I don't cut rubber strips well, I went with another route.
Plasti-Dip does wonders!

Because I didn't source these parts myself, this means is that I have no idea what these gigantic rubber washers cost, nor whether it really is rare, or even whether Ale punked me by picking up some cheap rubber at the local DIY store and had someone at Kinkos punch holes in them. (I DID check the NISMO OMORI website but couldn't find them either...)

Anyway, installation is super easy - just take off your tower bar, make sure the surface is clean, and then place over the strut tower bolts.
Here is Ale showing us how to do so, singlehandedly!
Being NISMO, of course it fits perfectly.
After that, just bolt up the tower bar again and you are done! Maybe 3 minutes from start to finish. Don't forget to use a torque wrench to properly torque up those bolts! (39.3-53.9 N-m or 4-5.5kg-m).

Anyway, the following months of 2019 promise some interesting mods I have planned. For one, it's been over 11 years (!!) since I got the Mine's build engine installed - maybe it's time to tinker with it or improve it? My car still shows some other problems from the horrible, crap work done at Worx Autoalarm and so I really want to finish fixing all of those issues as well.  So let's hope 2019 is a great year for all of us! And thanks to Ale from taking time to stop by and drop off these parts!