Sunday, November 21, 2021

Japanese Tools for Japanese Cars!

So friends, yes I have not posted for awhile, but it does not mean I have not done anything car related in that time.  

Now that I have a decent garage, I started thinking about what kind of tools I will need going forward in order to properly support a "Garage Life" - not just display my car, or even my other hobby of washing/detailing my cars - as this blog has shown, since purchasing my GT-R I have always spent time tinkering with it, making it "mine."

But I have recently come to realize that while the Craftsman tools I inherited from my dad are decent, they are nowhere near as good as some stuff the Japanese make.  And as I get older and clumsier, anything that helps make it easier to work on my car(s) in my home garage, is most welcome. But good tools are expensive, right? Well, not if you live in Japan AND you buy Japanese tools - imported tools from the US, Germany, etc., ARE expensive however.  So I decided to start by focusing on Japanese tool manufacturers.

So far, I have discovered that Ko-ken Tools seems to be THE socket specialist - and they have an automotive specific line up, their Z-EAL line (basically making things as compact as possible to get into tight situations); KTC (Kyoto Tool Company) is known also for their comprehensive line-up, but are also known for their auto-specific tools (and their super premium NEPROS series!); TONE (pronounced "to-neh") is also a comprehensive tool manufacturer with some interesting stuff and some racing pedigree;  ENGINEER seems to be really into cutting tools, like wire cutters/strippers (I actually bought one during the stereo install) and pliers; VESSEL seems to be the king of screwdrivers (I bought their compact motorized one - saves my wrist!); and others such as ANEX and Asahi Tools  - and yes, many more - I am just beginning this new obsession!  And yes, I try to buy the "Made in Japan" products these manufacturers sell - not only do I find the Japanese craftsmanship superior, even to the items made in Taiwan (which are very close, admittedly) but it's my way of supporting my local economy (even some Japanese brands have things made in China and other countries, so sticking to Made in Japan is not just relying on the brand name)!

Anyway - let me show you why I got so excited about these tools. For example:

Ko-ken wheel nut sockets with protector

Simple idea, but really genius.  I have had to use electrical tape on the sockets I used on wheel nuts, but always felt there had to be a better way.  On these sockets, the thin plastic housing protects against inadvertent scratches on the wheel. On the inside, there is a small plastic circle at top to prevent scratching those chrome bolts too!

Or how about this - ever try to use a hex wrench, but in a location that was too small for your hands to manually start the bolt? So you either hope that you the screw is steel so that the magnetized hex wrench holds the screw just long enough to get started, or you use some something sticky to hold the screw on the wrench... well no more!


Why Good Design award? Check out the tips in this close-up:



That's right - the ends have spring loaded steel balls that hold the hex bolt head in place!

Well that's great for hex head bolts but what about regular bolts? Not to worry, Ko-ken has something for that too.

Same concept - the Ko-ken Nut Grip sockets have this black wire spring on the outside of the sockets that then hold two very small balls in place against the incoming bolt (blue arrows).

Speaking of Ko-ken - check out these socket wrench extensions with the built in knurling - useful for when you want to manually spin that bolt into place!


I mentioned VESSEL above - I am simply in love with their rechargeable powered "Ballgrip" screwdriver with changeable tips.


Rechargable via USB. Has a built in LED lamp too, so perfect accessing hard to see and reach screws from underneath, especially in the interior!


Finally, check out this TONE swivel head ratchet.

Now I know that Snap-On and other companies have swivel head ratchets, but what impressed me was the low price - around 6000 yen - plus the superb craftsmanship (made in Japan, yes!) - the handle is hollowed out so super light and superbly balanced! Have not had a chance to use this yet however...

Anyway - as I continue to buy and collect various tools, I will probably set up a PAGE on this blog dedicated to these tools. Most of them of course will be used to work on the GT-R, so yes this is all R33 GT-R related!

Oh, and yes, upcoming post very soon on the latest on the car itself, so please stay tuned!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Long Overdue Visit to Mine's... oh and yes does the Nismo Airbox give performance gains?...

So after I installed the Nismo Carbon Fiber Airbox, I was looking for an excuse to drive the car to see if I could feel any difference - after all, if Nismo is recommending an ECU rewrite, this is not simply a cosmetic add-on, right? (YES! See my analysis below).


Because it's too much of a hassle to get a new ECU (even though I've been meaning to actually - someone send me one!) I decided to simply unplug the battery and let the Mine's VX-ROM reset itself to learning mode - I figured that the velocity stacks would increase airflow, which means that the ECU would adjust fuel and spark accordingly - in theory having the air flow in more quickly would be similar to the effect I had when I experimented with creating an air inlet that gave a ram-air effect.  So hopefully, even if the VX-ROM wasn't able to take full advantage of the increased airflow, it should still result in a noticeable difference. 

So last Saturday, after having called ahead a week before (highly recommended during these crazy times), I drove down for my appointment at Mine's at 1pm.  You see, every summer Mine's has their Summer Sale where they offer some parts on sale as well as zero percent financing for their more expensive items - such as engines.  That's how I was able to afford my Mine's engine way back in 2007 - I'm not rich like some people! Anyway, I had been promising Nakayama-san (the engine Takumi) and Takayanagi-san for years (when meeting up with them at Nismo Festival) that I was over due for a visit and a few new Mine's parts.

Flash forward 14 years, and I figured it was time to have Nakayama-san take a look at my car and make sure everything was still up to their high spec.  I unfortunately once let someone who didn't know how to drive very well take a quick spin in my car, and the engine's quickness surprised him - meaning he did not shift quickly enough, causing the engine to redline. So at the very least I need to get that checked out (hopefully the Mine's engine is over-built and thus idiot proof...)

Anyway, despite the traffic it was a quick drive down to Yokosuka, where Mine's is. After having endured a summer of very mediocre rental cars on my trips - Kia Optima, Toyota Corolla (JDM), Toyota Corolla (USDM) and Mitsubishi Mirage (JDM), it was SIMPLY AWESOME to take the GT-R for an extended drive. They simply do not make cars like this anymore, I felt so connected to the car and the road, and with the rebuilt suspension thanks to the Omori Factory chassis refresh, it was like driving a new car.  The super responsive Mine's engine coupled to the Getrag is icing on the cake.

Walking into Mine's, it seemed not much had changed since my last visit. I think this engine has been displayed in the same spot for the last 20 years...

But actually, they did have a few new items on the shelves:

Actually these are officially Nissan licensed items... maybe except for that shift knob

Surfboard not for sale

Who wears these in public?

Very nice, except iPhone models only...

So after the usual pleasantries and a quick discussion with Nakayama-san and Takayanagi-san about what I was concerned with, as well the possible future upgrades I wanted, Nakayama-san had one of the techs clear out space in their workshop for my car. He jumped in my car...

And drove it over to their garage workshop: 



Once parked, he revved up the engine a few times.


This was apparently enough for him to get a general sense of how healthy the engine is.  The verdict - given how little I have driven over the past years - probably around a bit over 30,000km since the engine was built - he believes that the engine is probably fine, despite my stupidity in letting an incompetent redline the engine.  He also examined the engine compartment and noted nothing amiss, no leaks or imminent failures, which of course is always a relief.

Nakayama-san did point out a few areas which can now be improved - technology and techniques have improved in the last 14 years so likely I will be doing what I can to upgrade over the next few months.

After a few more discussions on upcoming parts - most notably Mine's is finally releasing a titanium Silence VX exhaust system for the R33 GT-R - due to customer demand! - I drove back home, enjoying every minute of it and wondering how the upgrades will further improve this car.

As for the Nismo Carbon Fiber Airbox - I do believe it ACTUALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE!  At high speed engine response was slightly more immediate - exactly how it was with the ram-air system, as well as how the car responded when I first installed the Tomei Expreme titanium exhaust (without any sound deadening inserts like I have in now - to keep the peace in my neighborhood).  A slight push on the throttle is immediately translated into an increase in revs, and the car thus seemed slightly more eager and alive.  However - I did not notice a difference at low speed, so if all you do is drive around in the city, this is simply pure bling.

So then, is it worth the price?  Hard to say - a homemade ram-air system is probably just as effective, and if you couple that with a completely free breathing exhaust like the Tomei (without baffles) then you might get the same effect, a more responsive engine.  But, we all know that many of us like to buy things on HOW THEY LOOK - and yeah it looks great. So in the end, I think you have to ask your wallet...

Monday, August 30, 2021

Pure Carbon Bling... Despite What Nismo Says...?? (*UPDATED!*)

(Updated Install Instructions, see below)

So after selling a few things on Yahoo Auctions, I realized I had saved up enough to spend some money on something which normally I would write off as complete bling. Nismo's carbon fiber airbox for the BCNR33/BNR34, originally introduced on the BNR34 Clubman Race Spec demo car back in June 2017

What a great way to make money for Nismo, right? With an eye-watering retail price of 612,150 yen including tax!

But Omori Factory claims that their airbox actually has design improvements over the OEM airbox.  For example, not only does their airbox have more volume, but it uses velocity stacks which in theory increase the air flow so much that the ECU has to be remapped! Further, their supplier is apparently a takumi who has supplied Nismo and Nissan with carbon fiber parts for their Group C and other racing cars over the past 20 years...in other words, these are not mass produced but carefully handcrafted items by someone who probably knows what he is doing...

Of course, if you simply want the carbon look, I have seen others who have created their own carbon fiber air boxes which appear to be copies of the OEM box, just in carbon fiber and priced much less.

But as it happened I was able to get my hands on one of the Nismo ones - I figured what would I have to lose by installing one in my car? Improve the looks, at the very least right? It would be a good match for the Nismo carbon fiber air inlet pipes and the Omori Factory air inlet snorkel I recently had installed.

Ok so first thing is to open up the box. 

For those interested, here is the parts number for the 33/34

Fairly standard wrapping given the price...

Wow! Very nice. Almost blinded by this beautiful carbon fiber!

So here is the bit that costs an extra 500,000 yen...(the Nismo plaque inside!)
Actually, these are what is supposedly the technical improvement:
Exactly how? Keep reading!

Next step was to remove the OEM air box in order to do a proper side by side comparison. A few clips and bolts and don't forget the side vent, and it is a pretty easy job.  The only trick is to loosen the bands connecting to the MAFs, and remove the airbox with the MAFs still attached.

Here is photo of both airboxes in the engine bay:

If OCD like me, you can see that the carbon is different for each piece...

So here is the inward side of the airbox, after the MAFs have been removed.

Before installation of the velocity/venturi stacks

Installation of the velocity stacks is easy - you use the bolts that attach the MAFs to the airbox.

After installation - shame the velocity stacks are hidden because they are gorgeous to look at!

Close up - oops forgot to remove the tape there...

In comparison, the OEM airbox simply has these rings with the nuts for attaching the MAF bolts

Of course it was Dino who reminded me that I should weigh everything to see if there was a weight reduction benefit - after all, this IS CFRP vs. ABS plastic!

So yes, a weight savings of 197 gms!

And on the inboard side:

Ok this is strange. CFRP is heavier by 67 gms!

So a total weight savings of 130 gms! Not sure if this is really enough to write home about...

Hard to tell here, but it appears to my untrained eye that on the filter side, there seems to be slightly more volume.

You can also see that using the level, the carbon fiber box is slightly taller, thus also suggesting more volume. 

OK, so it seems like there is more volume, slightly less weight, and then possibly some increased air flow due to the velocity stacks.

Not surprisingly, installation is fairly simple, the only care point is to make sure that the MAFs are bolted on tightly to the carbon airbox and therefore also the velocity stacks inside (also watch out for the very thin O-rings on the MAFs side).


Here is how it looks with the MAFs attached. Note how one MINE'S plaque on one MAF is ready to give up (fixed up with some superglue)

I took the opportunity to check how dirty the filter is. It wasn't!

Yeah, I guess I don't drive the car much huh.

Next I turned my attention to the spot where the parts would go back in - and noticed that there was a thin layer of oil and dust so...

Of course I had to clean that all up.

Another view of the MAF side of the air filter box. You can see how the velocity stacks protrude inside.

On installation, everything was a very tight fit.  Of course had to make sure to tighten up the bands connecting the hoses to the MAFs.

Compared to the OEM box, the Nismo carbon box only uses one bolt up front to secure it (OEM used 2).

And on the other side, it initially appeared that the holes did not line up properly. (BUT SEE UPDATE BELOW PLEASE)

But this turned out to be rectified if I loosened the front side and all the clips first, and bolted down this side first. However, I also noticed something...

I found some sponge rubber with a sticky backing, and cut to size.

This way, I can bolt down and be reassured the carbon won't be scratching the engine bay paint. 

I'm pointing to this latch - tolerances are so tight here that you need to make sure the loop is already inserted towards the hook side (but not fully locked) before closing the other clips. 

OCD in action - just in case there is ANY rubbing, I taped a piece of rubber to the edge of the airbox closest to the air inlet pipe.


And here is the completed result!
See, all 3 carbon pieces look different...why...??

So will this carbon airbox actually make a difference in the car's performance? In my next blog I will reveal my findings, as I took a quick road trip down to Yokosuka to visit some old friends. Stay tuned!

UPDATED INSTALL INSTRUCTIONS!

So Nismo Omori Factory contacted me this morning with apologies - after viewing this blog, they realized they had neglected to inform me about one VERY IMPORTANT STEP.

Which is, to RE-USE the rubber and steel spacers on the OEM airbox:

These things

To remove - Very carefully remove these metal inserts - I used a plastic interior panel removal tool so I wouldn't scratch or tear the old rubber:

To ensure smooth OEM fit, I removed the rubber foam I had earlier attached.

Fit is 100% - and yes, this the correct positioning - I checked before removing from the OEM box, AND I contacted Nismo to verify.

Which means the side on the bottom, that touches the body are these metal washers? But doesn't it look like the top one had some kind of rubber coating from the factory?

So my solution - Tessa cloth tape!

Upon reinstall - wow this fits SO MUCH BETTER!

So of course, I complained to Nismo as well - for something costing this much, why not throw in some new rubber washers? I am ok with re-using the metal cores, but honestly how much does 3 rubber washers cost?  Their response was that this is technically NOT a Nismo part, but an Omori Factory limited production run (they apparently don't make much of a profit on these). Hence no instructions, nor the extra bits one can expect to find in an official kit. Still, I wonder...

Anyway, for anyone out there who might get this kit, I hope these FULL instructions are useful!