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...
HOLY TOLEDO!

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!

Aki

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!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Out with the old, in with the NEW (Robson Leather Steering Wheel Re-Do)

One last post to close out 2018, and appropriately by swapping out the old with new. Or at least "re-newed."

Some of you may recall a few years ago when I first switched over from the OEM steering wheel to an aftermarket one, I found a nice and rare but very used Ital Volanti Imola R wheel.

Because it was worn, I decided to get the wheel re-done in a nice black leather, with perforations on the side grip areas, at the world famous Robson Leather in Tokyo.  I was generally happy with the quality of the leather and the new thickness of the wheel, and it matched the OEM interior very well.

However, once I had the interior completely redone by Cesar in high quality leather... well I noticed that the grain of the steering wheel leather now did not match the smooth finish of the rest of the leather interior (the OEM interior finish has this wrinkled simulated "leather" finish). This could not stand, and the cognitive dissonance generated by this mismatch was driving me nuts.
See how the leather appears wrinkly? This was the original grain of the leather I chose for the first re-wrap.
At the time it matched the OEM interior better.
Luckily for me, Robson Leather always has a tent up at the annual NISMO Festival, so I undid a few Allen bolts and took the wheel with me to this year's NISMO Festival on December 2. The plan of course was to save a few yen sending the wheel in, as well as to be able to inspect for myself the quality and grain of the leather that would be used on this redone.

Moments after I walked up to the Robson Leather tent, Robson's president, Masa Nakamura, greeted me like an old friend and listened to my request.  Lucky for me this Nakamura-san is miles removed from a certain other Nakamura....yes I am still pissed off. Anyway, moving on...

The sample of Robson's Nappa leather against my wheel
Masa knew immediately what I wanted, and showed me a sample of their "Nappa leather." Strangely, while the color and the feel was what I wanted, the leather sample itself looked almost like pleather in terms of how it had been tanned and processed, especially on the non-exposed side.  Nevertheless, because the wheel is a high use area, I was satisfied with the almost plastic feel of the leather, because even if it was a lower quality leather than the "Cardinal" automotive grade leather from Wildman & Bugby in the UK that Cesar used for the rest of the interior, durability (which is what I assumed from how this leather felt) would be key here.

So, I requested a re-wrap of my wheel from Robson with the "Nappa leather" option with side perforations, as before. I was thinking about adding a red 1cm wide swatch to the center top of the wheel (as often seen in some recent sports cars), but when the Robson factory called later and told me that they could not guarantee it would be perfectly centered, I cancelled. Having that center stripe not centered would be super annoying for me...

Meanwhile, my car had no steering wheel.  I was told the work on my Ital Volanti would be "finished before the end of the month" - but I had no idea how long that the re-leather work would actually take. So, I found a cheap 6000 yen steering wheel on Amazon Japan, to attach temporarily, just in case I needed to move my car in a hurry.
Superfast shipping! I had in in less than 2 days!
Nice white cardboard box. Wrapped up well for a cheap wheel...
Not bad for 6000 yen, right?
The temp steering wheel arrived very quickly. As you can see, the material is a fake Alcantara and the diameter is smaller than the Ital Volanti, at 320mm. It also has a deep cone of 70mm. So I knew driving with this on would be interesting...and in fact, when I took the car out to get some gas, it felt weird. The wheel is probably too small, as the car felt twitchy, almost like a (very heavy) racing cart.  And the seating position was now weird too...

It doesn't look bad, but not great either and the yellow center strip didn't line up perfectly.
I was glad I didn't insist on this option for my Ital Volanti
Amazingly, fast forward only 2 weeks from the NISMO festival, and I got a package from Robson and inside:



Wow! Looks OEM in quality!
See how nice and smooth the leather is? Granted, this might be more expensive than elsewhere but for the awesome service and the quality I am not going to complain. Also, it's always good to have connections with people like Masa...

Here it is, installed... See how the leather of the wheel matches (at least in look) the leather of the rest of the dashboard and interior (the leather on the doors)?


Ok I realized that wasn't the best photo. How about from this angle?

Yes folks, quite awesome is the result! Thank you Masa and Robson Leather for restoring my faith in the Japanese aftermarket.  In 2019... yes my journey will continue in order to fix the remaining interior issues and the topical rust, but I'm also itching to do some more improvements in the mechanical area...

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a great holiday season, and I wish everyone a Happy New Year! Thank you everyone for reading and enjoying this blog. As always, drop me any questions or comments below.

Friday, December 7, 2018

One Last LED Post for the Year

So while I ponder whether to keep those super bright LEDs for my rear license plate...

Sharp eyed readers may have noticed that I had another pair of LEDs (25) that I had ordered from Pika-Q, but which I did not discuss in my last post.

Although I was really tempted to replace the orange rear turn signals, the ones on the Pika-Q site all apparently seemed to require the use of resistors. And because I'm too lazy to figure out how it all works, never mind do the wiring, it's something I will have to research further and do at a later day.

Long time readers will instead know that I've been obsessed with trying to figure out how to improve my one back up lamp.  Since Series 3 (Kohki) cars only have a back up bulb on the left side, with the right side being a rear foglight, the back up lamp needs to be as bright as possible. Not only to let others know I'm backing up, but also so that I can see what I'm backing up into.

So when I found this bulb, I was pretty excited.
Oh yeah! 500 Lumens!!
I think there are other bulbs that are brighter, but for the S25 bulb, this was the brightest I could find.




I was happy with the claimed 500 lumens rating because as you know back in July I replaced the failed HID bulb with an LED from PIAA with a claimed 300 lumens brightness.

So here are pictures of the before and after - can you tell the difference?

With the PIAA bulb

With the PIKA-Q bulb

PIAA bulb

PIKA-Q bulb
Again, to the naked eye there is a notable difference, one that the iPhone camera does not pick up. Perhaps you can tell by how the back wall gets lit up?

PIAA bulb 
PIKA-Q bulb
You can tell that the area which is lit up is higher up on the wall with the PIKA-Q bulb.  Also the cardboard box is more uniformly and brightly lit up.

Here is a direct comparison of the difference in design

So, the next logical step would be to replace the turn signals with orange LEDs as well... so tempted but the resistors...