Monday, May 16, 2022

Now This is Talent!

So via the magic of social media, someone pointed me to a drawing of my car. When I checked it out - I think it was on IG -  I was pleasantly surprised. Inspired by the cover photo to The Return of Project 33 article I published on Speedhunters:


I found this on Instagram - I actually like it just as much, if not more, than Dino's photo:

Obviously, Harley is a pretty talented guy - and when I contacted him, turned out to be a super nice guy too! (and yes, his brother is ok...).  He directed me to his Etsy store - and then a few weeks later:

And the Japanese is almost perfect! WOW!

First order of business, I had to get a proper frame to mount this in. Not just the same size as the drawing, but with a proper mat too.



Looks like it will fit perfectly...

Love it! Signed and dated. Could be worth a lot in the future, maybe??

That is spot on!

And yes, he also sent me this as a bonus:

Not sure what I will do with this but will hang on to it! It's signed on the back!

So I'm super happy that my car - or at least a photo of my car - is now generating art! NFT, anyone? But in all seriousness, if any of you see anything like this out there, please let me know! Totally happy to support artists and of course such art gets added to my R33 GT-R collection!

Anyone else out there with this kind of talent? Let me know!!

Friday, May 6, 2022

Fake or Replica? Or Maybe, Just Maybe the Real Thing?

 So as usual I was doing a quick search on Yahoo Auctions the other day. And found (and got) this.



The buy it now price was about the same for a normal R33 GT-R key at 5700 yen, so I was of course suspicious. Very suspicious.  The seller did not say it was real, but he also did not say it was a fake either. Although I think the fact it came in this felt bag is somewhat suspicious too. 

The title of the auction, translated from Japanese was "Nissan  Skyline GT-R R33 BCNR33 400R Limited production model Blank key Nismo old logo." 

Perhaps it is a replica - but if so, I would think that I would have come across others ones out there on Yahoo, because people usually make replicas to make money. The seller has only 40+ reviews (all 100% satisfaction) and he isn't selling anything else at the moment so... has anyone seen anything like this on any auction site?

Given the price, I thought it could just be a cheap fake as well. But the look, feel and weight of the key feels very real. Maybe it is a bit shinier than it should be, given that a real one would be about 25 years old.  

And again, if a fake why sell for less than 6000 yen, then, given that real ones are currently going for 600,000 yen? 

Any key experts out there? How much would it cost to make something like this, if you wanted to replicate the real thing?

For comparison with the genuine item - here is a photo I pulled off of Yahoo Auctions for a 400R that is suggested to be genuine (seller does not say "genuine" or "real" in the description).

From https://page.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/r351596032

The seller of this particular one is asking 600,000 yen! Says he got it from a relative who owned a 400R, but stops short of actually claiming it to be the real thing. Condition of his sale is No Claim, No Return. He also warns that there are fake keys on Yahoo Auction, the way to tell is that the tip that gets inserted is "rough" and so to be careful.

So... what do you guys think? Personally, genuine or not I would never spend 600,000 yen on a key, unless it came with the car. I am secretly hoping my seller was clueless and just trying to offload something he had got from someone, but even if it is a fake/replica I think it is very well done (looks like one of the legs of the R is thinner than the 600,000 yen one?) so I think I will take it to Nismo Omori next time I am there and see what they think.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Yes, I Am Still Here... Check Out My Latest Addition to my Tool Collection!

 So yeah, over a month and no new blog post? Perhaps a record, but not to worry we should have some fun stuff coming soon in May.

Meanwhile - I have been super busy at work - the end of the financial year in March, and the beginning of the new fiscal year in April, means a lot is going on. But not enough to stop me shopping for tools on Amazon!

Here is my latest doo-dad for my garage/working on my car.  Made by TONE, the Japanese tool maker, I think this something I should have gotten when I FIRST started working on cars.  Or at least on car engines.


Ok so what you say. Looks like one of those flexible tool grab things.


TONE calls this their PT02 - 615mm length, with 4 claws that grab small parts.


But that's not all. I already have one of those from another company. This one has a magnetic tip!


As well as an LED light at the end, so you can see into dark engine recesses.

Works even when you manage to block the end with a washer.

So yes when I am too busy to enjoy the car, I am doing research on stuff that I can use ON the car. Tools are one such category, but so are detailing and cleaning supplies.  This particular tool was a cheap and easy one, but right now I am looking into some somewhat expensive gadgets for my garage. Stay tuned! 


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

New Hi-Tech Mirror? - Yeah Not Sure About this Mod...

So those of you who have read this blog in the past know that, back in 2012 I was lucky enough to have my car outfitted with a GENTEX mirror, courtesy of the Japan affiliate which turned out to be just down the street from where I live!


It was an awesome bit of kit, being very OEM looking but with a small built in LCD screen to which hooked up to a back-up camera, helping to not just modernize the car but also making it so much easier to back up and park!  So even though I wasn't able to use all the options on the mirror, for example the built in garage door opener switch, it was a nice addition.


Unfortunately, the Gentex mirror was another victim of Nakamura of Worx Auto Alarm, because when I got the car back the mirror's wiring had been removed, rendering the LCD display useless (as well as its auto-dim feature, etc.). I guess he did not agree with my idea of having two cameras in back, one for the mirror and one for the 2DIN Pioneer Cybernavi he ended up installing...


Close up rear of Gentex... wire harness gone!

Anyway, ever since, I have simply been super careful about parking, but a couple of years ago I realized there were a lot of inexpensive LCD mirrors with back up cameras that now incorporate "drive recorders" (i.e. dashcams) and run on an Android platform, meaning that they come with GPS based maps, music, Bluetooth and other auto associated apps. So rather than finding another more modern Gentex mirror, I ordered one of these new Android ones and then decided to focus on other areas of the car first, namely the complete removal of all the wiring left over from Worx, including the original back up camera. 

So here are the contents. Note, even though I was sent the Nissan bracket, becuase my car had the window mount due to the GENTEX install I ordered that mount as well. 

Incidentally, most of these Android mirrors that pop up on an internet search are the "strap-on to original mirror using rubber bands" types.  This one however came from a seller that offered different kinds of brackets for different OEM vehicles and a secured mounting plate that eliminated the rubber straps.

Mount on left is for window mount, not Nissan Skyline OEM bracket mount



Installation was relatively straightforward.  However because I had ordered this right before re-installation of my OEM stereo deck,  I was able to take advantage of the interior being removed and lay out the wiring for the new back up camera that came with this new LCD mirror.  But it turns out that the recommended installation method was to route the wire along the roof/headliner. By choosing to route with emphasis on stealth, I routed from the trunk sides, to behind and then under the rear seat, and then along the left side of the chassis, following the left speaker wires... and then it  turns out that the wiring was too short!  Luckily I was able to get a 2.5mm 4 pole, 2 meter extension cord especially for dash cam back cameras! All that was left then was to attach the LCD mirror unit to the GENTEX windscreen mount then run some wiring, to include a GPS unit, the power lines, and the back up camera line.

So first step was to remove the Gentex unit:

And then wire in the LCD unit into the car's ground, power and accessories circuit.  The mirror came with these terminals with built in 15A mini fuses (light blue circle below) that plug into the car's fuse box, but two problems:

Soldered on two add-a-circuits and a new ground wire

First, the car does not use mini fuses but the standard size (ATO/ATC) fuses, so these could not be used in the first place.  Second, I want this mirror to be on its own circuit, and keep the fuses already in the fuse box for the respective power and accessory circuits.  This meant that I had to cut off the original terminals and solder on the add-a-circuit fuse holder that fits standard size fuses which in turn could be plugged into the fuse box next to the driver's foot.  Because the included power leads were relatively short - likely I should have routed up the driver's side A pillar but I wanted all the wiring going up the left A-pillar, I soldered on extra length of wiring for the power, accessories and ground, as in the photo above.

As I had back up camera lead extension already at the foot of the left hand A-pillar, I just made sure to route the power leads under the steering wheel and behind the glove box, making its way up the A pillar.  Then all that was left was the GPS antenna.


Using some double stick tape, I placed this unit straddling the two front vent pieces, in the center of the windscreen, and tucked the wiring between the windscreen and the dash. Then I attached the mirror using the mount to the base on the windshield, and made sure the circuit worked:

Success!

Even Google Maps works!


And of course it records what is in front of me.


So it looks like it works, right?

Well, here are the problems.

1. Android 8.1 seems to work very slowly. Nice to have the apps, but wow how slow it seems.

2. Since I refuse to pay for a SIM card just for the car - I am using my phone's WiFi hotspot to this mirror.  I have unlimited data transfer, but somehow I think the speed of data transfer just is not there.  Or it might be the Android OS of the mirror.  Even at home, when I link the mirror to my very fast home WiFi, it seems slow.

3. Intermittent back up camera - sometimes the rear camera does not work.  To get it working again, I have to restart the mirror. And actually, the other day it did not seem to be working at all:

4. Squeaking - I think it is the bracket, I will try to fix it, maybe with some Tessa tape?

5. And most annoyingly - inability to retain the mirror function when viewing the screen.  So it is either playing with the apps and no rear view, or rear view but no apps. Stupid.

So, next steps.  Since I went to the trouble of wiring this up, I don't want to give up but since it IS relatively inexpensive I think I am going to try to find another similar rear view LCD mirror with better features and see if it will work with the same bracket and wiring.  Otherwise, I may end up researching and going back to a proper mirror from GENTEX again, maybe? We shall see...

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Oh No! Brake Judder? Well... (at Mine's again)

 So a quick update everyone.

Today, took a quick drive to Mine's with Dino who was scheduled to do a photo shoot there for a very special engine build - which I might talk about more at some point.

But following up on my last post about my car being the world's first with R35 size carbon ceramic brakes, one of the comments I had heard (from Ochiai-san at Nismo) was that a slight brake judder could be detected.  Curious, because it hadn't really bothered me before, I had Dino do the driving down.

On my drive home from Nismo last time, for some reason I felt like whatever Ochiai-san had done to try to reduce the judder, had somehow made the brakes a bit mushy in initial application. But, I was very wrong, as Dino showed me several times on the way down.  He reported initial bite to be fantastic, and enjoyed himself by slamming on the brakes and watching my head flail forward several times. What a jerk lol. But he also reported some judder as well.

Sorry for the blurred photo.

Once at Mine's he was bothered enough by the judder that he was wondering if it might be an alignment problem, or even the discs being different weights.

So of course, I had Nakayama-san test drive the car to see what he thought. My guess is Nakayama-san has more seat time in second gen GT-Rs than Dino does so...

The man himself, behind the wheel. What an honor!

And of course, when the car left, somehow my Sony Xperia 1 mark iii took this photo, which I loved enough to change the header photo of this blog!


I guess I got lucky as I played with the zoom because with the fixed lens it looked like this:


Anyway, he was back in about 10 minutes.


And reported that first, yes there was some judder but it was not a big problem.  It is not an alignment problem, nor a brake rotor weight issue.  Simply, the Pagid RSC1 pads (which Lamborghini and Ferrari use in their cars with carbon ceramic brakes) in use are super grippy, which is resulting in the awesome initial bite. But because of the drilled rotors, Nakayama-san thinks that the holes (which are likely unnecessary in the first place) might be causing the pads to wear a bit unevenly given the high friction of the pads, hence the judder.  But, he mentioned that compared to their demo car, or other race spec vehicles, this level of judder was mild. So if I want to reduce the judder he recommended I go with a softer brake pad.

I think since it doesn't bother me (and when I drove back I didn't even notice again) I think I will keep these Pagids.  The actual initial bite is fantastic, and I prefer having that as these brakes are supposed to be high performance. 

What do you guys think?

BTW, while there we looked at the engine bay and made some plans on some future upgrades.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Big Scare? And the Future of this Blog - Want Your Opinions!

 Friends,


As many of you know who were kind enough to message me, this blog was inaccessible for a couple of days this week.  This was due not to any fault of Blogger, the free platform I use to make this blog, but due to technical errors by Enom, which is the domain register I use.

Luckily as you can see, the domain is back up, and no posts or data were lost from this blog. But the whole incident got me thinking - what about the next time? Could it have been worse?

True, I can and do occasionally update the contents of this blog, but not having control of the situation caused by Enom and waiting it out in the hopes that, as the "world's largest" the domain registry they would HAVE to solve the problem eventually - I dislike being put into that situation, to say the least. 

And, as it stands, right now I am basically at the mercy of Google (Blogger) and Enom to ensure this blog maintains its content and is accessible to everyone.

So this got me thinking - are there other ways to maintain this blog, to make its contents and accessibility more secure?

I am still doing my research and will soon likely talk to people who do websites/blogs as a business to get their input.  

But it occurs to me that, if I want more security, it may cost money. And if it costs money - not just the annual fee I pay to Enom - whether to have a professional company host the site, etc. - I may need to monetize this blog in some form.

I am not a fan of the "click to buy a product I talk about" (Amazon?) so I think that means a subscription model?  Of course this would not be for my posts, but for new features I would have to offer in addition to my posts - an easy example would be English translations of articles about the R33 written in Japanese, for example, that only subscribers could read.  Or maybe special events or intros /live Q&A sessions when I drop into Nismo Omori Factory, or Mine's, or whatever tuner I am visiting.  Just some random ideas....

But what do YOU guys think? 

Please post your comments below so we can start some ideas flowing.

Thanks, and as always I very much appreciate your readership of this blog!

Aki

PS I already have a couple more posts coming very soon! Check back often!


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Another World's First! (Mine's Visit, Part 3)

 So take a close look at this. 

Specifically, the brake rotor.

Yes my friends, it is a carbon ceramic rotor! As you saw from the Speedhunters post (note, I wrote this article and the SH post at about the same time, hence a lot of repetition between the articles), I just got these installed at Mine's during my visit there, and let me tell you - they are absolutely fantastic! A game changer.  Basically, all of my mods I think have been evolutionary in nature - one dimensional. So improve engine breathability or exhaust for more power; or increase body rigidity to make handling better; or improve the interior to modernize.

But this is the first mod I can recall, that improves handling, acceleration, AND braking. So perhaps a revolutionary mod?

So here is the background - it took over a year from inception to delivery, but it was well worth it.  A fellow R33 GT-R owner (Matt J) - crazy machine, more modded than mine - in the UK told me he was running carbon ceramic disks (his sizes are 343 and 330, I think). Naturally, I had been toying with grabbing some R35 Spec V carbon ceramic rotors I had seen on Yahoo Auctions, but everyone I talked to - Nismo guys included - recommended against it.  Apparently the Spec V rotors were not as good as they could be? Apparently they are noisy and require warming up before they start biting well. 

It was at this time that Matt let me know that he had gotten carbon ceramic rotors for his R33 from Simon at Midland Brakes, and was kind enough to e-introduce me to Simon.  Simon claimed his company could produce a bespoke set of carbon ceramic rotors in any size up to 420mm, so naturally it meant I could keep the R35 calipers on my car, and simply have him reproduce the steel rotors in carbon ceramic.  Truth be told, I was not confident that the rotors would arrive and would bolt right up to my existing R35 rotor hats, so I also asked him to make me a custom set of rotor hats as well, and to have them all assembled together so I wouldn't have to bother doing so.

Anyway, here are some photos Simon sent me during the build. First, he showed me what was happening with the rotor hats:


Then he sent me photos of the carbon ceramic rotors being made:



Once complete, he wanted to show me how light these rotors were, so Simon sent me the following as well:

Weight of rotors on scale, in kg. Front:


Rear:

And then of course with the rotor hats fitted. Front:


Rear:

Front on top of rear, showing the backside of the rear rotor which works with the R33 parking brake! (It's not a steel ring like that I had Ninomiya-san insert when I first got the R35 brakes fitted. Can't believe it's been 10 years since I got the R35 brakes...) 


Flash forward and just a few weeks before I was set to go to Mine's for the new Silence-VX Titan III exhaust install, the rotors arrived in the mail. Perfect timing!  I was planning on doing the install myself, but figured I'd take them down to Mine's to see what Nakayama-san thought.

When I dropped the car off and showed him the rotors, he was a bit skeptical.  He had dealt with UK companies before and apparently the quality was hit and miss (and unfortunately that has been my experience as well - even with parts from so called well known Skyline shops...who I will not name here).  Nevertheless he agreed to see if he could install the carbon ceramics.  I was half expecting a call with bad news - "sorry they don't fit" - but that call never came.

Rather, when I picked up the car after the install of the exhaust, R35 injectors and R35 AFMs, the first words out of Nakayama-san's mouth were - "where did you get these rotors again? Can you introduce us to him?" 

In other words, the guys at Mine's were very impressed.  Indeed, Niikura-san magically appeared and also started asking me who made them, where the company was located, how much, etc. And that after Nakayama-san had fitted them and broken them in, given Nakayama-san's rave reviews, he had also driven my car to see how they were - and pronounced them spectacular (although now, he could feel that my car was having some torque steer! Nakayama-san told me later this is a common issue on 33s)!  Nakayama-san agreed, saying these were the best they had ever come across, as they were always testing carbon ceramic rotors but had never found a set they liked.  He told me he had weighed the stock R35 rotors and hats, which came in at about 13kgs, but these carbon ceramics with hats were only 6kgs, resulting in unsprung weight loss of about 7kg per corner! 6kgs is lighter than the steel OEM R33 GTR Brembo rotors, which I think weighed about 9kgs each!

As I described in the Speedhunters post, I initially thought that I would have to lower the spring rates for the Ohlins coilovers, but Nakayama-san assured me they were fine as is. And after having now gotten used to how the car is, I have to agree. However the benefits of the reduced unsprung weight continue to impress me - the handling is light, yet communicative; with reduced rolling resistance the car accelerates now with a new fury, making it easy to get wheelspin in second and third gears, in addition to quicker starts from stop. As for braking, if there was any small complaint, it would be that these don't have the quick initial bite that I recall the old steel rotors having, but it is still very close.  And this is something I will work on improving, hopefully with some assistance from Simon and Mine's.

Incidentally, the guys at Mine's weren't the only pros who were impressed. When I dropped off my car Nismo Omori Factory right before year end, I had Ochiai-san drive my car and he was similarly impressed, although he said he could feel a slight judder - but nothing that further breaking in would not fix.  Otherwise, he said he was surprised at how natural the brakes felt, and how stopping power seemed to be without issue. 

So next steps... honestly not much more I can do with the brakes (except maybe experiment with different brake fluids) but Nakayama-san did hint he had a few more tricks up his sleeve that he promised would make my car even more responsive than it is currently.  Even though he told me my car is now "scary fast" and I have to agree with that assessment.

There is also the issue of having enough mods to do that are Speedhunters worthy, but I will worry about that when the time comes.