Sunday, May 29, 2011

Project: BNR34 Rear Diffuser on BCNR33?

So after getting my car fitted with Spoon Sport's Rigid Collars (see previous post), I drove over to Nissan Shinagawa to order some parts, and to ask a long standing question...will the BNR34 Rear Diffuser fit on the R33, and if so, how?

But, as usual, they were crowded when I got there, so I amused myself by reading this... I need to pick up a copy - for those who can't read the Japanese, it's a special edition GT-R Magazine dedicated to restoring the RB26 series GT-Rs. So plenty of advice on engine, suspension, body, interior, etc. rebuilding and freshening up.

But hey I was there to order some parts...well actually some small connectors that I broke when installing my headlights... but might as well see what else is tempting...

Finally - I got Koyama-san's attention. I had done some previous research, and we quickly determined that the brackets needed to install the diffuser, DID fit on the R33. But boy they are expensive... about 30,000 yen each per side! Then I had to get the center piece, which requires two bolt holes to be drilled from the spare tire well.

But the problem was, the side attachments. On the diffuser, there are two (left and right) Z-shaped brackets that are designed to bolt onto pre-drilled holes on the R34, right inside of the rear bumper. Obviously, the R33 is shaped differently... so off we went to find Yamada-san and Sugimoto-san, their top two mechanics to see what they though.

Another was whether the front leading edge of the diffuser, could be bolted to SOMETHING on the R33.

Amazingly, neither had ever installed an R34 diffuser on an R33 they found an old broken R34 diffuser, put my car on a lift, and test fitted the diffuser.

Luckily - it turned out that the R33 had the same bracket for mounting the front of the diffuser, no problem. Unfortunately, the problem with MY CAR - was the Fujitsubo muffler.

First, it's a very large diameter - 90mm, so the diffuser was a snug fit. Second, it shoots out the back at an angle - designed to minimize the slow down of exhaust gases. The R34 diffuser, however, was designed for mufflers that point straight out the back.

Turns out, the side Z-brackets would require some ingenuity... I later found a post on the GTR forum which gave me an idea. These Z-brackets DO come off, so I'm not forced to bolt them in the same location. What I need to do is to find somewhere to bolt the sides, and find brackets or screws that work accordingly.

As for the muffler - well I guess I should either start looking for a straight one, or cut the diffuser. But cutting the diffuser cuts into its structural integrity, so not an ideal solution.

Conclusion - I think I'm going to have to figure this one out. Meanwhile, I'll take my time restoring and making the diffuser pretty, it's used and thus somewhat beat up...

Maybe later this year I'll get this done?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spoon Sports (Honda Tuner) parts for my car? Rigid Collars

That’s right… last weekend I took my car down to a world famous Honda tuner…the Spoon Sport’s tuning shop, TypeOne.

For good reason – I was to become their first ever R33 GT-R customer for their revolutionary product, their Rigid Collars. This is a product that they make not only for Hondas, but other brands as well – and it’s been a hot seller in Japan, reviewed favorably in the Japanese motoring press – so much so that Spoon Sports set up a dedicated website just for this product.

The concept is this – by necessity of the factory manufacturing process, the subframes and the body are attached by way of bolts. However, due to the need for speed (versus precision), there is considerable leeway in the space where the bolts go in. This means that the subframe is not always perfectly aligned with the body.

This video explains it better than me.

Yeah, right. Hard to believe it works, and the video is a bit hokey. Plus, it's a Prius they use to demonstrate, of course that car needs help in the handling department. So would it work with a GT-R?

Anyway, I got to the shop a bit before the appointment time, and found these interesting Hondas there.

That's a fully tuned Spoon S2000 with hardtop, as well as carbon hooded Euro Accord!

Spoon-tuned Fit... wonder if the wife would let me get one of these, seems very practical!

The process to install the Rigid Collars was simple, but it did take this lift and an engine support/lift thing (in order to allow for enough space between the subframe and the body… or you could get a strong friend to help??)

They did the front first.

After - you can see the silver ring, those are the collars.

Here is one of the rear places where the collar goes in. Huge gap huh.

I took a picture of the instruction manual they had (this is for the R32/R34 GT-Rs, the kit which they had developed the week before). You can see that up front, 8 collars are needed, and 4 in the rear.

Here are the collars – not all of them are round, some are the half-moon shape. Necessary, as some bolts are not designed to be completely removed.

After they finished, they took some photos for their blog

Here is the link:

And then it was off to get test driven, to make sure everything felt right.

My impressions – well, as it was raining when I got back in the car, I expected to not feel any difference – but I did immediately.

First, the ride of the car seemed more secure, more direct. I had not adjusted the coilovers, but somehow the ride seemed more firm.

Second, feedback from the steering wheel was much improved. I am not sure whether this is because the “numbness” that I had noticed on-center is gone, or whether the off-center feeling comes on quicker, but either way, feedback is much better.

Third, after the roads dried a bit (after a short trip to Nissan Shinagawa – see next post), I went for a drive on the expressway. Lane charges are much sharper, and accelerating on a curve is not as nerve-wracking – just point and shoot.

So the overall result is that the car feels much more agile. Not so much at low speeds, but it gets better the faster you go. In conjunction with the Nismo Performance Dampers and all of the body stiffening, I’ve probably done all I can to improve handling, short of replacing all of the bushings with steel and spot welding the body.

I then dutifully posted my impressions on the UK GTROC forum…

but was met with lots of skepticism. Which, I suppose is to be expected. My feeling is that anything new and unusual, will be met with doubt. And, yes I suppose for many people the price is expensive – as we know many people can barely afford to own, let alone properly maintain and tune, Skylines (including myself, LOL!).

But, in the end – I have them installed on my car, I felt results, and I’m happy with the results, so who cares about what others think, especially when they haven’t even installed them on their cars (armchair GT-R tuning? LOL)!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Installing the New Headlights

OK, so FINALLY - installing the new headlights - all nicely protected with 3M protection film. Sure, I did my research - everyone on the forums say that only 3 or 4 bolts hold it in... and these people say you don't have to remove the bumper. Wow, sounds easy. WRONG! (Well, wrong if you have an oil cooler installed...)

People generally say that the headlights on the R33 GTR are easy to replace. First, there are two bolts that are accessible from the top - begin by removing the center grill. Easy enough.

Then, to access the third bolt that screws in from the side, peel back the plastic inner fender lining (take off the front wheels to do this), and you'll be able to access that bolt from inside the fender. That much is true.

As they claimed, the driver's side headlight was pretty easy. Undo all the bolts, and pull to the front and side, and lift out - the burner unit is attached to the underside of the plastic housing.

In retrospect however, I would take off the bumper next time, as even on this side the plastic inner fender liners were NOT really pliable, meaning I had to pull and bend just enough for my hand and a wrench to get through. Not fun.

The problem, and reason why the bumper should have come off in the first place, is because if you have an oil cooler installed like I do - then it is physically impossible to access the third bolt that screws in from the side - because the oil cooler core blocks access from the rear.

So, what I ended up doing was taking off the front bumper (which necessitated undoing a bunch of bolts on the bottom of the bumper, where it attaches to the front lip spoiler and the brake cooling ducts, as well as unbolting two bolts that are immediately behind the plastic inner fender lining), after which I had enough space to access that last bolt.

Here is the left side. You will notice two things - the oil cooler hoses, as well as a bracket attached to the frame upon which is mounted the burner unit.

Here is a closer look at the bracket and burner unit, once I removed it from the frame.

Apparently, with the oil cooler hoses, the headlights would not fit as usual, as the burner unit mounted underneath the plastic headlight housing would interfere with the hoses. Hence, the custom bracket (I assume it came with the HKS Oil Cooler kit, Nissan Prince installed it for me so I don't know for sure) which relocates the burner unit safely out of the way.

Here is the new headlight unit on the right of the old one. I've yet to remove the standard bracket underneath the plastic housing and relocate the burner unit.

You can see here, how this side bracket (also came in the HKS kit) is also required, as the original bracket which had this side piece has been removed to relocate the burner unit. This is the side bolt where the most inaccessible bolt is screwed in from the side.

Anyway - once everything was hooked up, and bolted in, the lights were tested, and everything turned on no problem.

By the way, here is what the old light (plastic cracked inside) looked like:

And here is the new light - so clean! Still haven't driven the car at night since the install, looking forward to seeing the difference.

My only worry is that I haven't aimed the headlights... maybe I'll have Nissan Prince do that for me next time I swing by for a visit!

Project: New Headlights and 3M Headlight Protection Film!

So... this was a project that was long in the making...It had long bothered me that my car's headlights were clouded over. Not on the outside plastic - this is me, Mr. OCD (Obsessive Car Detailer) - of course I had used the kits and Porter Cable on the headlights in order to remove the typical yellowing of plastic. But to no avail.

I had even taken one unit apart, in the hope that I could polish the INSIDE of the lens. What I found though was that, whether through age or heat or whatever, the plastic lens covering both the Xenon low beam and the Halogen high beam had formed small fissures in them. This is how it looked:

So I had always wanted to replace the headlights with new units. But, checking on Yahoo Auctions here in Japan, most "slightly used" units were expensive (about 120,00 yen per pair) and there was no guarantee that they would be any good. No returns, either. And inquiry at Nissan Prince - new units were available, but just the housings alone would cost 100,000 yen - EACH!

So I was resigned to putting this on the back burner until I found BRAND NEW UNITS on sale in the US - on Ebay, being sold by a Nissan dealership... for about half the price they are in Japan. A phone call and credit card transaction later, I was in business. Don't ask me why a US Nissan dealership would have them in stock, but heck for the price I paid, I'm not complaining.

Anyway, I had actually ordered new R33 Series 3 Xenon headlamp units last year... I think it was around Christmas? So I guess you can say this is one of the two boxes Santa dropped off on my front door! Nice huh?!

Of course I opened the box up to find this:

And then after digging through the cushioning:

These things are wrapped really really well!

Wow, the smell of new! NO scratches, no blemishes, clear plastic! Ahhhh..

Of course - how do I keep them looking new? Whether on the track or the expressway, cars ahead of me kick up debris - so I decided to apply some 3M headlight protection film. Unfortunately, no kits exist for the R33 GT-R (nor for the R32/R34 GT-Rs either) so I had to make my own. So, I ordered a batch of bulk film (their "Lightgard" product) from these guys:

First step was to make a template. I got some tracing paper, taped two pieces together as these headlights are quite big:

I cut where I could, then taped along the sides to the headlight unit to try to get the shape correct...

...and ended up with this.

This I used to trace onto two clean pieces of paper that were taped together...

Which I then cut out, and laid over the film, traced the pattern on the film, and finally cut the film...

ending up with this film that fit perfectly on the headlight unit.

Now - time to apply the film onto the headlights. The film itself stretches slightly, so I actually trimmed the template to be slightly smaller - say about 5mm from the actual edge of the headlight housing, in anticipation of having to do some last minute adjustments.

First, apply the 50/50 soap/water solution to the headlight (after cleaning the headlight, of course... nothing like loose dirt getting caught under the film to ruin your day):

Peel back the film to expose the sticky side, and similarly spray with soap solution:

Apply the film to the headlight unit. I've already applied some water/alcohol solution by spray in order to start the bonding process - otherwise the film would be sliding all over...

And here it is, almost done. All of the solution between the film and the headlight is the water/alcohol solution.

Using a plastic squeegee (the end of which I covered in cloth to avoid scratching), I carefully pushed the water solution out from between the film and plastic...

To get this. No bubbles! Any slight fogging, I learned, disappears over time.

Next post - headlight replacement and installation!