Saturday, December 19, 2015

Using Desiccants to Preserve/Freshen Up the GT-R Interior

A couple of months ago during a business trip to Hong Kong I made time to meet up with my friend Matthew, who owns and actually drives one of the world's most pristine BNR32s.  Not only was his car clean and very stock looking on the outside, but the interior was super clean and moreover, smelled new!

Here is a bad photo, taken at night:

Part of that might be these new (gorgeous!) NISMO seat covers he recently installed, but in scrolling through his car build album on his Facebook page, I found that he has also this nifty trick to ensure that the perpetually humid Hong Kong air doesn't cause "stuff" to grow in his car and possibly cause some smells.  Obviously, what separates a clean car from a pristine one (OCD approved) are the details - note clever use of the coat hangar (I'll explain why this is genius down below):

From his Facebook page. Thanks Matthew!
It's currently somewhat rainy and cold in Japan (with its four seasons the country always seems to be raining every 3 months or so, with the change in seasons) and that means lots of humidity (but summer is the worst, actually). In Japan, there are many different types of these humidity reducing, desiccant containing products, usually shaped like the ones Matthew used, placed strategically throughout one's residence to keep moisture from building up - e.g. in clothes and linen closets, under sinks, etc.

Here are some of the more popular ones you can find for a few hundred yen each at your neighborhood drugstore or supermarket:

They usually come in packs of three - as they contain calcium salts which absorb water,
the white granular salts get replaced with a liquid.

Some versions also contain charcoal to further reduce smells 

Others are "flat" types that you stick directly in your clothes drawer,
however these are silica gel based so the hard crystals turn mushy. Not much drying power 
This is what happens at the end -
You have to punch a hole and pour out all of the liquid that's collected before disposing in the trash.
Caution, this is NOT water...

I had actually a long time ago purchased a car specific desiccant product, however running to AutoBacs and paying a huge premium isn't exactly the smart thing to do. Car specific models tend to be those modified "flat" types or flattened versions of the carbon/calcium salt versions designed not to tip over in a car.

As Matthew figured out, using these desiccant products is key. However, the stuff easily found, while it works well, has a tendency to tip over and possibly spill.  Thus, I was impressed by his genius in using a coat hangar to make a quick and easy custom rack to secure the desiccants around the transmission well.

Inspired, I was going to do the same thing, but then found these:
Super Compact Type! And with 350ml capacity, only 50ml less than those larger box versions! (Although yes, note Matthew's are heavy duty at 750ml!!)
 The trick of course is to make sure they don't tip over and spill. In my case, I decided to place these under the front seats, as they are flat enough to do so.  And, they are tall enough so that they won't tip over, if they are placed under the seats.

However I was still concerned that they might end up moving about and ending up in the rear footwell, where someone could knock if over.

Hence, these super compact ones are great as they should slide UNDER my front seats and fit - but how to ensure they stay there?
peeled of the inner liner, ready to absorb!
And then because I'm not as clever as Matthew (and I'm lazy):
Velcro on the underside
Fits nicely under the passenger seat between the rail and the HDD unit for my Navi - and doesn't move!
On the driver's side, it similarly fits underneath the seat as well.

Of course I know the best way to prevent weird stuff buildup is to run the A/C occasionally - this also helps to lubricate all the A/C hosing/seals - but since I don't drive my car much anymore (lots of future mod planning at the moment, however), and even though my car is always parked in my covered garage, just in case, at minimum this will prevent any moisture in the air from collecting and causing any weird issues.  Not that my A/C or the car smells weird, this is strictly a prevention issue.

Have a couple more posts before the end of year coming up so stay tuned!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The N1 Bonnet... And "Hood Top Molding"

Although I tried researching what, if any differences the N1 bonnet has over the stock one, I could not find anything at all. I did find a couple of photos of what the N1 car looked like, on the GTR-World website.
You can see the rear spoiler wing in carbon, but the front hood is white
What's interesting of course is that, if the N1 cars were all offered only in white, then I wonder why the replacement bonnet I bought on Yahoo Auctions was unpainted with only the black primer coat? To paint on the racing team livery? I've also seen scale models of the N1 car, with a carbon hood, but this doesn't seem to be part of the actual factory package, although it's possible there might be a factory carbon hood option Nissan offered AFTER the car went on sale which I don't know about.

Rear view - no rear wiper.
For those who don't know what an N1 car is, let's do a quick review:

Towards the end of R32 GT-R production, there was a change to the FIA Rules which essentially eliminated the Group A category by 1993.   Cars now had to be even more similar to the mass produced cars they were based on.  The result was the N1 Endurance (or Taikyu) race series, and by July 1991 the first BNR32 N1 cars were rolling off the assembly line.

So it was only natural that when the BCNR33 went on sale in 1995, there was already an N1 version available. Now, as to how many N1 cars were actually made remains a mystery that I haven't been able to solve, however my resources list out these technical differences between N1 cars and their regular road car brothers. (Reference: book, "Shingata Skyline GT-R no Subete" (translated - All About the new Skyline GT-R) published by MotorFan magazine on February 18, 1995).

To increase durability:
1. Turbo chargers used metal turbines
2. Thickness of piston second land increased from 4.0mm to 4.6mm
3. Changes to material used in con-rod bearings
4. Strengthened air inlet hosing
5. Use of air cooled oil cooler
6. Larger vanes in water pump
7. Strengthened areas around cylinder boss head bolt boss.

To increase response:
8. Thinner piston ring gap (top and second - from 1.5mm to 1.2mm)
9. Changes to cam profiles (the exhaust side overlap - 0 to 5 degrees)

To increase cooling ability:
10. Placement of 2 engine cooling slits
11. Air ducts in bumper
12. Elimination of screen in bumper
13. Placement of "hood top molding"

Chassis Related:
14. Use of multiple oil coolers (optional)

Aerodynamics related:
15. Change to shape of rear spoiler
      CD:    0.35 -> 0.35
      CLF:  0.09 -> 0.01
      CLR:  0.14 -> 0.15
(numbers are compared to standard R33 GT-R)

16.  Use of CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) front undercover.

Other than these performance upgrades, the N1 car also had no radio, no rear window wiper/washer, no UV blocking windows, no passenger airbag, and no air conditioning, all in an effort to shave excess weight off the car.

Finally, the price of the N1 car was about 1,200,000 yen more than the standard car, and 700,000 yen more than the V-Spec model (all N1 cars were based on the V-Spec). A classic case of "paying more for less"?

So, the only reference to how the hood/bonnet is different is the bonnet lip spoiler, or "hood top molding" as referenced above.

In any case, I had always been a bit annoyed since I found a slight crease on the front right leading edge of my hood - it was ever so slight, but enough to be noticeable.  My theory was, someone sat on the hood for a photo or something, and left the crease! Bastard!! And when I approached body shops to fix and repaint, the answer was always - it'd be cheaper to find another hood and paint versus trying to fix the aluminum hood. So I was resigned to trying to find a good quality used hood.

Anyway -  just when my car was at Nissan Prince to get the Getrag installed, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I found the unused N1 Bonnet on Yahoo Auctions. So I bought it and had it sent to Nissan to be installed and painted while my car was there.

(again, these were scanned in hence the poor photo quality)
This is how it arrived at the dealer
Started peeling away, good to see the whole thing was bubble wrapped!
Nothing wrong here, either!
Aha! Someone found a small bump. See it? Nope me neither...
The underside looks very clean too.... this will end up painted grey
As the wrapping comes off, looks pretty good
So this is what makes it an N1 bonnet... predrilled holes for the hood spoiler
On the underside, you can see how cleanly drilled out these holes are
Fits perfectly, of course
Actually, the black looks somewhat good!
Wonder why the trunk is open, lol
The car was then transported on a transporter, over to the paint shop, as I found out in this post.

And then when I got it back (but before the professional detail job at RAPT):

In any case, the car looks great now, and I can lay claim to having an N1 bonnet. I think if there is any homework for me, it is to explain how this bonnet lip/hood top molding works, although I suspect it simply helps to divert some air underneath the hood to help cool the engine better?

By the way - look what I picked up on Yahoo Auctions the other day (thanks to Miguel and Matty from Newera for helping me push the bid button):
Brand new N1 rear parcel shelf - note lack of rear speakers and no rear wiper cut-out - not sure if I will install...

So lucky me, I now have two brand new N1 items... not sure what else out there would work on my car, but might as well collect them for now...

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Quick Update: Kenwood Sound Cruising System, Pre-Wired!

A while back, I had done a blog post on the optional Kenwood Sound Cruising System that Nissan offered on several models of the R33, including the GT-R.
The brochure has passing reference to the Kenwood system as an option (red box)
One question I had, however, upon solving the mystery of the blanks on the interior A-pillars, however, was whether Nissan provided a specialized wiring harness for cars with this option.
what you get with the Kenwood system for the tweeters

My finger pointing to the cutout
I had previously looked very closely at wiring diagrams for the BCNR33, and they suggested that the wiring harness for ALL cars, indeed had leads going up into the A pillars, whether or not the car was equipped with the Kenwood system. My car did NOT come with this option.

The easy thing to do, of course, would be to pop open the A pillar cover and check for myself, but I was always too lazy to do so - until last weekend, when I was at Nissan Prince Shinagawa on another quest to find more parts for my car.

Once talking to the technicians there as to the Kenwood system, and inquiring whether that location was indeed the best place to place tweeters at, they immediately called over one of the mechanics who popped open the A pillar cover, and we found this (red arrow) terminal clip on both sides of the car:
Ignore the other wiring, that's for the aftermarket Navi... I think...

In my excitement I forgot to take a photo, but the BACKSIDE of the A pillar had a large "X" marking the spot behind the cut-out.

So, this is exciting - it suggests that ALL BCNR33s (and possibly other R33s) are pre-wired for tweeters in the A pillars.  Now I know the purists will say that, such OEM wiring is subpar and needs to be replaced with the latest hi-end oxygen free wire yada yada, but 1) this is a car, a very NOISY car, and 2) so long as the wires can carry a signal, why bother with extra cost when the wiring is already there??

Oh and also, many people will claim that it's not the brand of the wire, but the thickness of the copper gauge of the wire. In which case, I will have to choose my tweeters carefully I guess...the problem is that here in Japan, there aren't many shops that have speakers on hand to listen to, other than the name brand "average" aftermarket speakers like Pioneer, Sony, Kenwood, etc...  Anyone have any recommendations? Would prefer separate components that can be heard over the drone of the exhaust (and yes I plan to get a separate amp for the front speakers too).

Monday, November 30, 2015

Controversial Interior Mod?? (gasp) Bling?

Yes folks, I'm pretty sure some of you are not going to like this one. But hear me out!

Truth be told, this post was also long in the making - not only did it take 3 months for this made-to-order part to be made, right after I did get them I didn't have time to install them before taking the GT-R in for its new transmission.  Then, various business trips etc. have kept me from finishing the install and posting.  In any case, excuses are done, here is the post.

Now I realize some people will think this is not tasteful, nor functional, and others will call it "bling" (hence the title), but for me, I always felt that Nissan just had not gone quite far enough to differentiate the R33 GT-R from its non GT-R brothers.  So I took a clue from what Nissan did for the BNR34.

Perhaps to detract from the lower grade (harder= cheap?) interior plastic (than the 33), the R34 GT-R has nice aluminum side sills which scream "GT-R" the moment you open the door. Just in case you didn't know what you were getting into, I guess.

Thanks to EJ for letting me post these both.

On the other hand, the R32 and R33 GT-Rs have, in deference to (or perhaps because of) their heritage as the fully factory tuned versions of the non GT-R forms of the R32/R33, these ugly cheap/cheap looking plastic door sills with "Skyline" inscribed on them (i.e. we don't need bling to sell the car?).

Now while there WAS a dealer installed option for aluminum side sills (called "kicking plates" in Japanese) for the R33, which you can find on the used market, they still look cheap to me.


And the aftermarket offers carbon fiber and leather wrapped versions too.


As long time readers know, I've done some DIY LED mods to the interior, using red LEDs in the ignition key surround and door handles to match the red motif on the Series 3 seats and door cards.

And of course, I troll the internet constantly looking for ideas and products that could improve my car - lately though I have been looking to improve the interior, which is where I think modern cars have a huge advantage over older cars. In other words, I want to modernize, but without taking away the essence of Skyline-ness.

Enter "G-Corporation" - I had found these guys about a year ago, but didn't launch this project until June.  That is, I placed my order with them in June but was told that these would be made to order - so first they would be getting new parts from Nissan, and then doing the work, and the final product would take a couple of months.

Anyway, these guys are LED specialists. And the product I found was this (although this was an R34 version) - LED "kicking plates:"


But this photo only shows what it looks like in the dark. I wanted to see what they looked like in daylight, but seeing the photos of their other samples I figured, why not, looks pretty good? So I went ahead and placed the order.

So finally, when I got the box earlier in the week, even though I knew I couldn't immediately fit them, I opened up the package to see what the product looked like.
Excuse the mess, I was excited! But the aluminum plate and lettering DO look a bit small...
Here are a couple of photos, closer up:
You can see the lettering is clean, and consistent with the font that Nissan used - looks awesome actually!

Underside shows that the entire LED assembly is sealed off with a rubbery compound. 

As for wiring these pieces up, this was easier than I thought, because I had earlier, in installing LEDs for the outside and inside courtesy lights, already created a circuit that was hooked up to the auto dimmer/fade out circuit of the car.  So it was a matter of going in and finding that circuit, and wiring up the leads from these scuff plates, hoping that they would also 1) turn on only when the car was unlocked, and 2) fade out when the car was in motion or not being used.
Not the best photo, but you can see that after I wired the door LEDs into the ignition key circuit, I used these quick disconnects to keep the installation clean.  For these scuff plates, I simply added the leads downstream, so each is wired into the wiring connected to the door LEDs, so everything is removable without damage to the original circuit.
After a bit of contortions and swearing, I managed to get it done, but first I made sure it was working:
Here I am testing it on my lap...

After confirming that the wiring worked, I just pulled off the old ones and snapped these new ones in - this is not the best picture but I think you get the idea:
Hmm. Maybe I need some mood lighting in the footwell too, like my Lexus?

Ok here is a close up on the passenger side, the red metal can above it is the fire extinguisher I keep next to the seat:
It looks like the "SKY" is brighter than the "LINE" but to the naked eye it looks even!
So yay or nay? A subtle, modern touch, I hope? Anyway as this car evolves one task will be on reducing the level of cheapness the interior has. I have some other projects coming up so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

NOT HAPPY.... But New Parts Make Everything OK

Long time readers will recall an incident from last year, when a water hose feeding the OEM oil cooler burst, leaking coolant everywhere, causing lots of white smoke to emanate from the engine bay, scaring me into pulling over at the side of the expressway, and calling for a flatbed truck to haul me to Mine's. See below for the two water hoses feeding the oil cooler (underlined in red).

Here is the link to that post. And here is a close-up of what burst:

As I explained in that post, even though I'm thrilled with the craftsmanship of the Mine's engine, and the performance nature of the custom VX-ROM, I've had several issues with some engine peripherals since the installation... a leaking water line, turbo oil lines breaking twice, and now this burst hose.

Also in that post and also in the conclusion, I hinted at some "goodies" that ended up not getting installed.

But it was all ok, Mine's got the car fixed and everything seemed to be fine.

However, when Nissan Prince was getting ready to install the GETRAG kit, they found this (and again, apologies for poor photo quality, I had to scan in the print-outs Nissan Prince gave me):

Surface rust only perhaps, but still ugly.
The engine starter, covered with surface rust.  And the rust was coming from above, right where Mine's had replaced that leaking hose. Hmm. Not happy - why?

Well, take a look:
Red arrow is the hose Mine's replaced
But it's THIS hose that's leaking now!
Now, while my car never had any problems when I turned the ignition key and the engine would crank over, the mechanics were worried that, eventually, if the coolant dripped more and the rust spread, then there could be a detrimental effect and the starter "might go bad." Sure, sure, whatever. BUT, to me this was a legitimate reason to replace the starter with a new (or in this case, a rebuilt one). A new one was crazy expensive but a rebuilt was less than $200 if I recall correctly, so I had them install one while the transmission was lowered and that area was easily accessible.

And, I figured this would finally be my chance to install this:
Full SAMCO heater hose kit.
I had actually ordered, and obtained, this SAMCO heater hose kit in BLACK from my friend Wouter, in order to go for a stealthy look in the engine bay. However, with the car at Nissan, while I could have mailed in those black hoses, I simply asked Nissan to get and install what they had in stock, which were the normal blue set (reordering a black set would take a few weeks - from overseas - and I was too busy at work to send in mine) in order to get the main job of the transmission swap done ASAP.

So, now the underside looks like this:
Uh, wait a second, that's not exactly what I had in mind...
So I was under the impression that this heater hose kit, replaced the two hoses that had leaked. Apparently not (the mechanics had called me and told me this, but I figured might as well replaced everything that is old and likely to burst anyway).  So, eventually I will have to find some silicon hoses to replace these going into the OEM heat exchange.

In the meantime, I'm happy to report that the car now starts up like a motorcycle - i.e. very little resistance, it just fires up very quickly.  So in addition to the 6 speed, the car now starts up like new and has some blue bling where most people will never see it.