Friday, April 29, 2016

So What Did Dino Think? (His Impressions Driving My Car)

As I noted in my earlier post about our visit to Worx Auto, my friend and motorjournalist Dino Dalle Carbonare drove my car for the first time in the 10 years plus I've known him (and hence, our R33 v R34 debate).

Sometimes, when you've owned a car for a long time, things that are not right, seem or become normal. So, once in a while it's nice to have a professional who's driven hundreds if not thousands of new cars, give you some honest feedback. So I was excited that Dino agreed to drive my car the 2 hours to Worx Auto Alarm...

As soon as we set off from his house, the first words out of his mouth were, "wow this is tight!!" He was, of course, referring to the newly installed and still-being-broken-in Getrag 6 speed.  He showed me what he meant - no play in the stick shift from side to side, in any gear.

Although, in conjunction with the new gearbox, he found it odd that the Nissan Prince techs set the clutch release point so high up in the clutch pedal travel.  This is one (easy fix) item I will get checked out soon. Although to be honest, it hadn't really bothered me much before. Maybe it's because those of us vertically challenged guys find it easier to heel and toe, not having to push the clutch pedal all the way down to the floor?

He also loved how stiff the handbrake was. Something about the one on his BNR34 coming up loosely and almost vertical...

Soon after, he also exclaimed "I love the brakes" referring, of course, to the R35 Brembos on the car. We discussed whether, in his opinion, the increased volume AutoSelect master brake cylinder would be a worthwhile upgrade.  While it might provide more pedal travel (i.e. make it feel "softer") I think we both agreed it was fine the way it was, on the OEM BCNR33 master cylinder.

After cruising for a bit, while it seemed to me that he was quite busy unnecessarily shifting up and down due to the short gearing, he remarked how it made him feel really involved in driving the car. Reminded him of his first Alfa, I think is what he said.

Having myself and Dino and both of our respective kids on board, the car was plenty quick, although it was obvious the gearing was helping, and that, with no one else on board, the car would feel even faster.
His usual pose, he said...
He also liked the way the steering was very progressive in feel, taking the car into fast sweeping corners as he turned the wheel.  Also, unlike myself, he felt that the on-center dead zone I complain about, was minimal at best, and in fact that it had plenty of good on center feel. (I guess the NSX, which is my standard, is simply out of this world?)

For the interior, we agreed the second generation GT-Rs have such comfortable seats. Dino being as "tall" as he is, and me much shorter, neither of us felt any discomfort after our 4 hour roundtrip journey.  He also liked the LED illumination of the main gauges and 3 sub meter:


Of course, being Italian, the complaints or "observations" came on very quickly as well.

First, as I had told him when we first climbed in, Dino agreed that perhaps the car's Ohlins DFV coil-overs needed to be rebuilt. While the springs seem about right, the rebound is a bit too stiff (response slow?) for non-racetrack roads, resulting in a bit of jumpy behavior on other than perfectly smooth roads.


Then, while cruising at high speed, Dino noted a slight shimmy in the steering wheel, going straight. Likely an alignment, or wheel balance problem.  Both of these problems I plan to address soon.

Other minor niggles include, not being able to see out the back very well.  The rear window tint, while legal, may be a bit too dark (except, of course, when some idiot with illegal high beams is right behind you, as we experienced on the way back).
Something about the trunk being too small...yeah ok the tint is probably a bit dark too...
Since I don't usually drive the car at night, not a big issue for me...

While the engine is fine, there seems to be some turbo chatter. Hopefully a proper tune with a more modern ECU should fix this (so goodbye VX-ROM).  I've been researching this for quite some time so hopefully soon!

Finally, my circa 2006 Pioneer Navi/stereo is hopelessly out of date, even with the map updates (I think up to 2010?) We basically ignored it and used Google Maps off of our phones to get around.  Hopefully my new relationship with Nakamura-san at Worx can help to resolve this somewhat embarrassing issue...at the very least I need better sound in my car!

Anyway, this experience has given me a better roadmap for work I need to do on the car this year... like I said previously, 2016 will be an interesting year! Thanks Dino!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mission Possible: Buying Up Parts (Before They Are Gone) and Freshening Up the Car

So a free Sunday today.  I had gotten a call from Yamazaki-san at Nissan Prince earlier in the week about some parts I had ordered a while back that had finally come in, so I swung by to pick them up.

Parking was tight, so I just pulled in and...
Left my car there in the middle of the shop entrance lol
In tinkering with my car, I am noticing that some things are starting to show their age - for example, some interior parts have some scratches that can't be removed or have some lettering that has faded, etc. So, before Nissan decides to stop production on some of these parts, for the last few months I've begun ordering those parts which, once they are gone, would be hard to replicate or find substitutes for.

This time, I had ordered 3 parts - one small, one medium (hint for both of these - they are interior pieces) and then one relatively large one.

The two small boxes and the large flat box are the parts...nothing with "Reimax" on them today unfortunately!
The parts were ready and waiting for me.  For the two interior parts, I will install and blog about another time.  But the large piece was something I decided to take care of, while at Nissan. No technical expertise required to replace it!

This is not pretty. 
As you can tell, the large piece in question is the big piece of heat/noise insulation that is found under the hood. Not only was it beginning to sag in some places from age, but as the yellow arrows above show, mine showed the scars from my experiment creating a ram air intake (where I had taped foam to insure the incoming air flowed into the airbox, and not onto the engine).

Taking the insulation off was easy, using the proper tool which they lent me.
You can see how the edges of the insulation are beginning to fray.

A few minutes later:
It actually looks pretty nice without anything there under the bonnet...race car like?

Old piece is rusty brown, new piece is light, almost yellow
I was surprised to learn that the new Nissan OEM replacement piece, for some reason, did not exactly match the shape one that was on my car. Either, my car had an earlier R33 piece on, or for some reason Nissan got rid of variances between the model years for replacement parts.

The old piece - yellow where it is different than the new piece.
The quality of the new part appears better (it appears darker and more plush?), not sure if it's the material used or due to age of the original part that was on the car.

Here is the new part, attached. Yellow circle on the section that is now gone.
Anyway not sure what to think of this. I decided to have them dispose of the old part for me so no going back.  I have to assume that, at some point Nissan decided that this new part did the job.  And, the missing section makes sense, it is above the airbox where frankly there isn't as much heat generated as the rest of the engine.  On the other hand,  when sitting still heat dissipates all over so not sure why this is supposed to be a better design.  I have to have faith that the actual material used is improved.

I will continue to research this, but since I had promised my Facebook friends to post what I did today, here it is... in my next post I will post another freshening up/parts purchase I did BEFORE this one...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Weird Things Happen... and Finding Stuff in One's Garage

During my trip on April 5th to Chiba Prefecture to visit Worx Auto Alarm with my friend Dino,  a slight sprinkling of rain hit the car on the way over.  While I was pleased to see how well the Echelon 1043 Nano-Fil paint protection I had gotten applied during its full detail at Rapt was holding up, by the time I got home, I was too busy and tired to properly wash the salt spray (from the ocean) and dirt (in general) off the car.

So last weekend, I spent about an hour washing the car. Compared to previous car wash sessions where I would have to carve out a few hours time to ensure I would have time to give the car a quick once over after the wash to apply some Zaino using my Porter Cable orbital buffer, this time the wash was a strictly water and car wash (Zaino Z7) solution, because the Echelon coating is supposed to last a few years (and I don't want to scratch unnecessarily, right?)

Unfortunately, right as I began washing, I spotted this:
WTF? When did that happen?
So yes was not happy. I thought about if there had been any vandalism to the car, but since this was really the first time I had driven a long distance since getting the car professionally detailed, I was confused as to how this could have happened.  Luckily, it's only a sticker, and so I will have it replaced with a new one soon.

Meanwhile, once I calmed down I continued to finish cleaning the car. After I dried it, I found this in my garage:



So this water repellant (i.e. Rain-X copy) product, called Clean View Glass Coat X2 Strong, made by Ichinen Chemicals, claims to last twice as long, and become effective at 38kph. It also claims to have 2 ingredients, fluoride as well as silicon. I almost don't think it's worth it, because one of Dino's questions when he drove my car was, "what did Kabe-san at Rapt put on the windshield?" pointing to how the rain rolled off the windshield.  At the same time, I noticed for some reason that the rain did not fly off the rear window thus suggesting that other than a quick polish of the glass surface, nothing special was applied (there is an Echelon product for glass that is supposedly amazing but I don't recall paying for that...)

In any case, I figured I had nothing to lose, especially if I applied this to the rear glass.  Application is simple, just like Rain-X. The liquid seeps though the large circular sponge attached to the end, and then you apply, let dry, and buff off. Presto!


close-up as it dries.
Now I'm not recommending this product, it was something I just found in my garage and further, because I rarely take the car out in the rain, I doubt I will be able to experience it in action. Until, at least, I next wash the car and then I will report...although based on the mediocre feedback on the Minkara Japanese language car blog, I'm not that optimistic.

In the meantime, I have a few real mods and some restore work coming to my car very soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

First Visit to WORX Auto Alarm

So last weekend, my friend Dino and I decided to visit with Nakamura-san, owner of a very interesting and special shop, Worx Auto Alarm, located in Chiba near beaches famous with the surfing crowd.  It was a nice day for a drive, so despite my having known Dino for more than 10 years,  I decided to let him drive my car for the first time.  I figured a man who has driven more cars than I can count, who's not getting paid to drive it, can give me his objective impressions on my car.  And yes he did!  So I'll post those up in an upcoming post.

We arrived mid-afternoon on a cloudy day - sunlight hit it just right I think!
Anyway, Nakamura-san is famous in Japan due to his love for the RB26 GT-Rs (he is especially a big fan of the R33, he told me!) and his work, especially, as his shop name states, on car alarms for them (even in Japan these cars have a high theft rate).  He also does car stereo and other electrical stuff so for basically anything electrical, he's THE guy.

He's done the installs for the cars owned by and featured in GT-R Magazine and the like, so he's widely known in the GT-R community here in Japan.  Here are some examples of what he does for GT-Rs. Most importantly for us R33 owners who want a modern 2DIN stereo head unit, is perhaps this:
Check out how cleanly the HVAC is installed there!
From: http://www.worxautoalarm.co.jp/specialcontent/gtr/
Recently, Dino had some work done on his BNR34 (installing some switchback LEDs from VLEDS) and featured it on Speedhunters. What impressed me the most, as well as I'm sure many people, was the level of attention to detail Nakamura-san takes in making sure the wiring is neat and clean:



So as not to get the jumbled mess of spaghetti found in my car:
I'm blaming SuperAutobacs for this... when I got my Pioneer Navi installed by them back in 2006!
In addition to being a rabid 2nd generation GT-R fan (he's got one of every model), he also has some other interesting cars in his collection. One being this Fiat thing which apparently he bought because he loved what the print ads said at the time "In Pursuit of Ferrari" or something like that...

It does have an Abarth badge...

Anyway, he's got some other vehicles like this very American one.  For me, however, is the excitement of finally meeting someone who is just as, if not more, OCD than me and who is willing and able to help me on the one part of the R33 that oozes 90s Nissan cheapness, the interior.

Alas, after the 3 of us talked excitedly non-stop for 2 hours, Dino and I decided to pack up and head back... but not before we cruised by the beach near the ocean, where I took this photo.
I think this is the limit of my iPhone's camera (and my photography skills!)...

Stay tuned, the rest of 2016 is going to be full of goodness, I just know!