Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fixing the Interior, Part 1 (Shift Surround)

My friends, I am truly touched by the support you have shown me - in addition to the heartfelt comments left in my previous post (where I showed how much Nakamura had damaged my car), many of you emailed and messaged me with messages of support as well. Thank you so much!

Anyway - after getting the car back in September, as you may have suspected I immediately set about beginning to fix what was unacceptable to me.  Initially I was planning to post some of these photos on Speedhunters, and I just might still. However I've decided to share here first.  During the time I shared some photos from last year's NISMO Festival here, I had in fact already begun working on fixing the things that really bothered me.

The first thing that I worked on was the shift surround. Normally of course this shift surround piece has a cigarette lighter and an ashtray installed, but Nakamura (or actually as he admitted a subcontractor) had modified this shift surround to incorporate the HVAC control unit. And while this now allows for a 2-DIN stereo or Navi to be installed, there was a problem with the finish of the black plastic. Take a close look:

See how the black plastic is super smooth?  Here is a close up view.

Well, take a close look at the plastic console surround that makes up most of the face of dash panel.

In other words, the difference in textures between the two plastics is WRONG.  From the factory the Series 2 and 3 cars had MATCHING rough finish textures on both pieces of black plastic. So, the Series 1 compatible smooth plastic on the shift surround contrasted strongly with the rest of the dash panel.


In my last post, I complained that Nakamura had not used my original dash panel, but had installed the very worn out (almost grey color) and scratched up dash panel that was obviously used.  Because I had rescued my original dash panel however, I decided to replace the grey worn out one with my old one. Actually removing this greyish dash panel wasn't easy however - this is because Nakamura had solid glued both the microphone for the Navi as well as the blue LED warning lamp for the alarm into the dash panel. In other words, it wouldn't just pop off - I had to drill out the microphone while still in the car (the LED had a connector which I disconnected).
See how scuffed up it is? I can't use this...
Here is a close up of how I had to drill around the alarm LED to remove it. You can also see how "grey" the texture is.

The reason I chose to remove it was because it is connected to the alarm system by connector and I was worried that if disconnected the alarm would sense a problem and cause problems.

Anyway, since I had decided to remove the old grayish dash panel (the 2 holes were not worth fixing either) I decided to recycle my old dash panel.  Here, you can see my old dash panel along with the shift surround, with tape covering the HVAC unit in preparation of painting.

My initial idea was to paint the shift surround with this Testors brand spackle paint, in an effort to replicate the rough finish and match my old dash surround.

Unfortunately the spackle particles were too large, which meant I started over with another tactic - of using regular flat black spray paint but to purposely spray from a longer than recommended distance in order to have relatively dry paint particles hit the painting surface. If you've ever painted with spray paint, you know what this does - it forms tiny bumps and leaves the surface slightly rough.

Here, you can see the old dash on the right, and my OEM dash in the middle which I also painted with the same flat black paint to match the shift surround. So an added bonus was revitalizing the OEM panel!
Shortly after painting the shift surround AND my old dash surround.
And here is the final result:

Looks pretty good, huh!! I was quite pleased with myself actually.  So what's next...still lots to come...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Video Review of the R33 GT-R on Top Gear HK

A quick word of thanks to everyone for their support! Really appreciate it!

Ok now before I publish several posts where I show you what I've done to fix the damage caused by Nakamura at WORX Auto (WORX Auto Alarmの中村がこんな無責任な作業!)here is something that popped up recently on Facebook which I just had to share. Would love to drive this car myself in Hong Kong!

So I found this recently. Too bad I don't understand Cantonese. However my friend Ken Lim does, and he was kind enough to provide the following translation - Thank You KEN!:

Ken: So, here's my translation on this based on my understanding of Cantonese.

He first started by saying that when he was small and young, the first time he seriously withdrew money to buy a model kit, it was a GT-R but not this one here. It was a R32 bec
ause it looks so cool to him but when R33 arrived, he don't know why that Nissan released a fat GT-R. The whole car itself was wider, longer, higher and heavier. Even when it comes to used price, R33 price is still cheaper than R32 and R34 price by big margin. Is the R33 that bad? 

The R33 was built with the weak points of R32 in mind. The first weak point of R32 is that it is understeers, secondly, the aerodynamics of R32 is still not good enough and thirdly, the body rigidity is not stiff enough. Starting with body rigidity, it has improved in several areas which improves rigidity by 1.5 times or 150%. So, it is hard to imagine this as it makes you think what kind of car R32 is? A paper crafted car? 

When it comes to aerodynamics, the biggest improvement in R33 is that it solves the problem of R32's floating front end during high speeds. Secondly, the drag force of R32 is too strong. If we go by drag coefficient, R32's figure is at 0.4. Too much emphasis is placed on downforce but the drag has not been well taken care of. When it comes to R33, not just that the front floating feeling has been significantly reduced, the drag coefficient has also been reduced from 0.4 to 0.35. 

Lastly, how to solve the understeer problem? Of course, the most direct way would be to modify the 4WD system. So, the 4WD system in R33 has changed a lot. For example, the weight distribution of the car. For R32, the front and rear weight distribution is 60:40 where it is front heavy. When it comes to R33, it went to 55:45 which is quite a reduction. But even with so much of reduction, the final question would be that what will consumers see at the end? It would be that the car's horsepower is still the same 280hp. This is due to the gentlemen's agreement back then in Japan. Although torque has increased by a little, horsepower remains the same but the R33 is heavier than the R32. Because of this, the R33 gives out an effect that it has become weaker due to larger size, weight while the power remains the same. It has disappointed the fans of GT-R. 

But when it comes to track, is it really that R33 could not match R32? Here's a simple reference for all. Both R32 and R33 has been to Nurburgring. The R32 clocked a lap time of 7 minutes and 59 seconds which is less than 8 minutes where it is considered as very fast. The R33 is faster than it by 20 seconds which is much faster. The engineers have definitely put in effort into improving the car's traction and cornering abilities but many consumers, they say that they have no chance to visit Nurburgring nor did they go to track very often. What they want would be the feeling and satisfaction but when they drive the R33 out, feeling wise, it does not feel as proud as the R32 or the later R34. Obviously, the R34 is even faster than the R33. 

But the engineers had really put in effort to improve the car. Unfortunately, for most people, they only look and take things in a simple way. Firstly, the area where the R33 shines can hardly be tested by most people and secondly, many people do not care about it at all. 

So at the end, is the R33 better than the R32 or is it weaker than the R32? I do not have an answer for now. Sorry. But when I was driving the car just now, there were two things that I am certain of. First, the body rigidity is really stiff where it is comparable with today's car. To think that this is a 20 plus years old car where Japanese cars back then even for sports cars, the frame can be as soft as they can be where it is unimaginable. But this one here is really stiff. Secondly, the traction of this car is very strong to the point that I do not feel like the car is going fast. But our cameraman just now told me that "Edmond, you are driving very fast just now.". So I said, "No way, how is that fast?". "Fast, it is indeed fast to the point that I am scared.", says the cameraman. I did not feel it at all. When I look at the speedometer, I realized that it is indeed fast. But for the driver, you do not feel that you are going fast because of the strong confidence. The same could not be said for the passenger because you can really scared from this. So these are the two points that I discovered easily from driving this car but to answer back the main question here, R32, R33 and R34, which one is the strongest? Is it that the R33 is the weakest one? This question could not be answered now but soon it will be answered. Because we have arranged a meet up with R32 and R34 together for a test. At that time, there will be an answer to this.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

I'm Back... and Pissed Off - F*ck Nakamura of WORX AUTO ALARM

Despite the date this isn't an April Fool's joke... I only wish it was...

Friends, please excuse the title, as well as my lack of updates. I'm alive, and so is my GT-R, but I've had to take some time off to recover from the shock and anger I had experienced after getting my car back from Nakamura-san at WORX. Bottom line everyone - STAY AWAY FROM WORX AUTO and NAKAMURA. Spread the word, too. 

I know, I know, seems like a very immature thing to do, to criticize someone publicly. But, it's my blog, and yes, as a lawyer I know the law. And simply, so long as I tell the truth, there is nothing he can do. It has been a very long time since I was THIS ANGRY with anyone!

I tried to be very civil about it on Speedhunters, because it's a public forum. But, on THIS blog I can say what I want and so, no hands barred, I am going to take the next few posts to talk about all the damage he did to my car, as well as my efforts and work to bring it back to some semblance of normality.  Or, to some state where I don't get pissed off every time I get in the car.

In any case, I think you will be shocked at how bad this got. Certainly for me, this guy is the worst I've had to deal with not just in Japan, but he's worse than anyone I dealt with back in the USA as well. 

Anyway - Here is the list - and I'm still discovering things that he screwed up on.

1) Without asking me, he threw away my custom sub box and Alpine subwoofer and Alpine amp.  Said "it wasn't needed."  He also disconnected my rear panel speakers for the same reason. Again, without asking me. Sure, maybe it's true that in a car with a good stereo set up rear deck speakers aren't needed, but ASK ME BEFORE YOU DO THINGS LIKE THROW STUFF OUT!!

So this is gone. And frankly, the stereo sounds terrible now - good accuracy but flat and no depth.

2) Despite my rejecting the color of the modified A-pillars (holding the Morel tweeters) - I had seen them on a previous 33 he worked on - I agreed to order on the condition that the alcantara be dark grey or black. He specifically ignored this request. No reason given.

The white A pillar looks totally wrong. OEM is black.
You can also see from this photo that he didn't bother to install the carbon door handle cups - that's how last minute it was when I went to pick up the car. It suggests he did not work on it that much during the 6 months he had my car!

He also refused to install an amp to power the Morels. No reason given, other than "it would be more expensive."  Incidentally, the Morels sound good, the only problem is that they are not aimed correctly and so the soundstage is off. I would have to drive with my head about 6 inches forward to get good sound. My prior homemade set up did not have this problem.

3) Without asking me, he installed an ETC reader in my glovebox. The glovebox, as you saw earlier on this blog and Speedhunters, had been carefully covered in leather by Cesar. The inside was likewise layered in Alcantara. Nakamura glued and screwed in the ETC's bracket to the Alcantara. While I was able to remove the screws, the glue meant I could not remove the bracket without ripping up the Alcantara.
This is the worst position to install the ETC card the card is inserted from the left I can't check visually if the card is installed while driving and I certainly can't insert the card at this angle either. DOH!
Here is a better view of the bracket he glued and screwed on.
Further, he also decided to bolt down the boost controller in the glovebox. In doing so, the screws he used pushed their way into the leather. As a result, the front face of the glovebox has two visible bumps.  I have had to remove the glovebox and send BACK to Mexico to be redone.
I couldn't believe it myself. So OBVIOUS. And NOT EVEN A SINGLE WORD OF APOLOGY.
Incidentally, because the glove box now had both the ETC card reader AND the boost controller installed, the electrical cables these devices used prevented the glovebox from closing properly. Meaning, the glove box is now deformed with the side sagging a bit.

Take a look - because of this:

We now have:
Oh and that silver box hanging? His double stick tape method failed to keep the Navi's auxiliary module securely attached.
You can see how when I push it, the door now lies flush. 
And if you're sharp eyed enough - yes, the leather on the glove box door looks off. Almost as if someone tried to use something to smooth down those bumps.

4) I had asked Cesar to use black stitching on the handbrake boot, to make it look close to OEM. He had, however, also made one with red stitching. So he sent me both. Nakamura, because he didn't bother asking me, used the red one and THREW OUT the black stitch one.  I don't know why anyone would do that, especially when the shift boot is BLACK STITCHING.
Not only is the handbrake boot wrong -doesn't match the shift boot, but look at the finish of the shift surround - would match a Series 1 but NOT a Series 3. Additionally he did not finish the ignition key surround either.
Blamed Cesar of course. 
Incidentally, when I removed the center console in order to remove the parking brake boot to send back to Cesar for a redo, I discovered that one of the front tabs had snapped off, and was held only in place by the leather...

5) Without asking me, he removed the F1 style LED lamp I had installed on my R34 rear diffuser. Reason? "It looked out of place." (no photo, I will take one in a future post).

6) He did not use the gauge cluster from my car - he found an old greyed one and installed that. Totally did not match my car. Also drilled and glued in the microphone (for the Navi) and the alarm's LED in places where I did not want. While I did manage to rescue my old piece when I picked up my car, I ended up buying and using a new one to replace it. (future post coming with photos).

7) The shift surround now incorporates the HVAC control unit. Good idea if you want to make space to have a full 2 DIN stereo or Navi. But, the HVAC unit is basically molded into the shift surround, so it is not removable nor can the light bulbs inside be accessed. Thus, I could not install the LED bulbs I had ready to go for that. Hence, at night there is a mismatch in coloring and brightness.  Also, as seen in the above photo, the surround itself does NOT match the rest of the center console facia. (future post coming with photos).

8) The brand new Nismo 6-Speed GETRAG transmission shift knob - remember I had gotten the GETRAG installed last year - is now scratched up. Looks like he used a wrench to remove it. In the process, he broke some threads and so the shift knob is now always loose and cannot be tightened.

Anyone have any suggestions for a replacement? 
9) The control unit for the DEFI Heads Up Display - without asking me, he installed that INSIDE the drivers side kickpanel, meaning I could not adjust the brightness or the display. I am currently trying to figure out how and where to relocate.
Real genius. So how do I adjust the brightness or the display output when it's hidden behind the kick panel?
10) He had installed some circuit boards with LEDs in the gauge cluster behind the gauge faces. Initially they seemed interesting because they would come on during the day and illuminate the speedometer and tachometer and would dim when you turned on the lights - like a modern car. The only problem was that the LEDs he installed for the center 3 gauges did not similarly react. They were not on during the day, coming on only at night. Unacceptable.

Also, the LEDs were so bright that shadows appeared causing some numbers to appear brighter than others. Finally - and I only discovered this when I was removing them - for some reason these LEDs run SUPERHOT! So hot he had wrapped the gauge cluster in 3M Thinsulate.  I literally burned myself when I removed the gauge cluster after having them on for only about 10 min (to take photos for the blog, etc.)  Again, I had already installed some special LEDs I had found which did a great job of even lighting, and then only at night like OEM. Yes, he threw those out without asking me as well. (future post coming with photos).

11) He threw out my Optima Yellow Top battery. Claimed it had "gone bad" - I think any battery goes bad when a car sits around for 6 months neglected.  Installed a Japanese brand he claimed was "winter spec for the R34" - and which cost twice as much as the Optima...

12) I'm sure there are other items that I am forgetting...

In any case - he had my car at his place for OVER 6 MONTHS! Everytime I'd call he would give me some excuse. In the end he claimed it was all the bad wiring from my DIY efforts, but again, I had NEVER ASKED HIM TO REMOVE that wiring - I just wanted an alarm and a new stereo. I kept asking him for an estimate, which never came. I asked for an invoice which I never got.

All of the above, I could tolerate, if the work was free or price of parts only. But, he tried to charge me $16,000! I paid him just enough that if he sued me the court would say I had paid more than my fair share (i.e. the retail cost of the stereo and the alarm), but I paid him BEFORE I discovered most of the above issues. My mistake. 

In any case, this shows Japan isn't always the land of perfect service and high quality work. There are always exceptions and I ran into one of them.  If you are in Japan or have friends here who are thinking about using him - STAY AWAY! 

Meanwhile - rest assured I will have several more posts coming in the near future as I embark on fixing all of these problems...