Friday, February 9, 2024

The Making of "The GTR Run Tokyo" by HartnettMedia (and my role in it!)

 A few months ago, my friend Dino contacted me - "hey you want your 33 to become the most famous 33 in the world?" with "Pennzoil wants to do a little something, so I am working on a project"

Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about. But the end result was this:

Ok so here is some background information.

First, Dino and Alec had me show up VERY early to the Hakone Turnpike. That is where Dino introduced me to Ben Hartnett and Chris Hofstaetter.  The guys drove a Nissan Serena minivan that Nissan had lent them, and Dino of course came in his 34.  A few minutes after I arrived, Sudo-san pulls up, NOT in his 32, but driving a flatbed truck that carried his 32! 

Then our first challenge of the day - it turned out that the original section where Dino and Ben wanted to film was closed to the public - apparently Ferrari Japan was renting it out for their own video shoot! Undeterred, we took some side roads and found some other good places.

Then, we had to also find a place for Sudo-san to park his truck where he could unload the 32. But after that, the magic happened.  

Here are some photos I took while waiting to be told what to do and how to drive.

Closer up, but without Mt Fuji in the background.

After a few back and forth scenes, we parked. This is where we tried to choreograph getting into our cars at the same time. Clearly, we are neither actors nor coordinated.

Same shot, I was experimenting with the exposure setting. Was hard to balance getting the background to show while keeping the foreground coloring accurate. 

Trying another angle...

Around noontime, I actually had to go back into Yokohama as I had meetings at work. Lucky for me, the cars were running out of gas and so we headed into Atami to get gas.  It was then when I decided to not bother driving back but have Chris take over - turns out he is a 33 fan so was THRILLED at being able to  drive my car.  All the evening shots of the cars on these roads, that is him driving, not me!

And of course, having been dropped off at Atami station as they went to look for a gas station, I  took this train back into Yokohama:

But of course, this was only part of the plan.  The next day, Friday night, I found myself driving my car at night, meeting up with Dino and crew at a Parking Area outside Tokyo.  Somehow, several random Japanese Skyline GT-R owners were also there, so we invited them to tag along and include them in the night filming.

All I will say is, it was FREEZING cold... which made for great turbo boost of course. But the Japanese guys were super excited about their luck, and one youung guy just happaned to be an avid Ben Hartnett fan and was literally gushing with joy at being able to shake Ben's hand and take a photo with him.

Ben and Alec plotting

Yep, we have seen this 33 before... original LM paint, too!

Lots of waiting. It reminded me of the one time I was an extra in a movie.  Many retakes, from various angles, with most of my time spent waiting.

Staying inside the car to stay warm!

Obviously no shots of me actually driving at night since of course I was boring and followed all the speed limits, driving in a safe, controlled and mature manner, as befitting my job and position in society. Right...

Anyway, we called it quits at about 0500 just as the sun was about to come up. I can see from the finished project that a lot of what we did not make it into the final cut, but that is to be expected in the editing process.  Still, I had fun and it really is nice to be memorialized in this way by a real professional cinematographer.

Thank you Ben, Dino, Alec and Chris!! Hope to meet up with you guys again soon!

Sunday, February 4, 2024

OEM Look LED Series 3 Headlights by VELENO! (@Tokyo Auto Salon 2024) - Part 2 (Q&A with Nakakuki-san)

 So as promised, I called up Nakakuki-san at Garage Chikara this past week to follow up on some questions I had, as well as several everyone was asking me, after my first post.

Question - this is too expensive! Why?

Answer - according to Nakakuki-san, those inquiring customers who have owned GT-Rs for awhile have all agreed that the pricing is fair or even inexpensive (note - I myself agree), with most of those who are complaining about the price being too high, either new GT-R owners or non-owners.  The price is high but on par with the OEM part; plus because of the limited numbers of the product being planned, there cannot be economies of scale like with an OEM company like Nissan.

Question - will this be available for vehicles in LHD countries?

Answer - the product/bulb already has the E-mark, if that helps; I did not get a direct answer but if your country requires, by law, the proper cut-mark (light pattern), I think it will depend on how many requests the company gets. This link has a nice diagram of the difference in light patterns.

Question - If your current headlamp housing is in good shape, why not just replace the current bulbs with LED bulbs?  

Answer - As you may know, the OEM Series 3 unit uses a D2 Xenon bulb for low beam and H1 for high beam.  However, in their research they could not find equivalent LED bulbs that satisfied their requirements. Also given the higher output of modern LEDs it is likely that you would want the lens to be precisely made in order to prevent excessive glare to oncoming traffic.

(see the Veleno IG page for the photo that shows how clean the cut line is)

Question - is it possible to buy the same new Veleno Mortale LED H11 bulbs and install in your current headlamp housings?

Answer - no, as the original housing is not designed for H/8H11 bulbs fitment.

Question - will there be a harness adaptor to allow use in Series 1 (Zenki), Series 2 (chuuki), as well as Series 3 (kohki) cars?

Answer - unsure about what method at the time of my call, but yes they will ensure the unit works with all variants of the BCNR33.

Question - where is the English language ordering website?

Answer - coming soon! (I will insert link here when it is up!)

Question - what is the origin story of this product?

Answer - it turns out that Matsuda-san and Nakakuki-san were at the 2022 Veleno end of year party (bonenkai) where they started to discuss how an LED product for their R33s would be a good thing.  They proposed the idea there to Veleno president Yumi-san, and one year later...  And meanwhile they also learned that the ballast units used in the Xenon D2 headlights are no longer available new.  Meaning that if the ballast unit dies, people have to find another source of lighting anyway (apparently this is happening on a frequent basis with Lancer Evos, which Nakakuki-san also services).  So further justification for this LED project.

Question - is this the same unit that Garage Active had advertised, briefly?

Answer - no. Apparently some guys from GA did make inquiries with Veleno to check this one out, however...right before that post was taken down...

Question - what about the R32 and R34 GT-Rs?

Answer - based on how well the 33 units have been received, they are in the planning stages for products for these cars as well.

Question - any other LED products for the 33 in the future?

Answer -  maybe...

Did I miss any? Let me know if any of you have any follow-up questions!

Monday, January 15, 2024

OEM Look LED Series 3 Headlights by VELENO! (@Tokyo Auto Salon 2024) - Part 1

Happy New Year friends!

Having seen some social media posts (and an advert in last month's GT-R Magazine) about a new product from LED specialist Veleno (working together with Nismo Super GT racing driver Tsugio Matsuda) - namely a completely new Series 3 (kohki) headlamp unit incorporating LEDs for both low and high beams, this year I decided to make the 90 minute train ride from Yokohama to Makuhari Messe in Chiba where Tokyo Auto Salon 2024 is being held this weekend.

I quickly made my way to the Veleno booth, and finally saw Matsuda-san's R33 GT-R in the flesh! I've seen this car in GT-R Magazine, as well as on YouTube (with Matsuda-san driving in it) so it was cool to finally see it in person.

But looking more closely, I was really surprised to see that IF this car had the new LED units, it did not look like it had LEDs in there at all.

Ok here is a close-up. 

I asked around and was introduced to Nakakuki-san of Garage Chikara, who was co-hosting the event (turns out that Nakakuki-san owns a Series 1 R33, is an R33 GT-R fan, and has long been itching to upgrade the headlights on his 33 to LEDs - so this project made it happen!) with Reiz Trading (the company that sells the Veleno brand bulbs). This answers why Veleno did not come out with LED headlights for the 32 or 34... 

So - and I will update in a future blog post with more on the back story about how all this happened, but meanwhile, here are the particulars that Nakakuki-san shared with me. I am also following up on some technical questions as well, so if you have any, please do leave a comment and I will follow up on those too! For example, I was told by Nakakuki-san that both bulbs for low and high beam are H8 bulbs, but the Japanese website states the high beams are H11. And yes, I know that they are very close to the same form factor and that there are slight differences, but what is the actual situation here?

Anyway - first, an English language website (for ordering) is coming in the near future - probably next month. So yes, you will be able to order and purchase these units from outside Japan, and yes they will have no problem sending these out by international post. No need for a middleman service.

Second, the projected run is about 200 sets initially, but if there is more demand then of course they will continue to produce more.  It is important to note that the current retail price is an "early bird" special, in that the high and low beam bulbs - valued at 66,000 yen (with Japanese VAT) are included for no additional cost. The units will be ready for sale sometime between March and May, likely during April. After the initial run, it seems the bulbs will be an extra cost.

Third, the harness for these kits is plug and play for Series 3, but the displayed red car is actually a Series 2, so obviously a retrofit is possible.  However, if you watch the demo video before, you will see that when the high beam is on, the low beams shut off, which is consistent with what the Series 1 and 2 OEM lights do - but NOT the headlights for the Series 3 cars, where the low beam stays on - because of the Xenon bulb. I will find out more details on whether any harness modifications are needed (but IIRC, he said there were not, so...)

I managed to capture these still shots during the video. 
Low beam - incredibly bright, although I wish they had kept one side the original Xenon for comparison

Blinding high beam! But low beams turn off just like the Series 3 OEM units

There were a few other cars on display too. There was a manual Z sporting a Nismo body kit (i.e. hint hint Nissan this is how the Z Nismo should be...) As well as this very clean Autech 4 door GT-R.

Turns out this Autech is also one of Matsuda-san's cars...

I still don't know what purpose this half clip served, other than to allow the models to sit down behind it.  

Oh and it was also hooked up to show off what could be possible, strobe light-wise?

Meanwhile, as I was talking to Nakakuki-san in the back, a crowd was forming outside - so when I looked out I saw this:
Models posing with the half cut. One way to draw a crowd I guess...

Veleno also had their other products on display, including the "Impact Blaster" which was apparently some kind of anti-bacterial ozone generator for your car...

Anyway, rest assured I do myself have a set on order already, and will post my impressions once I get them installed. Maybe do a video showing the difference between the LED and the Xenon (I know I am going to miss that "warm up blue" effect...).

Finally, this being Tokyo Auto Salon - well there are a bunch of other websites and social media platforms showing more content.  For me, this is a shot of how it looked when I first entered the main area of Makuhari Messe (the convention hall that hosts Tokyo Auto Salon). Me being me, somehow I found myself entering exactly where CraftSports (GT-R specialists) had their display...

Stay tuned for more updates!