Saturday, October 19, 2013

Preview: the Do-Luck DTMII

My quest to modernize my car continues...

Trying out "live blogging"... Check back later tonight as I report on the install and my driving impressions of Do-Luck's latest electronic wonder!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Lip Spoiler... I'm not giving up...(to prevent scraping)

So while I prefer the look of the OEM Series 3 lip, the drawback is that due to it being 20mm longer than the Series 1/2 lip, it seems to ALWAYS get scraped up.  In fact, this is the reason why original buyers of the Series 3 cars were able to order the Series 1/2 lip, as an option from the factory.

A bit more and I scrape...

See how much shorter the Series 1 car's lip spoiler is!

When in its OEM black ABS plastic form, sometimes the scratches aren't very noticeable because they are on the bottom edge, but once you make the decision to paint the lip, then a scratch can no longer be buffed out, or sanded down like ABS plastic can.

So in my quest to protect the lip spoiler, I am currently experimenting with the Road Warrior Plus paintable clear bra alternative.  So far, so good I think. However there is nothing in place to protect the lip from scrapes, in case I end up pulling into a slightly too steep driveway. I need something that attaches UNDER the front lip spoiler that can sacrifice itself and give tactile and audible warning when it hits something solid, and cause me to stop (also something that doesn't weigh too much or cause drag is important, too!).

Long time readers will recall that in the past I tried long rubber strips (a Nismo aftermarket part), as well as thin aluminum strips for this purpose.  The aluminum worked well initially, but I found that a section would give and break away but other sections would not, creating pieces that would drag on the road, and even end up getting caught up in the wheels. Not good.  The reason being I just could not attach them securely enough.

I've even done a 3M DIN-OC carbon fiber wrap.

When I consulted my engineer friend Andrew Brilliant, his idea was to have a separate frame or section that could absorb the impact without putting stress on the lip spoiler and bumper (like what happened and resulted in my having the bumper and lip spoiler repainted...)   Although his idea was too complicated for a simpleton like me, one thing I did decide to follow up on was having something that was "soft" and could "absorb the impact."

Initially I was thinking of rubberized metal strips that I would bolt on using the screw points of the front diffuser, but that got too complicated. I finally settled on this:

The install was very easy. Less than 2 minutes per screw - that is, I would unscrew the shorter screw that is currently used to hold the diffuser in place on the leading edge of the front lip, then replace with the longer screw threaded though a rubber grommet, to end up with this:

Very simple, right? Hopefully these are the lowest points of the front lip spoiler and will drag or catch first.

So far I've done a 300 km trip that included Sodegaura Forest Raceway for the Skyline Festival 2013, even drove on a dirt road leading to the gravel parking lot, and no problems. Hopefully these will work - not that I want to, but they are cheap to replace if they ever get torn off. I'll let everyone know how and if they work...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"The R33 is leaner... and more GT looking..."

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the readers of /DRIVE agree that the Skyline GT-R was one of the three Japanese cars to have right now.... (and even more that the hosts agreed the 33 was leaner and more GT looking than the 34...)

Unfortunately, not much more about the Skylines...other than, it's one of their "hero cars" which are essentially unobtainable in the USA.

Hence, most of the time is spent talking about other cars.... but a few I wouldn't mind having, actually!


Here is the link:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Engine Bay Detailing and Parts Replacement

Well as most of you know I DO like to keep my car clean.  And this means not just the exterior and interior, but also places that are not as obvious, such as the wheel wheels, inside body panels, etc. But I realized that lately, I had been neglecting one very obvious area: the engine bay.

So, the morning of the Izu Skyline drive, I took about an hour and used some Simple Green and some elbow grease to clean the engine bay (also, I figured that Dino would probably take a photo of the engine bay… I was right!!)

Using some plastic sheets, I protected the sensitive parts from water, and then proceeded to spray down the engine bay.  Once dry, I then sprayed on some CD2 protectant that I have had forever (I think I bought it back in 2007?!!), and was sitting in my collection of detailing tools.

 Freshly sprayed, it looked like this:
You can see the plastic bag protecting the Okada Plasma wiring, as well as the not yet dry CD2 spray

So if you look closely, there are a couple things that bothered me.
1) The fusebox cover: I had a vendor lay wet carbon over the original fusebox cover. And it came out terrible.  You can see in the photo above, it looks ok from a distance... but not up close (so we borrowed Thomas' for the Speedhunters photo)
2) The plastic clips on the steel brake lines, along the firewall.  Actually Midori Seibi's Uchinaga-san (the son, R33 owner as well) had pointed that out during my visit to Midori Seibi back in January.
3) The radiator stay. Mine is rusted and has dirt built-up. One is visible, the other is hidden under the air intake snorkel.

So I had to get replacements for this. And hence my trip to Nissan Shinagawa the other day, to pick up a few parts:

1) New fuse box cover
2) White Plastic clips (3)
3) Radiator stay
4) and small clips (2)

The two clips, I will use in a future blog entry.
Otherwise, as fitted these new parts did help to freshen up the engine bay (apologies I took these photos with my iPhone at night...):
Old (borrowed from Thomas again) and new Fuse Box Covers

Hmm. That new one looks weird.
 I wonder if I can get the old one chromed or something...

Comparing the plastic clips that hold the brake lines in place!
The old ones had turned yellow (and 2 of 3 had cracked) due to the heat of the engine!
And here it is installed - I have one more thing I want to do so will have a better picture when I do that mod, but until then, this photo will have to do.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Clear Film Paint Protection... Sort Of

So having gotten my car refreshed (i.e. front bumper repainted) recently, this time I'm determined to make sure that the newly painted parts remain as clean and pristine as possible.

One solution, of course, is to never drive the car, but this is not practical.

After doing some research, I believe there are four solutions:

1) Do nothing. That is, just have the bumper and front lip spoiler repainted every other year or so, whenever the damage becomes an eyesore.

2) Application of 3M Scotchguard Paint Protection clear film.
This would actually be the best solution...
The drawbacks are, however, expense (I have found very few shops in Japan that do this film application which means very expensive), and in this particular situation, the inability to cover all the painted areas, given all the openings, scoops and complex shapes on the front bumper and the lip spoiler.

I actually tried doing this myself before with limited success (the headlights came out great):
Using tracing paper to create patterns for the 3M film
During application: before squeegeeing the liquid out
However even though I managed to wrap the front lip spoiler, it never looked right as the cutouts for the front brake ducts were sloppy, and then when I scraped the lip spoiler, the impact left the film scarred and scraped up too. So when the lip spoiler was repainted, it was removed of course.

3) Application of 3M Paint Defender Spray Film (I have no experience with this, but hope to try it out in the near future)
Check back as I experiment with this in the near future!
This seems very promising - almost the quality of the 3M Scotchguard film, but in a spray format? The internet reviews are mixed...

4) Application of Road Warrior Plus
This is the basic kit - the liquid in a quart bottle, plus application tools.
This is what I ended up getting.  Basically, this is a liquid that you paint onto those car surfaces that you want to protect, and when dry it is supposed to serve the same purpose as the clear film.  That is, provide impact protection from stuff on the road. Of course, given its relatively thin (when dry) nature it is marketed more as a temporary solution for track days (apply, race, then peel off) and long distance driving where road debris can be expected to hit at high speed.

Ingenious in concept, but a) is it really that easy, b) does it look ok when dry, and c) does it work?

So I got to work. First, as many reviewers remarked, this stuff DOES smell, and have the same consistency, as Elmer's glue.
Ok this roller is cute, but will it do the job?
Before pouring the RWP into the tray, I wiped down the front bumper and lip spoiler. Also, I decided to do my left side mirror as well, more to be able to demonstrate to people who ask.

I seems to go on very thick.....
But after you start spreading it out with the roller....
You end up with a very thin coat of spackled Elmer's glue-like stuff
This whole process took only about 30 minutes, and I did two coats (dried the first layer with a hair dryer), at night, when it was about 18 degree C outside (so maybe a bit more inside the garage?)

Here is what it looks like, in daylight after it is dry.
Can't really tell from this distance...
But close up, you can see the orange peel effect quite clearly
Close up, it looks like really bad orange peel, but it feels like plastic, not paint. There were some areas where I had forgotten to smooth out the liquid well, which resulted in some clumping but in the end they dried clear too.  As you can see from far away it doesn't look too bad, I think.

I had actually done this right before my visit to Do-Luck and Nissan Prince on the 30th, and both Ito-san and Koyama-san thought I had subjected my car to the worst ever repaint...before I explained that it was a roller applied film...

Now to test it...seems almost too good to be true if it can actually provide significant protection. Yes I've driven to Shinagawa and back, but I think we need a longer trip. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Can There Be Too Much Body Rigidity?

(Or, what I was actually doing at Do-Luck on my day off this past Monday)

So as I continue to bring my car up to more modern standards, one area where I have spent time, money, and effort recently, as readers have noticed, is in the area of improving body rigidity.

So far, I've attempted to add body rigidity to the following areas:
Rear trunk area (cross-wise):  S15 Trunk bar
Front fenders (longitudinal): Nagisa Gacchiri support
Front underfloor + steering rack (cross-wise), replaces standard front cross bar: NISMO Front Underfloor Reinforcing Bar
Center underfloor + rear suspension (cross-wise), replaces standard center cross bar: NISMO Center Underfloor Reinforcing Bar
The chassis and subframe: Spoon Sports "Rigid Collars"
Not exactly a “stiffening” part, but something that cancels out the excess vibrations caused by stiffening: NISMO Performance Dampers

This past Monday, I added one more - the Do-Luck Floor Support Bar!
Courtesy of Do-Luck RS webpage; Floor Bars (aluminum) shown on demo R34 GTR
While I thought that my body rigidity work was finished after I got the trunk bar installed, in the back of my mind, I had my doubts - was I doing the right thing? Were these reinforcement parts working in the additive sense - was having more rigidity everywhere, better? Or was I risking unbalancing the car?  After all, during my research into the differences between the R33 and R34 GT-R, there was some extra welding done in the C-pilllar, and the trunk bar, but nothing about fender and underfloor bracing...

And as you recall from my results after the trunk bar installation, the ride quality got much stiffer, in fact on the verge of being too harsh! So did I really want to further stiffen the car?

A while back I had called Ito-san at Do-Luck and asked him this question.  He believed that it would only benefit my car to tighten up the floorpan, that what I had done so far wasn't excessive. So, it was only a matter of time before, when I had a day off, I drove over to Do-Luck to get their Floor Bars installed.

They were waiting for me, so I had them pull my car into the workshop because... 
As you can see it was pretty crowded in there that day.
No way I'm taking responsibility if I accidentally run into something!
I spent most of my time while there talking to Ito-san about his latest product, the DTMII ETS Controller, (I volunteered to translate the manual, so he gave me some inside info as to how it work! I hope to share it here soon...) so did not watch as his staff installed these:

However the concept is ridiculously simple - using lightweight aluminum, oval shaped (in order to prevent excessive underhang) bars that bolt on to the underbody in 3-4 places. Here is an interesting tidbit - he found that some 33s had 4 mounting holes available (like my car) but others only had 3. Hence he ended up standardizing his bars to have 3 mounting holes, as can be seen in the photo above.  However, ALL R34s have 4 holes on the chassis, so the R34 bars all have 4 mounting holes... not sure if it makes a difference but it would have been nice just in case...
Close-up of rear of bar (looking towards front) showing how the NISMO brace fits OVER the Do-Luck one, no problem
Ito-san remarked that as he had developed these bars BEFORE even NISMO released their series of underfloor reinforcing bars - he had never seen the above scene before in person!  I couldn't believe it myself, but it was the first time he himself had seen that these two pieces fit without issue. Turns out that not many of his customers get their pieces installed at his shop, and I guess I was the first R33 with the NISMO pieces to do so...
Here is the front of the bar. You can see how there is a hook that ties it securely to the frame
 (prepped with anti-rust later, of course)
sorry for the blurred shot, but you can see how the bar runs along the chassis 
Anyway, based on my research I don't think there are any more aftermarket add-on parts available to improve body rigidity.  So I think I am done with this type of body rigidity improvement. When I have the time, I’d like to follow up on methods to stiffen the shell by way of either spot welding, or hardening foam (for example in the C-pillars, like the BNR34).

After the work was done, I then took a quick spin to Nissan Prince Shinagawa and visited their Motorsports Division to order some additional parts for some upcoming projects I have. You’ll have to check back in order to see exactly what I got….

But more importantly during the drive over, I could DEFINITELY feel that the Floor Support Bars had made a big difference, more than what I had expected. 

First, the harsh ride was gone!  I asked Ito-san about this, and he explained that the trunk bar had solidified the rear body and allowed the rear coilovers to work off of one solid base - so the left and right sides were unified, both front and rear.  However, with the longitudinal Do-Luck bars now installed, all 4 wheels were tied together, allowing the suspension to work off of one large, solid base.  Indeed the car feels more solid, more carved out of one piece. 

Second, the car felt shorter, and more nimble. It might be my imagination, but it seemed that there was a bit less "lag time" when making high speed lane changes, for example. Obviously I can't quantify it by saying it took 0.00000005 seconds less (or whatever) to respond, but there is definitely a difference in how the car feels. I recall this is the same feeling I had when I first had the Nagisa fender braces installed.  So perhaps front/rear rigidity improvements can be had with longitudinal bracing?

Sadly I got used to this improvement in feel after about 10 minutes of driving...and now I'm wondering if it makes sense to get the car spot welded where I can! In any case I'm actually looking forward to going for a spin soon...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Bit of a Nip and Tuck....but Two Cool Photos...

Actually, all I had initially wanted to do was for the front lip spoiler, which had gotten scraped in a pay parking lot,  to be resprayed.  But then, I decided to stretch my budget and get the front bumper resprayed as well, getting all those rock chips and scratches taken care of.

Here is how the car looked when I picked her up on Sunday evening from my neighborhood shop, RAPT:
How I wish I had my DSLR with me that night...
And it turns out that, Kabe-san at RAPT has special spotlights that light up when the main overhead lamps are extinguished. To the naked eye, the silver seemed to glow, like it was alive. Obviously this iPhone photo doesn't do it justice, but I think you know what I mean.
Hmm. This might be a decent place for a night shoot.

We also discussed future "clean up" type work going forward....