Ok this will probably have most of you guys scratching your heads, but yes that's a GT-R driving out of the Spoon Sport's Type-One workshop in Tokyo. It's actually my R34, and the reason I brought it over to Ichishima-san was to have it fitted with something that has intrigued me ever since I heard about it a little over a year ago, the Rigid Collar. The constant pursuit of perfection is something every enthusiasts tries to achieve with his prized possession, and when it comes to my car I'm extremely picky with what I fit it with. I think Ichishima is exactly the same, that's why Spoon Sports has made such a name for itself and when he came up with the Rigid Collar he knew it would benefit pretty much every single car out there, therefore decided not to limit himself on providing it only for the Honda community.
And that is indeed a very good move, as these little aluminum 2-piece collars have been attracting all sorts of cars to the Type-One workshop as the application list continues to grow. "Sometimes we get up to 12 cars in one day," as Yamada-san, the person in charge of fitting the collars to the Skyline, tells me. "We get anything from Porsches and BMWs to Subarus and Toyotas." And it seems everyone is so happy with the result, which makes me even more excited about getting these things onto my car. The concept is very simple, basically the Rigid Collars act as guides for the bolts that hold the chassis and subframes together, so that there is perfect alignment between the two holes the bolts are passed through. These holes, to ease assembly, are usually much larger than they should be, which over time allows the subframes to misalign throwing the car's geometry out the window. But enough with the theory part, let's take a look at how they are fitted, pictures will tell the story far better than words can.
So first thing was to place the GT-R on the lift, remove the wheels and lift it up.
The R34 is fitted from factory with a front diffuser, which helps generate front downforce and smooth airflow over the front portion of the car. It looks cool and very racecar-like but it requires to be removed pretty much every time you need to do anything on the car, which is why I have gown to hate this damn part! On top of this it's actually made pretty badly and a few unavoidable scrapes here and there (check out the opening picture to see what I mean!) it will eventually split open along the seam where it has been fused or glued together. I'm currently on my third one, and they aren't cheap!! But enough moaning.
So with the diffuser off, Yamada-san and the Type-One mechanics got to work in undoing the four big bolts that hold the front subframe to the chassis.
Removing the diffuser revealed a greasy mess around the passenger side drive shaft caused by pretty large split in the rubber CV boot. This is currently getting fixed up over at Pentroof.
As all four bolts were loosened up…
…it was time to hold the subframe in place with an hydraulic transmission lift…
…before the bolts began to be loosened further.
This picture perfectly shows the problem the Rigid Collars address. You can see how the subframe has moved around and the bolt is far from centered, not to mention the offset bolt marks left on the subframe.
This is what the rigid collars look like. They can be very different in appearance depending on application or whether they are made for the front or rear subframe.
These are the ones that were to be used on the front. As you can see they are cut down the center and can be split by hand. This is so they can be fitted without removing the subframes from the car, making the fitting procedure far simpler and quicker.
A little copper grease is placed on each half of the collars…
…before they are carefully placed on each side of the exposed threads.
And there you go, all four halves in position on one side of the subframe.
Using the hydraulic gearbox lift the subframe is carefully lifted up into place while checking the collars snap into place.
There you go, perfect alignment obtained. Next step is to fit the bolts back on, tighten them and torque them to factory settings. The washer part of the collar will squash and deform to form a perfect, even and flat seal between the surfaces of the chassis and subframe. If you watch this video you can see this further explained by a few diagrams and animations.
With the front done it was over to the rear, and like the front the rear undercover had to be removed to expose the rear subframe.
Again first step is loosening the bolts…
…which, after 12 years, were pretty tight!
With rubber bushings being used on the rear mounts of the rear subframe the Rigid Collars required are slightly different…
…one regular thin one on the upper part to seal and align the top cup to the chassis…
…and a second bigger one underneath.
The Rigid Collar in place around one of the front rear subframe mounting points.
With the collars in place, all bolts torque checked and front and rear undercovers back on it was time to fit wheels.
I had them rotated to keep front and rear wear as equal as possible. Those Bridgestone RE-11s do wear down quite quickly!
One of the mechanics took the car out for a quick drive to check everything was ok…
…and found the steering needed to be re-centered now that the subframe was aligned properly with the chassis. Even driving the car around you can instantly feel an improvement in the car's dynamics. The first manhole cover I went over I instantly noticed the suspension felt far more compliant when dealing with bumps and steering feel definitely improved off center, where it had always felt a little vague. On the limit is where the changes can really be felt, with the alignment now perfectly squared up, the car feels far more precise and planted through corners while direction changes are more progressive when tire grip eventually begins to let go.
As soon as my car was done this Mazda Axela MPS was lifted up ready to be fitted with the Rigid Collars. Feeling the car come alive and more communicative is extremely rewarding and I am very happy I decided to go for this upgrade. Now the question is, what's next because as we all know this tuning bug never really ends does it!!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare