Dropping New Brains Into The Gt-r

And so the quest continues. It’s been 13 years now that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying what is without a doubt one of the most special cars to have ever come out of Japan, and like for most enthusiasts out there the need for more performance is always hard to resist. You will probably be seeing quite a lot of my san-yon in the next few months as it embarks on a little tune up, but before the real work begins it was necessary to address the brains of the car, the ECU. For the last few years I’ve been enjoying the responsive tune that Mine’s had done on the stock Hitachi computer, a great map that boosted the car’s performance in so many ways, conservatively tuned to also guarantee reliability, a very important factor obviously. But now it’s time to take things onto a whole new level, which is why a few weeks ago I headed to Do-Luck down in Yokohama to give the GT-R a little “brain surgery.”

I am extremely picky when it comes to my car. I’m probably a tuner’s worst nightmare as I tend to have very strong opinions and I am far from easily convinced on things. So it’s not surprising that when it came time to choosing an ECU, I turned down a lot of options that are usually very popular in Japan. I’m not saying anything out there is bad or better than any other particular product, but the need to keep things simple and clean pretty much dictated my choices. Piggyback units were straight out wiped off the list, I just don’t like them. I needed something that would replace the stock ECU, plug straight in and offer top of the line features. There is only one product out there that ticked all the right boxes and it comes from Australia, a country that has established itself as a leader in engine management computers. The Haltech Platinum Pro plug-in ECU seemed almost too good to be true and with a few top tuners in Japan starting to use them it quickly became the perfect choice. So when I heard that the guys from Haltech would be over in Japan it seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet up with them and have their top programmer install and write, with Ito-san from Do-Luck, a simple base map.

Since the GT-R was going to be run on Do-Luck’s 2WD Bosch dynamometer, it was necessary to do some prep work, taking out the ATTESA fuse and removing the propeller shaft that sends drive to the front wheels. It’s a bit of a pain but it’s necessary so you don’t burn out the clutch packs in the transfer box.

Since my car sits pretty low, and the rear wheels have to “drop down” onto the rollers, the rear diffuser was also something that needed to be taken off.

While this was being done there was plenty of cool cars around the shop to take a look at, like Ito-san’s immaculate R34…

…and the shop’s Z33 time attack car which had just been fitted with the Haltech Platinum Pro plug-in ECU the previous week. Ito-san was already very impressed with the capabilities of the ECU, which made me even more excited to have it fitted!

In for some maintenance was this Porsche 550 Spyder replica, a tiny little homage to the rare and original racer of the fifties.

In no time the little prop-shaft had been removed…

…and a wideband lambda sensor bolted into the front pipes, a necessary instrument needed for feedback during fuel and ignition mapping.

With the car ready to go, it was time to open up the box…

…and take out the Haltech unit. I was pretty impressed how compact and light it is compared to the stock computer. A long USB cable was also included, plug one end into the ECU and the other to your laptop and you are ready to go!

There were also some basic instructions, but there isn’t much that needs to be done as…

…it plugs straight on to the factory harness, with only the single center bolt needed to be tightened down to make sure the computer doesn’t unplug while driving.

So with the GT-R in 2WD “drift-mode”…

…it was on to a few more details like plugging in a small silicon vacuum hose onto the fuel pressure regulator, which will then go to the Haltech’s built-in MAP sensor. This would just be plugged in during mapping as a more reliable way to map boost. My car is still running the stock air-flow meters so the ECU will continue to use the MAF sensors for the time being. Once more things get upgraded I will be getting rid of the AFMs and using only the MAP sensor. Since the Haltech can also act as a boost controller, I will be also getting rid of my HKS boost controller, which is the only auxiliary module I have had to add in the past.

Japanese attention to detail here. Masking tape was applied onto the body first before the O2 sensor cable and silicone hose were taped down on the A-pillar.

The display for the O2 sensor was placed onto the dash, on top of the MFD screen…

…and with the Platinum Pro plugged in place…

…Scott Hilzinger from Haltech got busy doing his thing.

This is the nice welcome message you get when launching the Haltech software on the PC.

Doesn’t the Haltech samurai-sword-armed injector mascot look pretty cool?

Scott had just spent a whole day mapping the Cyber Evo, which is now running a Haltech ECU ready to defend its record at this year’s WTAC! He’s mapped the computers on a ton of top level race and drag cars so I felt my R34 couldn’t possibly have been in safer hands.

One twist of the key and the base-map in the ECU sparked the engine into life instantly. This is the display that Scott had set up on his laptop…it’s pretty incredible the level of customization that you have, on both the unit itself as well as the software. I was in nerd heaven as Scott talked me through some of the features. I asked him to keep his explanations as basic as possible, as it can all get a bit too complicated!

It was Ito-san’s turn next as he and Scott got busy programming the computer. The whole exercise here was to get everything working properly and come up with a safe and basic map that would allow me to drive around until the next round of modifications are fitted. After that is done, the proper tuning will begin.

It was also a good opportunity for Ito-san to get a good explanation of the multitude of possibilities that the Haltech open up.

David Marriott, who is in charge of sales at Haltech, was also there to check out the R34 on the dyno.

It was a bit strange seeing my car run in 2WD! And boy did it sound loud at full rpm in that small dyno room! It’s about to get a lot louder too as the Mine’s exhaust gets swapped out for a brand new Tomei one this week.

There was a decent improvement compared to the standard map, more than enough for the time being. In a few months that curve should be looking quite different!

With everything pretty much looking good…

…Ito-san decided to wrap things up…

…but not before the spark plugs were removed and carefully looked over, an old-school way of checking if the engine is running well, not too rich nor too lean, just right.

There is a ton of potential that the ECU can unleash for both turbocharged and naturally aspirated cars alike…

…and Scott and David made sure Ito-san was shown all the capabilities of the software. My translation skills were really put to the test, as I had to try and explain rather complex terms and concepts in Japanese. Brain overload!

Before the car was taken off the rollers Scott set-up a little bonus feature, a soft “anti-lag” setting, a similar but more conservative version of what rally cars use. So now if I floor the throttle, anywhere above 60%, with the clutch-pedal depressed and the car stationary, the ECU automatically kicks into anti-lag mode. Boost builds up to 0.7 bar with the exhaust machine-gunning away, giving a nice little extra burst of acceleration off the line. Sidestepping the clutch off the line has never been more fun!

Next up for the GT-R will be sorting out the fueling as I bring the car into the 21st century with a set of R35 GT-R multi-hole injectors. Then it will be ready for the ever-growing stack of boxes that have been accumulating in the office for the best part of 6-months! Stay tuned for more!

Haltech

Do-Luck

-Dino Dalle Carbonare


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40 comments
Keep Calm
Keep Calm

Hi, Dino - sorry for belatedly joining in.  I thought you would be interested in my R34 GTR VSpecII - also running a Haltech, but it's a Sport 2000.  This was chosen because the engine has an HKS VCam (with the upgrade Step 1, Type B) and the Haltech controls that too.  (The HKS Valcon was just not workable in sunny Perth!)   The engine is now an RB30/26 with a long list of mods.  The tuning is conservative for low to mid-range and gives me about 530 hp atw, which produces a tractable daily driver which is great fun on track days.  The Haltech guys have given great support in the set up of the car.  The features, including safeties and other capabilities, of the unit are vast.  Haltech claim that they provide the most advanced and feature packed units on the market.  Having seen a few demonstrations, including one involving my car, I believe this is not an idle boast.  They have a great product.  If you are interested in a full spec list for my Bayside Beauty, let me know.  I, too, have the Enkei RPF 01s at 19" in silver!  Cheers, Brendan.  :-)

silicone tubing
silicone tubing

Silicon tubing is used in  making the pipes like PVC pipes and others, And yes when carbon was not available then silicon was taking the same place. It was a very informative post  and perfect concept which was needed. Thanks for sharing it.

 

Marcos Antenor
Marcos Antenor

Sou brasileiro e gostaria que estes carros podessem ser trazidos para nossa area, pena que não podem. Porém é uma maquina forte e linda. Esse motor é demais e o design é show de bola.

Rrr
Rrr

Nice write up as usual Dino. Anyways, I'm also quite interested in getting the Haltech plug in or Nistune. I also have Mine's right now. But one question is lingering my mind... The Haltech does it support factory knock sensors? That is why I didn't like Apexi Power Fc vs. Nistune.

Muzaffar Musa
Muzaffar Musa

Surprised you never thought of running a Motec M800 Dino. Having that one ECU alone can probably last you a lifetime! Its a well proven ECU has been used in almost any form of motorsport, so it should be a no brainer. Although the Haltech is probably good enough, but if the price were really similar you should have went with the Motec route.

yanesnyawai
yanesnyawai

ahh.. so there's a solution for piggyback ecu. nice. :)

 

TnF
TnF

So far best solution for money for new management is e-manage ultimate. I added a map sensor, mac boost valve, clutch switch and connected the innovate lc-1 unit. You can use Nistune instead though you want get any more feutures, but you can modfy any setting were in the EMU you can do new things. The bad thing is that Trust/Greedy doesn't give much support. I know some handy(not necessary features) that could be implemented easily...

LouisYio
LouisYio

When are we going to see you drive this on the track? You know you want to show us!...make us cry and stuff.

Bigjoe
Bigjoe

I like this article but Haltech is prohibitively expensive for the average car enthusiast. For years they have been really expensive. I guess that's because of what the systems offer but for the average joe the features may not even be used so why choose a Haltech over other plug in ecu's? Just wondering if there were any Japanese plug n play ecu's for the GTR that you considered as well that were cheaper but offered considerable reliability.

SAMwrxNEAL
SAMwrxNEAL

Can't wait to see what's next for this sweet ride.

Karlos
Karlos

Sorry for my <<maybe noob>> question, but isn't removing the 4WD fuse enough before driving it 2WD ?

Nikhil_P
Nikhil_P

omg your car is so sick!!!

Amemiya
Amemiya

This is very exciting. When I do have the funds to build my own PPort 13B, a Haltech will for sure be the way to go. There have been tons of people using them on rx7club for years now. Also looking forward to the next stages on your R34, you're living my dream Dino, keep it up!

osinet
osinet

nice car, keep up the project and beware of the wallet-eating bug :-)

benpopham
benpopham

Very nice detailed write up, love the GTR. Just wondering why you had a new map done before the new exhaust? Surely it will need re-doing after the new exhaust?

 

Ben

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

and the power increase was from what to what?

Brickhouse
Brickhouse

Nice write up!  Tomei Arms in the future???

BackfireNL
BackfireNL

Wow i will be following this project for sure!

 

Diffrent curve? That means a different turbo or turbo's if you keep it twin charged :)

 

Can't wait to see what you have planned. The sure is one of my most favorite cars. Others are also in the nissan lineup haha 

Robo_No1
Robo_No1

Nice, love you GTR by the way. I'm a little surprised that someone like Do-Luck only have a 2WD dyno though? Surely they do a lot of mapping work and removing shafts and converting everything to 2WD must be a real ball ache?!

RBJKT
RBJKT moderator

Very cool. Very very cool. Looking forward to seeing this story progress......

boostin31
boostin31

 @MuzaffarMusa Considering motec m800s retail for 3500 bucks, then you have to pay extra to unlock wideband, logging, antilag and then wire it in etc etc when haltech plug ins are 1900 with all the features unlocked you will ever want, then its a no brainer to go haltech.... 

speedhunters_dino
speedhunters_dino

 @LouisYio Pretty soon actually. Need to kill off those S-tyres that I'm running at the moment before they get all hard and dry LOL

speedhunters_dino
speedhunters_dino

The only other one I really considered was the Apex Power FC. But I'm on a quest to modernize the car and giving it a more up to date engine management system was one of the most important things on the "to do" list.  It may be a little dearer than some other solutions but the features alone, not to mention the amazing support the Haltech staff offer makes it a very easy choice IMO

noggin
noggin

 @Karlos In the R32 it is, in the R33/R34 the ATTESSA will be sending drive to the front wheels even with the fuse removed (although it's something like 1-2% IIRC). 

JDMized
JDMized

@Karlos Yes it is. Removing the driveshaft is an extra precaution.

speedhunters_dino
speedhunters_dino

 @benpopham Like I mentioned it was only to get the car drivable.  It's going from shop to shop at the moment fitting bits and pieces.  Once everything is on it will be tuned properly on a 4WD dyno

JDMized
JDMized

@Brad Johnson I know right? 1 gazillion pictures, a lot of useless blabbering and no numbers. Someone's afraid of showing numbers? You would think that driving one of the most iconic car from Japan would boost your self confidence (that's why a lot of people appeal to it), but I guess not.

JDMized
JDMized

@Robo_No1 Having a AWD dyno can up to $100,000. Not exactly cheap

lotusfd3s
lotusfd3s

 @speedhunters_dino agreed, I run PFC on my single turbo fd3s, works fine for almost everything but when its limits are reached, the haltech's options are hard to beat (just in the states there aren't many 13b haltech tuners).  Congrats btw! dig the do it once do it right approach.  Also @bigjoe the price point for most standalones is about the same.  After you factor in the ability for the haltech to datalog, operate as its own boost controller, run additional injectors, etc it ends up being the same price as say the PowerFC standalone with aftermarket EBC, additional injector driver, and DATAlogit.  All a matter of preference ;)

benpopham
benpopham

 @speedhunters_dino Ah, That makes more sense.. sorry I must have missed that part. Really loving your GTR, keep up the good work!

SAMwrxNEAL
SAMwrxNEAL

 @JDMized Dude why the hell are you so negative about everything? If you hate speedhunters and everything they post so much, THEN STOP VISITING THE SITE. I seriously doubt Dino is "afraid" to share his power numbers. I'm not saying that I know, but my best guess is that he is a pretty humble guy doesn't exactly want to brag about how awesome his car is, especially when he's not even done building it. While we're on the topic, what kind of numbers does your car make? Because I'm willing to bet that this R34 would blow it out of the water. Have a nice day.

Robo_No1
Robo_No1

@JDMized Yeah I appreciate the costs, but over here in the UK a lot of tuning shops have them that don't have half the reputation that Do-Luck do. I just figured with the amount of 4Wd cars they would come across on a daily basis to me it'd seem a bit of a no brainer. Not that it seems to be holding them back any lol!

JDMized
JDMized

@speedhunters_dino I could look at the graph, but, since the shaft was disconnected, the % of power loss would be less than if the shaft was installed. Therefore the number that the dyno recorded is not the actual number that the car would put down with the shaft installed. And for you to say, "I don't really care about the power"......I have a very hard time to believe it. @SamwrxNeal My pos Honda Civic puts down only 90hp (if that) on the stock D15. Yes, I would love to have more power, but it's not on the agenda :)

speedhunters_dino
speedhunters_dino

 @SAMwrxNEAL  @JDMized  Like I mentioned in the story the car was only mapped with a simple base map so it can remain drivable from shop to shop as parts get fitted.  Then it will be mapped properly on a 4WD dyno.  As for numbers....I don't care what she will make after the upgrades, as long as it stays responsive with a good torque curve.  And BTW if you look close enough at the dyno graph you will see what power it recorded at the rear wheels;)


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