14 years. That’s a pretty long time to hold on to a car. Every time I jump in my R34 however there is always that feel of excitement, just like when I drove it for the first time back in 1999. Every time I park it I still can’t resist a quick glance as I walk away. I don’t quite know why, but the san-yon seems to have bewitched me; it’s the only car I ever wanted and the only car I would ever want to keep. It may have been well and truly surpassed in every way, but no matter how many fast and capable modern day sports cars and supercars I drive, once I get back in my GT-R I can’t help but smile. I’ve gotten to a point that I know the car inside out, I know exactly what it will do in pretty much every instance, I have developed a man-machine bond that can only happen when the car truly captivates its driver. Compared to most “R” owners I may have barely scratched the surface of the seemingly limitless tuning potential these cars have, but no matter how basic the modifications I have carried out so far may be, I have gotten a great deal of satisfaction from them. I will never understand people that drop off their cars at tuning shops and have big complete rebuilds because for me, feeling every little upgrade is what perfecting one’s own car is all about. From this month you will be seeing a lot more of my GT-R as we begin to roll out our Project Car stories, documenting our journeys with our own rides, the best part of all – getting feedback from you guys. But before I get stuck in with fitting the exciting new parts that I have been stocking up over the last year…
…I thought it would be a good time to take you through a short journey of how my car has changed over the last decade or so. For close to two years I did pretty much nothing with it. I was smitten enough with its performance that I enjoyed it as it was, limiting myself to little things like a Nismo dial cluster and Nismo clear front and side repeaters, a much needed first upgrade to any zenki R34 that came with those horrible orange ones! Thanks to a friend of mine who was also a san-yon owner I got the chance to visit Mine’s for the first time and get a hands-on experience of what a 600 HP GT-R felt like. That’s pretty much the moment I decided my attempt to keep the car stock and its warranty intact for the first 3 years of its life, rather futile. A second trip to Mine’s was booked and this time the car received some goodies…
…in the form of their stainless steel front pipes, a sports catalyst…
…and the VX stainless steel exhaust system.
The exhaust was also joined by an HKS EVC boost controller and a Mine’s VX-Rom, their reflashed ROM chip that they soldered into the factory Hitachi ECU. After a few hours of work the car came out of the workshop literally transformed, now boasting around 400 PS and an impressively responsive tune.
I ended up taking the car out to Twin Ring Motegi for a quick few laps, this was when the track was brand new, just opened a few months prior. Power wise it felt spot on out through the twisty corners of the superb circuit, but with the soft stock suspension I ended up spinning the car and ending up literally inches from the barriers. A heart attack to say the least!
It’s when I realized that I couldn’t hold off any more, suspension – and a lot more practice – were needed presto! So I headed down to Nismo Omori Factory in Tokyo and had them install their S-tune suspension kit, a street oriented set up that would tighten up the handling and…
…bring the off-road-like ride height to a more sensible level. The handling and whole dynamics of the san-yon were altered, I could now really use the newfound performance, carry more speed into the corners and get on the power earlier, much earlier in fact, taking full advantage of the catapult effect that GT-Rs are so known for.
Plus the car looked so much better sitting lower to the ground, even if it was still sitting on the stock rims with their less than aggressive offset.
Next up on the mods list was the cooling. A friend of mine was replacing his Trust intercooler with a twin entry ARC unit following a ton of work at Top Secret so I picked this barely used item up at a decent price. I spent about a day polishing it back to its former shine…
…before it was hidden behind the bumper! The design of Trust intercoolers have always been commended for their good flow characteristics and I was happy with the obvious cooling benefits this brought when driving hard, something that was easily noticeable via the intake temperature display on the MFD. However what I also did notice was a little bit more heat soak when sitting in traffic for example but that was kind of expected. The intercooler was fitted along with GReddy aluminum piping which replaced the nasty black rubber hoses.
An HKS oil cooler followed too, fitted to the passenger side of the bumper along with an aluminium housing/baffling to direct the air from the intake towards the core. This is probably one of the best mods I carried out, after this the oil temperature has always been rock solid and when driving hard does a great job of keeping it all at optimum temperature, even during Japan’s hot summers.
At one point I even got rid of the stock airbox, believing that a pair of HKS SPF filters would be a worthwhile addition. These probably stayed on about 3,000 km, as I just didn’t like them. Aside from the dubious filtering capabilities of a pair of thin oily sponges, it was also the poorly sealed edges of the pods that concerned me. Add to this the absolutely horrible induction sound they made, and I got rid of them very quickly. What was left behind was a complete mess of sludge in the intakes, oil mixed with dust and worryingly large pieces of debris that had been “filtered” (and no, not all of it was from recirculated blow-by). So on went the stock airbox once again, along with a K&N/Nismo panel filter and what I found was a better low-rpm response and a well balanced induction raw.
On the braking side of things I fitted some Ferodo DS2500 pads, Nismo braided lines and the must have Cusco master cylinder stopper, which all contributed to give a slightly firmer middle pedal and better braking performance. It wasn’t all great however, a few up and down sessions on the touge and brake fade was very much unavoidable as were smoking brake pads!
I continued to enjoy the car and driving it like was meant to be driven, taking it up in the mountains around Hitachi and Takahagi and at times finding empty countryside roads to practice the odd launch…
…trying to see how high I could get that torque split meter to go! Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before the stock clutch had had it…
…so after much research I decided to go with what then was, and I’m talking of about ten years ago now, a very innovative clutch upgrade. To fit it I went down to my then local shop in Ibaraki, Tex Modify, which like many tuners in Japan had initially started with drag racing and had moved to drifting, building and looking after Tanaka’s S15 in D1.
The Getrag along with the transfer box was dropped…
…revealing the well used clutch plate…
It was all removed and replaced with a twin-plate ATS carbon clutch…
…along with a lightweight flywheel. What made me go for it were the countless positive reviews of how easy it was to live with and how less harsh it was on the driveline thanks to the unique friction characteristics of the carbon plates. All seemed to be true, it was – and still is as believe it or not after 25,000 km, I am still running it – almost as easy to use as the stock one but with an obvious better feel through fast gear changes. Drag-style launches became even more fun!
Some more time went by and the next upgrade I carried out were the wheels. Much like everything for the GT-R, there is so much choice out there that it takes a normal person ages to choose what brand or product to go for, even more so if you are anally retentive like myself. So, aside from the fact that I would never fit non-forged wheels to a performance car, I narrowed it down to either 18-inch Volk Racing TE37s or the then new 19-inch CE28Ns. Seeing these would be my “street” wheels it wasn’t hard to go for the 19s as after seeing them fitted to another R34 at an event they filled the wheel arches fantastically well.
So that’s what I went for, along with a set of Yokohama AVS Sports in 275/30.
Here is a quick size comparison with the stock BBS items. The 19-inch CE28s were actually quite a bit lighter than the stock rims, except that weight benefit quickly disappeared once the tyres were fitted.
Anyway, to say I was happy with the result would have been an understatement.
I still have these rims of course, I’m in the process of sort of restoring them after years of use and protecting/coating them. I’ve done two already thanks to the help of my equally OCD buddy who’s GT-R you have seen on here before. Two more to go and a fresh set of Volk Racing spoke-stickers thanks the awesome guys at Rays Engineering and they will be good as new.
I am not one to go wild on the aesthetics of a car but there have been some minor changes to the appearance of the R34 over the years, things like the Mine’s M3-look-a-like carbon mirrors…
…and a painted middle front spoiler right above the diffuser. Oh and the oldschool GT-R badge! I am actually thinking of getting rid of the mirrors and re-fitting the foldable stock ones so your opinion on this would be great.
I even ended up changing the old Nissan badge for the fancier new one but I think I may just get rid of both this and the GT-R one in the future for a cleaner look. Again, thoughts?
A few more additions were made under the bonnet too, the most important of which were the “Nismo inlet pipes” those shiny aluminum bits that replace the stock pipe with the “Twin Turbo” logo on it. These are very similar to what the Gr.A BNR32s used and transformed the throttle response and boost pick up of the engine thanks to a more flow-friendly design. In fact I had to get the HKS EVC boost controller reprogrammed as I was overboosting badly after fitting them!
I also fitted Augment hood dampers and got rid of the stock pole used to prop open the hood, a simple but nice touch I always thought.
Here is a shot of the car back about eight or nine years ago at Daikoku PA with a couple of my friend’s cars that had been heavily modified at Top Secret.
The final two upgrades I did to the aesthetics were the Nismo Z-tune front bumper which I literally fell in love the moment I saw the Z-tune unveil all those years ago…
…and the Nismo GT LED tail lights…
…almost identical to the ones that were used in Super GT R34s before they got replaced by the Z33s.
It may sound strange but I have never really taken many pictures of my car, neither have I done proper shoots on it, as I’m always waiting for it to be that little bit more complete. It is quite a vicious circle to say the least!
Upgrades in the interior have also been rather subtle. The cheap plastic center console has been replaced with a carbon fiber item from Robson Leather, while I’ve gotten rid of the stock steering wheel for a Sparco/Prodrive suede item which is great when wearing racing gloves but a bit slippery when not. For those with a keen eye you will also notice some kouki pedals, the same pedal set-up that Nissan recycled on half of their lineup from 2001 and onwards.
More hooning around. This video was taken in 2008 when I had an R35 for a week to test and shoot.
How about this for some contrasting colors. I had that pink AE86 on loan from Newera for a week or so, and after driving and shooting it, it was sold to a certain Allen Lorenzo from Tomei Powered. Thankfully Allen has since removed the matching pink GT-wing!
One day back in 2008 Option Magazine even spotted my car on the street as I was driving on Kuramaebashi-dori in Tokyo. Option regularly does “car spotting” features where they spend a day on a busy road and document the modified cars that drive by. Apparently they liked my car for it’s sporty look. The car stayed pretty much as you see it above for a couple of years, the only thing that I added were Spoon’s Rigid Collars that got the front and rear subframes nicely aligned and introduced a newfound precision into the steering and how the suspension reacted to road imperfections.
…grabbing a few catalogue shots for the underside of the car with the exhaust fitted.
I forgot how good 18-inch TE37s look…
…against a blue R34! I’ve temporarily swapped these rims with a friend for a set of RE30s…
…which you can see fitted here. This is the car at Do-Luck in Yokohama being transformed to RWD prior to an ECU tuning sessions.
…Platinum Pro ECU, a plug and play computer which helps bring the old girl into the new millennium. This has quickly become my favorite upgrade as it unleashes a ton of potential, which I honestly haven’t even begun to tap into yet.
But more on that to come this year!
Scott from Haltech and Ito-san of Do-Luck spent a few hours getting the best out of the computer…
…until the next set of modifications which will require a complete retune. Maybe then I can turn on the “soft” anti-lag setting!
With work taking up most of my free time as well as weekends, it has become harder and harder to find time to hit the track. But in summer last year Ito-san and Tarzan Yamada invited me along to test out…
…the Tarzan G-Box, a digital G-sensor replacement for the archaic stock electro-mechanical item.
It was yet another awesome upgrade in my quest to modernize the car and set up in a way that it changed not only the reaction times of the Attesa AWD system, but the amount of torque that is delivered to the front wheels.
The car feels so different now, almost like an Evo in the way that it juggles drive front/rear, allowing for an even more aggressive driving style out on track.
So this is where the car is at right now. I look forward to sharing all the upgrades and even the time I spend with the “R” with you all from now on, and will be looking at your comments carefully as I value all your feedback.
Let the fun begin!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
Over 10 years? That is damn inspiring, especially for the sold and remembered days of today. I and plenty like me always say "Oh, I used to have one. Man, I miss that thing." but you still have that thing that many of us traded out for whatever reasons long ago :*(
M3 style mirrors are too curvy for the R34's angular shape and as far as the badges go? Put them back to stock (all imo of course!).
The truth is I really admire how u carefully took your time with the machine. The last set of rims took the car the best tho...alternatively the cars a bit on both sides more on aggressive but I REALLY luv it. Good luck,can't wait for more...
Car looks great Dino. Seems a long time since we were blasting along the Turnpike etc.
What do you mean - you shouldn't change many things at the same time ?
Seems like I did that a couple of times because I knew what I wanted :)
Still have the 34 in UK but it doesn't get used much these days - great car for UK roads though.
All the best
Good to hear you still have the R34 still Bean!
Yeah I prefer to change a bit at a time, it keeps me busy for years lol;)
Loved reading this feature.
As a type designer, I have to say there is something wrong with the GTR badge. It looks unbalanced. Maybe centering it would look more comfotrable.
First of all I must say that i love you're car! When it comes to future plans i think it would be sad to swap out the old school badge. I remember the first time i saw you're car on the site, I didn't like it but I have relay grown to like it. It makes you're car so unique and recognizable when seeing it on other sites.
The mirrors, yes i think swapping back to the stock ones would make it look cleaner, or maybe get them painted to match.
I like the R34 wing less, but when there is a wing on the back i do like the stock one. But come to think of it I seam to have vague recollection of you drowning over a pair of carbon uprights for the stock wing (form Nismo I think). And if i remember correctly they was just a little bit higher than the stock ones. (You could of course go full carbon on the wing, but just the uprights would really make a nice and subtle detail).
And yes the car would look great if it was lower, but at the same time if it was my care I'm not sure if i would dare it.
Anyways that just what I think, I'm just really glad that you are sharing all this with us.
Keep up the great work :)
Esben Seeberg Yes the wing stays/uprights have always been something I want to do. I liked the Mine's ones but I refuse to pay stupid money for parts I know cost a fraction of that to be made. But I think I may have found something...
I love this car and I love what you're doing with it. I'm going to own one myself one day and keep track of the upgrades as well. Thank you for this.
Dino, you're killing me! I'm incredibly jealous. Everything looks great. The Tomei Extreme Ti titanium exhaust system just looks perfect on that car, I love the blue-ing around the end of the pipe. Personally, I'd say I prefer the 19-in CE28's, the color complements the car really well.Like a lot of the other guys, I say keep the badges! The GT-R and Vspec badges are cool! And keep us updated on the car, this was a great article to read.
SVT_Bryan Thanks man! If you like titanium, Tomei will soon have titanium front pipes for 32/33/34. I think they are already available for the 32
The first paragraph about the car is something I can relate to completely. My 964 is not the fastest or most modern car, but it makes me smile every time I see it and more importantly every time I turn the key. I think if one is to find a car that makes them smile every time they turn the key, it's something to hold on too. Looking forward to more.
I say keep up your awesome work on this legend monster! I think the stock side mirrors would flow better with your whole car as the paint is of the same colour, keeping it clean. Perhaps you may wanna upgrade your brakekit to match up with your increasing hp/torque and for moments when you hit the tracks! pls keep us updated!
jonathanycw Yes brakes are a must, the only reason I haven't done them yet is that I wanted to see how aftermarket kits developed, and over the last 10 years they have come a long way...
@speedhunters_dino @jonathanycw with upgraded pads, rotors and lines...aren't the factory Brembos plenty capable?
louisFCO speedhunters_dino jonathanycw They are ok...but pretty useless at the track or even when driving at a fast pace coming down roads like the Hakone Turnpike. By the end the pedal is on the floor
Your R34 looks great Dino! I don't think changing the mirrors will make much of a visual impact though. But if you are thinking about changing them, you probably should :)
Now just drive it over to Opera Performance for some chassis work (lightening/stiffening), and while you are there please make a big feature of that shop, their S2000, Z33 and DC5 are totally amazing!
ITR235 I've never been to that place. Doesn't it exist virtually only in a video game LOL?
speedhunters_dino haha yes they exist! Not sure if I can post links here, this is their website: http://opera-performance.com/
might be quite a long way from where you live in Japan though! Here is an article about their DC5 Integra Type R http://www.modified.com/features/0611sccp_opera_performance_honda_rsx/
what they did to that car has been a big inspiration for me.
This is pure Art !! You're inspire me Dino!
Going the same way with my san-yon sedan all over the way in Germany.
Replace the mirrors, the rest is yours! Maybe fit the Z-tune side skirts...
Seems you're fine with the standard brakes? Think I will swap to them next.
Bronko Thanks man! Far from fine, they are and have always been pretty lacking. But eventually I'll get to them too...
Dino! Finally an little love for your own pride and joy! I guess I'l throw in my 2 cents:
- Keep the Hako badge up front exactly where its at. Its too cool! t's a homage thing and it's kind've your signature trademark too.
- Ditch the Mine's mirrors and go back to stock. The Mines are a bit dated, but if your really like them I would color match them.
- New R35 style badge at the rear, I think it's a great upgrade and the look so much better in person.
- Keep the CE28's, they will go down as a Ray's classic.
- I would get the matching Z-tune side skirts, I know they just bolt on to the stock skirts but they complete the overall aesthetics.
Keep the great shots comin'!
I like the newer GT-R badges better, like the one in the back. Looks mean on TE37's. I think and i would refit the stock side mirrors, as i think the M3 mirrors is'nt that cool anymore. They were very popular a few years back, and i also had them fitted to one of my cars. These days they have become a bit cliché. But i love your car and thank you for sharing. I'm a bit jealous also, as i will never be able to by a car like this in new or almost new condition in my country. And the R34 GT-R is even illegal to registrer here. As i understand it, it never passed the pollution tests or something like that :/
ndlshorts They might be designed around M3 mirrors but these particular ones were always referred to as Mine's mirrors. But they have lost their appeal I will admit that. Plus they don't fold so I can't park the car in some automated parking systems in the city which can suck
Great story Dino, it's an inspiration as I hope I can own and work on a car for that long, built > bought.
I hadn't had the opportunity to check into Speedhunters lately, but feverishly clicked on the link to your project. I had no idea you have had it since new (?)!!!! Awesome. I remember drooling over the Tomei catalog shoot. I think it is awesome that you have progressively modified your car, and totally agree with that method...and wish I had followed that thought process with my Corrado VR6 build. Just a week ago I purchased a 2002 WRX and plan to follow the progressive means of "tuning" more closely.I think the stock mirrors look best on the R34; the M3-look items angle up too high. I like the stock badges, but removing the NISSAN emblem and leaving the GTR one on the rear would follow the front's theme...oh, and I love the black TE37s.