Project GT-R Gadgets Up

It’s been a few months since my last Project GT-R update in which the car’s fuel system was addressed, but next on the list for Tokyo Auto Salon prep was sorting out a few issues and adding some functional gadgets to the mix.

So it was off to Nakamura-san at Worx Auto Alarm, the drive from Tokyo to rural Chiba being one of the most stressful I’ve ever had in my GT-R.

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It wasn’t the 4,000rpm fuel cut – as set by Ennio so I didn’t cause any engine issues prior to fitting a pair of Tomei Poncams and a metal head gasket – that was the issue, it was a battery that wouldn’t hold any voltage at all. Talk about bad timing.

Granted, the Optima Yellow Top was 10 years old and had been through countless aggressive discharges and recharges, so I wasn’t too upset. In fact, I was impressed it had lasted as long as it did. That’s why I ordered the exact same one from Optima, but because it was on back order it would be a week before I’d have a new one.

To get me to Worx, Ito-san at Do-Luck lent me his Snap-on booster, and lucky he did as I had to use it a few times during the 1.5-hour drive across the Bay.

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So what was the car visiting Nakamura-san for this time? As any R34 GT-R owner will know, sooner or later the LCD panel on the Multi Function Display (MFD) lets go. This can mean anything from lines of pixels going red or disappearing, to the polarizing filter degrading and causing bright red spots along the edges of the screen.

The latter is what happened to Project GT-R, which is the most common issues with zenki screens. The kouki cars had a different panel.

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Sourcing a replacement through Nissan would have been expensive, but I wasn’t interested in going down the factory route anyway. A couple of years ago I came across a Facebook page called R34 GTR MFD, as run by a very knowledgeable and helpful fellow named Alex. As soon as my screen went bad, I quickly made contact and told him the issues I had.

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Alex told me he could ship a fresh screen pretty much straightaway, and within a few days I had a little box show up at the house. But that’s not all.

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I knew Alex had played around with the MFD circuitry, and in doing so he had discovered ways to take full advantage of the unit’s inputs. Here was my chance to have something I had always wanted, plus something I hadn’t even thought about.

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One was a reverse camera. Alex not only sorted out all the wiring for this but he also had a custom camera assembly made as a one piece item with the license plate light. This was to guarantee the best possible positioning – bang on in the center of the rear bumper so as not to impact the stock feel and look of the car. Just how I like doing things.

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On top of this, he also included a second camera for the front, one that can be engaged by pressing the ‘TV’ button on the MFD unit. Previously, the only thing this button had done was politely remind me in Japanese that I was too cheap to purchase a TV tuner. Why a front camera? Concrete blocks. Around 95% of parking spots in Japan have relatively tall concrete blocks that act as wheel stoppers, so when you reverse park your car (and every Japanese driver in Japan reverse parks his or her car as that’s what they are taught in driving school hence this is what has to be done until eternity), you can safely rest against them. But the R34 has diffuser fins which rub, so when I can I try to park front first, but then I hit the front diffuser. This camera will allow me to stop well before I make contact. Awesome!

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Alex even labeled each wire as most owners that buy kits off him will DIY fit them.

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There’s even detailed color instructions included to make sure anyone can do the installation.

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MFD aside, the passenger side footwell is still a bit of a disaster. I’ve decided to not bother tucking away the Haltech Elite ECU and the wideband lambda box until the car is mapped, simply because it’s easier to get to and I’d rather do that sort of job once.

Nakamura made sure to protect the surrounding areas of the dash around where the MFD plastic cover gets moved out from, revealing the wiring below.

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With the unit in hand it was back to the workshop to get it taken apart properly.

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Even with the screen off you could see the way in which the polarizer had deteriorated.

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And now we fast forward a few months, the end of December to be precise when I went to collect the car.

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Nakamura had plenty of time to get everything sorted out including fitting the screen and wiring in the back-up camera. Here he was giving me a quick demo of how the new panel works. The finish on the screen itself is actually glossy rather than satin like the stock zenki, which I rather like. It also seems to have more brightness if you turn it right up.

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Checking out the rear camera, this is what it looks like with the reverse gear engage and the lights turned on. You you can see the number plate is still illuminated.

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Next to the light you can just about make out the camera; unless you squat and look for it you can’t see it.

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And the result – my feet!

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While the car was in his possession, Nakamura also added a Ctek CTX Battery Sense bluetooth module, a little gadget I got from Darren over at Auto Detailer Studio in KL. This allows me to check – via an app on my phone – the voltage and temperature level of the battery. It’s very handy, but you really have to get close to the car for the connection to happen. Maybe if it was Wi-Fi I could run it off the house’s network and check without even going to the car, but it’s a still cool and easy way to keep an eye on your battery level.

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Another thing that had to be done was replace an LED switchback blinker that went bad. If you recall, these bulbs from VLEDs are run as daytime running lights (DRLs) as well as front indicators. Nakamura also added quick-release couplings to the wiring, something he didn’t have time to do when the conversion was originally done.

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When I arrived to pick up the car he was just finishing the driver’s right side panel with a few more additions I asked to be fitted.

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Those of you that have good memories might remember that Kawanishi-san, who fitted the KW Clubsports and the KW Hydraulic Lift System (HLS) didn’t fit the actual button to engage the system. I asked him not to as I was going to decide at a later date where to locate it.

On top of that, I wanted a second button that looked exactly the same as the stainless steel KW button in order to disengage the the DRLs. I thought I should add that in just in case someone at the shaken center doesn’t like the way they are always on. And this is where Billet Automotive Buttons came in. I found them on Facebook, sent them the design of the button face I wanted, told them the color of the backlight and they showed me what it would look like. I OK’d it and in a week or so another little box was at my house. Nakamura installed the KW HLS button on the right side of the Xenon main-beam adjuster and the DRL kill switch on the left. Clean, symmetrical and with a factory feel. My OCD is more than content.

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That’s what the wiring looks like behind.

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On the opposite side of where the switches are there was another cover I wanted to make use of.

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This is where I wanted to fit the Ctek Comfort Indicator, which not only tells me what state the battery is in with a quick glance at the LED indicator, but also has a quick connect for the charger itself. This makes my life so much easier as I just plug straight into the jack without having to strip the trunk lining to get to the Optima battery and connect the two clamps. Unfortunately, it was just a little too big to fit into the stock auxiliary switch recess, but I think I’m going to use that up in the future and add a USB-C jack for quick phone charging.

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Nakamura plugged everything in and clipped the trim panel back in place.

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Project GT-R was ready to go once again.

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Except it was to another shop! With my wife and kids following in the Alphard, we headed 2.5-hours north to the outskirts of Ustunomiya City, the Skyline’s next place of residence for a good week of solid work.

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The destination was NuklHeds HQ where the R34 would receive a complete wrap and in the process a color change. Nakamura-san and Narita-san of Tokonatsu Factory went full steam ahead as soon as I dropped the car off as TAS was just around the corner, but little did I know at the time just how much preparation work had to be done to get the car perfect before the vinyl was applied.

But we’ll find out all about that in the next instalment of the Project GT-R saga.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino
dino@speedhunters.com

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34 comments

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1
Paddy McGrath

I love small non-intrusive technology upgrades like these. Nothing obvious from the outside, but makes the driving experience that little bit more enjoyable.

Out of curiosity, how many years have you owned the GT-R now?

2

Totally agree. This is owner and use focussed and integrated so so well.
Taking the fuss out, adding clean features and making the whole package work.
I'm a fan of loosely applied OEM+ and it's great seeing this car coming along.

Author3
Dino Dalle Carbonare

19 years :)

4

That's nearly longer than some of our younger staff have been alive. I still think of the R34 as being so modern!

Author5
Dino Dalle Carbonare

So do I, I can't believe it will become a 20 year old car next year, blows my mind (and makes me feel old in the process!) Not that something like that will make owning it easier in Japan, there's no such thing as historic car programs, they will actually continue to charge you more on road tax as it's a car that pollutes more, all in an effort to stop people from keeping and running older cars (not working at all!). It goes along rather well with Japanese mentality where everything old has to be thrown away and replaced with something newer and more efficient. Of course this is a total contrast to the old mindset that rules society and the business world making it quite the frustrating place.

6

Why the color change?? D: Anyway I dig the little things done to the car, the extreme detail oriented part of me was so satisfied to see this kinda stuff.

also dig the speedhunters bumper sticker hahaha

Author7
Dino Dalle Carbonare

TAS...but I'll get into that more in the next post

8

So this story is delayed for about 6 months? No wonder I saw nothing on speedhunters and then boom!

... green geedeeah and BBS wheels

Author9
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah I've got 2 more updates and then we'll be all caught up. It's been sitting unused since TAS as it needs cams and a metal headgasket to be fully mapped, finished and re-registered for road use. I'm at the mercy of Do-Luck who are busy with working on cars outside of Japan for drift comps

10

Gotta be honest Dino, I think Project GT-R looks best with the red TE37's!

Have you ever considered adding some Z-tune or S-tune sideskirts to Project GT-R? It'd be a relatively minor exterior change, but one that would make a big improvement on an already beautiful looking R34. Or perhaps, you could get a set of Do-Luck side skirts from Ito-san, which I think look almost like a factory component.

Apologies for the off-topic question, but it's one that I've been meaning to ask for a while!

Author11
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I've been debating them both for over a decade haha

12

Alex is really good. When my MFD died, he knew exactly what was wrong with it (one of the driver boards, not the panel as I had assumed) and within 30min of me reaching out to him on facebook with my problem had the right board on the way to me. Highly recommend anyone with a MFD contacting him. Coincidentally I've also got the same reversing camera, and a front facing camera for the same reason - though I have one through the MFD, and the other through my double din headunit. Do you have yours setup through the MFD and selected based on where the gear lever is?

I also have a Ctek battery charger port - though I mounted mine above the rear licence plate pointing down (can hardly see it). I leave the maintenance charger plugged in when I'm not using the car (which can be weeks).

Those buttons look really good!

Author13
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yes it switches on once you select reverse. Alex rocks! I swear, if we R34 owners didn't have him we'd be pretty screwed! Plus he keeps tinkering and always finds other cool things to add onto it all like the Gaugeart display for the Haltech. Big fat high five to Alex from Japan!!

14
Christian Persson

Dino, been following the build for a while now and really appreciate the subtle upgrades that could easely be mistaken for oem features. a few things i thought i would suggest.


1. Get another HID height adjuster knob and hook it up to the ECU via Analog input and use that as a Boost switch.

2. Some R34/R33 came with a oem Switch for "Silent" exhaust (on/off switch) that can be plugged to the ECU for launch Control.

3. There is a guy named Bill in the US with a Company called BT Designs that makes a Aux input for the OEM Stereo (not sire if you are still rinnging the OEM Stereo like I am) that allows you to switch the Stereo into Aux mode and give either a 3.5mm audio plug as his original design, or, like i did, modify that cable by wiring a 12v Bluetooth board to it, effectively giving you Bluetooth support on the OEM stereo for using your phone, can be used as a Music streamier or phone integration if you add a mic to the same Bluetooth board.


Also, if you do decide to add additional switches but dont like having multiple Icons saying the same thing (like HID leveler) it is possible to laser etch new Icons on the new switches, like a turbo for Boost, and "LC" for Launch Control.

Regards,
Christian

Author15
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks for the input Christian! 1)The Haltech Elite 2500 has built in boost control so I'm removing the old HKS EVC (now disconnected) as I don't like auxiliary JDM gadgets like that. The simpler the better. Im just doing a single boost setting. 2) Launch Control (read soft anti-lag) is already part of the Haltech, it engages when the clutch is depressed and you are at more than 70% throttle input, the ECU will automatically know you want to do a launch and will start building boost (and make a hell of a racket in the process!) 3)My current Pioneer/Carrozzeria single DIN headunit has pretty much died. I need to figure out what to go for as a replacement but I definitely want to go with an Apple Car Play enabled one. No idea what's out there right now as it's not really a priority but most should have Bluetooth integration I believe

16

Well, at least now there's a reason for installing a backup camera beyond facilitating the laziness of the average motorist.

By the way, how the hell'd you get a plate that reads "34?"

Author17
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Everything has to be done for a reason, was tired of bending my diffuser fins! I'll get some carbon ones made at some point, or just sell a testicle and fork out for the Nismo ones haha

18
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Being someone with OCD as well, seeing how you place switches and buttons cleanly also satisfies my disorder as well.

By the way, R34s only have 1 rear license plate light?

Author19
Dino Dalle Carbonare

OCD is a good disorder to have when you play around with cars lol

Yes and since the camera now has taken a corner of the light assembly it casts a bit of a shadow on one half of the plate. Yes it bothers me lol

20

What’s the deal with the douche icon?

21

Have you had any problems like aki has had with the company? His blog has me shocked....

22

After what happened with your friends car I am shocked you would publicize the work thats been done. Perhaps there was another motive? maybe the work was done for free in exchange for publicity?

23

Awesome stuff Dino - Perfection like always :)

Author24
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Cheers Dave! Still got yours?

Author25
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Another big high five to Alex, turns out he noticed the rear camera must have been his older version, he's now got an ever wider angle one which he will send to me so I can install. Supreme service!

26
Matthew Burgess

Dino, your project timeline is getting more confusing than Pulp Fiction hahah

Author27
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Hahaha so true hey. But I'm keeping the updates pretty organized when it comes to time. Two more and we'll be all caught up with it. Car goes into Do-Luck on 24th for the final step. Almost there...

28

Dino, you have an Alphard in the fleet too? Any mods? I've seen some sweet Alphards from Japan, many of them on Speedhunters...next feature car?

Author29
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Haha I wish, it's my inlaw's van which I borrow all the time. It's possibly the most perfect vehicle for Japan if you have a big family. Not sure I like the new version of it though, not sure why they had to face lift it so soon. I'm testing our an Alphard on KWs soon, looking forward to that...

30

Do you think you’ll ever be ‘done’ with it? I got away with spending way too much while building my M3 race car by justifying it as a means to and end goal. I think she’d kill me if it was an open ended project.

Author31
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Probably not, that's the best part of it I think. I just love the process as much as driving the car if you know what I mean. It's the experience of being on that never ending path to perfection

32

Are you worried about the original paint when you take the vinyl off?

Author33
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I worry about everything!

34

Thats a strange spot for the ctek trickle charger. I have mine under the bonnet; next to the fusebox there is a ground and access to the positive terminal too. I just plug it in with the adaptor. Im very interested in the front and reverse camera as my front diffuser scrapes too. I even run 245tyres with nismo stune suspension.

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