Project Thirty Four: The Big Rebuild, Part 1

If Project Thirty Four were in a sitcom, it’d have slept with its brother’s wife, robbed the local church, and ended up in hospital having been ran over by a disgruntled vicar.

The GT-R’s show really should’ve been cancelled months ago, but so impressive are the viewing figures that our Speedhunters producers have already renewed its contract. So here we are, in what feels like the 12th season in as many months, wondering what cliff-hanger lurks around the corner next.

Photo 18-08-2018, 15 01 21

If you’ve been following the Skyline’s progress, you’ll be surprised to see I haven’t committed harikari, nor have I covered it in sardine oil and fed it to the tigers. To say its ownership has been eventful would be like saying the Titanic sprung a small leak. However, unlike that sunken boat, this one’s being rebuilt.

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Not many calls send a shiver down my spine for the simple reason I try and answer as few as possible. However, at the top of this list is my dad. I moved out over 13 years ago, but I’m still paranoid he’ll call asking if I know where his tools are. He knows exactly where they are; they’re in my garage. Second on this list is the police (for obviously reasons), and a new entry at number three is RK Tuning. But only in the 24 hours immediately after dropping a car there.

“Hello mate, it’s Ron. Right, where do you want me to start?”

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I’d always assumed the oesophagus and arsehole were two separate muscles, but the realisation of an engine failure can miraculously forge them into one. Asking Ron if he’s alright is a moot point; the man hasn’t missed a day of work in over 30 years. Short of some lunatic taking an interest in bat soup, nothing will stop him from picking up the spanners. With this in mind, I’ve learnt it’s best to simply rip off the Band-Aid and unleash all the pain at once.

“You’ve snapped an exhaust valve. That’s now lodged within your piston. It’s made a hell of a mess of the cylinder head in the process. Did you stop the engine after it happened? I’ll check the crank, rods and block, but at the very least we’ll need a new head, valve and piston.”

Explaining to Ron I’d driven nearly 10 miles home with said valve embedded in the piston felt counter-productive. Because much like my dad’s toolbox, Ron already knew the answer.


I don’t know if there’s an automotive equivalent of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, but ‘Skyline Syndrome’ definitely exists. Because my first thought upon hearing this news wasn’t to scream and rip my hair out. It was more a facial expression of ‘not bad’ (see Obama meme for reference) as there was a chance the block and HKS crank might be alright. That’s the beauty of GT-R ownership; so conditioned are you for the worst-case scenario that anything less feels like a positive result.

That’s not the only reason, though. I know I’m in safe hands with RK Tuning as demonstrated by Ron’s calmness throughout. He won’t leave you in the dark to figure out a solution, nor will he insist you only use certain parts in a certain way. Instead, Ron presents a kind of good, better and best scenario factoring in budget and performance goals. Some parts will be non-negotiable, and any old parts being re-used will come with their own risks. But he’s happy to entertain either the bare minimum to get you back on the road, or a full strip-down rebuild so he never has to see you again.


I think we’d all choose the best route if money wasn’t a factor. But it is, so after much number-crunching with Ron we opted for a solution in between the better and best options. That loosely translated as reusing the HKS crank and block (both thankfully fine) while replacing the rest for new or upgraded bits.

What will quickly become apparent in the next few chapters is how similar my behaviour is to that of a magpie. There is some underlying intelligence behind the decisions being made, but for the most part it’s dictated by the prospect of shiny things. Starting with the cylinder head.


A simple route would’ve been to use a replacement (stock) RB26 head. The cams could be swapped out for my HKS items, and all the valves carried over with the addition of a not-so-snapped one. Quick and relatively affordable to do. The downside? It doesn’t prevent it from happening all over again, unless I’m prepared to limit the power and revs.

The problem with the word ‘limit’ is it has the same effect as when someone says you can’t have something. Suddenly that’s all you want, even if you weren’t particularly fussed in the first place. Admittedly, I’d also spent an evening on YouTube listening to RB26 engines scream past 9,000rpm which may have played a significant part too. Have a listen, they sound properly mental.

“Ron, what would we need to run it up to 9,000rpm?”


Part of me expected a shake of the head from Ron, or an audible sigh at the very least, but he’s known me long enough now to pre-empt this kind of enthusiasm. To the point he’d already found a brand-new cylinder head from Nissan as a potential option. Not ‘like new’ or ‘new-ish’ but actually new. It wouldn’t work out that much more expensive either – around £300 (US$375) I think it was – such is the price of used RB26 parts currently. Easiest decision ever made.

I’d imagine some of you will be keen to point out that by shifting the power-band higher brings with it several drawbacks such as drivability lower down the rev range. I’m inclined to agree, but what this doesn’t factor in is my skewed approach to what a big-power GT-R should drive like.


I want theatre and drama. I’m not fussed about a progressive power delivery – not for this car at least. It should be a fire-spitting, wheel-spinning monster that screams down the road with Japanese subtitles underneath it.

One of our readers made a good point in an earlier GT-R update; a standard Tesla would decimate it in a straight line right up to motorway speeds. But there’s no sense of occasion doing that in an electric car; you just hold on and go. There’s no lumpy idle, aggressive clutch or laggy turbo to try and build boost for the perfect launch. Get it wrong and something will probably break in the process. That’s my idea of a proper tuned GT-R. Who’d have thought this attitude could lead to so many reliability issues.

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Anyway, as much as I obsess over Skyline and Japanese culture, there’s no escaping the fact that RB tuning has come on leaps and bounds thanks to tuners in New Zealand, Australia, America and beyond. What’s most refreshing about this is both the information readily available and how quickly parts can be turned around. That’s not a dig at Japanese tuners; you can’t compare a few people in a garage versus a giant machining plant. But the rest of the world has finished playing catch-up now, and we (unfortunately) expect things instantly.

Trawling through the and Skylines Australia forums brought up Kelford Cams on multiple occasions, listing their 182-SE as a suitable upgrade from the HKS 264s currently fitted. With a 274/270-degree split intake lobe and 280-degree exhaust lobe, it’s a decent increase in cam duration without (reportedly) being too aggressive for street use. The problem with consulting forums for advice is that it’s not necessarily a case of what’s actually best, but rather who can shout loudest.


Wanting to know more, I emailed Kiel Rasmussen at Kelford in New Zealand asking for his recommendation, and while I didn’t expect him to suggest a rival’s product he did run through the pros and cons behind each RB26 cam they produce – from the mild 260-degree 182-B right through to the 292/300-degree 182-SG intended for drag racing. I’d upped my power goal to 800bhp rather than 650bhp, and as much as my brain secretly fancied the drag-spec cams common sense would (thankfully) prevail in the end.

“It’s kind of an experience thing for picking cams, one we have over 50-years of data and history to look back on which is a huge advantage,” Kiel explained. “We first look at the application and how it’s going to be used (along with power) so we can work out what sort of duration is needed. As the RPM increases so too does the requirement for more duration. The faster cycling the engine, the less time gases have to get in and out meaning we need to open the valves for longer.”

Nissan RB20-25 R31-32 Hyd Cams

“In the case of forced induction cars, we also need to factor in the airflow and power potential of the charger. Same goes for engine size; the bigger you go the longer you need the valve open for to sustain power as RPM increases.”

Kiel backed the decision for the 182-SE cams having looked over the engine spec and power goals (2.8-litres, 9,000rpm and 800bhp) but was keen to stress the importance of matching the valve springs with the cams in the process – specifically the Kelford KVS1855-BT designed for the 182-SE’s profile.


“Matching cams and springs together is absolutely crucial to valvetrain stability and ultimately engine performance. Having a cam that can open and close at the perfect time is pointless if the spring can’t actually control the valve. There’s more to springs than seated and open pressure; we’re fortunate to be in a position where we have the knowledge to design both. We can look at a particular valve lift curve and see exactly where a particular setup may start to lose control based on its measurements and weights. At this point, we can either tweak the cam design to be more stable, or in most cases make a spring specifically for the engine and cam profile.”

Both Ron and Kiel had asked whether or not the actual valves were going to be changed for larger items – something which seemed blindingly obvious in hindsight – and with the cams sorted I ordered a set of Brian Crower 1mm oversized items before sending the lot away for machining. Why the BC valves? Similar reasons to the cams; a good amount of forum builds recommend ‘em, they’re a fair price, and I was told they’d arrive in just a few days rather than weeks. I’ve never built an engine before, but from what I’ve learnt delaying the process with non-existent parts is a fantastic way to make your builder hate you.


You’ll have to excuse the lack of pictures showing the physically work happening here. Ron’s a cool two-and-a-half-hour’s drive from me, so popping down for a quick visit usually ends up an entire day trip. That and, if Ron’s anything like me, he’s happiest when he’s left to his own devices rather than having a camera over his shoulder every five minutes.

I’d say my role within this build was chief parts bringer-downer, as well as giving Ron multiple migraines as I proceeded to order more bits the closer we got to finishing the build. We’ll cover that in Part 2, but the other component I wanted to focus on now was the bottom end. Specifically sourcing one that didn’t have a valve wedged in it.


During its time in Japan, my R34 had been fitted with a HKS Step 2 kit which any Skyline obsessive will know is a pretty solid upgrade for silly horsepower. It’s also quite a spicy price and, until recently with the launch of HKS’s new 2.8 kit, a bit of a pig to get hold of. The failure had only taken out one of the pistons, but as the block had already been stripped it gave me two options: Replace the damaged bits with like-for-like and keep it cheap, or throw that aside for newer, stronger bits in case I try and chase a four-figure output in the future. You already know what happens next.

In the world of huge-power GT-Rs there seems to be one manufacturer associated (in some way) with all of the most ridiculous ones: Nitto Performance Engineering. I’ve known of Nitto for as long as I’ve known GT-Rs, and aside from their products looking the part you absolutely cannot argue with the results. Take the ‘JUN II’ R32 GT-R; the first into the 6-second and 200mph ¼-mile bracket while remaining 100% street legal. Ron had originally suggested HKS pistons to me but was keen to try out the Nitto equivalent as he’d been struggling with supply and wanted a long-term solution. Happy engine builder, happy engine.


“I’ve been working with Skyline GT-Rs since 1996 but I’ve been an integral part of Croydon Racing Developments (current Skyline drag record holders) for close to 30 years,” explained Jim Souvaliotis, my point of contact at Nitto Performance Engineering lumbered with the task of talking to me from Australia.

“In the early days – or rather the late ’90s – Croydon Racing Developments had a close affiliation with JUN Auto. From there, I’ve had the good fortune to learn and intricately understand all the good and bad traits of Skylines, not to mention the tuning knowhow of the RB26 engine and drivetrain. That’s all been instrumental in the development of Nitto components specifically to cater for the demand of increased horsepower with bulletproof reliability. Don’t forget, it’s a much more demanding market now too.”


It’s a good point Jim makes about the current market. Back in the early days, certain upgrades were either limited or not available in some countries, so you had no choice but to make do with what you got. As tech has improved along with demand, it gives the market a ‘healthy’ saturation by where manufacturers can’t just churn out crap and get away with it. No longer are these cheap performance cars; they’re expensive to begin with. And those owners using ‘em as investments are prepared to spend the extra to protect that.

“From 3D drawing to a move into 3D printing, we use every means available to develop the best possible product,” Jim added. “When we finalise the design, we run it through an exhausting simulation process along with stress analysis. Once we’re happy, then we move to the testing phase.”

As much as I’m not bolting it together – and having very limited RB knowledge – I do enjoy learning about the various challenges and issues this engine suffers from, not to mention finding out how each upgrade rectifies it. It’s more fun than experiencing them first-hand, I know that much. I’ve never really understood why people will classify an engine based on ‘stages’ without knowing what’s actually involved. You might have a stage 3.5 with 450bhp, but what exactly goes into that other than a load of marketing?

With the standard RB26 bore being 86mm, the block had previously been increased to the 87mm required for the HKS 2.8-litre kit. Miraculously, the valve failure hadn’t damaged the block or bores meaning a larger piston wouldn’t be necessary, or an entirely new block either.


“Going to 87mm pistons for most RB applications is fine, although we don’t recommend or manufacturer anything larger than that,” Jim added. “We believe it will compromise the integrity and reliability by weakening the cylinder walls. Remember this is an engine block that (might) have been in service since the early ’90s after all.

“Apart from the additional strength of our components and improved ring sealing ability, one of the main benefits of Nitto components is they’re more forgiving if something is to go wrong – bad tuning, poor quality fuel, accidental over-rev, you name it. Compare that to the OE pistons which will fail with ring lands cracking almost immediately. The same goes with the OE connecting rod bolts which are prone to stretching from any over-rev resulting in big-end failure.”


Just like the other components, the Nitto pistons, rods and gaskets arrived in a few days and – having spoken with Ron shortly after – fitted perfectly. So much so he’s now decided to use ‘em in future builds, too. No longer am I simply chief parts bringer-downer; I’ve progressed to marketing liaison manager.

From the outset, you could argue this has become a ‘chequebook’ build and I’d absolutely agree with you apart from bank transfers seeming to be a preferred payment. I’ve got the upmost respect for anyone who works on their cars – regardless of what level being undertaken – because quite honestly these things are a labour of love, absorbing every spare penny before you throw labour costs on top.


But for me, I’m mechanically inept. Actually, that might be a bit harsh. I’m mechanically lazy. I start off fairly enthusiastic but that rapidly declines the moment a bolt rounds off or I can’t reach a VAC hose. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about the mechanical aspect – it’s why I try and take in as much of the ‘build’ and decision-making process as possible. Because if Ron phoned and said ‘here’s your new engine, pay this’ it wouldn’t sit well with me. I want to know what’s gone into it, why it’s been chosen and how long I’ve got before I’m back at Ron’s for more work.


Am I any closer to being able to build an engine? Absolutely not. Do I know what’s inside my GT-R engine and if it’s any good? Absolutely right. Am I nearing the finish but about to ask Ron if we can change the turbo, inlet and cooling system? It’d have been a foolish move to call this Part 1 if there wasn’t another Project Thirty Four chapter incoming…

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni



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One of my favourite things about your updates, is your commentary. It's almost like if I child were trapped in an adults body, but with money and a driver license.

Tatenda Jinya

i was gonna comment the exact same thing....the GTR story is great but the style of writing is thoroughly entertaining too

Mark Riccioni

I cannot argue with any of that; there's my new Insta bio sorted.


Man the night picture in the beginning is jaw dropping. A completely amazing shot.


I've been long waiting for this update. At last now just excuse me while I enjoy the Read once more.


Great update! I see the M5 on the first pictures... RIP M5 :(

Mark Riccioni

There's definitely a standalone story on that car's ownership for sure - makes the GT-R look easy!


Great! Looking forward to it then! (It also makes my E36 ownership intent more frightening :D )


What radiator and fan setup is that? I need that for my R34!

Mark Riccioni

It's a Hypertune setup, required a little bit of work to get it in however (needed a slimmer electric fan due to the crank damper fitted) but i'll be covering that in the next update for you.


I love this car and reading these articles about it! Never give up!
PS theres a rogue clone stamp on the fourth photo down. :)

Mark Riccioni

Good spot! Almost looks like some wacky RX7 3-point spoiler now.


Excellent read (and photos at the beginning) Mark. I love your sense of humor that you've woven into the story here. It really gives this piece a ton of character. Thanks for the content!

Mark Riccioni

Appreciate it. It's one way of staying sane that's for sure! But i also think it's good to show highs and lows over the course of ownership, rather than only focusing on the good/new bits being added.

Tatenda Jinya

That’s the beauty of GT-R ownership; so conditioned are you for the worst-case scenario that anything less feels like a positive result.

At the very least it's a Nissan thing, i remember intially going in for a headgasket that morphed into a whole forged refresh for my Z...can't wait for part 2!

Mark Riccioni

How's the Z held up since? Maybe we should just replace 'Skyline' or 'Nissan' with 'modified' which is even more accurate.

Tatenda Jinya

It's been good...nowhere near the power limits of the car like yours but i've had a couple of years of trouble free enjoyment. Plenty of track time and shennanigans. I feel if i don't tinker anymore it may be many more years before anything goes wrong


Tell me about it. 700 miles on a new engine build, now my mini's up for a full rebuild due to the cam eating the followers and spewing metal shavings through the whole show :(

"Please insert Visa card"


Really looking forward to this one
Man the R34 looks so good!

Squirted Piston

I laugh. At a certain point you have to look at why you are into cars and what you are really getting out of them. A lot of guys want to buy an R-34 or a Supra or a Ferrari and never realize how much goes into just maintaining a car or keeping it running. What's the allure?

I would argue it's speed. User involvement. Driving experience. You have to ask yourself: at a certain point how much would it take for you to get a beater and buy a kart of a used Formula Ford and have all the thrills this R-34 offers you without any of the hassle or expenses?

I think a lot of the sports car scene has become about everything but the speed which is where articles like this end up. Gotta have an R-34 for the viewers, for the likes, for the content. It's not really about you anymore or what you're trying to do, it's about the audience. I'd sell this POS and get a Formula Ford! But hey, it's hard to flex on the gram without TE37s and a wide body carbon kit that cost you more than entire season of racing!

Food for thought!

Mark Riccioni

Some interesting points there. The car market, both for sports/supercars and tuning, is a very different place now to where it was even 5 or 10 years ago.

One of the pitfalls I think some fall into is buying cars for the wrong reasons. That could be because they think the values will keep increasing, or because others have told them they’re great without deciding themselves. Then you’ve got the Instagram/YouTube crowd doing it for views & notoriety. Absolutely nothing wrong with any of those reasons if you’re happy living that way.

But I’d also argue these owners tend to be short-lived, lose a load of money and/or jump onto the ‘next big thing’ once cars stop being ‘cool’ in popular culture (I mean that makes me sound fantastically boomer).

RE the Formula Ford debate, I love trackdays and I love driving fast. But I love driving on the road more. A good road trip, a drive with mates, I’d say 95% of my driving every year is on road and not track, so for me a road car – or rather road legal – is infinitely more enjoyable. However if that swapped round and suddenly I wanted to race more and more, then even a 325i build for club racing would be a wiser choice.

The simple solution is to buy a car because you genuinely want to own, drive and experience one. The experience bit is important, because these types of cars are a labour of love, absorb income and test your patience. But that’s just part of the ownership, and if you’re worried about that it’s a simple case of doing your research beforehand. If it sounds like hassle, go for something else. If you reckon you’re up for the grief, go in with eyes wide open.

Squirted Piston

That was the best reply I have ever received to my point of view Mark. You just made me a massive fan of you as a journalist and writer. So many people come at me like im insulting their hobby or shitting on sports cars and I'm not. The truth is I've driven over 300 of them at a very high level.

You are a respectable guy and someone who is capable of voicing his opinion in an articulate and confident way without being a douche bag. I hope you get this car where you want it to be in due time and it gives back whatever you were searching for.

I suppose that's all any of us are doing...


Epic story that keeps on giving. Any chance of further inspection of the that R34 packed with R.I.P.S goodness. Might blow your visa into a black hole though.

Mark Riccioni

I hate to be the bearer of bad news... but that R34 is actually being put back to stock! Rollcage removed, engine etc. all completely returned back to standard. I'm not 100% sure on the reasons why, but i'll ask Ron next time i'm down.


As a fellow GTR owner it’s like you’re reading my soul.
You also have one of the most stylish flat-bed tow pictures I’ve seen in a while (kudos to you).
I’m loving the articles and feeling your pain/excitement in getting your machine back on the toad again.
P.S. Jim is a super nice guy and happy to share his knowledge with anyone who asks and can listen.
Good luck with your build.

Mark Riccioni

Appreciate the kind words, also after about four or five flatbed recoveries you start getting more creative. I think next time we'll try lightpainting or car-to-car...

Jim's been brilliant from start to finish, excited to give it some proper use once it's altogether and mapped.

Alexander Watson

Reading your R34 posts are honestly like therapy for all the things I've run into with my E90 M3. Love the car and good luck!

Mark Riccioni

What tickbox of E90 issues have you ran into so far? Bearings & VANOS or something more spicy?

Alexander Watson

Mostly the usuals for a used M3 with 60k miles on it- throttle actuators, mounts, leaking struts, threaded oil pan (seriously!?). On the spicy side, the previous owner re-installed cats to sell the car but didn't take off the turner stage 3 tune, so new cats too. LOL. But its all good, I wanted a project car and love the S65!


You dropped a valve and drove it for 10 miles more? And now you're throwing many tens of thousands into an engine? This can only go well. Some mechanical sympathy would be a very wise investment.

Mark Riccioni

Oh if i had 'many tens of thousands' to throw into an engine it'd be something much more silly than this. To be fair, i had no idea it was the valve that went. I was only 2 hours into a trackday, and the idea of waiting for recovery (if they'd even recover me from a circuit) when i could nurse it home, jump in another car and have a proper fun day despite the engine issues seemed a much better idea.


Love the updates on Project Thirty Four. I love your writing style, it's very entertaining to read and relate-able since we're all like kids when it comes to stuff like this.

Frederico Rezende

You're a great writer!


MORE MORE MORE updates part 2 part 2 game game game

Ric McLaughlin

Another brilliant update - nice one Mark! Love the tone of this in that it's informative without going super-tech/presumptive. Also, I well know the trepidation of that phone call... Project stories seem to have dropped off the SH radar a bit lately but I think they're among what the site does best - more please.

Mark Riccioni

Appreciate the kind words and feedback. I think once we start coming out of lockdown in the (hopefully) not too distant future, we should get a few more of these updates coming through. I've been holding off on these for a few months currently, partly down to being a bit crap with time management and partly to make sure they can be covered properly. The moment you try and rush through a project update, i think readers will see through it immediately.


Thanks for your updates. I think you may have save my marriage. I was close to getting one when your first article went out - and you convinced me not to get one. I do not have the mechanical skills and my area does not have the expertise. We all admire what you are doing, and can't wait for the next update.

Mark Riccioni

Haha! Sounds like Speedhunters needs to start a new 'Dear Diary' series. The trick is buying one before you're married. And worst case, making sure the back seats can fit a child seat.



Wish you the best of luck with the build! As a fellow Skyline ( 1991 R32 GTR owner) , I relate so hard to this article! About a year and a half ago, one of my pistons decided to qualify for a nasa astronaut and shot out the side of my block. Hole the size of a fist. Destroyed the block obv, and damaged the head beyond repair. Went in for a full build, all new head, crank, rods, pistons, block etc.
Worse, you dig in for replacing one thing and wind up replacing everything!
Anyone considering a Skyline , live by this, If you can buy a skyline have enough to buy a second skyline lol
anyways, great article, great photography! Looking forward to your progress!

Mark Riccioni

Ouch, that's a proper job on the failure! 100% accurate on the buying though, and it's not like you can bypass that with buying a cheaper or more expensive one in the first place... it's just a part of the ownership experience! Goes to show how good these things are when they do work, however. Few cars will survive a failure before they're sent to the breakers for a quick remedy.


Instead of part one you should have called it STAGE ONE :P


I'm very much enjoying your R34 updates, probably more so than other articles on here. Why? The journey is real, the ups and the downs, and you capture it all very well in your commentary. It's quite personalised and whilst i love hearing about the parts, the brand's, I'm more so enjoying the owners, your, perspective. Keep it up

Mark Riccioni

Cheers Callum! It's good to give a bit of perspective with these projects - don't get me wrong the positives still outweigh the negatives (otherwise i'd have not bothered a long time ago), but it'd be unrealistic to just have a shopping list of parts followed by a 'look how good the car is!' update.


Hi Mark, I know how you feel! My first R33 GTR was a supposedly mint 30k miles car, had white Volk TE37's, full leather interior, etc. Less than 2k miles into my ownership and a big end bearing went on the M25, I had to limp the car to work which caused more damage. :( Ron had the car collected for me, day or two later... "Hello mate, it's Ron, do you want the good news or the bad news?" Basically scored crank, bearing was no longer and the piston had hit the head. Ugh... He said it was one or the dirtiest, smelliest engines he'd ever pulled apart. It looked like it had never been apart or serviced! I had a choice, repair and replace the broken parts or upgrade it. Like you, i went the upgrade route. New crank, forged internals, new Garrett 2860-7's, Ron sorted me a better clutch he'd used for a few hundred miles and he built the car for a strong, future proof 5-600bhp once I could afford a Link ECU. Sadly, I only did 50 miles running in the engine. I followed some idiot with an uncovered scrap trailer, dropping bits all over the road. A puncture on a corner put me into a tree at 48mph, folding the car in half and leaving me in hospital for 3 months. That will be 10 years ago in December... I bought another white R33 GTR 8 years ago. A well known club members car which had been cherished, I've spent the last few years adding basically every part Nismo do. She's almost complete, I've a few parts left to get. Maybe one day I'll go back and see Ron for a Nitto 2.8... I never did get to fully experience his handiwork. :(

Oh quick question about your old "tuner". Are they based not too far from Ron, over near IKEA? The name is similar to two tuners I've heard of, one I've only heard good things about and i was going to take my GTR there, the other does a lot of "tuning boxes"?

Keep up the awesome work and updates, really looking forward to seeing part 2! :D

Mark Riccioni

That's a hell of a story there Ben! Must've been infuriating getting that far to have something like that happen - although also I bet you get to a point where you think 'what next?' where it no longer seems a surprise.

Nice work on the R33, i've been lucky to own one of each GTR and i can safely say the R33 with a set of HKS GT-SS turbos and 450bhp was the best all-rounder. The hard part is keeping yourself happy with the spec/power you have, especially when you know how readily available it can be to unlock more from these cars. Down the rabbit hole i think they call it.

With regards to the tuner, I think you're on the right track there. I won't say anymore on the subject, but all i would say is to research, research and research more before going somewhere. Make sure you're kept in the loop at all stages, and worst case... give Ron a call.


It was mate, yes. I'm still here to tell the story, just a shame I can't say the same about my old GTR...


Hmm half my reply got cut off?

Forgotten what I was going to say, lol - best of luck with your R34


“Skyline syndrome “, the shortest and perfect way to describe the moment. Thank you for such a nice written article, and the pictures too !

Tom Westmacott

The drama, the gut-wrenching honesty and the sense of humour all combine to make 'Project Thirty Four' unmissable watching! It actually reminds me of David Yu's evo Fast Fleet R33 as a saga, but he only gave us brief, veiled hints at the depths of the financial and mechanical wreckage that car plumbed, you're giving us the full HD. There aren't that many epic struggles in modern life, but fixing a highly strung twenty-year-old modified car is one of them.

Keep up the episodes, we're all on the edge of our seats - and good luck making the car all you hope it to be!


Hopefully with all this money and time you're chucking at the car you're also getting yourself some mechanical sympathy and knowledge.
Driving while leaking water / overheating, continuing to drive after dropping a valve....yet still sounds like you're blaming the car...

nothing to be mad at except the grey matter between your ears.

Mark Riccioni

I fear you're confusing mechanical sympathy with wanting to use a car as much as possible. Don't forget these updates/stories are supposed to be a lighthearted insight & recap into car ownership, not a full documentation of every time it's been serviced, or now long it's warmed up and cooled down. I'll ping you RK Tuning's details if you're keen to know about all those specifics, however.


As soon as I read the title the first thing that sprung to mind was;
'How has Mark broken it this time?'

A great read however which wouldn't be possible if mechanical sympathy had been utilized from the start. Fingers crossed this learning curve in mechanical sympathy has been fully absorbed.

If not I look forward to the next update; 'My Skyline flooded itself when I left the windows open in the rain and then crashed itself into a wall when I drove it at 100mph on a flat'

Mark Riccioni

Don't get me wrong, i'll always hold my hands up if a failure if my doing - unsure how a snapped valve constitutes to that though. It does seem the whole 'driving home with a snapped valve' has rattled more than the engine with a few people. As mentioned above, these updates are supposed to be a lighthearted insight into car ownership and not a physical diary outlining every bit of maintenance or how it's been driven for every mile.

These cars are all about having a bit of fun ultimately. Sure there's different ways to approach that depending on what you're trying to get out of it, but until it stops being fun i'm in no hurry to change my approach to using 'em.


I've owned 50+ cars in various states of tune. I learned to be mechanically sympathetic after my first Alfa Romeo. The thing would destroy itself to the exact value of my savings on a quarterly basis, hence stopping and repairing any leaks/sketchy noises along the way.

I watched a friends Escort Cosworth go up in a ball of flames on the side of a French motorway on the way back from the Ring years back down to a coolant leak. The little things can have a big impact, you're running a car that came with tight tolerances from the factory, which is now tuned. I think peoples backs have gone up as anyone with a shred of mechanical knowledge cringed when they read that you'd drove 10 miles on a snapped valve.

Have you received any feedback as to why it snapped?

It's a good insight into your Skyline ownership experience though and it does make for a good (if occasionally painful) read.

Mark Riccioni

Oh i can only begin to imagine. What was the first Alfa you owned?

For me personally, I find it much more entertaining to write about the negatives in a lighthearted way because (dare i say) it keeps you sane. If you're fortunate to own one of these cars - and can embark on a full engine rebuild - you're always going to come across a bit 'first world problems' if you go down the 'pity me' route instead.

On the flipside, that may give the impression of lacking mechanical sympathy and/or not caring. But the reality is far from that; it's just not as interesting to read about. I keep all my cars serviced regularly and a fire extinguisher in each one for those reasons you listed above. Any incidents which contradict that (like the driving home) was likely a combination of frustration and knowing at any point it could completely let go.

It's a valid discussion though. And to be honest, the moment the negatives start to outweigh the positives it's time to call it a day.


A 2-litre twin-spark 145 Cloverleaf, great to drive, looked horrendous, cost peanuts to insure when I was 18. The repair costs however outweighed the cheap insurance (less than a 1-litre Corsa).

A Skyline has been on my to-do list for a while, but I don't spend enough time in one country anymore to make the most of the invested capital. I've got a Cosworth supercharged BRZ sat at home that I've not drove in 4 months as I've not been there. Doh.

Have you still got the RX-7?


Can’t wait for part two! As someone in the process of rebuilding an engine your words were therapeutic and your attitude soothing. It’s apparent you’ve been there, gone through that and are very comfortable with the decisions you’re making going forward. The anticipation you have created is inspiring and made my morning coffee all the more enjoyable. And I agree with squirted pistons response to your reply. Keep up the good work. Love the ‘SPEEDHUNTERS’


Forgot to include a photo of my progress.


Please delete this


How do you delete a post Sorry about my last post


Please delete my photo post. Sorry.


I'm guessing the block isn't a N1 24U item? Have you included a brace and has it been grout filled? A friend of mine cracked his block (In the usual spot between cylinder 3 and 4) from block flex at 450wkw. When my HKS 2.8 Step 2 was built the N1 block was recommended for this reason as the PRP braces weren't around yet.