Project Rough & The DIY Curse

I have to echo Dino’s recent comments about the SH Garage being one of the best parts of being a Speedhunter.

Project Rough, my ER34 Nissan Skyline 25GT-t is probably the furthest away from the being the nicest looking in the fleet (it’s in the name), the most powerful, or even the rarest car. However, having my own personal project within the group is rather remarkable, and something I don’t take for granted.


Project Rough has helped hone my skills as a driver, and has become a means for my inner engineering curiosities to run rampant. It’s cool to share my escapades with everyone here – no matter how ridiculous they might be at first.


I think there’s a misconception out there, that in order to modify your car the only way to make any progress is to throw a lot of money at it. This might be true to an extent, but if you aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves, get a little dirty, and dive into the unknown, real upgrades can be achieved without breaking the bank.


DIY is the main concept behind Project Rough, and hopefully what I do with my car will inspire some of you to have a go too. Being able to detect minute changes and having a true understanding can only come with picking up a spanner, making tweaks, and inevitably breaking stuff in the process (read: Murphy’s Law).

Although the do-it-yourself approach can be a great way to gain hands-on experience and build on a budget, there are a few significant trade offs that come with it. For me, they’re the large amount of time and the physical space that needs to be dedicated to the cause.


The space aspect might not be so difficult depending on where you live in the world, but here in Tokyo it’s a premium. Before moving further out of the city in a quest to gain some space, I was paying around the equivalent of US$200 a month for a gravel lot parking spot five minutes away from my apartment. That’s nowhere near as costly as the Tokyo norm of US$500+, but still rather expensive.


Then there is the issue of not having a garage to work in – something that I really took for granted back in the States. They’re what dreams are made of in Japan, but unless you live way out in the countryside or don’t mind spending a small fortune to have one in the city, garages are pretty much out of the question.


To work around this, I convinced my wife (read: she allowed me) to change one of the rooms in our house into a work studio/miniature garage. As you can see though, obtaining more tools to work on various projects, and working on friend’s projects on the side, the space tends to get a bit chaotic. It’s a bit hard to keep things organized while working, as my mind has a bad habit of jumping from one thing to the next at times.


I probably should build more shelves and try to organize things a bit better, but there really is a limit to how much you can do inside your living area. Having a garage would give me the perfect space to work in, while not having to worry about my wife coming downstairs to make sure I’m not blowing up the house.


Then there’s the time investment that comes with DIY jobs. The more labor-intensive ideas that tumble around in my head – such as playing with composites – really consume time, and as the old saying goes ‘time is money’. Factor in work and family life, and all of a sudden the concept of having spare time for DIY projects becomes fiction.


That being said, I have made some improvements to my ER34 since I completed the DIY corner balancing.


After noticing that my rear sway bar end links were absolute trash, I replaced them with fully adjustable ones.


The process was fairly straightforward, as the methodology is the same as replacing the fronts. The rear end now feels fantastic, and the hesitation I felt after the balance and front end link replacement is gone. I still need a wheel alignment to really get everything dialed in, but my stubbornness to do it myself has meant that it is still on the ever-growing to-do list.

Speaking of jobs on the list, I still need to fit my prototype door stabilizers. The idea behind these is that they help fill the gap between the door and the chassis to create a solid, load-bearing surface within the door for quicker steering response. Seeing that I have time this week, I’ll stick those in and report back any noticeable changes.


Next on the list is my custom projectors I built a few years back. The light output of the OEM headlights is so poor that I’ve now prioritized this DIY upgrade.


I promised I would share the story on how I made these, but I really want to finish the second version first. The original version worked brilliantly, but they were incredibly rough.


The Defi digital dashboard prototype worked well all throughout the summer, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I either need to get a charging port with a higher amperage reading than 2.1A, a better tablet as the lifespan on this used one does seem a bit questionable, or both.

I now also now know that the carbon fiber cover I made is only ever going to be a cover and not hard mounted, which means there is no reason to permanently fix the tablet in place. Using some Velcro could easily allow me to take the tablet out and charge it wherever I am, and also use it for other purposes.

Last on the list is another thing that I’ve wanted to build for a while now: brake cooling ducts. The goal was to try and have them built before a track day at Nikko Circuit, but seeing that this is the day after my birthday, I highly doubt I’d have the energy to wake up early to make the three-hour drive, prep the car, race, and drive back home. Excuses, I know… But I will get to them.


There are more ideas jotted down in my notebook, but if I started on those while I have these other jobs in progress, I’d be overwhelmed quite quickly and as a result nothing would get done. I guess that’s all part of the fun of DIY, though.

It may not look it, but I try to keep my workroom as clean and organized as possible in order to stay focused and motivated. This is just one technique I use, but if you have other techniques to stay on top of your projects, let me know, as I could definitely do with some tips.

Ron Celestine
Instagram: celestinephotography

The SH Garage on Speedhunters



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

is the reverse gear really over to the side of 5th and back instead of straight back? or was that just a little mistake on the gear knob? looks cool either way


Appreciate it! And no it's technically straight down from fifth but I felt like putting it a bit to the side for some reason hahaha


Great Project Ron, it's nice to see what can be done with a small budget and a lot of hard work!
Be proud of your little changes, that makes this car to yours.
You have a wooden shiftknob, cool thing! The balancing with person scales, really awsome! An tablet as a digital dash, if it works, why not?

Looking at Dino, who want a new color for his R34 GTR only becaus.. Yeah becaus he think it's time for. That are luxury problems, not even problems..
Sure Dino has great cars, nice to look at and with good performance and a clean look.. but remember, you could blast on roads where Dino never turn in haha - no offence Dino ;)

You need motivation? Get the little things done, and look at all the little things you have done.
Get behind the wheel, and drive the shit out of it. Nothing is more motivation than fun. Enjoy the car, make a few scars, that's what stays in mind!

Hope my englisch wasn't too bad.
Greetings from Germany!


Cheers for the motivation! Yah definitely taking it out for a drive really makes me appreciate all the changes. I have to sometimes sit back and realize that even though my list to do is really long and finding time is a challenge at times, a ton has been done to this car already. I probably should do that more often !


I'm constantly impressed with the jobs you take on yourself, the DIY air-box was genius! Although you thoroughly convinced me NEVER to attempt alignment myself. That looked harrowing.

Looking forward to the lights update!


Thank you!! Hahaha I dont think I could in good faith recommending that process to balance the car hahaha


I can really appreciate your enthusiasm of DIY. The experience of learning via hands-on approach is absolutely priceless.
Somehow, the market is flooded with (pretty cheap) car accessories, that entice many DIYers to simply buy and install.

Nevertheless, I'm all for DIY approach. Any day every day.


Cheers! I've always loved taking things apart, putting them back together or creating new things (or attempting to at least).
I can definitely understand why people would simply buy and install but for me.. yah.. unless it's something that I truly think is out of the realm due to time constraints or what not, I'll try to do it myself first!


Just get a chalk board, or some chalkboard paint for a door or wall. Couple of chalks and your good to go. Should get you on track in no time. I have one in the office and in the garage just in case....


See I've definitely wanted to do something like this! Was thinking a big whiteboard I can hang in the room. I currently write everything down in a book but for whatever reason it's just not the same .. perhaps I'll pick that up this weekend


Books: Staines, burn's, missing pages, smugged ink. I've seen it al. But the best thing about boards that they are in your line of sight, so stay on you mind for longer. If thats a good thing is up for debate though, but at least you don't forget anything. Good luck with the board. For extra space saving: Nail it on the door. It's there everytime you want to leave....


The Knob! Artistic stuff. Keep it going.


Thanks! It's become a bit of a paperweight now haha


In all honesty Ron, the whole thing around that project feels like pure rubbish... I really hate to say that but come on, this is probably one of the most horrendous and pointless car follow up I've ever seen on SH, and trust me I've seen a few. Not because it's not a supercar, ultra rare JDM garage queen, nor because you're not Akira Nakai, but simply because it's pointless... The only thing you are showing is the confirmation that if you don't have money, space and know how, then you can't come up with anything good when it comes to cars. At that rate, the only difference between you and any random dude working on his rusted jalopy in the driveway is the fact that you do it in Japan. One wouldn't probably give any interest to the first one, so why would you get more ? So I don't mean that your project is crap, as it's your's and the most important thing is that you like it, but maybe in it's current state it doesn't belong on the editorial line of SH.

I mean DIY is awesome and it's a nice approach that I personnaly love and that deserves to be more in the spotlight, but the way you are doing it and presenting it isn't worth sharing in any way. Those carbon parts and the whole things are simply risible (even though of course your will refine your technic in the future), nice pictures and the fact that there's a Skyline badge somewhere doesn't make them any worthier, I'm sorry. Not all SH projects are interesting, that's a fact, but let's admit that jumping from Blake manual swapping his NA1 to Ron cooking CF parts for his rusted R34 sedan in his closet makes a little bit of a transition quality wise.

For the records, I'm a huge fan of your usual work, just like all of SH's contributors, and I'm really thankful for all you guy's hard work to advocate for car culture around the world, it's almost always a pleasure to read your precious reports and insights and to feast on your great photographic skills. I normally never comment and I'm not hating here for the sake of it but maybe voicing some concern about how the content here is evolving towards some really mondaine and half baked topics, without real relevance or interest. I understand that the pandemic makes things difficult in that matter, but I remain sure that you guys, with all your talent, can cook up better stuff.

All the best !


I understand your train of thought, but I want to point out my opinion on that.

Yes, there are very pristine builds presented on SH. But to be honest, when you check around the internet it gets kinda dull to see so many perfect showroom builds.

Again - there’s nothing wrong with that - but the money builds are often quite boring and just pulled through in one go and then off to the next project.

I do enjoy the slower builds that progress slowly but steadily to a set goal. If with a lesser budget even better, then I can relate; I guess most of the readers here that have a project are doing it with a smaller project than the average Instagram dude.

Anyways, no hard feelings, stay safe!


I appreciate the honest feedback and glad you're NORMALLY more positive about my and the work that shows up on Speedhunters.

I can see where you're coming from and I think you can get a bit of the picture of what I'm trying to do, but I also think you're missing the bigger picture as well. For example, what makes you think it will stay rusted forever? Do I have plans to fully restore it from the ground up? Or will I sell it and buy a Cappuccino ? (I'll answer that now -no lol)

There are so many things that can be done with a Project like this and hopefully, everyone will be able to see and enjoy the transformation while learning and be encouraged to try some things on their own. Will that happen over night ? Hell naw. However don't think I haven't been making connections / learning other traits besides composites


Thank you for sharing your build with us. It's very refreshing to see someone who isn't "throwing a lot of money" at a project vehicle and is doing it a little at a time like a lot of us are. While I will never own something as cool as your ER34, your work inspires me to continue to work on my own project car (2009 Mustang). I also get to help my son out with his '83 Supra project, his own "Project Rough".


Thank you for sharing that with me. That honestly makes me want to go downstairs and get to work on something even though my wife would not be thrilled if I started making noises this late lol.

That's awesome! I wish my son could help me out but seeing as he's still trying to walk without falling on his face, that might not be happening for a while haha. How long have you been working on the Mustang and Supra ?


You're welcome. I have had my Mustang for a couple of years. It's @mikes_mustang on Instagram if you want to see some pictures. It's a V6 5 speed that I am updating as time and money permits. My son just bought his Supra a few months ago. It is pretty beat up, but he's got it running, and now we're going through everything to make it reliable. Then he'll start on the appearance. Thank you for asking about our vehicles. A V6 Mustang generally gets a lot of hate heaped on it. But I'm old and wise enough to know I would be in trouble in a GT.


I'll def take a look! Haha yahhh.. the V6 does get the most crap but you gotta do you and not worry about what others say. Wish more would do that if I'm honest...

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Dude, that wooden shift knob is rad! Roman numerals adds to the cool factor. Is it for Project Rough or your friend's?


Appreciate it! It was a random Project I did at my in-laws a while back for Rough. The idea was to make something that fits my hand perfectly as the Cube Shift knob is a little small for my paws lol. However, I love the weight and shift feel with the metal knob -__-. I may add weight to the wooden one to make it match the metal one but ya... down the list haha


Wait, can you explain the "door stabilizers"? How does doing something to the doors affect how your car steers?
Does it make you chassis stiffer? Is it that teeny piece of carbon in your hand in photo #28?


It's an idea that Toyota has been playing with and haves parts for the AE86 and GT86 I believe. The idea is that the gap between the door becomes as close as possible to zero and stiffing the chassis slightly. And no, that is a basically a sandwich of thick felt and acrylic. I try to use other materials first when I'm prototyping / messing around with ideas to cut back on costs. If the idea works, then I'll either start looking at composites or "proper" materials to build the part ^^ But yah, give it a search and you should be able to find some articles from Toyota.


sorry but stock dashboard was way better


OMG! I remember in 2018, when I was visiting Odaiba, I saw this ER34 shooting a well-modified Audi R8 and I also took some picture of it. I never wondered that this would be a member of the SH fleet! I'm excited

mikayla sousa gomes

im looking t

mikayla sousa gomes

im looking to send my honda prelude import
its been in my garage for past 8 years
so im asking someone to come have a look at
my phone number is 07487554332


Always love the content with project rough! Thanks so much for making the content, and I wish you the best with future DIY projects :)


Making a schedule and doing your best to stick to it is what really helps me when I'm overwhelmed with a lot of different things! Especially if you can write it out on a white board or big calendar somewhere visible.