Tokyo Car Life: The Perils Of Multiple Projects

For me, having project cars in the SH Garage is one of the best parts of being a Speedhunter. Sharing my car life experiences with readers from all around the world is one of my favorite things to do, and it’s always so cool to hear your opinions on what we get up to and the choices we make with our builds.

As a team, we’ll be bringing you a number of Speedhunters project updates over the coming weeks, and to kick things off I thought it would be a good idea to bring you up to speed with my cars, while giving you a little insight into how I live with them on a daily basis. Because owning one car in Tokyo is not the easiest or most financially-sensible thing to do, so me juggling three cars might sound like I’m really asking for trouble.


When you register a car in Japan you need to prove you have a parking spot to park it in. How do you prove it? Well, before the local police station give the OK and stamps your registration papers, they will physically come around and check. Like anything you do in Japan, the process can border on the ridiculous. An example of this is the requirement to draw two diagrams of the parking spot in two different scales. Once approved though, you are good to go.

Of course, unless you have a house with a parking spot you will need to pay monthly rent on your space. The average monthly cost for this in a central Tokyo apartment block is the equivalent of around US$500. That’s US$6,000 per year, for one car space.


Seeing that both my wife and I aren’t keen users of public transport, we do our fair share of daily driving, including multiple school runs in the morning and pick ups in the afternoon. So having enough car spots has always been priority number one, especially as I have press cars from time to time as well.

Having three project cars is as much fun as it is a proper chore to manage. Let’s go through them, with a current status report on each.


I’ll start with Project Drop Top, which was originally a black 2015 BMW 435i Convertible. Now it’s a white 440i that I picked up earlier this year – an LCI, or mid-cycle refresh of the same car. This might sound like a weird thing to do, but hear me out…


Around the end of 2019, rumors of a 4 Series replacement were abound, and honestly, this was the car I planned to replace the 435i with. However, at this time it was pretty much confirmed that the new car would be receiving the most hideous front grille that BMW have ever penned, and to make matters worse (at least for me), there was only a soft top for the convertible model.

After the 335i and the 435i with a folding hard top, a soft top was not something I was prepared to return to. Plus, the 440i came with the B58 motor and full LCD instrumentation, so let’s just say I was sold. I removed all the parts that I fitted to the original Project Drop Top and said goodbye to one of the best daily drivers I’ve ever owned. The 440i is even better though, so I’m loving this new addition to the garage.


Then there’s Project Quattro. After leaving me for a while to have some engine work taken care of, it’s now back in all of its naturally aspirated V8 glory, and you’ll be happy to hear that I have full updates on some recent upgrades coming soon. The car feels amazing now, especially given it’s a high-mileage example.


One thing I still need to sort out is the exhaust. Hearing newer RS Audis around Tokyo with their farts at every upshift and crackles on the over-run makes me a tad jealous. However, it’s all about balance, as I wouldn’t want anything too obnoxious.


The Robson Leather suede re-trims of the steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake are standing up very well to use and feel just as great as they did when they were fitted. I love how the yellow stitching adds a much-needed pop of color to the otherwise black cabin.


A friend of mine in Thailand helped me get some custom floor mats made up, as OEM Audi ones are astronomically priced. I might get similar mats with the Speedhunters logo for my other cars, as they are amazing quality.


Project GT-R still has the original Nismo mats I got around 15 years ago, and the driver side one is showing signs of wear.

As you can see, my Sparco seats still haven’t been fitted. It turns out that because they are not homologated for the Japanese market, the importer in Japan is unable to help me, so I need to find seat rails that fit and install them myself.

Other than that, I’m planning to swap out the old (and now not working) Pioneer single-DIN MD player headunit (with 12-CD changer which has been long since removed) for something modern. While the RB26 soundtrack is all I need in the GT-R, I do want a unit with Apple Car Play, so I’m now looking at 2DIN options which means the little OEM storage box has to go. That’s where I’ve hidden the HKS boost controller that since the introduction of the Haltech Elite 2500 hasn’t been used. It’s the perfect time to scrap it all.


Let’s talk power…


I still need to share with you the various steps that my RB26 engine has gone through, but basically it’s now running a pair of HKS GT-III turbos, Tomei cams, and an upgraded fuel system with Injector Dynamics ID1050X injectors. The Haltech ECU still needs to be properly mapped, but I have issues with a slipping ATS clutch and a carbon propeller shaft that seems to be out of balance and vibrates the driveline at over 5,000rpm – not ideal. There’s also a full Brembo brake package fitted now, ensuring the car stops as well as it will eventually go.

The reason progress has been so slow is the amount of time and effort that I need to dedicate to getting it prepped for a run on the dyno, not to mention the parts that need to be added to finalize it all. So, Project GT-R is getting close to the finish line (will there ever be a finish?), but it’s still not quite there yet. Plus, the car has been de-registered for four years now, which means every time I move it from shop to shop I need to source a temporary plate and insure it for a month in order for it to be roadworthy. It’s a bit of a pain, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.


The V8 in the RS4 has benefited from a new set of lungs, courtesy of Gruppe M.

I will have a post on the install later this month, as well as a video so you can hear for yourself how great the induction sounds. I also had a crack at sanding off the yellowed clear-coat on the carbon bits in the engine bay, so it all looks much fresher now.


The B58 in the 440i is a big improvement over the N55 that was in Project Drop Top #1, and this time around I plan to have Studie play with the ECU maps and see what we can extract with a little more boost. Of course, the Gruppe M air box that was in the 435i does not fit, so I’m looking at parting ways with that and then funding a whole new induction kit for this new car. I also need to also look around at exhausts, as it’s far too quiet.


So there is still a lot planned for all the cars. And that’s how it should always be, right?


I’m also talking with the guys at Nuklheads and Tokonatsu Factory – who wrapped the GT-R green for the 2018 Tokyo Auto Salon – about doing a new wrap. I have no idea what we will be going for, but there are some ideas currently being thrown around. Let’s just say, I’m looking at vintage Nissan race cars for inspiration.

The green has been amazing and I’ve had nothing but positive feedback, but it’s time for a change.

In the meantime, the car sits under its cover, and the CTEK battery charger keeps the Optima Yellow Top in optimal condition. It was thanks to this pairing that I was able to crank the car into life and move it quickly last year during Typhoon Hagibis, which completely flooded my house. Had I not been able to move the GT-R, it would have surely suffered the same fate as my neighbours’ cars – flood water inside, right up to the dashboard.

It’s been a tough year since, and only now can I say that the house side of things is 100% back in order. The cars are next!


Wheels are another area I need to spend some time on, as all three cars need some new boots to get them looking their best.

The GT-R is now back on its 19-inch RAYS Volk Racing CE28Ns – which are still one of my favorite wheels ever – but I’m craving something fresh. The same goes for the other two, especially the BMW, which sits on the stock – and very ugly – 19s. The RS4 OEM wheels still look damn good, but I can’t help but think that black wheels would look so evil. I’m keen to hear your thoughts on what wheels might suit…

That’s it for this quick update. Juggling three project cars in Tokyo isn’t easy, but I’m still enjoying every single step of progress.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare



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Still remember the sound of that RS4 thundering along the C1, and I've wanted one ever since. Looking forward to more updates. But I think you forgot a car Dino!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah it arrived a little too late hahaha More on that soon... ;)


But wait, there's more!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

More oil on the driveway yes ;)


On the Audi, any chance your friend in Thailand would take orders for floor mats for a V36, shipped to Australia? Mine are starting to look a bit shabby...!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I can ask. Mail me


....why not take public transit in a country famed for great public transit?


I think you're on the wrong website... this is publictransporthunters

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Because I have cars haha


I guess that's your choice. Needless excess pollution is...something.

You can own cars & still utilize public transit. People who're smart enough to think long term about the car hobby would do so sooner than later.


You know, he also isn't driving all three of them at once. And per his job requirement he often times has a fourth vehicle that's a press vehicle for testing and reviews. Also Tokyo is famous for its car culture. You also have to consider the reality of how often something like the GT-R is being driven compared to something that has significantly better gas mileage and lower emissions like the BMW since it's much more modern.

Having also ridden the rail system in Japan I'd still want a car for the weekend getaways just so that I still get the experience. But if I was working normally during the week I'd be keeping the miles off my car for sure. The rail system is fantastic there, but again he isn't driving all of these vehicles at the same time so his footprint is probably smaller than you're thinking it is.


I live in a place with horrid public transport so can't directly relate, but I imagine job demands is a decent part of the requirement. Project car doesn't count as its not viable transportation, so I'm referring to need for daily.

If you work an office job and go the same route daily, or when you travel for work you are going on short trips with a single carry-on then public transport might work for daily routine. Probably less so if your work schedule is not routine (constantly have to lookup routes and what to use) and you haul several cases with thousands of dollars of cameras/computers/ect with you every time you go on a work trip. Maybe you and your significant other can share, but for the driving work trips the one left behind will be without which can mess up their routine. It may be doable, but when you have a non-standard routine or have a full trunk worth of stuff frequently it takes away a lot of the convenience of public transport.


Taking the bus or the train means you're subject to someone else's schedule, someone else's route, someone else's speed. The sights and sounds and smells of your fellow man. No thanks.


Yes, these are things you are never, ever susceptible to in traffic in one of the largest cities in the world.


Hey Dale I completely agree with you, I got rid of my daily driver and use public transport to get to work and back and have my R32 GTS-T for weekend driving/ Spirited driving and have my partners Mazda 6 wagon if I need to transport anything. Seems a lot of "car Guys" completely ignore the state the world is in currently.


Public transport is very efficient, but that doesnt mean it is fun to use. While it may not be great for the environment or for your wallet, driving is sometimes easier and better. You also get to avoid the Coronavirus in these times.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Appreciate your concern ;)

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Glad to hear your house is finally fixed Dino, though I'm curious where did you move Project GT-R to when the typhoon hit...

Anyway, for the wheels, I would suggest BBS RI-D for Project Drop Top, but then it's already been done with the 435, so I guess that's off the list of options. May I suggest BBS FR-D or Volk Racing G025?

And yes, the Project Quattro's stock wheels are definitely great looking on its own. Black would make the car more menacing since the body is in the same colour. Lol!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Hey thanks man. The GT-R was the first thing I got out of the way, drove it up the hill away from the bridge and it stayed parked outside my inlaw's place for a good 6 months. Like I said, I'm so lucky that I had connected it to the CTEK, sometimes I would forget and the batt would die down and car wouldn't start. Now I keep it connected 24/7!

As for the wheels, BMW needs lip so looking at multi piece wheels now. Audi needs something too but not too sure on that yet.


Great idea on classic livery (calsonic?) On the unlucky green gtr.
Trade the Audi and BMW for a straight pipe Giulia QV and a manual Jimny. Forget repainting or joining a wheelset fad, upgrade and save on taxes in one fell swoop.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Much brainstorming is happening about the next wrap! I would love an Alfa, but as much as I like the Giulia QV I'd like to get something old, like a 75 and go nuts on it.


I was just being considerate... OF COURSE GET THE VINTAGE METAL. Fly the Tricolore alongside the Red Dot!
Just spice it up a bit, ze germans and the gtr are too similar, except the audi offers a few inches more backseat(?). Maybe one day you'll like to row your gears in a GTAR rollin TE37V instead of the GTR with those well matched CE28N. Maybe add in an Alfa 4c/Alpine 110/Lotus Elise/super-kei for something "special"?


That b58 has a lot of potential...

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yes and I intend to explore some of that potential...


Car projects don't just occupy parking space(s). The parts that we buy, we remove, we repair, we upgrade, etc will be strewn around the house, in the storeroom, living, kitchen, hallway, and perhaps out-of-sight backyard. Stuffs don't seem to be thrown away (easily) for petroheads.

Then there will be countless boxes of miscellaneous parts that we "don't need, but good to keep for just in case".

Oh, did I mention of hand tools, equipment, various fluid tucked somewhere that consume more space too. The situation of "car parts hogging" made is all worst.

Sometimes, I wish I that I would be better off working on motorcycles than cars.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yep, very accurate, I have boxes everywhere, from the trunk and interior of the GT-R to the shed outside and my office which has been adorned with two beautiful Sparco seats for a good 2 years now!! Wouldn't have it any other way though! (except for the seats which would be nice to have them in the actual car lol )


I don't know about that. I have a 2001 CBR600F4i torn apart in my living room right now and everything needs to be replaced. Hoses, tires, chain, seals, etc.

Where the cost is concerned, it's like buying car parts.

$300 for two tires?

How much is a set of hoses? 200. 200 what? Dollars?

13 bucks for a spark plug?

Bikes are insidious things - worse than cars, cause you can fit more of them in your house and each one costs as much as a car to keep running.


How do you find the hks gtIII turbos? Can you compare them to anything? I'm looking to fit them to an r34 n1.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I can't really say as the car has not been mapped yet. I did try them on the HKS demo 34 but that was running 2.8 and Vcam so very different. Pulled like a goddam train from as low as 3k so it felt amazing


Thanks for the reply. I'm thinking of go back to twins on a bnr34 . I have a pair of trust t517zs but looking at the newer hks ones. I'd be interested in finding out what they are like. Nobody in oz seems to fork out the money for them.


i'm not even gonna lie those rs4 wheels be looking sexy as hell so i think you should keep them stock they suit the look of the car perfectly imo. as far as the bmw, i think maybe try and spice it up with some jdm flair for wheels?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah that's a thought too. The issue is there is way too much choice out there haha


No problem is a real problem with money enough 8)

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah but you can't have that unless you work hard and make sacrifices.


Agree. In Spain we say "lujos vemos, sacrificios no sabemos" that means 'luxury we see, sacrifice we don't know"... Great parking space Dino!


Hey Dino, IMO you should put something with TurboFans in the RS4...and Silver! Forget the "Oh so" Full Mafia´ll thank me later ;)

Dino Dalle Carbonare

We think alike as I've thought about fans up front for years now lol


These following rotiforms would look good with the RS4: BUC-M/DTM/OZR/LAS-R/LSR

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Dave, I totally agree with your. Each look amazing, and hence my problem! Too much choice ;)


Supercool carpets in the rs4! Would you mind sharing me your friend’s contact in Bangkok? I’m from Bangkok as well

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Talk to J-Glaze


That R34 is a really popular build in NFS Studio.Nice.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Is it really!? Please do share


Have you ever bought a car never thinking about modifying it but you end up modding it?
Every damn time and that's fine with me

Dino Dalle Carbonare

No car in existence can be left stock.


You put those BBS back on the new Drop-Top right now!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Haha those are long gone! I want a different look, they were amazing but I'm craving lip!!


I live in a place with horrid public transport so can't directly relate, but I imagine job demands is a decent part of the requirement. Project car doesn't count as its not viable transportation, so I'm referring to need for daily.


I live in a place with horrid public transport so can't directly relate, but I imagine job demands is a decent part of the requirement. Project car doesn't count as its not viable transportation, so I'm referring to need for


Since i started with my online business i earn $90 every 15 minutes. it sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don't check it out.....

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How do you have the nerve to be telling readers you own several cars yet ask for money on go-fund-me when your house was flooded last year? I think the ones who contributed don’t have the luxury of owning a GTR or BMW yet handed you some money. Are you embarrassed?


Absolutely terrible behaviour knowing a 964 was bought as well. Way to rub salt into the wound.


This is really sad to hear. I'm not dino but if I was in that position I couldn't accept money knowing I had three high-value cars I could've sold. Would leave a terrible taste in my mouth.


Absolutely. I understand his home was flooded and he was in a bad spot but it was not right to be asking for a handout. Some of the guys who contributed gave only $10 or $50 which tells you the kind of money they had. Thousands more people who also suffered the same typhoon deserved it more. Quite shameful and embarrassing really to be asking money when you have these to play with after you’ve used the donation.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I just ask that you don't make assumptions about people's private lives. All I'll say is that I don't wish what my family and I went through on anyone and I am beyond grateful to those that helped out. Let's keep it at that please. And don't tell me you understand that my house was flooded unless you've experienced it too. Don't got there.


Look on the bright side...

Yes, you have to pay $500 a month for parking, but you do get the option of parking an R34 in the spot.


Gosh that really puts into perspective how much cheaper it is to own and store a car in just about everywhere else in the world. And I imagine that finding a house with an actual garage must be very rare in Tokyo Dino?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Not rare, there are plenty with 1 car space, but price goes up significantly once you start adding spaces.


I would love to se the CE28Ns on the RS, I'm sure that would be bonkers! ;)

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah because CEs look the shit on ANYTHING haha


Oh man. I've just added a Driveshaft Shop Carbon Shaft to my BNR34. Hoping I don't have the same issue. Are you going to get it rebalanced?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Do let me know how you get on. Everyone I've talked to is baffled especially since the feedback I was given from them was to take it down, rotate it 90 degrees and then refit which makes absolutely no sense to me. If all fails I will have to take it to Naprec and get it balanced.


I can't help but think the Audi would sit best on a set from Rohana. RFX-10 or RFX-11, depending on if you want to show off the brakes or not.

As for the GT-R's head unit, look into Pioneer. They offer 1DIN units with fold-out screens and Apple Car Play, so you won't have to sacrifice the cubby! My brother installed one in his Lotus Exige, and it works a treat.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah but the problem with that would be the way the top DIN space is recessed under the A/C control and thus a pop out screen would hit it as it tilts back once extracted. You can move it to the lower DIN space but then it would hide the cubby when out, which again would make it messy. I'm quite happy to go 2 DIN as I would be able to see the map better. That said even a single unit and have my phone on a mount attached to the windscreen would suffice. Need to have a proper think about this.


Any chance to purchase a set of those mats for my b7 RS4 Avant

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I've gotten so many requests it sounds we should do a small batch order!


Fantastic will keep an eye here and social media for word! cheers


Hey Dino
Have you touched base with that guy who owns the white AW11 in Ota City recently?
I really want to know if that MR2 was saved or not


speaking of project cars, have you been able to get in contact with the owner of that aw11 mr2 recently???
I really want to know if they've saved it or not

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Good question! I'll have to drop by again soon


Love group M intakes. They sound so good. Had one on my E46 330i and people always thought I had an S54 swap.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yep they sure are nice!