Friday, March 29, 2019

[Event] Skylines under the bridge

Last weekend the Norcal Skyline community had the honor of hosting Alex Qureitem of Q-motive photography. He shoots media campaigns for the OEMs, owns an R32 GT-R, and generally loves taking photos of Skylines around the world.

I met up with some local owners in Mountain View and we drove up to Fort Baker, just on the Marin side of the Golden Gate bridge, to meet Alex. I didn't expect such a big turnout of Skylines - 12 in all. With perfect weather, golden hour lighting, and a world-class backdrop, it was a gathering to remember. Definitely the most Skyline's I've ever seen in one place.

I guess the only good lineup photo was taken on my phone.

Alex gets 'em lined up just right.

Beautiful location, muddy lot.

Craig steals the show with his R34 M-Spec Nur. Damn.

Wish I'd gotten a little bit better exposure here. Had to crank the dials to make it come out - cool shot.

We were all feeling really cool with our R32s, and then this incredible Hakosuka showed up. If I heard correctly, the owner braved 2.5 hours of traffic to join us.

This meeting was a great warm-up for tomorrow's marquee NorCal Skyline event - the first-ever Skyline Matsuri! We will be visiting Fort Baker at sunset (again) so look forward to more photos like these, but with 3x the Skylines.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

[Focus] Enhanced pops and bangs

This blog wasn't supposed to be dominated by coverage of my Skyline, but it's turned out that way. It's the car that inspired me to start writing here so it makes sense, but I want this to be a home for all my car activities, including the other wheels in my fleet.

I may do a little retrospective on the Focus and why I bought it, but for now, let's just dive right in with a modification post. The RS is a great car, fun to drive, but I wanted a little bit more aggression from the exhaust. There are many aftermarket options and they all make the car louder, I wanted a 'mature' level of noise since this is my daily driver. I got the general feeling that the Mountune V2 offered what I was after.

I ordered a V2 exhaust from Mountune USA on 5/13/18. Month after month I was told they were nearly there, coming soon, hoping to have them this month, etc. On 1/16/19 (that's 8 months) I canceled my order and purchased a V3 exhaust from Mountune UK, for nearly the same price including shipping. It arrived 6 days later.

For the install I went to Pit Row in Santa Clara, a DIY shop where you pay $35/hour and get to use their lift and tools. For projects like this it's a no-brainer.

Stock, 8k miles

I was surprised that the Mountune kit did not come with fitting instructions. For guidance, I followed along with the CJ Pony Parts installation video for other systems. The most exciting step of installation is the cutting of the stock pipe. It's routed up and over the subframe, so it can't be fished out in one piece without dropping the entire subframe. No thanks.

Pit Row did not have a Sawz-all, so I learned about the chain pipe cutter. It turned out to be perfectly-suited for the job, cutting a nice clean line through the stock pipe in a few minutes.

Stock system out. I love a low-mileage new car, zero seized fasteners or issues.

Resisted the urge to start it at this point.

New unit. Even without instructions it is pretty obvious how it all goes together. The V3 differs from the V2 in that the tips are separate from the muffler, so they can be rotated for adjustment.

The workmanship and fitment of the Mountune kit is top-notch. Pipes slip together perfectly, clamps are exactly the right size, hangers are in the right places. There was zero fiddling from the initial installation, it all fit perfectly. The new system comes with a new exhaust valve already installed.

The whole job took 2 hours from start to finish, taking our time, including a test drive to make sure everything was set up correctly. The new system is exactly what I wanted, and exactly why I kept waiting (and waiting) for Mountune. The fitment and quality are top-notch; I like the slash-cut tips, and that the stock valve is retained. The new sound is a great augmentation of the stock character - louder and more aggressive, but without being harsh or shouty. The pops and bangs are great and definitely do not sound like gunshots.

So: two thumbs up for the actual product, two thumbs down for Mountune USA. Save yourself the heartache and order from Mountune UK (although I think the system just went out of stock there...)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

[Skyline] Rubber body baby bumpers

I noticed that the rubber bumpers on my hood and trunk were looking tired. After a while the rubber gets crushed out of shape and hardens up. This is a quick post to show which bushings go where, and how many you need.

The goods

65822-01M00. There are two of these total, one per side. They twist in to the body and can be screwed in/out to adjust the hood flushness to the fenders.

84807-U0100. There are four of these used on the hood. Two are at the front...

Two are along the side edges, halfway down. I didn't order enough of these guys so this is one of the crushed and oversprayed originals. Comparing this photo and the last, you can see how much they crush down over time.

01658-01811. There are two of these, on the back edge of the trunk.

01658-00881. There are two of these at the front edge of the trunk on either side.

80872-W1010. One per door, they go on the bottom corner.

01658-01121. There are two of these used on the fuel door.

The new parts knocked out the rattle I was getting over rough surfaces from the hood and trunk. For five minutes of work it's a no-brainer.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

[Skyline] PRP R35 coil conversion

The next modification on my plate was an upgrade to the stock ignition system. The stock coils and stock harness have a tendency to cook underneath their cover, particularly after 30 years of use, which can cause misfires and rough running at higher RPMs. I had noticed this, and while some of that could be attributed to the timing issue that ZCG identified and corrected, I figured it was worth an upgrade anyway. There are a few different options for the RB26 - some developed for this application specifically, others retrofitted from other vehicles (Audi R8, GM LS series, Nissan R35 being the most popular options in that category).

I selected the Platinum Racing Products kit, which uses the factory R35 coils, largely because their complete kit fits under the factory cover and requires no modifications and really no compromises. They've also done a great service to the RB26 community with testing and research. Here are some useful links on the topic:

PRP: R35 versus Yaris coils
PRP: R35 conversion product page
PRP: Installation instructions
Sean Morris/GTRusablog: harness crispy like bacon
Sean Morris/GTRusablog: ignition system info

OE R35 coil and approximate length (camera distorts a bit, but it's ~150mm overall)

The complete kit includes OE Nissan R35 coils, PRP's unique stalks engineered to seal the spark plug wells, a complete harness, mounting bracket, and required hardware.

Installation requires a little modification to the factory R35 coils, so I wanted to include some detail on the installation process for curious minds. The R35 coil just pulls apart with a bit of twisting.

Disassembled R35 coil. The spring needs to be trimmed down ~5mm for the new, shorter stalk.

Stalk length comparison.

You will need to trim 5mm from the original spring for RB26 fitment. You will notice that the spring is symmetric, with a larger diameter portion in the middle. You want the trimmed end to point toward the coil end, not the spark plug end.

Ready for reassembly. Trimmed end of spring visible, ready to fit up against the resistor.

Ready to rock.

Installation was straightforward. A hard copy of instructions was not included, but there's not much to figure out. Disconnect the harness, unbolt the stock cover and igniter, and thread it all out so that the cover comes free.


Unplug the harness and release it from the bend-over retainers. Unbolt the brackets carrying the stock coils and pull them out.

This is a good time to inspect the condition of your plugs and check that they're gapped correctly. Bolt in the PRP machined bracket. Coils go next, then harness.

Things get really tight at the back with the harness. I had to stuff the harness a bit under the final coil to get it all routed out the back of the stock cover. PRP would do well to add another 20-30mm to the main connectors back here to make this easier. In the photo below you can see the ground coming out of the body harness - this was originally tied in to one of the igniter mounting screws. With the igniter gone, I found a shorter screw and fastened the ground to one of the igniter mounting bosses on the factory cover.

Ignore the fact that you can see the OE igniter in this picture, exposing me as a fraud. That's kind of the point though, pre- and post-install it looks the same.

Rob had a little surprise for me after I brought the car home - a robin's-egg-blue Nissan OE oil filter. I guess the color wasn't selected with a filter relocation kit in mind.

I was not expecting a big or particularly noticeable bump in performance from the R35 coils, especially after Rob found my car's incorrect timing and alleviated some of the symptoms that had made me order this kit in the first place. However, I immediately noticed an improvement in smoothness and response from the motor. It simply revs more smoothly through all RPMs, and it's particularly noticeable on rev-matched downshifts. The blips are quick and clean. It wasn't bad before, but there is suddenly a silky smoothness I didn't know I was missing. Cool!

What's next for the Skyline? A clutch. The more I drive the car, the more the clutch bothers me. It's an OS Giken twin-plate unit, and the plates are sticking together. This means that the bite/engagement point moves around on me, which is frustrating and makes me look like I don't know what I'm doing. Without a clean and reliable clutch action I find myself clunking through the gears. I thought that I needed a new transmission, but I am beginning to think that what I perceive as rough shifting and worn synchros is actually caused by poor engagement and disengagement of this clutch. On top of that stuff, the twin-plate rattle drives me crazy and the pedal is way heavier than it needs to be.

I am going to stay close to stock power levels, so I'm eyeing a Nismo single Coppermix clutch. I believe that Rob is installing one next week on a local GT-R, so I'm hoping that the owner is willing to let me drive the car around the block and confirm that I like how it drives. It's a big job to get to the clutch so I want to know exactly what I'm doing before ordering parts or grabbing a wrench. Stay tuned.