I fitted my Alcon Big Brake Kit myself. It did NOT go to plan

After getting carried away and giving a nice chap in London nearly 2500 of my pounds, I’d brokered a deal for my standard brake kit to be sold. This added an unnecessary time pressure to the install of my Alcon Superkit. Many thoughts circulated through my head, various friends who run garages or even taking the car to a specialist. However after a few beers and a complete overhyping of my mechanical abilities I vowed to fit them myself. (Not the smartest idea I’ve had)

The assembly

Now I’m somewhat of a novice with the spanners, more than happy swapping wheels, jacking cars up, brake pad changes and on occasion I’ve fitted exhausts but that’s it. My most mechanical exertion was stripping a B7 Audi RS4 for parts a couple of years ago. But there’s a big difference removing parts on a car you’ll never drive again to swapping the main safety components on a daily driven near 700bhp Datsun. A lot was trial and error and I can’t say enough for the quality of the Alcon kit, the billeted mono-block callipers are beautiful and satisfying to work on. I really enjoyed assembling the callipers, loosely clamping a disc in a vice while I leveraged pushing the pistons back into each calliper gently. Next came greasing the backs of the RS29 pads to help with initial install and prevent them from virtually welding themselves in place later down the line. I thoroughly soaked and cleaned the pins and retaining clips for each calliper to again make the installation easier. The rear callipers are definitely easier to complete than the fronts, the bolt holding the pads and clips in place has both an Allen head at one end with a nut on the other. The monstrous fronts however require some grease and persuasion with a hammer.

The install

Here’s where the calamities start and I’m so very grateful I didn’t make a video for my YouTube channel. I started with the back right corner for install and everything went smoothly. The Brembo discs and Cosworth pads were just a few months old so everything was freshly greased and hadn’t had time to settle in. The two 10mm Allen heads for the calliper took minimal persuasion with a 1/2” ratchet. The brake line didn’t round and happily complied when separated from the calliper, 1 corner done including wheel off in maybe 15 minutes with a cuppa.

Problem number 1

I decided to do complete axles at a time so set to work on the back left. Again the Calliper mounting bolts took little effort to loosen off, however my line spanner decided to be a little bastard and started to round the head of the brake line. Around 15-20 minutes of profuse swearing and hunting through toolboxes I found the trusty old mole grips which saved face. Once removed the calliper and disc were separated from the hub and stored in the garage. Install time around 1 hour and a nervous breakdown.

Install back on track

Getting up close and personal with the massive front Alcon callipers, it was fine to remove the front left calliper. I was apprehensive about this as just a few weeks before I test fitted a ceramic disc to the opposite corner and the mounting bolts were crazy tight. It’s safe to say I was more than a little relieved to find the brake line removed with little duress from my line spanner. (I did this before even attempting the calliper bolts after my previous issue). My oem sized Alcons were a lot older than the near new Brembos on the back so the pads were known to stick a little when wet. However everything mounted up without issue and was again a quick install 20 minutes or so including wheel removal.

The meltdown

There’s nothing worse then starting a job on your car and finding that “someone’s been here before”. I’ve stood underneath my car and I’m proud to see all of the under-tray bolts are correct and present and overall the GT-R looks incredibly clean underneath for 13 years old. However the drivers side front brake line fitting was mangled. I could only just get a spanner on it, it came out “ok” but going back into the Alcon Superkit was just not happening and it was pissing brake fluid allover.

Meltdown part 2

After again using the trusty mole grips to attempt my rescue (I needed the car at the weekend) it was all to no avail. I phoned Nissan to source a brake line however my closest dealer was 60 miles away and wouldn’t post out. I was “saved” by a Nissan specialist after quoting the part number Nissan supplied. I even asked “is this the hard line from the calliper to the block junction on the upright?” Which I was informed it was. This is where tantrums swearing and considering listing the GT-R in the classifieds started to cross my mind. Of course I couldn’t get the other end of the hard line out of the junction block. The bracket on the upright would flex when I applied any tension to it and I just couldn’t get the leverage for fear of breaking something else. (Face palm). I had to remove the braided line further back that Litchfield replaced the year before, snap the hard line off behind the nut and whack a 10mm 1/2” socket onto it in my vice. I cannot stress how much of a pain in the ass this was. Current install time around 4 hours of labour plus a night elapsed waiting on a new brake line.

Meltdown part 3 the final encore

You can imagine my relief knowing the damaged brake line had been successfully removed and all that was required was plumbing in its replacement. Imagine the desire to shout and swear when the picture below greeted me after opening the packaging. The big line at the back was the damaged unit, the much shorter new part was lacking around 4 inches or so. So with some theoretical man logic I had to relocate the junction block on the upright slightly to accommodate the lines apparent lack of length. That and straighten out a couple of the bends to help out that extra bit. It threaded into the calliper perfectly and the junction block and best of all it didn’t leak. We checked full steering lock both sides and it all clears perfectly. I don’t use the car much so I’ll have Kaizer replace the line for me in March. I also have two custom braided lines sat in a box for when it’s times to renew the Goodridge units on the rear.

Summary

This 3 hour install (quoted by a known tuner in their how to guide) took me about 3 days. Most of which waiting for parts and getting soaked in the rain. I loved assembling and torquing all the bolts up. The brake line was a complete unforeseen disaster and really tainted the experience. However I’m incredibly proud of what I achieved. A technician friend of mine came over later that evening and we bled the system and replaced the fluid with Motul RBF660.

Brake performance

Considering how much I was told the RS29 pads are a hardcore track pad that need a lot of heat, I’ve found their initial bite on the road fantastic. A really firm confidence inspiring pedal feel is present and I’m much more inclined to push harder. I’ve done some hard stops from triple digits and I can’t get over how quickly speed is lost with minimal pedal travel. By far the best modification I’ve done to a car yet. I sold my standard set up for £1650 so this kit owes me £794 with brake fluid included, phenomenal bang for my buck and I saved some cash by fitting myself. I’ve only done 200 miles so far but I’ll update with my progress when we have some better weather. I hope you can enjoy this mini thread and probably laugh at the nightmare I had a couple of weeks ago.

I bought a bargain Alcon Superkit for my R35 GT-R

I’ve been pretty busy in my first 9 weeks of ownership with my new Nissan GT-R. I’ve had the software updated with a dyno run, new wheels and tyres, some carbon fibre trim bits and now a big brake kit. I’ve always liked the Alcon Superkit as it’s enormous, fills the wheels nicely and they look evil up close, not to mention the significant performance benefit. A lot of lads are happy throwing 800-900bhp on standard brakes with just a disc and pad upgrade. I however much prefer a dedicated Big brake kit for piece of mind as well as the aesthetics.

So what did I get?

Well I have a full set of discs 400x36mm fronts and 385×33 rears, brand new Pagid RS29 pads for all four corners and of course the mighty Alcon Superkit calipers themselves, which I have to say are in immaculate condition. The discs looked a little ratty after sitting in storage for a year or so in a damp garage. However after a quick clean they’re looking much healthier and ready to bed-in a new set of pads. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the RS29 pads. They’re supposed to be absolutely mighty on track, but for road use they’re a bit overkill and noisy, I’ll update you on my findings.

Price

Back in the early 2010’s this was a £10,000 brake kit and usually supplied by Litchfield, however they’re fairly rare to see floating about in the classifieds. Most have either been sold years ago, or are still fitted to the cars they were originally purchased for. I paid £2400 for my setup plus £45 for some Motul RBF660 brake fluid. Normally you would require the Alcon specific brake lines but fortunately I already have Goodridge braided lines which should plumb straight in. I’m looking for around £1650-£1850 for my standard callipers with Alcon discs up front and Cosworth pads. Rears are nearly new Brembo discs again with Cosworth pads. So once they’ve been paid for this big brake kit will owe me way under £1000. Happy days.

Consumables

This is where numbers start to inflate unnervingly quick. I emailed Litchfield yesterday to get a quote for a full set of discs to go with my Superkit when the time comes. £2716.80 for 4x discs and bells. Then you factor in £1080 for front and rear pads (price from Knightracer website) I’m pretty relieved mine are in good shape. I’ve been in contact with Reyland Racing who can make me discs to suit, for under half price, however I’m going to have to live with the cost of pads. (Ouch) £3796.80 for a full disc and pad change on the Superkit.

Where did I find them?

After being let down on an AP Radical 410 kit I went scouting the GTR forums, marketplaces and eBay all to no avail. I was randomly added to the GTR Cartel classifieds WhatsApp chat where I submitted a “want to buy” request for a big brake kit. This was back in early January before I’d even been to Litchfield. However once I got home that afternoon I was offered the kit for “around 3 grand” it took nearly 3 weeks for pictures to get to me. By which time I actually had a set of ceramics I was experimenting with, so I quickly listed them for sale before placing a deposit on the Alcon kit after some haggling of course. My next post will be an update comparing weights, measurements and feel for fast road use.

V8 Vantage vs Nissan GT-R when is there too much power?

As a petrolhead it has to be said you can never have enough power, however lately I’ve really thought that I’m pushing the boundaries of what I want. There’s 250bhp difference between the two cars in this article and Christ can I feel every last one.

Drivability

Again I appreciate this is entirely subjective but there’s something incredibly ego-stimulating about squeezing out every last Rev and changing gear yourself. You feel connected to the car, you’re going fast (ish) and you get to listen to the engine note change as the revs climb it’s bliss. However when you’re knocking on the door of 700bhp and 860nm things get a little dramatic. Whilst I’m well aware that A) that’s a shitload of power and B) the roads are cold and damp, there’s some really unpleasant moments to be had. Before my software update with Litchfield (linked below) the GT-R was a spikey car. Any kind of throttle or provocation and it snapped into oversteer. Great if you meant it, not so much if you just want to overtake the Bin Lorry on a Thursday morning at 37mph. I found myself short shifting to avoid the aggressive influx of boost pressure and subsequent torque as the car would just snap sideways and was quite tricky to catch smoothly. Also you can only shit yourself so many times in a short space of time before needing a bath.

Manual or Dual clutch

I’ve had this discussion many times when describing the GT-R in tuned guise to people. It’s one of the elite where robbing it of its dual clutch would genuinely make it much much worse. A dry summers day and full traction the acceleration is phenomenal and you’re happy to keep both hands firmly planted on the wheel, it’ll wag its tail and smash into the Rev limiter if you’re not quick enough on the paddles. However this being said the busyness of a manual gearbox can makes things frantic and thus feel faster than they actually are. On the right twisty road the Aston Martin was bliss, not much torque but a high redline and choosing cogs myself made me feel like a real mans man. So while the GT-R would be worse with a manual box because it’s too fast and hectic I think the Aston is the opposite, an automatic would ruin it. Not enough power or torque to occupy you and if you’re not changing gear, heel-toeing and feeding in the steering you’ll be quite bored between the bends as there’s just not enough happening.

Adjustable Maps

Typically used for juggling whichever fuel quality you’re to get hold of in unfamiliar territories to avoid knock, multiple maps are now a useful way to customise the cars behaviour to the conditions. Since the map tweak I’ve experimented on full boost and I’m happy to report the power is now turned up even farther, yet smoother in delivery. However with the wet roads and low temps I’ve found it’s much better to live with on 1 bar of boost and surprisingly frugal on a decent run. Actually achieved 315 miles out of a tank of V-power which with the JDM cars having a smaller tank I’m really impressed with.

I think to summarise you really can’t have too much power but there’s always a time and place for it. I’m more than happy with the boost wound back a tad during the rare winter use but I can’t wait for summer to give it a real poke and see what’s what. I will always secretly miss a manual box just a little bit though. perhaps a supercharged Vantage could be a laugh…

Ecutek V8 software update and rolling road for my GT-R

So 6 weeks deep into ownership my R35 is wearing new shoes, has been serviced and now has had a software update. Here’s how my morning at Litchfield Motors went…..

Why a software update?

In the UK most tuned GT-Rs use ECUTEK software which is frequently revised, enabling tuners to monitor extra parameters and increase power and traction control safely and remotely. I’ve found the car skittish in any sort of low temperatures and wet weather, making most of the power completely inaccessible. Even when modulated and fed in gradually. My R35’s last software update was Version 5.5 back in 2017 with Litchfield themselves stating how massive the improvements in versions 6 and 7 were. So it seemed logical 3 plus years on there would be noticeable improvements.

What does it cost?

I paid £180 VAT included for the Version 8 update as my GT-R already has Litchfield licensing and software. Dyno mapping (for Willy waving graph purposes) was £144 VAT included totalling £324 for the mornings work. Seemingly a GT-R-tax free bit of work.

How does the car feel now?

The power delivery feels much more progressive yet the car is overall much much faster. Despite wet and salty roads I was able to get much further in the Rev-range when feeding in the throttle. Beforehand it was very skittish around 4K RPM causing the back end to step out aggressively. This thankfully happens much less despite covering ground more quickly, I’m really impressed with the power figures and how good the 4” TITAN Exhaust sounds at full chat.

672bhp 854nm strong figures for an early (CBA) GT-R

Thanks to Social-distancing guidelines I wasn’t allowed into the viewing area to protect the workshop staff, a shame but makes perfect sense. My R35 was still able to roar through the engine build room all the way to the waiting area. My highlight of the day being the 2ft long flames coming out the tailpipes on the overrun. This is my first time dyno running one of my cars and I felt both incredibly nervous and like a proud father on the touchline of a football pitch. We all have worries we’ve missed something on a pre-purchase inspection or it may go bang under hard loading. To summarise I spent most of the morning grinning like an idiot and incredibly proud of my purchase, this one definitely feels like a keeper to me. Best £350 I’ve spent in a long long time I recommend it to any GT-R lads with slightly outdated software.

My Bargain first service with the new GT-R

When it comes to the R35 GT-R all you usually here is the horrific stories of constant 4 figure service bills, alas this doesn’t have to be the case. My car has a thoroughly detailed history with the bulk of it being split between Perfect Touch, Kaizer and Litchfield Imports. In the early days of the R35 Nissan insisted on a 6 month service interval or 6000 miles, however as times have progressed this is commonly stretched to 12 months for those which don’t do as many miles. I admit mines only had the oil service but shopping around for parts and making the most of Black Friday sales has made this even cheaper than last time.

Opie Oils Black Friday sale saw me get a 6 litre service pack of Mobil 1 Factory spec oil delivered for only £55. Most big power cars and those with higher mileage tend to run Castrol supercar oil with a thicker viscosity to protect engine components. However mine currently has just over 53,000 miles so I’m happy to stick to standard spec for now. My Nissan genuine filter was £9.50 and the crush washer was 99p both sourced from “JDM_Nissanshop” on eBay who I used earlier in the year for the previous car. So a sniff over £66 and I’ve everything needed for an oil change on my new GT-R, nothing too soul destroying there.

Thanks to a Global Pandemic and a hefty work schedule the previous owner of my GT-R barely went anywhere in it since it’s major overhaul at Litchfield. 900 miles before I took ownership to be exact. Litchfield did an engine oil and filter change, differential and gearbox fluid flush, replaced the brakes lines and fluid all for around £1400. Despite the low miles from the last service I’m keen to have fresh fluids in whenever I buy a car for peace of mind, that and the fact it’s off to Litchfield again next week for a software update and Dyno run. The thought of high revs on year old engine oil didn’t sit well with me and for £100 with a mechanics labour and invoice I really can’t complain. Some people do oil filters every time like I do, others don’t but for the sake of £10 I’m happy to do so.

Now depending on Carl’s availability, I may have a GT-R independent specialist do my diff and gearbox fluids in 8 months or so when it’s due. However apart from the expensive fluids and a few special reverse turkey-baster type things (technical term for pumping the fluids in) it’s not a difficult job for a competent mechanic and like most GT-R jobs it’s about keeping fresh fluids circulating around. The “optimisation” service can be done yourself via the ECUTEK app on your phone via Bluetooth dongle. These will set you back around £150 and you’re able to use it infinitely to diagnose fault codes, clutch re-learns (optimisation) etc. Not an expensive part of GT-R ownership but nevertheless it’s empowering to know you can check things out with them yourself. Up next I’m having an Aux belt changed, again for peace of mind along with a brake fluid and coolant flush to keep everything fresh heading into the summer. I’ll continue to shop around as I’ve already found Castrol SRF fluid for £50 a litre which is around a £12 saving per litre. I’ll report back again later in the new year when I’ve shopped around for my diff and gearbox fluid change and let you know the costs.

History repeats itself… I buy my JDM GT-R some new shoes

So as we know in January 2020 I bought myself an R35 GT-R, a global pandemic and 3 cars later I’m back in another. Now I’ve previously mentioned how expensive R35 parts are and in most cases forged wheels that I like are painfully unobtainable. My first GT-R fortunately came with Michelin pilot sport 4s rubber all round in great condition. However my current iteration came on Bridgestone Blizzacks, designed for winter use. I typically rely on common sense and I’m happier buying a daily than battling the elements with 660+ bhp as R35s are a little ropey in the wet. So when the roads get bad the GT-R can take a break, meaning no need for specific winter rubber.

What are they?

The wheels are Forged TSW Nurburgring, the tyres are Michelin Pilot sport 4s. Oem tyre sizes are 255/40/20 and 285/35/20, but the standard Bridgestone Potenzas are run-flat, so can afford a taller sidewall due to being reinforced. When moving to a non run-flat tyre it’s common to drop a sidewall size and increase the width. I ran previously 265/35/20 and 305/30/20 and this is what I’ve chosen again. No ride “comfort” is lost and the car feels more accessible in damp conditions.

Are they expensive?

You can source TSW Nurburgring wheels in GT-R fitment from LK performance in the UK. These are around £1700 a set, the sizes are 20×10” and 20×10.5 front and rear respectively. I got mine second hand online and owe me £1000 delivered. I sold my standard wheels with the winter tyres cheap to a friend for £400 as I wanted the garage space. I had the rubber lying around so they were maybe worth a few hundred quid with 6mm all round left. Tyres on the drive charged me £90 to fit and balance all 4 wheels, I chose to fit them myself as the GT-R is a pain to get off the ground. My aftermarket side-skirts didn’t make matters any easier as well. If you were to buy the setup brand new with Michelin tyres you’d be looking at over £2500, more if you opted for new TPMS sensors.

Why did I buy them?

They’re forged so I know they’re light and strong, despite extortionate tax, UK roads are often in abysmal condition. I think they look great on the GT-R my previous set were matte grey and I always wondered how black would look, I’m pleased to report they look the dogs bollocks. I like how they’re different, I use subtle modifications to make a vehicle unique. Putting my stamp on the car without being too aggressive or showy. I’m a sucker for two things, carbon fibre and nice wheels.

I’ll be testing the new setup over the coming weeks and report back soon. Wet British A-roads mean I’m often lacking for traction , but from the quick drive I’ve had, I think power is more accessible if you modulate your inputs. Drive it with your clown shoes on you’ll spin down the road like a waltzer covered in your own excrement.

Is customer service the lost art of car sales?

I’ve bought quite a lot of cars in the last 7 years, ranging in price, age and condition. What’s always shocked me is my best buying experiences have come from private sellers and my worst are typically from dealerships. With a recent experience altering my perception of a brand altogether.

Story time

My first fast Ford was a dealership purchase, the car was a little overpriced, however it was delivered to my door, I was able to test drive and inspect before signing the documents. So overall not a bad experience, but not brilliant either as they were pushy with their finance and didn’t explain the deal very well. My Audi RS7 was my first bitter experience with a dealership. I’d found the car online on a major site and called immediately to secure it with a deposit. After several failed phone calls I left an email before calling one last time to leave a securing deposit. The car was well presented and I was granted a solo test drive and as much inspection time as I deemed suitable. It was when the topic of price arose that my issues seemed to begin, the salesmen were uninterested and insisted I spoke to head office on the phone. I wasn’t happy about some missing paperwork, overdue service and short MOT, (all rectifiable of course) the condition of the front discs wasn’t brilliant either. I made an offer which was accepted, however the previously silent salesmen became bullish, trying to push me with their shitty warranty which wouldn’t cover a thing. They described it as a “big pot” we can all share up to the value of the vehicle. Basically the “pyramid scheme” scene from Peep Show. I turned down the warranty which magically halved in price after doing so! Snide remarks about my ability to run the car were then made, at which point I reminded them I paid for the car in full on my Debit Card. I returned the next day to collect my car freshly serviced and with 12 months MOT, only to find it so out of fuel it didn’t register at all. Once filled with V-power I was greeted with the EML, as the engine ran so lean most likely during its fast idle test, that the influx of fuel had upset it. I had to return for the third time! To have the error investigated, reset and test driven again, what was an exciting £30k plus purchase was now tarnished by inconvenience and poor service. I was offered a cup of coffee from the service department though, every cloud and that..

Do dealerships want sales?

I’m known for being a miserable bastard in general, unless I’m buying a car, car parts or copious amounts of food. However I believe that customer service is paramount, someone’s shitty attitude can not just ruin your day but nullify a sale in seconds. I recently popped into Swindon Audi to look at an Audi TT with a family friend. The vehicle was dumped out the back despite being reserved. Even with it being just 2 years old and covering little over 10,000 miles it had also failed an MOT for a broken seat motor. When I asked the sales staff for the “Audi approved” checklist to ascertain how a broken seat had been missed on a check then allowed to fail an MOT almost a year before it was due. I was greeted with “it’s cheaper for us to MOT a vehicle at £40, than do our full inspection”. So to summarise they’re happy to tarnish a nearly new cars MOT history with a failure instead of investigating faults throughly during their “approved” inspection. This makes me question had the check been carried out at all? A deposit had been placed on the vehicle before this point and after I’d asked for the checklist the general manager was called out to shoo us away as “difficult customers”. Swindon branch were incredibly defensive and rude considering this was a £21,000 car we were halfway though the sales process with. They claim their vehicles need to be sold with a minimum amount of MOT, yet the vehicle was tested 2 months before a deposit had been left. Now that we’ve walked away from the sale the TT will likely sit abandoned in the yard until the next prospective buyer is lied to about it’s poor preparation and questionable history. I think what disappointed me most is the fact it’s December, in the middle of a national pandemic and we were willing to spend the £21,000 on a convertible sports car. My RS7 deal may have had hiccups with vehicle prep but the sales staff were polite and friendly and couldn’t do enough to help seal the deal. The reception at Swindon Audi was certainly frosty and dismissive. My honest advice is always do a Gov.uk MOT history check and a HPI as soon as you’re interested in a vehicle and know it’s available you never know what you might find.

Private sales experience

I’ve bought the majority of my cars from private sellers and honestly most have been terrific. However there are some inconveniences along the way, most notable is paying for it. You can’t just pop your pin in with your card it’s often a BACS transfer, which as I learned last week can take a solid 4 hours. You also won’t receive a warranty however you can have professional inspections carried out before parting with your cash for piece of mind. These are often backed with a financial guarantee should they miss anything. I’ve been very lucky that all of the cars I’ve bought have been freshly cleaned, polished and look fantastic. You’re buying someone’s pride and joy in most cases and this can often be seen when you arrive. If a car looks unloved on the surface it probably is underneath as well. Most dealerships throw a bucket of water,sponge and shammy leather over your car so bare that in mind, they will also be sat on a forecourt for weeks/months at a time.

With the current global climate the buyer is in the strongest position they’ve been for a while. So shop around, make offers and view as many cars as possible, there will be some great deals available especially in the winter months. If you’re buying a vehicle over 3 years old and it’s out of manufacturers warranty, read the small print on any warranty you’re offered. Most will not cover consumables so sadly your starter-motor, clutch and alternator will fall into the same category as tires and brakes so you’ll have to foot the bill yourself. Food for thought.

I bought a JDM R35 GT-R, here’s what sets it apart from the UK market

You’ll forever see in car groups the letters “JDM” thrown around and usually incorrectly at that. But what does it actually mean? Japanese Domestic Market, these are cars specifically designed to be sold only in Japan not the rest of the world. These mean they often have differing specs and configurations to European and US markets. Today I’ll walk you through what’s different with mine as I’ve started to notice parts.

Labels

Quite obviously a vehicle made in Japan by Japanese people that’s designed to be sold and used in Japan is going to have much of their language bestowed upon it. The Satnav and infotainment buttons are in Japanese. The sun-visors and glovebox are in Japanese, so is the inside of the fuel-filler cap and the onboard computer is in Japanese. There’s some more Japanese labelling in the engine bay, there’s even some on the search and control buttons on the dashboard. The windows all have some Japanese labelling with the VIN number attached as well. To summarise, much labelling in Japanese.

Engine Bay

There’s extra pipe work routed around the engine bay near the inlet plenum that I’ve highlighted. I believe this is either extra cooling or to keep an eye on timing. My first R35 GT-R didn’t have this and I’m confident this is exclusive to the JDM market. The engine block itself has a different finish to it, it looks more “raw” to me as you’ll see below the highlighted area it almost looks pitted and dirty. My “UK” spec GT-R had a more metallic gloss silver colour to the engine block and generally looked tidier overall. There’s also some Japanese labelling which will no doubt mention something about engine oil or general maintenance. See picture below.

Uk spec engine

Computer systems

The R35 GT-R is a tech heavy supercar of its day. You’ve G-meters for both lateral and accelerative forces. You can measure your throttle and braking inputs, gear positions, fuel economy and many other things you realistically won’t look at until something goes wrong. Engine and gearbox temperatures can be monitored,which I find relaxing after some spirited driving. This is all the same stuff as a European and US spec car, however what is not is when it comes to SATNAV and Bluetooth for your phone. When engaging the SATNAV the car shouts at you in Japanese as its location arrow is apparently in the middle of an ocean, so no help there. The menus for Bluetooth are in Japanese, however these can be deciphered with YouTube videos. The computer will remember your phone and automatically pair from then on. My car is equipped with a reversing camera and (non useful) SATNAV with Led front lights. None of these were an option on early cars in the UK. When reverse is engaged the car beeps in that Asian technology kind of way and a very long Japanese word is displayed on the screen, the camera is a massive massive help as the R35 is the size of a small yacht. The radio bands are shorter so you’ll find your chosen station elsewhere with it being FM. You did get the bluetooth as standard though along with high-definition screen, which is a nice touch. The UK market had to wait for the DBA launch for the screen updates. Sometimes on start up a Japanese lady will greet you with something she’s saying (I’ve obviously no idea what) and I’ll be honest I love it. It’s weird it’s quirky and most of it isn’t useful yet I think it adds so much character to a car often dubbed as soulless.

Instruments

This took some getting my head around at first but now it all makes perfect sense. Litchfield did the MPH conversion the moment the car landed in the UK. They leave the original KPH clocks in but black out the “K” and change the calibration to miles per hour. I rely heavily on the digital readout as all of the numbers we want in the UK are very small and hard to see. A little quirk I like when setting the cruise control is it forgets it’s been calibrated to MPH, I was sat at around 70mph yet when setting the cruise it offered me 126kph which I assume is about right as we didn’t spear off into the distance at near twice the speed. I’ve no idea what I’m getting fuel wise as it’s in kilometres and it doesn’t seem to translate to anything particularly useful. It’s crap on fuel much worse than the first but this example is also faster, my heart does not bleed for shit economy. what is irritating is error messages are displayed in Japanese so you’ll need ECUTEK to run codes for yourself should any difficulties arise. Again YouTube videos can aid with resetting the service intervals.

Controls

I felt really stupid the day I bought this GT-R. After spending nearly 3 hours at the helm of my mothers 3 cylinder Kia Picanto (road test to come soon!) I was pretty accustomed to UK based controls. I’ve owned 5 cars in 2020 so I struggle to remember which is which but I was always confident everything is in roughly the same place. No no, JDM cars have their controls inverted, IE indicators on the right stalk, windscreen wipers on the left. Imagine this, you’ve just paid for your GT-R, you’ve got a full tank of V-power and you just want to get home safe and sound. You intuitively indicate your desired exit from the roundabout with a smooth steering input, oh wait, nope that’s the wipers again you bellend.

Pictured in Japan Dockside before shipping.

Summary

My day to day living with the car hasn’t been impacted by it’s Import status or the odd symbols and letters I don’t understand. Once you’ve set your phone up and filled it with fuel you’ll be good to go. I feel it adds a sense of occasion and entertainment when you see all the Japanese warning labels and such, it reminds you the car has a story. Plus I’ve only just noticed it doesn’t have headlight washes which is a good thing, screen-wash might last a little longer now and it’s one less thing to break.

I bought the first Gunmetal Grey R35 GT-R in the UK

Japanese performance magazine feature

Cast your mind back to 2007, I was 12 and likely being a little shit at school. Nissan however was unveiling the newest addition to the GT-R franchise at the Tokyo auto show. The R35 was set to be released early 2008 in Japan and 2009 to most of the rest of the world. In May 2008 This example and my newest acquisition “V23 GTR” (which in Japanese translates to “Nissan GTR” hence 23 being the racing number bestowed upon their cars) officially arrived on UK soil.

AutoExpress feature

Features

Being one of the Very first R35s to enter the UK my GT-R has spent a lot of time in magazine features and road tests. Notably being driven to Lemans for a piece by drivers republic (Chris Harris, Jethro Bovingdon and other driving heroes of mine). The R35 featured at the Silvertsone drivers club as a show piece whilst one of Nissans press cars faced off against a BMW M3 and 911 GT3. Again in 2008 it featured at the Ace Cafe GT-R meet as the first R35 to attend before then featuring on the cover of Japanese Performance magazine in February 2009. (which I now proudly own 2 copies of) 1 for the cars paperwork and one for keeping. She features again on the Cover of Redline magazine with a Porsche 996 Turbo shot at Canary Wharf (a magazine I’d love to get my hands on!) Auto Express then pinched the car in December 2008 for a piece entitled “old and new” against a green R32 GT-R (see picture above) with both cars driven at Thruxton circuit. I’ve also got the GTROC booklet from the R35 GT-R track edition launch, where the car is also featured with a small write up on its spec, I believe this is dated 2010. Finally the car was photographed for “Everyman Driving Experiences” remaining on their posters and in books for several years. See picture below.

Everyman Driving Experience

Servicing and Tuning

The car was introduced to Iain at Litchfield immediately for the clock change to miles, all necessary registering, servicing and checks etc. Which I’ve all the documents and bills to show. Following on from this the cars servicing has been split between Kaizer and Litchfield ever since. Being bestowed with Litchfield’s 4.25 package (Full Bolt Ons in the US). This is complimented with a Titan Street Exhaust, more compliant DBA suspension and Alcon discs. The R35 has covered little over 53,000 miles so far although I’ve done a solid 400 or so in my first week of ownership. The DBA suspension is a revelation over the standard CBA setup and I’ve enjoyed a couple of long drives already. The Titan exhaust is crazy loud and drones a bit, but I love the character of it and hearing the Turbos spool. Coming from a previous stage 4 Severn Valley R35 this one feels so much quicker and has repeatedly broken traction in the damp under partial throttle. She’s booked in to see Litchfield in January for a software update to ECUTEK Version 8.

ACE Cafe meet

Future plans

I was offered the car on some Rays Gramlight wheels and with a massive carbon fibre wing. However I was hugely impressionable in 2008/09 when Top Gear raced across Japan in the R35. I’ve always liked the shape of the rear wing and even the stock wheels. My previous GT-R ran a set of TSW Nurburgring wheels and I’ve ordered another set. These will be wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S all round and then thrown on ready for the spring and summer. A Nismo style carbon front splitter up front works with Kaizer brake ducts to improve cooling which I love. One gripe is I don’t have heated seats so being in December I’m getting a cold arse in the mornings. As mentioned above I’m having a software tweak at Litchfield in January and a dyno run to see the power figure (insert Willy waving) it’ll just be standard servicing and hopefully a road trip in 2021.

V23 GTR is a massive complement to both of the previous owners, Robbie and Jon have kept it in beautiful condition. The paint has clearly been corrected and sealed, I’ve all of the original documents from importing the car, to the bill of sale written almost entirely in Japanese. I’ve even got the serial number of the container she was transported in along with the check weights and costs. I’m keen to track down as many of the magazine features as I can to piece together this cars fantastic history and to share with other enthusiasts. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the read and I’ll update again soon after the software tweak and the new shoes.

Buying 5 cars in 2020 made my bank think I was money laundering

2020 has been a difficult and frustrating year for many. In December 2019 I effectively broke my leg so I’ve had extended amounts of time to kill and as a petrolhead that only ends in one way. Scrolling though eBay, auto trader and Facebook marketplace for high performance cars and obviously buying a few.

How this all began.

I was the proud owner of a supercharged B7 RS4 which decided to munch a set of rod bearings and render itself inoperative. I’d only had the Audi for around 3-4 months and ended up breaking it for parts and turning a healthy profit. I’d committed to owning the car for the long term of at least a couple of years as I was smitten. Alas this was not the case,after taking it apart the freedom of having funds to buy a new car was brilliant. This feeling became pretty addictive as like most petrol heads I’ve a long list of cars I want to own, so ticking them off is essential I just seem to have done it a lot quicker than I expected.

The evidence

Having apparently turned over more than £200,000 since the start of 2020 my bank became somewhat suspicious of what I’ve been up to. This isn’t just attributed to the vast sums of money transferred in and out of my current account, but the amounts of cash I’ve paid in and taken out for certain purchases. For example I took £13,000 cash as part payment for my Aston Martin, I took £6000 in against my RS7. Whatever you buy is then doubled if you choose to sell it, so very quickly after turning a profit my first GT-R accounted for nearly £60,000 alone. Repeat this again for the RS7 , Aston Martin and finally purchasing another Nissan GT-R I can see their point.

What did I buy?

Well for my 25th Birthday I spent around £30,000 on a tuned R35 GT-R. Then Covid hit about 3 months later, I’d paid for a service and some Alcon brake discs before selling the car on for a profit. Within a week or so I then found a Matte Daytona Grey Audi RS7 at a dealership during lockdown number 1. Thanks to this I was able to negotiate a sizeable discount to around £30,000 with a fresh oil service and 12 months MOT. The RS7 parted ways and I ended up buying an Aston Martin Vantage for only £24,000 with a cash lump sum my way of £6000, this came with all the original bumpers, side skirts grills and exhaust etc. This was later sold on for £26,000 with new tyres and brakes netting me a healthy profit again. In between all of this I ran around in an Alfa Romeo 156 which I christened “The Italian sports saloon” this only cost me £500 but it still made the bank ask questions. I really miss that car. Then to finish I’ve just purchased a Low Mileage Litchfield 4.25 Nissan GT-R which I’ll unveil shortly which again is a sizeable chunk of money invested in something stupid I really don’t need. I love cars though and the stories that come from them are often amusing.

Extra parts

The first GT-R got a new set of Wheels and Alcon brakes, so did the Aston and now the newest GT-R has a set of wheels on the way to boot. It’s amazing how quickly a grand here and there add up to make you look a little bit suspicious. My bank phoned me this morning for what can only be described as a mild interrogation. Asking me where money has come from, where’s it going to and why, even providing registration plates at times. I’ve bought and sold enough cars this year to be asked whether I’m running a small used car business (insert sniggering here)

The phone call

My morning started with an 0800 number calling me which is never a good start in the UK. Usually my bank call from a recognised number or email me when they need something, so I was instantly suspicious. After doing some research and receiving an email it turned out to be genuine but nothing like I was expecting. What’s come from today’s little interrogation is that I can purchase whatever I like, but that’s it’s probably best if I avoid cash for a little while. The problem typically arises with the fact my transfer limit per day is only £25,000 and every car except 1 this year has been significantly over that. Hence the withdrawing a sum of money to make up the difference. I was very fortunate the seller of the first GT-R banked with the same firm I did. We went into my local branch and setup two transfers, the first being my maximum amount and the latter being the remainder to be completed just after midnight. This isn’t just a nuisance it’s unnecessary hassle for both parties, again hence using cash.

So to summarise try and avoid moving semi-large amounts of cash around on a regular basis. Stick to bank transfers and maybe keep hold of cars a little longer unless you want to sit on the naughty step with your bank manager. It was a bit of a laugh and an amusing phone discussion in hindsight yet I feel if I’d perhaps answered incorrectly, I may have had some police Involvement at a latter date. I’ll try and keep the new car for 6 months and see where I’m at with everything to avoid getting myself into trouble again. It’s massively opened my eyes to the outside perception of buying and selling cars as money is multiplied the more you move it around. A purchase and sale are quickly added together so if you keep moving £30,000 or more back and first plus modifications on top you’re very quickly painting a suspect picture of yourself.