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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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 testingthe 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been a couple of weeks since my V8 Vantage departed and I’ve since replaced it, but we’ll get that another day. It’s given me some real time to reflect on what they’re like to own, to run and to drive so I thought I’d share that.
Running costs. I’ve owned high performance cars for almost 6 years now so I’m somewhat desensitised to the repeated fast car bills and the size of them. However I was still a little shocked when it came to the Vantage. It’s a very very interesting world when it comes to Aston Martin parts. The “wings” yes those two little badges front and rear, want some in carbon fibre? How much do you reckon? Nope you’re wrong £1692 plus shipping. How about some second hand forged wheels? Easily £2000-£6000. The servicing costs are rather large as well. Now I don’t have a complaint with “supercars” having high running costs. However I feel it takes the piss when most of the parts are stolen from Ford, Jaguar and Volvo in what can only be described as the shittest orgy ever.
V8 Vantage servicing with HR Owen an Aston Martin Franchise starts, yes starts at £680 fixed price. That’s for an oil service, the relevant filters and a general inspection. That makes the slowest Aston sports car only a couple of hundred pounds cheaper to service than the 565bhp V12 Vantage S! I had mine serviced by a very talented friend James of P&G Automotive based in Worcester. I paid half of the aforementioned fees and was given a comprehensive walk around of my vehicle on the ramp. On the other hand though if you know where to look parts can be found without such a premium. Because I’m a top bloke I usually provide new discs all round with my cars, as I like to give peace of mind for the new owner. 4 Genuine Brembo discs ordered through Autodoc in Germany and delivered were only £249. I was quite pleased with that.
Road Tax was the highest I think I’ve ever paid despite the Vantage being my fourth V8. I’m sure it totalled up at £620 annually. Fuel? Yep as you might expect terrible, mid twenties at best but mine was tuned and making an extra 50bhp over standard, that being said it’s economy was improved after a software tweak. After my fiasco of smashing one of the 21” Niche wheels the previous owner had fitted I had to buy a set of rubber. I typically go with black circles and managed to get 245/40/19 and 285/35/19 Goodyear Eagle F1’s fitted locally for £556. I thought this was a bargain, Michelin Pilot Sport 4s would’ve been another £200 or so and I didn’t like them in the wet on my GT-R. My honest advice is if you’re looking to purchase a V8 Vantage of any sort out of warranty , find a good independent and shop around for parts. Ford seat motors, Volvo mirror covers , Volvo and Ford key fobs on early cars to save you a few quid from the stealers.
Ownership. I was in a group called V8/V12 Vantage owners and a couple of other Aston Martin groups. Overall most are very friendly and helpful when diagnosing yet another “they just do that” fault of which the Aston will spit its dummy out over. These can range from the EML light because you’ve driven it , or not driven it, or too hard or not hard enough, you get the gist. The reception on the roads you would not believe, many admiring looks, waves from grinning children and I’ve never been waved out of so many junctions.
The Aston was adored virtually everywhere I took it and I had many pleasant conversations when filling up with petrol or doing the weekly shop. I’m quite a tall bloke at 6ft and I always found the dash hard to see over, you can feel like a really shit driver in a Vantage. Visibility is pretty poor of the bonnet and nose and with a high tail I had to reverse like a Countach to avoid decimating my carbon fibre buttocks. The fuel-filler cap button is in a stupid place. You can’t see it when you’re in the drivers seat and you’ll forget to press it 9 times out of 10. You can then enjoy walking back around the car, opening the door and pressing it while onlookers snigger. The SATNAV doesn’t exist I don’t care what spec your car is it doesn’t have one especially if it’s from Volvo. It doesn’t know where you are, where you’re going or have come from, just leave it down trust me.
Clutch pedal is heavy but not offensive, slightly high biting point but good strength and easy to modulate. Brake pedal is crazy firm, again really easy to modulate however in an emergency you’ve really got to stamp on it for the little 355mm Brembos up front to stop you. Throttle response… yeah about that. I’ve had 2 B7 RS4s from a similar era and in sport mode I always felt I could Rev-match with just my big toe in them. Just a light tap and the Revs would spike nicely while I slot home a cog. Not with the Aston though, despite Bamford Rose stage 2 software I really had to stamp on the accelerator to get a decent blip, the response was improved over standard but far to sluggish for a sports car.
Power delivery is linear and there’s a satisfying surge once it gets going, you’re never pinned to the seat but with a manual gearbox and the V8 roaring away it’s an enjoyable drive. The steering is delicious, genuinely perfect to me and I’ll long for it in any car I drive. Immediacy with the weighting off-centre and easy to control your inputs, I always felt in perfect control no matter how tight the corner. Traction control was a bit strange I thought, repeatedly broke traction in lower gears and only knew as I had to make steering corrections. The Vantage breaks away slowly and progressively and is easy to catch mid-convo but a light on the dash would be a welcome heads up for unauthorised skids.
Living with a V8 Vantage Daily.
I’m quite fortunate my job doesn’t need me to transport anything or anyone other than myself particularly often, which is good as you’ll see above it’s quite easy to fill the boot of a Vantage. I feel that’s quite a complimentary photo all being said, but that’s everything I needed for a month at home and it was a squeeze. Glovebox could probably fit a glove in there if you tried, not sure why it needs a button instead of a handle but there you go. Being a well-specced manual my Vantage had the low armrest option fitted so storage was piss poor in the cabin. My iPhone and wallet had to live in the door pocket, the cup holders were small and in the way of your arm when changing gear unless you’re sub 5ft. In which case you couldn’t see over the dash. There’s a shelf behind the drivers seat for something, but in my experience it’s just an easy way to lose things under the seats, my small golf bag might’ve fitted I’m not sure.
Parking was a bit of an issue the Vantage is quite a lot wider than I anticipated, quite a large arse to navigate into spaces and the wing doors open up which uses more space. I had carbon fibre allover my car and the front splitter always had me sweating because you just can’t see where the nose is, hence reverse parking absolutely everywhere I could. Road noise wasn’t too bad, I had a Larini race exhaust so the drone took care of it, but the sport seats were very comfortable. High dash aside the seating position is brilliant you can literally drag your arse along the road if you wish.
You’ll be admired and hated in equal measure. Most of the time you’ll be waved out of junctions, smiled at, stared at and generally admired. However there’s always a few who assume you’re a posh toff who’s spent too much on their car. I was pretty fortunate to experience mainly positives but the odd pleb in a hot hatch may try and have a race which I’m sorry to say you’ll more than likely lose so don’t rise to it. I don’t want anyone to think I’m being deliberately unkind here, I adored my Vantage despite its faults and oddities. I’m very keen to make it into a V12 in the future as the first generation Vantage is one of the best cars ever made. I enjoyed the near 5000 miles I covered in it and I found some brilliant roads to test its character. I’m glad I owned one and finally scratched the itch, it was a little bastard at times and ate thousands of my pounds but I’d do it again in a heartbeat because I’m an idiot. To answer a previous article of mine about the Vantage being a head against heart battle, heart wins every single time.