Everyone Likes Surprises...Until They Don't

There should have been a totally different post here today but I got some unexpected news earlier while my R32 was in the shop to finally get the timing and accessory belts and water pump replaced. It turns out the harmonic balancer on my RB26 was showing signs of degradation and replacing it was recommended. I had also noticed before that the previous owner of my Skyline had done some sort of hack job to the radiator shroud and the full extent of the questionable work was now obvious with the radiator out of the vehicle. The car still worked fine with the crap that was done but the fan and shroud had suffered some rubbing and consequent wear so apparently redneck engineering isn't confined to the US of A. Even Japan has it despite the distinct lack of banjos and questionable marital partners.

Worn parts give me sadface

Since putting in new stuff wouldn't add any additional cost in labor it didn't make sense to put the old parts back in but of course I'd have to wait for the additional items before the car could be buttoned back up and be drivable again. I was able to source an uprated ATI balancer from a retailer here in the US to replace the OEM Nissan one but the radiator parts would have to come from overseas with a resultant wait of about 2 weeks. Thankfully I'm friends with the manager and staff of the shop so keeping the car safe there for the time it takes the parts to arrive won't cost me anything except for the irritation of not being able to drive my Skyline for a couple of weeks.

The whole situation just shows the pitfalls of owning a unique car though, especially one that's 25 years old and not sold here in the first place. Performance parts for an RB26 like a new aftermarket harmonic balancer may be fairly easy to come by but OEM stuff entails a wait while they arrive from overseas – assuming they're available. The R32 and RB engines are popular enough that getting parts for it isn't all that bad considering its age and grey market status here in the US but forget about Fast and The Furious-style “overnight parts from Japan” availability.

The radiator shroud situation also shows another pitfall of owning a 25-year old JDM car – they're old enough that a lot of them have probably gone through what Top Gear affectionately calls “bodge jobs”. Wiring that's been Scothloked to hell and back is common but other weird sh*t can be seen on these cars. I read one fellow R32 owner's complaint of sheet metal screws being used to attach a body kit on his car by the previous “retarded owner”. I'm not really sure what the previous owner of my car had tried to do with the trimming he had done to the stock radiator shroud (none of my friends are sure either) but it sure didn't help things.

Of course, surprises aren't anything new if you're used to modifying cars. Even modern cars with well-established upgrades and easy parts availability can run into snags like with my R35's build that stretched two months past the initial deadline.

So if you're looking to get into a nice piece of classic JDM kit or want more than just simple modifications on any car, bring patience and/or money. Preferably huge bags of both.

And have a second, reliable ride handy for those times your project is out of service.

On the positive side, surprises like these can be turned into a positive. Old worn-out parts can be replaced with new, better ones. You also learn more about your personal car and the experience just adds to the link you have with it. Once the hurdles are done and fading in your memory like that blind date your friend said you wouldn't regret, getting your car back better than before is ample reward.

You've probably had an unforeseen snag in the middle of a build or even just regular maintenance so feel free to share your story in the comments if you'd like!


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