R34 Progress Bar: Making It Personal


Sitting here now it's hard to believe that I've owned my fully legal R34 GT-R here in the States for four years already and that next year she'll turn 25. When that happens she'll no longer be a Show or Display car with the associated hangups like being able to drive it only 2500 miles a year, having fewer insurance options, and needing to explain to people all the time that no, I did not FedEx a box full of cash to the DOT as a bribe to get mine legally into the country. If I did, I would have used DHL.

For various reasons I haven't been able to enjoy driving my Midnight Purple tarmac eater as much as I'd have liked during my ownership but that doesn't mean it's just been sitting idle. The previous owners of my car had already thrown on a lot of tasty upgrades like the Nismo hood and body kit, ginormous Brembo brakes, HKS turbos and so on, but no import enthusiast worth his salt is going to leave well enough alone. To that end I added a few more things to personalize her more to my taste. After making some progress on that front it was time to do another photoshoot and of course, a post here on the blog to sum up what's happened.

The biggest expense in time and money went to having the whole car covered in paint protection film a.k.a. PPF a.k.a. “clear bra”. Unfortunately doing it used up a decent chunk of my savings and took the better part of a year time-wise but at least now I can drive her without constantly having nightmares about burning dollar bills every time a rock chips away at that expensive Midnight Purple 2 paint.

After my wallet recovered a bit from the cost of the PPF job it was time for some proper personalization, the main focus of which would be swapping out the old TE37s for some new rims. It wasn't because I dislike the TE37. You might know if you've read my old posts that my Nismo R32 sits on a set of 18-inch TE37SLs but that's actually one of the reasons I wanted to swap these ones out. I didn't want the same design of wheel on the two cars - plus there was the issue of color. I'm not a big fan of dark wheels on dark cars since to me it makes the car look like just one big black shape and some contrast makes a vehicle visually more exciting – you know, like an Asian girl who's dyed her hair blond. Gets your attention, right?

One thing I wanted the new rims to share with the TE37s was their timeless good looks and one design ended up being my final choice – another classic from Volk Racing, the multi-spoke CE28.

Image credit: Rays Wheels

When I placed my order COVID was still messing up supply chains everywhere so it took nine whole months before my set finally arrived. I was super stoked to see my R34 with some new shoes but then I got the call from the shop with some bad news: they didn't clear the front brake calipers.

Remember those ginormous Brembos I mentioned? They look great but they also eat up a lot of space and as it turns out the front calipers needed just a few millimeters more clearance so they didn't hit the barrel of the wheels. At first I was in shock, then I was puzzled, because I didn't get why the old 18-inch TE37s fit fine while the new 18-inch CE28s didn't. As it turns out the TE37 has a barrel that tapers out and widens from the inner face of the wheel while the CE28, even in superlight SL form, doesn't. An interesting thing to learn but a huge bummer for me. In the pic below you can see the difference in the barrel shape of the CE28 on the left and the TE37 on the right.

That meant a hunt for a new set of wheels. Unfortunately the CE28 doesn't come any bigger than an eighteen but luckily I did find just the right substitute in the Yokohama Advan RS-DF Progressive. Not only did it come in a nineteen-inch diameter but it shared a similar multi-spoke look to the CE28. Also luckily they weren't as back-ordered as the Volks so after a couple more months I had another set of wheels ready to go on and this time, I'd confirmed fitment with the helpful folks at Mackin Industries, the distributor for both Volk and Yokohama wheels in the States. Best of all, the RS-DFs actually look BETTER in my humble opinion than the CE28s not just because of the bigger size but because they have a fancier spoke design that includes fluting to reduce weight and a more aggressive curvature that gives more of that delicious deep-set look you want on a performance car.

I hope you'll agree from the photoshoot pics that they were a great choice.

By the way, if you ever run into the same issue with wheel fitment around large aftermarket brakes I'll be adding another post later on that talks about how the great guys at Mackin were able to help me out.

Another major add-on for the car was the Nismo dry carbon wing element. The old aluminum wing blade had some paint chips that really stuck out against the rest of the car's clean paintjob. Luckily for me I managed to snag this used wing element in like-new condition since as any Nissan fan probably knows Nismo charges an arm and a leg and usually both kidneys too for anything they make that's dry carbon. It's a wonder most GT-R owners aren't on dialysis. The carbon pieces they make are truly high quality though and fit like OEM, and this wing element was no different. The process of installing it was bit fiddly since a couple of the old screws had seized to the old aluminum unit but otherwise it was fairly straightforward. The piece didn't come with instructions so maybe if I have time I'll do a DIY post.

More Nismo dry carbon went on after my trip to Japan in January. Since we visited Omori Factory I figured I might as well pick up a few things while the favorable dollar to yen exchange rate meant us lucky American
gaijin get an automatic thirty percent discount on everything in Japan. One of the bits I grabbed was this exhaust trim piece. Yes, it's just for looks and it's just a small detail but it's a very cool-looking detail. It didn't come with instructions (again) but obviously Nismo mean for you to go full race-car and rivet this sucker in place since it comes with a set of black rivets. I didn't feel like punching holes in my beautiful Midnight Purple bumper so some 3M high-strength trim tape subbed for the rivets.

Also coming back with me on my Japan trip and also with a carbon fiber finish was a Top Secret hood damper kit. Unfortunately for some odd reason the pistons they supplied were too short for the mounting holes on my car. 

Comparing pics online it seems the fender screw holes on my R34 are further forward than on other cars that have used the same kit. From what we can tell the screw holes on my R34 are OEM and match the holes placed on the Nismo Z-tune fenders perfectly so I'm not sure what's going on. Maybe it's an early R34 thing? 

In any case we found a fix by ordering a longer set of dampers from Amazon and they work great but lack the snazzy carbon finish of the Top Secret ones. Oh well, who cares if the pistons are plain black when they're holding up that lovely Nismo dry carbon hood amirite?

Not all bling on a car should be carbon fiber though. Sometimes you gotta go with that most wondrous of metals: titanium. Although it was nice of Nissan to include a front strut tower bar on the R34 from the factory, unlike the R32 that made do with bupkus, the R34's OEM one is a steel unit that's not only pretty basic-looking, it also weighs a ton compared to aftermarket stuff. Nismo of course makes a sweet titanium strut bar but I wanted something different and since the car already has several Midori Seibi bits on it, including a full titanium exhaust, I opted for their beefy creation instead. It may look ginormous compared to other companies' versions but it's still extremely light due to the titanium construction and I think the boxy shape of it matches the aggressive, muscular styling of the R34 well. As an added bonus it comes with an attached brake master cylinder brace just to make sure my gigantic Brembos bruise my spleen even more whenever I come up to a red light.

At this point you're probably wondering where the big mods are like a new turbo kit or a rebuilt, stroked motor. Well, don't worry, I saved the best for last. My latest addition to the car and also acquired from Japan are these amazing color shifting valve caps that go great with the car's Midnight Purple paint! They're straight fire, right? I mean, the package even says they're MAGICAL!

Alright, alright, they're nothing to get excited over but sadly I'm no rich TikTok star and my Powerball numbers all keep coming up as zero so an engine upgrade will have to be saved up for. But that gives you a reason to check back later here on the blog, right? I hope you do so until next time, drive safe!