JAPANESE INSPECTION: Getting the R32 on the road

December 4, 2008 12:30 am Published by

Before I bought the R32 GTS-t a couple of weeks ago, I honestly had no idea what sort of car I would end up with over here.

Why get a Skyline of all things? Why come to Japan just to get a car easily available back in my home country? This is the land of exotic JZX100 four-doors and a AE86 maniac’s dream. While this is true, they are still as proportionally expensive here as they are back home, and there are other reasons not to buy the dream car too early.

After consulting various drivers, workshops owners and friends, the majority of recommendations fell upon buying either an S14 Silvia or an AE86.

“You came to Japan to learn how to drift really well right? With an AE86, your level will go up really high! You won’t win any competitions if it’s a cheap one, but your driving level will go up!” was the usual reason. It should also be noted that most of these recommendations came from people who actually owned a Sprinter. While I thoroughly agreed with the reasoning, I thought it best not to limit the choice too early.

On the other hand, S14s are becoming relatively cheap, can be found with low mileage, and are a quick turbo car with an engine that won’t break just as long as it’s not messed with. This has to be the ultimate vanilla variety of drift cars, which once again, seems to make no sense in this, the country of triple chocolate pecan fudge flavour.

Here’s another reason why getting a reasonably plain car would be a good idea: tracks here are extremely unforgiving compared to Australia. There are walls of concrete and walls of dirt, and big ditches where there is a distinct lack of concrete or dirt. Runoff is limited and it doesn’t matter how big a block of foam is in between me and the Armco barrier, any crash is still going to leave the car looking like a soda can left on the middle of a highway for a couple of hours.

For that reason, the two requirements of “cheap” and “anything” were the ones to work to.

Even after searching the nationwide car auctions and Yahoo Auctions for several days, nothing was coming up. I wanted to get a car before Ebisu Drift Matsuri, but my choices were becoming more limited by the day. After a fortunate call to Winds Auto, a drift specialist workshop a couple of hours drive away, they gave me word of an R32 with a bucket seat, mechanical diff, coilovers, boost controller and a GT-R replica nose that had been sitting in their yard for a couple of months.

Perfect.

The only problem was that Matsuri was less than a week away, and the car needed an inspection and registration, a long and difficult process that required trips to over half a dozen buildings, including the bank, local government office, and a police station.

Instead of talking about all the boring paperwork part of the process, here’s the fun bit; actually getting the car inspected.

While shining the headlights into a small robotic box with a big fresnel lens on the front, this bloke fiddled with the headlight adjustment until they were aimed just right. Considering how close you can get to other cars in the narrow streets of Japan, enforcing headlight adjustment makes a lot of sense.

The first test is a noise check, which the car passed just fine. The inspector also checks the ride height of the car (90mm) by running a measuring stick under it. Anyone reading this from Australia should know what I’m talking about here.

This machine is for speedometer calibration and the brake checker. It’s all completely automated, and all you have to do is feed your bit of paper into a machine next to the rollers which then approves your car for that test. There’s also a robotic headlight checker here too, since the manual check before was just to get the car ready for the actual test.

Next is the emissions test, where you cram a sensor up the exhaust pipe for a few seconds. I don’t know exactly what the regulations are, but the car passed with a regular old catalytic converter attached.

The final test is a set of pits, which hydraulically jiggles the car as the inspector underneath checks the condition of the body and suspension, then hits the exhaust system with a small hammer to check for rust.

After getting the all-clear and paying about five different taxes, I got the registration sticker.

Since I’d already changed all the tyres, fluids and front brake pads, there was a bit of spare time to kill before heading off to Fuji Speedway the following day for a check run. The stereo wasn’t working, so I decided to swap it out for a spare one.

After realising that the only problem with the old one was a couple of blown fuses, and that I didn’t have the proper adapter loom for the new stereo, I put the old one back in.

Success! It looks and sounds a bit like an old Nintendo Game and Watch though. There was a tape stuck in it too, so I disassembled the back and pulled it out.

You have to be kidding, right?

The following day was spent at a Garage LFW event at Fuji Speedway’s Motorkhana Course. It was the perfect place to get accustomed to the R32 and check that everything was OK, since the day was mostly for beginners, and involved a donut, figure eight and circular drift course made from cones.

I think this is going to be fun.

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This post was written by Alexi

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