Japanese Tuner Roadtrip

Kinda a very late post, but better late then never! Earlier this year my friend, Joseph and I visited Japan for Tokyo Auto Salon. Our wives didn’t go with us, and that gave us an opportunity to do a lot of car related things in Japan. We only had time to visit 2 shops, because we had to do photoshoot earlier that day. Regardless, we made the most of the day. The first place we visited was Advance.

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Most of the tuner shops in Japan are not commuter friendly. You could commute via train and bus, but you would have to walk some distances to get the shops. Its is doable, but we rented a car, and highly recommend it. You’ll get to see views of Japan that isn’t seen via public transport. I rented a small Daihatsu K car. K cars are 600c cars and something you can’t get in the States. Super JDM. They are cheap and practical to drive around the narrow streets of Japan.

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Advance is a Japanese tuner shop that was also featured in a Speedhunter article. http://www.speedhunters.com/2015/04/stopping-by-the-advance-workshop/. They are a small service shop and they also work on cars built for time attacks or circuit builds.

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Joseph was very excited because he owns a NSX and bought an Advance lip previously coming to Japan.

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Their shop is very small but this common in Japan. Space is a commodity and you got make the most of what you got.

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The shop filled with track cars for repairs or maintence.

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The mechanics where very nice and gave us stickers! I know they don’t sell stickers and was honored I got something special. These will kept in my collection.

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Next stop was my favorite, Sunbeam Motorsports.

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I used to own a e92 M3 that I tracked, and I followed these guys in IG couple years back. The shop mainly works on BMWs and mostly BMWs that hit the track. They invited me to check out their shop when I was staying in Japan!

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This E46 M3 is one of the owners and has been used for time attacks. The M3 is currently getting rebuilt and receiving some improvements.

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I like cars, and even better to see them actually built for a purpose. A good expample is the E46 headlight. One side is custom fitted as intake for the ITBs.

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Sunbeam was featured in a Speedhunters article: http://www.speedhunters.com/2017/12/sunbeam-the-footwork-specialists/

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The shop reminded me of a repurposed townhome. The first floor is the garage, 2nd floor is the lounge and work shop, and the 3rd floor is the reception and showroom.

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The wheel display was pretty cool. I loving the modern style, something I wouldn’t mind putting in my house.

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Visiting the tuner shops in the Japan is something only unique to Japan. The Japanese culture kinda feels like everything has place and purpose. Japanese shops look clean and everything in the shop is there for a purpose. The shops in the States are a lot bigger but some look and feel disorganized.

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The people working at the shops didn’t speak any English and I couldn’t speak Japanese but the universal language of cars understood each other. Ohhh Japan, its such a cool country to visit, and in my opinion the the holy grail of car culture.

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Land Cruiser Off Road Battle Scars

 After a fun day at Hidden Falls my friends wanted to do another wheeling trip. We decided to go to General Sam’s Offroad Park in the Huntsville, Texas. Roughly a 1hr and 30min drive from Houston. It was going to hot summer day, Im expecting the tails to be dry and dusty. Untitled

What was supposed to be a nice little off road fun turned to be more then what we expected. The trails on the park where unmarked. They have an app for the park which is cool, but the app doesn’t show the level difficulty of the trail. We took a trail that looked easy going, or so we thought.

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The trail entrance lead to a somewhat damp river bed. We got some minor pinstripe from the bushes but noting new there.

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The trail looked wide enough but that changed the deeper we got.

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Some areas you literally had millimeters of clearance. I couldn’t even open my door to help spot in some areas. Traction wasn’t an issue, it was the clearance.

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It was soo tight, that body damage was going to happen. And we couldn’t back up because there was another group of 4×4 behind us.

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I was starting to think if this trail was made for ATVs only.

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I was able to clear that tree no damage. My ARB bumper took most of the hit. ARB is such a tough bumper, that I didn’t get damage.

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The very exit of the trail is where all the rigs got the worst damage.  There was a big root on the left side that everyone hit, and then the tight wall on the side of the exit took out my rear flare.

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I was pretty bummed out it. Trail scars sounds cool, but for me not really cool if it happens on your nice rig. Its like a big scar I have to get used to.

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Finally we all made it out.

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After everyone getting body damage and bruised egos, we hit the main trail to find a good camp spot for cooking.

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We found a good little shaded spot to cook and reflecting on the body damage caused. Joking about it wasn’t that bad or how our wives would get mad at us. Technically it could have been worse, but it could have been avoid if we didn’t take the trail in the first place.

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Battle scars… sometimes it’s cool and sometimes its just a bad reminder on bad decisions. I learn that if the trail gets too hard, dont push and just go back. I had a nice 40th anniversary Land Cruiser that unfortunately got body damage. Probably going to take it to the body this year to get that fixed. Whats done is done, and Ill just have learn from it and go on. Im not going to stop offloading but this experience was a lesson learn. Take it easy, and don’t continue to a trail that might be too tough. Looking forward to the overlanding trip in October. Hopefully it wont be too difficult.

Project AE86: Head Job

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After finishing up the short block assembly. The next step was to install the cylndar head. The head was resurfaced, cleaned, and received new valve seals, and springs. Nothing to crazy here, just something for reliability.

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First step is putting the head gasket correctly. You can get it backwards but you can tell because the holes for the cooling passages wont exactly line up.

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Then you place the head onto of the block. There are dowel pins to align the head to the block. I also prepped all the parts for assembly. One thing noting, is the cylinder head bolts are diffent lengths. The intake side are shorter then the exhaust side bolts.

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When tightening any bolts there is sequence to do it. Basically you start in the middle and work your way out. I tighten in several pass, till I torqued it to spec. Then I marked the bolts because you have to turn the bolts on two 90 degree passes. Untitled

These bolts are yield to torque. Meaning, you first tourque the bolts, then you turn the bolts more which stretches the bolt. These are one time use bolts, if you take the bolts out then you have to replace them, since they have been stretched. Some people don’t do it but it is recommended. You’ll might have problems with the head sealing onto the motor properly.

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The next step was installing the cam gears. I didn’t take pictures there but it wasnt too hard. You want to make sure the knock pins on the camshafts are aligned correctly. The caps for the camshafts have a specific location on the head. They are labeled and the manual tells you where to put it. Next is properly tightening the bolts in the correct sequence.

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Putting in the cam seals. I used a big socket and tapped the seal in. Grease also made the job easier.

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Then you install the cam gears and timing plate cover. Starting to look like a motor!!! The motor is almost done, and will be working on the cooling system soon.

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Stay tuned!!!

New Tattoo

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For my birthday, I decided to get a new tattoo! I got a tattoo of my helmet beccause I like track days and the evironment of it. One day I might not be able to enjoy due to whatever life responsibilities and this will be a good reminder of the good times I had. Hopefully Ill be able to continue this hobby till I get very old.

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Project AE86: Short Block Assembly

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I have never done something like this, but thanks to the internet I was able to find the factory service manual for the 4age motor. I would say rebuilding an engine is simple on paper, but actually doing it is very tedious, and time consuming. On top of that, working in an garage in the Texas summer heat didn’t allow me to work on the car the whole day. But I was 6 days off and that was enough time to reassemble 90% of the motor.

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Number one thing when assembling a motor is to make sure the parts and work environment are clean. The machine shop cleans the parts but you want to make sure no foreign material has made it way in the nooks and crannies. You spend money at the machine shop, and you don’t a hair follicle be the cause of engine failure.

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Cleaning the oil gallies is very important. I used brake cleaner, lint free cloths, and various size brushes to clean the parts.

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After the tedious part of cleaning, the next step is to assemble the motor. I followed the service manual, and no special tools here. Just have to be careful not to contaminate anything, or scratch metal to metal contacts.

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Make sure to inspect the bearings for damage from the packaging. Thankfully all the bearings were in good shape. The crankshaft had to be shaved 0.010in meaning I had to get oversized bearings 0.25mm bigger then standard.

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Make sure to lube up all the moving parts. The factory manual states to use motor oil, but I used engine assembly lube. Engine assembly lube is a more thicker oil that will help with the initial start up of the motor.

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Another important thing when assembling a motor is to make sure the clearances for oil are in spec. There are tools that are designed for this and very accurate, but if you are on a budget, plastigauge works just fine too.

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Thankfully all is with in spec. Make to clean off the platiguage wax before reassembling again. I used a feeler gauge to check the thrust clearance. There are more accurate tools specifically for this, but again, those are expensive tools.

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After checking the clearances of the crankshaft, next is to assemble the pistons. I didn’t take much pictures here, but that was probably the most difficult. I had to be careful not to break any of the piston rings. Before I attempted to do that, I took a 1hr break to relax and read up on the manual to make sure I don’t miss anything important. The next hardest thing was trying to use the piston ring compressor and making sure I dont move the rings. My gloves covered in oil made this very tricky, and tasted my patience but I got it done.

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Making sure the oil clearance for the piston is within spec.

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One down, 3 more to go.

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These look like the high comp pistons, but I could be wrong. Would be pretty dope if it is, because this 7 rib block has the 40/18mm crank and rod internals. Meaning lighter rotational mass for a faster reving motor!

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Next was installing my rear main seal and oil pump. I used factory OEM seals and the pump I have has the SQ engineering oil spring for added oil pressure in the high RPMs and oil cooler.

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Next step was to install my oil pick up, oil baffle plate and oil pan! Finally the short block is completed! For this build I kept things simple with factory spec bearings and rings, and no other mods. I wanted to be close to OEM spec because once you start to add power mods, thats when things break at the track. Stay tuned for more updates!

Land Cruiser Adventures

I went to visit my parents in Austin, and one thing Austin has over Houston is the all outdoor things you can do. Austin has the nice scenic hill country, which is why my wife and some other good friends went out off roading.

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The place we went to was Hidden Falls Off Road Park. Ive been here before, but it was just my wife and I. My friend, Micheal, recently bought a Jeep and wanted to check out the off road capabilities. In my opinion I think he should have gotten Toyota, but Im a just a Toyota fan boy.

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Ill do admit, Micheal knows how to take good pictures. He is the photographer for Driven and Blessed track events. That’s his jeep in the background. The jeep is nicely fitted: lifted, 35″ tires, winch, diff lockers, and body armor. Basically ready to tackle any trails. Still not a Toyota though.

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Hidden Falls was mostly dry and dusty on the trails. Most of the creeks has dried up in the summer months. The trails in Houston are mostly mud pits, after all Houston was built on swamp land. I like the change in terrain in Austin because its more challenging, then just getting muddy.

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This climb looked harder then it looks. I was facing the sky at one point and couldn’t see my spotter.

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The 80 Series Land Cruiser… just gets better with age.

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Solid front axle are perfect for articulation. I like how leveled the rig feels going over rough terrain.

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I think the 80 series Land Cruiser is the best off road vehicle that Toyota made. Very good off road capabilities, and still has some nice luxury comforts you don’t get in the older Land Cruisers. They are starting to go up in value, wish I had money and room to another Cruiser.

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Taking a break from the track life and working on the 86. Really am thankful.

Special shout out to Micheal for taking the dope pictures even though he has a Jeep. Much love.

Project AE86: Start of The Rebuild

After little over a month at the machine shop, I finally got my motor back! I machine shop was pretty busy so I kind of expected it would take awhile. They inspected, cleaned, honed, decked the block, and grind down the crankshaft. I got new bearings and piston rings. The head got redone and resurfaced, new valve springs and valve stems.

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For money spent on a motor rebuild, its probably going to be cheaper if you bought another used motor. But with the 4age that is a different story. Unfortunately these motors are 20 plus years old, and getting rarer to find. Im kinda stuck with what I got. The last compression test I did, it seems like most used 4age will need a rebuild at this point.

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Just mocking it up. I did save money by me having to assemble the motor back. For me, it wasn’t just about saving money, but also to learn more about my 4age. If something goes bad, I have no one else to blame but myself. I have never done this before, but I have a 4age engine manual and good friends that gave some tips. Number one import rule when assembling a motor is cleanliness. Next is checking the tolerances and torquing to spec. Lastly is lubricating all the moving parts. Hopefully this big port will, run great so I can hit the track with my own car again. Stay tuned.