Cars

Aoshima Top Secret Nissan Skyline GT-R R34

 

Yes, I’ve already built an R34 Skyline before (and in Bayside Blue to boot) but this time it’s more than a simple rebuild – I don’t like building “variations” of my cars, so the only times I’ll build a new kit of the same car is to replace it with a better version (the old one will be booted/sold/hacked for parts), or if something unfortunate has happened to that older kit. This is a case of the latter – my poor original Tamiya Z-Tune has met with at terrible fate, so this was an opportunity to build a better model of the car – this time with a full twin turbo mill.

Our story begins with exactly what happened to my first R34 – one day out of the blue (haha, pun intended), I noticed offhand that something was off about my only current Skyline. The first thing that tipped me off was that it looked like part of the rear wing was missing. I got closer, turned the car around, and BAM it was disaster.

Inexplicable. This is a mystery that still puzzles me to this day. I searched my memory for several minutes and tried to recall if I ever went mad and decided to just take a can of Tamiya Blue and ruin the rear end of this car for fun. I couldn’t recall ever doing so, which meant that this was the work of someone else – possibly the naughty goblin that lives under my sink.

I’m no FBI profiler, but from the looks of it, my best guess is that our mysterious saboteur probably tried to take the car out for a look and more than likely didn’t know that these kits are curbside (and thus don’t have opening compartments like trunks). They probably tried to lift the trunk (I’ve had people do exactly that to a kit before), broke the wing, scuffed the paint, and went rummaging in my paint drawer for a fix and attempted to spray it so that I wouldn’t notice.

They’re clearly not professionals. Aside from the blue paint being the wrong shade (I recognize the pigment as Tamiya TS-15 Blue, which I had in my drawer, but the paint on the GT-R is TS-50 Mica Blue), it looks like they attempted some sort of masking job, given the horizontal paint line on the rear windshield. I don’t even want to know how paint specks got on the roof.

Furthermore, it seems clear that they had absolutely no self control when it came to spraying – the wing and trunk are absolutely gunked in paint, it’s kind of gross. And of course, there’s a thick layer on the driver side taillights, license plate, and rear bumper in general.

Thankfully for them, the rest of the car remained seemingly untouched and unmolested – which is why I didn’t notice the sabotage earlier, though I have no idea how long it went unnoticed. Granted, I live in a house of four and during this time I never had reason to lock my room door when I went out, since it’s nice to trust your housemates. Needless to say, I confronted everyone that could’ve been the culprit, was denied on all counts, with no further evidence. I lock my door now, and regularly check my displays in-depth. No tragedies since.

So, I decided that the Z-Tune was a total loss – I wasn’t about to attempt to salvage that atrocious rear-end – it would be less effort to just build a new one, and I wasn’t as upset since the R34 GT-R was one of my first car kits, and I like to think I’ve improved enough since that I can do a new version better. Enter the Aoshima Top Secret Skyline.

I’ve already built a Z-Tune, and as much as I liked that kit, I didn’t want to simply rebuild an identical kit. The R34 has seemingly endless variations from Fujimi, Tamiya, Aoshima, and others, so I decided to go for a racier kit with more extensive aftermarket parts in the box.

I’ve built a Top Secret Aoshima kit before (the S15), and sure enough, this Skyline is very similar.

The one feature of the Z-Tune that I really liked and wish I could keep were the subtly wide front fenders. They look almost plain now on the normal Skyline body, but I wasn’t about to try to cut the fenders out of the Z-Tune body and graft it onto the Aoshima kit – I’m not that mad.

Taillight parts are all given in properly colored clear plastic, including the orange blinker inserts.

Like Tamiya’s Z-Tune, this Skyline is entirely curbside – no opening compartments to speak of, and no engine bay. The hood is designed to be cemented to the body, though it’s one step better than the Z-Tune body, which straight up molded the hood together with the rest of the body as one piece.

Since this was going to be my second R34, I decided I wanted to improve it from the original as much as possible, which meant going the extra mile for detail – cue a full resin RB26 engine kit from EightyOne.

I was happy overall with my last EightyOne experience, even if I didn’t do so well on that last motor. This time I was determined to make this one presentable.

The motor kit itself is extremely impressive for how much take-apart detail there is. Everything from the head, bottom end, crank cover, valve cover, motor mounts, axles, transmission, and even clutch are included as separate and individually detailed pieces. The thing with EightyOne is that it looks like they generally don’t like instructions – none were given for this kit, so some knowledge of actual engines would be extremely useful for knowing how to piece everything together.

EightyOne gives you some options with the RB – a regular exhaust manifold set and ITB’s are included if you wanted to make it an all-motor build. But of course we all know boost is better, so I opted for the twin turbo option – no single turbo manifold is given, strangely enough.

Problem one: neither of these R34 kits were ever designed to accept an aftermarket engine and transmission assembly, because all their junk is just molded right into the chassis. Aoshima still sins more by having the exhaust and more drive-line components molded in though – with Tamiya they were separate pieces.

I decided to start with the Top Secret chassis and give that a chance for being the shell to take the RB. This means I’ll be cutting out what’s there and making a hole large enough to fit the resin components.

A hot knife did the trick well, but after seeing what the chassis looked like compared to what we could potentially have with the Z-Tune chassis, I decided to cut that one too just to see which looked better.

The Z-Tune was already more detailed than the Top Secret kit; they both made an effort to have a separately molded motor sticking out the bottom, even if it’s only literally the bottom bit, including a tiny turbo, but the Tamiya kit’s “motor” was at least molded in its own little void, rather than molded out of the floorpan plastic.

Lower motor and transmission cut out of the Z-Tune on the left – if everything really is the same scale, there shouldn’t be any reason for the EightyOne motor not to fit.

Easy. Kind of. I needed to cut and adjust the motor mounts a bit and take some material out to fit the axles, but beyond that everything sits pretty snug. I don’t actually know if the motor’s position will be okay for the final car, since I’m only lining everything up by the back of the transmission, but I’m trusting EightyOne’s sizing and scaling here.

With the bottom end just about taken care of (but not yet permanently mounted in the car), it was time to focus on the hardest part about building a turbo motor – fitting the damn intercooler piping.

I learned last time with my botched 13B on my RX-7 that the intercooler piping given with the engine kit would most likely not fit perfectly – I’m almost certain that it’s because the pipe cuts need to be extremely precise to line up all flush and perfect, and I’ve come by now not to expect such precision out of resin parts.

Given how highly detailed this motor was, I thought it to be a huge waste if I didn’t at least make an attempt to make certain parts removable after assembly.

I decided to go with magnets for this objective since there aren’t any pegs or anything to hold pieces together – the first goal was to make the valve cover magnetic by inserting a magnet into the engine head (which had to be drilled/cut out).

There wasn’t much room underneath the actual valve/engine cover to add a magnet though, so the only choice was to insert a thin strip underneath the piece that would hopefully be strong enough to pull to the magnet inside the head. The first thing I tried was a classic kitchen fridge strip magnet – this stuff was never known for being particularly strong, so I wasn’t super surprised that it didn’t hold.

Plan B was to order a set of stronger but still somewhat flat (about the width of a penny) magnets online. Once cut up, this stuff barely fit under the engine cover, but alas it still wasn’t strong enough to pull to the magnet inside the motor. Mission failure.

Surprisingly, the intercooler, piping, and motor all line up pretty well – I was just test fitting like this to see if I needed to cut the front frame any more to fit the intercooler, but it works just fine in the position where the original intercooler on the Z-Tune went. Also yes I broke one of the cam gears in half and lost the piece that fell off, but that’s okay because cam gear covers exist.

The intake side piping was easy since it’s just one thick pipe, but the exhaust side coming off the turbos is significantly more of a headache. EightyOne designed the two pipes coming off the turbos to go over/under each other, in a sort of weaved fashion, which creates necessary complexity and packaging issues within the bay.

This is EightyOne’s sample built motor – conventionally, you’d think that the forward turbo would just go into the top of the intercooler and the rear turbo into the bottom, so the pipes are stacked parallel on top of each other, but no – we gotta get all fancy up in this house.

Trying to get that setup with the turbos was nigh-impossible – not because the parts didn’t line up (they mostly did, within acceptable tolerance), but when they did line up, they were constantly pushing against each other thanks to the tight space I was trying to squeeze them in, making for a very delicate and tight fit. No glue was strong enough to hold it together, and after a (very) long time fiddling with it I basically gave up trying – the turbo mount on the exhaust manifold was a casualty of this.

I couldn’t fit the turbo any further back since the strut towers were getting in the way, and I wasn’t about to move the entire motor up to accommodate, so as a professional engine builder I did the logical thing any pro would do and extended the exhaust manifold mount to meet the turbo.

Eventually I managed to fit both turbos on and get their intercooler pipes mounted, though it took a lot of cutting and test fitting. I ended up forfeiting the whole over/under thing EightyOne had going.

All my subtle modifications to the turbo fit introduced a new problem though – the exhaust pipes that came with the engine kit could now no longer fit, since they were originally supposed to thread up through the exhaust manifold, but that manifold has been mutilated beyond recognition now, so nothing’s getting through there.

Rather than tear down the turbo setup yet again in an attempt to rebuild it with the exhaust in mind this time, I opted for the easy way out option that would clearly be more badass and earn this build many more cool points – some good ‘ol aluminum pipe for a good ‘ol hood exit exhaust.

Okay but before we get to actually building the hood exit exhaust we should probably figure out if the engine, turbos and all, actually fit under the hood. This means cutting the hood brace/insert out of the Aoshima body – it’s just there so the actual hood has something to cement/glue on.

Without the bumpers and a way to keep the hood on it’s a bit tough to tell if everything will fit though.

So we use the Z-Tune’s body instead – it has the bumpers and hood all attached after all, so slipping it over the chassis is a good way to gauge where the intercooler and motor will line up underneath the body. Turns out my measuring and educated guesswork for stuff like the intercooler placement wasn’t half bad – everything fits nice and snug.

Now granted, this is the Z-Tune body we’re using to test – not the Top Secret body that will be the final product – but I’m confident this will be a good point to move forward since the body dimensions should all be within spitting distance of each other.

The motor mounts (I think?) were cut to fit the Z-Tune’s frame, and the CV axles very annoyingly constantly fell off.

Unfortunately, both the Z-Tune and Top Secret body were designed strictly as curbside kits, meaning they never had motors, and were never designed to accept motors – already evident in how much work I had to do to get them cleared out and fit my RB inside.

This also means they never had proper engine bays either, which means no frame detail or real strut towers. The Z-Tune chassis that I’m using has psuedo towers that are squared off, so I’m sanding them down into proper rounded bulges. (The R34’s actual strut towers are much more detailed and slightly differently shaped than this, but they’re too complex to build from scratch for me, so this is my stopgap solution).

It took a lot of trial and error to bend these small sections of pipe just right to get the hood exits, since with how short they are the bends need to be very sharp, but if they’re too sharp the metal will kink, making for a not-very-realistic sight.

With all the parts fitted, the motor is ready for paint.

I really like the Top Secret hood – I’m a sucker for reverse hood scoops in general, and the style for this one really speaks to me.

Weirdly enough though, the big main center vent was molded in while the two smaller ones along the sides were open. Easy enough to cut out and clean up.

I was originally going to go with the GT-R’s stock(?) wing but then decided to go with a racier theme overall, so the GT Wing that came with the Top Secret kit would fit better.

Racier of course means only one bucket seat…! Honestly the stock GT-R seats already look pretty bucket, but the Top Secret kit gives you just the one bucket Recaro for the driver, and I don’t have any cars running that aesthetic yet so I thought why not. The harness holes in the headrests had to be cut out by hand.

Interior is being entirely rebuilt with the Aoshima parts because I’m using the Aoshima body with the Tamiya chassis – in this case it’s more important for the interior tub to match up with the body rather than the chassis, so we can’t reuse the Tamiya tub that’s already built and painted.

Same ‘ol same ‘ol painting the seats red with acrylic, we’ve seen this a thousand times before.

So, because I’ll be using the Aoshima Top Secret body with the Tamiya Z-Tune chassis, I wanted to do as much as I could to make sure the two would actually end up mating. Thankfully, the Tamiya kit came with spare front and rear bumpers (presumably for the regular R34, with the Z-Tune getting special bumpers). Thankfully again, Aoshima and Tamiya fit their bumpers nearly exactly the same, so the they’re (kind of) swappable between bodies.

The reason I’m using Tamiya’s bumper on the Aoshima body is for the tabs on the inside that line up to the Tamiya chassis and hold it in place. With this, at least the rear of the chassis will for sure fit in the body.

Bay paint-matched to the body color.

And speaking of body color, here we go again – Tamiya’s TS-50 Mica Blue is probably my favorite color of all time now – it’s both World Rally Blue and Bayside Blue.

I’ve learned quite a bit more about polishing and getting a deep finish out of my paints since my first R34, so this time I’ll be making an active effort to bring some more shine and smoothness out of the Mica Blue, though really this pigment is so metallic it glistens all on its own.

Polishing the base color coat first to make sure there’s no irreversible orange peel trapped beneath the clear coat once it goes on.

But then ironically, the clear coat was the real enemy.

For whatever reason (I think it was too cold outside when I sprayed the clear?) the clear gloss went on splotchy and runny – usually it’ll self-level really well and I can get a clean even coverage, but not this time for reasons unknown. Either way, not the end of the world – sand the affected areas and try again.

Second time’s the charm.

Unfortunately through several layers of primer, color, and clear, the inscribed SKYLINE on the rear bumper is a bit more filled in than I’d like, but it’s hard to sand and rescribe that sort of thing so I’m just glad it didn’t disappear completely.

The GT-R has a bit of a subtle front lip built into its bumper, so that was brought out with some hand-painted acrylic.

Motor and engine components being painted. I went with TS-95 Pure Metallic Red for the engine covers, the same red used on my ND MX-5.

Chassis underside cleaned up and repainted – this look technically still isn’t accurate since the side frames are supposed to be body color (in this case Mica Blue), but I couldn’t be bothered since I like the satin black.

Very sad that the cylinders will be covered up and never seen again once the top of the motor goes in, but so is the struggle of hyper-detailed resin transkits.

Can’t forget the alternator and belts/pullies.

Painting the cam gears was kind of meaningless since they’ll be completely covered anyway (I would’ve left them exposed had I not broken one of them).

I still can’t believe they included a clutch to mount between the motor and transmission – just like a real car, it won’t be visible after assembly, but in this case I thought it was a detail that was cool enough to spend the time painting for now.

Ready to drop in.

I don’t know why I’m pleasantly surprised that it actually all goes together after paint – after all, I had meticulously worked to ensure fitment before spraying them.

Transmission in. Notice at the end of it where it connects to the driveshaft that I actually did miscalculate here and there was maybe a 5mm gap that had to be filled with some stacked pla-plate in order to get the tranny up and snug. Once it’s painted away in silver it should be imperceptible with the rest of the driveshaft components though.

Now, with the main motor in it was time to start working on all the little stuff for the engine that the EightyOne RB kit didn’t include – like a radiator.

I think I stole this radiator from the Z33 that I had melted to slag during that build – messing up on old kits and using them as spare parts comes in more handy than you might think. Of course, it was absolutely gigantic and had to be cut to fit.

Stole a brake booster, battery, and fan from the spare Z32 I had lying around – somewhat fitting that I’m getting so many engine parts from Z’s for a Skyline.

This is where it gets ironic –  a firewall from a spare Revell Honda Civic – it probably won’t just drop right into the GT-R (no way it’ll just fit), but it’s a better place to start with than scratch-building the entire firewall on my own.

Fitting the fan on the radiator and building a custom shroud for it.

Most of the subframe and suspension components left over from the original Z-Tune build were undamaged, and could be reused here, including the brakes and rotors.

Now, while the rear bumper lined up with the chassis perfectly thanks to the Tamiya bumper transplant, I kept the front bumper with Aoshima. The Tamiya chassis didn’t quite reach it up front, but there were clearly tabs in the bumper meant for the chassis to clip into.

A little extension plate solved that neatly – the chassis is now a nice snug fit from front to rear.

Test fit with the cabin and windows – thankfully everything seems to line up.

Finally getting to some decal work. The Top Secret GT-R comes with some really cool ones out of the box – everyone knows in the world of racing and sports cars that R is the most overpowered letter in the alphabet, so it’s very fitting that we get decals that are literally just double R’s.

Dash decals in – not much here.

EightyOne also goes out of its way to include a nice spread of valve cover decals, so you can say your motor is anything from the (apparently very) rare Nismo-tuned S2/R2 RB26 to an actual motor tuned by Top Secret (fittingly, as this is the Top Secret Aoshima model). Smaller intake manifold plaque badges are also given. While these are nice to have though, it’s unfortunate that the decal quality is barely legible – the printing seems to be very flaky and the red text on the silver Nissan cover are all but lost.

I used the Top Secret valve cover at first, but then decided I didn’t like it and replaced it with the standard black Skyline GT-R cover later.

As I was going to start fitting the hood, I realized that something was off -the first turbo rode way higher than the second. I had initially dismissed this and just ran with the fitment because this setup allowed the intercooler pipes to work, but it unfortunately won’t fit under the hood unless I cut a hole in the hood for the turbo, and as cool as that would be, it would be unseemly to do it for the first turbo and not the second.

So some magic cutting later and they are now level – the area behind the pipes is a mess, but that’s okay because you’ll probably never see it once the exhausts are in.

The forward turbo just barely sneaks under the reverse hood scoop – I had to sand the inside of the hood a bit to bring it down so they really didn’t touch.

It looks like the Tamiya chassis isn’t wide enough to completely fill out the Aoshima body, mostly around the bay. The gap between the wheel well arch and front fenders is pretty severe.

Solution: widebody the chassis, duh. I’m not overly concerned about keeping this part smooth and seamless, since it’ll be tucked away and only serves to fill a chasm anyway.

Pla plate circles added to the strut towers since they were very plain on their own.

And as I suspected, the firewall out of the Civic is way too small. Thankfully the height is just about perfect, and filling in the “L”‘s at the edges with pla plate was a simple job.

Since I was going full send with this motor already, I thought it would be cool to finally build a strut bar – and it just so happens that I had one leftover that I didn’t use with my botched 13B. I had painted it for that build and everything, but I was so bad at installing the motor that the strut bar itself just didn’t fit under the hood.

After fitting the hood exits, it looks like it’s going to be the same story this time – there doesn’t look to be a lot of room to thread a strut bar in.

Or…not? This looks ridiculous mostly because of how tight all the components are (the bar is way too close to the exhaust for my liking and the turbos themselves are basically resting up against the motor, so none of this would likely work in real life, but that’s okay because we’re building a model here – never let me build real engines).

The strut bar is resin and I had to massage it a lot to get it to fit in the R34 (literally – by way of a heat gun to soften the resin and massage the ends into place so it would clear the turbos and still remain straight). The unfortunate consequence of all this is that it broke during this process in several places and the paint that was already on the resin didn’t take well to the heat gun.

A million tries at sanding and repainting later and we’ve basically lost all the actual detail on the bar and ended up with a plain jane looking thing.

Unfortunately, both the Tamiya and Aoshima kits failed to include any frame parts as part of either their chassis or bodies – and for good reason, I suppose – you’d never see the frame bar unless the hood was open anyway. This means I’ll have to build my own.

I would’ve normally made this part out of three separate pla-plate pieces,  but I recently discovered that a heat gun is an excellent tool for bending plastic.

The fit and sizing was completely rudimentary – I merely consulted some Google Images and decided to start bending a piece of pla-plate until it would fit. It doesn’t really hold a candle to the more detailed frames that would come with kits that actually had original engines, but it’s good enough to get the point across here, I think.

Thanks for the masking stickers, Aoshima.

Unfortunately, I was an idiot and forgot that Aoshima didn’t include any masking stickers for the side windows – you were meant to mask those off yourself. I’d normally catch this, but I guess I was extra out of it during this build – the poor windows were now misty black, and it’s not good enough to pass as tint.

I actually went through the effort to sand the passenger window from 320 grit all the way up to 3000, and then finished it off with some polish to actually bring the clear plastic back. It looks beautiful and I’m happy to have successfully corrected my mistake, even if the plastic there is now half as thick as the rest of it. The correction took quite a while though, so I wasn’t keen on doing it again for the driver’s side.

Had the throw the whole window out now.

Body paint is looking solid – weather stripping painted gloss black and then coated with a thin layer of matte.

Wheels done metallic black. I actually thought for the longest time that Aoshima would include separate chrome lips for these wheels, but nah they’re just the usual boring one-piece TE37’s. I ended up adding the chrome myself via some decanted Motolow Chrome markers.

This hood is going to be an adventure. Step one: mark hood exit points.

Drill out, then find that the rear turbo exhaust is too short. Fix.

A lot of hood exits (and even side/custom exits) that I’ve seen have had a metal exhaust plate bolted around the exhaust on the hood, so I figured that would be easy enough to make here with some pla-plate.

To recreate the bolts/riveted look commonly seen securing these plates, I had the bright idea of just drilling mini holes out with my smallest bit – it didn’t look fantastic, but I rolled with it for now. Spoilers: it won’t last.

This is where I made the fatal mistake that cost me this entire hood – since I was going to just paint the whole thing Metallic Black the way I did for my STi’s hood, I decided to prime it with a dark color – just some throwaway Rustoleum lacquer black that I had lying around. I thought it didn’t really matter since it just needed to be dark enough so that the Tamiya Metallic Black would take – but I’ve never been more wrong.

The cheapy Rustoleum lacquer dried very grainy – it had a strange texture to it that happens with these kinds of paints sometimes, but normally it’s not a huge problem because a coat of matte or flat will hide it all easily. Not so for gloss. It showed right through the Metallic Black, which means we had to go back and strip it down.

The paint had already been allowed to cure for a few days, so the usual Purple Power degreaser wouldn’t be able to strip it on its own – had to go back to good ‘ol fashioned sanding.

A few test runs later and no amount of thick paint, sanding with fine grit, or even putty would level the surface and get the final coat of paint to look nice and smooth like the the body. I even got desperate enough to try thick automotive primer, in hoping that it would be able to level the minute imperfections.

It still wasn’t working though – and the thick coats of paint ended up globbing up the finer details of the hood pins, so those were eventually removed altogether.

Beyond the hood pins, the original exhaust plate I had created was also lost, sanded to a fine grain, so this time I set about actually trying to build a nicer one. Instead of being uncouth and using a drill bit, I decided to fit a thick needle to my power drill and poked tiny holes in the plate – turn it over and the drilled areas are now minuscule mountains, simulating the look of rivets much better.

At this point I was convinced that I was never going to get a clean finish out of this hood with paint, so I moved on to what it should be properly anyway: actual carbon.

I was still too nervous to actually try fitting carbon decals on a vented hood, but with paint as a lost cause, I figured I had nothing left to lose. As a test I decided to go with my old sheet of silver carbon from Golfer Racing (which I used on my Aoshima FR-S).

I mentioned during the FR-S build the first time I used this stuff that I was sorely disappointed in it – beyond the color being straight up silver, the actual “weave” is sorely lacking and barely passes as “carbon” from a few feet away.

Still, the point here was just to see if I could even fit the decal over the vents and curves on the hood, and lo and behold we were met with a resounding success. The fitment of the decal is actually very satisfying – it took a lot of massaging and work to get it here, but the point is that it works. Knowing this, it was time to actually do it with a proper carbon decal sheet.

I think I first used Scale Motorsport’s “Composite Fiber Decals” on my Revell Civic Si, and I was very satisfied with how that hood turned out, compound curves and all. This stuff isn’t cheap, hence me wanting to make sure it was possible to work decals over a vented hood first before taking the plunge and actually doing it with the high-end stuff.

Not…great. I stripped and reapplied the decals two or three times, but no matter how much I sanded and filled the hood surface, it never quite looked right, probably because too much of the detail was lost in the sand stripping from earlier.

Throwing on some Future Floor Finish and praying that it somehow makes it better, because we’ve descended to that point.

After coats upon coats of floor finish, clear coat, and cutting with polish, I thought I was satisfied. I knew that this was the end of the line for this hood, and I actually really liked how deep the gloss ended up being over the decal – it actually looks like realistic carbon clear coating.

But, obviously, we were not without sacrifices to achieve this finish. I know for a fact that those strange cracks and scratches aren’t from the surface of the plastic underneath the decal – I went through a lot of trouble to ensure that wasn’t the case. Rather, it looks like they formed after some combo of the clear gloss coat and future floor finish – I suspect it’s likely because one of the two (or both) started shrinking as they cured.

As I test fitted the wheels and body I felt like something was off – the ride height was higher than the Z-Tune’s fitment even with the same wheel fitment, which I believe came from the Top Secret’s TE’s being larger than the Z-Tune’s Nismo wheels. The Top Secret body itself was also a little less aggressive than the Z-Tune’s, so I figured I could remedy that by making my own side splitters out of pla-plate.

Very basic shapes cut and stacked and sized so that they’re just barely going to stick out from the GT-R’s rocker panels. I’m not skilled enough to mold and build my own actual sideskirts (hence why I buy resin transkits), but splitters are very basic and even in real use they can often just be plates cut out of metal or ABS.

Made some small rear valences too. The front bumper already has a mini-lip molded in so I didn’t bother with anything else up there.

I was originally just going to leave the wing Metallic Black since its texture wasn’t as bad as the hood, but I thought that if I had a carbon hood anyway, I might as well go full send and try for a carbon wing. Like the vented hood, I’ve never done this before for a wing, but it didn’t turn out to be difficult – tracing the wing shape onto the decal paper first and cutting to size was the key.

Some Future Floor Finish for good glossy measure.

I later figured out that what I thought was a simple skid plate for the rear of the car was actually quite the aggressive underbody diffuser – the sides that went under the rear bumper also basically took the shape of the valences that I had made from scratch, so that work was already done for me. I decided to piece together some leftover carbon decals to get the whole thing covered up too.

While I was shopping for the carbon decals at my local hobby shop I happened to come across their wall of model car accessories and parts – and among them I saw a variety of neat wires, braided lines, etc that were all designed for 1/24 scale models. I had never bothered with this sort of detail before, but for a detailed RB build I thought some “coolant hoses” would be in good order.

I don’t actually know a lot about what hoses and wires go where, much less on a JDM motor that I’ve barely had a chance to see in real life in the States, so I just followed some online references as closely as I could on where to glue bits and pieces of wire.

Taillights already came molded in full clear color plastic – the separate clear orange pieces for the turn signal lenses is a really nice touch.

Maybe cutting the driver side window out wasn’t such a good idea after all. I’m getting some gnarly fitment issues that are only really evident because there’s no “glass” here – there’s a huge gap between the interior tub and the door body.

I tried to close it with standard glue, hot glue, epoxy, etc. – nothing held. There’s too little surface between the interior door card and the door itself, so no amount of glue was going to bind it.

I wasn’t about to live with the gap, and there was no way the window was going back in at this point, so the only remaining option is to fill the gap with putty and hope to God it’ll look seamless after it’s painted away.

I also tried fitting some photo etched seatbelt parts in the cabin that came from my 350z build, but they ended up not working out with all the cabin/body fitment issues.

GT Wing mounted. The smart way to do this would’ve been to measure up the trunk, wing, and use tape to mark where the proper mounting points would be, but I mount my model wings the way I mount my real wings – eyeball ’em till it looks right.

Having a bit of trouble with the suspension setup – I wanted to preserve the steering rack if I could, so modifying the control arms and axles to accommodate a lower ride height became slightly more difficult than it should’ve.

These are Aoshima wheels, so to fit them on the Tamiya rotors/hubs I had to cut their mounting hubs down.

Aoshima gives you a little black piece with the GT-R badge molded in, but I decided to forsake that and use my own flat piece of pla plate painted black with a GT-R badge decal on it instead. The decal wouldn’t lay flat over the raised badge, and left some nasty silvering.

The diffuser that I wrapped in carbon decals earlier is very intriguing when it comes to fitment – it’s straight from the Top Secret kit, so I expected some degree of modification to be necessary to fit it on the Tamiya chassis.

However, strangely enough it’s very nearly plug and play – the Tamiya chassis has the exact ports and holes for the diffuser’s pegs to attach to. The only minor issue was that the two long pegs were a tad too long, so with some trimming it bolted right up – I guess now I know what that mystery hole on the back of the Tamiya chassis is for.

I took inspiration from one of Top Secret’s featured cars at the 2016 Tokyo Auto Show for the overall look of the car’s exterior and its decal work. I didn’t want to go full decked-out racecar – just some decals on the flanks to give it a bit of character.

In case it wasn’t obvious already – I’m very partial to red pinstripes, but especially red pinstripes on blue cars. The front lip, side skirt diffusers, and rear diffuser panels made the perfect opportunity to run run along the entire bottom of the car.

I kept building with the Top Secret hood done for a while, struggling to convince myself that it looked good enough – clearly I still don’t know myself well enough. I wasn’t totally out of options though – I don’t like the Z-Tune hood as much as the Top Secret one, but at this point the latter has been so badly ruined that anything would be better.

The Z-Tune hood was molded with the Tamiya body, so I had to cut it out via heat knife. The nice thing is that its original Mica Blue paint was mostly undamaged and matched the rest of the current car’s body, so I could throw it on and see how it would look color-matched.

Of course, now that I know I can successfully carbon wrap a vented hood, it’s not staying body color.

Took a few tries, but I eventually got it down – had to do the vent gills themselves separately.

Unfortunately, some very strange shenanigans went down when my perfectly wrapped carbon hood responded poorly to the same floor finish/clear lacquer finish I tried on the earlier Top Secret hood. The cracking this time was intense.

So, stripped that, re-decal’d the carbon. The decal alone isn’t deep glossy enough for me though – I wanted something better, but nothing so far is working the way it’s supposed to.

In a final act of desperation, I turned to a substance I hadn’t worked with since my polymer clay days – Super Sculpty Gloss Glaze. I just needed something acrylic-based that wouldn’t crack and chew at the decal the way lacquer clear coats will, and I’ve used this stuff with some degree of success in the past, so I was hoping it would just end up being a deeper, glossier floor finish.

I tested it on my S15’s wing first just to be sure – that kit has been moved to storage and will be rebuilt later anyway. Initial results are promising – it goes on milky white and dries completely deep gloss.

This looks bad now – clearly the stuff doesn’t self-level as well as Future Floor Finish does on large surfaces – but I had hopes that it would turn out nice.

Hm. Maybe not. The parts that it covered evenly actually look really good – it’s a solid, smooth gloss with depth, but the parts that it really clumped on didn’t have such luck. I tried sanding and polishing those mountains down in the hopes that it would eventually level into a smooth mirror-finish, but no dice.

At this point I just threw my hands up in defeat, tossed the hood in a vat of Purple Power to strip the Sculpty (which it did, quickly and efficiently), re-decal’d the hood, and settled for a thin coat of the floor finish for gloss. I’ll figure out a nice way to gloss carbon one day, just not today.

On the bright side though, the Sculpty glaze does work quite consistently well on smaller parts that don’t have as much surface area where it can level unevenly – so the wing looks nice.

I decided that I wouldn’t settle for the ugly and mangled RX-8 strut bar and just took the plunge to build my own from scratch.

Forgot that the resin engine kit came with a fuel rail until now. Painted with a silver base coat and clear blue.

And as a finishing touch, I went out and bought some thin metal head pins from my local arts and crafts store to use as a metal hood prop – wasn’t about to put all that effort into the motor and not display it after all.

Now, I had finished it just like this and went on to the photoshoot and everything, but something still bothered me – the fitment feels like a 4×4. I love the classic TE’s, but it looks like the 19″ sizing is just too large.

I can’t really go any smaller than 18’s, and I wanted a set of wheels ASAP, so the quickest and most accessible choices ended up being set of  Fujimi Nismo LM GT4’s. They’re more or less designed for the R34, and only subtly different from the TE’s already on the car anyway – 5 spokes instead of 6.

The awkward thing I knew going into this was that these are literally the stock wheels that the Z-Tune came with – so I already had a set! But those were 19″, and as relieved as I was to see that there was a discernible difference between the 18″ Fujimi set and the original black 19″ Z-Tune wheels, the irony hits when they’re basically the same size when they’re wrapped in tires.

It’s a bit better than the stock TE’s, but it’s still riding pretty high. At this point if I want to go lower my only choices are to build some lower side skirts or camber/stance the shit out of those wheels.

I even went out of my way to try stretched tires and different wheel styles/sizes, but nothing’s quite getting me the look I’m looking for – which means the Z-Tune probably only looked so good because of its lower ground effects rather than anything to do with its wheel/tire setup.

Painted the Nismo wheels black on the face and kept the hubcap and lip the original plated silver that Fujimi had. I like the look and fitment marginally more than the TE’s, but it’s not as big as a difference as I was hoping for.

Okay, I’m happy with it. The kit is actually a lot more photogenic than it it looks – but that may just be because I know where all the compromises are and it’s easier to hide that stuff in photos.

The Nismo GT4’s took some getting used to, but after I made some finer adjustments to get the fitment just right I find that I like it a lot more than the previous TE’s.

The carbon hood looks a lot better on camera than it does in person. When you look at it in person and rotate around it, the subtle phantom cracks really become prominent.

The carbon wing isn’t all sweet daises either though – it too looks fine on camera but in person the gloss glaze actually ended up curing really thick, so there’s a weird disparity between the not-glossy-enough hood and the too-glossy wing.

There’s also a little haze mark next to the hood exit ports that came from the Floor Finish pooling a bit – normally that sort of blunder requires a complete re-strip of the finish and possibly even decal, but I had done it so many times up to this point that I decided it wasn’t worth to sacrifice more carbon decals to the cause (that stuff’s expensive!).

My solution was to just lightly sand and polish the hardened pooled area down – it’s now smooth but the haze will never really go away.

I think the build overall would’ve come out cleaner had I not frankenstein’d the Tamiya chassis with the Aoshima body – and all that was done in the sole pursuit of getting a full RB26 under the hood.

Make no mistake, I’m happy with the style of the car – Bayside Blue with red and carbon accents will make me faint any day of the week, but the overall build quality suffered from me overextending myself with so many scratch-built parts and hodgepodge parts matching.

Case in point: the cut-out Z-Tune hood doesn’t exactly have the most flush fitment (peek the gap up front).

Also had to fight the bumper fitments a bit – the edges on the front where it meets the fenders would’ve been a lot cleaner had I just built the Top Secret kit straight out of the box. Messing with the engine compartment meant it lost a lot of its support, so it got messy trying to hold the bumper on via only the fenders.

I’m a lot more satisfied with the back end, ironically. Looks a bit cleaner – and surprisingly, the lack of rear exit exhaust doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. It’s only really jarring when I focus on the gap between the bumper and diffuser – but most of the time it’s not a focal point so I don’t mind so much.

RB madness.

I feel like it would look cleaner without the hood exits, but as we’ve already established, I’m no exhaust shop fabricator.

Compared to other more refined and cleaned up RB builds I feel like garbage, but I’m proud if only because of the blood sweat and tears that went into customizing and scratch building so much of the bay and accessories. The completely scratch built strut bar I’m particularly fond of.

No more twin turbos. Never again. There’s a reason why all the RB builds I googled as a reference for this build were single giant turbos rather than top-mounted twins.

The hood takes a lot more work than it should just to get it to fit flush – pushing it down so it “snaps” in between the fenders and lines up against both the headlights and the front bumper grille is a terrifying experience. I’ve popped the headlight lenses out and scratched the hood decal more than once already during this process, which is why when it goes on display the hood will be propped up forever – I didn’t pour my soul into that RB just to have it hidden away anyway.

A detailed undercarriage, though kind of underwhelming. Sort of sad the carbon diffuser will barely ever be seen.

Juxtaposed with the other RB I built – that one as an afterthought, just because I had the motor laying around and an FR-S with an empty bay. Can you tell I like blue with red accents?

I’m still suffering a little remorse for not getting another Z-Tune body since I didn’t realize these more normal Skyline bodies wouldn’t come with the aggressive and low sideskirts/ground effects to get that nice slammed to the floor look, but for what I ended up with I’m happy with this somewhat more unique build. After conquering a twin turbo RB I feel invincible though – no 2J stands a chance now.

 

2 Comments

  • Kalvin Sumagui

    Stunning job on this build, especially with the gloss! I have some previous builds myself that I want to redo. What grits do you use to sand off paint for a change of body color?

  • James Pierce

    Thanks! Nowadays if I have to strip old paint I’ll soak the parts in brake fluid for a day or so – stuff comes right off! Check out my R35 GT-R for the results 🙂 for small areas that the brake cleaner doesn’t completely dissolve I’ll usually start around 400 grit to remove old stubborn paint and finish at around 1000

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