Cars are staging and you look for the least intimidating ride to cut in front of. Stressing more than O.J. missing a brown leather glove, the last thing you need is a car on your bumper during your hot lap. Pulling up behind you is a stock-looking white coupe, an R34 Nissan GT-R. It's a stout platform, however compared to the rest of the beasts in your run group, the Nissan looks about as intimidating as Nicole Ritchie in a string bikini. No crazy body kit, full interior, quiet exhaust and a rock-steady idle. Your mind quickly calculates a stock RB26-power-to-Skyline-weight ratio and you register a small but confident smile. Today, you will spank a GT-R.
Qualifying begins and your run group slowly spills onto the track. You glance in the rearview mirror and notice the shrinking fascia of the once-menacing GT-R. Nearing the end of the first lap, you can't help the stifled grin growing in your helmet-you're approaching the media and spectator-packed front straight, and you're pulling on a Skyline.
Cheeee! The surprisingly close whistle of a blow-off valve cuts through your mental end-zone breakdance. A check to your mirrors turns up empty. No GT-R. Confused, you brake late into the first turn. Understeer takes over. You fight it by overcompensating with the steering wheel and then you see it. A white blur emerging from your blindspot. It's the R34. As you correct, you read the scribbled handwriting on the door: Mine's. "No wonder it looked factory," you scream as it rounds the corner and speeds off.
Finding a capable tuner in Japan is like finding a shoulder-bag toting, Mac using, scruffy-haired hipster in a coffee shop. There's one on almost every block. And like the dozens of different roasts a local barrista serves up, each tuner has their own distinct flavor: color, body, balance, complexity and aftertaste. However, only one builds rides cleaner than a smooth Kona blend.
In 1985, Michiro Niikura, a then-Bridgestone employee, did what any entrepreneur would do when he couldn't find the parts he wanted for the now-old school Celica (1600GT) and Skyline (C110)-he opened up his own tuning shop. Aptly named Mine's for Niikura's desire for a tuning style totally his, er, Mine's, he sought to redefine the conceptions of tuning.
"Tuning was thought to be all oil and grease, but I wanted to show that by rewriting the stock ECU, I would be able to improve the performance of the car while maintaining street reliability and appearance," says Niikura-san. Improved performance without sacrificing reliability? Incredulous, you say? Look at the R34 GT-R before you, a rolling testament to his tuning philosophy.
Starting with their VX-ROM computer-the ECU equivalent of Barry Bonds on "performance-enhancing" substances-Mine's upgraded the injector, fuel pump, mass airflow meter and intake with off-the-shelf parts, upping the air and fuel in the A/F equation. Larger GT2530 turbos controlled by a HKS EVC take full advantage of the extra flow, as does the unlisted-in-the-Mine's-catalog stage 3 RB26DETT motor, complete with 8.5-inch carbon twin clutch and propeller shaft. The Mine's head utilizes their Super Camshaft (260 degree; 10.2mm lift) for aggressive valvetrain manipulation, and their Triple Flow Cam Cover Baffle Plates to separate precious lubricating oil from blow-by gasses during aggressive cornering.
What does this all translate to? A max hp rating of 621 at 7,200 rpm with a torque reading of 434 lb-ft. Pop the hood, however, and none of this is evident. The only traces of a tweaked stock 280hp would require a CSI team to discern-the stock-looking carbon intake duct, radiator shroud, aluminum catch can and radiator are all aftermarket. Take out the overtly promiscuous yellow vacuum lines running to the catch can and the small Mine's logo on the intake manifold, and even a scrupulous smog ref wouldn't be any wiser.
Ah, but the exhaust-exhaust note is always a dead give-away to 600+ ponies. Not in the case of the Mine's GT-R. A full Mine's exhaust from the turbo back (Super Outlet Pro II turbo outlets, Front Pipe Pro Titan downpipe, Silence-VX Pro Titan exhaust) and a catalytic converter by way of their Super Sports Catalizer (yes, with an "i") emits only a slightly raspier idle. Think Lil Jon with strep throat. Only under high boost-when you really, really want it-does the exhaust throatily scream, "Get out da way, beyotch!"
The suspension component of the GT-R is addressed in the same spirit of the motor-near track-worthy performance in streetable form. A three-way Mine's Force Full Spec suspension with stiff 12.5k (front and rear) springs ensures the Bridgestone Potenza RE55S SR2-wrapped 18-inch Magnesium Evolution II (built by BBS) wheels maximize their contact with the asphalt. The Mine's front and rear stabilizers fight chassis flex during turning and the AP big brakes (six-pot front; four-pot rear) paired with Mine's PFC pads flex up the frictional force.
Only slight exterior trim was added a la Mine's. Why mess with perfection, right? Using a white R34-Niikura's favorite color, by the way-aerodynamically-functional carbon fiber contrasts are peppered throughout the chassis. Twin canards and a diffuser on the front bumper, Type II aero mirrors on the side, a full rear main wing, a deck spoiler on the trunk and that's it. The interior is just as preserved, with a rollcage, Sparco steering wheel and Recaro seats altering it from factory. Compared to most GT-Rs of this caliber, it's as sleeper as an R34 can get. Hell, it makes Rip Van Winkle look like a Kindergartener at naptime.
So how did it do at our Time Attack finals? Fifth overall (read our Time Attack coverage on p72). Essentially a street car in Japan (look ma, no slicks!) because the GT-R lacked US plates, it had to run with the unlimited boys. Had it found some Cali plates, the Mine's R34 would've taken the top spot in the originally-intended Limited class. According to Niikura, "I didn't bring our 'number two' R34 (Mine's built three identical R34s, this being 'number two' because it's the second fastest) to break the US Time Attack record. Rather, to introduce the brand and its dedication to reliability."Food for thought: Imagine if Niikura purpose-built a ride for Time Attack. If I were a betting man, I'd say the record would be all Mine's.
Make Mine Mine's
Like the beef in the chicken or beef conundrum, aftermarket standalone computers have taken a larger steak, er, stake, in US tuning preferences. Proving that ROM-tuned ECUs are more than just the other white meat, we give you four reasons why you should go Mine's. And no, "it tastes like chicken" is not one of them.
1. ROM tuning utilizes the stock ECU parameters which OE engineers spend countless hours and dollars (or yen) R&Ding to work in harmony with the stock system. Two trite analogies come to mind, take your pick: why reinvent the wheel, or why fix it, if it ain't broke.
2. Niikura-san generalizes that if most ECUs are conservatively tuned to perform at 50 percent of the engines capacity, Mine's then ups that efficiency to 70 percent leaving a comfortable (read: safe) 30-percent buffer for the street.
3. With Mine's, they combine years of both software and vehicle knowledge to design an ECU that's reliable, while making the most amount of power. And with more Japanese applications than Tampax, yours can be Mine's.
4. The Geico of bolt-on parts, a ROM-tuned ECU is so easy to install, a caveman could do it. No need to program off of basemaps, an application specific Mine's ECU is all plug-so you can play!
ROM-tuned ECU: it's like taking a cute but slightly overweight chick and putting her on a treadmill 'til she loses enough weight to look pretty but not too hot where she runs off with another guy.
One tears up the track and the other's about to tear a hole in Carter's pocket. Both are white. Which is better? Let's make like DeNiro's deteriorating career and analyze this.
|MINE'S GT-R||CARTER'S GT-R|
|Mine's Carbon aero||WINNER||Body Color||Nismo spoiler, foggy headlights|
|Records||WINNER||Breaking||Turbo and Rear Main Seals|
|Looks Stock||WINNER||Under the Hood||Is Stock|
|621 HP||WINNER||Power Output||400 hp... Um, Four Years Ago|
|Picking up trophies||Built for||TIE||Picking up chicks|
|La Migra!||Immigration Status||WINNER||Permanent Resident|
|Daily Driveable||TIE||RELIABILITY||TIE||Daily Driveable... If you don't mind oil spots|
|57.3 Lap Time At Tsukaba||WINNER||Greatest Accomplishment||Being Mistaken for a 240sx, Or Worse, an Accord|