I landed in Japan just yesterday; tomorrow I hit Suzuka. Perhaps I should've allowed myself a day of rest in Kyoto prior to starting my "working vacation"—keyword, "working." I would've loved to have spent more time with my beloved in-laws in Kyoto, but heck, every time I go to Japan, I can't seem to shut the hell up and leave the car world alone. The truth is, I enjoy the torture, and that's why a few months prior, I end up planning for my trip with Editor Sam Du. The conversation starts something like this. "So, Sam, I'm going to Japan in a few months. Did you want me to shoot and write about a few cars?" The result is a jet-lagged Tatsu on a train in the middle of the sticks passed Nagoya, one sick-looking burgundy R32, and post-trip writing sessions consisting of late nights in a nearby hipster coffee shop full of college kids (Aren't you too old to be hanging out with college kids? -SD).
To say Wacky Mate is in the sticks is an understatement, though. Two stops north of the end of the line and an hour south of metropolitan Nagoya is an unmanned station called Higashi-Narawa. Yes, unmanned! That means if you board the train without paying your fare, you'd get caught! But if you were fortunate enough to not pay and arrive at this rusty shack station, you could potentially slip by. Yeah, honor system. Anyways, to make sure I wouldn't be left to rot at the quiet station, all throughout my train ride I would text Akihiko Sakakibara (Aki for short) of Wacky Mate, "Leaving Kyoto now. Arrived at Nagoya. Now departing for..." until I finally arrived "Here!" Ten minutes went by...fifteen...twenty... I finally call him. "Oh, you wanted me to pick you up!?" I shake my head and moments later his shop apprentice arrives. It just shows the pace of life here in the sticks, much different from fast-paced Tokyo.
When I arrive at the shop, I'm reminded once again why it's hard to argue against the R32. Of the RB-based Skylines, it was the most compact. The R33 was just plain ugly (Be nice! -SD), and the R34 although sexy in its own right, looks massive next to the R32.
Just like the pace of life in Sakakibara's town, you could tell he took his time and ensured the Skyline was as perfect as possible, starting with the R32's weight and balance. Weight is especially critical considering much of it would be put back with a custom 'cage. So extensive use of dry carbon panels were made from scratch, believe it or not, and not from some mass-produced shop. R32s are becoming more rare, and unlike S13s where college kids are looking for cheap pieces, Wacky Mate wanted to take the high road. The second reason is the type of panels they aspired to make. Though hood and trunk might be off the shelf, the fenders, roof, and doorskins aren't readily available for a car of legal drinking age. And if you're going to make such items, one might as well make all of it in-house in a single batch. The result is matching pieces in which the epoxy resin doesn't look like production happened in five different factories.
Continuing the topic of chassis, I've never seen any shop prep a car to this level. Let me hammer this point home... This chassis was artesian TIG-welded, the gussets on the B- and C-pillar were hydro-cut with Wacky Mate logos, and the 'cage was custom-bent, not like most in Japan who use bolt-in units.
With this R32, Akihiko intends to take on Tsukuba or even World Time Attack Challenge in Australia. Given his success at Suzuka, the car in its current setup might fare better at WTAC. But for Tsukuba, he may have to consider a smaller turbo, or some other trick setup where onset of power is at a much lower rpm—lower end torque is necessary to get out of the two low-speed hairpin turns. As for the current setup, Aki's RB is an RB26 bumped up to 2,777cc of displacement. HKS stage 2 oversize pistons, rings, and crank result in an 8.6:1 compression ratio, plus an increase of 1.5mm bore and 4mm stroke. Just down the street a familiar name, NaPrec or Nagoya Precision, was entrusted to re-work the head according to Sakakibara's specifications. Those who are curious, NaPrec calls this head package a High Response kit, which also includes a proprietary port and polish job. HKS was again chosen for head components, including cams, cam sprockets, and valvesprings. When the head came back, Aki-san used Tomei studs and gaskets to ensure reliability at the motor's limits. Other engine goodies include ATI pulleys, Nismo motor mounts, HKS Powerflow intake, and a Trust oil cooler. It also employs a custom high-capacity oil pan and a custom radiator using Samco hoses.
Fuel delivery starts with double Bosch fuel pumps, a custom surge collector tank, then an HKS fuel rail capped off with a Sard regulator. 1000cc injectors discharge high-octane juice into the intake stream, where they get sucked down into the 2.8L and combust. Exhaust stroke forces the Trust T88-34D to furiously spin, which then is spit out a 90mm Wacky Mate original downpipe and muffler. On the compression side of things resides Trust piping and intercooler.
A dyno-tested 920 crank horsepower makes its way through an ATS carbon twin clutch, Hollinger trans, and finally a Cusco Type MZ differential.
Backtracking a bit, the engine management is executed through an HKS V-Pro and tuned in-house by Wacky Mate via the seat-of-my-pants method of tuning. I'm sure the IQ3 multi-display was a distraction while they did late-night tuning sessions avoiding cops.
Wise men (and women) have said power is nothing without poise. To that end, TEIN's N1 Racing coilovers with Hyperco springs (13kg fronts, 10kg rears) enhance road-holding capabilities. Wacky Mate also does its own alignment in-house using the fishing string method. Additional suspension bits include Manatee Racing lower control arms and the aforementioned spot-welded chassis and custom 'cage.
Six-piston front Project Mu and dual piston OE Brembo rear calipers clamp down on Project Mu 999 Formula pads, ensuring late braking deep into a corner and confidence lap after lap. Grip is handled via semi-slick Advan O50 tires measuring 295-series all around for utmost traction. Newer Enkei RS05RR wheels give the R32 a much-needed update in the looks department while still being a perfect lightweight design for the track.
The Spartan interior finishes off this wild ride with one Bride Low Max seat to strap the driver in utilizing a Willans four-point harness. Drivers' hands will be on a Tanida suede steering wheel.
So if you're ever in Japan, think twice before you ask to volunteer for work like I did. Or else you'll end up like me, jet-lagged on a train to nowhere. But then again, if the destination is cool like Wacky Mate and you're able to see Sakakibara's 900hp Skyline in person, then I suppose the torture is worthwhile.