Many visit Japan as tourists. The sights and sounds, the exotic smells, the hustle and bustle of Tokyo . . . I’d compare it to a diving excursion; you know you’re not a part of this world, but just a visitor. The tourist’s experience is an escape from the norm, an oasis of calm—none of the deadlines, bosses to please, nor schedules to adhere that the natives bear.
In contrast, my visits to Japan are seldom so perfect. Having lived here a few years back, there are friends I want to see (more than I can ever manage), in-laws to visit, dozens of cousins/aunts/uncles, automotive contacts to appease, and of course, these articles I sign myself up for. Not that I’m complaining—I love the gig and the travel, but the same imperfections can be said of visiting Japanese tuning garages. Demo cars are often in some back corner, collecting dust, many times un-assembled as never-ending work on them continues. Many are dedicated race cars, and thus have no license plates and cannot be driven on public roads. Not that that matters much—the typical tuning garage is small, in an unsightly part of town, and offers little to no room for photo shoots. Google any of Top Secret’s cars and see how many have been shot in front of the shop’s blue and white exterior.
Perhaps the worst part of the gig is interacting with the people. Being American-born Japanese, the senior editors love me for my ability to speak the language and infiltrate these often-unknown tuning garages. But to their owners and staff, I’m some undereducated shmuck who can’t speak properly. Certainly my Japanese is good enough for 90 percent of the situations I get myself into, but at tuning garages we’re talking about engineers and mechanics—usually not the most social nor empathetic types. I might as well be speaking urban jive to an Oxford University recruiter.
Imagine my surprise when we visited Endless, in Kobe. First off, they’re in the sticks amongst rice patties and forest. When we arrive, we see the usual array of Skylines and such in the garage, but what really floored me was the person who greeted us: Rick Colgate, Officer of Export Sales. Apparently, tuning Japanese cars is at a fever pitch in his native country of England, not unlike the level that it hit in the U.S. in the late ’90s/early ’00s, but with a bonus: JDM vehicles older than 10 years can be legally imported into the U.K. and street driven. Anybody who’s studied Japanese knows there’s a level of formality that is often cumbersome, but Rick set that aside and spoke colloquial English. To make things more perfect, the empty lot behind Endless has a picturesque bamboo forest behind it, an ideal backdrop for photos. But best of all, Rick showed us this Bayside Blue R34 we were to shoot.
You see those fenders. No, this car is not an authentic Z-tune, but a mix of real Nismo and Do-Luck pieces on the exterior, and strategically chosen everything else to give it looks and performance to rival one. One day, when the import generation is old and gray, and those in it wealthy enough to drive the price of each one of the original 20 Z-tunes into collectable status, the Endless recipe seen here will allow wage-limited enthusiasts like us to embarrass their performance with base-model GT-Rs.
Shinya Kaga is the pioneer of the concept, and the one who commissioned Endless to build this example. Possibly his most radical move was to convert to an IHI Turbo, model T90-R; a unit initially developed for semi-trucks which was adapted by Endless to the RB26DETT powerplant for the same reason it was originally bolted to Cummins Diesel mills—to build superior low/mid-range power and torque. Corner exit speeds are dramatically improved when power comes on in the lower part of the rev range, and yes, this R34 was built specifically to best its collectible brethren on its home turf—the street and the track, alike.
Heat dissipation becomes an issue when such a great turbo comes into play. A Trust triple-core R-type aluminum intercooler is entrusted to those duties. A Type C Trust wastegate spits excess exhaust flames, and an HKS EVC EZ keeps the boost to a prescribed level. Another place to where Kaga-san and his Endless cohorts turned their attention was the engine’s rotating assembly. No, this RB can’t brag the N1-spec Z2 engine block, Nismo pistons, rods, or long-stroke GT500 crankshaft, but no worries—its RB26 has been machined to accept a fully balanced and blueprinted, complete Tomei 2.8L rotating assembly. What’s more, its head has been ported and polished, given Trust valves and the renowned HKS V-Cam setup, which adjusts cam phasing to maximize power and torque throughout the rev range. Endless president Sugino-san even went so far as to fabricate a custom intake manifold for Kaga-san’s R34, endowing it with an Infiniti Q45 throttle body for increased flow that even the Nismo Z-tune unit can’t offer.
An HKS F-Con V Pro oversees fuel management, including an RH8 fuel pump feeding thirsty 720cc/min Sard injectors. Once ignited, power is distributed through an OS Giken R3C triple-plate clutch (compared to the Z-tune’s Nismo twin), and Kaga is currently in the process of acquiring a Nismo sequential transmission—something not included with the Z-tune.
Where the Z-tune would flex Sachs three-way adjustable coilovers, Kaga-san’s R34 boasts Quantums. Isolating their movement is stitch welding painstakingly applied by the Endless crew to more of the chassis than simply its door jambs, as is the case with the Z-tune. To further accentuate the road-holding power of the suspension, 18x10.5-inch Volk Racing TE37s, shod with super-sticky Advan DNA GP rubber, take the place of what would be 18x9.5" Nismo LM GT4s and Bridgestone RE01Rs with the Z-tune. And where you’d find 365mm two-piece Brembo front rotors, you’ll see 380mm Alcon two-pieces and six-piston calipers on Kaga-san’s R34, taken directly from a Super Taikyu car.
Kaga, having previously owned an EVO 5, Camaro, Porsche 997, Ferrari 360, and various BMW and Mercedes sports cars, is clearly addicted to speed. Fellow speed junkies all over the Kansai area know him for his top-speed runs on the Osaka Kanjo (loop-line), and his new goal for this R34—aside from embarrassing Z-tunes wherever possible—is to hit 300 kph (186 mph) on the street. While we technically shouldn’t wish him luck in that endeavor, if we had to place a bet on whether or not he’ll succeed, you know where our chips would lie.
Behind The Build
Kobe City, Hyogo, Japan
International man of mystery.
Spending time with his dog.
Do it all at once and pick the right engine builder. Make not only a fast, but trouble-free ride.
’00 R34 Skyline GT-R
Output: Undisclosed (600 hp gentleman’s agreement)
Engine Tomei 2.8L Engine Kit (77.7mm crankshaft, 119.5mm connecting rods, 87.5mm pistons); HKS V-Cam system, camshafts, F-CON V Pro; Endless oil pan, cylinder head porting and polishing, Super Surge air intake, adjustable cam gears, intake manifold, prototype T90-R Holset turbocharger; Infiniti Q45 throttle body; Trust valvesprings, Power Extreme Ti exhaust, downpipe, turbo manifold, wastegate, front-mount intercooler; Racing 8 spark plugs; Koyo racing radiator; Sard high-flow catalytic converter, fuel pressure regulator, 720cc/min injectors; Nismo radiator cap; Samco silicone hoses and vacuum lines
Drivetrain OS Giken R3C triple-plate clutch
Suspension Quantum coilovers; custom upper front strut tower bar, chassis stitch welding, carbon-fiber-wrapped radiator support
Wheels/Tires 18x10.5 Volk Racing TE37 wheels; 255/35-18 Yokohama Advan DNA GP tires
Brakes Alcon 380mm two-piece rotors, six-piston calipers (front), 355mm two piece rotors, four-piston calipers (rear), pads
Exterior Nismo Z-tune front fenders, side skirts, rear wing; Top Secret carbon-fiber rear diffuser; Do-Luck front and rear bumpers; custom carbon-fiber front lip spoiler, rear wing stays
Interior Recaro SRIV front seat; Momo Race 3000 steering wheel; Endless floor mats, custom carbon-fiber-look shift boot, e-brake handle, center console wrap, armrest reupholstery; Trust shift knob
Electronics Pioneer Carrozzeria MEH-P919 Mini Disc head unit
Gratitude Sugino-san of Endless Japan