Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Project G37S: End-of-Summer Update

I stopped by Kaizen Tuning today to check on the status of the G. Today marked the one month mark of the car being in their possession. In short, the front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper are painted and installed. There is still some work to be done, but the body work thus far is top-notch.

Installation of the MXP double-resonated test pipes, Tanabe Y-pipe, and HKS Racing Suction Reloaded Intakes is due to take place within the next week. The car will then be put on the dyno and custom-tuned using Osiris UpRev.

Throughout this stage of the project, we have discovered a few things that I want to address on the car. I am in the process of ironing out the details, but I'm confident that all will be worth the wait... It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Stay tuned.

I don't like to make 'Project Posts' without including pictures. So, despite not have any decent shots of the G as it is sitting currently, I can, at the very least, include two shots of a couple sharp R35's that were sitting in the Kaizen lot...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Keepin' it Real...

A refreshing anomaly it is to encounter a fellow enthusiast who refuses to cut corners.

Especially a young one... A couple weeks ago I received an e-mail from a fellow G owner. The excitement and enthusiasm jumped off the screen of my laptop as I learned the story of this young man's recent acquisition of a set of Volk Racing G2 wheels. One does not have to be a staunch advocate against knock-offs, replicas, and corner-cutting (or even a car enthusiast) to appreciate this story. Although, it might add to the enjoyment...

I do not know this 18 year-old college student from California. I have never met him. I likely would not be able to pick him out of a line-up, but, apparently, we share something in common in terms of modding ideology.

A student at USC and working part time, Andrew had been saving up to purchase a set of wheels for a year. A year. That, in itself, is impressive. This young man saved his money for an entire year in order to own a set of authentic JDM wheels. However, there is more to the story than the notable patience and commendable resolution exercised by this guy...

Attempting to get a jump on his sophomore year workload, Andrew was enrolled in a summer school program. He had spent his freshman year saving up for his desired wheel: Volk Racing G2 Type II (in gunmetal finish) and finally placed the order at the beginning of his summer break. Andrew's mother, cognizant of her son's burning desire to buy these wheels, laid down the law by setting the condition that he could only take delivery of the wheels if she was satisfied with his summer school grades. While waiting for his grades to surface, the wheels had arrived from Japan.

The year of hoarding his paychecks in order to finally purchase authentic Rays wheels, coupled with the eight week turnaround for transport after placing his order, the young enthusiast was, at this point, becoming anxious. With the wheels in the possession of his vendor, Andrew was woefully forced to disclose that he could not buy the wheels at that time. He had to begrudgingly instruct the vendor to attempt to sell the wheels to another buyer via the forums, as his grades had not materialized for review by his mother.

Picture Andrew... Awaiting the arrival of his grades, fingers crossed that his wheels would not be sold to another buyer. Lucky for him, His grades arrived on the last Tuesday of August.

Andrew's Volk Racing G2's were mounted and installed two days later...

Sadly, there are not too many enthusiasts out there who are willing to wait a year to purchase authentic parts. Furthermore, there are not too many younger enthusiasts who refuse to take the easy way out. Andrew could have owned a set of aftermarket wheels that resemble many of the popular Volk styles in less than half the time it took him to mount the G2's on his G37. A prime example of someone "doing things right," Andrew is one of the few unwilling to sacrifice quality for convenience, or "value."

In short, I think Andrew deserves an acknowledgment and I am honored that he included me in his experience.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I do not have a problem with new vendors advertising their products on the forums. I do not look to invoke controversy, but sometimes I am overcome with frustration at the audacity of some of these companies. Feigning superiority to all other exhaust systems out there, ARK Performance, a company founded a mere 15 years ago, posts regularly on the forums with outlandish claims and a manipulative insolence that I just cannot ignore.

Marketing puffery is to be expected. Every company touts their product as superior to all others. Naturally, every company wants a consumer to choose their product over the next. Every company wants the sale. Of course... However, there is a difference between marketing acumen and deception.

Maybe I am missing something, but the "signature design" of their mufflers, resonators, and tips to which they refer does not seem revolutionary or cutting-edge at all. In fact, it looks quite familiar.

ARK 'Grip' Exhaust System

HKS Dual Hi-Power Exhaust System

ARK claims superiority to the design they replicated...

"We have differentiated ourselves from HKS to a point where it is two totally different exhausts in sound, performance, quality, and at a better value... To put it simply, we made a better exhaust overall."

Really? Come on!

Additionally, in reading through some of their marketing materials...

First and foremost, we engineer all of our exhaust systems with only the highest grade metal, T304 stainless steel. Each component of our exhaust systems are thoroughly tested before it goes into production.

If an enthusiast looking for a new exhaust system does the proper research, I am confident they will find answers, but ARK does not make that easy. My main issue with their tact (or lack thereof) on the forum stems from the fact that whenever they are questioned as to design, quality, or integrity, they have a skill at ducking the issues. They close threads, they deflect focus onto the shortcomings of other products made by other companies, they create new threads with the hopes that the older threads will be buried in the archives, and they simply refuse to participate. The sad part? They have a lot of people fooled. With professional photography and fancy marketing techniques, they create an image of a product that people have no reason to believe they will not receive. However, I know, personally, a few people who have received "new" exhaust systems in used condition, or, quite simply, of shoddy quality.

The advertised product:

Actual product received by ARK customers:

These pictures are a far cry from what I would expect after reading ARK's marketing materials. I am sure these parts just simply slipped through the cracks of ARK's quality control. 

'Extreme Quality makes Extreme Performance.' The ARK "Grip" offers the serious [G37] enthusiast a rare combination of top quality materials and superb craftsmanship who want the absolute best quality True Dual Burnt SUS Tip exhaust system money can buy.

Korean-made ARK exhaust systems on a container to the US

In the end, the only parts about which I truly care are those that eventually make their way on to my vehicle. I try not to let the manner in which other enthusiasts spend their money and on what products concern me too much. (Clearly, I have a difficult time with that when it comes to knock-offs and replicas.) However, it does irk me to see people fall victim to clever deception. That said, I acknowledge the fact that there are a number of satisfied ARK customers out there. Additionally, I have noticed that ARK does an admirable job at "making things right" when a customer becomes dissatisfied on a public forum. (My contention is, simply, that they have little choice - they must save face.) 

Nonetheless, I feel confident suggesting that I will never install an ARK product on any car of mine.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Project G37S: "Success is the sum of details." - Harvey S. Firestone

I see far too often the corner-cutting that occurs when people modify the V36. To that end, I find myself overwhelmed with enthusiasm and anxious anticipation as the next stage of my project is underway.

The parts being installed are real, authentic parts from legitimate, well-respected companies of the Japanese tuning industry. Not granted the same instant gratification luxury of those who purchase knock-off and replica parts, I endured months of waiting for the majority of these parts to arrive from Japan.

A few days ago I dropped the keys to the G in the capable hands of Scott and the guys at Kaizen Tuning. Scott and I went over the specifics of each modification planned for this stage of the project. While discussing the gains I can expect to receive from the HKS intakes we are installing, I acknowledged that there likely may be other intakes out there that would yield higher horsepower gains, to which Scott retorted that this project is not about building a car with gobs of power. "It is about the big picture. The whole package."

He hit the nail on the head.

One who appreciates absolutely the lure and appeal of those JDM parts, Scott understands the vision I maintain, as well as the standards I have set for myself with this project. Quality and JDM rarity are at the core of its theme. This car is, in fact, about the details.

A teasing photographic preview of what is to come:

More stickers to add to my collection... (You only get these when you buy authentic parts.)

Although a fraction of the time I waited to receive these parts, the next few weeks will straddle the threshold of torturous.

Stay tuned...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Remember, Remember the Second of September...

(Excuse the feeble, poorly-executed Guy Fawkes allusion...) 

One Year Later...

I can recall reading for the first time, with mixed emotions, this letter a little less than a year ago. I, once again, found myself incensed by the fact that there are companies out there like Varrstoen. I was bothered by the notion that Mackin Industries must actually devote time to brainstorming combat techniques to the undermining and ripping off of their popular wheel designs. At the same time, I found myself reading this letter with a Grinch-like smirk overtaking my face. Haughtily amused and contented to see Mackin taking a stand against the Varrstoen replica trend that is slowly marauding the Japanese tuning scene, I enjoyed this. 

Needless to say, I, zealously and enthusiastically, applaud these proactive measures taken by Mackin.

I am curious to know the number of dealers affected by this memo...