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Any good forums/resources for Skyline owners in USA/California?


Hella_GTR
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Hi All,

Looks like my job is sending me back to the US from Japan in the next 3-6 months.  I'll 90% end up in California so will need to do the FTP testing, then California BAR.  I'm tracking it'll take some time, perhaps 6-12 months at G&K, and cost at least $10k.    My car is not stock though so wanted to find some good resources on if my car would even pass.  I also am trying to find a good resource for importing the car from Japan to the US.  I reached out to TopRank but I know they're busy and since I didn't buy the car from them, they may not be interested in helping me out.  Are there any good US based forums like this site or is it all on Facebook pages now?  I'm 4 years removed from the States but back in my Honda days it was all about Honda-tech.  Not sure if there's something like that for Skylines in the US.  I did do Google but the ones I found didn't look too active...


I bought the car full normal so have all the original parts but would like to avoid putting it back to stock.  All work was done at Nismo Performance Center Tokyo.  Mods are all in the spirit of OEM/Nismo.  Longblock is stock.  Only things I've done are Nismo R1 turbo kit (looks OEM), HPS elbows down to a RSR front pipe to HKS cat converter and exhaust (JASMA).  Before moving to the US, I also plan to install the Nismo intake manifold and new Nismo Fuel Kit (R35 injectors, air flow sensors, new fuel rail).  All of it is tuned on the Mines VX ROM inside the original OEM ECU (that's how they roll here).  

I love the car and it's pristine so want the best for it and will keep it forever.  I know there's folks using out-of-state plates as well but don't want to deal with the trouble/worries of it living in CA.  I'm also searching for non-CA jobs but not sure if that's going to pan out.


Thanks for any assistance!

Kanpai!

---Evan
 

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1. The ECU tune is going to be a big problem both for emissions and for the survivability of your engine on CA 91 octane. Mine's VX-ROM is fine on Japanese 100 RON, not fine on CA 91 octane. The little details really count and the vast majority of tuners have little to no experience tuning for emissions compliance. Transient fueling, cold start, etc is all extremely important to get right. 

2. You should source something cheap for your exhaust that you don't care about for G&K. They will do extremely ugly welds and chop up your exhaust in the process. Booger welds and they will basically made the front pipe to the catback a single unit to fit their catalytic converters.

3. Nismo manifold is ok but the fuel kit is going to be more problems than it's worth. There's nothing wrong per se with those mods from an emissions perspective, the problem is making sure the tune is 100% good to go with those changes. The stock ECU logic is such that fuel injector and MAF both affect the load scales on the map, it's not a conversion from voltage -> real units -> load scales in real units, it's voltage -> arbitrary units with a scaling constant -> load scale. If you really want to run a tune + the Nismo fuel kit you can, but you're going to have to call up Mine's for a special map. They're going to have to redo the whole thing for CA fuel quality and be there at the dyno with ECU logging to be able to figure out if their tune is causing problems with emissions so they can make changes as needed. 

4. Regarding registering out of state. A lot of people have told me I am an idiot/stupid/crazy/etc for continuing down the path of CA registration. To some extent they aren't wrong, but just a few weeks ago at work a sheriff's deputy walked through the parking garage running plates actively fishing for expired and out of state registration because a coworker had their license plate stolen. If I had left my R33 there with out of state plates it's very likely that they would have noticed and I would've had to deal with more headaches than I already do.

I'm still not at G&K unfortunately but I'm not too far from getting my car ready for them. You really want to reduce the amount of variables they have to contend with to get your car through emissions. Personally I have disconnected the boost solenoid and I'm going to just live with the stock tune until I can get through G&K, then I'm going to try and replicate the OEM map on a Haltech, then do a proper low boost + high boost tune.

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Hi Josh,

Thanks man, always appreciate your input.  So two things, for the California 91 Octane, Mines actually has fuel maps for lower octane.  Nismo asked me to teach them the octane of the state I'll end up in and they'll install the appropriate fuel map.  Apparently they've done quite a bit of work with the American market and have made maps for fuel octanes in the US, state specific.    

For the fuel kit, Nimso also worked with Mines and has a map for it. The plan was to install the intake manifold, fuel kit and Mines VX rom fuel map for it.   

Sounds like the good news is the mods that i've done/plan to do won't impact what G&K need to do too much.  I have the OEM exhaust but after what you said I think I'll pick up another beat up one before I head back.   I will probably follow your lead as well and go Haltech one day, however, I may do another tour here in Japan so I may just leave it alone until I figure that out.  They really like Mines VX ROM maps here.  

Also on the page as you about the plate. I don't want any trouble with the police.  Not worth the headache and 1995's are lucky to be eligible to even get a CA plate since it's before OBD2 requirement kicks in.  

One more question for you, are you or do you plan to work directly with G&K or will you use Top Rank to facilitate things?  I'm thinking I won't be able to get any support from Top Rank on importing so I may go through Garage Defend but not sure how it works on the US side of things upon arrival.  My two year shaken (like Smog) is coming up in March 2022 and was thinking to just ship the car to my Parent's house in CA until I move back later in the year.  Not even sure if I can just ship it and pick it up at the dock then tow home.

Edited by Hella_GTR
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On 12/17/2021 at 7:58 PM, Hella_GTR said:

Hi Josh,

Thanks man, always appreciate your input.  So two things, for the California 91 Octane, Mines actually has fuel maps for lower octane.  Nismo asked me to teach them the octane of the state I'll end up in and they'll install the appropriate fuel map.  Apparently they've done quite a bit of work with the American market and have made maps for fuel octanes in the US, state specific.    

For the fuel kit, Nimso also worked with Mines and has a map for it. The plan was to install the intake manifold, fuel kit and Mines VX rom fuel map for it.   

Sounds like the good news is the mods that i've done/plan to do won't impact what G&K need to do too much.  I have the OEM exhaust but after what you said I think I'll pick up another beat up one before I head back.   I will probably follow your lead as well and go Haltech one day, however, I may do another tour here in Japan so I may just leave it alone until I figure that out.  They really like Mines VX ROM maps here.  

Also on the page as you about the plate. I don't want any trouble with the police.  Not worth the headache and 1995's are lucky to be eligible to even get a CA plate since it's before OBD2 requirement kicks in.  

One more question for you, are you or do you plan to work directly with G&K or will you use Top Rank to facilitate things?  I'm thinking I won't be able to get any support from Top Rank on importing so I may go through Garage Defend but not sure how it works on the US side of things upon arrival.  My two year shaken (like Smog) is coming up in March 2022 and was thinking to just ship the car to my Parent's house in CA until I move back later in the year.  Not even sure if I can just ship it and pick it up at the dock then tow home.

You can try and go for it, it might be ok if Mine's does a really good job for their tune. Little stuff really counts in these tests. Basically 91 AKI in California is broadly speaking something like 95 RON in Japan. It's also E10 so the stoichiometric ratio isn't quite the same, but it's not too far off.

Toprank isn't really helping me with regard to preparing for CA registration, they did do the translated dereg certificate and all of that paperwork so I just need the emissions certificate from G&K, smog ref, and the VIN verification. I ended up wanting to do crazy stuff like replacing every vacuum line, hose clamp, and coolant line on the intake side of the engine under the plenum/manifold so that has been taking forever between unexpected issues, parts I forgot to order, and the realities of having a day job. I feel crazy but every time I look at all the hoses I took off, half of them either ripped one end clean off or the inner rubber stuck to the metal coolant pipe instead of the rubber hose upon removal. I'm going to have to work directly with G&K. Hopefully with all the heavy lifting I've already done my car will get through G&K smoothly but it's really anyone's guess what will happen there.

Keep in mind that when you ship the vehicle you need to have someone ready at the port to get the car through customs and out of the port. Otherwise you're going to start paying hefty dock fees while random dock workers joyride your car. It's really important to get the car out of port right away when it shows up.

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Dang man if you've got any recommendations on companies that have access to the dock to get the car through customs and out of the port, please let me know.  I hear Top Rank won't work with people unless you buy from them.  I will do some additional google'ing as well though.  I was thinking of doing container shipping for my car versus roll on roll off but haven't looked at the price differences yet.  Gosh, it seems so much easier just staying in Japan lol.  

Also I met again with Nismo over the weekend and they recommended not to do the Nismo fuel kit for going to California just to be safe.  They said they can do a fuel map for 95 RON for California or even 96 RON if I end up in Washington though which is nice.  My current Mines fuel map is stellar, car runs like it came this way from the factory and I get about 18-20mpg depending on traffic.  

How do you go about buying parts in the US?  It's so nice here how I can just run to nissan to get what I need and/or yahoo auctions.  Either way I hope you get your car running soon and into G&K for that Cali plate.  Would be pretty sweet driving down PCH in a BCNR33. 

Thanks man, cheers.

---Evan

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On 12/20/2021 at 10:39 AM, Hella_GTR said:

My current Mines fuel map is stellar, car runs like it came this way from the factory and I get about 18-20mpg depending on traffic

There's a big difference between "runs really well" and "runs good and passes CA emissions". Any monkey can get a fuel map right so that it is safe for the engine, makes good power and has good responses to dynamics (throttle changes, boost ramps, etc). But what is good and fine for power and engine safety might simultaneously make a metric shit ton of CO or NOx. If you're lucky there is a narrow window in the "drives nice and makes power" solution space where you also have acceptable emissions. Otherwise, compromises to power, driveability, fuel consumption, etc etc will have to be made to keep it within the legal limits. This is OEM level tuning, not really aftermarket level tuning. Some tuners will never know how to achieve both. Some will have no trouble in some jurisdictions, but maybe only a few tuners are good enough to nail it for the really tough jurisdictions like the people's republic of CA.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This whole emissions thing sounds like a pain.  George from G&K said my car needs to be 100% stock to go through CA compliance testing which would be a pain for me to put back the old turbos which are 26 years old.  I was hoping they can use the Nismo R1 turbos, manifolds, original ECU and install a front pipe/exhaust with a bunch of cat converters on it to pass emissions testing.  Guess it's not that easy.  I also don't plan to swap back the turbos so I guess i'll try to find a job elsewhere.  I was hoping Top Rank could help facilitate and make any necessary temporary changes to get it to pass but no luck in getting a response from them.  GT-R life in Japan is so much easier lol.  

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On 12/19/2021 at 6:39 PM, Hella_GTR said:

Dang man if you've got any recommendations on companies that have access to the dock to get the car through customs and out of the port, please let me know.  I hear Top Rank won't work with people unless you buy from them.  I will do some additional google'ing as well though.  I was thinking of doing container shipping for my car versus roll on roll off but haven't looked at the price differences yet.  Gosh, it seems so much easier just staying in Japan lol.  

Also I met again with Nismo over the weekend and they recommended not to do the Nismo fuel kit for going to California just to be safe.  They said they can do a fuel map for 95 RON for California or even 96 RON if I end up in Washington though which is nice.  My current Mines fuel map is stellar, car runs like it came this way from the factory and I get about 18-20mpg depending on traffic.  

How do you go about buying parts in the US?  It's so nice here how I can just run to nissan to get what I need and/or yahoo auctions.  Either way I hope you get your car running soon and into G&K for that Cali plate.  Would be pretty sweet driving down PCH in a BCNR33. 

Thanks man, cheers.

---Evan

You can try Pacific Coast JDM or Wolfreign Motors. Wolfreign is in Oakland so if you're based in NorCal it may be easier for you. Buying parts in the US you can often find many parts for these cars listed in Nissan US dealer catalogs.

On 1/2/2022 at 8:24 PM, Hella_GTR said:

This whole emissions thing sounds like a pain.  George from G&K said my car needs to be 100% stock to go through CA compliance testing which would be a pain for me to put back the old turbos which are 26 years old.  I was hoping they can use the Nismo R1 turbos, manifolds, original ECU and install a front pipe/exhaust with a bunch of cat converters on it to pass emissions testing.  Guess it's not that easy.  I also don't plan to swap back the turbos so I guess i'll try to find a job elsewhere.  I was hoping Top Rank could help facilitate and make any necessary temporary changes to get it to pass but no luck in getting a response from them.  GT-R life in Japan is so much easier lol.  

George will tell you one thing, and he's telling you what will be simplest for him. He knows how to get a stock GT-R to pass, he doesn't have to deal with any unexpected nonsense showing up to make it difficult. He also doesn't want to deal with more problems with the smog referee, even if your car does pass FTP-75 + SHED evap testing smog referees have been known to balk at things like standalone ECUs, aftermarket exhaust/intake parts, etc. Like me he is going to be very concerned that the ECU tune is not going to be good enough to pass emissions. 

You can keep the turbos but you're going to have to run them at low boost so they stay within reasonable bounds of the factory map. The FTP-75 test is very conservative so you won't be getting deep into boost or anything. My suggestion is to talk to your Nismo Performance Center about building you the 95 RON tune as well as sourcing a stock tune ECU for you. If the wastegate boost pressure is already below 1 bar I would leave that alone and just pull the wastegate solenoid harness connector, cap both ends to keep the wires from corroding and run the stock tune for G&K. Turbos are just air compressors/flow restrictors on the exhaust, so they don't really have huge implications for emissions when swapped out with a MAF-based ECU especially when the R1 turbos are so close to stock. Once you get it past initial registration you can swap ECUs/exhausts/etc, the tailpipe tests afterwards are trivial by comparison.

Of course you can try running the Mine's ECU through G&K with a 95 RON tune but keep in mind if it fails it's going to be your money and more time spent at G&K.

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Hi Josh,

So you're thinking the same thing I'm thinking.  I was planning on just using an original series 1 ECU on the r1 turbos and also bring a 95 RON Minex VX ecu to swap in after the compliance work is done.  I don't know if I'd need to swap back in stock turbo elbows or not but as you said, the R1 turbos are pretty similar to stock and I run the OEM MAF sensors and air intake box.  I only run 0.9 BAR to keep things safe on the car as well and no external boost controller (boost is controlled by the ECU).  Hmm ok let me ask him if he'll consider doing my car with the R1 turbo's and an original unopened ECU and they can install however many cat converters they need on my OEM exhaust or another one I pick up while here.  Hopefully he'll entertain the idea at least.  If so, it really opens more doors for places to work and it was pretty much why I got the 1995 BCNR33 in the first place (to get through CA compliance).

That is also really good news about the Nissan dealers having access to Skyline parts.  I was worried about that.  I love being able to run to Nissan when I need a part.

Thanks man and I'll report back with what George says.

---Evan

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On 1/2/2022 at 10:01 PM, Hella_GTR said:

Hi Josh,

So you're thinking the same thing I'm thinking.  I was planning on just using an original series 1 ECU on the r1 turbos and also bring a 95 RON Minex VX ecu to swap in after the compliance work is done.  I don't know if I'd need to swap back in stock turbo elbows or not but as you said, the R1 turbos are pretty similar to stock and I run the OEM MAF sensors and air intake box.  I only run 0.9 BAR to keep things safe on the car as well and no external boost controller (boost is controlled by the ECU).  Hmm ok let me ask him if he'll consider doing my car with the R1 turbo's and an original unopened ECU and they can install however many cat converters they need on my OEM exhaust or another one I pick up while here.  Hopefully he'll entertain the idea at least.  If so, it really opens more doors for places to work and it was pretty much why I got the 1995 BCNR33 in the first place (to get through CA compliance).

That is also really good news about the Nissan dealers having access to Skyline parts.  I was worried about that.  I love being able to run to Nissan when I need a part.

Thanks man and I'll report back with what George says.

---Evan

There's really no point in bothering him about it, I don't even know if he knows what those turbos are. If you insist on having the discussion tell him it's an R34 N1 turbo which is basically a direct bolt-on give or take an oil feed banjo bolt. Keep in mind that the Nissan US catalog is not exhaustive, any part that is not shared with any US model car won't be available through most dealers. I'm currently dealing with a "fun" problem in which the intake plenum dowels are listed in the US dealer catalog but they're restricted to GT-R VINs only and the dealer was very confused by my VIN. I use PartsForNissan for any chassis-specific parts if I'm not in a rush to get the part or if it's available through their stock. If I need a part right away only stocked by Nissan Japan the fastest method is Amayama or Terra Firma. Both are expensive, but sometimes there is literally no other option.

If you're going to be in the SF Bay Area let me know, I can plug in my Consult cable and take some logs of the ECU to verify that it'll be safe to run at least for G&K. It doesn't provide a ton of data compared to Nistune but it's enough to infer some things based on what the ECU is reporting.

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Thanks again. Hmmm it kinda sounds like I should just tell him my car is original and let him try. Just worried that if he won't accept it when he sees it in person then I'll be out of luck. Basically if they won't accept my car then my plan was to not move back to California so I'd really like to know before I find a new job back stateside. I don't want to move to California then find out I'm out of luck basically. I was hoping Top Rank could give me some advice too. 

I appreciate the offer for checking out the data from my ecu but yeah the plan was to only move to California if the car was OK, rather than the other way around. I'll try George one more time and go from there I guess. Also thanks for the tips on exporters to the US! 

 

Thanks again 

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On 1/3/2022 at 6:08 AM, Hella_GTR said:

Thanks again. Hmmm it kinda sounds like I should just tell him my car is original and let him try. Just worried that if he won't accept it when he sees it in person then I'll be out of luck. Basically if they won't accept my car then my plan was to not move back to California so I'd really like to know before I find a new job back stateside. I don't want to move to California then find out I'm out of luck basically. I was hoping Top Rank could give me some advice too. 

I appreciate the offer for checking out the data from my ecu but yeah the plan was to only move to California if the car was OK, rather than the other way around. I'll try George one more time and go from there I guess. Also thanks for the tips on exporters to the US! 

 

Thanks again 

Honestly I think the problem there is entirely whether George feels like answering you. My experience is years and years ago he was curious about the idea of testing out HKS VCAM on these cars to try and extract better emissions, but he made it clear that anything deviating from what he knows how to do would be more time + money that the customer would be on the hook for. Like I said before the R1 turbos are fine, the real question mark is the ECU tune.

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On 1/4/2022 at 4:51 AM, joshuaho96 said:

Honestly I think the problem there is entirely whether George feels like answering you. My experience is years and years ago he was curious about the idea of testing out HKS VCAM on these cars to try and extract better emissions, but he made it clear that anything deviating from what he knows how to do would be more time + money that the customer would be on the hook for. Like I said before the R1 turbos are fine, the real question mark is the ECU tune.

Hmmm yeah my worry is that he's too busy to even give me the time.  I wrote him a nice email and tried to explain that the R1 turbos are similar to original with all connections the same as it was at the factory, no stand-alone fuel management, no external boost controller, original fuel system, and everything was installed at Nissan Prince Tokyo.  I also said I will buy an original un-opened ECU to plug in during testing.  I offered to pay the additional fees as well if it requires additional time.  But yeah if I get no help from him then I'm out of luck unless there's another shop that is certified and willing to help but no idea if that exists.  I'll let ya know if he agrees to work with me on getting a California plate man.  Thanks again  

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On 1/3/2022 at 1:29 PM, Hella_GTR said:

Hmmm yeah my worry is that he's too busy to even give me the time.  I wrote him a nice email and tried to explain that the R1 turbos are similar to original with all connections the same as it was at the factory, no stand-alone fuel management, no external boost controller, original fuel system, and everything was installed at Nissan Prince Tokyo.  I also said I will buy an original un-opened ECU to plug in during testing.  I offered to pay the additional fees as well if it requires additional time.  But yeah if I get no help from him then I'm out of luck unless there's another shop that is certified and willing to help but no idea if that exists.  I'll let ya know if he agrees to work with me on getting a California plate man.  Thanks again  

You could contact JK Technologies in Baltimore, they might be certified. At any rate I really don’t know why you’re trying to get approval from G&K. I am not at all surprised that their response to you was just digging their heels in. Super normal for them. It’s really not that hard to get an otherwise stock R33 with R1 turbos and minor exhaust changes to pass as-is. It’s not like you’re trying to get something with drag cams to pass. You cannot even tell what turbos are on the car without removing the heat shields. I would just use the stock tune as mentioned and run low boost.

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Posted (edited)
On 1/5/2022 at 8:12 PM, joshuaho96 said:

You could contact JK Technologies in Baltimore, they might be certified. At any rate I really don’t know why you’re trying to get approval from G&K. I am not at all surprised that their response to you was just digging their heels in. Super normal for them. It’s really not that hard to get an otherwise stock R33 with R1 turbos and minor exhaust changes to pass as-is. It’s not like you’re trying to get something with drag cams to pass. You cannot even tell what turbos are on the car without removing the heat shields. I would just use the stock tune as mentioned and run low boost.

Sorry I thought G&K was the only one who were certified to do CARB compliance. I assumed I had no choice but to use them. Didn't know there was another route. Also, there's just not much info out there which is why I've been looking for any good US based forums sites. That said, I just looked at JK and they do say they can do CARB but it's not that clear. I have no idea how they do it from Maryland unless it's not necessary to be in California for the testing. Either way I will reach out to them and see if they can help and willing to work with me.  Or maybe you mean I should have just not told G&K about the turbos I have. I always planned on running the car with a virgin OEM ECU for compliance work. No boost controller on the car so should be low boost. This would probably be easier if I was stateside... I'll do more research as well.  I just don't want to relocate to California and find out I can't get my car in compliance. I only want to move there if I know for sure it'll get through. If not I'll find a job in a different state basically. Hope that makes sense.

Thanks for the help. 

Edited by Hella_GTR
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On 1/5/2022 at 2:04 PM, Hella_GTR said:

lol ok JK said to return it to stock or register it in Nevada and they can't help.  Good times.

All I can tell you is that I know people that got past G&K without a fully stock RB. A turbo is just an air compressor driven by a pinwheel in the exhaust. 

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On 1/6/2022 at 7:42 PM, joshuaho96 said:

All I can tell you is that I know people that got past G&K without a fully stock RB. A turbo is just an air compressor driven by a pinwheel in the exhaust. 

Agreed man. Unfortunately G&K won't work with me so I'm stuck unless I just tell them I put it back to stock and hope they don't notice. Just some risk in that for me if I take a job in California and they decide they won't help me. 

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Just chipping  to say I am blown away by your commitment to decide where to live based on your car. Hope it works out!

 

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