Saturday, August 18, 2007

15 months and 20,600km later

Latest picture of the Slowtra basking in the evening sun outside my friend's lovely house.
Quality of the car is outstanding and everything's been problem free with the interior still rattle free despite some hard driving. Only downside are the paranoid reverse sensors which beep away the moment I hit reverse gear. Even when the nearest object/wall from my rear bumper is miles away. Have asked TCEAS to fix this 3 times and it's still the same. Oh Boy! :(

The Bridgestone Potenza RE050As are really superb. The effect overall is akin to my shocks being revalved. The stiffer sidewalls means there's less flex and corner turn-in is more positive than the Michelin PP2s I was using previously. The car feels more lighter, more nimble and responsive too! Noise level's pretty consistent and I would rate about the same as PP2s. Despite the stiffer sidewalls I personally prefer the ride quality over the PP2s. Unfortunately I'm getting some noticeable scrapping sounds under full lock. I guess the RE050As must be coming into contact with the inner wheel arch fender. Strange as I never had any contact problem with the same sized Michelin PP2s. I guess one 205 series tyre model will have slightly different width from another different model. Not too bothered but might explore some Eibach wheel spacers later.

Oh.. the stupid power steering & aircond belt is getting squeaky noisy again despite me using Jap made Nissan "Key Value" 2nd Grade belts. Get to hear bloody "chit chit" sounds everytime the engine's cold. Really paiseh for a car looking this fierce. Time to maybe import some original 1st grade Nissan belts from Japan but they're not cheap mind you.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Rays Engineering Gram Lights 57S Wheels + Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Tyres

OK, I know my BBS RK + Michelin PP2 tyres are only about 7 months old but the more I look at the Slowtra the more I felt the car looked a little bland with silver coloured wheels. Bronze, Gunmetal or Black wheels are seriously required to make the car look less Uncle like. Getting more expensive the more I look at the car.. Midlife crisis again or maybe I should just stop looking at the car?

For a long time I was really again contemplating the SSR Type C to the point that I was going to drive down to Sillypore just to install the rims. Lotsa office work and my house reno prevented that. Then one night I was researching my old Option/Option2 mags for some other thing when the Gramlights 57s ad in the October 2003 issue of Option 2 magazine caught my eye. Love at first sight? More research soon had me thinking these were perhaps the right wheel for me. For one thing The GL 57S (short for Rays Engineering Gram Lights 57S.. phew, the Japs/Rays are really wordy) are cast rims so should prove cheaper though heavier than the Volk Racing TE37s I was also crazilly considering. No kidding. Ask Jacko on that. The 57S is also unfortunately very slightly also heavier than the BBS RK by bout 200 grammes but what the heck! That's not going to make much difference to the Slowtra's performance or lack of. Was also thinking bout shudder the Nismo/Rays LM-GT4 but that was unavailable in the size I wanted nor the Slowtra's fitment. Anyway budget and logic got the better of me and I soon decided I was gonna go for the Gram Lights 57S. It helps when TE37s are on backorder till July and the price for 4 rims would set me back more than 6K! The 57S is only RM4.5K. Rays wheels are definitely not cheap!

I was going to order the 57s direct from Japan but then decided to give my usual tyre guy at Goh Swee Hin a call to see if perhaps he was able to get the 57S. The Gods of branded wheels must have been shining on me that day when he said he could get those wheels. Better still he can trade in my BBS for decent price. Thank you Mr. Goh @ Goh Swee Hin Jalan Dato Keramat! The only downside to all this was that my rims would take bout 2 months to arrive from JDM land.

Again the Gods of branded wheels must have shining on me again when Mr Goh called me a scant 4 weeks later telling me that my rims had arrived. Unbelievable!. Pix below of my 57S still in the box. There are 2 rims per box.

My wheel specs

Pix of the 57S removed from box. Lovely! Quality is simply unbelievable and simply the best even compared to the like of SSR and BBS. Find it hard to believe the 57S is a cast wheel as the quality and surface finish is more akin a forged wheel..

My rims were manufactured on May 9th 2007. Very new..
By this time the poison had really set in deep and I decided I was going to also get myself some new tyres as I could also get a good trade-in price for my PP2s. The PP2s while having excellent grip in the wet had a wee bit too much noise for my liking at low speeds. Plus the sound was getting more after bout 7K+ of mileage. In the end my choice was limited to the following 3 makes as I wanted similar or better performance (ie grip, steering feedback and roadholding) of the PP2s while giving less noise (hopefully):
  • Continental Conti Sport Contact 3 or CSC3
  • Bridgestone Potenza RE001 Adrenaline
  • Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
The Conti CSC3s unfortunately was not avail for my size while Mr Goh doubted the RE001 Adrenalines would be considered an "upgrade" over the PP2 so in the end I settled on the RE050As per his and my Bro from The Star Motoring Anthony Lim's recommendation.

Per Tire Rack on the RE050A:
"The Potenza RE050A features a high grip tread compound molded into an asymmetric tread design, where a continuous center rib, large tread blocks and stable shoulder elements provide responsive handling, high-speed stability and traction on dry roads. Circumferential and lateral tread grooves are aimed to pump water out from under the tire's footprint to minimize hydroplaning and aid wet traction. Internally, the Potenza RE050A features twin steel belts reinforced by spiral-wrapped nylon to stabilize the tread area and enhance handling, high-speed capability and ride quality while minimizing weight. The fabric cord body and hard rubber sidewall filler help blend ride quality with steering response and lateral stability"

Unfortunately each tyre cost Rm650 per tyre for my sizing. Arrggghh! On Bro Anthony's very strong recomendation I bit the bullet, enlarged my wallet and ordered the tyres which dutifully arrived about a week later. Pix below of my tyres.

Closer pix showing the thread patterns and label. Label says "RE050" but tyre sidewall says "RE050A"

Personally I prefer the Conti or Michelin thread pattern to the typical Japanese. Pix below of all the accessories for the 57S. The air inlet/oulet valves are lightweight aluminium anodized black. Sweet! Stickers are DIY. The adapter key is for my Rays lugnuts (not supplied with rims). Centercaps are optional and very expensive (1500 yen/RM44 per cap) but Taukeh Mr Goh ordered for me FOC. Have elected to temporarily not use the center caps as it makes the Slowtra more racecar looking Fnarrrr... There are proper instructions in English on mounting the tyre to rim and maintenance. A first for a Jap wheel manufacturer. Both my previous SSR and Rally Sparco wheels came with only Jap instructions.

Pix of tyre mounted on the rim waiting to be balanced.

More rims waiting to be deflowered!

Installation, on-wheel balancing and alignment took about an hour plus. Also took some time to WD40 and clean my Nismo shocks. Pix of the new wheels and tyres on the Slowtra.

Closeup this morning before application of the "Gram Lights" decals

Took me bout an hour plus to apply the 4 decals (one per wheel) and wax the wheels. Rays did not provide any instructions so I used the ad in my Option 2 mag for reference. What do you think? Personally I feel things look less cluttered without the "Gram Lights" decal.

A closer shot

Close up of the lightweight aluminium valve. These valves can be purchased separately but a set of 4 will set you back around RM150 (1260 yen each) depending on the exchange rate. Valve covers alone are RM5 each. Ouch!

Being a motorsport oriented wheel there's loads of clearance for larger multi-piston calipers. Wilwoods here I come! :p

Close up of the center cap which I'm currently not using. Should I?

That's all for now. More writeup once I get some decent mileage on the RE050As..