Gullwing by AMG.
This is not a joke. Repeat: this is not a joke.
Gullwing by AMG.
This is not a joke. Repeat: this is not a joke.
NISMO’s Omori Factory is wonderland to Nissan buffs. Located in the Tsurumi district of Yokohama city, a few stops from Nissan’s own global headquarters, this is the magic workshop where customers bring in their cars for maintenance, repair, and to be fitted with shiny new equipment hand-picked from NISMO’s palatable parts catalogue, which you can also purchase individually from the gift shop. In the adjacent showroom, you’ll find relics from Nissan’s storied racing history and, from what I hear, a 1-of-20 R34 Z-Tune glowering at you as you walk in. Reason enough to pay a visit.
One of the unique services that Omori Factory also offers is a complete restoration and tuning upgrade of your beloved Skyline. When’s the last time a manufacturer offered that kind of support for their old products? Apparently, the NISMO folks take their sports car heritage very, very seriously.
Back in August of 2017, Ottomobile released a model of Omori Factory’s “Clubman Race Spec”, a restored and aggressively-tuned R34 GT-R whose purpose is to claim the title of “ultimate street car”. NISMO essentially took all of their most expensive parts and threw them into one car, creating this Z-Tune lookalike. Though Otto’s model wasn’t a perfect replica—many complained about the shape of the lights and the nose—it was the perfect stepping stone to the much pricier AUTOart models. This was also a variant that had not received much exposure outside of a now hard-to-find Ignition Model, piquing the interest of a specific niche of hardcore Skyline collectors who stop at nothing to collect any and every flavor of Godzilla.
Wha—what are you looking at me for?
Truth be told, I actually had no idea what Omori Factory was until Otto brought it up. Now I wish I had known years before, when I was within walking distance of their shop. Bookmarked for next time.
Nearly two years later, Otto has come around again for a spectacular encore, bestowing us with Omori Factory’s “Grand Touring Car”. This is a restored and upgraded R33 GT-R that, as the name suggests, is designed primarily for street use, in contrast to the more track-focused Clubman. That means that creature comforts stay intact and the power boost is not as absurd. The R33 has always been viewed more as a cruiser anyway, so this approach better suits its perceived image. Both machines are jaw-dropping, but I’ll always prefer the smoother lines of the 33.
So here’s how Omori Factory’s restoration program works: bring in your R33 (provided they deem it in worthy condition) and let their magicians breathe new life into it. They’ll tear it down to the bones and put it back together, piece by piece, replacing its original, worn-down components and injecting your Skyline with loads of new gear. Remember that NISMO parts are essentially OEM Nissan parts, thoroughly R&D’d and tested, and are installed by their own technicians, so the work is guaranteed to be of the highest quality.
It’s like going to the dealership today and buying a brand new R33, albeit for a six-figure sum on top of whatever you paid for the base car—again, potentially justifiable because of the amount of detail-intensive work involved. They even (legally) reset the odometer to zero for evidence, paperwork and all, which you definitely can’t get by taking your GT-R to your local mechanic. Short of a Delorean and a flux capacitor, this is the only way to get a brand new Skyline in 2019.
Okay—maybe you won’t get the new car smell, but that’s a health hazard you’d want to avoid anyway.
My first high-end 1:18 model, the catalyst and gateway drug, was a R33 GT-R. My second one was too and, somewhere along the way, a handful more have wound up in my possession. You really can never have too many Skylines.
Which brings me to today’s subject: number eight.
Matching the Clubman, the Grand Touring Car is painted in metallic dark grey to mimic NISMO’s own show car. This is a R33 that can challenge the vaunted 400R in its visuals. The exterior modifications, in typical NISMO fashion, are showy without ever being too much. From the added muscle to the dry carbon wing to the incredible NISMO LM GT4 wheels manufactured by RAYS (seriously…some of the best wheels ever designed), this is one clean Skyline. The proportions on the model look good, but I think the shade of grey is a little off. The interior is simplistic, but Otto got the most important detail right: the Grand Touring Car swaps out the R33’s stock steering wheel for the sleeker unit from the R34.
We all know that this generation has proven to be less popular than the others, but the tide has started to shift. The AUTOart models that went out of production not too long ago have already shot up to stratospheric values, and models of the R33 GT-R have dried up quickly in the past couple years. I’m glad I got my fix while they were still attainable; this Otto comes at an opportune time, so get yours while you can.
Kyosho, we need to have a talk.
We need to have a talk about quality.
But first, the background:
This is Kyosho’s model of the Audi R8 GT, the steroid-enhanced brother of the first-gen R8s (for details, specifications, and expert reviews, I invite you to consult the Google and Wikipedia bibles) and, in my opinion, the most desirable R8 that has been produced to date, either generation. The canards, the wing, the intricate gunmetal rims—they add the right amount of aggression to a supercar that I would otherwise classify as “dull” and “boring”. This car has been lingering on my want list for a while, and I finally drew a line through it after stumbling upon a nice deal on this Suzuka Grey example.
The R8 GT is a dated model that’s likely nearing the end of its shelf life, but with its high-end detail, diecast body, and opening features all-around—not to mention the fact that the R8 GT looks absolutely gorgeous in this icy-cool shade of matte light grey—it checks all the right boxes, in theory.
When the package arrived at the doorstep, I hastily cracked open my shiny new toy, only to have my expectations immediately tempered. Something was off, and it became apparent once the R8 was shed of its styrofoam padding. The first eyesore to catch my attention was that each wheel on the car had a different offset and “stance”, some poking out of the fenders, some saggy and droopy, and others more well-behaved. I set the car down on my desk and found the Audi to be a wobbly mess. That’s because the left rear has been compressed into its fender, throwing off the balance of the entire model.
I pressed for more. Playing with the finicky steering system, I discovered that the R8 had more rotation in one direction than the other. Okay, no big deal. Then I looked the GT in the eyes and saw its murky, fingerprint-infested headlight covers. Does this remind you of another diecast company? Yup, it’s the literal 1:18 equivalent of the “Greenlight syndrome”. Small-scale collectors will know what I’m talking about. Whipping out my figurative microscope for further inspection, I found more demerits against the Kyosho. Tons of blemishes in the paint. Nasty glue marks on the rear decklid. Sloppy carbon-fiber decal job. Among others.
In summary, this Kyosho R8 GT has a laundry list of issues, and it looks something like this:
Inconsistent offset, toe, and camber angles
One wheel has “bottomed out”, doesn’t touch the ground, and doesn’t roll well
Steering system not smooth in operation (tires get caught inside fenders)
Fingerprints and smudges on headlight lenses
Scratches on auxiliary window pieces
Sharp edges around the carbon-fiber areas
Sloppy paint alignment on trim pieces
Random scratch marks, air bubbles, and scuffs in the body paint
Glue stains near the base of the wing
You get the point.
That’s more flaws than is acceptable on any model, irrelevant of price. A $100 “adult collectible” shouldn’t be allowed to leave the factory in this state. After conferring with another collector who owns the highly-coveted Samoa Orange colorway—and recalling my past experiences with older Kyosho models—I came to the conclusion that my lemon R8 wasn’t merely an outlier.
I’m not singling out the GT because of my general disdain for Audis, but because this is hands-down the worst example of quality I’ve seen on a 1:18. There was once a time when Kyosho was considered to be AUTOart’s closest competitor in the 1:18 market but, in actuality, it wasn’t even close. Too many quality inconsistencies and lack of product diversity are the reasons why Kyosho got left in the dust.
There’s so much to love about this model, though, that I’d much rather have it on my shelf than not. From a reasonable distance, this R8 looks right in every aspect. The colors work seamlessly; the gunmetal wheels pair nicely with the carbon-fiber pieces and the red brake calipers complement the red ‘GT’ badges and red hits on the interior—all of which contrast sharply with the almost-white tint of Suzuka Grey. (I made sure not to expose the photos too much so that the car does not appear white.) This is one of the few Kyosho models I’ve seen that uses actual struts. There’s even some mesh here.
The details are all present, but they couldn’t figure out how to put everything together in a tidy way. Too bad.
The latest JDM treat from our favorite resin model juggernaut is the FD2-generation Civic Type R, one that many fans have been waiting to see in the eighteenth scale. This is undoubtedly the coolest Civic ever, though the current Type R is capable of inducing nearly as many oohs and aahs. The mid-2000s saw the Civic really separate itself from its competitors, sporting a new, edgier, more futuristic vibe that Honda has maintained all the way to the present day. Unlike the Corollas and Sentras of the world, it didn’t just want to fit in as yet another boring economy car. And, unlike those two, the Civic actually had a true, high-performance variant—not some half-baked “sport” trim—that vaulted it into sports car territory.
That would be the Type R.
We’re talking, here, about a Civic that thoroughly outperforms the Euro-spec FN2 Type R and shames even Honda’s own DC5 Integra Type R—both of which carry two fewer doors and the latter of which is an actual sports car. What kind of sorcery is this CTR wielding—I mean, there’s gotta be more than just the VTEC kicking in, right? Weight savings, for starters, through the heavy use of aluminum and removal of sound-proofing materials. In doing so, Honda successfully trimmed the Civic’s mass to just a hair over that of the Integra. The four-door structure also has its inherent benefits, providing the Civic with far superior body rigidity than its siblings. Completing the upgrade is the new, independent rear suspension that only the Japan-exclusive FD2 got. This was a luxury that the FN2 was denied and largely the reason why it underperformed on the track, drawing the ire of many a European. Complain all you want, mate, but at least it’s better than the Civic Si we got over here.
The sum of all those parts, according to experts and journalists, is one of the best-handling, front-wheel drive cars ever made. Their words, not mine. I do, however, love the way this car looks. Obviously, it has that big wing going for it—you know I’m a sucker for those things—but otherwise, the visual differences between a Type R and your grandma’s Civic are embarrassingly pedestrian compared to the mutilations that Subaru performs on their Imprezas and Mitsubishi on their Lancers. In this regard, the Civic Type R is a sleeper, and subtlety is the key. The exterior package includes a revised front bumper and a rear diffuser that you probably didn’t notice until I mentioned it. The unique wheels, seven-spokes similar in design to those worn by past Type R legends, are the best means of identifying this special cupcake. Red Honda badges, a favorite accessory option amongst wannabes who drive lesser Hondas, signify this car’s Type R pedigree and are actually appropriate here because this Civic is the real deal.
As is customary with most of Otto’s JDM releases these days, they produce them in multiple colorways, and I do my best to grab all of them once they become available for order. The best Civic ever demands the same preferential treatment. White-on-white is the de facto color combination for any Type R Honda, but the blue-on-silver example will make you question tradition. For the record, the only real one I’ve seen in person was black—marvelous all the same—and I was sitting on a bus looking down at it, eyes fixated and awestruck, as we cruised in tandem down the road. Good times.
Remember the special-edition Mugen Si? That’s what this blue one reminds me of. Here’s hoping that Otto tweaks the tooling on this Civic and gives us one of those too. (and in case you haven’t heard, a Mugen RR is coming soon!)