Author Archives: Lee Richmond

Lees Land Rover Discovery II being loaded up

In September 2017, I bought my first proper daily driver after several years of being part of the “daily driven drift car” crew. The daily in question was an E36 BMW 316i Compact, and for all intents and purposes was a great little car. I bought it cheap, and as a result it had a few issues. Overheating, being the main one, but I sorted it and carried on, then the day came for its first MOT while in my ownership. It failed on a couple of things but the main reason was the dreaded tin worm.

After investigating the rust I realised the car was too far gone to save, and so it was time to find myself a new daily, but the question was what should I get? I wanted something that was comfortable on long journeys, big enough to be able to get tools and spare wheels, and strong enough to be able to tow my car to and from the race track (once I had passed my towing license.)

I had set a realistic budget for myself, so now all I had to do was find the perfect daily…. Simple, right? At first I toyed with the idea of a transit van or some form of pickup, however after doing some research I had to rule both of these out, as most insurance companies class these as commercial vehicles and so would likely cost more to insure. Most large estate cars were out of the question as while they are comfortable and do have the large boot space, their towing capacity was barely enough to pull a large trailer, let alone a large trailer loaded with a drift car.

The variety was starting to narrow, I had considered something like a Japanese 4×4, however even these seemed to be fetching more than I could afford. Then, I had a thought, there was one vehicle I’d never event thought about but I’d always had a bit of a soft spot for, a Land Rover. I started to look and sure enough there were plenty out there that were well within my budget, however most of these had been heavily modified for off roading and after speaking to a friend of mine who had done a lot of off roading with his own Land Rover, he assured me that if its been modified for off roading, its going to be uncomfortable for long journeys, so I narrowed my search to ones that looked as close to stock as possible.

It didn’t take long before I found a relatively stock early 2000 Discovery 2 TD5 automatic in black for sale within a reasonable distance from where I live, and after viewing it, I decided it was the one for me!

Photo 28-07-2018, 11 02 37

I couldn’t be happier, it ticks every box of my wish list. It comfortably seats 5 people, it has a huge boot, and most of all it has a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes, so when I finally get my trailer license I will be able to tow my car to and from the track with ease.

I can never get enough of watching people throwing a bunch of S-chassis around Meihan course. This video that Animal Style recently released is just that.

Header photo by Narita Dogfight

Close up of Lees Skyline after replacing the fibreglass front wings with stock metal

Anyone who has been following me on Instagram recently will have seen that there have been a few ups and downs with the Skyline. (if you’re not following me on social media yet, the links are in the website footer.)

As you may recall I was due to be driving in a charity event at Driftland at the beginning of May. This was cut short however when just two days before the event I started to hear a tapping from the engine.

After consulting a couple of friends I feared the worst and decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to tow the car all the way up to Scotland just to have it die on me a couple of laps into the event. I, unfortunately, had to give up my spot and turn my attention to diagnosing and confirming the problem, before looking into possible solutions.

We started by listening around the engine bay to see if we could pinpoint where the tapping was coming from. Initially, we thought it to be coming from the back of the engine near the top so we stripped it down to the cams and we were surprised to see that everything looked fine here, there were no bits of metal and no real damage to the camshafts. The noise we heard at the back was clearly a red herring!

Next, we started to look down the front of the engine and using a makeshift stethoscope (a long screwdriver) we could hear a noise coming from the cam angle sensor. Taking it off and inspecting the sensor we found that there was indeed a problem here the bearings inside the sensor were shot and needed to be replaced. A few quid later and a lot of frustration and the sensor was like new. But sadly this was not the cause of the problem.

Continuing to listen around the engine with our stethoscope finally we settled on the water pump being the cause of the noise.

So off I went to the internets to buy a new water pump, and while I was at it I thought it best to replace the timing belt, idler pulley, and tensioner pulley, alternator belt and power steering pump belt since they all had to come off to give me access to the water pump.

Stripping down the engine it soon became clear that I was on the right tracks, the timing belt clearly had never been changed, and the bearings in the idler and tensioner pulleys were both shot!

 

Finally getting the water pump off I was relieved to find bearing in the water pump was also shot and when you spun the impeller it made a terrible noise. Now it came time to put the engine back together and this is where my next problem came…
new water pump installed

new timing belt installed rb20
Behind the crank pulley, there is a large concave washer which at the time I thought I had put on the right way, it later turned out when I started the engine it wasn’t and ended up chewing up the brand new timing belt. So back to the internet I went and ordered another timing belt.

Crank pulley washer installed incorrectly rb20

When it arrived I stripped the engine down AGAIN, removed the knackered belt which by now had made a right mess behind the metal cover, fitted the new complete belt (thankfully the previous belt hadn’t snapped or skipped a tooth so the everything still lined up), put the engine back together and finally the only thing left to do now was to turn the key and try it again.

Aside from a whine from one of the auxiliary belts being a tiny bit too tight, the engine is now working perfectly again, in fact, I would go so far as to say it’s better than ever!

Lees Skyline rear end

A few weeks ago I put the Skyline through its MOT and there were a couple of things it failed on, namely excessive play in the rose joints on the rear trailing arms (toe arms), and the front lower arms. This initially puzzled me since one set of arms had only been fitted a year earlier and on the others, I had replaced the rose joints a year earlier.

The problem turned out to be with the rose joints used in the arms, I had heard a knocking noise in the past but put it down to the fact that I had a welded diff.

So when I was told about the play in these arms I decided to do some research on rose joints and the differences between these and rubber/polyurethane bushes. After doing a fair bit of reading and speaking to people who have had a hand in motorsport for many years one thing became clear.

Male Rose joint

Rose joints are great for vehicles that are only ever going to be run on a race track, they’re much stiffer than rubber/polyurethane however because they are made from metal they tend to transfer even the slightest vibrations through to the chassis. Those who do use rose joints tend to swap them out for new ones regularly to ensure they’re working to the best of their ability.

polyurethane bushes

Hardened rubber/polyurethane bushes on the other hand while being softer than a metal bush and therefore absorbs a lot more of the vibration than a rose joint. So they’re much better suited for a car that is primarily going to be used on the road but also taken to track days.

This led me to take a step back for a moment and ask myself is this car only ever going to be used on a track? Do I want to sacrifice comfort both on my butt and my ears for a marginally stiffer and noisier setup? Do I want another item adding to the maintenance list?

For me, the answer to all the above is no.

The reason for this is, at the moment when I do go to a drift day, I tend to drive the car there, thrash it around the track and then drive home again. This isn’t because I’m hardcore, its simply because I don’t have a towing license. The flipside to this is that I also enjoy being able to take the car out for a run whenever the feeling takes me. Whether it’s to a meet or just for a blast through the countryside.

I decided to do some research on what options were out there and I’m pleased to say that there are companies out there who make aftermarket adjustable arms with either rose joints or hardened rubber bushes.

My excited face... not really, I'm not a girl!

The moral of the story here is, don’t just assume that what is right for one person in terms of your car setup is right for you. Especially when you first start piecing together your first drift car. Chances are they may have been doing it for a long time and only ever drive their car on a track. But if like me you initially can’t afford to run more than one car (a daily, and a drift car) it is likely you will need to make certain compromises to get the stability you want without ruining the overall driveability of your car.

Put simply don’t try to over-engineer your set up too soon, it’s all too easy to buy all the latest and greatest parts to make your “build” awesome! The best way to know what you need is to just get in and drive it, feel it out and then look at the options available to you and then make a decision based on your needs.

I hope this makes sense.

Lees R32 Skyline, when it still had the full BN sports kit

A couple of Fridays ago (16th March) I went along with a friend to a drift day at Oulton Park race circuit. Thankfully I had managed to get the Skyline road legal and ready prior to the event which meant I would be drifting my own car (Yay!!)

early start!

As you can imagine the day started extremely early, we hit the road at 5:30 am and arrived at the track just before 7:30 am. Unloaded the cars, tools and spare wheels and then went to sign on and get some breakfast.

Then while we were waiting for briefing we got our cars ready to hit the track, in my case swapping out the 18’s on the rear for a pair of my 16″ drift wheels and checked the tyre pressures etc.

Once Briefing was over we were told to report to the first of the two tracks they have (for the drift day) and line up in pairs ready for the sighting lap. After we had completed the sighting laps it was pretty much up to us which track we then chose. I opted to start on the track 1 as it was known since I felt it would be the best to give the Skyline a bit of a shakedown.

Before the day started

There were a few problems to start with, the main one being that the last time I had drifted was back in September of last year at Teeside, so I was a little out of practice. The next was that it had been raining heavily prior to our arrival so the track was soaked and even if it hadn’t rained the organisers would have soaked the track to keep the “tyre noise” down. The other issue was that for some reason I could get no front end grip so turning in to initiate turned into understeering off of the track.

The lack of front grip was really frustrating, and before long I came off the track and to try and rectify the problem. First I tried lowering the tyre pressures on the front. Sadly this didn’t work. Then I decided I would swap out the front wheels for the rears. The wheels I had been using to drive around on were a set of 18inch Lehrmeister Riverside split rims, they were staggered fitment so the fronts are 8 inches wide and the rears are 9.5 inches wide.

Now with a much wider wheel on the front, I finally attained enough front grip to allow me to initiate… now all I had to do was get used to the extremely slippery surface on the wet track.

After a while of spinning, going off track and hitting the plastic posts (that we’d been told not to hit during briefing) I was finally starting to get back into it and feel less and less frustrated with myself and the car.

As the day went on I found that there were moments where I would consistently get things right and then others where I would get things wrong and end up spinning like a top.

Overall the day was good for getting back into things after a few months off and definitely got a good amount of seat time and I would drift at Oulton Park again, however, there were one or two downsides for me:

  1. Getting sin-binned because of an overzealous newbie marshall who decided to report even the slightest spin out on his section of track.
  2. The track conditions, I understand that they have to keep the peace with residents who may live near the track but I think on this particular day the GT cars that were hooning around the main circuit were probably making more noise than any drifting could. (Having said that the wet track conditions may have highlighted some previously unknown set up issues with the car, so who knows.)
  3. Spending 20 minutes when I got home cleaning the car, I know some people wouldn’t have bothered but for me, even though it currently looks like something not even Frankensteins monster would be seen dead in I didn’t want it looking like I didn’t care.

dirty girl!

 

Close up of Lees Skyline after replacing the fibreglass front wings with stock metal

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the trials and tribulations of living with my beloved R32 Skyline. The main reason for this has been that the latter part of 2017 was chock-full of fun things going on in my personal life. Chief of which was that Lucy and I finally bought our first home together. It feels great to finally have somewhere we can make our own instead of pouring our hard earned cash into someone else’s pocket. Anyway, I’m getting off the point, but as you can imagine with something as huge as this going on in our lives it needed our full attention so rather than spending time with our beloved cars we had left them sitting on the driveway for a while.

Then at the start of this year I started getting the itch to get back to the track for more skids (and so has Lucy, but more on that later!) After a good friend of mine Steve messaged me asking if I wanted to do a drift day with him at Oulton Park in March, it would have been rude to turn it down. The chance to hit up another track, least of all this one. The reason being that I had actually been to a drift day at this track before with a couple of friends who I knew through work at the time.

We had attended one of these drift experience days where you get to do a specified number of laps in a drift car with an instructor sat in the passenger seat. It was a huge amount of fun even if it was over all too quickly, so the chance to go back there for a full day with my own car was not to be sniffed at.

There were a few small problems that needed addressing before the big day, chief of which was that since we moved house I had declared the car off the road as it needed an MOT and needed some work doing to make sure it was ready for it. Thankfully Steve offered up his garage to work in with it being the middle of winter and freezing cold outside. So the first job was to get the old girl loaded up on his trailer and transported to his house.

Skyline loaded on to the trailer
Skyline loaded on to the trailer

Next (after clearing a space in the garage and unloading the car) it was time to get her up in the air and start unbolting the exhaust, prop shaft and anything else that was going to get in the way of us removing the rear subframe (it’s a big help when your friend has a two post lift in their garage).

R32 Skyline takes off

Once this was done, and the brakes etc. were removed and stowed away safely we loosened the subframe bolts and proceeded to lower the car down to a level where we could rest the subframe on axle stands, finally we lifted the car away from the frame.

The rear subframe off the car

Now it was time to pry the solid bushes out of the subframe. I’ve read mixed things about solid subframe bushes in the past most of which makes a lot of sense. However, having used the car as a daily and a drifter for more than two years I can say that solid bushes are not the way for me personally. They do help to stiffen the backend up, but in return, you end up with a lot more noise from the backend even the most minor of vibrations through the rear subframe turns into a pretty horrific sound and after a while starts to drive you round the bend.

So as I was removing the solid bushes I opted to go for a set of uprated polyurethane subframe bushes from Strongflex UK. I had bought bushes from Strongflex in the past for the Skyline and as well as being great value, I think they’re a great upgrade over stock rubber components.

Rear sbuframe with the solid bushes pryed out
New poly bushes installed

While the subframe was off the car I also took the opportunity to swap out my welded diff for a viscous LSD I had spare, since I’m going to be putting the car through its MOT I needed to make sure there was no reason for the tester to fail it.

With all that bolted back together, we got the subframe bolted back onto the car and mounted everything back up, it was time to move onto the next issue, namely the knackered adjustable front upper control arms. I was promised some stock upper control arms but sadly they never came through. So I was forced to fork out for some more aftermarket ones and prior to fitting, I made sure they were all greased up to ensure that they wouldn’t seize up in the future. While I had the front wheels off it was also time to remove the 40mm wheel spacers I had on the front. While I was running the wider fibreglass front wings they worked pretty well but now that I’ve gone back to stock metal wings they were making me look like I was trying to go for that Formula D, wheels outside of your arch fitment so they had to go.

it felt like we were making good progress so I thought now was a good time to fit the bumpers, the only issue here was that I got rid of the big and by now battered BN Sports body kit some time ago, so they wouldn’t be going back on. But in their place, I had managed to source some OEM bumpers.

The front bumper is an OEM GTS bumper, I would have liked the GTR bumper but it seems they must be rare as poop from a rocking horse, so I went with what I could afford. It does sit pretty high on the front leaving a big gap but I have a plan for that, which I will talk about in a later post.

R32 Skyline front end with GTS bumper

The rear bumper although needing some TLC looks great and its nice to see the iconic “Skyline” writing on the back again… even if someone has painted it pink! I was also a little worried about how the shotgun exhaust might look, but after taking a good look I still think it looks amazing.

R32 Skyline rear end with stock bumper and shotgun exhaust

The last job was a probably the biggest, or at least the one that needed the most thought, the battery relocation. Ever since I bought this car when it had just got off the boat from Japan ( and most likely for many years before that) the car had been running on a tiny Japanese battery. For a long time it had worked great but having left the car standing for a few months it quickly became clear that the battery was old, tired and in need of replacing.

I got myself a decent sized battery and Lucy bought me a battery box for my birthday. It might seem like a strange present to some but I asked her for it. The first step was to look at where, and how we were going to mount the battery box in the boot.

After a bit of discussion we decided it would be best to mount it on the passenger side of the boot floor as there was no fuel tank to get in the way,ad we also decided that we would build a cage to hold the battery in the box, the cage would also have threads that went through the bottom of the box and through the floor to hold everything securely in place.

Steve got to work measuring up for the battery cage while I started to strip the interior of the car ready to run some cable from the boot through to the engine bay.

Battery box with fabricated cage

For safety we put a 125amp megafuse on the postivite cable.

125amp megafuse

To save ourselves some time and work we reused the original battery strap from the engine bay.

battery mounted

The positive cable was routed across the back of the boot floor, then down the drivers side of the cockpit and out through a perfectly sized hole under the dash, then into the engine bay. The cable was kepy in place using P clamps that were screwed to the body at various points.

positive cable routing

And to finish things off all the necessary wiring was connected to the new positive cable in the engine bay using one of these terminal blocks.

Engine bay terminal block

Rubber grommets were used where ever possible to ensure that he cable did not rub on any part of the bodywork. And with that it was time to put her back on the ground and test her for the first time.

not towing a caravan
Just look at that rear!

There are still a couple of small things that need finishing up before I can put the car through it’s MOT, but I think I’m definitely on track to have her back on the road before my first drift day of the year in March.

To continue the story click here

Car spotting at Shibuya, Tokyo

Earlier this year, while on our honeymoon in Japan, Lucy and I decided to do a spot of car spotting.

It was quite a strange experience from a Japanese car lovers perspective, here we were in the country where all our favourite cars originated, and for the most part, over here they were just cars. Something you use on a daily basis to get to and from your place of work, to go on day trips, and visit family or friends.

They do however have a vibrant modified car scene in Japan, and while many of these cars are just used as a daily, they have been modified in some way.

Frustratingly, after we returned to the UK we found out that while we had been there a car meet had taken place at Odaiba parking area, it would have been awesome to have been able to go but still, we saw some amazing cars on our travels.

One evening we took a trip down to Super Autobacs (as you do) and here are a few of the stunning cars we saw.

This G Wagon was super pimp!

Americana seems to be a big thing over in Japan too as you can see above This low riding Chevvy pickup looked badass and below are a couple of examples we found while wandering the streets of Harajuku.

This convertible seemed to be getting a lot of attention from more than just us.

Seeing this group of Lambo’s as they rolled through Shibuya was a sight to behold.

You wouldn’t normally expect to see many cars up a mountain, especially not a volcano but at Mt. Hakone there were.

While walking to Up Garage in Kyoto we spotted this FD3S Mazda RX-7

and this R34 GTT Skyline but we had to be quick with the camera to get the shot!

This 350Z was parked in a parking area just around the corner from Up Garage

Sadly there weren’t many cars in the car park when we got to UG but what were there were pretty cool.

Pink Crown anyone??

Not sure what the nose is on this Swift but it looked interesting!

Finally, we decided to buy some souvenirs from Super Autobacs on our return to Tokyo before our flight home and while we were there we found these beauties sitting in the parking area.

There were so many more stunning cars that we saw on our travels but just weren’t fast enough to get a picture, all you see above are the ones that stood still long enough. It was an absolute dream come true to be able to see the kind of things they do to modify their cars in this part of the world and I hope to see more again in the future.

Lees Skyline rear end

A couple of weeks ago I headed to Teesside Autodrome for my first time as a novice drifter. I had such a good day getting to grips with both my car and the track. Initially things were pretty sketchy especially as this was to be my first time drifting in the wet. However as the day progressed my confidence grew and I managed to get in some pretty decent skids.

The day also helped me to understand how my current set up can be improved in terms of the cars handling etc. I made a short film of my day (made shorter by the fact the camera died in the afternoon!)

I didn’t go with the standard talking to the camera style vlog though as I wanted to try something a bit different, So I hope you enjoy it.

Header photo: Red Eleven Media

Lees R32 Skyline, when it still had the full BN sports kit

Last month Lucy and I took time out from packing and getting readty to move house to have some fun drifting at Santa Pod. Our good friend and fellow drifter Joe Birkett also joined us, partly to hang out, and partly to kick my ass into moving out of the playpen’s and into the kidney.

Overall the car performed as I have come to expect, even if kicking its head in all day did raise one or two small things that need addressing. Despite this I still have a blast killing some tyres.

Thank you to Lynden of 1Mind for the awesome header photo.

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