Jump to content

- - - - -

2,000 Miles of Discovery


58 replies to this topic

#1 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:55 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
Posted Image

I looked for a good place to rendezvous. For miles I'd seen nowhere suitable. It was already dark; the sun had fallen from the horizon a couple hours ago. I looked at the two lane road going off into the distance and I could still see nothing, just blackness. Not finding anywhere decent, I just pulled over onto the side of the road. I didn't bother turning off the car. I looked at the glass multifunction display which reflected what I already knew: the Alpha-9 GT-R wanted to continue for another two thousand miles. I had to smile; that sounded like a good plan to me. My co-driver Chuck was leaned back in the passenger seat, still texting.

I opened the door and went outside for a stretch. It was cold, bitterly cold. From behind the car I looked across the dark, empty terrain and thought, this wasn't the California I thought I knew.

Then I looked up. And my heart sank.



#2 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:55 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
It was a Tuesday night when I arrived into Chicago. Chuck got in a few hours before me. He text me a warning that there was bad weather in the area. He said they'd lost power over at the AMS shop the day before. I asked if the flight was fun. He replied that the plane dropped right prior to landing, and that it was fun in a 'you feel like you're going to die' sort of way. So when we approached O'Hare, I expected my life to flash before my eyes in severe turbulence. When we only got minor drops, and I never felt like we were going to crash, I was almost disappointed. Others on the plane weren't. I guess it's all about expectations.  

Before I knew it I was in Chicago and a couple hours later I was at the hotel. It was a late day for the AMS crew, but by the time I got in, the shop was all but empty.

The next day we got up, bright and early, and made our way to AMS...

Posted Image

There were many things going on at the shop. I figured the lost day of productivity caused by the storm played a role in what I was seeing. From the first of the early morning crew arriving, I watched as they starting taking out all of the cars that would go outside to make room in the shop.  Even though it was early, there were many smiles and jokes as they came in and out. It seemed to be an efficient operation, and when they were done everyone seemed to disappear. I wasn't sure where they all went.  

I walked around and saw the car for the first time. The AMS Shop GT-R, in all of its black Alpha-9 glory. This was the car that Chuck and I would be piloting. It was being prepared for inspection. Up until this point my expectations for the entire trip were near zero, but somehow, seeing the car in the metal changed all that.

Posted Image

The AMS Shop GT-R runs their Alpha-9 turbo package - which, among other things, retains Nissan's factory engine to turbo plumbing and swaps turbo cores. With new cores comes more power, and based on the data, quite a lot of it. While there are different ways to measure power, if you go by Nissan's factory 480hp rating, this setup will- in base form- reliably net 760-860 horsepower. On race fuel or ethanol alternative fuel, those numbers increase substantially.

Posted Image

With the car on a lift, I saw the JRZ Coilovers that had been mentioned to me before. It would be interesting to see how they rode on the street, I thought, remembering how stiff a standard GT-R felt on the road. The car had additional modifications as well, including a carbon composite hood and trunk, as well a stressed carbon composite roof and an Aeromotions wing.  Normally a wing like that would be a laughing matter, but at the right setting the Aeromotions wing fitted would be capable of generating 800lbs of downforce by 200mph. That might sound like an unrealistic number or meaningless speed, but an Alpha-9 GT-R is capable of getting there in less than one mile.

Not far from the car was a stacked set of OEM wheels with Dunlop tires mounted. AMS had asked what tires I wanted for the trip. I could have chosen any of the tires Nissan shipped GT-Rs with: the summer Dunlop SP Sport 600 CTT DSSTs, Bridgestone Potenza RE070Rs, or the "All Season" Dunlop SP Sport 7010 A/S DSSTs. Chuck joked that AMS had slicks as well if I wanted.

Of course, I liked the idea of having the stickiest tires Nissan offers for the car, the Dunlop 600s, especially given the sheer power of the car and the fact that we'd be hunting great driving roads... but the reality of the situation dictated otherwise. We were planning on driving this GT-R for over 2,000 miles from Chicago to Southern California, and were taking a gamble trying to make it through the Colorado mountains in late October/early November. We figured it was entirely possible we'd have to divert south due to weather. It was also possible we'd get caught in inclement conditions- I'd heard that weather hits the mountains fast. With certain below freezing temperatures, a high probability of snow, and visions of spontaneous blizzards forming on us in my head, the decision seemed clear: the All Seasons would be the pick.

Posted Image    Posted Image

The cost in terms of grip didn't seem like it would be significant to us. From what little data I'd seen, a GT-R on these tires was still in the same league, if not faster than a Porsche 997 911 Turbo on its factory Michelin Pilot Sport Cup R Compound tires. Same day testing vs a GT-R on summer Dunlops had the all seasons 3 seconds slower on a 3 minute lap at VIR. Given that neither Chuck nor myself planned on going up against the clock in any competitions, and that neither of us were professional drivers, the All Seasons seemed like they'd be perfect. They'd give us plenty of grip in conditions where the summer tires could do nothing, and would require minimal compromise when the weather was good.

Through much of the rest of the day we talked with Martin Musial, the president of AMS, about the things that were going on at AMS as well as what we were planning for our drive. Since AMS was so far behind due to the power loss it wouldn't be possible to leave on Wednesday. We'd put enough extra time in our schedule to allow for that though so it wasn't a problem.

The next day I saw the GT-R go through final preparation and fluid changes. Apparently the night before, one of the guys at the shop, Justin, took some strings and some funny looking pieces of metal and gave us an alignment. I knew alignments were sometimes done that way, race car style, but I never got the chance to find out more about it. I was confident the car would be fine though- earlier I had accidentally walked into Justin's office, not realizing the World Challenge GT-R that had caught my eye sat in the middle of it.  

Posted Image

I met Justin and learned of the fabrication and extensive chassis and suspension related work he did. I was impressed by the World Challenge GT-R in pics, but in real life, the work was incredibly detailed, thorough, and outright impressive.

Later in the morning, I watched as the Alpha-9 GT-R came down from the lift and was taken out of the shop. Not an hour later it returned. Apparently they wanted to check it themselves first to make sure everything was OK and that they were satisfied. Once that was done, the car was moved around back to the dyno. I'd never seen a GT-R on a dyno so I thought I'd peek in on it to see what was going on.

Posted Image

The AMS dyno room wasn’t small but it was by no means large. It was just enough to very comfortably fit a GT-R and all the computer and machine related equipment necessary. As I watched, the GT-R was tightly strapped down on the dyno via multiple points. At first, the tie down looked like they were strapping down a massive beast, not a GT-R. There were two large fans-  one in front of the GT-R and one behind. Everything was started and the room got suddenly loud as the fans generated a strong airflow from the front of the car to the back. As that happened, I could feel the air pressure in the room change. Then the computer monitor next to me came alive as Chris, AMS's master tuner, sat in the GT-R and got underway.

The sheer ferocity that is a GT-R being tested on a dyno caught me completely off guard. I've never been one to be moved by a GT-R's sound. But then and there, in that room, I was in awe. The raw volume of sound from the VR38 seemed to penetrate my entire body. I could feel the roar of the VR38 in my chest. I could even feel the engine's scream in my feet, through the floor. As the car approached redline, the HKS / AMS exhaust sounded unearthly. Then the GR6 interrupted this roar of authority with its insane shifting. As Chris shifted the car repeatedly, revving the car out time and again, it started to become apparent just what Nissan had made. This was a machine not for competition, it had a different purpose. I could barely hear myself think as the motor screamed. The shifting was so fast and the engine was so loud, I could have seen why people take dyno videos. But videos do not convey the sheer violence of what happens with high powered GT-Rs on dynos.

Posted Image

I was told the tune we'd be given would have a large margin of safety built into it. That was because we wouldn't find 93 octane where we were going, it was likely we'd only find 91 octane, and probably not the name brand kind. In this context I was impressed by the numbers: the car was tuned to run just over 775 horsepower in comparison with the factory's 480.

Once clear of the dyno, we started to load our things in the Alpha-9 GT-R. Chuck and myself each had three weeks worth of clothes to put in. With my two carry on sized suitcases and Chuck's single larger suitcase, we were able to fit all of our things in the trunk with no problem. (It helps to have your own GT-R at home to test this out with) Inside, the rear half of the car was caged. Despite that, we easily fit three bags in the back seat- two very full book bags and a third bag full of camera gear and all of the supporting devices we'd need to keep everything charged and happy.

Then came the safety equipment. We had coolant and various oils in the trunk while inside we had a fire extinguisher as well as the ability to get a signal on all major cell networks in the US.

Posted Image

We were told that Dan, one of the sales guys at the shop, would be leaving soon with the Rig for Las Vegas and then California. The Rig had the AMS Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X shop car in it, as well as a full set of tools, fuel, wheels/tires and other odds and ends. It also had space for the GT-R. If something happened to the car when we were on the road, Dan would be able to come get us. I didn't like that idea and although Dan was definitely a cool guy, I didn't want to see him until Las Vegas.

At long last, the Alpha-9 GT-R was rolled out front, and with little fanfare, we said our goodbyes.

I would be taking the first stint behind the wheel, piloting the car outside of the city and getting us underway through the first full tank of gas. As we walked out to the car I snapped a few pics.

Posted Image

I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this trip and at the start, my expectations were very low.  This would be my first trip through the western states. Never before had I been to Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, or Utah.  I was told the first 14-15 hours of driving, from Chicago to Denver, would be incredibly boring with no sights to see. After that, I was told the drive would be fun, whatever that meant. From prior experience on US highways, at least in the deep south, I didn't expect a whole lot.

I climbed into the Alpha-9 GT-R and closed the door. The GT-R's computer actuated windows sealed the cabin with the typical GT-R air-tight feel. For a moment, all was silent. I reached over to start the engine and Chuck said, OK, take it easy, don't get us killed. I smiled and with my foot on the brake, pushed start on an Alpha-9 GT-R for the very first time.



#3 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:56 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
Posted Image

The Alpha-9 GT-R roared to life with a strong, purposeful, growl. The engine maintained its high 2,000 rpm cold start before quickly settling down closer to 1,000 rpms. So far, nothing seemed different about the car. I moved the transmission selector to reverse and backed us out. I then slid the gear selector down into drive and we were off. Finally on our way to California.

At about 10mph I switched to manual mode. It wasn't far to the highway. Already, I was noticing that the car was reacting to everything on a seemingly flat road. It was hard to gauge just how rough the road was, so at that point I couldn't tell if it was the JRZ coilovers or the road that was making the ride so far from perfect. From a mechanical perspective, the car felt fine though, so we continued on our way. It wasn't long before it was time to get on the highway, and I took us to the on-ramp and looked downrange to spot the merge point.

Under full throttle, near redline, any turbo car with enough boost pressure will go fast. I was sure the Alpha-9 GT-R would be no exception but I wouldn't give it the chance. Not so soon. Instead, I wanted to test its drivability and flexibility.

Ordinarily, upgrading turbos to larger sizes causes an engine to have to work harder before positive boost can be made- in the process causing low end performance and overall response to suffer. AMS said the throttle response of this car, despite the upgrades, was like stock. Given just how obscenely fast a factory GT-R responds to throttle commands, that was a big claim. So I wanted to see for myself what "like stock" meant. I wanted to immediately expose its flaws so that me and this Alpha-9 GT-R could be on very clear terms from the start of our relationship.

And so, getting on the highway, I applied one third throttle to see how the car would get on under partial throttle from low rpms.

Things didn't go quite as I'd expected. The initial pickup was, to my surprise, just as forceful as any other stock turbo GT-R. By the time the car started to register positive boost the acceleration started to pickup with much more authority than a factory GT-R would manage. I let off the throttle, already fully merged onto the highway.

Posted Image

Still being critical of what I was observing, I tested the partial throttle acceleration again, not sure if somehow the car got a favorable start. But if anything, it seemed to accelerate better than stock pre-boost. What I was seeing didn't seem to make sense. I started to think about the physics behind it and how that could be possible. Maybe it was the different camshaft profile being used in the car? That was the only work done to the engine. Or maybe it was the cold weather? I wasn't sure. Either way, low end acceleration and throttle response felt at least as good as stock. With that out of the way, I looked down the road and cross checked the GT-R's internal navigation system. Close to a thousand miles remained as we settled into our cruising pace, bound for Denver.

As the miles piled up, I started to get slowly acclimated to the Alpha-9 GT-R. I quickly learned that the power in this car was always available. Not sometimes available, not often available, but always available. It didn't seem to matter what rpm I was at, what gear we were in or how fast we were going. Passing cars on the highway was just a non-issue. From 2,000 rpms in sixth, multiple cars could be passed before the Alpha-9 even got into its powerband. Once the speeds picked up though, even in sixth gear, the pull would become immense. The speedometer would start getting numbers added to it at an alarming pace. It definitely wasn't a recipe for staying out of trouble.

For most of the day we kept to within 10mph of the speed limit or traffic, whichever seemed better. As one would imagine, that was no issue at all for the car. The car seemed perfectly happy to do that although massive acceleration always remained less than a second away.

Posted Image

After an hour or so the traffic, which had always been flowing well, started to clear out. With a bit of road to ourselves and great visibility, I decided it was time to see what this car was really about, and gauge the full power of this Alpha-9 setup. So from just under 50mph, I downshifted and planted my foot on the floor.

Immediately the car leapt up and shoved me into the seat. For the first half second the car almost seemed... startled. I could almost feel the transmission handling the sudden onslaught of torque. It seemed like the chassis was suddenly under massive pressure, from the inside. Strangely, it didn't wince, it just seemed to lighten up and buckle down. It delivered all of the power to the ground without delay, and with apparent ease. It was as if I were asking half throttle from a factory GT-R. There was no movement in any direction other than the one I'd elected to point us in, and the car simply shot forward in the direction we were headed.

Then full boost came in and the factory boost pressure gauge went past its maximum reading of 20psi.

The exhaust pitch went race-car-like as the car screamed forward. That the acceleration was much, much, harder than stock goes without saying. It's difficult to put into words just how hard the Alpha-9 GT-R pulls. Strangely, there was no drama to it. There was no wheelspin. No flashing lights. Nothing other than a boost gauge reading at its maximum. Then the car got to the top of it's powerband...

When you floor the accelerator pedal in an ordinary GT-R, two things happen: First, the car throws you back in your seat as the engine doles out a massive amount of immediate torque. Then the car accelerates forward and, once you hit the meat of the powerband, the speedometer starts picking up large numbers.  One event always seems to happen after the other though: the car throws you back then big numbers get added to the speed gauge. While it accelerates, you're still pinned to the seat, but it's not like the initial pull. As the speeds climb, particularly after 100mph, the force of acceleration becomes sane. But that second part, the accumulation of speed, the calculator like summation of numbers on the speed dial, continues.

The Alpha-9 GT-R is completely different. There's no conservative flat area on the top of the Alpha-9's powerband. Once I got near the top of the powerband, the car didn't relent. It continued its pull. As we went beyond the stock 7,000rpm redline, the GR6 didn't interrupt the acceleration. The shift change near 7,500rpm was forceful enough to notice but the torque delivery went uninterrupted and the banshee like pull simply started all over again. At the top of the next gear, the car's acceleration again didn't relent. It didn't stabilize like a normal GT-R would. It refused to give the speedometer some time to do it's thing. It just kept pulling. The speedometer seemed to just be playing catch up, throwing one number after another to add to its count. It's a fundamentally different sort of acceleration than a normal GT-R. A normal GT-R feels civilized. In a normal GT-R, the acceleration abates while the glass speedometer rises. By comparison, this was rabid. The acceleration just didn’t want to let up.

I suppose this is all a reflection of the fact that the Alpha-9 GT-R's powerband doesn't really flatten, but when I was strapped into it, the impact of that on-paper difference was massive. Especially given the high output of the motor. It makes you want to hang on to the accelerator for every last second, to get every ounce of power out before pulling the upshift paddle. Then it seamlessly starts all over again.

There's no real drama to be had from the experience. I was ready for severe wheelspin. I was ready for the car to start to slide on the cold highway. I was ready for something- anything- but instead I got nothing. The GR6 simply distributed the power and the car slammed forward. There was no drama whatsoever in the way it performed its duty. The chassis didn't seem overwhelmed by what was happening. It was nothing short of astonishing. I didn't want to believe what had just happened.

So I did it again.

Posted Image

The lack of drama was confusing. It's difficult to describe the mix of such rapid acceleration with such controllability. The whole time the car was completely stable. There didn't even seem to be much wind noise as we jumped out into the triple digits. In a typical GT-R like fashion, the loudest noises were from the engine and transmission. The All Season Dunlop 7010s were quiet on the cold Illinois highways, despite being asked to handle much more torque than they would ordinarily be asked to handle.

While all of this was going on, the suspension was doing its job in keeping the chassis under control. At first, I wasn't sure what to think about the idea of doing a road trip with a JRZ-equipped GT-R.  I'd heard the talk  - that a car on JRZ built coilovers won't ride as hard as the numbers suggested and that you can't compare them to other, allegedly lesser setups. But I also knew that some JRZ owners with track oriented setups felt that their track rates were too stiff for the street. These coilovers were JRZ's Street/Track oriented Silent Editions, with 750lb front and 600lb rear spring rates. For our trip, they weren't set to full soft and we seemed to have been let go with them somewhere midway in their settings.

To my relief-and surprise- the car was actually feeling very comfortable. Whenever we hit irregular surfacing on the highway, I could definitely feel the car react, but it never felt unsettled. It was a muted sort of reaction. It was almost as if the suspension was translating what the surface was like, while at the same time muting it to a manageable amount so it never felt 'too much'. On I-80, the mix of stability and compliance was odd and ran entirely against what I expected: At one point we ran into a particularly rough section of highway, one that made me want to cringe, but it wasn't called for. I could have definitely felt the fact that the road was broken, much more so than a stock setup- so it definitely felt stiffer feeling, but the car soaked it up without any harsh impacts.

The scenes while we drove, even in Iowa and Nebraska, were far from the boring nothingness that was promised. For one thing, the highway wasn't perfectly straight, it rolled gently with the land. Houses became more and more intermittent until finally they were separated by dozens of acres at a time. Then my surroundings became low cut farmland. I once saw a scene that looked exactly like the Windows XP desktop- rolling green hills under a blue sky. Then I saw it again. And again. To my surprise, I saw this perfect scene repeatedly, at times complete with a single house on a hill. If I looked hard enough, I thought I would see people going about their daily lives in their houses and on their farms. I wondered what life was like there as we headed westward, chasing the setting sun into the late evening.

Posted Image

Chuck and I took turns driving, each of us going through a tank of gas at a time. By my math, we were easily getting above 18mpg on the open road, despite spending so much time playing around with the car. It would have been easy for us to exceed 20mpg if we so chose.

Posted Image

Later, at some point in Nebraska, we got our first warning from the car.

Posted Image

It told us the temperature had dropped to near freezing. The GT-R is a funny machine. Inside it, you're completely isolated from the elements. It's so comfortable and the climate control system is so efficient, that it could be 120 degrees or -20 degrees outside and it would all feel the same inside. In fact, the climate control system in the car is perhaps one of the GT-R's most impressive bits. No matter what the temperature is outside it always feels like there's an excess of power available to make it whatever temperature you want it to be inside. It never, ever seems like its struggling. With the climate control set on the high 70s we continued our way westward. Our GT-R tracked I-80 while the climate control maintained an extremely comfortable temperature and the Bose sound system provided excellent satellite music.

Before I knew it, we'd knocked out close to half of the day's drive and we were only 6 hours into it. The sun had set and it was getting quite cold outside. Luckily I was somewhat prepared for EVAs whenever we stopped, but on getting back into the car I was happy to have the GT-R's heated seats. By this point in the trip, I'd realized the car was really a super GT-R of sorts. Everything the factory GT-R is, this car is, and more. It takes the factory GT-R experience, in all ways, and intensifies it. It was extremely comfortable- both in ride and in full amenities- and it was very strong. It took some time to get accustomed to the feeling of the suspension and transmission, but somewhere along the way they had gotten into my heart. After a while, it started to feel like it was a normal car. But then we got one of our last fill ups, and with Chuck behind the wheel, we did something new.

Early in the on-ramp, Chuck stood on the accelerator pedal. Unlike prior occasions, this time he stayed on it.

I'd spent the day in the car by this point, and had driven several hundred miles myself, but the experience hadn't changed any. If anything, being a passenger amplified it. As the car rocketed across the Colorado asphalt, things very far away seemed like they were going to get a lot closer, and quickly. As a passenger, it's almost a scary kind of acceleration because you know that by the time you get to those objects you'll be going much, much faster than you want to be. He lifted before taking the on-ramp, which the car didn't blink at, despite the cold temperatures. Coming out of the bend Chuck resumed wide open throttle. It must have only been for some seconds but a lot of thoughts went through my mind during that time. Once he lifted, our speed was well in excess of 170 miles per hour. It is truly shocking to see just how many numbers an Alpha-9 car can add onto your speed- and just how fast and how easily it can do it.

The night continued on. It had been a long day and I was starting to feel it. Thinking I might have more driving ahead, I debated the value of getting some sleep. At first I didn’t want to, I wanted to be alert. Eventually, the comfortable seats and the suspiciously smooth ride of the JRZ suspension got the best of me though. At just after two in the morning, I started to doze off. I couldn't believe just how comfortable the car was. When I awoke, less than an hour later, we were in Denver, and after a shorter burst of sleep, we'd stopped by a friend of Chuck's, where we made our first stop of the trip.

Finally, we had made it to Denver.

Back home, the sun was rising over the Caribbean. But for me, thousands of miles away at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, it was time to sleep. And after my first day of experiencing an Alpha-9 GT-R, I slept well.



#4 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:56 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
Morning came fast in Denver. Then again, it tends to do that when you go to sleep at 3 or 4 in the morning. When I got up, Chuck and his friend were already out checking out the GT-R. I knew it wouldn't be long before they were back and we'd be off again. I looked outside not knowing what to expect. It seemed pleasant enough so I took the risk of opening the door, preparing to be met by freezing weather.

It wasn't freezing at all though. It was warm, well into the 70s, and the sky was deep blue and crystal clear. I was confused. Was this really Denver? This wasn't the Denver I had in my mind.

Chuck returned, we reloaded our things in the GT-R and departed toward downtown.

Denver is a beautiful city. There are many cities they say that about but Denver is the real deal.

Posted Image

Having lived there before, Chuck remarked on how much he missed the sights. Snow topped mountains towered off into the distance as we made our way through the modern, clean city. The roads downtown were decent, but a few were less than ideal. It didn't matter though, the JRZ based suspension managed to handle everything with great composure. I was really starting to appreciate how it did that.

Chuck did the driving as we made our way through the city and away into the mountains. He explained that his first month in Denver was spent exploring all of the roads. He told me that there were places there, roads and passes, where you could spend all day driving and never get bored. It was a claim I had no trouble believing: There are some states that have less interesting back roads than Denver's highways.

Posted Image

Posted Image

We left the outskirts of the city to find some driving roads to take the Alpha-9 GT-R on. It didn't take too long before we found a very special one... Squaw Pass Road.

Posted Image

Chuck said that he used to have a Gixxer Sports Bike and spent many a day driving the road. Not knowing what was in store, I sat relaxed as we drove down some side roads before stopping at what I understood to be the base of the route. The sign next to our stopping point said West Chicago. Was this a sign of what the car was made for? We got out, attached some camera gear, then set off.

At the beginning, it started innocently enough. If you consider 775 horsepower very innocent.

For the next five minutes the Alpha-9 GT-R hurled us over 1,500 feet vertically into the mountains. As we set off, Chuck held little back with the car. Long straights separated turns ranging from 30 degrees to over 90 degrees as we went higher and higher. This was a fast road. And we were doing it in a fast car. On the straights he'd free the VR38 to unleash all the power that the Dunlop 7010s could handle, and at times, more. The Shepherd built transmission didn't seem to have a problem with any of it, moving torque around continuously from end to end, in search of more grip. Coming out of corners, Chuck would hold the throttle before letting it go again, just as he thought the car would be able to take it. Sometimes he'd let the power down on wet surfaces, and as one would imagine, the tires would give in. As we climbed the road, it wasn't long before snow started to become more prevalent. At one point, snow even stood on the road. It didn't matter though, we continued on and drove though it anyway. That's what these Dunlop 7010 All Season tires were for, right?

Well sort of. Under load, the addition of snow and water to the mix threw the car off. Usually there was just a little tire spin but at times the whole car would slip. It didn't phase Chuck though, as he'd apply a touch of counter steer and off we'd go, deploying a massive amount of power on a less than ideal surface again. As we got deeper into the route, sometimes the GT-R would slip some more, but for the most part it remained well composed. As we slowed our pace to a fast cruise, we joked about how well an 800+hp Corvette, Viper or 911 would manage on that hill. It was purely GT-R territory...



Eventually the road took us to a snow covered place where there were some small single cabins and a frozen lake. We stopped the GT-R to get out and take in the scene.

Posted Image

There was anywhere from one to three inches of snow on the grounds. The lake was frozen over. Our altitude was about 10,600ft above sea level. Our density altitude put us a couple thousand feet higher than that. It was cold but not too cold. The scale of what I was looking at kept me warm. Mount Evans. Despite having climbed for thousands of feet, we’d come to the base of a mountain. And this lake- Echo Lake- greeted us in pristine form.

Posted Image

Posted Image


We got back into the GT-R and went higher still...

Posted Image

There was a turn off from which you can climb Mount Evans. The route is only open in the summer. Apparently, it gets exceptionally cold there, and it's not uncommon to find snow, even on a 90 degree day in Denver. We stopped again to enjoy the views. From where I was, I could see for what must have been a hundred miles. There were mountains both hundreds of feet lower and higher surrounding me, all filled with thousands and thousands of trees. Some of them were in excess of 2,000 years old. As the wind blew I could almost feel a gentle, endless wave of movement from the forests. I tried to listen to their secrets, blowing in the wind. I wanted to take something with me of what I was seeing. I had my camera but I knew it wouldn't be enough.

Posted Image

Once at the top of the pass, it was my turn to drive. I took us back down. On an unfamiliar road with water, ice, and seemingly random rocks thrown down, it was easy to appreciate the display put on by someone familiar with the area. I didn't really get into it much and simply took us out of there and into a town called Vail, where the GT-R was treated like a rock star.

The snowboarders were there in force when we drove through. They all seemed to love the AMS GT-R. Strangely, this was one of the only places where the car got any real attention. We toured the area as the incredible views of Colorado continued to unfold.

Posted Image

I could see how Chuck spent a month driving there. I couldn't have blamed him if he spent ten. In Vail we navigated the faces of snow filled alpine white mountains, which at times would take us above the tree line. Even there, we could see we were hundreds of feet below the mountain peaks, which bore down on us from all sides. All of the roads, even the highways there, were deeply alluring. They all flowed with the Earth and unveiled breathtaking views of the mountains and towns surrounding the area. I didn't want to leave. The hours that followed continued to reveal a massive natural beauty unlike anything I imagined I'd see.

Posted Image

Somewhere along the way I forgot I was driving an Alpha 9 GT-R. I forgot I was driving a GT-R at all. With the car in automatic mode we toured places so amazing that I forgot where I was and where I was going...

Posted Image

We resumed our drive and explored a town not far away called Leadville. Leadville's claim to fame is that it's situated nearly two miles above sea level. In air that thin, most cars would see massive power loss. But that didn't matter to us in the GT-R. In and around that town, the Alpha-9 GT-R had no shortage of awe inspiring power. We continued to cruise the countryside, well over 10,000ft above sea level, where my portable weather station was showing a density altitude beyond +13,000ft.

The further we went, the more exquisite the scenes became. There were roads that cut straight across mountains, following bridges off into other mountains... and we followed plains, thousands of feet above sea level, to discover secret lakes and rivers that were hidden from us. As we drove, gently winding roads continued to show us a pure, unadulterated beauty that left me stunned and without words.

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Slowly, the sun began to set on us as we continued our journey westward.

We drove, into the night, until we got to our next stopping point: Grand Junction, Colorado.



#5 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:56 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
Posted Image

The weather in Grand Junction seemed to be a repeat of Denver. It was actually a little colder but with clear light blue skies all the same. That said, it clearly wasn't Denver: when I looked outside for the first time that morning, the mountains were a bit further off into the distance than I expected. The land around looked relatively flat but very green. For some reason I always thought Utah was a barren desert, so the thought of being this close to Utah and it being so green was quite unexpected.

We got our things together and again reloaded the Alpha-9 GT-R. It occurred to me that we could have fit more in it if we wanted to. As I was thinking that, a brilliant pearl white GT-R showed up.

Posted Image

Matt and his wife Erika got out and casually said Hi. It seemed like we already knew them, but we didn't. That's the funny thing about the internet and one of the great things about online communities. You get to meet people who you otherwise would never meet, and can share things that could otherwise not be shared.

Matt is a true Nissan enthusiast, having come from the Z family prior to his GT-R. That morning, he'd get a taste of AMS's latest work, and he was excited. After breakfast, we'd be taking a road that would take us through the Colorado National Monument. This was a route Matt knew very well from his weekend drives. Listening to him talk about it, the area sounded like a treat but I wasn't sure what to expect exactly. I'd already seen many amazing things.

Once breakfast was finished, Chuck gave Matt an introduction to the Alpha-9 insanity as Erika and I tried to play chase in Matt's GT-R. It wouldn't take very long for us to reach the Monument. The drive gave me an opportunity to snap some of the only external shots I'd get of the Alpha-9 GT-R in action...

Posted Image

Posted Image

As we made a casual turn heading out beyond the city limits, I watched as the Alpha-9 GT-R suddenly roared and instantly put three full car lengths on us. By the time Erika reacted, the Alpha-9 seemed to have put another three cars on us and was leaving fast. Then, just as soon as it started, it was over. I looked at the Alpha-9 GT-R as we re-entered into formation. It was another reminder to me of just how aggressive the car can be.  It was an impressive display. From the driver's seat the Alpha-9 had always felt fast, and while it felt even faster from the passenger seat, it was obscene to observe from the outside. I couldn't help but think about how shocked people will be when they come across high powered GT-Rs like the Alpha-9 on the street. You would never be able to tell just what you're lining up against. From the outside there are absolutely no clues, and you'd never know if you were going up against a 500 horsepower GT-R or an 800 horsepower GT-R.

Matt was, predictably, even more surprised by the display than I was. I think the Alpha-9 GT-R left a big impression on him and I couldn't blame him for that. It's savage in the way it flips from completely ordinary driving to dispensing tremendous performance. As a passenger, there's no warning of any kind and you would definitely have no idea what you were riding in... even if you were a GT-R owner yourself.

***


Posted Image

As the sun moved to its late morning position, I would have liked to have been below the passes on the Monument. It must have been a spectacular aural experience, hearing the sound of two modified GT-Rs chasing each other through the sandstone rock formations hundreds of feet above. The sound echoed off of the smoothly eroded monolithic rock walls and the only thing more crisp than the bright blue sky was the sharp, rapid downshifts of the two VR38s being taxed.

Posted Image

Back in the Alpha-9 GT-R, the drive was intense. I tried not to look off to my right. When we were lucky we had a few feet buffer, but beyond that the ground ended abruptly in a cliff with a 500 foot drop. And at times the drop was significantly higher.

The pass we followed wound next to the cliffs and, in a few places, cut through the rock formations next to us. The views throughout were panoramic, providing an excellent view of the very canyon we were driving around. Sometimes we would be on the edge of one side of the canyon, able to look across to the other side to see just how close to the edge we had been before. Then the road would again cut into the rocks with tunnels hiding the way. There the aggression of the AMS and HKS exhaust was magnified about three hundred times before we'd blast back out into the daylight.

Posted Image

Knowing what GT-Rs are capable of, and bearing in mind the absolute and certain penalty for any mistakes, we didn't push the limits. But it was a great time to explore the GT-R's performance, with the safety of following someone who knew how to navigate the area.

Posted Image

By this point I was accustomed to the power and the immediate way in which it was delivered. It never felt like it was too much for the GT-R but the chassis definitely started to feel alive.  I could feel that there was something great going on in and around me but the package was so tight, so well controlled, that the power delivery never felt too overwhelming.

I couldn't help but feel that the transmission played a key role in that. Sometimes, at ordinary speeds, it felt a touch more clunky than a normal GT-R transmission. Other times it felt smoother.  The net effect was that the transmission felt more purposeful. When deploying the full power of the Alpha-9, that feeling persisted, as if the transmission was built for it. Perhaps that's because it was. Under stress, the Shepherd built transmission was more than willing to oblige with whatever we wanted. Whether that amounted to flat foot upshifts beyond 7,000 rpm or multiple downshifts under braking, twenty feet from death on the side of a sheer walled canyon, the GR6 seemed to define efficiency.

In this environment the JRZ suspension was choice. Its focus on enabling the driver to maintain chassis control and getting the car to do what was needed made the experience one that won't soon be forgotten.  It was almost magic the way the GT-R came together, deep in the passes on those rock faces...

The adrenaline flowed well on the Monument that day.

Posted Image



#6 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:57 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI




#7 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:57 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
That afternoon we made our way West into Utah, finally heading for Las Vegas. We were told that there would be next to no cell coverage, and that it would be a straight open shot.  At this point in the trip I expected to experience the boredom that so many warned about...but I didn't.

From I-70 we found an exit to a place called Moab. Chuck, who happened to be driving at the time, said it was a pretty cool place and that we could head there if we wanted to. He said it would add a few hours to the trip. Not minding a night time entry into Las Vegas I said sure, let's do it.

I had no idea what I'd be in store for.

Minutes later we took an exit and drove for several miles before Chuck pulled over, stopping the GT-R randomly. It wasn't long after midday. I got out the car to see what was so interesting, wondering why we'd pulled over. I was thinking I'd be looking at the views of mountains off in the distance. But then I was hit by it. Silence.

Posted Image

The sky was clear. Besides the random patches of grass, there was nothing around. The desert was empty except for a single road. You could see for miles all the way to mountains, towering in the distance. But there was no wind, no noise, no sound at all. It was silent. We could whisper to speak, even though we were over twenty feet away from each other.

I heard a car coming from miles away. It drove past and on into the distance, and again we were left in silence. I'd never heard silence outdoors like that before. It was astonishing. We stayed there for a few moments before getting back in the GT-R and continuing our drive.

Despite being in a desert, the road wasn't straight. It moved around the Earth and it wasn't long before it navigated hills and valleys, then mountains and lakes. Visibility on the road was outstanding. I started to push the car as hard as visibility allowed, and we soon found ourselves deep in real passes, with green land surrounding us, lakes below us, and red rock formations all around. Meanwhile the road continued, with seemingly endless winding and curving in front of us. Time stopped as we drove a perfect machine through a perfect place.

Posted Image

Just when I thought I'd seen what we came for, it got better. We entered Moab and continued to Arches National Park. The road continued to wind and curve with the land. At one point we started to climb a cliff face, hundreds and hundreds of feet high, to one of the most incredible vantage points of the entire trip. With miles of open visibility on the roads below, I could see all the cars well on their way to wherever they were going.

Posted Image

As I kept looking I felt like I'd gone somewhere else. Maybe this was where Pixar went to be inspired for the movie Cars?
The place where Lightning and Sally took their picture perfect drive exists, and I saw it with my own eyes. I was speechless.

Posted Image

Posted Image

That day we drove the park, seeing one wonder of natural design after another, until we ran out of road to drive. And that evening, exhausted from everything we'd seen, we returned to the highway, to find our way back toward Las Vegas.

But even then the amazing scenes continued. I watched as clouds formed over mountain ranges that paralleled the highway miles away. I saw the clouds bring rain from those ranges all the way to where we were. Our GT-R, ready for the conditions, pushed through them like a Lear 35 through low ceilings. At times the rain came hard, but despite cruising at over 90mph, the GT-R took it in stride. It was only when the rain got intense and we hit standing water did the car begin to lose its sure footedness, and only for half a second at a time.

Posted Image

We continued to drive into the sunset with plains, mountains and all sorts of rock formations all around us. I wondered what it must have been like hundreds of years ago, when the Indians had the land to themselves and wildlife filled the landscape.

The computer inside the GT-R indicated that the temperature dropped into the 40s as we continued westward. But, inside the GT-R, I couldn't feel it at all. Isolated from the elements, I continued to gaze out the window of the Alpha-9 GT-R to the hum of the GR6 until the night permitted me to see no more.

Once night fell, I turned down all of the brightness settings in the GT-R's cockpit. I inverted the color of the moving map display and darkened it. On one of the darkest settings, everything still showed up clearly, and we continued into the blackness.

Some hours later, while I was driving,  I saw a mountain ahead of us in the distance. I wasn't sure at first what I was seeing and why I could see the mountain so clearly, even though it was absolutely black outside. I cross checked the moving map display and saw we were getting close to Las Vegas.

Something was lighting up the entire mountain from behind, but I couldn't see what. I picked up the pace, staring into the distance. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen.  An entire mountain was being turned into a silhouette in the empty blackness of night. I thought to myself that it must have taken the brightest light on Earth to do that.

We crossed over the mountain and before us an entire city revealed itself, spread before of our very own eyes. I looked down on the city and there was nothing to say.  It was clear what I was looking at. I started to identify the lights, MGM, Caesars, Bellagio...  

We had arrived. Las Vegas, Nevada.



#8 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:57 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
Posted Image

Most who went to the SEMA show had the single goal in mind of partying, and all seemed to accomplish their missions. Las Vegas is, without a doubt, a place where a man can get himself into a lot of trouble. Given that my main goal was to get a lot of things done for NAGTROC, I couldn't give myself the luxury of getting too distracted. Things do have a way of happening there but, with the exception of one night that involved some Patron, I managed to stay out of trouble and was very productive.

One thing about the SEMA show that always stands out to me is the number of pure show cars. There are cars there that have clearly never seen a drop of water. More than a few were probably born just weeks prior in a warehouse somewhere. Many had likely been taken directly to the show, under full body protection, to keep them from coming in contact with potentially dirty air particles anywhere between the factory they were painted in and the show floors.

Of course, we tried to make the Alpha-9 GT-R presentable and had it detailed the morning after we'd arrived in Vegas. It's amazing just how dirty it had gotten from the wet, snowy roads in Colorado...but it was equally amazing how big of a difference the detail made. To say the car was dirty was an understatement. Once it was returned to us, it was as if the car had been repainted.

Posted Image

Although the Alpha-9 GT-R looked great in my eyes, I knew it still wasn't perfect. You can't be when you're competing with cars that had never seen the sun. At the Exedy booth however, there was a car that had seen the sun. That car had seen the heat of summers, the cold of winters, and everything in between.  I couldn't help but wonder: How many of the hundreds of cars at the SEMA show had a story like the Alpha-9 GT-R we drove there?

Posted Image

For the show we put on some Volk wheels and some ridiculously lightweight Tillet composite seats. It's a funny thing though, after having taken us through all the conditions that they had, I was thoroughly impressed by the stock wheels and Dunlop A/S 7010 tires that wrapped them. I really didn't want to see them go. If it were my call I would have been left them on and let the masses think whatever they wanted to. Most at SEMA are domestic fans and don't know what a GT-R is anyway, nevermind the wheels and tires it comes with. Then of those that do know what a GT-R is, most don't really understand it, so what difference would it have made? It wasn't my decision though. The consolation was that the "show" wheels were actually AMS’s track wheels. AMS thinks like I do. In the end the masses wouldn't win.

Posted Image


After the show was done we went to the lot where the AMS rig was parked to swap everything back. Half way into this job, with the car still on the jack and seats only half way in the car, it started to rain. Then it started to hail.

Posted Image

Luckily the hail didn't last long, wasn't well formed, and the car didn't take any damage. Unluckily, it was wet everywhere. This meant that the now clean Alpha-9 GT-R would once again get dirty. If this car was built to be a beauty queen, that would have been an issue. But what we had was something more, and the business it was built for was not clean. So I didn't mind.

Once we were finished swapping everything out, Martin decided it was time to head over to California with the AMS rig. AMS had a 2 day event starting the next day in Button Willow. This would be the final leg of our trip. We decided to meet up with them in California, and let them know that we'd take some pictures around Vegas first and then head over later. After lunch they decided to start their trip.

We looked around the city for a bit for some interesting places to take pictures, but weren't able to manage much. We did however, come across one nice spot where we found a Corvette ZR1 in hiding. We decided to take a few shots there.

Posted Image

As the sun made its motions across the sky and more bad weather threatened in the distance, we decided it was time to knock out the last leg of our trip, and head over to the golden state of California.



#9 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:57 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
Posted Image


We were treated to another amazing show of lighting and weather effects as the sun set on us somewhere between Las Vegas and Southern California. By this point I thought I'd seen it all as we drove across the gentle mountains, heading west bound.

As we settled into the drive I used the time to collect my thoughts about the machine I'd been spending so much time in: The Alpha-9 GT-R.

Posted Image

It felt as if Nissan developed the platform to handle exactly the sort of performance we’d seen. Whereas other machines would suffer from poor driving characteristics at this level, the Alpha-9 GT-R felt... almost ordinary. For example, while most high performance tuned cars have to deal with a nonlinear powerband, laggy throttle response, unfriendly clutches and difficult to manage low end engine performance, the Alpha-9 GT-R had no such issues. It wasn’t that the Alpha-9 was much better, it was that the issues simply didn’t exist with the Alpha-9. In automatic mode it responded exactly as a factory GT-R would. You can start it and drive off- in second gear if you wish- with no issue. The throttle response as you slowly drive off under 1500rpm is identical to a factory GT-R. The only apparent differences with an Alpha-9 GT-R are in the depth of power available, the characteristics of its delivery - particularly as you get deeper in its powerband, and the overall sound and experience of operation.

It occurred to me that if anything, the AMS Alpha-9 GT-R is to a factory GT-R, what a factory GT-R is to any typical fast sports car. It offers a much higher level of performance while retaining excellent drivability.  But whereas a normal GT-R feels a touch muted in the way it performs, an Alpha-9 GT-R adds character in addition to a giant leap in performance.

I started to think of the Alpha-9 as a sort of Special Operator. There’s no fuss, no drama in asking it to complete a mission. The machine simply delivers. It doesn’t matter where the mission is, what time of day it is, what the temperature is like there, what the altitude is, or even how long the mission is for. Despite the fact that the car is built and modified in the way that it is, none of that matters. In the end it’s a GT-R. An impersonal killing machine. It will simply do whatever it’s asked.

Spend enough time with it though, and you become aware of the faint traits in its character. Together they comprise the subtle hints that you’re in command of something special: The engine’s strong transient response to slight throttle requests...  the way the transmission can catch clutchpack B under hundreds of pound-feet of load while it's simultaneously doing the inverse with clutchpack A.... the way it’s automatic mode can deliver partial load shifts identical to an ordinary GT-R...the feeling of the chassis one tenth of a second into a wide open throttle shift.... Blink though, and you might not catch any of this. Or you might write it off as something else as you explore the massive power the car invites you to deploy...

I knew better. There was no question in my mind that there was very something special within. Like any consummate professional, AMS made it look easy. They all do. But it wasn’t that long ago that the community wondered if a GT-R could reliably make a 10 second quarter mile pass. It wasn’t that long ago that very smart experts- not tuners but engineers- wondered what it would take to get a GT-R to deliver the power needed to get to a 9 second quarter mile pass... something our Alpha-9 had since accomplished on regular 93 octane fuel.

Most of the disdain the GT-R community’s had has centered around the transmission. So  when setting off on the trip, that was something I paid careful attention to. At the beginning, as with my first ever experience in an R35, I wondered if it would let me down. I worried about when it might not deliver a shift I requested. But that never happened. In the end, this transmission- which had seen work from Shepherd and upgrades from Exedy and Dodson- was without flaw. It got every shift right, every single time, and never delivered anything less than perfect performance. I’ll go further than that and say that not only did the transmission handle every shift flawlessly, but it played a key role in making the car as usable as it was.

Skeptics and traditionalists will say that the GR6 is a weak point in the GT-R and that the GT-R would somehow be a superior car with a manual transmission. I've long believed both claims to be false. Fundamentally, if you want a manual transmission car you're likely not looking for the GT-R experience. The GT-R is about efficient, accessible performance. The GR6 is integral to that equation. The transmission of this Alpha-9 exemplified that, and is the counterpoint to the skeptics. Over thousands of miles it managed massive levels of torque and power over many conditions without ever once doing anything unexpected.  Runs to 170mph, flat shifting all the way up? No problem. Snow mode for miles on a hill in Colorado? Not an issue. Automatic mode for trips through a park in a random part of Utah? Easy. Rapid down-shifting under 1G braking in a mountain pass? That was its forte.

Posted Image

Somewhere along the trip I had to stop viewing the transmission as anything other than a weapon. The fact that it shifted with a real haste was impressive, but the impunity with which it executed its mission of either lazy, automatic shifting or transmitting a full 800hp was nothing short of amazing. On the battlefields that are streets and racetracks worldwide, the GR6 is not a weakness at all. It is quite possibly the GT-R's greatest asset.

One of the lead designers at Sony in the 90s said that if you are to lead people to a bright future, you can't design products that people want. People don't know what they want. That's the GR6. Future enthusiasts will look back on this transmission very differently than the enthusiasts of today. The GR6 will be recognized not as the R35's Achilles heel, but instead as its ultimate weapon, Thor's hammer.

With this advanced platform making such high performance so accessible, you ultimately get the feeling that, with only a few tweaks to make the average banker's wife approve, the Alpha-9 GT-R is a car that Nissan could have easily made themselves. It's astonishing when you think about that in the context of the price to performance ratio. There's nothing like it on the planet.

Still on our way westward to California, that was the bottom line I'd come to realize.

What else could this machine be compared to? What else could have done the trip we did? Taking two people with three weeks of luggage each- as well as multiple bags and other supplies- over so many different conditions? Nissan said their original benchmark was the 911 Turbo. As a whole, 911s lack the capacity to do what we’ve done, but even if you disregard that, the Turbo Dual Clutches aren't to par with where the GT-R industry has gone. That's mainly thanks to Porsche giving their drivers the option of going stick. Their enthusiasts will stick with manual transmissions and their tuners and builders will follow customer demands. What they miss is that enthusiasts aren’t engineers. They don’t know what’s best. If left to traditional enthusiasts, we wouldn't have liquid cooling, never mind fuel injection. Whether for better or worse, 911s are a fundamentally different car for different tastes. GT-R competitors they are not.

It’s much the same elsewhere. Corvettes and Vipers both lack the drivability and usability for the performance and conditions we saw. Lamborghini Gallardos are massively more expensive but they too lack the capacity. Toyota Supras, while very comfortable, lack the drivability, handling, and all weather ability. The story is the same with higher end cars as well- Ferrari 458s lack the capacity and all weather abilities. Same for the Carrera GT. The Mercedes McLaren SLR might come a little closer in capacity and platform development but would still miss the mark in overall capability. Then there's the Bugatti Veyron which, although it has a higher top speed, has yet to be quoted in the 9 second range through a quarter mile. But even if you put that aside, it too lacks the capacity.

And none of those cars have the kinds of tires made for them that the GT-R has. Most can only be competitive under very specific conditions with certified competition tires. None have all season tire performance that’s anywhere near as capable- in terms of performance, wear, and safety- as what our Alpha-9 GT-R had.

Posted Image

When we first set off, I intended on solely doing a review of the Alpha-9 GT-R. But what I ended up with instead was evidence that Nissan had done something truly extraordinary in developing the R35... what I got was a vision for the future. This Alpha-9 GT-R is it. That which the industry has been silently afraid of and what no one's wanted to admit to can no longer be ignored. It's not a matter of being a fan of the brand or not. It’s not a matter of what the neighbors think. It’s not even a  matter of what the track side self-proclaimed “experts” think. Whether or not Nissan themselves ever build this car is immaterial. Nissan's answer to the industry is real. Credit must be given where it's due.

The GT-R has always represented a vehicle that appeals to the future of true performance: a machine that you can take anywhere, anytime, without compromise to compete with anything you're likely or unlikely to ever come across. This is the same mantra that all car enthusiasts seek. This is what Nissan has built, and this AMS Alpha-9 GT-R takes that concept and turns the knob to 9.

The tragedy of this story is that believers are few and far between. The GT-R in general, and this Alpha-9 GT-R in particular, have set a new yard stick against which the real world capabilities of all other sports cars in the world can be measured. Yet few recognize what has happened. The creators of the GT-R still haven't gotten the credit due. GT-R sales remain weak from rumors based much closer to fiction than fact. The father of AMS, Martin Musial, will have long since gone back to Illinois to continue working on new things which may be more -or less -epic, but no one, including Nissan North America itself, seems to have truly understood what this car is about.

I can now understand what Mizuno-san meant when he said to me that GT-Rs were to be driven.

Posted Image

GT-Rs worldwide are tucked away safely in garages, soundly sleeping days and nights away. Some owners will not let their cars out of sight when they take them out. Some are afraid to let their wives or husbands drive. Others are afraid to drive in the rain. Still others are afraid to experience their cars on any sort of track and are afraid to drive them too hard.

That is not what the GT-R was built for.

Some accuse the GT-R of being too mundane, that a GT-R makes any road too easy. That's because the GT-R wasn't designed to spend its days under a car cover before a single sunlit afternoon trip to the store. A 911 can do that, a Corvette can do that... a 458 Italia can do that. All of those cars would provide a thrilling experience in that regard. The GT-R was designed for something else entirely. The GT-R was designed for something epic. And this Alpha-9 GT-R, on this trip, showcased that.

Posted Image

Chuck told me to slow down.

The AMS rig was near. After creeping on every rig we came across we finally found them, and decided to hold back in the lane next to them to let traffic clear. Once all the traffic was out of the way, we made our move. From wide open throttle a few car lengths behind the rig, I made a single high speed pass. A car like the Alpha-9 GT-R builds a lot of speed very quickly and, despite starting so close, we were past 100mph before even reaching them. Not knowing we were ever there, they were treated to an at-speed flyby of their own Alpha-9 GT-R...

Night fell as we departed the highway and continued on a seemingly random state road to an equally random town not far from the track. This is the bad thing about tracks- they're usually in the middle of nowhere. Once again I turned down the brightness of all the GT-R's instruments as we headed off into the neverlands in search of this town. The navigation system still had us a couple hours out.

Meanwhile Chuck had been texting with the guys on the rig. Apparently Martin was wondering who had been driving and where we were. After a short exchange, we were asked to pull over and follow them in.

Martin had earlier asked if we really took the Alpha-9 car to 170mph. The truth was, we went past that. I was too busy holding on in the passenger seat to look at just how fast we went. Martin laughed a bit nervously when I said that. In retrospect, he was probably more than a little nervous. But that said, if AMS's claim was that the Alpha-9 GT-R could be truly driven, and if they wanted us to really drive it and report on what we'd found, we couldn't do that by any ordinary means. And more importantly, it was the only way we could present a full and honest assessment. I started looking for a place to pull over.

I couldn't find anywhere to stop. There was nothing where we were, so I ended up just pulling over on the side of the road. I wasn't even really sure where we were. The rig was a ways behind us. I figured it would take several minutes-  at the earliest- for them to get close to us. So I opened the door to step outside.

Only to be met with pure, raw, cold. Again I forgot that I couldn't just step out of the GT-R like that without checking the conditions outside first.

I distanced myself from the GT-R which I thought was funny, there were no other cars out there. Where we were there were no street or house lights of any kind. There was only empty terrain, a road, and an Alpha-9 GT-R. Because of the darkness, cars in the distance were visible for miles but, at the time, there were none.

I started to make my way back to the car. Then, I'm not sure why I did it... but I looked up. And my heart sank.

I stopped.

Above me I could see the entire Milky Way galaxy. A seemingly infinite number of stars cluttered the sky from horizon to horizon. In the center I saw a scene of unimaginable beauty: the Milky Way's galactic center, brightly lit from active star clusters, stellar nurseries, and nebulae thousands of light years away.  

I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. Instinctively I stared at it wondering how it could be that bright, how it could be that colorful, that beautiful... it was as if I'd seen home for the first time... it was so vivid, so clear... deep royal purples mixed with light red bands...Every hair on my body stood, I tried to move but I couldn't. I froze, captured in amazement.

A noise broke the silence of the moment. A light in the distance. A truck. I made my way back to the GT-R. I tried to tell Chuck what I'd seen.

The AMS rig drove by at speed.

I got in the car and paused.

On this trip I'd seen the beautiful Iowa and Nebraska plains. I journeyed into the pristine snow capped mountains in Colorado. I saw the rock formations of the western states. I attacked one of the most epic roads of my life with death itself just twenty feet by my side. I whispered in a silent desert. I submerged myself in the sheer beauty of the rocky mountain passes. I saw day rise and night fall. I ran from the hail and was lucky, got chased by the rain and wasn’t. I gazed on beautiful plains that went on endlessly to mountains in the distance. I saw warm weather and cold. I saw the moon light rivers and the sun bake rock faces. I saw 2,000 year old trees. I saw the brightest city on earth turn a massive mountain into a silhouette before me. And for the first time, I saw the entire Milky Way galaxy before my own eyes, complete with every star in it.

The AMS rig barreled down the road ahead of us.

I smiled.  

This was why painters paint, why musicians play, why singers sing, why dancers dance...

...and why the GT-R was made.

I looked at the rig moving off into the distance. I moved the transmission gear selector. And for one last time, with the car in full manual mode, I floored the gas pedal.  

The AMS Alpha-9 GT-R responded.



#10 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 09:58 AM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
For a full set of high res images from the trip, click here:
http://www.nagtroc.o...showtopic=46559



#11 rs4ever Posted 13 December 2010 - 03:20 PM

rs4ever
  • Members
  • R32 Member

  • PipPip
  • 486 posts

View PostDavin, on Dec 13 2010, 07:58 AM, said:

This story will be continued through the week...
A full set of pics will be posted at the end.

You had to break it up into different parts...  :irock:  Lol!!

Steve



#12 DocNrock Posted 13 December 2010 - 03:48 PM

DocNrock
  • NAGTROC Certified Member
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,626 posts
Very enjoyable prose, Davin.  I look forward to reading the rest of your adventure.


2009 Obsidian Black Nissan GT-R Premium. 550 awhp, 544 awtq (Mustang dyno, 91 octane). Dyno tuned by Jon at Cobb SoCal

Auto Club Speedway ROVAL 1:51.450, Willow Springs (big Willow) 1:34.457, Buttonwillow 13cw 2:02.858, SMMR 3.1 2:41.811

Go: Akuma BM intakes with Outerwears prefilters, AMS FMIC, Harman Motive intercooler piping, iD 1000cc injectors, dual Walbro fuel pumps, NGK racing plugs, AAM decatted downpipes, Cobb catted Y-pipe, HKS Legamax exhaust, and Cobb AP with custom tune.

Stop: AP Racing J-hook rotors, Endless ME20 pads, Stillen stainless brake lines, Endless RF-650 fluid.

Handling: Stillen sway bars, Dunlop SportMaxx 285's x 4, KW Coilover Sleeve kit, custom track alignment.

Accoutrements: Traqmate Complete/Chase Cam, GT Motoring tow hook, ARP studs, Project Kics R40 lugnuts. Passenger seat mount Halon extinguisher.


#13 alford35 Posted 13 December 2010 - 08:20 PM

alford35
  • Members
  • R32 Member

  • PipPip
  • 193 posts
  • Location:Murray KY
Has been a very good read so far! Very talented for sure!


2010 DMG GTR
Custom JL sound
Custom door skins
20% total tint
Front and rear clear markers

#14 Davin Posted 13 December 2010 - 08:29 PM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
thanks guys,
the next part is up...
click here - or see post#3 in this thread



#15 airjoker66 Posted 13 December 2010 - 10:06 PM

airjoker66
  • Members
  • R32 Member

  • PipPip
  • 278 posts
  • Location:San Antonio, TX
Can you write my next paper for English?

But really this is an awesome read!



#16 SELVERGTR7 Posted 13 December 2010 - 10:18 PM

SELVERGTR7
  • Supporter
  • Egoist Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,964 posts
  • Location:Bosnia, Canada, London ON
my exams are coming up and im not even studying... so i dont even know if i should read this.... would probly be better if i read some of my notes instead of this :cheers:  :lmfao:


"To live through an impossible situation, you don't need the reflexes of a Grand Prix driver, the muscles of a Hercules, the mind of an Einstein. You simply need to know what to do."

GTR Nismo <3

#17 Davin Posted 14 December 2010 - 04:26 PM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI
the next part is up
click here or go to post #4 in this thread



#18 Davin Posted 14 December 2010 - 04:32 PM

Davin
  • Administrator
  • SpecV Member

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,148 posts
  • Location:VI


please excuse the quality of these videos, ive never really done any video editing before.

more pics from the colorado part of the story coming at the end...



#19 evodude Posted 15 December 2010 - 10:30 AM

evodude
  • Members
  • R32 Member

  • PipPip
  • 74 posts
  • Location:Colorado Springs
Davin, well written so far, great descriptive voice. I have a mere mortal GT-R and am moving to Colorado from GA in two weeks - so this section has really whetted the appetite for what lies ahead. Loving your story, look forward to the next installment!



#20 Toykilla Posted 15 December 2010 - 10:52 AM

Toykilla
  • Administrator
  • NAGTROC CO-FOUNDER

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 12,176 posts
  • Location:Houston, TX
Great write up. Wish I was there.





Reply to this topic



  

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users