An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014


Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]


Archive for November, 2009

S-Tec Motorsports Manifold Review

Posted By Dave on November 26th, 2009

Always on the lookout for good bits of writing that I can put up on my own site if I think they might be helpful or interesting to someone, and have found one right here.  The writer is a guy called Chris who’s a good friend and knowledgeable car guy who used to be here in Okinawa.  He’s writing about an Okinawan company called S-Tec Motorsports which is a tuning shop/parts manufacturer here in Okinawa, and in particular the exhaust manifolds they do for the Nissan RB20, RB25 and RB26 engines.  He’s done a great job with a clear unbiased review and anyone with an interest in one of these very competitively priced manifolds should have a read.

There seems to be a lot of questions and opinions about Stec manifolds rolling around out there lately. Some of the stuff said is opinion not really based in fact, and some of it is valid observations. I thought I would do a little write up since I’m constantly repeating the same points in different threads. I don’t want anybody to think I’m trying to sell these for him though. People have just bashed them at times, or expressed interest in them other times. I think it’s a pretty good option, but I’ll try and stick to the facts about them and not “sell” them.

A little background so nobody tries to say I’m being dishonest, S-tec (Scott) built my car and is a friend of mine. He’s an American dude living in Japan which is where his shop is. I used to hang out at the shop about every day, and have even helped stack these up and test fit them with him, so I’m pretty familiar with them and how he checks them. I’ve run both his side mount and top mount manifolds. I’ll try to cover all the good points as well as the stuff that could use some work.

RB20/25/26 Top Mounts

These seem to be the ones people are interested in the most here on NICO. The top mounts are basically a knock off of the HKS/Greddy twin scroll (split pulse) design T4 flanged design. All the piping is made with 321 stainless, which is much better then the 304 stainless most of the Ebay crap out there uses, and it’s all 2.8mm thick. There are also small braces where the primaries meet the flange, not that it needs them. They will never crack. He’ll back that up. If they do, send it back to him and he’ll fix it for you, but he’s never once had that happen. I’ve had mine glowing bright orange (bright enough to read from at night time and light cigarettes of the exhaust housing) more times than I can count and never warped a flange or had it crack. The primaries are pretty will port matched to the head. Not perfect, but not half blocking the port like a lot of the Ebay crap. The can’t really be perfect because the 25 and 26 ports are a little different and it has to fit both.
Also, the primaries go all the way through the flange, so you can really grind the crap out of them and match them up perfect if you want. I did it to mine.

The flanges are 12mm thick laser cut plate stainless, not cast, and everything is welded in a jig, so it’ll be nice and flat which means no exhaust leaks. Scott checks each one with a straight edge and test fits every single manifold against a head before he sends it out. Also, they are flanged and drilled to fit both the 20/25 bolt pattern as well as the 26 bolt pattern, not that that matters to most people (it helps Scott keep the price down), but if you ever step up to a 26, you don’t need to buy a new manifold. It’ll slide right onto the head with out having to wallow out the holes like you have to on some mani’s. There’s one stud that would be a huge pain to get a nut on if it was stock, so you’ll get a shorter exhaust stud to replace it and make it a WHOLE lot easier to get it all bolted up.

The wastegate runners are twin 43mm primaries coming into a 52mm collector, which necks down to a 4 bolt HKS style 50mm flange. As far as clearance of the valve cover goes, I’ve seen TO4r’s, Holset H1E’s w/18cm housings, HX40’s with 16 and 19cm housings, Ebay “Super T70’s”, and even a T88 fit on the stock T4 flange and clear both RB20/25 valve covers as well as 26 valve covers.

Now I’ll talk about some of the issues people have brought up about these. One thing mentioned is the collector looks a little rough on the inside. It is. These are, in fact, made in china in a factory, all be it with much better materials than normal and with much better QC. Scott has actually flown to China and spoken with the dudes at the factory, showed them how he wants things, and paid extra for some of his specifications. He’s also refused to pay them when they screwed up a batch and he basically had a pile of expensive scrap metal which he wouldn’t ship out. These aren’t “one off each time you order it” manifolds like 6boost or full race. Those are $1000-$2000 manifolds and they look like it. The collector on the Stec mani could use some work with a die grinder to smooth it out a bit and remove some excess material.

Here’s the S-tec collector

Here’s a 6boost
Obviously the 6boost looks much better, but I’m not sure how much difference it would make in flow.

Another thing about them is the fact that these probably will have clearance issues with left hand drive vehicles–specifically the wastegate flange will likely hit the steering column depending on the mounts you use. These manifolds are designed for a right hand drive skyline. I’ve seen them in a bunch of RB’d Sylvia’s over in Japan, but again, they are RHD. You’ll almost certainly need to have the wastegate runners chopped and re-welded to clear everything. That segway’s me into another thing…..

The mani is a dual scroll (split pulse) design, but down at the end of the wastegate runners, the two halves of the engine pulses can come together and muddle a bit. How much this hurts is a subject for debate, but when I went to two completely separate wastegate runners and wastegates, it helped my spool times drop by around 200-400rpm in 4th gear. That’s significant. If you are going to chop and re-weld the wastegate runners anyways for fitment, you might want to consider setting it up like this.

One last thing I’ll mention is a problem that I have had, but I’m the only one anybody has heard of this happening to so far. I experienced boost creep on my RB25 with cams and a Holset HX40 with a 19cm housing and a single 50mm wastegate (one of S-tec’s HKS knock-offs). Scott said he thinks it’s because the HX40 with the 19cm housing was just the right balance of flowing enough to make a crap ton of power (and exhaust gas), but not enough to let out all of the exhaust gases, so the boost just kept climbing. Again, nobody else has had this problem. I took the mani off and noticed inside the collector, where the wastegate runners joined the party, it looked like the hole wasn’t as big as the wastegate runner pipe (43mm). Image
I took the die grinder to the ports and opened them all the way up (as best as I can tell with my precision fingerometer). After we reinstalled it, the creep issue was better, but the boost was still zipping up to 1.5 bar which is the size of the spring I had in there, staying put until around 7k rpm, then creeping up to about 1.8-1.9 bar by 7800rpm. To be clear, if you want to grind on them, you will need something like a die grinder and a stone. A Dremel isn’t going to even make dent in these things. The final solution was to take the mani off again, and re-design the wastegate runners into two completely separated runners with twin 50mm gates. As you might guess, I no longer have boost creep issues LOL. An added benefit was the better spool times.

In conclusion, the Stec manifolds are solid, quality manifolds at a damn good price. They aren’t perfect, and do not have the same level of attention to detail during manufacture as some of the high end $1000+ manifolds but they aren’t meant to compete with them. These are basically the best “budget priced” manifolds you can buy. I always say they are 95% of the high end mani’s for 20% of the price. They fit and they won’t crack, and I’ll stake my “internet cred” (for what that’s worth) on Scott standing behind what he sells 100%.

So, now on to the T3 flanged sidemount manifold.

They are made of the same 321 stainless that the top mount is made out of, but the primaries are a little thicker coming in at 3.0mm thick. Flanges are made to the same standards as the above top mount and also welded in a jig. These put the placement of the turbo in the exact same place as stock. If you can bolt whatever turbo you want up to a stock manifold, it’ll fit on this one too. That means it’s safe for LHD cars right out of the box, unlike the top mount. I ran one of these with my stock turbo and it bolted right up. Again, S-tec test fits each one up to a head and checks the flanges with a straight edge before it goes out. One thing I wish these were is split pulse (dual scroll) manifolds, but most of the smaller framed T3 turbo’s you’d bolt on in the stock position are single scroll anyways (including the stock turbo) so it wouldn’t help there anyways. Also they are already significantly improving how quickly a stock turbo spools, which is already pretty quick, so I don’t think it’s that much of an issue. The primaries aren’t huge, so while it’ll outflow a stock manifold significantly, if you are chasing big HP numbers (like 500hp+) you might want to look at something else.

The one I had was heat wrapped for about 2 years and never cracked. I was running it in combination with one of S-tec’s “turbo elbow’s” and put a bunch of other things on my car at the same time, so I can’t really say how much just the manifold added. I have spoken with a lot of friends who added the manifold last on an already completely opened up exhaust from the turbo back, and they said the difference was noticeable.

One quick story I thought was pretty cool and showed how resilient these things are. S-tec had some Japanese drop his R32 GTSt off at the shop and say he was leaking tranny fluid all over the road every time he got up to speed and couldn’t figure out why. Scott put it up on the lift and started looking for a leak and couldn’t find one, although the entire underside of the car was covered in tranny fluid. I suggested looking at the fluid level, and when he did, the problem was obvious. Old dude had fill his tranny to the top of the shifter hole with tranny fluid LOL. Scott drained it, put the proper amount in, and put it up in the air on the lift with a poll on the gas in 5th gear and let it run for 5 minutes to make sure it didn’t leak any more. After that was done and he was lowering the car, we saw this……….


Stock tune = to little timing and really high exhaust temps. Keep in mind that picture was taking during the day in a well lit shop. I’ve had mine glowing like that before too after a couple of back to back sets on a twisty road we call Takoyama. Anyways, that manifold is still on the same car to this day with no cracks or leaks or anything like that. They just won’t crack. It’s scary to think of what mine looked like under all that heat wrap when I had my sidemount on there and was beating on it. Must have damn near been white hot!

November 15th: Omega Drags in Okinawa

Posted By Dave on November 17th, 2009


The Omega Drags was the last racing event of 2009 in Okinawa and unsurprisingly, I was a spectator for this event. And to be honest, as long as I have the Alto Works that’s all I will be. People keep asking me why I don’t pick up another early Evo; a model of car I know quite a bit about and love. But the sad truth of the matter is I doubt I’d have the funds to keep it filled with petrol & oil, nevermind the modifications needed to make it competitive. The time when I have money will come again at some point (fingers crossed), but until then it will probably be watching from the pitlane only.

I got up to Nago Circuit at around 0945, and when I arrived I questioned if I’d got the date wrong for the event. There were no flags up at the entrance and only 3 cars in the parking area. My fears were soon put to bed though when I opened the car door and heard loud engine noise from beyond the circuit wall.

The lack of people watching was matched by a lack of cars taking part. There were only around 20 cars competing which is half of what is usually there. Nobody really knew the reason for it either, and November is usually the best time for the events. Yesterday was no exception, with conditions being ideal. The weather was mild with a bit of a breeze in the air keeping things cool, but the sun made regular appearances to stop people getting too cold. Only two non-Japanese drivers were taking part; a third dropped out 2 days before due to engine block problems which might require a complete engine disassembly.

The lack of entries made the day go by much more quickly than usual, and proceedings ended an hour earlier than usual. The first couple of practice runs were filled with drivers trying to get traction on the launch, and then when braking after the finish line (in the fight between mountainside and car, there is only going to be one winner). There were a couple of pretty hairy moments with some cars locking up the wheels and rear-ends looking a little twitchy, but thankfully no collisions.

Rick, currently holder of the “fastest gaijin in Okinawa” mantle, was looking impressive in his GT-R. His qualifying runs included breaking out of B-class with a time of 5.429s at 164kph for the 150m. To put that in context for the non-racers, that’s a 0-100mph time of under 5.4s. In laymans terms that’s (insert expletive of your choice) fast! The other driver, Josh, was having a tough time bringing everything together in his Mark II JZX90. Traction issues, red-lighting at the start and other little problems made for a very frustrating day. It was a shame for him, as he had high hopes and was taking part in C-class for the first time. Sad to say, but I think yesterday the Alto might have had a chance against him!

Rick managed to attain the quickest qualifying time in B-class, hitting 5.6s for the 150m, which put him straight into the final. The other cars in that class would be racing for the right to race him. Rick’s problem was that he knew if everything went perfectly for him, he had a good chance of breaking out of B-class again which would result in his disqualification from the knockout part of the tournament. The solution was just delaying his launch on the startline a tenth of a second longer or so, to ensure he would remain in his class. And when it came to the final that’s what he did. Both drivers had a good launch but Rick’s GT-R was pretty much flawless and he finished again in 5.6s, 0.3s quicker than his rival.

The final of A-class was won once again by a car tuned by Goyu, which ran the 150m in 5.1s, crossing the line at 179kph. That is a speed and time about 95% of the drivers here in Okinawa can only dream of, and by Rick’s admission is probably out of his league. But something to take into account is the type of cars. The Goyu car that won in A-class is completely gutted, geared for drag racing in Okinawa and even has parts to cut out of the bodywork to save on weight. In contrast, the Gt-R is full-weight with all the sound deadening, stereo air conditioning etc in it. If all of those things were stripped out then he would probably have a chance in the top class here in Okinawa.

To see all the photos I took at this event, take a look at my gallery here.  So a year of drag racing in Okinawa has ended and the first event of 2010 will be in March. So until then, keep warm in the winter months and take good care of your cars.

Note: Apologies for the lack of quality in the photos this time. I was trying to add a bit of motion blur by taking down the shutter speed on my camera, but I took it down way too much, meaning most of my shots were good for nothing except throwing away. Will try harder next time.

JICA International Conference in Okinawa, November 14/15

Posted By Dave on November 11th, 2009


A few of the readers of this site are living in Okinawa, so I thought I’d throw this out there for those of you that like to get out into the community.  The annual JICA International Festival in Okinawa will be taking place this coming weekend (November 14th & 15th, 2009) at the JICA Centre in Urasoe City.  JICA is a Japanese NGO and the Centre in Urasoe has people there from a number of different countries (mainly, but not limited to, developing countries).  At the festival they have presentations about their countries and areas, talks on global issues, free trade and all that kinda stuff.  There is also music and events going on during the day.  I’ve taken part in the conference for the past 3 years with my school as they have held a Model UN conference there, and a good number of people attend.

I’ll probably head there on the 14th, but wanted to let people know about it as the advertising isn’t what I would call “extensive”.  Below are the flyers for the event.

JICA Festival 2009 flyer 1
JICA Festival 2009 flyer 2

ECMLink now Available for early Evos

Posted By Dave on November 11th, 2009


Some of you may remember that earlier this year I owned a 1992 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: a car that, in the few times something wasn’t broken on it, was pretty swift.  I took part in a few drag tournaments here in Okinawa with it, gaining a 2nd and 3rd place trophies.  It was also pretty good in “unofficial” races, but that’s a subject for another time.

One of the final modifications I did to the car, and one I was probably the most excited about, was changing the ECU to a tuning/datalogging setup called ECMLink.  Formerly this was known as DSMLink and had a sizable following in the States with the DSM folk.  I had been asked by the makers at testing and reporting back on the system and how it worked on the early Evos before it hit the market.  I did quite a bit of testing before my car met an untimely demise and now ECMLink has been released for Evo I, II and III owners around the world.

Before I chat a little about ECMLink, I’ll run through its main features, courtesy of the ECMLink website:

  • Injector and deadtime compensation
  • Fuel and timing adjustments using our extended tables
  • Rev limit control (launch, NLTS, and full engine rev limit)
  • Dash gauge control (on platforms where the ECU has control over a dash gauge)
  • TPS dial-in, idle switch simulation
  • Narrowband O2 simulation (so you can log A/F ratio from a wideband *and* run normal closed loop operation off the same signal)
  • Anti-lag during launch and between shifts
  • Knock sensor adjustments
  • Solenoid tests, fan control, fuel pump control, and a variety of other miscellaneous functions
  • DTCs – check and enable/disable various trouble codes
  • Input manipulation (log aftermarket sensors on ECU inputs while disabling the factory use of those inputs)
  • O2 feedback adjustment (so you can account for variations in feedback control caused by wideband sensors)
  • Throttle tip-in adjustments
  • Airflow smoothing
  • Airflow compensation (to run other Mitsubishi MAF sensors)
  • Adjustable long term fuel trim control points
  • Open loop thresholds
  • MAP sensor support

Although initially a little concerned about how ECMLink would compare to my older Ostrich/Tunerpro/Pocketlogger combination which I was very fond of, those fears were soon subdued by the sheer magnitude of what this hardware/software combination could do.  Requiring just a couple of small soldering modifications to the ECU in order to add a socket for the new chip and move a jumper, everything fom then on was controlled through the OBDI socket next to the driver’s right foot.

While there is nothing wrong with the Ostrich/Tunepro setup, it was always a “best effort” solution to tuning for the people that didn’t want to go for something like a PocketFC or the Haltech/SDS standaone setups.  What I mean by that is that the Tunerpro software and Pocketlogger was never made with the early Evos in mind.  Tunepro had features on it that people wanted (e.g. the ability to log data on their Evo), but which wasn’t really possible.  And Pocketlogger was made for DSM cars which meant that, while the important information was loggable, not all of the variables corresponded to what they should be.

In contrast, ECMLink (or ECMLink Lite in its current guise) was made for the early Evos.  And I can say this as I was someone who used both systems and tested them out fully.  You can take advantage of all the features the ECMLink software has to offer.  This includes not only the usual things like setting up injector deadtimes, fuelling and ignition timing etc, but also supports the GM-MAF, and even a MAP sensor so you can get rid of the MAF sensor completely.

Personally, one of my favourite aspects of the setup was the datalogging ability.  You could log almost any aspect of the car’s performance, for analysis later.  From the logs you could se exactly what points on the fuelling and timing maps you were hitting at what rpm, so you can make minute adjustments to the car’s tuning to maximise performance.  There was also wideband logging support through something called “narrowband simulation“, which I will leave the product’s owners to tell you about.

Lastly, although definitely not least, is the support available for this setup.  DSMLink has been going for sometime and has a huge members forum where people can post their logs for support.  While testing the software and hardware, I posted logs up and people pointed out number of issues with my car that I needed to iron out, and which I would have never known about otherwise.  The knowledge there is invaluable and people are very keen to help analyse your logs and reach your car’s potential.

The only downside I noticed in the setup when I was doing initial testing is that fuelling and timing changes could not be done “on-the-fly” (i.e. with the engine running).  In this aspect, the Ostrich setup was more favourable, although there was talk about adding this feature to the final release of ECMLink.  Am not sure if that was done in the end though, and would only be the icing on a very tasty cake.

Am sure this sounds like sales spiel, but rest assured I am not getting any sort of kickback on this!  I just like to make people aware of when I find something they may find beneficial to their cars, and this is certainly one of those cases.  Thomas Dorris and the other folk at ECM Tuning have made a heck of a product in ECMLink, and at $345 it is very affordable too.  If you want any other info about the setup, please get in touch with them at ECMlink.  Tell them Dave Webb from Japan sent you – hopefully they won’t send you any abuse in response!

Posted in Cars

Lindsay Ann Hawker murderer arrested in Osaka

Posted By Dave on November 10th, 2009


Over 2 years after the body of English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker was found in a bathtub of sand in Chiba, the main suspect was arrested this evening.  Tatsuyo Ichihashi was captured by police early this evening at the Nanko ferry terminal waiting to board a ferry to Okinawa.  After recent leads in the Osaka area and a new photo being published of him following cosmetic surgery he had done, a passenger in the ferry terminal reported a person bearing Ichihashi’s description to authorities at the ferry terminal.  Police then approached and arrested him.

Currently, the charge is only the complete joke of “abandoning a body”, although Chiba police are hopeful of upgrading that charge to murder.  I’m usually very critical of the Japanese police but it seems like after 2 and a half years they have finally got their man.  Since initial posters were released, he has undergone a number of plastic surgery operations on his eyes, nose and mouth (no doubt funded by his wealthy family) and was attempting to undergo another round of surgery at a Fukuoka clinic in the near future.  It has also emerged that he has been working undetected in Osaka for over a year while managing to remain under the radar.

But he is finally in custody and now the job moves from the police to the criminal courts to ensure that justice is done.  I’m trying to be hopeful but just get the feeling he may only be found guilty in the eyes of the law in Japan of abandoning a body.   I certainly hope not and hope that the Hawker family can finally get some closure on this.

Nice Slow-motion Video of Drag Race Launches

Posted By Dave on November 7th, 2009

This might only be of limited appeal to those who read the articles I post, but I thought this was cool and worth writing about.  As the more perceptive of you may know, one of my current passions is cars, despite having absolutely no luck with them in the past 12 months.  But when I have a car that will move under its own power, I like drag racing.

One of the most vital points of the drag race is the launch, and it’s easy for people who haven’t done it to underestimate how much there is to think about.  Staging, getting the rpms held just right, keeping the clutch and gas at the right points so you don’t wheelspin or bog… it really is a hell of a lot, and the quicker the car the more you have to think about.  But the launch itself lasts a fraction of a second and then it’s onto flying through the gears and heading for the finish line.

This video that I came across on one of the forums I frequent shows those fractions of a second, but slowed down so you can really see what happens to the car.  Even if you’re not into racing, it’s still a pretty cool video to watch.  If you are into racing, it’s fascinating to analyse the launches and what is or is not going right.

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