With all the mods I had on my 32 GT-R I needed a brain to power it all. After all a standard ECU wasn’t going to get the most out of my forged build and big single turbo set up. After some deliberation I chose to go against the popular choice of the Apexi PowerFC and go with the Autronic SMC ECU.
When I was looking at ECU’s I was wrongly advised by Horse Power Factory (at that time Amberley Autos) that my only option for the turbo and engine setup I was going to run was an ECU that will get rid of the air flow meters (AFM). Initially I was hoping to use a PowerFC as the other options, as the Motec and Autronic systems were mega bucks. Eventually I bit the bullet and went with the Autronic system suggested by Horse Power Factory. It beat the Motec M800 only because of price. I was getting more options with my Autronic SMC than I would with a Motec M800. You have to remember, buying a Motec isn’t going to give you all the options. You have to pay for certain options to be enabled making the ECU stupidly expensive.
The Autronic was installed by Horse Power Factory who took 4 months to install the ECU and tune it. Not happy abut the wait. But when I got the car I was told I had a turbo failure on the dyno. At this point I had not changed the turbo set up, instead I was running a twin high mount Blitz turbo set up. Due to this turbo blowout I was informed that I need to do a full engine build because one of the cylinders was low in compression. Seems like bits of the turbo blew into the engine and caused some damage.
After getting the bad news of an engine rebuild I decided to pull the engine down and do a ground up build, sparing no expense. Once the engine was built and ready to be dropped into the car I had one of my friends join me to get this project completed. Ayhan is a GT-R nut! He owns a 500KW R33 GT-R and a 35 GT-R pulling 400kw+. He was running the exact same set up as me; engine specs, cams, injectors and ECU. Ayhan wired his own Autronic SMC and learnt how to tune it. So who better to get over to help me with my car.
When it came to wiring the engine up after it was dropped in. He noticed that the Autronic ECU wasn’t wired correctly. Printing a wiring diagram from Autronic is was evident that Horse Power Factory screwed up the wiring BIG TIME! Wires that were meant to be twisted to prevent interference were just straight wires. This poor job was enough for me to take it up with Horse Power Factory with the intent on getting refund. In the end Horse Power Factory asked me to bring the car in with the diagram and they would have it redone for me. What? And wait another 4 months. Yea right! At this stage I had enough of performance workshops. I had a poor dealing with ICE Performance; Nigel and Gerald were a nightmare to deal with taking 8 month to build my motor. Not to mention the constant arguments I had with them to get my motor back. So I was over dealing with these so called experts.
Long story short, Ayhan and I redid the wiring and got the car running. It was time for me to get my car tuned and Racepace was the place to go for all GT-R owners. Taking the car to Racepace I had a sense of comfort more than I had with all the other performance companies. After all, Racepace are GT-R specialists. Unfortunately my experience was quite different. Ben did a terrible job on the tune for my GT-R. On a cold day my car wouldn’t even start and even on a normal day the car needed to be cranked several times before is started. On more than one occasion I had to get my car towed home because it wouldn’t start. When I called to complain to Ben he said “We didn’t do the cold starts” however he was quick to charge be over $2,000 for a tune. It was evident Ben and Racepace had no idea how to tune Autronic ECU’s and just only knew Power FC’s, so I decided to take it to a certified Autronic tuner.
I took my car to Benica Automotive, a certified Autronic tuner to have a crack at tuning my car. Again, the tuners had no idea. The tune was horrendous and Joe from Benica said that they don’t have the “expertise to tune a GT-R’s”. I was stuck! Gladly Ayhan had the knowledge to tune the car to a bearable position for me to drive. After my experience with Benica and the lack of competent Autronic tuners in Victoria, I called Autronic support and spoke to their tech support team. Great thing was that the team was willing to help. They were also willing to work with my tuner to ensure my GT-R was going to be tuned perfectly.
Now that the car is getting back together I will be going with an ECU that a tuner knows well. I’m thinking of taking the car to Sydney and getting Croydon Racing Development to do the tuning. Or if possible, I’d like to get an ECU that I can tune myself. Either way I’m hoping for a good result.
You are probably wondering what the reason for this article is. It may seem that I am venting my frustrations due to my experience with incompetent tuners. That’s not the case. I’m hoping that I can save you the hassle of spending loads of money. The lesson to be learnt here is to chose an ECU that your tuner specialises in. No use getting the best ECU on the market if your tuner has no idea how to get the most out of it.