Nestled deep within Nissan’s grungy old Yokohama engine plant lies a laboratorylike “clean room,” from which some 12,000 GT-R engines will spring to life this year.
Each VR38 engine is built by a single, specially trained operator, who assembles about 700 parts during the 100 minutes that Nissan judiciously allots for completion of the task. According to Nissan, five primary steps make up the process of finishing the incredible 480-hp, 430-lb-ft, 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged monster V-6:
1.; ;Cylinder block assembly
2.; ;Cylinder head assembly
3.; ;Bore engine assembly
4.; ;Dressing up
5.; ;Engine test
Nissan requires that personnel in the “clean room”–where all five steps take place–wear clothes and shoes that minimize the risk of introducing dust and dirt into the room. (It’s true–I had to don a jacket and shoe booties in order to be allowed admittance when I toured the Yokohama facility earlier today.) As step 5 suggests, Nissan is also very particular about testing completed GT-R engine assemblies: Each unit is dyno’d and must be within less than 3 percent, plus or minus, of the car’s rated 480 hp (lesser Nissan engines are granted a window of up to 10 percent differentiation). All powerplants are thoroughly tested for 60 minutes, including break-in, which includes extensive testing under a full load (for instance, I saw one engine run up to 6400 rpm). Generally, one or two engines fail these tests each week.
Elsewhere in the factory, which builds four other types of engines, robotized carts roll around on tracks in the floor, carrying parts from station to station. Hilariously, the carts are accompanied by a sound track much like that of an American ice-cream truck, playing songs including “It’s a Small World” and “Swan Lake.” As if that weren’t strange enough, some parts of the factory smell like baby chickens. I kid you not.
The primary engine built at the plant is the Nissan/Renault MR four-cylinder, which displaces 1.8- and 2.0-liter sizes and comes to the United States under the hood of the Nissan Versa. In years past, the Yokohama factory bore the legendary powerplants of the 1969 Skyline GT-R (an engine codenamed S20) and the 1989 Skyline GT-R (known as RB26), to name but a couple.