Team America BNR32 GT-R First Update in a Long Time!

by Mike Kojima


So most of you probably thought that the Team America GT-R was dead, long abandoned to the scrap heap or maybe left in a pile somewhere in Australia. Not so, after a humiliating first appearance at the 2014 running of WTAC down under, the car has been under reconstruction.

The main reason why the car was a failure was that it was rushed to completion and shipped to Australia even though it had never turned a wheel and never even started. In fact, it was shipped incomplete and had to be finished there. Rather, it was not finished and tried to run anyway. 

The car was plagued by a mysterious misfire that was unsolvable in the field, due to a hard to trace fault in the wiring harness, rubbery odd steering and front aero failure that left the splitter dragging on the ground. 

These issues left the car only being able to putt around the course and unable to complete a single lap under its own power. After the event, the car sat in storage for over a year. Then, most of the original team had a meeting and decided to go ahead and fix the car starting with correcting the major show ending problems first.      

Brian Kono of Afterhours Automotive was chosen to straighten out the chassis issues that the car had and has been slowly working on the car for about a year in his spare time. Here is how the progress has been so far. With a new title sponsor, everything looks pretty promising. When the chassis basics are fixed and the engine control problems are taken care of, the team will start to shake down the car. 


A big part of the car's problems was wonky steering. The steering was rubbery with tons of free play making the car almost undrivable. Most of this was caused by flex in the system. Most of the flex was due to trying to make some of the OEM steering column work even though the driver sits a couple of feet further rearward than the OEM position for better weight distribution. 

The first thing Brian did was to build a new steering column. The old part had an odd flex joint in the steering shaft that added a lot of play, and much of the column was unsupported near the steering wheel. Just the act of steering caused the whole thing to flex several inches, which created a lot of degrees of semi-free play. 

Brian built a stiff support structure out of thin-wall chromoly tubing. This was tied into the roll cage. The end bearing of the steering shaft was moved almost a foot further rearward to support the steering wheel a lot better. This eliminated all of the flex in the steering shaft itself.


You can see how the support structure is attached directly to the roll cage and how the steering column can telescope on its support bearing in a bad crash. 

These two U-Joints allow the steering column to buckle here instead of spearing the driver if a crash crushes the front of the car. 

Another severe problem that the chassis frame rail where the steering box was attached was very weak. The frame rail was extremely flimsy and the force generated from steering was causing the entire rail to bend and flex!

The flexing frame rail added even more free play to the steering. To solve this, Brian came up with a tubular structure that tied the steering box into the suspension/engine cradle subframe and the roll cage. Now the steering box no longer moves. You can see part of the tubular structure for the steering box here.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2018 10:11 AM
hooray for updates! Thanks for keeping us junkies going, Mike!
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 10:36 AM
It lives!
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 2:47 PM
Best of luck!

I need to dig back and find the article that explains why a normal rack was not used. Surely a custom rack would have paid for itself many times by now. Linkage difficulties and all.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 3:51 PM
@SM_Clay72: They used the steering system they did because a normal rack would run right through the middle of the engine. The recirculating ball rack and slider gave them good steering geometry without having to lift the engine for clearance.

Really glad to see this car is going back together. Was definitely an inspiration during my college/FSAE years.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 9:21 PM
Very good, does this mean the miatabusa will get an update as well?
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 7:19 AM
Glad to see this car again getting some love. Where do we see this being campaigned in the future?
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 10:48 AM
FINALLY!!! I've been thinking about this car for a while and wondering what happened to it. Glad to see it's back on track. I doubt you have a timetable for when it might be ready, but it would be great if you did so we could look forward to seeing it at an event or show. WTAC 2018? SEMA 2018?
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 11:47 AM
Great news. It takes a lot of dedication to keep troublesome projects going.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 11:36 PM
Is this car gonna get infinity wings?
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 11:45 PM
And will the turbo still be in the passenger compartment?
Thursday, March 22, 2018 1:05 PM
When using U-joints like that for steering, it is very important to clock them like Brian did. Ask me how I know... :(
Friday, March 23, 2018 10:16 AM
@8695Beaters just going from these pics it looks like a rack could in the same location as their slider, especially with such set back driving position.

Pictures and actually being there to look at it are very different things of course. I love the thinking around corners that went into the system.
Mr. T
Mr. Tlink
Friday, March 23, 2018 10:59 AM
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 10:17 AM
Concerning steering:

Another option over anti-rotation linear bearings is to install an anti-rotation link to the "rack". IE, if you can find a chassis location in front of or behind the rack to secure a link that runs longitudinal with the car and attaches to the same location your steering link attaches to on the rack.

As long as this anti-rotation link is kept long enough, rotation in the rack should be kept to a minimum, but the key is that the behavior will be symmetrical and consistent. However, it may eat some ground clearance.
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