I bought a JDM R35 GT-R, here’s what sets it apart from the UK market

You’ll forever see in car groups the letters “JDM” thrown around and usually incorrectly at that. But what does it actually mean? Japanese Domestic Market, these are cars specifically designed to be sold only in Japan not the rest of the world. These mean they often have differing specs and configurations to European and US markets. Today I’ll walk you through what’s different with mine as I’ve started to notice parts.

Labels

Quite obviously a vehicle made in Japan by Japanese people that’s designed to be sold and used in Japan is going to have much of their language bestowed upon it. The Satnav and infotainment buttons are in Japanese. The sun-visors and glovebox are in Japanese, so is the inside of the fuel-filler cap and the onboard computer is in Japanese. There’s some more Japanese labelling in the engine bay, there’s even some on the search and control buttons on the dashboard. The windows all have some Japanese labelling with the VIN number attached as well. To summarise, much labelling in Japanese.

Engine Bay

There’s extra pipe work routed around the engine bay near the inlet plenum that I’ve highlighted. I believe this is either extra cooling or to keep an eye on timing. My first R35 GT-R didn’t have this and I’m confident this is exclusive to the JDM market. The engine block itself has a different finish to it, it looks more “raw” to me as you’ll see below the highlighted area it almost looks pitted and dirty. My “UK” spec GT-R had a more metallic gloss silver colour to the engine block and generally looked tidier overall. There’s also some Japanese labelling which will no doubt mention something about engine oil or general maintenance. See picture below.

Uk spec engine

Computer systems

The R35 GT-R is a tech heavy supercar of its day. You’ve G-meters for both lateral and accelerative forces. You can measure your throttle and braking inputs, gear positions, fuel economy and many other things you realistically won’t look at until something goes wrong. Engine and gearbox temperatures can be monitored,which I find relaxing after some spirited driving. This is all the same stuff as a European and US spec car, however what is not is when it comes to SATNAV and Bluetooth for your phone. When engaging the SATNAV the car shouts at you in Japanese as its location arrow is apparently in the middle of an ocean, so no help there. The menus for Bluetooth are in Japanese, however these can be deciphered with YouTube videos. The computer will remember your phone and automatically pair from then on. My car is equipped with a reversing camera and (non useful) SATNAV with Led front lights. None of these were an option on early cars in the UK. When reverse is engaged the car beeps in that Asian technology kind of way and a very long Japanese word is displayed on the screen, the camera is a massive massive help as the R35 is the size of a small yacht. The radio bands are shorter so you’ll find your chosen station elsewhere with it being FM. You did get the bluetooth as standard though along with high-definition screen, which is a nice touch. The UK market had to wait for the DBA launch for the screen updates. Sometimes on start up a Japanese lady will greet you with something she’s saying (I’ve obviously no idea what) and I’ll be honest I love it. It’s weird it’s quirky and most of it isn’t useful yet I think it adds so much character to a car often dubbed as soulless.

Instruments

This took some getting my head around at first but now it all makes perfect sense. Litchfield did the MPH conversion the moment the car landed in the UK. They leave the original KPH clocks in but black out the “K” and change the calibration to miles per hour. I rely heavily on the digital readout as all of the numbers we want in the UK are very small and hard to see. A little quirk I like when setting the cruise control is it forgets it’s been calibrated to MPH, I was sat at around 70mph yet when setting the cruise it offered me 126kph which I assume is about right as we didn’t spear off into the distance at near twice the speed. I’ve no idea what I’m getting fuel wise as it’s in kilometres and it doesn’t seem to translate to anything particularly useful. It’s crap on fuel much worse than the first but this example is also faster, my heart does not bleed for shit economy. what is irritating is error messages are displayed in Japanese so you’ll need ECUTEK to run codes for yourself should any difficulties arise. Again YouTube videos can aid with resetting the service intervals.

Controls

I felt really stupid the day I bought this GT-R. After spending nearly 3 hours at the helm of my mothers 3 cylinder Kia Picanto (road test to come soon!) I was pretty accustomed to UK based controls. I’ve owned 5 cars in 2020 so I struggle to remember which is which but I was always confident everything is in roughly the same place. No no, JDM cars have their controls inverted, IE indicators on the right stalk, windscreen wipers on the left. Imagine this, you’ve just paid for your GT-R, you’ve got a full tank of V-power and you just want to get home safe and sound. You intuitively indicate your desired exit from the roundabout with a smooth steering input, oh wait, nope that’s the wipers again you bellend.

Pictured in Japan Dockside before shipping.

Summary

My day to day living with the car hasn’t been impacted by it’s Import status or the odd symbols and letters I don’t understand. Once you’ve set your phone up and filled it with fuel you’ll be good to go. I feel it adds a sense of occasion and entertainment when you see all the Japanese warning labels and such, it reminds you the car has a story. Plus I’ve only just noticed it doesn’t have headlight washes which is a good thing, screen-wash might last a little longer now and it’s one less thing to break.

Published by Sam Busby

a big nosed bearded idiot who likes to write about cars. Lucky enough to have owned a few quick ones too.

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