NICOclub’s Project G37
We spent the last few months getting the Project G37 trackworthy.
This time, we took a step in the opposite direction. An epic odyssey spanning 6000 miles in 9 days. This is a tale of two guys in a G37 on an amazing trip through 15 U.S. states, 3 Canadian provinces, and the most amazing scenery this side of the Prime Meridian.
We began the journey on Thursday, May 21st. James (PapaSmurf2k3) drove from his house in Water Valley, MS to my house in Marietta, GA. He had difficulties getting his daily driver (a Honda Prelude) running, so he took his “fun” car, an S13. Although a 5 ½ hour road trip in a rather loud S13 isn’t exactly what I would refer to as “fun.”
Nevertheless, James showed up to my place around midnight. The next morning, we loaded up the G37 around 4am and headed out. Our first day we would drive to Carlisle, PA, where we would stay the next two days for the NICOfest Carlisle event. Just a few hours into the trip, I was catching some Z’s in the passenger seat while James drove. I woke up just as we were flying past a police car. However, I looked over at the speedometer and saw we were only going 70-75 mph, and didn’t think much of it. Neither did James, until the cop pulled us over. He issued James a warning for 74 in a 65. When I asked the police officer if South Carolina had a state-wide speed limit of 65, he said “no, it’s 70 south of here, but it’s 65 from here until the North Carolina border.” As we drove away, we saw the “Welcome to North Carolina” sign before we even reached cruising speed. Go figure.
We left South Carolina and continued north, on up through North Carolina and Virginia. When we reached the West Virginia welcome area, we decided to stop for a quick lunch. We had packed a loaf of bread, and some peanut butter and jelly to save some money. After we refueled our bellies, we continued on up through Maryland and into Pennsylvania. We reached the Holiday Inn in Carlisle and met up with dozens of other NICO members who were already there. Day 1 down, after 11 hours of driving.
Now I could go into detail about NICOfest Carlisle, but this article is about the G, so I’m not going to. And if you are interested in reading more about the Carlisle event, you can read the recap here. However, I am going to tell you about the tires on the G, because it’s a big part of the story, and it’s the next upgrade we did on Project G37.
Saturday afternoon, I decided to test out the G37 on the autoX track. We’ve tested it on a road course, both before and after the oil cooler, suspension, and brakes, but we’ve yet to test it on a tight autoX course. We cranked up the suspension as stiff as it would go in all four corners to start. After a few runs, we dialed in the front suspension a little more to get rid of the understeer, as we continued to improve times. One minute lap times seemed to be what separated the average from the awesome. After a number of laps, I managed to finally get the beast into the sub-one minute range. Feeling accomplished, I pulled the G off the track, only to notice the rear tires had de-treaded themselves. The tires were completely shot. After all, these were the original tires with 25k miles on them, including 3 track days and a day of autoXing.
Now at this point, most people would have simply ordered a new set of tires and stayed a couple extra days in Carlisle until they could safely drive home. However, we didn’t have that choice if we wanted to complete our journey. We had reservations for a ferry leaving Monday night, and it was a 21 hour drive to get there.
In a panic Sunday morning, we called all the local tire shops trying to find replacement 19” tires. Having no luck, we hopped on craigslist and amazingly found a pair of slightly used (and slightly dry-rotted) 19” tires, about an hour’s drive from Carlisle for only $100. Needless to say, by Sunday afternoon, the car had a new set of used 19” tires on the rear.
The quest to find 19” tires and have them mounted used up most of our Sunday, but I did manage to get the car back to NICOfest before the day was over. A few more runs on the autoX course on the used tires, and times were improved. As we packed up the gear from an awesome weekend, we headed out to our next destination—Wakefield, RI.
Leaving Pennsylvania, we then passed through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and into Rhode Island. We made it to town just before midnight, just in time to go out for a quick drink before hitting our beds. The next day (Monday) would be our longest leg of our journey.
Alarm went off bright and early: 5am! We needed to be on the road by 6am to make our ferry reservation. We drove north through morning rush hour in Providence, and up through Massachusetts to continue through Boston morning rush hour. We continued up through New Hampshire, and into Maine.
As we continued through Maine, we came to the realization that there is really nothing in Maine. Once north of Portland, the interstate becomes lined with trees, and the scenery does not change. There were a few mountains in the background to the northwest, but other than that, there was not much to see. Just a few miles before the Canadian border, we pulled into a town for a quick bite to eat.
The town we pulled into defines the word “small.” With no fast food in sight, we stopped at what I believe is the only convenience store/restaurant in town—Island Falls One Stop, in Island Falls, ME. Our food was excellent! It was utterly amazing how good the food was for an old gas station in the middle of nowhere. If you’re ever on I-95 and passing by Island Falls, ME, I recommend stopping there for lunch.
Continuing on, we finally reached the Canadian customs just inside of New Brunswick. It’s been awhile since I’ve crossed into another country via land, so I figured we’d have no problems and drive right through. After waiting inside the office for 45 minutes, while we saw many other people continue on through without a problem, we started to wonder why were being held up. The customs officers searched the G inside and out for another 15 minutes. They asked us where our destination was, and we told them St. John’s, NL. At first they didn’t seem to believe us, because they told us nobody goes there on vacation. I guess we’re weird. After being held up an hour at the customs office, one of the officers asked us what time we were boarding the ferry to Newfoundland. We told them 11:30pm. She said we needed to hurry because it was already 3pm, and it was still 8 hours away, to which I replied “I know, so it’d be nice if you let us go.” They finally released us!
I thought New Brunswick would have nice scenery, but I was wrong. At least in the area we were at. Driving through the middle of the province, there’s nothing but rocks. We crossed into Nova Scotia as the sun was setting. Although it was night time, it was clear that Nova Scotia is the more scenic of the two provinces. The road twisted and wound through Cape Breton until we finally reached North Sydney, NS at 11pm. This would be the loading point for the ferry.
An 8 hour ferry ride, leaving at 11:30pm, meant that we would be sleeping on the ferry. We booked a 2 person berth in anticipation of it. After we checked out the ship for about an hour, we headed to our room to get some rest. In the morning we would have even more driving to do.
The ship sounded a wake-up call about 30 minutes before we docked in Newfoundland. Just in time to take a quick shower, pack up our stuff, and head down to the car. About 7am, we rolled off the ferry and onto Newfoundland Island. There it was: the welcome sign to Newfoundland and Labrador. We had made it, only not quite yet. The ferry docks in Port aux Basques, NL, which unfortunately is still 10 hours away from our final destination in St. John’s.
Our first impression of Newfoundland was that it was amazing. Seeing snow capped mountains in late May was incredible. As we drove further north, towards the city of Corner Brook, we saw more and more snow on the ground. Luckily it was clear skies above, but the temperature was hovering right around freezing. We stopped in Corner Brook for a quick lunch then continued on.
After passing through Gander, NL, the scenery started to change. Instead of a rocky and boring landscape, the road got curvier, and the elevation changes were starting to increase. Now we were starting to see the scenery I had seen pictures of. We finally made it to St. John’s, arriving just in time to hit afternoon Tuesday rush hour. We had found a place to stay in Pouch Cove, NL, about 25 km north of St. John’s. The small bed & breakfast was right on the coast. When you walked out through the back yard, it was the most amazing landscape I’ve ever seen, as we looked out over the north Atlantic.
Before we had left for the trip, I had exchanged some emails with Jonathan Cole (NewfoundlandDude), who lives in St. John’s. When we got checked into our bed & breakfast, we gave him a call. We headed downtown that evening to meet Jonathan and his girlfriend Kayla, along with a couple of their friends. What was as amazing as the scenery in Newfoundland was the people. Both Jonathan and Kayla, as well as their friends, were some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. To top it off, James and I agreed that Newfoundland is also home to some of the most beautiful women on the planet. Who would have thought?
After dinner, we continued the night by stopping a few places around town with the G37 and Jonathan’s super clean S14 to take some photos. Jonathan had just gotten the plate for his car that day, and was excited to have the opportunity to get some good photos, and what better place than alongside NICO’s Project G37.
The next morning we met Jonathan at the car wash to give both the G and his S14 a bath. After washing the G, I noticed a problem. The front tires were now corded on the inside. Not wanting to damage them more, we stayed close to town all day to limit the driving. Meanwhile, Jonathan’s friend Phil who runs a repair shop spent the day calling around looking for a new pair of 19” tires.
While Phil called tire shops, James and I headed to Signal Hill. This is a lookout point that stands above St. John’s and overlooks the city. On the opposite side, it overlooks the Atlantic. Words can’t describe how amazing the view was. After spending some time at Signal Hill, we then met up with Jonathan and Kayla again and they took us to Cape Spear. Cape Spear was the ultimate final destination for us, as it is the most easterly point in North America. Standing at the corner of the observation point, we were further east than any other person in North America. It’s an incredible feeling, knowing that you are as close to Europe as you can get while still being on North American soil.
As Wednesday evening came, we headed back downtown to join Jonathan and his friends at a pub. St. John’s has a few interesting facts about it. For one, it is the oldest European settlement in North America. It’s even older than St. Augustine, FL, which is the oldest European settlement in the U.S. The other interesting fact about St. John’s is that it has more pubs per square foot than any other city in North America. We wanted to make downtown George Street one of the things we wanted to see. However, we were informed that it usually does not get busy until around midnight, as most pubs are open until 4am or later! In the meantime, we were invited to a friend of Jonathan’s house, where we could see what partying Newfoundland-style was all about.
We had so much fun that night, time got away from us. We ended up not going back downtown. Kayla had made us some homemade macaroni around 4am to cure our late night food cravings, and we went to bed shortly after. In the morning, we had to leave to head back to Port aux Basques to make the ferry.
That Thursday morning, on the way out of town, we stopped by Phil’s shop again to see what the status was on finding new tires. He was unsuccessful at locating any, but to help us out, he flipped the front tires on the G so that the worn edge was on the outside. We really appreciate his help; we just had to hope that was good enough to make it back to Rhode Island. When we hit the road, I gave Tirerack a call. They had some Hankook Ventus S1 evo’s on clearance for only $138 each. I ordered a full set and had them overnighted to Rhode Island. Instead of going with the original OEM sizes, we chose to widen the contact patch. We went with 245/40/19’s for the front, and 275/35/19’s for the rear. The OEM tires appear to be slightly stretched, so this would give it a better look, as well as more grip.
We headed back to Port aux Basques, had dinner then boarded the ferry. Again, leaving at just before midnight, we arrived in Nova Scotia Friday morning. Friday we spent the day driving back through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and into Maine. Just inside the U.S. border, we pulled into a small town to grab some lunch. It was like déjà vu. It happened to be the Island Falls One Stop we ate at on the way there. Let me just stress again, the food was great!
After lunch, we continued on through Massachusetts and back to Wakefield, RI. We had time again to go out for a few drinks with some of James’ friends. The next morning, the search was on to find a tire shop that could mount 19” tires. It took awhile to find a shop with the equipment to do it, but finally around 11am we found one. While the tires were being mounted, we did some quick site seeing and drove by the property that the movie Me, Myself, and Irene was filmed at. The house is no longer there, but the neighbor’s house is. We then headed back to pick up the G and get on the road.
Another long stretch of driving, we drove through Connecticut, back through New York and New Jersey, into Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC was our next destination where we would spend the night with a couple old friends from high school. We got in pretty late, but still got a couple hours of socializing in before we went to bed.
The next day, we headed back through South Carolina and into Georgia. We unloaded the G that Sunday afternoon then James continued for another 5 ½ hours in his S13 crossing Alabama and back into Mississippi. Our amazing journey was completed.
After nearly 6000 miles of driving in only 9 days, we can officially say that we’ve proved the G to be a grand tourer. The suspension worked wonderfully, as we were able to soften it up for the miles of highway driving, and stiffen it up for the abusive driving on the autoX course. The G37 is truly an amazing testament to Nissan’s engineering.