Sakura Garage timeline
Sakura Garage beginning
Project leopard’s narrative was suppose to mean something. Rebuilding the famous magazine car with the original builders, but also put my take on the car by bringing in F31 people. When I started to pull my resources, I reached out to Greg (Sakura Garage) for opinions. I had to address the body and paint and asked Greg about wrapping. He said it would be better to paint it. Coming from that same school of thought, I decided to go the paint route.
Greg offered to paint the car. I was ecstatic! Hell yeah. An F31 brother and someone I met back in 2006 is painting the car.
** I knew the work on the car was more than $3,000. **
Even though he said homie hook up, I told him I don’t mind paying as long as it is fair. We agreed to pay step by step (or pay as we go). Everytime something was done, take and send pictures, but also send the invoice.
When we discussed the Project Car more in-depth, I said it was rough and he said we can go through it after they pick it up. So I started to gather up everything I thought I needed. We would set the date for Sakura Garage to pick up the car in May 2020.
Initial project outline
- $3000 for materials and start up + transport LA to AZ (paid Venmo)
- When something was done, send pictures and invoice for work – pay right away
- I agreed to go out to AZ to hang out and work on the car
- *** WHENEVER I WAS ASKED TO PAY, I DID!!!!
Project Leopard’s condition
The car was in rough condition. But it wasn’t like a collision repair. No rust. Jon had told me it was pretty much there besides the bumpers needed to be replaced. That was a huge understatement.
- Front bumper was broken and bad condition
- Rear bumper was busted up as well
- Hood flew open at a drift event, but didn’t damage roof or windshield
- passenger side door handle was broken
- dings and dents everywhere
But it wasn’t until we started to take apart the car, we started to see the covered up damages and kinks.
- Radiator support was tweaked and cracked
- Passenger side running board was bashed in
- Rear left quarter was damaged behind rear bumper
I knew I had to address these if they were too obvious. I was going to rebuild the engine and right then and there, what’s the point of rebuilding an engine and putting it in a trashed car? I had to go the route of rebuilding everything.
That is when I thought of doing the Zenki front end on Project Leopard. It only made sense. I needed to repaint the whole car and the M30 front bumper was trash anyway, so I decided that it would have the zenki front end.
Zenki F31 front face conversion:
I was able to get every piece of the Zenki front needed for a conversion. Itabashi-san brought it to EK Motors and Eiji-san shipped it to Oakland. But the hood was too big for transportation, so that was stuck in Tochigi. I test fitted the fenders, headlights, grill and bumper.
This was originally suppose to be the front to convert for my Blue M30, but when I realize that Project Leopard would make it show worthy and I had to paint the whole car anyway, it only made sense. I was in Japan again on January 2020. The mission was to secure the hood. In which I couldn’t. Getting desperate, I was about to rent a truck, get the hood and drive it Osaka. (8hr drive). Itabashi-san took me to N Style Custom and Nagahama-san cut up a spare hood, giving me the piece I needed.
I got back from Japan and started to get as much stuff as possible. I decided to gut the whole car. While there, I was able to take notes on any parts I needed to replace or address (such as the passenger side door handle). This would give me time to search and get parts I needed replaced.
Before going to LA, I had to bring a few things down.
I was excited that Project Leopard was going to be taken to AZ for a body refresh. I got Hung, Roger V and Edrik over to the SR20store and we worked on the car a bit. When we started to take the car apart, that is when I started to see all the kinked stuff. The damage that I didn’t initially see or expected.
We took off the front end because we were setting up for the Zenki front. I also replaced the hood with a new hood one.
Greg said it would be 3 months to complete (let’s just say we are reading this because of that didn’t happen).
June/ July 2020
I get a bill for body work. I paid it right away. There was a picture of Project Leopard sanded down.
June 17, 2020 (*remember this picture)
This month was going to be my push for the car. I was going to go to Arizona and LA for a week each. This was suppose to be the time to some progress going. Unfortunately, my father tragically died and so I spent that month in Washington State.
At this point, I told Sakura Garage and SR20store that I wouldn’t be there, but to work on the car still.
September 2020 – December 2020
I haven’t SEEN any major updates. But I was getting texts and saying everything is good and even asking for a payment.
While I was in Washington, I was able to go to an old PnP and cut out the radiator support to replace the damaged one. I was going to bring this with me to Arizona.
Before I was suppose to go to Arizona, I had a basic idea of what needs to be addressed. I put this list together:
- Get the radiator support swapped out. (spot weld drill bit need to buy) and get the front end straightened up.
- Replace hood latch and connect release cable.
- Install cover plate (also with Security Torx bit)
- Clean up engine bay/ prep for paint.
- Remove engine harness (to have evaluated).
- Remove other components.
- Passenger side door handle swap (including the key cylinder)
- Swap door interior parts
- Interior clean up
- Check wiring/harnesses
- Front bumper mount points fix (plastic weld).
- Sand down front lip (along with sides and rear pieces).
Extras if possible:
- Cut front grill for M30 latch
- Put on headlight support bracket
- Take off side moulding and prep (sand)
- Measure for radiator panel
My plan was to help bolster the progress. I was hoping to see some big steps since the summer of 2020, *remember the picture of the car from June 2020. To my surprise and disappointment, it looked the same.
I wanted to focus on the stuff that seemed to hinder Sakura Garage’s progress. In my mind, that was the hood cut. But they didn’t want to do that. One area was the engine bay. We spent clearing the engine bay and window trim. Honestly, I wanted just to spray and clear… Greg wanted to go “all out” (but they didn’t). At the time, I was fine with it, but I also saw how to relaxed they were at working and barely get anything done. Since I brought the radiator support, I was going to try and replace it, but it had to be cut.
June 2020 – March 2021 there wasn’t any changes done. Chuck did put in the replacement radiator support.
May 2021 – Return to AZ
I didn’t see much updates and I was getting annoyed that the SR20store was also doing the same thing, making my project low priority. I told the AZ guys I’ll be there in 2 weeks. I decided I needed to HELP them with their most difficult stuff by getting it started. I felt that after the big stuff is addressed, then the prep and paint can happen.
The biggest hurdle I felt was the making of the zenki hood. It was so hybrid and never been done before. Prior to this happening, I sent Chuck a page that laid out the info.
Since that part wasn’t touched at all, I told them that was my focus this trip. I was gonna start cutting up the hood. Fortunately, Chuck stepped up and got it started (then completed in 1 week).
The rest of the time was cleaning up the trunk area (where there was damage) and removing the doors.
The other big issue for me was the rocker panel area. While this isn’t a good view of it, the passenger side rocker panel was pushed up. It was inline with this part of the floor board that was also messed up. We pounded that down. Greg said he would take care of the rocker panel.
The rocker panel was dented in when Greg took the car. The idea was to cut and replace it, so I got that piece at the junkyard. Well, you’ll see that this was ignored.
It seemed like everything was done. Hood was completed, doors were taken off, aero was prepped, car was sanded down and engine bay (for Greg to paint) was done. I asked him if it was possible to make it to JCCS (Usually October 2021) and SEMA (usually November 2021) and he said “Yes“.
The hood was completed as far as putting it together. Also Chuck welded in the radiator support in replacement of the banged up one. So he charged me for that work.
Here was my invoice:
Again, I didn’t get updates, but Greg said it’s coming along. I figured that most of the stuff was taken cared of and that all he had to do was paint. I had a feeling that they haven’t touched my car and that became true. Going back to the the SR20store issue, Marco said he was waiting for the car to come back so he can put the motor in. After that, he said it would take 3 days to get it all together. Marco said that he will take 2 big projects if my car doesn’t show up soon. So I begged Greg to get it done and I had to give a deadline.
He asked for final payment for the car and I added more money and bring it back to LA completed . He said okay and will do it.
October 2021 – 2 week delay
The weekend Greg planned to drop off the car was a delay. He told me that the trailer had issues. The following weekend, he texted Hung (as it was going to his place) and said he was on his way… then he never showed up. I knew my car wasn’t done and the 2 weeks were just delayed time. The excuse was his truck was overheating. But for some reason, he couldn’t message Hung about it.
Of course that final week he sent me pictures:
Hood looks finished (it wasn’t even delivered with the car!!!)
For the life of me, I still don’t understand why it took this long to get it painted.
I was excited to get it back in LA. Remember the payment about the car “being complete”? Well, that didn’t happen. Greg brought it back as pretty much a shell. Mirrors, aero and hood… not on the car. I had brought everything down as I thought it was getting ready to put in. Of course the Marco/SR20store failed me again. Since I was passed the deadline, he took those 2 big projects in and couldn’t take my car. But he said 3 months (which NEVER came).
Not only was the car incomplete (promised to be completed), the rocker panel that was dented in, Greg didn’t fix it and just painted it. Hung asked him about it and Greg said that the side skirt will cover it up. Obviously, that wasn’t what I wanted. To add insult to injury, there was clear drips on the doors, rear quarter panel and peeling by the windshields… ughhhh…
DID I MENTION THIS CAR WAS 17 MONTHS IN ARIZONA????
I kid you not.. THIS IS NOT WATER!
My cousin has his business partners and other car people stop by his house, they would see Project Leopard and can’t believe the time it was in AZ. My cousin (as well as others) tried to convince me NOT TO LET IT GO BACK TO AZ.
I was definitely disappointed, torn and stressed about it. At the time the SR20store and Sakura Garage had wasted my time. As with all things, the car guys that seen the car chattered about it in their groups. It was embarassing. Greg said he would come get it and redo it. I was so upset, I almost didn’t want it to go back to AZ. But I was also at an impasse with the SR20store with finishing my engine AND bring the car to the shop (2 different topics).
November 2021 – December 2022
Project Leopard sat at Hung’s old place until May 2022 (where I was begging Marco/SR20store to take the car) and I eventually had to move it to my cousin’s house… where it sat untouched for 8 months under a tarp. I would occasionally go to LA to try and get the RB25det going as well as try to work on the car with help from Ozzy, Edrik and Hung at times.
July 2022, I had enough of the SR20store’s BS and grabbed everything for the RB25det and took it to A’pexi. I needed someone with RB experience to check SR20store’s work and install parts. Once that got done, we brought the engine to Hung’s new place as well as had the car towed there. From then on, the focus was getting everything for the RB25det and sorting out the wiring. Hung did a great job.
December 2022 – I started to reaffirm everything with Greg. This is where he hyped up his work and assured me it would only take 3 days now!! I said it was too short (as I know he has a lazy work ethic)
June 3rd, 2023
The engine and transmission is pretty much done. Hung said the car had to leave. While it is almost done, I still needed to get the car’s exterior right. I gave Greg the option of refunding my $1500 so I can go and find someone else to paint it.
Let me break down his comments.
- He was doing this as a side job for no money – but he offered to do the car and I PAID EVERYTIME THEY ASKED.
- I didn’t ask for special treatment or free work. I followed Sakura Garage’s lead on what he thought was best.
- $12k -$18k for his Z customers. I have never seen any of those cars/paint jobs in his shop. Plus he didn’t put as much EFFORT INTO MY CAR (that is what mattered to me).
- Splitting the hood took 1 day to do and in a week, it was completed. BTW, his dad Chuck did that work. I don’t think Greg would have gotten that far (couldn’t fix the rocker panel initially)
- Greg keeps deflecting to SR20Store taking time on my engine. The motor being complete or incomplete has nothing to do with the body work I wanted for my car.
- How about FOCUS on the job you were paid to do. Don’t worry about the engine, don’t worry about the car being at Hung’s. Worry about the body work and paint.
June 3rd 2023 – July 22nd 2023
Greg picked up the car and said it would only take 2 weeks. I DEFINITELY didn’t believe him.
“You don’t need to message every day”. Really?.. because the communication and work wasn’t getting done.
I had a lot going on. I was going to Vancouver BC during a few weekends and I also was on call at my job. I wanted to get an update and again, I know his time management sucked.
So I wouldn’t be able to get my car (as I said I would rent a U-haul and take it back to LA) until the weekend of July 22nd. During that time, there would be no response:
I told him I need to know because I am flying there, renting a U-haul truck and trailer, towing the car to LA and flying out the next day.
*There was no sign of distress or “I need money” or “I need more time” Which ARE the excuses to deflect from a rushed job.
SHOCKED, NOT SHOCKED
Come July 22nd, I arrived at his shop at 12 noon. I was planning to leave by 2pm.
Greg said there are issues with the car. So did you not notice these things on June 3rd when you picked up the car or say anything in text when asked?
Of course not, because again, Greg waited until the LAST DAY to try and get everything taken cared of.
So what happened between June 4th and July 21st?
July 22nd, the day I was suppose to pick up the car complete, there was my car, in pieces, being sanded down. I knew right then and there, he didn’t work on the car until the last couple of days, EXACTLY LIKE LAST TIME. A RUSHED JOB.
Seeing as this was pretty much a FAILURE on Sakura Garage’s part. I decided to try and help work car so I can transport tomorrow. We stayed up all night sanding and masking off the parts of the car. Ran out of blue painter’s tape at 4am in the morning and so packing tape was used, but that eventually caused some overspray.
Slept for a couple hours and went back to the shop at 9am. That was it. I loaded it up and drove to LA.
- Quick spray of white, pearl and then clear coat = orange peel and missed spots.
- Done how you see it in the picture, no paint booth, as it sits on the rack.
- bumpers, aero kit, mirrors… all left unpainted.
- Damaged rocker panel slathered with body filler.
ALSO NOTICED EACH DOOR HAD A LINE DENT BY EACH HANDLE… THAT WASN’T THERE BEFORE.
The most annoying thing is the time wasted. While I was stressing for this car to get done, it was sitting in the corner of his shop collecting dust. It’s only when he HAD to work on it that suddenly he has to rush.
I tried to be a good friend and customer. Every time they asked for money, I paid and within the same day. I NEVER asked for a handout and tried to keep my word. When everyone was saying don’t let your car go back to AZ, I kept faith that Greg would fix his errors and wanted to give him a 2nd chance to make it right. My time was wasted, not fully (I like to do things ambiguously) and I think he personally thought it was okay to give me false hope thinking I don’t know anything about painting/body work. It sucks because I didn’t want things go to out like this… and it did. Besides some legal issues.. I am done with