Oct 7, 2015

Tool Review

Tool Review: 3/8" Drive Ratchet Spinner: Astro vs. KTC

Before we get started, I just want to say that this particular review is in no way related to the entire lineups, so don't get your panties in a twist if you don't like my findings.

Now, that that is cleared up, the last time I was in Astro Products, I was in the market for a ratchet spinner in 3/8" drive. Astro also carries a small selection of KTC in stock, so I decided to give the Astro and KTC a quick rundown in the store. This isn't a long term review of both, as much as it is my decision making process in the store.

Look at the top picture, and let's get started.

The first point of discussion is the price. The Astro unit is 780 JPY while the KTC unit is 1550 JPY. The Astro unit is roughly half the price of the KTC unit. In my last article, here, I discussed that a main point in my using Astro was to try to build a usable tool collection for as cheap as possible. The Astro Products unit lines up with this goal.

The second point is overall dimensions, which are the same. Nobody can win for being more compact, even though the KTC unit is a little lighter, due to:

Plastic... The KTC unit uses a polymer for its main thumb wheel. I know that today's polymers are strong (I owned a HK Pistol in the states), but I just hate to see plastic on tools. Call me old fashioned, but I have a particular way I like my tools, and plastic isn't high on the list, with the exception of screwdriver handles and some plier handles. maybe this will change in the future, but it was a big negative for me, more so than the price.

There are no moving parts that can really be better or worse than the other, so in the end I chose the Astro Products. It had a nice checkered grip on the outside, and did that job perfectly at half the price. Look below for an update, albeit with low quality iPhone pics.

The following shots are after one year of pretty hard use. Not pro mechanic use, mind you, but still I used these every day for the past year while installing and removing bumpers, and wings, and sideskirts, hoods, engines... oops... yeah I'll get to that on the page soon.

As you can see, the coasting isn't really so worn, which was surprising, because I figured this shit would flake like your friends when you lose everything. Even more surprising is how well the chrome held up on the actual working parts. Overall, this is an awesome score, at a great price.

I would make this purchase again in a heartbeat, even if I had an unlimited budget for tools.

Oct 6, 2015

X10 Soarer:

Bungo Takada Classic Car Show

by Dustin Mankin

Just a little one-shotter to keep the pace. Beyond the Hakosuka and the Fairlady from a while back, I snapped this correct as hell X10 Soarer. Of course I love 60s and 70s cars, but I'm more of an 80s guy. Always will be.

Japan's Harbor Freight:

Astro Products, Part 1 of ???

I'll just start this off by saying everything in Japan is expensive. Like almost always double the price of the same thing in America. Five slices of shitty white bread starts at .99 cents. People bitching about a gallon of milk being 4 bucks.... try 3 bucks for a quart. Gasoline...about a gallon of the regular go juice costs around $7.20. A sandblasting cabinet that goes for 250 bucks at Harbor Freight.... $500 bucks here. And that goes on down the line to all of the tools in this country. So you might say it's not fair that we can get used Tein coilovers for only $300 bucks, but what are we gonna put them in with? And that is where car life gets expensive.

But that's also where Astro Products comes in. They have (pretty) cheap tools. Are they as high quality as the others? No. I would rate them overall below Craftsman in quality. But when you need something at (pretty) cheap prices...there they are.

This particular store was in Oita City, Oita Ken, on the island of Kyushu, but they have branches all over Japan. Most of the tools are Made in China or Taiwan, but the price is lower than most tools.

I use Astro for three main reasons:

1. When I was trying to build my tool collection in Japan, I needed to get some stuff fast, and I needed to build a small collection of usable tools. I wanted decent quality, but since I was buying in bulk, I couldn't be dropping ten grand on tools. I am not a mechanic. I'm just a guy that works on his own car in his spare time. The goal was too build a decent tool collection, and as things wore out, buy KTC, Asahi, Koken, or Snap-On. The tools work great for this.

2. You need a specialty tool that won't see a lot of day in and day out use. This falls back to point 1...I am not a professional mechanic. If I need a special tool for a brake line nut, but I'm not doing brakes everyday, it doesn't need to be a rock solid, never fail tool. So if you need a O2 Sensor socket, and you aren't changing them out every day, there is no need to spend 30-50 dollars on it, when you can buy one at Astro for closer to 12 bucks.

3. Consumables and storage. Stuff like zip-ties, shrink tube, electrical tape, interior panel clips, etc. This stuff is high in Japan at the general DIY stores, but you can usually get them at way better prices at Astro. It's a bit of a drive for me, at close to 2 and a half hours, so if I'm in town for another reason, I stop in and pick up what I need.

That's Astro in a nutshell. Next time I go in, I'll try to take the GoPro and take you on a tour. Oh, and...

while I'm on the topic of tools, I have a couple of comparisons to do, and I'll start with these thumb drivers tomorrow. This is a comparison between the KTC and Astro Models for a 3/8" drive socket. See you tomorrow.

Oct 4, 2015

Just a stock Chuki Nissan 180SX, although it's getting much rarer to find them this way. My how the car scene is slowly withering away. The majority of my students don't even think cars are cool anymore when they are asked. :(

Just some Toyota factory tools that I found laying outside my old host's house. I believe that Toyota's tools were made under contract by either Koken or KTC, but I'm not for sure about that. Another popular tool manufacturer in Japan is Asahi.

Apr 1, 2015

My Fairlady:

A Vintage Fairlady at Bungo Takada Classic Car Show

by Dustin Mankin

That MG Midget looking thing? Not an MG Midget at all, but actually a SR311 or SRL311 Fairlady. It's definitely 1968 or later, dude to the addition of a rearview mirror, which was required after 1968. Under the hood it should have a U20 2 Liter engine and a 5 speed manual.

Engine specs could be a little different depending on if it came with the sports package or not. Without the sports package, it was producing 135 HP, while the sports package added some tuning, a camshaft, and dual solex/mikuni carbs. In this trim, it would hum to the tune of 150hp.

This one has some nice ivory paint and some Watanabes, which I mean, come on.... shouldn't all cars from this era been sitting on a pair? They are the Welds of the Japanese classics' world.

I looked high an low for the difference between SR311 and SRL311. I asked Daniel from Wasabi Cars, and he said he wasn't for sure, but he thought maybe the L was for left hand drive models. AKA Datsun 1600 and Datsun 2000.

Box Car:

Hakosuka at Bungo Takada Car Show

by Dustin Mankin

"Box Car? That's dumb. This isn't a Scion xB or Nissan Cube..." I can here you saying now. I'll share something that I just learned 2-weeks ago from my Japanese teacher, while asking him a question about the RPM Manga (did I mention it will be back in two weeks?). He was laughing and asked if I knew why this generation of Skyline was called Hakosuka.

Hako = box + ka- = car. Quite literally, it means boxcar, due to the iconic roof shape. I already knew what both of those words meant alone.... I just never thought to put them together within the word "Hakosuka."

This one is a pretty standard Hakosuka, complete with the standard wheel arches, as seen below. I'm a little disappointed that the car has a "500" number plate. If you don't know what that means, don't worry, I'll go over it in a few weeks, after the coverage of the car show is over. I found a real gem, based on number plate alone, last week.

Lookit dem meats on those classic Watanabe's, son!

And what's the MG Midget looking thing in the background? That's tomorrow my fair readers. For now, just remember.... sometimes "box car" can mean more than a riced out xB....

Mar 31, 2015

Nissan Sunny:

Bungo Takada Custom Car Show

by Dustin Mankin

So the next several, several posts will be dedicated to the cars that I saw at the Bungo Takada Custom Car show on Sunday, 3/22. I'm going to try to get some stuff posted and set to auto post, that way I can free up some time to work some more on editing the videos for project 180, and renting/buying a house with a garage... more on that later.

This was the first vehicle that I saw, walking up to the show, so it's only fitting that I showed it first. I don't know if many of you remember, but my first ever post on this blog was of a red sunny, which you can read more about here. I don't want to go too much into detail on rehashing that article, but basically due to "chicken tax" laws in the US, we were never allowed to get the Sunny truck, as it was listed as a "light truck" and banned from import at the time.

Have you ever noticed that? We are the "Land of the Free," but have more bans on imports than North Korea, it seems like. Lol. 'Murica!

This truck wasn't pristine by any chance, if you look at the bed. But that's ok, pristine trucks are for guys that don't need trucks to begin with. If I owned this, it would be a stylish parts-fetchin' truck. I'm sure the bed of mine would look much worse. When I saw this bed though, my eyes did get a certain twinkle to them.

This thing sure does look goo, sitting on these vintage SSR Starshakes. Makes me get an idea for my water hose holder at the new house... I'd say they are around 13's or 14's. I didn't take time to look, because there was something else amazing next to it that was calling my name... tomorrow.

Mar 27, 2015

Fukuoka HiAce

by Dustin Mankin

Just a quick post... this particular van is called a HiAce, and it's made by Toyota. I actually want to get one of these to turn into a speaker van. Probably a huge front air dam, and a bigger rear spoiler. I'd fill the rear up with more 12 inches than a porn star at a gang bang shoot...

But, if you need a more PG image of this car, look in Initial D Stage 4. You can see some HiAces, along with a Kei Van (Possibly a Suzuki Every) used as support vehicles for the team. I'm editing some shots from a car show we had last weekend, and that will be the focus for the upcoming month. That will probably be starting next week.

I also have no idea why, but these guys love throwing NASCAR style steelies and tires on these things.

OHHHHH, and a big spoiler, if you actually read my blog.... look for RPM to return in the middle of next month.

Mar 26, 2015

Throw Back Thursday:

A Lovely Yellow S2K

by Dustin Mankin

Throw back Thursday is all about this S2k. This is circa 2011. I would kill small children who haven't gotten a chance to fully appreciate life for the carbon-kevlar intake on this car. The Weds look nice too. I've always thought that the yellow with golden-bronze wheels was a good combo. But, then again, a nice bronze goes with any color, really.
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