I recently had the opportunity to try my hand at shooting a roll of film. My brother in law is a talented wedding and portrait photographer for a living and shoots almost exclusively on film. He loaned me his Yashica T4 Super and some film assuring me that it would be hard to mess up shooting with such a basic camera. I was really pleased with the results.

Here’s the roll of 24 exposures in its entirety. I’ve had some fun playing around and editing some of these, but these are the original photos straight from the camera. Enjoy!

There’s something about the feel of film- it’s crazy. I especially like the shots of Tony’s car as I think his car lends itself to this style. I’d like to try shooting some more before the snow flies, but I am not sure time is on my side. We’ll see what happens.

Thanks for looking!


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Story of my 240SX: Part 6

This post is a part of an ongoing series about the history of my S13. If you missed the previous entries, you can find them here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

October 16, 2012: The plan was set. Loren would come over around 8PM to pick up my kouki 180SX aero: front bumper, lip, side skirts, rear valences, spoiler, and RPS13 kevlar panel. I left work early and drove home to wash the car. After a quick spray down I took the car down the street to attempt to take some final photos of the car to document its final state. After snapping some pictures, I took the car up and down the highway a couple times at full tilt to enjoy it for what I thought would be the last time. I took a couple pictures with myself, the car, and my baby daughter before pulling it into the garage and turning the key off. With the car on jack stands, the aero was removed and the part out began.

Many people asked my why I didn’t attempt to sell the car as a whole first before jumping immediately into parting it out. For me this was never really an option. As selfish as it may sound, the thought of someone else driving in a car that I poured four years of blood sweat and tears into was too much for me to handle. It would be easier to sell the car in parts and I would make more money doing it that way.

I posted the car in stages: interior, exterior, suspension, engine, etc. I was surprised how many things were sold to my friends before I was even able to list them for sale. I had sold virtually all of the parts from the car within three weeks. It was a constant flow of unbolting, packing, and trips to the post office to ship parts out to people all over the country.

By mid November I found an Evo that met most of my criteria for a new car. I negotiated the price and ended up driving to Illinois to pick the car up. The car was a Rally Red 2003 Evo VIII with 69k miles on it. It was largely stock aside from lowering springs, intake, exhaust, injectors, and cams. My plan was to leave the engine alone and modify the suspension, interior, and exterior a bit. I sold my Toyota Matrix the following spring and the Evo became my only vehicle. This meant that anything I did to it had to be mild enough to be installed in a weekend and keep the car running smoothly to get me to work every day.

Just after Christmas of 2012 I found a buyer for my S13 chassis. Suraj was a friend of mine I met on the local forums with a super clean turbo civic sedan that was featured in Honda Tuning. He had expressed interest in the shell and I knew he would take care of it, so we negotiated a price and he picked the car up one cold day in December. By the time I sold the chassis it was pretty well stripped: No engine, transmission, driveshaft, differential, brakes, seats, front bumper, etc. I sold as many items from the car as I could while still keeping it as a rolling chassis. I was sad to see it go, but glad it was in good hands. That, and I really wanted the spot in the garage for the Evo that winter.

I really enjoyed my time with the Evo. It was a blast to drive and I enjoyed being able to take it every morning rain, snow, or shine. It was always a bit stressful as I didn’t want the car to get smashed up or rusty, but it was great to put miles on it. During the year and a half that I owned the car I made a few additions including KW coilovers, Tomei titanium exhaust, an Evo IX front bumper, various aero additions from Voltex, JDM Evo VII head and tail lights, Defi gauges, and a set of Work CR Kai wheels. I took the aero off before winter hit at the end of 2013 with the intention of installing a set of AME TM02 wheels, Voltex GT wing, and Voltex canards in the spring.

I couldn’t wait to put the car back together in the spring. But as winter of 2014 continued, I began to long for having a long-term project car again. By March Alicia and I welcomed our second daughter into the world. I found during my time with the Evo that I had more time to tinker with cars than I thought I would as a dad. It wasn’t as much time as I had before of course, but it was plenty to enjoy a project. I had put 30,000 miles on the Evo in a year and a half and it was going to take a big hit in value by going over 115,000 miles. Even though the car was paid off, I ultimately decided it would be best to sell it while I could still recoup most of the money and pick up another cheap beater for a daily.

I wanted a project car like my S13, but I couldn’t really justify building another one. I had always wanted a car with a 2JZ and adored big body RWD Toyotas, so I ultimately decided to try to build a JZS16 Lexus GS. That way I could enjoy having a project to work on and I could still bring my family with me when we went to car events or drove downtown to get ice cream during the summer. I picked up a rolling chassis from a friend in late March, sold the Evo, and found a 1995 Toyota Camry from a coworker to drive to work every day while I worked on the Lexus.

I hit the ground running with the Lexus and managed to make a lot of progress during the summer of 2014. I swapped the car to a black interior and installed a Nardi wheel and Bride seats. I purchased an Aristo 2JZ engine and installed a number of maintenance items including an HKS timing belt, full gasket kit, SARD fuel injectors, and a new water pump. After removing the twin turbos to replace the gaskets, I decided it would be best to convert to a single turbo while the engine was out of the car. I picked up an old school TRUST T78D turbo and began to build a setup around it.

The Lexus GS and Toyota Aristo were only sold as automatic transmission cars, so I had to convert it to a manual. This was a new experience for me and took a ton of research to make it happen. I talked with a few people that had done the swap and ultimately finished the conversion on the chassis. This included an Exedy twin disc clutch, R154 transmission, Supra clutch pedal and master cylinder, and Driveshaft Shop custom driveshaft.

I was essentially ready to install the drivetrain- all I needed was a turbo manifold. When it comes to 2JZ parts, everything is incredibly expensive. I had a TRUST intercooler kit for the Aristo, but still needed a number of items to get the car running including a radiator and hoses, a turbo manifold, and engine management. Even after everything was installed and the car was running, I would still need an aero kit, coilovers, and wheels and tires for the car to look decent. I installed a Toyota grill, LED tail lights, and Ganador mirrors but the car would look pretty basic without those additional items.

At this point I realized I was already over budget and I did not have the means to complete the car in the way I wanted to any time soon. I had missed the whole car season of 2014 and missed having a car to drive when the weather was nice. After attending Final Bout in September, I decided that it wasn’t another project that I really wanted- it was my S13. The Lexus was a lot of fun to build and I know it would have turned out cool, but it just wasn’t what I wanted. I parted out the Lexus shortly after Final Bout and set out to find another S13 chassis.

At this point it had been almost two years since I sold my S13 to Suraj. He had the car in his garage and was building an LS1 engine for the car. He had installed brakes, suspension arms, and coilovers on the car but it had otherwise been untouched during that time. I texted him and asked if he would ever want to sell it, but he said that despite his lack of time for the project he would probably never sell it. Defeated, I set out to find another S13 to work from.

I ended up talking to a long time friend Greg. He had owned his red KA-T S13 for ten years but was planning to move to New Zealand with his girlfriend before winter and wanted to sell it. I went and checked the car out and though the rails were much rustier than my car, he was practically giving it away. I essentially committed to buying the car, but wanted to wait until the Lexus was out of the garage before picking it up. The next day, Suraj texted me and said he would be willing to sell me my old S13 chassis back. He had thought about it more and wanted out of the project. He wanted to give me the first chance to have the car back and I was more than happy to take it off his hands.

Just like old times, I turned to my friend Mike to haul my old chassis back to my house for me. We unloaded the S13 and then loaded the Lexus onto the trailer. The buyer paid Mike to haul it to Ohio for him, so I killed two birds with one stone. Nearly six years to the day since I had bought my S13, the car was back in my garage once again. I couldn’t believe it. I never would have guessed that I would have a chance to own this car again- and this time I did not plan to let it go.

I spent this past winter bringing my S13 back to life. There were numerous things that I wanted to execute in a similar fashion, but a lot of things were done differently as well. I sourced a smashed up and rotted out S13 coupe from a friend of mine as it was equipped with a healthy SR20 setup. I stripped everything I could salvage from the car and prepped the engine and transmission to go into my hatch. The biggest difference this time around was that I would leave the engine essentially stock. Aside from a full gasket kit, water pump, and a new wiring harness from Wiring Specialties the engine was dropped into the car as-is. Supporting items like a Koyo radiator, GReddy intercooler kit, and a full exhaust system were added after selling the ones that came with the coupe (most of them had seen better days.)

I had planned to use my Bride seats from the Lexus for the build, but ultimately decided I wanted to run black seats again and keep things low key. I sold the red Brides to fund a kevlar Zieg II and a Brix 1.5 that my friend Brett helped me source from Japan. Jimmy hooked me up with his old NeXt miracle cross bar and I added some Defi Link meter gauges. With that, the interior was back up to par. My friends at Speed Academy helped me out by sourcing a Competition Clutch flywheel and clutch kit, Turbosmart blow off valve and boost controller, SPC suspension arms, and ISC coilovers.

I got to talking with an acquaintance from Florida that bought some of my Lexus parts. As fate would have it, he also had a 240SX and had an unused Hot Road aero kit in his basement that he had imported several years prior. To make a long story short, I ended up with the aero kit I had always wanted when I previously owned my car. I finished the exterior off with a couple other bits including a kouki wing, tail lights, a Koguchi Power hood, and later a pair of Gandor mirrors.

I was torn on which wheels to go with for the rebuild. I wanted to do monoblocks this time around and sourced a set of Work XT7s, but found that they didn’t quite have the period-correct look I was going for. I stumbled upon a set of Blitz Z2 like those used by Koguchi on his old 180SX and had the rear wheels relipped to 18×10. Once the wheels were completed and on the car, it really came together. I liked the Blitz wheels a lot, but ended up selling them and swapping them out for a set of 17/18 bronze Volk TE37s later on during the summer.

So there you have it! That’s the story of my 240SX and how it came into my life, left on a trailer, and returned two years later. I could not be happier with the car in its current state and have learned to never take owning this car for granted. My plan is to enjoy it whenever I can and to keep this car for as long as I am able to. My wife and I were able to take a road trip to Final Bout II back in September and it was an amazing feeling to be taking a trip in this car again. Now that I have it back I hope that I will be able to hold onto it until old age. You don’t often get a chance to lose something like this and have it back again. I am beyond fortunate and grateful to my family and friends for allowing me to follow this dream and supporting me along the way. It just feels right to have this car back in our garage!

Another big thanks goes out to anyone that reads this or has enjoyed my build over the years. It’s a ton of fun to tinker with and enjoy a car like this, but sharing it with people in other parts of the world really makes it worthwhile. Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me!


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Story of my 240SX: Part 5

This post is a part of an ongoing series about the history of my S13. If you missed the previous entries, you can find them here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Fall 2011: I had just returned from Toby’s Nissan BBQ in Illinois and was feeling pretty bummed out about the state of my engine bay. I was more or less happy with the majority of the car at this point, but being the project-loving car guy I am I wanted more. I drove the car to a neighboring town to visit a friend in the rain one fall evening and realized that my alternator had failed. I limped the car home, threw it on jack stands, and began the tear down for my winter project.

At this point my wife and I had just found out that we were going to be parents. Our first daughter was due in June of 2012, so that immediately became the deadline for the rebuild. Thinking I had plenty of time, I set out to pull the engine and completely rework the engine bay. The plan was to shave the bay, relocate the battery to the trunk, tuck the fuse boxes into the interior of the car, and clean things up as much as possible. With guidance from Toby, I dove into my first attempt at body work.

Progress was slow for the first few months. I removed the drivetrain and stripped everything out of the bay, then began to sand it. I hired my friend Mike to make several trips to the house to weld all of the unneeded holes in the engine bay shut. We also ended up putting a couple of sheet metal patches in place to remove rust and delete the crusty factory battery tray. In order to fit the fuse boxes behind the dash, I decided to remove all of the car’s HVAC system. The AC was already partially ripped out when I bought it and the blower motor didn’t work, so it seemed like the right call at the time. I spent hours shortening the chassis harness and finding a way to relocate the fuse boxes to the area behind the dash board.

I decided somewhere along the line that I really wanted to try running a set of Blitz Type 03 wheels. I purchased about 10 of these wheels in various states of disrepair and kept the four that I planned to have relipped, selling the others to recoup the costs. I sent them out to Wheel Flip to be rebuilt to the proper specs and to have the faces polished. While Yuta did an excellent job with them, it ended up taking until June or July to get the wheels back to me. However, I wasn’t really finished with the engine bay project anyway so it all worked out OK.

With the grinding, filling, sanding, and priming complete I was ready to transport the car to my local body shop to have the bay painted. My friend Mike came to the rescue once more and helped me haul the car to and from the shop. With the car back home in the garage, I found that putting it back together went rather quickly. I installed a couple of new items during this rebuild including a set of ENDLESS front brakes, Tanabe fender braces, and a Do Luck floor bar. I swapped my previous DMAX mats out for red ones and installed a red Bride fabric shift boot with Pivot quick shift knob. The Nardi deep corn wheel was swapped out in favor of a Nardi classic, and I threw a Takata harness in the car that a friend had given to me.

By memorial day weekend the car was running again and nearly ready to go. Kyle came up to visit and hang out with his red car. The rear wheels had arrived, but we found later that there was an issue with the offset. They had been built to 18×10.5 +10 instead of +20, so they needed to be sent back to be corrected as this was more camber than I wanted to run. The front lips were still on order so the 17s were not yet completed. We planned to bleed the brakes and throw on a temporary pair of 03s up front to allow me to drive that weekend, but luck was not on our side. The brake booster delete kit I installed leaked from nearly every fitting and one of the wheel studs was stripped when installing my spacers. I ended up removing the brake tuck kit and selling it shortly after this experience. It set me back a couple of weeks, but in the end I built my own brake lines from scratch and used the factory brake booster with a Z32 brake master cylinder.

Finally, after months of headaches and a lot of sanding, I was able to pull the car out of the garage just before my daughter was born. I had purchased a used DMAX carbon fiber hood from a friend in Illinois and installed a pair of Cusco hood pins before having it painted to match the car. At this point the car was ready to go and I was simply waiting on the Blitz wheels to be completed.

My friend Ginash offered me a spot in the JDM Chicago booth at Another Level, a car show in Chicago that was taking place in August. This would be my one car event for the season now that I had a daughter at home and was not able to get out as much. Unfortunately the Blitz 03s were about a week away from completion and didn’t arrive in time for the show. I ended up borrowing my old CR Kais from my friend that I sold them to as they had been sitting in storage unused for nearly two years. This allowed me to still attend the show and take the car on its first substantial drive of the year.

Aside from the throttle cable coming disconnected on the freeway and my ignition switch constantly giving me problems, the car handled the trip well. It was cool to show off my hard work on the engine bay at the show, but it ended up being fairly boring. Kyle came to hang out despite his car not starting the morning of the show, so we had fun cruising around the city and visiting my brother after the show in my car. I was really disappointed that my wheels weren’t finished in time, but that’s the way things go with building a car.

After the show, I decided to install a pair of Ikeya Formula extended front control arms that I picked up used from someone on Zilvia. I knew that the rear was going to have quite a bit of camber and I wanted to ensure that the front had more than the rear to get the right look. I also installed some GP Sports tie rod ends. The overall process was fairly frustrating and it took me forever to get the ride height and camber in decent shape. I really liked how the car looked with this setup but the added camber meant that the car was even lower than it had been previously. Even getting out of the driveway became a fairly stressful task.

It was now October and Toby decided to have another Nissan BBQ. I needed to get an alignment due to the suspension changes, so I took the car to a local place that had done alignments for me in the past. The drive there was pretty scary as the car would dart sharply to the left or right any time I hit a bump on the freeway (which is a lot in Michigan.) With the alignment completed, I started my trek home. On the way, I bottomed out on a sharp concrete drop off at an intersection and smashed my GReddy oil pan pretty hard. On the freeway on the way home, the car was still darting sharply side-to-side and was very difficult to keep under control. It also rained very hard during the drive, causing the windows to fog up (I had removed my wipers when I shaved the bay and no longer had heat to run the defroster.) All in all it was a terrible experience and I was just glad to have the car and myself home safely when the day was done.

At this point I was very frustrated. Toby’s BBQ was less than two weeks away and my car was virtually impossible to drive. Thinking that the new suspension mods must be the cause of the driving issues, I ordered a pair of OEM S13 front control arms and a new pair of Tein outer tie rods like I had been running previously. As I was installing them, I noticed that my front passenger tire felt pretty soft. As it turns out, my wheel wasn’t sealed properly and had been slowly leaking. This resulted in me driving home from the alignment shop with what was essentially a flat tire. I was frustrated that I had taken the car apart and gone through so much effort for a flat tire, but at this point the work was done. I dropped the GReddy oil pan to reseal it as the seal had been broken when the car bottomed out. With the pan sealed up, the suspension converted back to its previous state, and the tire aired up the car was ready for the familiar trek to Illinois.

With the way things had been going for my car during the past couple months, I began to have second thoughts about keeping it. Being a dad was a full time job and I rarely wanted to be away from my family, so it was hard to really enjoy the car as much as I wanted to. I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep due to my daughter waking up through the night and I didn’t have a lot of free time for the car anyway, despite my wife being incredibly understanding and still allowing me to keep and work on the car. Overall, it seemed like it made sense for me to sell my project and condense the fleet down into one vehicle that I could modify minimally, enjoy all year long, and bring my family along with me in the back seat. I had always wanted an Evo and started to consider parting out the S13 and selling my daily driver to get one.

The trip to Toby’s place went well as it typically did, aside from it being very cold out. The lack of heat in the car was already proving to be an annoyance. My rear wheels were constantly rubbing the chassis on large bumps, greeting me with a very loud and stressful grinding sound. When Kyle and I left Toby’s house Saturday night, it was below freezing outside. The inside of the windows had frosted over and we had no way to clear them. The wheels were rubbing and we were both shivering as the cold SR20 struggled to chug along on the way to his place. At this moment I was fairly confident that I had had enough of the car and wanted to move on.

During the BBQ, Kyle and Toby’s friend Brad took me for a ride in his Evo IX MR. The car had a healthy set of cams and a large turbo on it. After going for a spin and hearing all of the selling points of the Evo, I was definitely intrigued. The car essentially felt like a four door, all wheel drive S13. As the sun peeked out exposing all of the S13’s flaws and swirl marks, I leaned more and more towards parting the car out.

After taking the car to one last local gathering a week after Toby’s BBQ, my mind was made up. Feeling that there was nothing left to accomplish with my S13 and wanting to begin a new project, I texted a friend named Loren one Tuesday afternoon that had expressed interest in my kouki 180SX aero should I decide to part the car out. Loren just happened to be in a town about two hours away from me for work that day and told me he could swing by to pick up the aero that night.

So this was it. I realized I would be parting out my S13 that very day in October of 2012. But as many of you know, this was far from the end of my 240. My sixth and final post will bring it all together and explain how my car ended up back in my garage. Thanks as always for reading!


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Story of my 240SX: Part 4

This post is a part of an ongoing series about the history of my S13. If you missed the previous entries, you can find them here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Fall 2010: After the trip down to Illinois, I posted some photos of Toby and I’s cars in his driveway at his Nissan BBQ on Zilvia. I received a message from someone on a local forum saying that his brother was the editor in chief of Modified Magazine and that he wanted to do a feature on Toby and I’s cars for the magazine. I nearly fell out of my office chair when I read the message. I grew up reading Modified and had emailed with Peter a couple times over the years when my Solara was in the “Reader’s Rides” issue.

I contacted Peter and he asked if I could get him in touch with Toby. Once we were all on the same email chain, Peter explained that he really liked the home built street car vibe that our cars put out and that he wanted to do a feature in Modified about the cars together as the cars contrasted well (white vs. black and coupe vs. hatch.) Peter actually thought that we both lived in the same town, so when he found that we lived about six hours apart he asked if we could meet in Chicago for a shoot before winter hit. Toby and his wife were expecting his second daughter right around that time, so he wasn’t able to leave his home town for the time being. I happily agreed to drive back down to Normal, Illinois again just a couple weeks after being there for the BBQ to have a photographer from Modified shoot our cars.

My wife Alicia and I drove down to Illinois on a Saturday morning and spent the afternoon and evening with Toby, Kyle, and Nate Hassler from Modified. We drove all around town shooting photos of the cars and did more of the same on Sunday before heading home. This was an awesome experience for me as Modified was one of my favorite magazines growing up and I had always been interested in working in the industry. Nate was a really cool guy and helped make the experience a good one.

After the Modified shoot, the long wait to see the magazine began. The weather had began to take a turn as it does every year in Michigan, so I was more or less done driving the car for the season at this point. I did manage to take the car to the drag strip before putting it away and was able to run a 12.9 @ 114 MPH which I was pretty proud of considering the car was not remotely set up well for drag racing. Aside from that little outing, it was basically time to put the car away for winter.

The next couple months passed by while I waited anxiously for the issue of Modified featuring my car to come out. I had always dreamed of having my car featured in a magazine since I was in ninth grade, so I was beyond excited to see the issue. As fate would have it, Toby and I ended up being featured on the cover of the magazine and they chose to use a photo with my car in the front. Pretty crazy! We were on vacation in Florida when I got the word that the issue was on news stands and we were able to find it at a book store down there. It was such a cool feeling to walk into the magazine section and see my car sitting on the shelf. Truly an honor.

For the first time since I had owned my S13 I didn’t have any big plans for it during the winter months. It was nice to take a break and not have to spend numerous nights on the cold garage floor trying to get the car put back together. However, I did decide to make a couple small changes to the car during this time. Just after Christmas I ordered a set of mercury silver Volk TE37s through Mackin Industries. I essentially kept the same specs as the Work CR Kais I had, but I had always wanted to own a set of TEs. I debated going with bronze as they were in stock stateside at the time, but I decided to stick it out and wait for my silver TEs to be made.

In addition to ordering some new wheels for the 2011 season, I also ordered a Cusco six point dash escape roll cage. I had seen a number of 180s with this cage online and spending some time with Toby’s coupe down in Illinois finally sent me over the edge. My final overseas order for the offseason in 2011 was a new Bride Zeta III. I had never known for certain if my Zeta III was genuine or not since I had bought it used, so that always bothered me. I sold it and ordered one new from Japan just to be sure.

It ended up taking quite a while for me to receive my parts due to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011. I believe my cage and seat took about 10 weeks and my TEs did not arrive until May- a total wait time of five months. As the weather broke and spring began to slowly arrive, I made a few other changes to the car. I replaced my K-Sport coilovers with a set of DMAX coils and finally decided to refresh my front suspension. I installed SPC tension rods, Energy suspension lower control arm and sway bar bushings, new ball joints, and a NISMO power brace to bring the front suspension up to speed with the rear setup I had previously refreshed. I also had my front bumper and fenders repainted to repair some previously less than quality paint work.

It was during the spring of 2011 that I temporarily owned a second S13. My friend Tim purchased my Work CR Kai wheels and offered me a fairly clean white S13 shell as partial payment for the wheels. I thought it over and decided to accept it with the hope that I could throw a KA in it and learn to drift with the chassis. The idea was going to be to keep the cost as low as possible. After hauling the chassis to my grandfather’s house, it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to build the car in an inexpensive manner. I ultimately decided to sell the car before beginning down the path of building a second S13. From a space and economic standpoint it just didn’t make sense. I wish I could have kept it to this day, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me.

My TE37s finally arrived in early May of 2011. This was probably my favorite look for the car during my ownership. I really liked how the silver popped against the black and the TEs really gave the car a timeless look. I dropped down to a 215/40 tire up front and lowered the car a bit more which also really made a big difference from an appearance standpoint. By this point the cage and new seat were installed as well, along with a set of Defi Advance CR Gauges.

Not taking the car apart to an extreme level over the winter meant that it was ready to drive and enjoy earlier in the season than it had been the previous year. I put about 17,000 miles on the car during 2011 and took it to a number of events including local car shows and meets as well as Import Alliance in Tennessee. Alicia and I took an extended trip after that event to stay in a cabin in the mountains for our second wedding anniversary. We drove the car through all kinds of terrain and suffered through the 13 hour drive home in 94+ degree temps, but somehow the car seemed to hold up well!

Shortly after arriving home from our Tennessee trip, I blew 5th gear driving home from the office. I think this happened on a Monday and I was planning to take the car to Chicago on Friday of that week for the WekFest show. Fortunately I was able to find a replacement transmission and install it in the car just in time to make it to the show.

Wekfest was another highlight for me as I got to meet Josh and Chob from what was at the time JUNKHOUSE as well as Philstar from Grip Gambler. I thought it was really cool that they were so kind to me and complimentary of my car considering the fact that I wasn’t a drifter. It was cool to see a lot of cars from Chicago that I had previously only seen on the internet and to be a part of the event.

After Wekfest, I believe the last major event of the season was Toby’s Nissan BBQ. Kyle had purchased a really cool red kouki 180SX on bronze TE37s over the winter (I think) and we had hung out a few times during the summer, so we were excited to have the cars together one more time. Just before the event, I traded my Zeta III to a fellow from California in exchange for a red pair of Bride seats: a ZEROS and an Ergo 1.5. The ZEROS was the seat that was previously installed in BH’s 180SX when he had it. I was randomly searching google one day and found an old for sale listing on the Subaru forums for the seat. I sent him a message and found that the seat had never sold, so we worked out a deal. I had picked up a NeXt Miracle Cross Bar over the summer, so I removed my kouki 180SX rear seat and sold it as well as my 180SX passenger seat I was running previously.

I really liked the change that the red seats brought to the car. The combo of the ZEROS and NeXt bar without a back seat really took the interior over the top. While I was at Kyle’s for Toby’s BBQ, we ended up trading glove boxes and arm rests. Kyle’s were wrapped in red fabric and mine was still black. Kyle also ended up with my black Bride fabric door panels and Toby helped me to wrap a new pair of panels with red fabric during the winter of 2012.

Speaking of the winter of 2012, it ended up being one of the most dramatic changes to the car during my ownership. After seeing Toby’s LS swap and shaved engine bay completed when I visited Illinois, I finally became fed up with my engine bay. The fuse boxes were an eyesore and the paint was in really bad shape. I had all of the right parts there, but it just didn’t look show quality. After seeing a lot of crazy Honda engine bays at Import Alliance and Wekfest, Toby’s freshly painted bay was the last straw.

I began to plan out some big changes for the winter of 2012 and promptly began tearing into the car. Check out Part 5 to see the result of one of the most drastic winter overhauls to my car- and what eventually led to me parting the car out. Thanks for reading!


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Story of my 240SX: Part 3

This post is a part of an ongoing series about the history of my S13. If you missed the previous entries, you can find them here: Part 1 Part 2

Fall 2009: A year had passed since I bought my S13. I felt that I had greatly improved the car overall with a reworked suspension, interior, and exterior. However, I didn’t manage to put a lot of miles on the car during the season due to little engine related issues constantly popping up. I was also fairly consumed with wedding planning, the honeymoon, starting a new job, and moving to a new city- but I think engine reliability also played a large role in a lack of miles being put on the car.

With my turbo on its last leg, I needed a replacement. It didn’t make much sense to go through the effort to install another used turbocharger, so I decided to upgrade. After doing some research, I found that it might be best to pull the drivetrain all together and go over it to make sure my engine and transmission were up to the task of supporting a larger turbocharger. My cousin Nick and I pulled the engine sometime around Christmas of 2009 and my plans started to take shape.

I hauled my SR20 short block to my friend Tim’s place in Grand Rapids about an hour West of my home and two hours away from where the chassis was stored. I was living in an apartment at the time and wasn’t confident in my ability to rebuild an engine, so it made sense to do it under Tim’s supervision as he was a mechanic by trade. I spent the next several months doing research, collecting parts, and refurbishing my engine from the ground up.

The heart of the new setup was an S15 GT28 OEM Garrett turbocharger. I liked that this turbo was a stock frame/bolt on solution that would make a good amount more power but remain reliable. Additional supporting bolt ons were added including a GReddy intake manifold, oil pan, and intake setup for use with the larger Z32 MAF sensor. I tore the engine down to the block but decided to leave the bottom end in place as everything seemed to be in order and I planned to keep power output somewhat mild. I reassembled the engine with a full OEM gasket kit, Apexi head gasket, and a number of OEM replacement items including freeze plugs, coil packs, oil and water pumps, and timing chain kit. A couple other aftermarket goodies were tossed on to round out the rebuild: a Tomei turbo manifold, NISMO fuel injectors, and a set of Tomei poncams.

While I was gathering items for the engine overhaul, I also began to spend more time on I ended up getting hooked on the original Kouki 180SX thread and fell in love with the optional late-model aero the 180SX wore when sold in Japan. Inspired by other stateside examples at the time like BH and KurruptR, I sold my existing aero setup to my friend for his car and began to source the necessary parts for the exterior conversion.

Slowly but surely I managed to collect all of the necessary exterior items through the course of the winter as the engine was being built up. I was able to find a full kouki 180SX bumper with front lip from an importer and picked up a used pair of kouki side skirts and a wing on Zilvia. I found a complete rear valence setup to replace my partial kit that was on the car as the center portion was missing. I also chose to add the kevlar RPS13 rear tail light panel, DMAX clear position and side marker lamps, and a pair of Ganador mirrors.

Progress was slow with so much on my plate and this portion of the build seemed to take forever. My engine and my chassis were both located over an hour from where I lived, so it was hard to find the time to make progress on either of them. As the weather grew warmer I was able to have all of the new aero painted and install it on the car. Things were finally beginning to take shape.

In May of 2010 my wife and I purchased our first home and were able to move in on Memorial Day weekend. This meant that I finally had a garage of my own to work on the car in. Before long, my cousin hauled the chassis to my house and I brought the engine home from Tim’s shop to begin putting it all together. A couple other items were changed during this time including a set of 17/18 silver Work CR Kai wheels, Work lug nuts, AEM digital gauges, a kouki 180SX passenger and rear seat, and a Bride Zeta III bucket seat.

When the engine was finally assembled, my cousin Nick and I spent a long Saturday afternoon dropping it in the car and beginning to button everything up. It was a great feeling to see the engine back in the car as this was my first time ever pulling and installing an engine. I was terrified that the car wouldn’t start or would jump timing when I fired it up. We began to install all of the support items at this point which included a bunch more new parts: a Driveshaft Shop driveshaft, Cusco engine mounts, NISMO transmission mount, Parts Shop Max Cobra downpipe, and a DMAX catback exhaust.

With everything bolted in, I began to add the final parts needed before I could start the car up. I chose to go with an Apexi Power FC for engine management and found a local shop that had previously tuned my Solara that had the ability to tune the Apexi system. After getting everything in place and holding a couple of vacuum ports closed, Tim was there with me to start the car up for the first time in about ten months. I’ll never forget how good it felt to get that car running.

By now it was nearly August and the season was beginning to slip away before I got to enjoy it. A couple friends I met through Zilvia that had Power FC experience came over to help me put a base map on the car that I purchased from a tuner on Zilvia. This would allow me to get the car to the dyno and have it tuned properly. With the base map on the car, I drove it to work a couple of times to be sure it held together before heading to Monkey Wrench and having the car tuned. There were a couple kinks to work out after that, but the car was finally tuned and on the road!

Not long after I thought I had everything under control, the car shut off during a drive over to stay with my in-laws one weekend. When I tried to start it, I realized that the hazard lights were the only thing in the car that had power. We had the car towed to my in-laws’ house and after tearing into it I found that the fuse boxes had filled with water, blowing the 75A alternator fuse and a couple of relays. By mounting the fuse boxes in the fender wells upside down, I allowed them to become filled with water. After thoroughly drying everything out and drilling holes in the fuse box covers, the car was back on the road once more.

At this point it seemed that people began to take notice of the build a bit. The exterior was much more aggressive than the previous iteration and my reliability issues were finally sorted out (aside from the fuse box issue.) The bump in power made the car a blast to drive. It was around this time that my good friend Kyle messaged me on Zilvia and invited me to come down to Toby Broadfield’s house for his annual Nissan BBQ in September. Toby’s car was one of the first S13s that inspired me when I bought it, so I was honored to be invited despite their constant heckling.

I was really nervous about driving the car six hours South to Illinois after such an extensive rebuild. I remember anxiously watching the knock meter on my Power FC and wondering if the engine was going to blow up. Thankfully I had an awesome time and the car never missed a beat during the trip. Kyle, Toby, and their friends all turned out to be great people and we had a good time. While I was there Toby gave me a hand with wrapping my door panels in black Bride fabric. It was awesome to see the master at work!

I’ve been trying to cover about a year at a time in these posts, but this one is getting pretry wordy. I think I am going to stop there for today and pick up next time with a very special message I received from someone shortly after Toby’s BBQ. Thanks for reading!


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Story of my 240SX: Part 2

Editor’s note: I owned a flip phone for this period of the build and many original photos have since been lost. As a result, photo quality is hit or miss depending on if I could con my brother into taking photos for me or not.

If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.

By mid December of 2008 I had graduated from college and moved back home to Ann Arbor on the Southeast side of Michigan to begin my career as a graphic designer. I elected to live at home with my mother from that time until Alicia and I’s wedding in July to save some cash and make life easier in general. Now that I was working in the real world, I had a bit more disposable income to use on my project car in addition to all of the aftermarket items from the Solara that I sold.

I admittedly didn’t know a lot about what was considered cool in the S chassis world. Up to this point I had only been a part of the Camry community (yes, there is such a thing) and had learned to approach building cars in a very systematic way. The kids that were modifying Camrys and Solaras typically didn’t have a lot of money and aftermarket support was at a minimum. The platform generally wasn’t respected, so as a result people had to be very careful about what they did to their cars to avoid being labeled as ricers. Vinyl stickers, neon lights, “mellon-shooter” exhausts, and the like were all frowned upon by the community. Everything had to be subtle and executed in a clean matter, from exterior modifications to exhaust and wheel choices. No one would be caught dead with fiberglass aero.

It was these philosophies within to Toyota community I found myself in that resulted in my 94 Camry and 99 Solara both being regarded as some of the best examples of that particular chassis. Granted, there weren’t many kids modifying these cars at the time and most of them didn’t have the means to do so, but it still felt good to be known within the community and feel like I had accomplished something that helped others. When I dove into the vast S chassis community, I knew that I would never build anything that would be recognized within that culture as everything had already been done before and there were already so many incredible examples of the S13 out there. Surely I would never be able to build something on that level again, but at least I would have a fun car to drive and the support of the aftermarket.

I set out to improve and clean up a few aspects of my S13 during the winter months. But as these things typically do, the build snowballed into a little more than I had initially expected to get into. I began with the interior as I felt it was one of the more nasty areas of the car. I stripped the interior completely and removed all of the sound deadening. Why, you ask? I am honestly not sure, but it seemed like the cool thing to do at the time. I purchased new carpeting from to replace the stained and torn up factory carpet. The nasty old seats were replaced with a Corbeau bucket for the driver and an S14 seat for the passenger side. I installed a trio of Defi gauges in the dash that I had kept from my Solara, along with a Nardi deep corn 330mm steering wheel. A B&M shifter with NISMO GT knob replaced the sloppy factory shifter. A number of OEM panels and trim were replaced including the shift boot and wiper/turn signal stalks. Finally, the cheesy automatic seatbelts were tossed in favor of a Japanese manual seatbelt swap.

While slowly making progress on the interior, I began to mess with the car’s suspension. I wanted to lower the car properly and found that the old Tein coilovers on the car were siezed up. I replaced them with a set of K-Sports and purchased SPC control, toe, and traction arms for the rear of the car. To run some nicer wheels, I needed to convert the car to five lug from the factory four lug setup. I purchased a set of Ichiba hubs with Q45 front brake calipers for the front and kept the stock brakes on the rear. The brakes were freshened up with stainless braided brake lines, Rotora slotted rotors, and Hawk street pads on all four corners.

I wanted to remove all of the slop in the aging stock suspension, so I elected to install Energy suspension bushings in the rear uprights and control arms along with new ball joints. While all of this was apart, I decided I might as well install the VLSD that was included as a bonus spare part when I bought the car. This snowballed into dropping the subframe and installing SPL solid subframe bushings and giving everything a coat of paint to freshen it up.

By spring time I had successfully completed all of the suspension and brake modifications as well as the interior makeover. Nearly everything had been replaced aside from the majority of the front suspension (tie rods, control arm bushings, tension rods etc.) that I had elected to leave that alone for the time being.

I made some new friends over the winter that helped me identify the issues with the car and get it running again. For some reason the ignitor and 70A main fuse had blown and the ECU was fried as well. Aside from fixing those items I largely left the engine alone. My only additions during this first winter rebuild were a new battery, an Apexi intake, GReddy oil filter relocation, Koyo aluminum radiator with dual electric fans, and a wrinkle red powdercoated valve cover. I added a couple of dress up items to the bay as well including a Circuit Sports coolant overflow, HKS oil and radiator caps, and an ARC cooling panel. The bay was still a total mess and the paint was terrible, but at least it looked a bit more presentable.

The exterior of the car wasn’t altered much at this stage in the game. I picked up a Xenon front lip that someone local from Zilvia sold to me and mounted that over the winter. When the weather began to warm up, I spent some time clay baring and waxing the car to attempt to bring some of the shine back. It wasn’t nearly as clean as my Solara, but I was pleased that I was able to bring it back to life a bit. I purchased a set of kouki 180SX tail lights with my tax return to complete the look. For wheels, I went with a set of 17×9 +12 Rays Gram Lights 57 Maximum. I wasn’t totally sold on the finish, but ended up liking them well enough. A friend advised me to run 225/45 tires up front and 245/40 out back if I remember right.

By May I was finally able to pull the car out of the garage and drive it for the first time since I had bought it six months earlier. It felt like a completely different car with all of the changes I made. This was by far the most mechanical work I had done to one of my cars before, so I was always nervous about driving it. It was also a lot lower than my previous cars were and the constant scraping of the exhaust always concerned me.

After getting an alignment I enjoyed the car for a couple of months but found that I was constantly having issues with it. A bum injector here, a coil pack there, etc. It seemed that the general age of the engine caused issues to pop up left and right. After bottoming out on a large pot hole, my XS Power intercooler bracket broke and I replaced it with a new GReddy unit. I installed a Parts Shop Max skid plate at the same time to protect my oil pan.

I continued to modify the exterior of the car by adding chuki side skirts and kouki rear valences. I also drove to Pennsylvania to buy a carbon fiber hood and hatch for the car. After having the aero painted and installing all of these items, I was super happy with the look of the car.

When we returned home from our honeymoon in July, I picked up the car from my mom’s house and brought it to our apartment. I found that the turbo was making an odd whistling noise and smoking a bit when I got on the throttle. The exhaust was also beginning to get louder and louder. I took the car back to my grandpa’s garage and found that the turbo had come unbolted from the exhaust manifold, burning up the gasket. I replaced the gasket and slapped the car back together to drive it for the last couple weeks of the season before putting it away for winter storage.

I was proud of the car had I had built in less than a year’s time, but frustrated with how unreliable it was. As the weather began to get nasty once more, I took the car out to my cousin’s house for winter storage. My grandpa had been kind enough to loan me his garage the previous winter but needed space for his vehicles this time around. We backed the car into my cousin’s barn and I began to plan out what I would need to do to make the car more reliable for the spring of 2010.

Are you beginning to see a theme here? Sometimes with an S13 it’s a matter of trial and error until you get things right. I’m either fortunate or unfortunate enough to live in a part of the world that allows for some down time to work on making your car better and more reliable.

Thanks for reading! Next time we’ll dive into the 2010 rebuild where things really begin to come together.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

The Story of my 240SX: Part 1

I’ve realized over the last few months during conversations with numerous people (some of them friends and some of them strangers) that a lot of people don’t know the full back story of my car and what it means to me. A lot of people think it is a different chassis than the one I started with in 2008 and don’t realize that I bought the same shell back last fall after parting it out two years prior.

Most of the car’s history has been documented in my build thread on Zilvia, but I know that forums are beginning to die off in favor of other forms of social media and a lot of people may not have seen it in the past seven years. I thought it might be fun to take an abridged look back at the story of the car and recount how it became what it is today. If you’re up for a long story, then settle in and get comfortable!

So, like I mentioned, this all began in 2008. I was in my last year at college and at the time I was driving a decently modified 1999 Toyota Solara. My first car in high school was a 1994 Toyota Camry and I did my best to work with what I had. About half way through college I turned the Camry back to stock for a winter beater and picked up the Solara as a more viable platform to modify. I put it together fairly quickly as there wasn’t a lot of aftermarket for it- lip kit, black interiors swap, TRD supercharger, supporting fuel and exhaust modifications, etc. I was really into the car and loved that I finally had something decently sporty with a manual transmission.

During the winter of 2008 I started hanging out with a couple of new friends I had made at a local shop that worked on my Solara from time to time (this was back before I had a ton of experience with more involved car projects. I had the shop install an aftermarket clutch and flywheel for me as I didn’t have the knowledge or a place to do it at my college apartment, for example.) Mike was the employee at the shop that worked on my car frequently and Steve was one of his friends. During this time Mike picked up an SR swapped S13 coupe and I spent a couple of weekends working on it with him- installing a Silvia front end, stripping it down for paint and a roll cage, and eventually taking it for a spin when the build was completed.

Mike’s friend Steve had an S13 hatch with a basic SR swap and FN01s on it that he gave me a ride in at a local dyno day that summer in the rain and I knew I wanted to build one. I loved the look of the car, how fast it felt, the extensive aftermarket, and the fact that it was rear wheel drive. The car made about the same power on the dyno as my Solara but felt so much faster due in part to how light it was. I also really liked the fact that it was a true iconic Japanese muscle car as the Solara was only sold in North America. It was appealing to me to own a car that you could put legitimate Japanese parts on.

I had always gotten easily attached to my cars. At this point in my life the Solara and the Camry were the only two cars I had ever owned. I really liked my Toyota a lot and enjoyed having something different, but I began to ponder what it would be like to sell it and build an S13. As fate would have it, I was rear ended hopping onto the freeway one August day and the Solara was destroyed. I actually got hit just a couple hours before my then girlfriend Alicia was coming to get me to head out for a weekend trip where I planned to propose. I was definitely bummed, but I had to act as if it didn’t bother me in order to go through with the plan and make the weekend a meaningful one.

In the weeks that followed I thought hard about what my next move would be. I managed to get most of the parts removed from the car and sold before making an insurance claim and getting my check for a replacement car. I was torn about what to do: I had just proposed to my girlfriend and I was entering my last semester at college. Alicia had already graduated and was out working in the real world. It was a long topic of discussion as the responsible thing to do would have been to put the money from insurance away and drive my Camry, taking a break from modifying cars all together. I just couldn’t see myself without a car to tinker with as it was the thing I was most passionate about in life from a hobby standpoint.

I ended up test driving an identical Solara to my previous one and thought about transferring my parts to that chassis, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I ended up going to check out a 1993 Nissan 240SX that I found listed on Craig’s List in Holland, a town near my university. The owner of the car, Olay, had done an SR20DET blacktop swap back in 2001 or so and ended up graduating from college and starting a family. With a little one at home he found that the car just sat at his parents’ house unused for several years. The first time I went there I just checked it out and chatted with him for a while. I think he took me for a ride but I wasn’t able to drive it yet. I had been warned about rusty frame rails on these cars, but when I looked underneath of it I didn’t see any visible rust to speak of. It seemed that the car was in pretty good shape.

Here’s a photo from the original Craig’s List ad:

There was something about the S13 that felt a little out of control. The power level was pretty wild to me and the car just seemed rough around the edges. It was loud, the interior smelled funny, and it didn’t have a front bumper. The paint was pretty dingy from sitting under a tree for many years but it seemed like it would clean up OK. Olay took me around the block and wasn’t able to get on it much because it had rained and the car was all over the place. I knew at that moment I had to have it. I told Olay I wanted the car but needed to talk it over with my fiancee and get my check from insurance before I could buy it.

I don’t remember for sure, but I think I went back a second time to test drive the car myself, and a third time to actually buy it. I showed Olay photos of my previous build and he was glad that the car would be going to someone mature that wanted to take care of it and build it right. I talked him down to $5k for the car with the stock wheels instead of the gold 17×7 Racing Hart wheels he had on it. I remember getting teased for paying way too much for an S13 at the time, but looking back now I am still glad I bout it.

I got my brother to front me some of the cash to pay for it as my insurance check wasn’t due to arrive until the following week. My friend Ryan drove me to pick up the car on election day- I believe it was November 4th, 2008. We stopped at Burger King after picking up the car. I was constantly staring out the window with a stupid grin on my face as we ate. I remember awkwardly down shifting on the way home and thinking the clutch slipped when I got on the throttle a bit. My stomach dropped- and thus began years of being nervous about my Nissan’s reliability.

Fortunately I did some research the next day and found that the clutch pedal was simply out of adjustment. I used some tools in the parking lot of where I was staying at the time to adjust it and things seemed to be holding well. I drove the car to work and class for a few days and always had a smile on my face when I walked out to the parking lot on campus and saw the huge intercooler out there waiting for me. At this point the car was largely stock aside from the SR swap, a cheap intercooler, Apexi exhaust, Blitz boost controller and turbo timer, and a set of Tein coilovers. I picked up Mike’s spare Chuki bumper from his old USDM front end and had the shop spray it black for me so that the car would look a bit more presentable before Alicia saw it for the first time.

I also had no idea how to set sleepy eye headlights, lol:

One day I was driving home from class and got stuck behind a slow car on the highway. I flipped my lights on when I finally got the chance to go around them and blasted down the highway towards my exit. Upon parking the car at my place I must have left the lights on and eventually killed the car’s battery. I called a tow truck the next day to give me a jump, but all they brought was a battery pack style jump system that couldn’t get the car to crank. I later had a friend come over and try jumping the car, but we couldn’t get it to crank either.

At about two weeks into owning the car I was feeling pretty helpless. I scoured the internet and talked to some other S chassis owners I met on the local forums, but every item I tried replacing yielded the same result. By now it was mid November and I was getting nervous about winter approaching. My cousins came out with their big Dodge Ram and we planned to push the car across the lot to bump start it so that I could drive it two hours home to my grandpa’s house for winter storage. After a couple failed attempts we ended up renting a U-Haul tow dolly and towed the broken S13 home to my grandpa’s garage.

It was in this garage that the car earned it’s official nickname. My family was checking out what I had gotten myself into and found the car pretty comical. With no front bumper, an odd odor of aging 90s interior and gasoline, and holes in the carpeting, my brother and cousin commented that the car appeared to be very “ratty.” It was at this moment that we christened my new project “The Rat Ride.”

So there I was, left with a banged up stinky old Nissan that wouldn’t start and no idea how to fix it. It was just after Thanksgiving and I only had a couple weeks left before I would graduate college and start my full time career. I had just spent several weeks convincing Alicia to let me buy it, assuring her that everything would be fine. Two weeks later the car was dead in the water. Despite the rocky start, I was determined to learn all I could and turn the car into something respectable by Spring of 2009. This is when the journey of my S13 officially began.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments