Road Trip to Final Bout II: Part 2

It was largely anticipated that Final Bout would be much larger in 2015 than it was the previous year. That prediction proved to be true. The size of the parking lot at US AIR was an immediate concern as the spectator lot was nearly at capacity in 2014. It was announced a week or so before the event that there would be an overflow lot in downtown Shawano about two miles or so from the track and a shuttle would be running to and from the track. After hearing this, Tony and I made a plan to wake up early to be sure we got a spot somewhere in the lot.

It felt a bit self-centered and egotistical to make my wife wake up at 6 AM just to go park in a parking lot, but we had suffered a long and grueling drive in what I have previously stated may be the world’s worst car. What’s the point in suffering through driving that thing if we aren’t able to park it at the event? If we ended up off-site we may as well have been driving our Highlander and brought the kids with us (which would have been fun in a way, but not in a lot of other ways.)

I was impressed with how many people were already in the lobby getting breakfast at about 7 AM and even more impressed with how fast Alicia was able to get ready and get out the door. When we arrived at the track the lot had already begun to fill up. Tony and I got a bit creative with the cones (without Pat seeing us thankfully) and got a couple spots at the end of the row near the pit entrance. We were supposed to save a spot for Kou and his FC (which is arguably the best in North America) as we had been chatting with him for months leading up to the event. Luckily we happened to be in the lot when he pulled in and we bumped the cone out a bit more to fit his car next to ours. Pat must know it’s one of the coolest cars around because he looked the other way as he drove by in his Gator.

Every time I see Kou’s FC it completely blows me away. It also helps that he is one of the nicest, most soft spoken and genuine people I have ever met. I had the pleasure of writing Kou’s feature story for his car when it was on the cover of the last ever issue of Modified Magazine. I wish I had met him and seen it in person before then, but I think it still came out OK. It was really fun to have our cars together again.

Here is an AE86 I really like unrelated to what I am rambling about in the paragraphs above and below.

To be completely honest, a lot of Saturday was a blur. Final Bout seems to take place in a parallel universe where you can see and interact with the people of the internet in person and time passes at an accelerated rate. I remember that it was very hot and Alicia and I had to make frequent trips to the car for water and snacks to avoid passing out. Alicia couldn’t believe that none of the people at the event seem to eat, sit down, go to the bathroom, or sleep. I guess that’s just the aura of Final Bout- it’s so exciting to see everyone that you forget to do the simplest of things. She had the hang of it by the end, but Saturday afternoon was a wake up call for me- a good reminder that I needed to make sure my wife stayed alive all weekend, lol.

A BH selfer showing Alicia trying to stay alive while we chat with our friends Ryan and Cody from Boise.

While walking around the pits before the competition we were reunited with a lot of people that we hadn’t seen since the previous year. Cody Fowler, Ryan Rieb, Oliver, Mitch, and Philstar were all among the people that I was excited to see again (not to mention many others.) One person I thought it was really cool to see was the infamous Joey Lee of The Chronicles. I met Joey at Import Alliance in 2009 down in Tennessee with my good friend Kyle who used to have the red 180SX on bronze TE37s. Joey is more or less the face of the Honda scene and said some very nice things about our cars when we met him so I have done my best to stay in touch and keep up with what he is up to over the years, being that I am a huge closet Honda fan. He’s also been a big supporter of me getting my car back and building it up again. It was cool to see Joey at a drift event in the midwest- a definite change of pace for him!

Myself with Mr. Joey Lee. Thanks for the pic Mico!

At one point when we returned to my car I noticed a puddle flowing from the front bumper. After a quick inspection it turned out to be coolant, which was not good as it was over 90 degrees F outside. It turned out to be a leaky idle air control valve coolant hose that I thought I had fixed prior to the trip. The hose clamp tore through the hose on the drive down, but luckily I hadn’t seen any overheating. We decided to leave it for the time being and grab some lunch with BH before the competition. Brian bought Alicia and I some brats for helping him get out to Final Bout which was very generous of him- thanks Brian!

BH posing with a cool vintage Pink Godzira drift team tee shirt.

The competition is probably the thing I look forward to the least at Final Bout. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun to watch, but I almost enjoy watching the free runs and just walking around to chat with people I only see once a year more than the actual driving. We found a spot in the crowded bleachers and watched with Tony and BH for a while which was a lot of fun. Essence did a parade lap on their second run to honor team BLOODRUNNER which was really neat. It was fun to listen to some of the kids “vaping” and whatnot in the crowd complain about it. It was also entertaining to listen to Nadine, Mark, Benson, and Rob’s commentary during the competition runs.

After the competition ended, it was time for some free runs. I was particularly excited for this as I had never been on a ride along at a drift event. In fact, Final Bout 2014 was the first organized drift event I had ever been to. I didn’t bring my helmet with me last year so I made sure that Alicia and I borrowed a couple so that we could hopefully get a ride with the Essence guys since I had become pretty close with Jimmy and Andrew over the last year.

My first ride along came from Anthony (AKA @camryonchrome) in his JZX90. Anthony is a very quiet dude, but one of the nicest people I met at the event. He was more than willing to give me a ride and it did not disappoint. His car is pretty violent when it builds boost, and most of the time I couldn’t tell what was going on, but it was a ton of fun. I wish it was easier to own one of these cars here in the states because they’re a total blast. I was overcome by the smoke at the end of the run and tried to be sneaky about putting my window down, but it didn’t work. Anthony caught me and put the windows down for me. I had no idea it gets so smoky in the car when you drift. Who knew? lol

After a couple of laps we went back to the pits to the car cool down. I’m really grateful to Anthony for giving me an excellent first drift ride along. Such a cool car!

After some more spectating the day began to wind down. Jimmy drove us to the local auto parts store to pick up some coolant and a new hose to try to fix my car’s leak. I was fortunate enough to have Jimmy and my friend Loren give me a hand with trying to fix the car (Loren is the owner of my old Kouki 180SX aero and DMAX hood and has a really cool 180 that he grip races. Always cool to see him.) None of us could get the hose to go on, so I had to resort to using my secret weapon: Tony. Without hesitation, Tony pulled out his lighter and heated the hose up. He then proceeded to install it and button everything up within about ten minutes. That’s a trick I soon won’t forget. Many thanks again to Tony and the other gents that helped get my car back on the road.

Loren’s car sporting silver TEs and my old aero/DMAX hood.

By the time we finished monkeying around it was dark out. We all cruised back to the hotel for a much deserved shower before heading out to dinner. I ate at a Chinese place in town with Teddy and a bunch of other cool guys the previous year, so we decided to head there again. When we arrived we were the only people there with about one hour to go until they closed. We told them we could leave if they were trying to close up shop, but they told us it was fine aside from the fact that they were out of rice (Arby’s is out of roast beef and the Chinese place in town is out of rice. Are we seeing a theme here in Shawano during Final Bout weekend?)

Despite the awkward atmosphere, the food was delicious. It may have just been the fact that I was on the edge of death after being in the sun and breathing in toxic fumes all day, but it sure did seem good. I think we were there with Jimmy, Andrew, Anthony, Tony, Martino, and Joe. If I forgot someone I really apologize! It’s been too long for my old man memory.

The man. The myth. The legend.

I can’t really remember what we did next, but I am pretty sure we headed over to the Longhorn bar after dinner to meet up with everyone. There was a huge group at this small local bar last year on Friday night of the event, but this year the party was on Saturday. As a result I was thoroughly exhausted and a noisy bar wasn’t where I was dying to be. Jimmy bought me a pop since I don’t drink alcohol so that I had a cool glass bottle to hold onto like everyone else. We stayed and chatted with BH, Nadine, and Benson for a bit but both of us were exhausted. I think Alicia and I left at about 10:45 to go back to the hotel and pass out.

I think I will probably have one more post after this one to wrap up the rest of the trip- but maybe there will be two. Trying to remember everything we did and all of the cool people we met is taking me back! It’s going to be a long winter. Thanks for reading!


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Road Trip to Final Bout II: Part 1

Somehow it has been over a month since my wife Alicia and I drove my S13 to Wisconsin for Final Bout II. I have no idea where the time has gone, but I figured it was time to finally sit down and attempt to document our trip.

We dropped our daughters off with their grandparents on Wednesday night and spent the rest of the evening packing and preparing for the trip. I was feeling pretty good about how the car had been running all summer, but it’s always a bit nerve racking to drive the S13 on a long trip like this. When we got home around 10PM I had to install a replacement axle on the passenger side of the car. I had just found that the CV boot was torn while I was under the car a week prior and had a heck of a time finding a replacement axle. Nothing like things coming down to the wire! But fortunately everything went together smoothly and after a quick test drive the car seemed to be more or less ready for the long trip.

On Thursday morning I spent some time washing the car and getting it all packed up. I always wash my car before we take it on a road trip even though it always manages to rain at some point during the drive, but it’s become a bit of a tradition of sorts at this point. I saw the storm system on the radar that would come down from the North and clip us on our way through Lansing to the West, looked the sky over for a minute or two, and fired it up to head to the grocery store for some supplies.

It was already feeling pretty hot out on our short trip to the store. The humidity in the midwest never ceases to amaze me. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even imagine what it would be like to own an S13 with air conditioning that actually works, but it must be incredible. After a quick parking lot selfie, we were officially on our way…

For about twenty minutes. Then we hit dead-stop traffic on I-96 and that rain storm I mentioned earlier decided to roll in. That meant sitting in traffic in mid-80s temps with the windows up while rain made its way into the various leaky seals all around the interior of my car. Fortunately things got moving again after about twenty minutes or so. We swung off the first exit to get Alicia her Starbucks drink and then finally got rolling, eventually clearing the rain and returning to the hot sunshine we had faced earlier in the day.

The stretch we drove on Thursday was much more miserable than I had imagined. There’s just no escape from the heat and humidity in my car, especially when you’re sitting on top of the exhaust. We stopped near Battle Creek, MI for some McDonald’s and saw a really bad accident on the other side of I-94. I guess a semi truck rear ended a bunch of cars stopped for construction and one person was killed. The freeway was littered with totaled cars and tipped over semi trucks and traffic was probably backed up for over five miles. Grateful that luck was on our side and we weren’t wrapped up in that freeway closure, we continued on towards Chicago.

A bit after entering Indiana, we stopped at my friend Tony’s place for another break. It was nice to sit in the shade, stretch our legs, and drink some cold water in Tony’s front yard while he washed his car ahead of the event. My car had gotten pretty trashed during the rain storm we passed through, so I decided to hose mine off as well. After thanking Tony and making plans for the next morning, we knocked out the final hour to Chicago (thanks to rush hour traffic) and arrived at my brother and his wife’s apartment in Wicker Park.

My brother was a bit concerned about leaving my car on the street outside of his place and wanted to park it in his rental garage down the street. After leaving a nice gouge in the huge speed table near the apartment, we determined that the speed bumps outside the garage were too high to attempt to clear. We ended up parking the car in the alley behind his place, crossing our fingers, and heading out to dinner. It’s always fun to spend some time in Chicago.

Friday morning arrived a bit too soon and it was time to head North towards US Air in Shawano, Wisconsin where Final Bout takes place. Last year a bunch of people all drove the four hour trek up to the track together on Friday morning, but this year most of the teams chose to drive up to Shawano on Thursday night. Fortunately we met up with Tony at a hotel North of the city so that we could cruise up together. After making sure we had enough cash for the tollway (but forgetting to be sure we had change, resulting in a missed payment for an unmanned toll booth that I still need to take care of) we hit the road to our next rendezvous point.

After nearly being taken out by a truck tire that exploded directly in front of us, Alicia, Tony and I exited somewhere just inside Wisconsin at Cracker Barrel. Shortly after getting out of the car the remainder of our party arrived: Benson and Nadine Hsu, Slide Squad Mark, and none other than Mr. Big Bad BH World himself. I had the pleasure of meeting Benson and Nadine at Final Bout in 2014 and had kept in touch with Benson via the internets. Benson told me that he really wanted to stop at Cracker Barrel and that they would all be driving up to the track Friday instead of Thursday like most people, we decided to meet up.

After a handshake with BH and Mark, it was time to take some selfers. It was quite an honor to meet Brian after all of these years- a true legend! Complete with mustache.

After enjoying some good old fashioned family dining and picking up some Badgers souvenirs for Brian, we hit the freeway hard to try to get to the track on time without Benson getting in trouble. Nadine was the MC for the competition and Benson and Mark were judges, so they needed to be at the track by a certain time to do some official stuff. We misjudged how long of a drive it was to the track and didn’t make it in time, but we did arrive without incident! Some cloud cover made the drive a bit more bearable than it was on Thursday.

So this was it… the Final Bout (again). We purchased our wrist bands and made our way through the pits to see all of the cars and their respective drivers. I immediately made a bee-line towards the ~ESSENCE~ pits to say hi to my friend Jimmy Yates and check out his R32. I met Jimmy at the first Final Bout and we talk almost every day. It was also really cool to meet Andrew and Anthony in person as well as I had only talked to them on the internet prior to this. These dudes drove all the way from Texas (two of them in their drift machines) to hang out and compete. Talk about nerve racking! I had a much shorter drive and wasn’t even drifting. I can only imagine how stressful that long of a drive would be.

After hanging at the track for the afternoon and into the evening, we checked in at the hotel and got showered and cleaned up. Then Alicia and I met up in the lobby with Andrew, Justin, and Anthony from Essence Garage as well as Tony from BLOODRUNNER to head next door for some delicious Arby’s. Somehow they were out of roast beef- that was a first. While we were there we met up with Joe (Itai blue 180SX with bronze TE37s) and Matt (TrickyAB) from Toronto. I text with Joe every day and have known Matt from Zilvia for years, so it was really nice to meet those guys in person!

At this point it was pretty late. I killed some time hanging with friends and walking around the parking lot before heading in to get some sleep. We planned to wake up early in order to get a spot in the parking lot at the track the next morning.

That’s all for now- I’ll have Part 2 up later this week! Thanks for reading.


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Then n Now

I just realized yesterday that these photos happened to be taken four years apart.

August 21, 2011 vs. August 21, 2015:

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New Wheels

I’ve had a vision in my head of what my ideal 180SX would look like for quite some time now. I’ve enjoyed all of the various iterations of this car immensely, and having the chance to own this car again is something that I continue to be grateful for.

It’s no secret that the summer of 2011 was arguably my favorite version of this car. OEM kouki 180SX aero, staggered TE37s, a well put together and reliable engine setup, and a nifty interior with just the right touch of wild to bring it all together. No impractical wheel specs, no shaved bay, and the car still had heat (even if the blower motor didn’t work.) When I look back at the car over the years, this is the time when I wish I would have stopped and left the car exactly as it sat.

As happy as I was with the car back in 2011, I really wanted a few different things at the time. I desperately wanted to run Hot Road aero and a Koguchi Power hood at the time, but the exchange rate made it all but impossible for me to achieve. I also really wanted to see the car with bronze TE37s on it but never got a chance to borrow Kyle’s to see what it would look like. I was constantly torn between black and red seats and which I like better back then just like I am today.

It’s pretty cool to walk out to the driveway and see what is more or less my dream 180 sitting out there. I sold my Blitz wheels this weekend and picked up a set of 17/18 bronze Volk TE37s for the car. To see my old car back home with Hot Road aero, a Koguchi Power hood and a set of bronze TEs on it is pretty awesome!

My current front pair of TEs are a bit lighter than the rears. Rays changed their coating process at some point over the years and things don’t really match between the two pairs. I guess Adam from C’s Garage had the same issue back in the day. I picked up a different pair of TEs on Yahoo Japan that were manufactured the same year as my current rear pair, so hopefully when those arrive I can swap them out and sell this pair. I’m super happy with how it sits now, but I’ll be even more excited when I have a proper matching set.

The specs are 18×9.5 +22 and 17×9 +15 with a 5mm spacer up front (+10 effective.) I really wanted a +12 pair for the rear, but these were too clean to pass up. I am also running a chunkier 235/40 out back leftover for the blitz, so they don’t look too bad. I will take a little camber out of the back this week and that should help a little bit. I wouldn’t mind some more front camber but have decided not to really mess with it right now. The car has -3.5 all around from my last alignment. While more aggressive front camber looks cool, I do like how well it drives right now. Hopefully removing some rear camber will help a bit with how the car looks overall.

Anyway, I am super happy with these wheels. The Blitz were great, but I think these could be the wheels I hold onto for this car. Say what you will about TEs being played out or “everyone having them,” but they’re just perfect for a kouki 180SX. So happy with how the car has turned out since getting it back last November!

I’ve got some work to do on the car before we leave for our long trek to Final Bout II next week. I’ll try to document some of it and post again later this week! Thanks for reading- I decided to post the new wheels here on my blog before posting anywhere else for a change. If you still read this I truly do appreciate it!


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Koguchi Power

Well, I figured that if I put my stock hood back on (which caused me to need to remove the hood pins and move the factory latches back) the body shop would finish my Kogichi Power hood, and my hypothesis was correct. I was hoping they would call me a day in advance so that I could drive to work without my hood on and pick it up, but that wasn’t the case. The body shop called Friday afternoon and said the hood was ready to be picked up. 

I left the office and drove to my cousin’s house to pick up his huge Dodge truck. He lives on a dirt road in the country and I was worried about my car making it, but luckily the roads were in pretty good shape. I put the hood in his truck and dropped it off at my mom’s place to install later in the weekend. 

I spent some time Saturday night vacuuming out my car. I hadn’t really cleaned the interior since getting it back on the road so that was nice. I’ve been thinking about putting a back seat in it again, but it looks really cool with just the X brace in there.

My friend Tony gave me this privacy cover when I was in Indiana at his place so I figured it would be a good idea to notch it for this X brace and use it. It will be nice to block our luggage and stuff on the Final Bout II trip. 

Yesterday we went to my mom’s house to visit and I was able to install my hood. I’m pretty pleased with how the car looks. I was able to get the stock latch to fit along with the Cusco pins so that will add some extra reassurance about it staying in place. 

The girls ended up playing in the car for a while and seemed to be having a good time. 

I picked up some new wheels that should be here this week and plan to sell the Blitz as long as I’m happy with them. I have a couple pairs of mirrors coming too that I need to choose from. 

I’m really happy with the car right now and looking forward to Final Bout. It’s going to be great to see everyone! I’ll post the new wheels soon. Drop me a line if you might be interested in the Blitz!


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It’s August

Summer is flying by too quickly as usual. I lost a lot more of the month of July than I had originally anticipated. When installing my new oil pan I botched the RTV seal during the first attempt and ultimately had to remove it and redo the whole process to get it to seal properly. It was a huge hassle, but I am glad that it is finally on the car and sealed up properly.


While the car was apart I also installed my GReddy sandwich plate for the oil pressure and oil temp gauge sensors which went rather smoothly. My oil temp gauge was broken and missing the cable between the gauge and the sensor, so I finally managed to find a replacement gauge and cable on Yahoo Japan and got those installed as well. I gave my garage floor a bath with some fresh coolant while installing the GReddy coolant temp sensor as well. The coolant leak turned out to be a loose clamp on one of the lines under the intake manifold, so I got that fixed up too. Hopefully this is the end of the car leaking fluids for a while. It feels really good to have all of the gauges working properly now!


It’s been about sixteen days since I took my Koguchi Power hood to the body shop. I guess they have been really busy with deer related crashes and whatnot which I suppose is understandable. Really hoping they have it done in the next couple days so that I can see it on the car. The car has been back together and sitting for a little over a week waiting for the hood which has been bumming me out, so last night I finally gave in and put the stock hood back on and drove it to the office today. It feels great to be driving the car. I just want to put as many miles on it as I can before winter arrives!


We leave for Final Bout 27 days from today. Hopefully the car is in good shape for the trip! I can’t wait to see everyone again. Road trips are the best.


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I didn’t end up doing much of anything with my car last week aside from washing it after the Illinois trip and parking it back in the garage. Last night I removed the hood and strapped it on top of the Highlander to deliver it to the body shop to be painted. I’m really excited to see it on the car. Hopefully it will be done later this week.

I snapped this photo downtown on my way to work while checking the straps before getting on the highway and I thought it turned out kind of cool. I’ll have to come down here and take some pics on my way in some morning with the S13. Makes for a nice and quiet backdrop when all of the parking spaces are empty.

While the hood is being painted, I decided to finally install the oversize oil pan that Canton Racing sent to me. I am also installing an S14 oil strainer while I am in there. I got about half way done last night. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get the new pan on there tonight or tomorrow at the latest.

I am also going to install my GReddy sensor adapters for the oil sensors and the water temp gauge sensor so that I can get those working. The oil temp gauge I bought from someone on Zilvia doesn’t work, so I still need to grab a replacement for that at some point and then the gauges will finally be sorted out.

Aside from finishing those tasks up this week I don’t have a lot on the horizon. There’s a coolant leak somewhere on the passenger side that I need to find while the car is in the air. I am worried it’s one of the lines under the intake manifold that are a huge pain to get to. I sure do miss my GReddy manifold at times like this, haha. Shouldn’t be too bad though hopefully. I’m just planning to enjoy the car and be content with it for the rest of the summer. Really looking forward to Final Bout II as well- I can’t believe how fast it’s coming up!

I’ll take some photos and post them up when the car is back together, hopefully be the end of the week. Thanks for reading!


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