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 StockInteriors.com 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.

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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.

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The Narita Dogfight

As I mentioned in one of my posts about Final Bout, I was fortunate enough to meet Sean from The Narita Dogfight while at the event. Sean asked to shoot Tony and I’s cars and posted the photos on his site a week or two after the event. I’ve been admiring his work for quite a while so it was truly an honor to have him shoot our cars. For me this was honestly as rewarding as having my car featured on the cover of Modified back in 2010. With virtually all of the print magazines dead and gone, there are few online features that really hold much significance by comparison in my eyes. This is definitely one of them!

Check out all of Sean’s photos from the shoot on his site here. Thanks again Sean!

Damon

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Road Trip to Final Bout II: Part 3

I think today’s post will conclude my Final Bout II coverage (if you want to call it that.) You can find my previous entries here:

It felt nice to sleep in a bit on Sunday morning. We still woke up pretty early to head to the track, but I don’t think anyone expected nearly as large of a crowd for day two so we weren’t as concerned about parking in the lot at USAIR. After chatting with some folks over breakfast at the hotel, we cruised over to the track.

Since the competition took place on Saturday, Sunday was basically open driving all day. This resulted in some seriously smashed up cars as the afternoon progressed. The weather wasn’t quite as hot on Sunday which was nice, but it was still pretty muggy out. We spent most of the morning just hanging out with our friends from Essence and BH.

Alicia got to ride along with Andrew in his Altezza while I took a ride with Jimmy in his R32. What a treat! It was really fun to ride with Jimmy and I am grateful to both him and Andrew for giving us rides. This was Alicia’s first ride in a drift car and she really enjoyed herself. After getting back to the pits I think she was ready to take my car out on the track!

I met all of my pal Teddy’s friends from Auto Factory Realize. Their cars are really neat. I know they all had a fair share of issues with getting the cars here and continued to have some problems throughout the weekend, but I am really glad they made it and got to drive for a bit!

In the afternoon, Tony told me that Sean from The Narita Dogfight wanted to take some photos of our cars. I wasn’t sure if Sean actually wanted to shoot mine at all or mostly just Tony’s, but we went to talk to him and he seemed interested in both cars. It was really an honor to meet Sean as I have been reading his site and admiring his work for a good while now. I didn’t expect to see him at Final Bout, but I was excited when I found out he was coming.

Alicia climbed into the back of my car (where there isn’t a back seat of any sort mind you) and Sean hopped in the front. We cruised with Tony down the road a couple miles and found a random side road in the woods. There were a couple of houses along the road and a very weird abandoned campground/shrine looking area. Sean liked the location so we hung out for the better part of 45 minutes or so, repositioning the cars every once in a while so that Sean could get the shots he was after. Our friends Mitch and Oliver tagged along as well in his CRZ.

A few of the guys had just cracked open some beers when a Sheriff’s car pulled up. We could only assume that the people that owned the homes down the street called the cops as some of them had returned home while our cars were blocking the street and had to drive through the grass. Fortunately the officer was very nice. He told us that someone had complained that a small black car had passed them going well over 70 MPH on the road outside of the event. Since all of our cars were black, we handed over our driver’s licenses and he ran them back to dispatch. Tony and I had both driven fairly slow to the location, but we weren’t so sure about Oliver. He asked us to drive responsibly, wrap up the photos, and to be sure to not drink and drive before shaking our hands and taking off. It was really refreshing to have a positive run-in with the police, especially considering the fact that one person in the group was conveniently wearing a “cop lives don’t matter” tee shirt.

After we wrapped up the photos, it was time to say goodbye to Tony as he had to head back to Indiana. Alicia and I were staying at the hotel an additional night before heading on with our trip despite the fact that most people were leaving that night. After watching some more drifting through the afternoon, we said goodbye to many of our friends that live across the continent. It’s always hard to say goodbye to so many great people knowing that it’s not likely that we will see them again within the next year.

After getting back to the hotel, we decided to go to the pool and order pizza with Cody, Ryan, and Steve. We had a great time hanging out in the hot tub and eating pizza (just not at the same time.) All three of these guys are great dudes and it was nice to have time to unwind with them. A big thunderstorm rolled through just as the event ended and people were heading home so it was cool to watch the lightning from inside the pool area at the hotel. Eventually we called it a night after saying goodbye to even more great people.

Alicia and I checked out of the hotel on Monday morning, gassed up the car at the station next door, and gave Ryan and Cody one last handshake before they started the trek back to Idaho in Ryan’s cool GS. We then hit the road and started heading Northeast toward the upper peninsula of Michigan. The weather was pretty decent for this leg of the trip and we weren’t dying of heat exhaustion anymore. We took a quick detour to see the Pictured Rocks in Northern Michigan before crossing the Mackinac Bridge into the lower peninsula. I truly love living in Michigan and relish any opportunity I have to spend time up north and cross over the bridge. Always a cool experience.

Look, a rock (pictured.)

A quick photo before crossing the bridge.

After crossing into the lower peninsula, we took another detour to drive the Tunnel of Trees. This is a roughly 20 mile long road that snakes along the coast of Lake Michigan. It’s slightly narrower than a two lane road and doesn’t have a line painted down the middle of it. The pavement is for the most part really smooth and I believe the speed limit is 45 MPH, but it’s filled with tons of twists, turns, and elevation changes. We took my Evo here during the fall back in 2013 and had a blast, so we knew it was worth the detour. I had a lot of fun blasting the S13 through here despite the fact that I essentially destroyed my oil pan (which I didn’t realize until we made it home the next night. Fortunately the leaks weren’t worse.)

After taming the Tunnel of Trees, we arrived at our destination in Petoskey, MI just in time to catch the sunset before sitting down for a relaxing dinner. Pretty cool!

We stayed in room 240 (heh heh) at The Inn at Bay Harbor which was super nice. Alicia found a crazy deal that must have been an error on their website making the stay actually affordable. We awoke to gray skies on Tuesday morning and checked the radar. A massive system was moving over all of the northern half of Michigan. We had no sooner looked at the weather and the thunder and lightning started. After doing a little shopping and having lunch downtown, it became apparent that the rain was not going to slow down. We packed up and decided to make the three hour trek home to SE Michigan to see our daughters.

On the way home, Alicia remarked that her purse that had been sitting on the floor was wet. Remember that Cusco cage I used to have in the car? The one that was bolted through the floor? Yeah, I didn’t. Water had been entering into the floor of the car for the long drive home in heavy rains and the carpeting was soaked. The day after we arrived home, I had to rip everything out to dry it all properly before it began to stink. Luckily there wasn’t any major harm done, but it was definitely something I don’t want to repeat. The holes have now been properly sealed up.

All in all this was an incredible trip. The drifting and cars are always a sight to see, but the people are really what Final Bout is all about. I’d like to give a huge thank you to all of the great people that hung out with us, approached me to say hello, and took photos of my car. It’s so cool to meet people that have followed my build and have had it impact them in a positive way. It still astounds me to this day!

I also have to give a heap of credit to my wife Alicia for wanting to go on this trip. She faced some really less than ideal conditions throughout the trip and was always a trooper. Not only did she tolerate it, she had a blast and seems to be hooked on drifting now! It’s amazing to have someone so supportive by my side.

The weather is beginning to take a turn here in Michigan but I’ll have some more updates soon! Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Damon

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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.

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!

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!

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!

Damon

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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.

Damon

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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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