Welcome to May

Last weekend once again brought some decent weather to Michigan, motivating me to tinker with the S13s a bit. I began on Friday night by making some adjustments to my kouki 180SX bumper for the hatch. I noticed when I installed the R33 GTR N1 ducts that there were a couple spots where the bumper was rubbing the intercooler and couplers. I marked them with the bumper on the car so that I could trim it a bit when I removed it to install the replacement fenders.

I also elected to install the only two kouki 180SX bumper brackets my setup was missing. I’ve had these stashed away for a couple years now and figured it was finally time to install them. It took me a bit to figure out how to put them on properly, but I think I got them on correctly. It’s a shame that many of these components are not available anymore- and if they are, they’re really expensive. I know you can get away without utilizing all of the brackets, but I am glad to have the complete setup. I can’t say the two brackets I added did much of anything, but at least they’re finally on there.

My wife was gone all day Saturday with her mom shopping for plants, so I was home with 2 of daughters while my oldest was at a sleepover with her aunt. I ended up inviting a couple of their friends over to play so they’d be distracted and I could tinker a bit during the day. I pulled both cars outside and primarily worked on reinstalling the front bumper, lip, and side skirt end caps on the hatch. I decided to spray off both cars to try to get the dust off since they have been sitting for so long. Of course it rained for a couple minutes as I tried to dry them, but that’s par for the course.

I would by lying if I told you I am remotely content with the appearance of my cars right now. It’s actually giving me a fair bit of anxiety that they both essentially need to be painted. I am tempted to just get the fenders, bumper, and lip painted for the hatch but I am so tired of doing things piecemeal for the last ten plus years. I really just want to get the entire car painted and be done with it, but I’m hesitant to spend so much at this stage in life. We’ll see what happens I guess, but for the moment I don’t really have any plan for paint work lined up. If you’ve been here for any length of time though, you know how quickly things can change.

We decided to have pizza with our neighbors down the street, so they watched the girls for me while I drove the hatch to go pick it up. It’s only a mile or two away, but the drive was pretty nerve racking- essentially because I haven’t driven this car on the streets in nearly two years. Aside from needing an alignment though, it went smoothly and I had a great time driving it. I’m looking forward to attempting to take it to the office sometime very soon.

I ended up pulling both cars onto the street to grab some photos as the sun went down that evening. I only had one battery between the two cars at the time, so it still didn’t quite feel like I own two functioning S13s, but it was still a pretty cool feeling that I am only beginning to get used to.

I ended up picking up a second Odyssey battery for the coupe that arrived this week. I also snagged a universal battery tie down that I am going to attempt to modify to work, but I haven’t had a chance to do that just yet- maybe this weekend.

As I think I mentioned before, the rear wheel bearings on the coupe are shot. Last night I began tearing into that project and got the rear upright removed from the driver’s side of the car. I could not get the upright and hub to separate on one side when I redid the suspension, so I figured I would just remove the whole assembly to try to make the process easier. We’ll see how it goes though.

Wheel bearings are on order and should be here next week. I think I am finally going to bite the bullet and purchase a 20 ton press to have at my house. After dealing with sketchy solutions and trying to find people to press things for me for years, it seems like a no-brainer to just get one of my own. Hopefully it will be up to the task and allow me to get things done myself in the future.

If the weather is nice this coming week, I am going to try to put some more miles on the hatch. My historical registration for the coupe has finally arrived, so both cars are legal and ready to go- I just need to get them road worthy so we can enjoy them! We’ll see how it goes. With only three weeks of school left for my daughters, I can feel summer beginning to arrive.

I hope you have an excellent weekend- don’t forget about Mother’s Day! Thanks as always for swinging by.

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April Departs

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I took the afternoon off last Friday to meet up with my cousin Nick and his girlfriend, my aunt, and my mom to go up to the lake house for a quick weekend trip. My wife’s family purchased a lake house last summer about three hours North of our house and it has been a ton of fun to go up there over the last 10 months or so as an affordable getaway, especially during the pandemic.

My father-in-law bought a Can-Am Maverick Trail last September that I helped him transport up to the lake house. Alicia and I have had an absolute blast with this machine on the trails up there and we’ve really taken a liking to the hobby and the lifestyle that comes with it. We’ve really been wanting to have a four seater version so that more of us can enjoy the trails, but like everything else fun these days they have been very hard to get a hold of. Alicia’s dad recently found a 2021 Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo at a local dealership that someone had ordered last summer and decided not to purchase. Side by sides are about 8-9 months out if you order them new right now, so we were really excited that it worked out.

The new limousine.

We needed a way to get it up there, so my cousin volunteered his Dodge Ram and a friend’s car trailer to help us out. We loaded up just outside Detroit and made it up the the lake house just before dark. We unloaded the new machine and were excited to try it out the next morning.

Nick and I bibbed up for the trails.

When I first took the new SxS out for a drive, I realized that it wouldn’t let me exceed 25MPH. After some research online, we found that the dealership neglected to reflash the key for us to the performance setting. I figured we wouldn’t get to drive it at all for the weekend, but fortunately we found a powersports dealer about 40 minutes away that was able to flash the key for us before the closed Saturday. This allowed us to get out and enjoy it a bit which was really fun. It’s crazy to ride in this thing- it feels like a limousine.

We encountered this S10 stuck out on the trails and ended up pulling him out.

On Sunday, we loaded up the two seater and took it in for service on our way home. I am eager to learn more about these things and do the maintenance work for my father-in-law myself, but both are currently under warranty so it only makes sense for the dealership to do it. Soon enough though! It will be fun to learn to work on something different for a change.

However, as of now this is not an off-road vehicle blog- this is about S13s! As much as I wanted to sell my cars and get some four wheelers or something last weekend, I forced myself into the garage Tuesday night since it was unseasonably warm out and felt like summer.

I finished tightening everything up with the rear axle and suspension as I sort of quit half way through the last time I worked on the hatch. Then I installed my Auto Collect Storm fender braces up front and rolled my fender lips flat. I thought I remembered having more success with a roller on my coupe, but I ended up using a rubber mallet. After adjusting the ride height and front camber a bit, I was able to sit the car on the ground and take a step back.

Seeing both cars on the ground together again for the first time in a few months sent my motivation through the roof. It’s funny how you can put something off that will only take an hour or two for weeks, causing your mind to wander and making you feel like you should be giving up. I continually let this happen without learning my lesson.

On Wednesday when I got home from work I managed to toss the battery in the hatch and pull it out of the garage to drive it a bit. I completely forgot how much fun this car is since I’ve only really been focusing on the coupe lately. The hatch is a bit louder than the coupe and just feels and sounds a lot sportier. I forgot how cool power windows are too.

The past couple days it’s been starting to sink in: I have two functional S13s. Neither of them are without issues that need to be addressed and things I need to finish, but I sat down, turned the key, and drove both of these cars on public roadways in the last week. I really can’t believe it! I definitely have a huge feeling of accomplishment and am really looking forward to continuing to button things up so that I can finally start enjoying my cars properly.

The registration document should finally be here for the coupe next week. Aside from that, I just need to get some details hammered out before I drive one of the cars to work for the first time. I’ll likely begin with the hatch since I trust it a bit more and stick to shorter local trips for the coupe until I get it a bit more reliable.

Thanks for bearing with me through the ups and downs as of late- I know it is probably annoying to read sometimes, haha- but hopefully you can relate to my madness. I hope you have an excellent weekend- see you next week!

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No Update!

The past week has completely flown by- I can’t believe it is already Friday! Needless to say, despite the best of intentions I got absolutely nothing done related to my cars this week. It was a bit crazy after returning home from vacation in Florida and getting back into the routine of work and school. Add getting summoned to appear for jury duty to that craziness and I just didn’t have any time. I had hoped to work on getting the hatch on the ground, but it just didn’t come together.

I received the registration document for my hatch, but not for the coupe. It seems they have not processed it yet, so I think it may have been lost in the mail. I’ll have to send it in again I guess since historical registration can only be completed by mail for some reason. Of course the one that arrives is for the car that I don’t have quite ready yet.

Alexi was impressed with how soft and comfy the back seat was…

Alicia has been wanting to drive the coupe for a few weeks, so we took it out with Alexi on my lunch break earlier this week. It was fun to ride in the car as a passenger. It began making some sort of grinding noise during our quick cruise, so I parked it back in the garage. It almost sounds like a brake dust shield is dragging on a rotor or something, but I haven’t had a chance to diagnose it.

I am taking the afternoon off today to head up North to the lake house since my girls do not have school today. It should be a good time! I’ll try to include some photos of what we are up to in next week’s post.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s Going on with S13 Stuff These Days?

Well, since I currently find myself on vacation in sunny Florida this week, I don’t have any updates to provide about my cars. We’ve been down here since last Friday and it has been a great break for all of us to escape the Michigan weather (though it has been unseasonably warm lately, I did see from a friend that we had some snow on the ground up there this morning) and the first family trip we have taken out of state in about 14 months. We’ve been having a great time and are trying to soak up all the sun we can as it sounds like the pandemic has been flaring up in Michigan again the past few weeks.

Speaking of the pandemic, I am still completely blown away about what it has done to the market for S13s and parts for these cars that have become very difficult to find. As you probably recall, I parted out a number of S13s from 2018 to early 2020, essentially to fund my coupe build. I was able to snatch up cars locally (or at least within a three hour radius) and tear them down, keeping items I needed for my build like black interior plastics and an SR20DET swap, but selling the things I didn’t need to raise extra funds to build the car. It ended up working out much better than I could have anticipated, and I managed to build the coupe from a bare shell within about two years or so- much faster than I ever thought I would be able to.

When COVID crept in early last year, I expected the economy to completely tank. I thought people would lose their jobs (like I did) and be forced to sell their unfinished project cars. However, it ended up feeling like the opposite had happened. After finishing my last part out in March 2020, I never really saw another S13 for sale near me that seemed like a viable option for a part out. Granted, with everything going on I didn’t spend as much time looking as I used to, but the market really did seem to dry up. Even the junkiest S13s were listed for prices so high that there’s no way you’d be able to make your money back parting the car out, let alone turn a profit. And the craziest part is that most of them were still being snatched up.

I’ve watched S chassis prices increase for years now, especially for parts that are getting harder to find- things like Bride seats, JDM OEM aero components, Ganador mirrors, etc. It wasn’t totally unexpected. From 2009 to 2018 or so, the price of most of these parts doubled. But since then, it seems like everything has doubled again- which is really mind blowing. My first pair of genuine kouki 180SX side skirts set me back about $240- now they sell quickly for over $1200. I remember my mint condition red Bride Zeros was priced on the high side at $900 in 2012- now one in that condition would easily fetch $2500 or more. $250 Ganadors now sell almost immediately for $1250.

I don’t totally understand what has driven all of the increases other than the fact that these cars and parts were treated as disposable for far too long. I remember people ranting on Zilvia that S13s are a dime a dozen an they aren’t true sports or collector cars. Any time someone complained about them being crashed or destroyed, they got criticized about caring. It seems that the disposable mindset has finally caught up to us- even basic stock parts are getting really hard to come by, let alone the more desirable aftermarket and JDM parts.

I think another factor may be that many people that had S13s when they were younger are now coming back into the hobby. Maybe they got married, bought a house, had a kid, and decided to sell the car to make ends meet (something I have nearly done many times.) Now that they’re older and more stable financially, they can finally come back to the scene and build another S13. Sure, everything is more expensive now, but people often have the means to do it anyway.

Whatever the cause of all of this, there’s no denying S13s and parts for them are the hottest they have ever been. I was discussing the situation with my father-in-law last night as he was helping me with some retirement account stuff, and we talked about trying to capitalize on opportunity when it comes along. I feel the same way he does about taking opportunities to gain financially when they come along, especially with three kids at home and being a single-income household. It really makes me wonder what the future holds for this stuff and where the ceiling is- and if and when the bubble is going to burst.

While it’s been super tempting for me to try to capitalize lately, I just don’t think I am ready to leave the hobby behind yet. I’ve seen lots of people come and go over the years, and I know many of us reach a point where it makes sense to move on. I wonder sometimes if that’s happening to me, but I think I’ve still got some gas left in the tank. Tinkering with these cars has become such an outlet for me that is a part of my identity. I don’t doubt that a day could come where I decide to bow out, but I don’t think it’s time just yet. I definitely didn’t expect to find myself up much on my investment into these cars, but current prices have made that a reality.

I don’t see S13s or the parts for them getting cheaper any time soon. I think prices are close to stabilizing for a while right now, but I don’t know that I see them going back down much at all. As long as these cars still have a cult following and people want to restore them properly, prices are probably here to stay.

For the time being, my plan is to stay the course. I really want to have both cars out and drive them as much as possible this summer to see how I like it. Owning and maintaining two of them is definitely no small task and something I have always advised people against since it’s just so hard for most of us to keep up with the time and expense required to do it right. If anything I could see parting with one of the cars, having whichever one I keep painted properly, and keeping a few sets of wheels for it- then putting the rest of the money away. At this point though, it feels like I’m more or less where I want to be- and it is difficult to think about giving that up after working so hard towards that goal for many years. In any case, I think this summer is going to tell me a lot about what I want to do moving forward.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the current market- is it just a bubble that’s going to burst soon? Have you been tempted to get out? Maybe you already did cash out? Drop a comment or shoot me a DM on Instagram if you’d like. I always love hearing what others in the community are thinking and chatting about these cars.

Thanks as always for reading the blog. Have a great weekend!

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Renewed

As it turns out, like many of you have suggested, actually driving your project car has a major impact on your mental state and serves as a reminder of why you put yourself through everything that comes with this process. Though I didn’t spend virtually any time in the garage over the course of the last week, it proved to be just what I needed to remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Last Saturday was our family birthday party for Hattie, followed by visiting family and having our own Easter celebration on Sunday. Needless to say it was a very busy weekend. However, I did get the coupe out of the garage Saturday morning before the party for a quick trip around the block. That was just about the only thing I had time for through the course of the weekend, but it was enough to remind me of why I enjoy these cars. After last Friday’s blog post, I knew I needed to do it.

I determined that my Braille battery had finally given up the ghost. I was frustrated initially, but realized I have had it for about six years now. I ended up ordering an Odyssey PC680 as a replacement after hearing good things about them from Liam and Kev. I also purchased the terminal kit as well for installation.

I still need to come up with a solution for mounting the battery, but I’ll work on that soon. The Odyssey is actually a decent bit smaller than the Braille battery I had which is kind of wild. I will actually be purchasing another one soon for the hatch. I’ll keep you posted on what I come up with for securing the battery in both cars.

I need to roll the front fender lip on my new fenders on the hatch. In the past, I have done this with a rubber mallet while the fender is off of the car with mixed results. It seems to warp the fender and it just never fits right afterwards. When I rolled the lip on the Slivia fenders last summer, I decided to try using a roller like I do on the rear quarter panels. I found that with taking my time and pressing on the outside of the fender while using the roller, the fenders retained their shape and it worked quite well.

I’ve borrowed a fender roller many times over the years. I think when I first got my hatch, I even bought one and then sold it after I was done. It used to be one of those tools that was fairly expensive and everyone used to rent. I borrowed one from my friend Greg last summer for the coupe, and decided it would be nice to finally just have one of my own. As it turns out, the price has come down drastically on these tools since I last looked into it. I also found that tons of brands offer them which was surprising to me. Since I was ordering the battery from Summit Racing anyway, I decided to get one of theirs since the shipping was free (and very fast.) We’ll see how it works, but it seems like it should be great for my limited needs.

The weather was incredible once again in Michigan this week and very unseasonably warm. It hit 80 degrees on Wednesday, so I decided to take the coupe on its maiden voyage to fill the tank with fresh gas. It’s always terrifying and incredibly exciting to drive a car that you more or less assembled from scratch, but it can be very rewarding if things go your way. Add to that feeling of anxiousness that my registration documents technically haven’t arrived yet, and I was freaking out a bit. But it was too nice out not to do it!

My initial impression is that I am very happy with the overall feeling of driving this car. Sure, it’s basically the same formula has my other S13, but it feels very different for some reason. The coupe just feels more solid. The exhaust is very quiet with the factory aribox and HKS Hi Power exhaust. It almost feels too quiet, but it is also very refreshing. The clutch pedal is lighter than the hatch even though they have the same clutch- maybe because I have a NISMO slave cylinder on the coupe? It shifts smooth, idles nicely, and just generally feels pretty sorted.

The overall ride quality on the coupe feels better too for whatever reason. This might be partially due to the NISMO subframe bushings vs. the solid risers on the hatch, but it’s likely just because of running a tire with a lot more sidewall. It doesn’t feel like a 28 year old tin can though which is a big plus.

There are still some kinks to work out of course. The power steering pump is still making more noise than I would like and steering takes a little more effort than it should. The rear wheel bearings are noisy and need to be replaced much like the fronts did, so I need to take care of that. For some reason my running lights are always on, and the cluster gets power with the car off when I turn on the headlights. I also noticed that my rear main seal seems to be leaking, so I likely goofed on the install when I replaced it. That will likely wait until next winter to be addressed though.

Cruising in warm weather with the windows down in an S13 reminded of my why I do it. Even just a quick four or five mile drive was enough to kick start my motivation and renew my passion for these cars and this hobby. I even took it to the bus stop to pick up my daughters from school which they were excited about. With the coupe more or less sorted out, I hope to turn my attention to the hatch to finish the outstanding items I have lingering and get that car out of the garage as well. If I can find a couple evenings to spend in the garage it shouldn’t take too long.

But first, a much needed family vacation! Thanks to everyone for that stops by to read this and provides insight and encouragement- I genuinely appreciate it! I hope you have an excellent weekend and are able to make some progress on your own projects.

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Wavering Passion for S13

The catchphrase has for my blog has felt a bit ironic lately. It seems that motivation comes in quick spurts, but there are also plenty of days where I am just not feeling continuing to wrench on the cars. I’m not sure if it’s just due to the general busyness of work and life these days or what exactly is causing it, but I have felt like I need to drag myself into the garage lately. Spending more than one evening per week in the garage feels like a total chore.

Historically my career in graphic design has afforded me with a decent amount of time for research and multi-tasking during the day to spend time learning about S13s and researching my next moves. After being laid off at my last gig last summer due to COVID-19, my new job has placed much more responsibility on my shoulders than my previous roles. Not only am I the only designer vs. a member of a larger design team, but I am also the only design resource for an entire family of companies. Add to that the fact that my boss and manager of the marketing department (which consists of the two of us) is currently on maternity leave, and it leaves me pretty busy each day of the week.

Home life is also an area where the responsibilities are never-ending. With three daughters in the house, there’s always an infinite list of things that need to be done to keep our family running somewhat smoothly. My middle daughter Hattie celebrated her seventh birthday this week, so we have been busy with lots of festivities including three different parties- a sleepover with school friends, a neighbor celebration, and a family party tomorrow. Hattie kind of got robbed of a fun birthday last year due to COVID just getting under way, so we wanted to try to make up for it this year, Add to that a late night devoted to assembling her new loft bed that she got for her birthday and there just isn’t much time left! Any remaining free moments are spent trying to enjoy some downtime with my wife and finding sleep when it is available.

Neglected garage ornaments.

Don’t get me wrong: this is the life I chose and I would never change it for the world. I have always wanted to have a family and I am so thankful to be where we are in life. However, lately I’ve definitely come to appreciate the fact that most people have tapped out of this hobby by their late twenties, let alone their mid-thirties. As I’ve talked about in posts with a similar tone in the past, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to continue with an in-depth project car when time and money are such difficult resources to come by. Add to that the continued increasing prices for these cars and the parts associated them since the pandemic began, and there’s no denying that cashing out is the wisest choice for so many reasons.

I’d be lying if I said I have not heavily considered cashing out on the hobby completely in the past few weeks. I’ve been chatting to a few friends about this lately and I know many of them feel the same way. I do think that the fact that I have not truly street driven my cars in nearly two years is a major contributing factor to that mindset right now. I always felt that driving my cars was sort of a side benefit for me and that building and wrenching on them is the primary enjoyment I see from them, but maybe that mindset is in the process of starting to shift a bit right now. This is by far the longest I have gone without driving my hatch since I bought it.

Don’t freak out though- I am not ready to throw in the towel just yet. My plan is to stay the course and get both of the S13s roadworthy for the 2021 season. They may both be in need of having some aero components painted, but I do want to get them running and driving well so that I can actually enjoy driving them and see how that affects my mental state. If by the fall of this year I have failed to realize that goal or driving the cars has not improved my feelings towards the hobby, then maybe it’ll be time to reevaluate things a bit.

That being said, this week I finalized the process of registering both S13s as historical vehicles in the state of Michigan. I just wrapped up switching to a different insurance carrier late last week which was the final piece I needed to send in the applications. Historical vehicle registration must be completed by mail for some reason, so I wasn’t able to take care of it when I applied for a title for the coupe a couple weeks back.

What’s the benefit of a historical registration in Michigan you ask? Well, for starters, it’s only $30 and it’s good for ten years if you choose to have a historical plate issued. If you decide to run an “authentic” license plate ( an actual plate from the year your vehicle was manufactured) the fee is $35, but it is valid as long as you own the vehicle. I was able to source old blue plates with ’93 and ’92 registration tabs on them from eBay that I can use, so I decided to roll the dice and apply with authentic plates on both cars. The nostalgia of running the classic all blue “Great Lakes” plates from my childhood was too cool to deny.

There is a catch though. Historical vehicles are supposed to be owned purely as a collector’s item and should technically only be driven to car shows, swap meets, events, parades, etc. During the month of August when the Woodward Dream Cruise takes place, you can drive them as much as you want. The primary reason for this is to prevent people from registering a generic 26+ year old car as a historical vehicle that they use as their primary means of transportation. I am hoping that I drive the cars a fairly limited amount each year anyway and that I won’t be hassled about it, but we’ll see. Worst case I have to switch back to a standard registration which isn’t the end of the world.

Alicia spent an evening with some girlfriends this past week, so I decided to try my hand at replacing a CV boot for the first time. This is a job that has intimidated me for many years, but with OEM axles getting more and more scarce, I decided it was time to finally give it a try. I’m glad I did because the process is much simpler than I imagined- despite it being really messy. It’s essentially just one small C clip that holds everything together which really surprised me.

Fortunately I keep a spare pair of axles in the basement to reboot and swap in whenever they’re needed.

Based on a recommendation from a few people including @poweredby.jonel I went with Beck Arnley CV boots from Rock Auto. They are advertised as being compatible with both the inner and outer S13 CV boots, but I only installed one of the inner ones so far. The OEM boots are still available, but at about $45 a piece, I didn’t want to end up with them just tearing again within 1,000 miles. I also went with Redline CV grease per other people’s recommendations.

Disassembled- pretty simple fortunately! Just a hassle to clean.
The Beck Arnley boots also come with grease, so I probably didn’t need to buy the Redline stuff. Live and learn.

I ended up only replacing the inner boot on a spare axle I had since the outer was still intact. I probably should have done both at once, but again- I didn’t want to go through the effort just yet if the existing boot is still OK and these replacements end up not working out well for some reason. I also picked up some CV boot clamp pliers from amazon that worked well for installing the clamps. I swapped the axle onto the hatch, I just need to finish bolting everything back up.

Fresh boot installed and ready to go.

Anyway, that is just about all I had time to get done this week! I need to make getting the hatch on the ground my next priority so that both cars in are in a drivable state. I just haven’t decided if I want to leave the brand new fenders on it, or swap back to my other set. This weekend will be very busy with Hattie’s family party and Easter festivities, in addition to preparing to a family trip to Florida very soon. We’ll see what happens, but I don’t anticipate getting much done with the cars for a couple weeks.

Thanks for swinging by as always- I appreciate it! It really does motivate me to continue when people reach and say they enjoy the content and get excited to read it every Friday, so thanks for taking the time to do that. I hope you have a great weekend!

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Spring is Here – Motivation Returns

Based on where I left off last week, I expected to be writing a somewhat depressing post his week about my recent lack of motivation to get myself into the garage. I’m sure if I were to go back in time and read all of my posts over the years from February and March, they would all share a similar tone. I love living in Michigan and enjoy the season changes immensely, but this is always a tough time of year to get through no matter how you slice it.

As luck would have it, we saw some very unseasonably warm temperatures for the duration of the last week. While I knew the warm weather wasn’t here to stay, I finally decided to carve out a full night last Friday to spend in the garage working on the cars. Forcing myself to make this time and go out to the garage for an entire evening on my own turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

For my jam session last Friday I chose to focus solely on the hatch. Having two of these cars still feels very new to me, and I have found that I really have to focus my energy on one of them at a time to have any hope of feeling like I made any progress. My goal is to only have one torn apart at a time as well, but so far I haven’t quite managed to stick to that. I do think it’s a pretty good thing to strive for moving forward if I truly plan to keep both of these things.

I began by reassembling the front suspension on the hatch. Now that my KTS outer tie rods had arrived, I had everything needed for reassembly. I managed to button everything up, including installing said outer tie rods, the NISMO front lower control arms, S14 knuckles with DIF adapter sleeves, OEM Nissan S14 front five lug hubs with fresh hardware, and the brakes. I also bolted the Xcessive skid plate back into place. I’m probably due for a replacement, but I’ll see if I can get one more season out of it.

I am really excited about fresh OEM NIssan hubs and bearings. Looking forward to doing the same on the rear of the car later this year.

With the front suspension all back together, I dove into test fitting the new fenders I mentioned in my last post. It’s probably been close to five years since I removed the front bumper and fenders from the car which must be a new record for me. I marked a few areas of the bumper that I need to trim while its off of the car as it has been rubbing up against my intercooler.

I was very worried about the damage on my new fenders. I thought it was likely going to take a body work professional to get them straight. However, thanks to some encouragement from Rad Mike and Jimmy, I decided to bolt them up and see what I could do. To my surprise, I was able to put on a pair of gloves and use my hands to bend them back into place. The results are pretty impressive! It was a huge relief to see the fenders looking new again.

This was the least damaged fender of the two- before any bending or shaping.
After…

I’m so excited about how these fenders fit. It’s amazing to bolt them up and have everything line up so perfectly without any real effort. I still need to roll the inner lip which is going to be pretty terrifying, but hopefully that works out OK. I haven’t decided if I am going to leave these fenders on the car for now or swap my other fenders back on for the season. My previous pair of fenders are pretty clean, but they were pulled slightly by the previous owner causing my wheel fitment to be less than ideal. I am tempted to run the new fenders for now since they’re already on the car, I am just not sure when paint is going to happen. That’s something I’ll have to decide on and figure out pretty soon.

What is it about these cars that makes them look so cool torn apart? Maybe because it’s their natural habitat…

As for the coupe, I spent some time working on that last weekend as well. Before I dove into the hatch, Alicia helped be bleed the brakes again. On Sunday, I finally had the time to put the car on the ground and take it for a spin. Thankfully, replacing the brake booster and bench bleeding the master again did the trick and the brakes work beautifully. I was also able to adjust the clutch pedal as it was engaging very close to the floor. I didn’t drive very far since the car still isn’t registered (hope to finally wrap that saga up this month) but it felt awesome to drive it with a couple more problems corrected.

I spent the remainder of Sunday adjusting the ride height on the coupe in the driveway along with some beautiful sunshine. After driving around a bit, I decided to raise the car slightly. It looked amazing at that height, but I could tell in my neighborhood that I was just not going to be able to enjoy the car in that state. I think it’s still going to look really nice which is a good thing.

Most of the week managed to fly by, but I did go out in the garage again last night. I was feeling a little lazy again and mostly wanted to just hang out with Alicia, but I thought it would be good to try to keep the momentum going. I finalized the ride height adjustments on the coupe and made some tweaks to the camber and toe as well. I think I’m finally happy with how it sits for now until I can get it in for an alignment at some point this spring.

Next I installed my replacement window cranks. I had ordered these back in July of last year and never got them, so I finally canceled my order and brought them over from Japan. They’re not identical to the S13 ones as they are a little bit longer, but they still look nice. That was more or less the final piece of my interior that I had been waiting on. I do still need to get a pair of floor mats for it, but that’s about it.

Another thing I have been meaning to tackle is the wiring for the front turn signals. The conversion harness to switch the car from 240SX front lighting to Silvia lighting that I bought included a bulb socket for a dual post bulb, but since I am running the OEM Silvia turn signals, I needed one with a single post. I actually want to use the dual post socket for a project on the hatch this summer, so I ended up cutting it off and soldering the single post socket from the Silvia turn signals onto the harness. It pained me to cut up the harnesses, but it needed to be done.

Single post socket on the left (for turn signal only) vs dual post on the right (for running light and turn signal.) I’m going to use the sockets on the right for a project on the hatch I am cooking up…

So, another small item checked off of the list- the car has turn signals up front now. I have a BNIB pair of zenki 180SX 50/50 turn signals, but I think I enjoy the look of the Silvia signals for the time being. Maybe I will swap those on when the car is painted someday.

This is the new and improved “higher” ride height. Oh boy…

Finally, I tackled one more minor task that I am really excited about: I installed the factory horns on the coupe. To my surprise, after bolting everything up and plugging it all in, the horn actually works! I have never owned an S13 with a working horn, so I am pretty geeked. I saved the pig tails and some horns from a parts car a while back so that I can attempt to install them on the hatch as well. I cut the wiring out when I shaved the engine bay, so it might prove to be a little tricky- but hopefully I can figure it out on that car too.

I had to get a little creative with the position of the horns to clear the intercooler, but it wasn’t too tedious.

Whew! It feels great to actually have some real progress to share for a change. I’ve still got a decent amount of work to do before I can drive both cars, but I think I am finally in pretty decent shape. I need to adjust the ride height on the hatch, bolt the front end back up, and put it on the ground soon to see where things stand. Hopefully I can get that accomplished in the next week or two.

The mess…

Two things that I have on the horizon are a post about restoring my pair of Ganador Super Aero Mirrors, and a how-to for installing a NeXt Miracle Cross bar. There seems to be quite a bit of interest in both topics, so I will do my best to get to that soon. I took the Ganadors apart last weekend and it wasn’t as bad as expected. I did find some issues that need to be addressed though…

Thanks as always for reading along with this adventure. I appreciate you stopping by! Drop me a line any time if there’s anything I can help with on your S13 build. Have a great weekend!

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Pride of Texas

I’m back home in Michigan this week after a quick trip down to Houston to experience the Knuckle Up: Double Cup event and to hang out with Jimmy for his birthday. As always, I had an amazing time down there with lots of really great people- both old friends and new.

I left early in the morning from Detroit on Friday and arrived in Houston by 9:30 AM or so. I was greeted by my friend Harris of ~Essence~ in his Panamera. We cruised over to his place to pick up his AE86, then cruised over to Jimmy’s work to surprise him. It was Jimmy’s wife’s idea to invite me and have me come down, so I wanted to try to make the surprise good for her. Of course, Jimmy and I talk every day and know each other pretty darn well at this point, so he more or less knew I was coming the entire time. But it was still great to be reunited after not seeing each other in just over a year. We usually get to hang out 2-3 times per year, but COVID really put a damper on that in 2020.

Happy 30th Birthday to Harris (@bear__juden) as well! He picked me up from the airport in style…
Then we immediately swapped the comfy Porsche for this old thing. The new look is amazing!
Andrew’s (@cooljunction) car always looks great!

Jimmy debuted his refreshed car with a new look- pretty dang awesome. I was skeptical about the Garsons, but I think it turned out amazing! The car looks tough as nails. Every time I ride in drift cars with FRP aero and crazy interiors, I realize how tame my cars really are. Sometimes it bums me out, but it sort of made me feel relived this time. I don’t know how these guys do it!

@jyw0rld
Loved this R32 on R34 wheels owned by @mecha.gorira. Looked amazing!
I still love silver AVS Model V… I wish the set I had was the original finish. Looks so good!

The trip essentially consisted of hanging out at the track… a lot. It was warmer than I expected, and I also forgot that sunscreen exists. Without really making a trip to Wisconsin last year, I nearly forgot how much a weekend at an event can take out of you. I picked up a really slight cold from my kids before I left too which was annoying. But the event went really smoothly and I had an awesome time. There were lots of really nice cars and amazing people there, some that I met for the first time. Always a blast!

Kev (@koukikev) and Triggs (@zachtriggs) getting some driving in before both cars ended up with smooshed front ends in two different incidents.
Bayside Blue always looks killer.
I didn’t even realize this was Bhris’ (@lvl60mew) car that used to be black. It turned out amazing! It was great to meet him finally and chat about it a bit. Super cool.

I was a fill-in judge for the competition, which felt a bit strange since I don’t know how to drift. Jimmy said I was the style judge which I felt more comfortable about. It was definitely a difficult job since all of the driving was really really good, but it was a lot of fun. Watching all weekend from on the actual track spoiled me as well.

Always love seeing Noel’s (@noeru_s13) car! This thing is awesome.
Some of the homies from GLEAM made the trek down as well (@224.racing). They drove amazing all weekend!
Really cool Aristo swapped GS (@undefeeded). Still doesn’t make me regret giving up on mine, but very cool!

It was unfortunate to see two of my favorite cars crash at the event- Triggs from FatCats and Kev from ~Essence~. I know it’s all a part of the game, but I still get bummed out to see it happen. Fortunately the damage wasn’t too bad for either of them, and Triggs was even able to drive a bit on Sunday which I was really happy about. I realized that both of their cars were on the event t-shirt- I guess it must be like the Madden curse.

The Texas Crash King himself…
Kev’s car looked a little worse Sunday morning than it did Saturday… but that’s how it goes.
Loved this car! Super clean. Really glad I got to chat quick with Rolando (@rolandoalfaro) as well. Very nice dude.

It rained on Sunday which was kind of a bummer, but thankfully the weather was great on Saturday. Before I knew it, it was time to head back home to Michigan. I am so grateful for my Houston family for always being so kind and generous and ensuring I have a great time when I visit.

CAR UPDATE

As far as things at the home front go, I once again managed to let another week go by without accomplishing much of anything. I did end up stripping and painting my spare brake booster before installing it in the coupe. Last night I bench bled the master cylinder again and installed that as well. Tonight I need to have Alicia help me bleed the brakes again and then I can see if all of this solved the issue, or if I still have some more troubleshooting to do. My hunch is the latter, but it would be incredibly motivating if the brakes are fixed and the car is now ready to drive.

I did get a couple of packages this week. The first is from RHD Japan and includes a breather hose for the hatch (I plan to install a stock airbox and catch can down the road like I did on the coupe, so I wanted to have this on hand) as well as a small factory heat shield for the driver’s side engine mount. This piece is probably pointless, but I got one for the coupe when I put it together and figured I would grab one for this car as well. Finally, my KTS roll center correction tie rod ends arrived, which are hopefully the last piece I need to get the suspension back together.

The other package that arrived this week was one that I have been waiting on for a while. A month or two ago, Johnny from Zilvia shared a raffle that a seller on Zilvia was having. If you made a donation to the LA food bank, you would be entered to win a pair of brand new OEM S13 fenders with very light damage from shipping. As fate would have it, I ended up winning the fenders and he covered the cost of shipping to me. This was an awesome surprise since I had really been wanting to buy a pair but couldn’t justify the cost.

Fortunately these fenders are still available from Nissan… and the price isn’t too crazy. The only issue is finding a vendor willing to ship them (since they get easily damaged in shipping… like this pair did.)

The fenders are both bent at the very front near the headlights and front bumper. After talking a bit to Rad Mike, it sounds like they should definitely be fixable. I’ll try to bolt them up to the car soon to see what I can figure out. I am really excited to have these for when I eventually paint the car someday!

Hopefully I can get this back into shape…

My plan is to spend a few hours in the garage tonight to try to get these cars back together and on the road. The weather looks really nice early next week, and there is some consistency beginning to take hold. My motivation has been pretty low lately as it feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day to spend it working on the cars. But maybe I’ll dive into that a bit in next week’s post…

It sure is fun getting brake fluid all over your freshly painted engine bay. I hope the brakes work this time…

I’m hoping spending a whole night out in the garage wrenching will bring some motivation and leave me in a pretty decent position going into next week, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting through the last hurdle of the winter blues before the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thanks to everyone that still comes by to read this- I appreciate it! Reach out any time if I can ever do anything to help. Have a great weekend!

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Double Trouble

The weather in Michigan was amazing this past week, with temps about 20° or more warmer than usual for this time of year. It’s always great to catch a break from winter around this time of year, even if it’s only temporary.

I was hoping that my outer tie rods would arrive this week, but it looks like they’ll be here early next week. As a result, I didn’t get a ton done on my hatch this week. At this point though I’m happy when I make any progress at all within a week’s time.

I did manage to source a pair of SR20 NISMO engine mounts to use on the hatch. After test fitting these with the CA18 mounts back to back, I can say the difference is definitely negligible. It does sound like the CA mounts sit about 5mm lower, but for such a small difference I chose to just use the SR mounts. Probably a strange choice to some, but I’m just weird like that.

SR mount on the left, CA Mount on the right. You can see the SR mount is just slightly taller. After getting the engine mounts situated, I replaced my NISMO transmission mount. It was still in excellent shape, but it was a good deal to buy a set of all three mounts so I figured I would replace it.

Next, I turned my attention to the coupe. I’ve been having an issue with the brakes where the pedal doesn’t come back up and the brakes don’t disengage when the pedal is released. I tried to replace just about everything when I put the car together, but there’s obviously something wrong. I did find that one of my remanufactured front calipers was seized, so I swapped that with a spare caliper I had. Sadly that did not solve the issue.

Frustrated, I finally but the bullet and removed the brake booster. I really dislike that task, but I got it done fairly quickly. My plan is to paint and install my spare booster, bench bleed the master cylinder again, and bleed the entire system one more time to see if I can get the brakes working properly.

I also managed to finally make it to the DMV to title the coupe earlier this week. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep it or that I would even get it roadworthy for so long that I never took the time to get that sorted out. Then COVID came along and made going there a hassle, so I’ve been putting it off for a long time. It felt surreal to finally know that I officially own the car now.

Anyway, sorry about the quick post and wonky formatting this week! I’m actually writing this on my phone because I’m currently at the airport in Detroit waiting to board a flight to Houston to surprise Jimmy for his 30th birthday and to attend the Knuckle Up season opener. Jimmy’s wife reached out to me a few weeks back to ask if I would want to come down this weekend to surprise Jimmy. I decided it’s hopefully ok to travel and Alicia gave me her approval, so here we are! I’m grateful to both of them for making this happen.

I should have some cool stuff to share from the event next week. Thanks to everyone that takes time out of their day to read this- I sincerely appreciate it! Have a great weekend.

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Marching Along

After a few weeks filled with snow storms and very cold temperatures, it seems things are starting to shift a little in Michigan. It’s still getting into the low teens overnight some nights, but last weekend we saw sunshine and temps in the mid 50s- a very welcome change!

On Saturday, I pulled the coupe outside and let it run for a while since I hadn’t started it in a month or so. I’ve been noticing a coolant leak on the car while sitting in the garage, so I wanted to fire it up and see if I could track it down. I couldn’t find anything too obvious, so that felt good- and sort of bad as well, haha. I eventually found that the lower heater hose seems to be leaking at the firewall after the car has been sitting, but not while it is running. Hopefully I have that taken care of now, but time will tell.

I also started up the hatch and let it run for a while despite the fact that it’s sitting in the garage undergoing suspension work. It’s got a very slight miss at idle that I need to sort out, but I know the fuel in the car is very old. I’ll worry about that later when it’s buttoned up and on the road though.

Really need to get this stuff painted…

While the neighbors hung out and all the kids played outside on Sunday, I managed to throw a quick coat of paint on the used S14 knuckles I bought recently. I also touched up my front Z32 calipers as they had begun to chip and flake a bit. I still want to get them powder coated properly one day, but seem to always be too stingy and impatient to make it happen.

Some parts arrived this week, including a pair of brand new OEM Nissan S14 front hubs and wheel bearings (shoutout to @ _chico091 for hooking me up with these!) These are one of the main perks of converting the front end to S14 suspension. I am so excited to have OEM wheel bearings and the reliability that comes with them.

Last night I began the process of reassembling the front suspension. I began by installing the NISMO steering rack bushings which was pretty quick and painless. The Energy Suspension bushings I installed back in 2011 or so still looked great, and likely didn’t need to be replaced- I just thought it would be cool to have NISMO ones like on the coupe to be honest.

Energy Suspension steering rack bushing vs NISMO

I next turned my attention to replacing the factory engine mounts. I had some Cusco solid mounts on the car a couple years back and ended up selling them to install some stock mounts I had laying around. This drastically reduced the vibrations in the cabin which was really nice. After using NISMO bushings on the coupe, I decided to do the same for my hatch- only this time I went with CA mounts after hearing that they sit lower than the SR version. I didn’t have a set of SR NISMO mounts on hand to compare and measure, but after test fitting them it appeared that they are more or less the exact same height as the SR mounts on the coupe. I’ve ordered a set of SR mounts so I’ll try to give them a good comparison. I do know the CA mounts bolted right up though without issue, so I’m curious about what actually makes them different from SR mounts.

A note to anyone that read last week’s post about the NISMO items I purchased via RHD Japan- it looks like they increased their pricing quite a bit on some NISMO items since I bought them a couple weeks ago. The engine mount sets and power brace have increased in price drastically. I thought it was odd their prices were so much better than anywhere else on those items- I guess they realized this and made an adjustment!

S14 Front Suspension Conversion: Lower control arms, knuckles, hubs, washers, nuts, grease caps, and DIF adapter sleeves (S13 front knuckle to coilover bolts are a smaller diameter than S14. These prevent you from drilling your coilover mounts.)

After the engine mount test fit, I began bolting up the front suspension- starting with the NISMO power brace. With the price RHD Japan was selling these at and the rising demand for stock S13 front tension rods, I actually didn’t come out too bad at all on this one. Definitely one of my favorite parts offered for the S13.

NISMO Power Brace, Cusco Type OS Front Strut Tower Bar, and NeXt Miracle Cross Bar. More on these in a future post.

I did something a little out of character for me: I didn’t clean much of anything before reinstalling the suspension. I probably should have, but at the end of the day this is a street car and I want it to be driven. It doesn’t need to be completely immaculate underneath. Perhaps this summer I will spend some time cleaning under there, but for now I am not too concerned with it.

I ended the evening with everything mocked up on the car up front. I’m currently waiting on my tie rod ends to arrive from Japan before I can button everything up, so hopefully those will be here sometime next week. That should be the last piece of the puzzle needed to finalize the front suspension improvements.

Finally, I got one other small order of parts from Nissan this past week. This order included washers, nuts, and grease caps for the front S14 hubs, new nuts for installing the new engine mounts, and a couple hose clamps I needed for the PCV hose on the hatch’s SR.

I haven’t decided if I am going to tackle the rear subframe bushings just yet, or possibly wait until the fall. My friend Tim that helped me press them on my coupe is expecting his first child within the next month, so I am not sure if we will have a chance to install those. I don’t want the car to be sitting when nice weather arrives, so I may elect to just hold off on installing those until later this year. Time will tell.

Thanks for reading the blog as always- have an excellent weekend!

Damon

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments