Importing Your Dream Car vs. Building It

This week’s topic of discussion is something I have spent a lot of time going back and forth on in the last year or so. With the S13 chassis being well within the legal 25 year rule here in the United States, places like Japanese Classics have begun to bring over some seriously clean S chassis cars- many of them completely stock and with very low mileage. They do a great job with detailing and presenting these cars online in a way that makes them seem like the perfect replacement for a heavily-modified USDM chassis.

This example sold for $11,495.

In the pursuit of attempting to restore my 240SX, I’ve been really tempted to part it out and purchase a genuine kouki 180SX when they become available here in the states in the next couple of years. However, based on the price of the zenki and chuki cars being brought over at the moment, I can only imagine what a ’97 or ’98 180SX in pristine condition with complete factory aero is going to cost (I’m betting they will go for $20k easily when the time comes.) However, when I crunch the numbers it’s just not really feasible. I could essentially have my current 240SX with a host of modifications, or a bone stock 180SX.

In many ways it’s amazing to think about owning a completely factory 180SX. The engine was installed from the factory and every nut, bolt, and mounting bracket is where it should be. There are no sketchy fitment issues or cobbled up wiring. All of the electronic functions of the car probably work flawlessly, including heat and AC. However, I think it would be pretty difficult for me to modify a car in such nice condition. I think I could allow myself to install minimal components that are easily reversed, but I would definitely feel a bit guilty about it.

After considering making the switch, I came to realize that the PS13 Silvias and 180SXs being brought over by places like Japanese Classics are for a slightly different type of enthusiast. These cars are marketed toward people that want to own a clean and hassle-free example of a classic Nissan chassis without the headache of having to build and maintain one. This theoretically hassle-free experience is what you get when you pay $10-14k for one of these cars. However, I constantly have to remind myself that it’s still a 25+ year old Nissan at the end of the day. There are going to be issues that arise just as there will be with a US market 240SX.

A gentlemen from Ohio reached out to me last week and mentioned he is selling a very clean imported PS13. He had seen me mention that I really want to build one and thought I might be a good fit to purchase the car. While it was exceptionally clean and exactly what I would love to work from to build one of these cars, the cost would leave me with no funds left to achieve those modifications. Justifying spending $13-14k on a 27 year old car that I intend to modify is a difficult pill to swallow. Again, it’s an amazing car- but it made me realize this isn’t the experience I am looking for in an S chassis.

While it might be the more difficult path to attempt to follow at times, I think my gut tells me that beginning a build with a USDM 240SX is what I will always enjoy the most. There’s something incredibly rewarding about starting with a fairly boring and aging US commuter car and turning it into a fun machine that emulates the way these cars were built and sold across the world in Japan. I take a lot of pride in my current chassis, and even though it’s not a true 180SX, I really enjoy discussing the details I have added to make it as much like one as possible (without going to extreme lengths like converting the car to RHD, which would introduce a host of problems for driving on US streets.) Researching those small details, sourcing the parts needed from Japan, and executing the build are what I really enjoy the most about this hobby.

Is there a PS13 (240SX coupe) build in my future? I really hope so, but I guess only time will tell. If it does happen though, I would really like to work from a US chassis and build it to emulate a true Silvia. The process is half the fun for me.

My wife and I depart tomorrow afternoon for Super D in Wisconsin! Fingers crossed for good weather and a reliable car. It should be a good time! I’ll be sure to post about the trip next week.

Damon

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Oops!

I had grand plans of a decently entertaining blog post this week, but time has slipped away from me. September is a crazy month this year with back to back to back weekends of traveling so time has been flying by.

I don’t think I have done anything to my car in the last week. I haven’t even managed to wash it which it so desperately needs. Hopefully I will be able to get that taken care of this week as my wife and I are planning to drive the car to Super D Cup in Shawano, Wisconsin next Thursday. Fingers crossed for good weather and a reliable car!

I’ll do my best to come up with a post for next week and schedule it to run while we are at Super D. I hope everyone is enjoying what’s left of summer and has a great weekend!

Damon

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Cracks are Wack

I got out of work early last Friday to kick off Labor Day and met my family at the library where they were hanging out. Alicia has been asking me to drive the car lately so I let her and Kinsey and Hattie drive it home while I followed behind with Alexi in the Sienna. I realized while driving along with them that I don’t think I have watched this car drive from the outside in many, many years- pretty cool! Being a passenger while someone else drives is one thing, but it is pretty wild to see your creation cruising down the road. It gives you a fresh and unique perspective. It had been quite a while since Alicia got to drive the 240, but she looked like a pro- even swerving around a few questionable patches of road on the way home.

That evening we went to visit some family at a local park. On the way home we stopped and picked up a really nice S13 dashboard complete with all of the vents- including the coveted defrost vents. I was a bit worried about the dash’s condition since it was very dirty when I got it, but thankfully when I got home and cleaned it up I found that it was in awesome shape. I was able to sell the spare defrost vents too which helped bring the overall cost of the dash down quite a bit.

On Saturday morning Hattie and Kinsey helped me with swapping in the new dash and removing my Defi gauges (yes- again.) Thankfully I have done this task many times by now and it only took us a couple hours to get everything buttoned up. However, as I am writing this I realized that I could have swapped out my wiper relay to fix my windshield wipers (they don’t work on the first setting) but I completely forgot to do it. Doh! I guess I will have to save that for another time. I sold the Defi gauges a couple of days ago and sent them off to their new owner.

My interior is now essentially a stock 180SX with a Nardi steering wheel and NISMO shift knob- extremely simple. I can’t say I ever thought I would desire an interior like this, but I am really happy with it for the moment. I do have a kouki 180SX gauge cluster and digital climate control sitting around in the garage, but I am torn on whether or not I want to install those items.

I’ve got a busy couple of weekends coming up with some different trips to visit family, followed by Alicia and I’s trip to Wisconsin for Super D. I am still torn on whether or not I want to drive the S13 out there- it may just be a game time decision based on how the weather is looking and how I feel about the car at the time. We’ll see what happens.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Damon

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Holiday Weekend

Well, I can’t say I have a whole lot to say today! But I do want to keep my current streak of Friday blog posts alive as I think it is likely the most consistent I have ever been at adding content here on a regular basis.

I tossed my car on jack stands last night to give it a quick inspection before Alicia and I drive it to the Super D event in three weeks. It has been making a strange rotating noise that I have not been able to solve, but I don’t see anything glaringly obvious yet. I guess I’ll go through and tighten all of the suspension bolts and cross my fingers that it makes the trek to Wisconsin and back without any hiccups. I also need to order some brake rotors and replace those before the trip, but that will likely happen next week.

I am going to attempt to pick up a replacement dashboard from someone local this weekend. Fingers crossed this one actually turns out to be as clean as it has been described to be. If it does, I am probably going to sell the Defi gauges I just picked up and go back to only running the factory gauge cluster. I love having gauges, but a stock dash is really what I am going for these days. I thought I had found one a few weeks back but it turned out to not be up to my standards, so I sold it and found a good deal on my set of black Defi gauges to use in the mean time. They’re nice, but a clean dash would be nicer.

That’s about all I have to report right now. My oldest daughter went back to school this week and the weather has been cooler at night which is nice. Football starts up next weekend- I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before fall is in full swing! As usual I am hoping to drive the car as much as I can before it needs to be tucked away for the season.

Thanks for stopping by- enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Damon

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A Peek Inside My Head

I’ve had a burning desire to build an S13 Silvia coupe as of late. I have always thought it would be really cool to own and build both iterations of the S13 chassis- the hatchback and the coupe. I’ve only seen a few people complete this successfully, but the ones that have certainly make it look like a desirable stable to own.

The idea of trying to achieve this goal of course presents many obstacles, the first of them being the cost. I’m currently at a stage in life where I can barely afford to keep one S13 in the garage, let alone two of them. I definitely do not have the means to build and maintain two of these things right now, but I hope to be at the point one day where I will be able to pull it off.

Which brings me to the next consideration- would I part out my current 180 (I know it isn’t really a 180SX, but it’s so much easier to speak in these terms) to build a Silvia? I think I am getting closer to being OK with that by the day, but at this time I don’t think I could let go of my 180. I would greatly enjoy the process of building an S13 from the ground up again and the build would keep me busy for a while, but once it was completed I think I might feel some regret. The 180SX has a presence that just screams nostalgic and interesting every time you see one (especially with kouki aero), while the Silvia almost looks like any other commuter car in a way. It’s lines are much more basic and simplified. The car just doesn’t stand out in a crowd like a 180 does. This doesn’t necessarily matter a whole lot to me, but a 180 feels more like a car you hold onto until you are old than a Silvia does. (Purely my opinion of course.)

I briefly entertained the idea of replacing my Pontiac Vibe with a Silvia (again, not a REAL Silvia, but a 240SX coupe- but it’s easier to describe it this way) but this option also offers far too many hurdles. This would leave my family with only one usable commuter vehicle, our Toyota Sienna. Should something happen to the Sienna, we couldn’t rely on an S13 as a backup vehicle. While an S13 should in theory be able to complete my 1 mile journey to and from work each day, I am sure there would still be issues that arise. Not to mention I would not have space in my garage for it and leaving it outside would be pretty depressing. Driving it in the winter with all of the snow and road salt would also be a sure recipe for rust. Overall this just is not a viable option no matter how you look at it. A normal, fairly reliable everyday car is essential for me at this stage in life- even if I don’t use it very often.

So- I can’t add another S13 to the stable without sacrificing my 180. I can’t replace or sell my daily driver, even if it does just sit around most of the summer while I either ride my bike to work or drive the 180. What other option is there to make the dream of owning both versions of the S chassis a reality? Well, there are really two approaches from the way I see it:

  1. Wait- Keep my 180SX in the garage the way it sits now. Stop making any further modifications to it and hold off on repainting it until my financial situation allows me to do so, which will likely be many years from now. Hope that an affordable Silvia chassis is still available someday down the road in ten or fifteen years when I have the means to get one, and hope that I can still track down the parts that are needed to do so.

    While I do like the idea of this plan, it seems unlikely for many reasons. I tend to be somewhat paranoid about the existence of these cars and the parts required to properly restore them, so that side of me feels that it will be pretty difficult to find a decent S13 to build from by the time I can afford to do it. Moldings and weather stripping will likely no longer be available from the dealership. Many of the OEM replacement parts will be discontinued which could make the build process much more challenging than it is today. But, in the mean time, I will be able to drive and enjoy the S13 I already have.

  2. The Hoarder’s Way Out- Sell a number of items off of my current 180 in order to buy a Silvia chassis and a number of parts for it that are at a high risk of being discontinued or very expensive by the time I am able to build one.

    This method feels the most risky in a lot of ways. I would essentially sell a number of non-essential parts off of my 180 to fund the bare-bones necessities of a Silvia build. Ideally I would end up with a clean chassis of each variation, all of the necessary moldings and weather stripping for each car, and the OEM optional aero components for each- all piled in my garage. Neither car would be drivable, likely for quite some time.

    Ideally, I would keep the interior and exterior of the 180 largely intact. I would sell any spare parts I have sitting around that are not essential to the build, as well as items that will always be available like the intercooler, exhaust, suspension components, etc. The engine is a point of conflict for me though. Will SR20 engines really still be readily available in 5-10 years? We have already seen a decline in supply and an increase in price for these engines, so I am not so sure this is a wise choice. Keeping the engine in the car would of course be the ideal route to go, but might not free up enough funds to make this plan worth it in the long run. Ideally I’d like to have another blacktop engine in this car again someday just to complete the kouki 180SX feel, moving my red top to a Silvia chassis.

    So, I sell just about everything aside from the 180 chassis, the complete OEM aero, complete moldings and weather stripping, TE37s, and a full set of brand new OEM lighting. These things just sit around in storage, waiting for life to allow me to give them the attention they deserve. The freed up funds are used to purchase a clean Silvia chassis, complete OEM optional aero, a Silvia front end, and the moldings and weather stripping needed to restore it.

    This leaves me with two large hunks of metal and a pile of parts for each. Neither of them would be running for a very long time. I would essentially be hoarding the cars until I am able to paint both of them, install the complete exterior setups, and finish each with complete suspension and drivetrain components. Perhaps I could even begin to learn the process of doing body work in the mean time, prepping both of the cars for paint during this stage. This feels like an insurmountable goal for me and very intimidating, but maybe the challenge would keep me occupied. Either that, or it would result in me losing hope and selling everything, throwing in the towel on building and owning a project car all together.

    I would not have a “fun” car to drive for several years which is something I have not faced since the Lexus build back in 2014. This would likely be difficult to deal with, but I also feel like I do not get to drive my car nearly as much as I used to with three young kids at home and a very short commute to work each day. The thought of not having a “fun” car to drive at any given time used to give me extreme anxiety, but in looking at my life at this stage I feel like it might not be so bad if the end goal is still in sight. I rarely go to meets or car events anymore and don’t get the chance to put many miles on my S13 during the summer months, so maybe it wouldn’t really be a big deal. As long as I still have the ability to tinker with it at any given time, not driving it may not really be a problem.

I’ve seen a number of people hoard cool S chassis parts over the years, but this mentality always felt a little strange to me. Sure, they always had the coolest and rarest stuff, but they weren’t getting to enjoy or drive their cars at all in the mean time. I’ve always preached that being able to actually drive your project is what makes it all worth it, and I do enjoy having the option to go out to the garage and fire my car up any time I would like. I think when your car is torn apart for many years, you lose the connection with it and ultimately it makes the most sense to move on by getting rid of it all together. Some of these guys are just now finally beginning to paint their cars and begin the reassembly process, resulting in a hefty amount of jealousy coming from my side of the fence. But what were they doing for the last 7-10 years while I was out enjoying my car? They were saving money and hoarding parts. Collecting… and waiting. They did not drive or enjoy their cars during that entire time span.

I’ve had this car for nearly a decade now, and I feel like I am at the point now where I know what I want. The current stage of the car feels the closest to perfection it has ever been in opinion- it feels like the truest representation of my vision. I feel at this point I could probably get rid of the car entirely and feel like I accomplished just about everything I set out to do with the car aside from a proper paint job. If it were to leave my life now, I am not sure what I would really focus my time and energy on from a hobby standpoint, but I would definitely feel a sense of contentment with what I have accomplished.

I don’t know what the future holds for my car. All of these thoughts are likely just a product of boredom and my profound enjoyment of the process of building a project car. It’s no secret that I enjoy the process more than the end result, and maybe this stage of my car and the fact that it feels so complete is pushing me to want to move on and challenger myself in a different way. I don’t think anything will change through the remainder of summer and into the fall, and I for sure won’t be making any moves before my trip to Super D in Shawano, WI next month. But I definitely have a lot on my mind when it comes to what is currently sitting in my garage and where I want to go next.

Anyway, I am not sure how well this post reads, but hopefully it kept you entertained. I am sure many of you put yourself through a similar thought process on the daily, so I thought sharing what’s going on in my head as of late might be relatable for some of you.

I hope you have a great weekend! Thank you as always for reading.

Damon

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I Can’t Think of a Title

The last week has been a quiet one when it comes to the S13. I don’t think I really did anything noteworthy with it aside from a couple trips to the grocery store and the usual short trek to and from the office nearly every day. I ended up taking it to have lunch with a friend today and inevitably ran into rain about five minutes into my journey. This summer has felt like one of the driest on record to me, but yet every time I drive this car for any length of time it seems to rain for whatever reason. Upon returning back to the office I found that it had never even rained there, a mere ten miles away. Figures!

I noticed a new clunking sound at low speed that seems to be in sync with the wheels spinning and sounds like it is coming from the rear brakes- possibly something with the drum assembly. I also noticed that one of my front side marker bulbs is burned out up front so that needs to be addressed as well.

Building and maintaining one of these cars bring so many ups and downs with it. I couldn’t wait to drive it to lunch today, only to let the issues that popped up along the short drive to and from the sandwich place put a damper on my experience. I suppose these cars aren’t any different from our actual lives in a lot of ways- we always project the positive aspects of the experience to others on social media. It becomes a running highlight reel of sorts without exposing all of the moments in between where we face challenging setbacks and many forms of anxiety.

I’ve been trying to be a bit more active on Instagram in addition to the blog recently for that reason- to try to be more real with people. While I’ve been a bit burned out about social media the last few months, using it more has resulted in a number of people messaging me and starting some really cool conversations. I even had one person tell me after my post two weeks ago that they ended up trading their S13 for a daily driver as a result and leaving the project behind to get their finances and priorities on track. I can’t say that was necessarily my intent with that post, but it’s crazy that a rambling post could be the tipping point to cause someone to make such a big change in their life.

I really value people and relationships and enjoy having a chance to meet new people and hear them share their perspective with me. It’s fun to post some of the details of owning my car and how that experience has shaped me in an honest way with younger people. Being “real” with people online is difficult, as you walk a fine line between sharing the good and bad sides of something vs. sounding like you are complaining or have a negative mindset. I never want to come off as being ungrateful or someone that consistently complains about their situation without being grateful for what they have- but I think it’s healthy for us as enthusiasts to talk about the trials we face during the course of a build. Just our example in itself can be helpful to others that are just beginning a similar journey for themselves.

A lot of people commented on a short video of my car sitting in the garage that I shared on Instagram earlier this week telling me how perfect it is. It actually made me feel pretty good, as at the time I was sitting in my garage during my lunch break staring at it and contemplating what my next move is. I was looking at all of the car’s flaws and wishing I had the means to fix them like I want to. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been contemplating letting go of it completely as of late, so to hear people share that they truly believe the car is flawless was sort of an eye opener for me. It was a great reminder for me to actually listen to my own advice and not get lost in the pursuit of perfection- because as we have talked about many times, we know that is something that does not exist with a car.

Anyway, here I am overthinking things like I always do! I’ll end this post by sharing a photo of an S13 that my very good friend Jimmy purchased last night down in Texas. It’s a bone stock, one owner zenki S13 with only 91,00 miles on the clock. I’m pretty blown away by the condition it is in and would be lying if I said I’m not extremely jealous. I am really looking forward to what he does with it! Great purchase my friend.

I hope you have a great weekend- thank you as always for reading! I appreciate everyone that takes the time to swing by.

Damon

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Back to the Grind

I got some great feedback on my post last week and enjoyed the resulting dialogue I shared with a number of new and old friends alike- thank you for reading my rambling! I am glad people enjoyed it and hopefully it made you think a bit whether you agreed with it or not (I like to think it was a pretty neutral posting weighing in on both sides of the coin- that was my intent anyway!) This week it’s back to your regularly scheduled program.

The gaskets on my catalytic converter were beginning to leak and make the car sound pretty bad, so I took some time to replace them a week or two ago. It always feels nice to solve relatively simple and inexpensive problems!

The constant scraping of the flanges on the cat converter takes a toll on the gaskets.

I also wired up my black Defi Link Meter II gauges. The boost and water temp gauges are hooked up but I still need to install the sensors for oil pressure and oil temp. I’m having an issue where the gauges are always illuminated even when the headlights are off, which I think might indicate there is something wrong with this controller as I am pretty confident I wired them correctly. I might need to try a different controller at some point down the road to verify that is the issue. I’d still almost prefer not to have any gauges at all, but I really like the look of the black version compared to the white right now.

I recently discovered that my car was missing the factory light for the hatch area. I am not sure if this was gone when I got the car or if I lost it at some point many years ago, but thankfully my friend Tony still had his and sent it to me free of charge. Feels good to have this hole in the hatch area taken care of- thank you, Tony! I discovered I am missing a number of clips back here that hold the side panels in place so I will likely try to work on tracking those down next.

I started doing some research on kouki 180SX gauge clusters again recently and found a good deal on one with a partial harness attached (which is key for wiring it into a USDM chassis) priced below market value and snatched it up. I never installed this the first time around because I was concerned about keeping my chassis mileage consistent. As the car is about 10k miles from the 200k mark, I am starting to be less concerned with that. I’m still a little on the fence about installing this and the digital climate control so we’ll see if I decide to tackle it this winter or part ways with these items. I still need a few supporting items for each before I can install them properly.

Finally, you may remember from one of my previous posts that I had acquired all of the replacement moldings for my car except for the trim around the rear quarter glass. My research taught me that the only way to purchase this molding is to buy the entire glass and the USDM glass was discontinued. Fortunately I was able to source a pair of brand new 180SX side glass- pretty cool! I’ve always wanted a set of these windows, so to be able to secure them new is really exciting.

Other than these updates, I’ve been doing my best to enjoy driving the car every day I possibly can. You can’t quite feel it just yet, but it won’t be long before the weather begins to change for the worse here in Michigan. I’m looking forward to making use of the car as often as I can before it needs to be taken off the road for the season.

Thanks as always for reading. Have a great weekend!

Damon

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