Cruisin’ Into the Weekend

Yesterday afternoon welcomed a pleasant surprise that ended up cutting my inspection of the car a bit short. My wife and daughters met up with my mother-in-law during the day yesterday at a mall about an hour from our home to shop for some new clothes for Kinsey before she starts kindergarten in a couple of weeks while I was at work. They were still shopping toward the end of the day and asked if I would like to drive out to meet them for dinner. The heavy rain that had moved through earlier that morning had cleared, so I decided it would be fun to drive the 180 there and get a decent cruise in. After arriving home from the office and quickly tossing the rear wheels back on, I was on my way.

Quick shot in the mall parking garage before heading out for home.

It was very hot and humid yesterday here in Michigan, but it was an awesome drive- even despite the rush hour traffic. I realized that the Woodward dream cruise is taking place this weekend, so tons of cars were out and about heading over there to cruise. Woodward is essentially a 4-5 lane road in the Detroit suburbs that has been a destination for muscle cars to cruise/race up and down for decades. It’s busy every weekend during the summer, but especially insane during the Dream Cruise. I’ve never actually attended the event in my car as it is always jam-packed, but I’ve enjoyed cruising the strip a few times in the S13 over the years on random summer weekends.

Everything went smoothly on the drive home, our Sienna and my four ladies in tow. While drives like this were once an almost daily occurrence for me, I’ve got a special appreciation for them now. Nothing helps relax and clear your mind like a cruise on a warm summer evening.

I hesitate to even say this, but the car seems to be running pretty well. I’m currently knocking on my wooden desk hoping that is the case for the trip to and from Wisconsin two weeks from today. The anticipation is building!

Have an excellent weekend.

Damon

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Pre-Flight Checks Begin

I had a chance to toss the car on stands last night and begin giving everything a once over before the trip to FB3 in just a little over two short weeks.

I’ve been hearing some creaking sounds from the back of the car lately, which is fairly common as this thing is always making strange noises. I’ve tried to track it down a bit, but it doesn’t seem to be coming from the Miracle brace or the coilovers. I think the source might be the Energy Suspension poly bushings I installed in the rear uprights back in 2009 shortly after I bought the car. I haven’t greased them since installation, so I am sure they are long overdue and are causing some binding issues back there. At some point I’ll have to replace them with something nicer- maybe SPL spherical bearings or NISMO bushings, though I think the latter are discontinued. For now, these will do just fine.

I half expected to see a torn CV boot or two like I did before our trip to FB2, but thankfully they all appear to be intact at the moment. I’ll go over all of the jam nuts to be sure everything is tight as they tend to make a habit of loosing themselves. I think I’ll also try to even out my ride height a bit while I am back here. I’m beginning to suspect that the carrier bearing on my driveshaft might give up the ghost at some point too, so a one piece driveshaft will likely end up on the list at some point when that happens.

Overall, things seem to be in order at the front of the car. I’ll finish up tonight and move on to the front end soon.

Damon

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A Road Trip Looms

Since its inception in 2014, Final Bout in Shawano, Wisconsin has been my favorite car-related event. I was fortunate enough to attend FB1 with none other than the infamous Teddy as he flew in from California to drive with me in my 1996 Toyota Camry. It was the first time we met in person, so it was a bit intimidating knowing that we would be sharing an eight hour drive together, but all of the awkwardness was gone after the first handshake.

Despite not attending the event in a cool car (I was attempting to build my Lexus GS400 at the time, remember?), I left more motivated and inspired than I had ever been. I met so many awesome people that weekend and still maintain most of those friendships to this day, including my very good friend Jimmy from Texas. I had an incredible time and felt welcomed into the community with open arms, even despite the fact that I drove a junky car there and had never even drifted before (and still haven’t to this day, lol.) I quickly learned that for me it was not about drifting or even about the cars so much as it was the people and the good times that we had together.

For these reasons and many more, I have looked forward to attending the Final Bout events every year since. I was even fortunate enough to bring my wife along with me to FB2 in 2015 and Special Stage Central last summer. Both of us had a blast. However, upon discovering that we were pregnant with our third daughter late last year and doing the math to figure out when her due date would be, I was fairly certain we would not be able to attend FB3 this year.

Alexi’s due date was to be August 25th, one week before the event. However, as I shared in my previous post, she had other plans and decided to arrive last week on August 7th. She’s been a great baby so far and we have been adjusting well, so Alicia asked me last Saturday if I would like to make a quick run out to Shawano in my car to see all of my friends. We had joked a bit about me still going, but I was 99% sure it would not be possible with a young family at home. I couldn’t believe it when she asked me!

So, with just over two weeks until departure, I probably need to start looking over my car to ensure it’s ready for the 800+ mile trip I am about to throw at it. I am feeling fairly confident, but there’s always some uncertainty and concern about a long trip like this. My plan is to leave for Chicago at 4 AM on Saturday morning to pick up my friend LA, then cruise up to Shawano for the event. I’ll be able to hang out for roughly 24 hours or so before needing to make the eight hour drive back home. 16 hours of driving for 24 hours of hanging out is a bit extreme, but it’s what needs to be done in order to see my friends from all over the world.

I could not be more excited for this trip! I am so thankful to my wife Alicia for allowing me to do this and that she is willing to care for our family in my absence. I’m disappointed that she isn’t able to come with me, but I know there are more trips like this in our future. I’m incredibly grateful to have such a supportive wife that understands what this event means to me and is willing to make sacrifices to see that I can experience it. I owe you big time babe!

Looking forward to seeing everyone in two weeks at Final Bout III!

Damon

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Just Like Old Times…

On the Saturday morning before my third daughter was born, I received a text from a younger guy in my neighborhood named Kyle asking if I was heading over to Kensington Metropark that day. I got some clarification and found there was some sort of car meet going on there that afternoon. Kyle has a couple of modified Chevys and stopped by my house one night while I was in the garage working on the 180 to introduce himself and talk cars, which I thought was really cool. I try to do the same when I see him out working on his cars, but work and family life often make this difficult.

Kyle’s Cobalt SS

I talked to Alicia about it and found that we had no plans for the day, so I decided to shoot over there while my daughters were taking their naps. I cleaned the car up a bit and made my way to Kensington, about a twenty minute cruise down the highway. I didn’t really know what to expect, but figured it would be fun to see what local meets are like these days since I had not been to anything like this in many years.

As I was making my way along the winding road through the wooded areas of the metropark to the meet location, I was filled with nostalgia. Some friends and I from a once bustling local car forum called XceedSpeed had helped organize a BBQ twice a year many years ago for the site that used to draw anywhere from 3-500 cars at this very same park. We would often drive to the meets in big caravans of cars and all roll in together. The anticipation of coming around the bend and seeing all of the cars parking together was always something special that I may have taken for granted at the time.

There were probably about 150 cars or so at the meet when I arrived, with a decent mix of import and domestic cars. It’s funny how the cars in attendance have changed over the years, now being largely composed of newer Subarus, Scions, Cobalts, and the like. It was rare to see a CRX or mid 90s Civic now compared to the last time I was at a similar event. I was also the only S chassis there for a while which was strange. I guess all of the cars of my youth are getting old now and there are fewer of them on the road. Kids want newer cars, which totally makes sense.

I would have felt very uncomfortable at this meet due to my age if it weren’t for a few friends I ran into that reminded me of the old days. It was great to see people that I had not seen face to face in five or more years and reminiscing with them about how old we are now definitely helped me feel more at home amongst all the 18-22 year olds.

My old friend Aria’s FRS

Speaking of younger folks, I was glad to see my friend Nick show up to the meet as well. I met Nick a little over a year ago at a small local car thing and was super impressed with his S13 build, especially considering he was only 16 or 17 at the time. He has since swapped in a turbo KA and added kouki 180SX side skirts and rear valences. He’s working on picking up the front bumper and wing to complete the setup- pretty cool! Definitely makes me pleased to see someone so young dedicated to building a fine example of an S13. Nick has been asking me to come out to a meet for months and I never have the time, so I was glad we got to hang for a bit.

I was also surprised to run into an old friend named Steve. Steve was a bit of a local legend for his S13 when we were younger and had owned it for a few years before I got mine. Last I knew it had been t-boned in a bad accident and he had picked up a C5 Z06 Corvette. I was pretty surprised when I bumped into him and he explained that he was driving the orange Lamborghini Gallardo. Clearly I am doing something wrong, as I am still driving my S13, lol! But I was stoked for him- pretty awesome car!

Another familiar face was Gregg, a guy that was super active on XceedSpeed and has been around since 2000 or so. I was stoked to see his mint MK4 Supra rolling into the lot, looking exactly like it did ten years ago- unreal! I actually thought of Gregg on my way to the meet, thinking I was going to be what Gregg was to me at these meets back in the day- the gray haired guy walking around amongst all the kids (I mean this in the best possible way, Gregg.) It was really cool to chat with him again after many years.

I was reminded of what used to be one of my favorite parts of going to a car meet a couple days later when people reached out to me with photos they had taken of my car. With Instagram being the platform of choice these days, it’s rare to have someone take photos with a decent camera and ask if they can email you the files. I was pumped to have these really cool images from Mustafa and Aaron of my car- thank you both! I was humbled to have people show interest in the car.

I’m really glad to have met some younger guys that are passionate about cars and are persistent with trying to get me out to local meets. It’s tough to do in this stage of life, but a lot of fun when I am able to. It was really neat to see a group like Underdog Car Meets keeping the tradition alive with a whole new generation of enthusiasts. The torch has definitely been passed.

Damon

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Welcome, Alexi

So, wouldn’t you know that the first weekend after successfully posting on my blog for an entire week (probably the first time in history I have ever done that), my third daughter would decide to show up and ruin the streak? Despite being just under three weeks early, my wife and I welcomed our daughter Alexi into the world last Monday. Things could honestly not have gone more smoothly and I am so thankful to have a healthy wife and three beautiful daughters at home.

We’re not too sure where to put a third kid in here, but maybe they can all squeeze in the back seat someday when they get older to run up town and grab some ice cream.

I’m working on getting back in the groove of being at the office, but hopefully I’ll have a chance to do some more writing here this week and keep the streak alive. I think I should have some pretty fun stuff to write about this week.

Damon

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Lunch Break

During the majority of my time with my S13, I worked as a graphic designer for an online wellness company. The commute from my home to the office was about 35 miles one way, and due to traffic it typically took me 45 minutes to an hour or more during particularly bad weather or any time there was an accident. It was a bit of a drag, but it also afforded me some time to decompress on the way home each day. It also made it easy to enjoy driving my car, as I was alone and could drive the 180 as much as possible during the summer months, even after my daughters came along. I believe during the summer of 2011 I put over 17,000 miles on the car.

About a year after I bought my S13 back and got it up and running again, my company announced that our office would be closing. Half of the employees could work from their homes, and the other half were deemed roles that needed to move to headquarters in New Jersey. Since Michigan has been my home all my life and all of my family is located here, I saw no reason to make the move. I secured a new job roughly 18 months ago, and after a couple months at the main office, I was moved to a new location about a mile from my home.

This was a game changer. Not only did it give me a lot more time with my family, but it also let me save a lot of money on gas. I can even ride my bike to work if the weather allows. I get to come home for lunch every day to eat, see my kids if they are home, and get things done around the house. My family was out running errands a couple of times this week when I came home, so I decided to give the car’s interior and exterior a decent scrub down. This is an activity I look forward to now more than ever as I am not actively modifying the car and it thankfully (knock on wood) has not had any downtime yet this season since getting it on the road in early June.

The only downside to this change is the fact that I have very few opportunities to drive my 240. Traveling to and from work is usually the only time I am on my own, and I don’t have the back seats in the car like I did last summer to put the girls’ car seats in. With our third daughter arriving in the next couple weeks, we soon won’t all be able to fit anyway. I still end up driving the car just about every day during the week, but it only amounts to roughly 10 or 20 miles a week when including the occasional trip up to the grocery store to grab a missing ingredient for dinner.

That being said, I cherish my long drives that much more now. I wouldn’t change a thing and I am so appreciative of the fact that I get to work so close to home and see my family on my lunch break. My girls’ locked themselves in my car today when I went to head back to the office and didn’t want me to leave. Looking forward to spending some time with them this weekend! Hope everyone has a good one.

Damon

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Reality Check

For some reason I am full of ramblings and deep thoughts about cars this week, as well as motivation to document them. Whatever the cause, maybe it will help you kill some time at work, haha.

When you really want something, you tend to idealize it in your head. You imagine having it and at the time it feels like nothing could be cooler than to realize that vision. This is true of most things in life, but it is especially true of modifying cars. I’ve been shown this lesson more times than I can count in the last decade, but it’s one that I always have trouble grasping. Sometimes its the thrill of the chase we enjoy (I know this is the case for me when it comes to building a car.) Other times its the realization that something isn’t what you thought it was once you obtain it.

I think it’s important to set realistic expectations for any young folks out there trying to build a car. It’s easy for kids to look at my 240SX on Instagram and think that it’s perfect. We all want to project success and the best image of ourselves to the world via social media, and rightfully so. This often results in our lives looking perfect when they are anything but.

With that being said, I thought it would be comical to make a list of all of the things that don’t work on my S13. I was pondering this yesterday while driving in the S13 to an off-site meeting for work. Maybe making this information public will help people to set realistic goals and expectations for their own builds.

Things that don’t work in my Nissan 240SX:

Air Conditioning: Boy, this sure would be a nice one to have wouldn’t it? Thankfully temps don’t get too unbearable here in the midwest, but it can be pretty miserable on long trips. I once sourced most of the items to install AC, but found that most of the wiring had been cut out prior to me owning the car. I ultimately gave up and decided to tough it out.

Heat: I thought it would be a good idea to remove the heater core, blower motor, and all associated ducting when I shaved my engine bay in 2012 in order to fit the fuse boxes under the dashboard. My blower motor didn’t work at the time anyway, so it wasn’t a huge loss. Thankfully the downpipe keeps me fairly warm on drives during cooler weather.

180SX Digital Climate Control: Oh, that? It’s just a faceplate. No wiring of any kind- it doesn’t even light up at night- though I wish it did!

Defrost (Front and Rear): Probably pretty obvious knowing the above things have been removed. This makes driving in the rain or parking the car outside in cold weather a real treat. Better keep a microfiber cloth in the glove box for extended rainy driving! I’ve also had to scrape the inside of the windshield with a credit card to remove frost before when driving in the fall.

Cruise Control: This one I would LOVE to have working. My heel used to hurt for days after long road trips in this car. Thankfully since my discovery of Crocs, I no longer have that issue. Best shoes ever for long road trips in a ratty old S13! They’re also very stylish- just ask my wife.

Intermittent Wipers: Everyone knows how gross and ashy the turn signal and wiper stalks become in S13s. I was lucky enough to find a clean pair on Zilvia many years ago, but found that the first setting that allows you to adjust the intermittent function of the wipers doesn’t work- only the medium and fast speeds do. This means that I need to shut the wipers off at the perfect time while in the down position to avoid them stopping in the middle of a swipe across the windshield. I have gotten pretty good at this over the years, haha.

Front and Rear Window Sprayers: Yeah, those are long gone. These were already partially removed when I bought the car.

Pop-Up Headlights: This one is a bit of a technicality, but you’ll catch me with the hood pop winding my headlights up manually by the motor mechanisms after dusk. My headlight motors actually work, but I have unplugged them to maintain the perfect sleepy eye look. I learned this from my friend Tony and actually prefer it to a Pivot controller as it is more precise and saves the life of the motors. It also allows you to turn the headlights on while in the sleepy position which is really neat.

Radio: My 240SX is still equipped with the factory Nissan tape deck and speakers, most of which are blown by this point. I used to use it with a tape to AUX input adapter and quite enjoyed having something to listen to (even with the terrible sound quality and low volume) but the tape deck decided to start ejecting every five seconds, rendering it just about worthless. The antenna is unplugged because it looks ugly in the up position and doesn’t really pick up any radio stations anyway. I’ve come close to installing some aftermarket stereo stuff over the years, but I love the simple look of the factory tape deck. At this point I’ve grown accustomed to driving the car with nothing more than the hum of the SR20.

Window Seals: All of the rubber seals on the car are aging and failing, meaning that water sometimes leaks into the car when it rains in various places. Nothing too alarming, but enough to be noticeable. I don’t usually let this stop me from driving the car in the rain though. My wife and I did have an incident where the carpeting was soaked during our drive back from Final Bout II due to holes in the floor from my old roll cage that I had forgotten about, but those have since been sealed up and the carpet has been replaced.

Horn: The horn was removed when I bought the car and I have never bothered to install one. The exhaust functions as a horn when the light has turned green and the car in front of you doesn’t seem to want to go.

Power Mirrors: I believe these have been broken since I bought the car as well. I’ve run a few different types of aero mirrors over the years and never bother to wire them up. Not to mention the fact that I can’t see much of anything out of my Ganador mirrors. The side view mirrors as a whole are more or less worthless.

Map Lights: I removed the overhead map lights when I converted to a 180SX headliner, as it did not have a cutout for it. I could have easily added one, but I like the cleaner look. My door striker has a habit of not closing the door completely, which used to cause my dome light to stay on at random times, killing the small battery. I leave the dome light turned off for this reason, so it’s always dark getting in the car at night.

I think it would have been easier to make a list of everything that does work! haha. This list doesn’t include things like stinky exhaust fumes, creaks and odd noises, ride quality, or the various nicks, dents, and dings throughout the car. These things used to bother me, but to be completely honest, since getting the car back I don’t think a single one has truly caused me any stress. While it sucks that some of these issues have popped up in one form or another, I am so grateful that I have this car sitting in the garage. Driving this car never fails to put a smile on my face, even despite all of its shortcomings.

The thought for today: Keep your expectations realistic. Nothing is ever as perfect as it seems from the outside. Appreciate what you have and try your best not to take it for granted. While it may not be perfect, it’s probably better than the alternative- not having it at all.

Damon

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