May is Here

Well, there I go again- dropping a fairly entertaining and substantial update only to fall off the radar for three weeks. While so many aspects of life have ground to a halt due to COVID-19 and everything that has come with it, life still feels crazier than ever.

After working from home at my job as a graphic designer for about five weeks, I got the news last week that my position would be furloughed until July 5th. I knew furloughs were going to impact my department for a couple of weeks prior to receiving this news, so it wasn’t really a shock. In fact, it was actually sort of a relief to know my fate and begin taking the necessary steps to move forward with the next steps of reacting to this life adjustment. I was hesitant to even share this info publicly, but I think it is good to discuss it since so many of us are being impacted by things like this right now. While it’s a scary time, I think my family and I should be able to weather the storm. We still have lots to be grateful for – that’s for sure.

So, I’m essentially on the longest vacation I’ve had since summer break as a kid in ninth grade. The only difference is I don’t live under my mom’s roof and I have a wife and three kids of my own to provide for. My two older daughters are both in elementary school, so it has been a bit hectic trying to complete all of their assignments with them each week for their “online learning.” I am really thankful to be off of work right now so that I am available to help my wife with this as getting through two sets of lessons every day while keeping a two year old busy is virtually impossible. The weather has also been improving drastically in Michigan since my time off began, so we have been able to get outside more often- which is definitely helpful for our sanity.

I didn’t expect to have time to think about my cars with all of this going on, but I do find myself daydreaming about them and what steps need to be taken next to progress. I did take a bit of a break after my last post to spend time with the family and address work and school needs, but recently started easing back into spending time in the garage- which, as always, has been a great escape for everything going on. Here’s an update on what’s going on with both of the cars:

Hatch

Not much has changed on the hatch. After giving it a wash recently, I closely inspected the roof along the windshield on the inside to see that the rust is visible there too- not just on the outside of the car. A steady stream of water pours into the car when you wash it in this area- it’s gotten to a point where it can no longer be ignored, which is honestly pretty frustrating.

So the car needs some body and paint work- that’s nothing new. It’s the same topic I have beat to death over the last few years. Yes, I could take the car in and have the roof repaired and painted along with dropping in a new windshield. However, I would really like to just paint the entire car once and be done with it. I’ve got all new moldings and weather stripping tucked away for it, but don’t want to install it until the car has been painted. I don’t currently have the funds for this, so the car just sort of sits and waits. ˇhe only difference is I have been able to drive it in this state until fairly recently. With the way it is leaking now, I can’t really do that anymore without destroying my interior.

The only thing I have really changed on the hatch is installing a pair of LE door panels that I got from my friend Jalen. I have wanted a set of these for a long time to match the glove box I have in the car. The grey suede-like fabric resembles the kouki 180SX door panels and glove box, which complements my seats nicely. They’re not in the best shape sadly, but they did clean up decent enough to make me decide to install them. It’s really nice to have fabric on the door panels again for the first time since the red Bride fabric in 2012.

Since I won’t be working anyway until July, I decided not to renew the registration or add insurance to the car. I can still drive it of course, but it has been rare for me to leave the house lately. The stay home order in Michigan was extended again until May 15th, so there’s not really much reason for me to risk going anywhere.

That being said, I also decided to part ways with the Advan Model Vs. I’ve done this quick about face with a few sets of wheels over the years- you would think I would learn to trust my gut by now, but I never seem to learn. I guess it is fun to see different wheels on the car if nothing else. I posted them for trade for a pair of bronze NISMO LMGT4, but decided to sell them after not having any luck. They were cool wheels, but the redone finish on them from the previous owner and high offsets drove me crazy. Someone gave me what I wanted for them, so I packed them up and shipped them out yesterday.

I don’t have a plan for replacing the wheels on the car at this time. The only wheels I am interested in right now are a set of bronze 17/18 NISMO LMGT4, but you have to pay to play as the old saying goes- and I don’t want to pay the prices these things are fetching right now. They’re tough to find, and when you do find them the prices are bonkers. Who knows- maybe it will happen someday, or maybe I’ll seek out a bronze set of TE37s again- but I think it has to be one or the other. For the foreseeable future though I think the hatch will be on jack stands once again.

Coupe

As is typically the case these days, most of my attention has once again been directed to the coupe. I’ve been working on the interior a bit, especially with completing the carpet install. It’s close to done now, it just needs to be buttoned up on the passenger side. I was able to keep the plastic guide pieces from some of the part out cars this time around to secure the carpet along the door scuff plates which helped a ton. I had never done this in the past with my hatch but I highly recommend it! I attached them to the new carpet with a staple gun.

The next order of business was painting the center console and ash tray to match the brand new OEM shifter trim I had for the car. I ordered some more SEM Color Coat Satin Black since I had run out when I sprayed the cowl and wiper arms. I can’t say enough good things about SEM paint- it goes on so nicely and dries really well. It’s not a perfect match to the shifter trim, but it looks MUCH better than it did.

After installing the center console, I put in the new shifter trim, shift boot, and non-power mirror block off plate I have been saving for the car. I also bolted the glove box and frame into place. This really makes the interior feel complete. I definitely spent some time sitting in the back seat of the car the other night admiring my work. I’m looking forward to wrapping up the interior this summer and sharing some before and after photos. Interior tuning is one of my favorite aspects of working on these cars.

I received an order from RHD Japan that included a few random items I wasn’t able to source stateside- front and rear sway bar bushings, bolts for the SR20 TPS, the large vacuum hose that connects to the cold pipe near the throttle body, the lower power steering hose and clamps, bolts for the hood, and clamps for the coolant overlfow tank hose. I ordered multiples of some of these items for the hatch as well.

The correct TPS screws vs. what someone else hammered into the throttle body.

When attempting to install the correct TPS screws, I found the previous owner of my engine had threaded in bolts that were too long- the original reason I ordered replacements. However, I also found they were the wrong thread pitch and had destroyed the throttle body. Fortunately I was able to find a spare on Instagram and installed it when it arrived last week. A major hassle, but something I am glad I took care of.

Next I installed the new power steering lines running off of the reservoir that I sourced from the 180SX in Japan. Neither line was identical to the US counterpart, but they were close enough to get the job done. I also installed the large vacuum line and clamps on the cold pipe. It’s so satisfying to have the proper factory hoses in place! There’s just something about it.

Old generic hose and clamps vs. the correct part from Nissan.

I then installed the new hood bolts I sourced from Japan. The ones that came with the car had been rounded off and mangled beyond repair, so it was nice to have these.

Wrapping things up in the engine bay, I installed a stock Silvia SR20DET airbox and Eneos filter that I purchased from a Zilvia member. He was replacing the setup with an aftermarket one on his imported Silvia, so this was the perfect chance for me to secure a nearly complete factory setup. I’ve grown tired of my air filter bouncing around in my hatch over the years, so I wanted to make life simple and go with a stock intake setup on this car. It was a bit of a chore to get the hot pipe to fit alongside it, but luckily I was able to make it work. I am very satisfied with how tidy and OEM the bay looks with this piece in place! Very cool to see.

Another order arrived from Nissan, this time via my good friends Russell and Erich at NissanParts.cc. This order included clamps for the cold pipe vacuum lines, new fender bolts for the coupe, the upper rear window molding for the coupe, nuts for installing the Silvia aero front bumper, clips for the brake and clutch lines, and new window crank handles to replace the brown ones the car came with. Definitely check those guys out and support them if you need any factory parts or hardware- they go out of their way to help with small dollar and odd ball parts. Great guys that have been helping me for over a decade!

Finally, I dropped the front suspension and complete rear subframe from the car a couple nights ago. I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads with how to proceed on the cars next, but I think I am leaning towards using the funds from the Model Vs towards completing the suspension and brake refresh on the coupe. This will allow me to complete the last remaining major aspect of the build, get the car on the ground, and eventually begin to drive it. I would love to be able to drive the car by the end of the summer if I can, so I think this is likely the direction I will go. Once the car is running and driving, I can turn my attention back to getting some new wheels for the hatch, Who knows though, that’s a few months out- I am sure I will change my mind a few times before that happens!

So anyway, that’s where things stand. I’ll likely weight things out one more time and make a final decision early next week. If I decide to move towards completing the coupe, I’ll begin ordering all of the needed items and tearing the rear subframe down to get it all cleaned up. It’s definitely the option that will keep me the most busy over the summer, so it’s probably what I will choose to do.

Thanks very much for stopping by to see what I am up to. I hope you and yours are happy and healthy during this craziness. As always, don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you ever want to chat or have a question about something. I’m always down to try to help! Have a great weekend and take care.

Damon

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A Good Friday Indeed

I gotta be honest with you- when the Governor of Michigan announced today that the Shelter In Place order was being extended from April 13th to May 1st, it kind of knocked the wind out of my sails. I knew it was coming and even predicted the date it would be extended to, but I think the fact that the sunshine and near 70º temps that we enjoyed yesterday had faded to snow and 40+ MPH wind gusts contributed to me feeling a bit defeated upon hearing this news.

It’s for the best, and it makes sense for everyone to be staying home and trying avoid going anywhere, but man is it tough to not spend time with family and friends or be able to go out to stores and other places as we please. It has definitely made me thankful for so many things that I previously took for granted. Michigan currently has the third most cases of any state which is pretty wild to me, but I don’t know the reason for that. Things are expected to peak about a week from now from the sounds of it, so hopefully everyone staying home helps to continue moving things in the right direction. We’ve got a ton to be thankful for and I really have no reason to complain. I’m looking forward to the return of warm weather and COVID-19 being a thing of the past. It feels so far away right now, but I am sure things will return to normal before we know it.

With the added stress of working from home with three little girls running around, my alone time in the garage every once in a while has meant more to me than ever. I love being with my kids and enjoying time with my wife in the evenings, don’t get me wrong- but it’s great to have a hobby and an escape that is purely my own to enjoy every few days. After getting the coupe running and celebrating Hattie’s sixth birthday about a week and a half ago, I spent a few nights continuing my progress on the car.

Knowing that both of the SR20s in my garage fire up and run feels like a huge hurdle has been cleared. I decided next to continue working on assembling the interior. I started by transferring the VIN plate to the replacement crack-free dash I sourced from a previous part out and bolting that into place. I was lucky enough to part out a few cars last fall that were completely stock, so when I took those apart I was sure to bag up every screw, clip, and bolt in individual baggies and label them for when the time came to assemble the interior in my own car. I had duplicates of a lot of them, but so far I’ve had every single item I needed to put things together properly- so nice!

A few months back, I purchased a 180SX gauge cluster as a donor and swapped the tachometer into my existing DOHC cluster so that it would display the correct redline for the SR20DET swap. After doing so, I installed a brand new cluster lens that I sourced from Japan. I think I lost those photos when my phone bricked a while back, but you get the idea. The refreshed cluster looks great bolted into the dash and was probably due for a clean up considering this car has nearly 350k on the clock.

After bolting the dash and cluster in place, I installed the radio and DIN pocket, HVAC controls, and a clean set of defrost vents I had been saving. This is always a stressful experience, but fortunately I got them in place without any damage.

Still usable, but a fresh hood release cable and handle was too tempting.

The hood release cable on this car had a broken mounting point, so I decided to purchase a new one. Though they were available just a few months ago, I found that they had been discontinued by Nissan North America. This has been happening to me more and more frequently as of late- a sign of things to come for the aging S13 chassis. Fortunately the part number for the 180SX is the same, so I was able to source two of them from Japan- one for the hatch as well. I installed the fresh hood cable before bolting up the lower trim panel under the dash.

Apologies for the terrible photo… but you can kind of tell there’s a handle there.

One issue I ran into when installing my Silvia seatbelt conversion was that I didn’t get the metal mounting bracket for the A pillar handle with the one I purchased from Japan. The 180SX and Silvia had an “oh sh*t handle” (for lack of a better term) on the passenger side A pillar, whereas the US and Canadian cars did not. I would prefer to have the Canadian A pillars as they look cleaner (not to mention it doesn’t make sense to have a handle on the US driver’s side) but wasn’t able to find a set like I have in my hatch- so I had to settle. I wasn’t able to bolt the handle in place without the metal bracket and had a heck of a time finding one on the auctions, but finally came across one on eBay from a JDM S14. It looked similar enough and the price was right, so I snagged it. I had to modify it slightly to allow for the clips on the pillar plastic to pass through, but it otherwise fit well and bolted right up.

In the back of the car, I installed the large rear plastic panels and a clean back seat I scored out of a parts car. Fortunately the rear seat belts were included with the Silvia manual belts I bought from Japan since the original ones in this car were brown (as was the rest of the interior.) Things are sitting relatively complete at the moment in the interior- I still need to finish trimming the carpet and install things like the lower kick panels, glove box, center console, shifter trim, etc. but hope to have that finished up fairly soon. I haven’t sourced a pair of seats for the car just yet. I would love to have some nice old school Bride buckets or something like that obviously, but it likely won’t be in the cards any time soon. I’ll probably settle for a pair of S14 seats if I can find a pair locally in decent condition and hopefully upgrade someday down the road.

Before hammering…

After…

Chassis wiring tucked up over the metal seam on the chassis to avoid the front tires rubbing through the wiring- a classic S13 task. This is the easier of the two sides.

Next on the docket was addressing the front fender wells. I sort of forgot about hammering all of the metal seams flat when I undercoated up there (it’s been about 11 years since I last did this) so I had to go back and take care of that before patching up the fresh undercoating. I next tackled tucking the chassis wiring and hood release cable up out of the way to provide clearance for the tires at my desired ride height. This was another task I had not tackled in many years, but luckily I was able to get some practice and help Jimmy out with it on his S13 when I visited a while back to help jog my memory. I think clearance should be good, but maybe I’ll pick up some Auto Collect Storm chassis harness shields in the future just in case.

I had been dreading the fender harness tuck job so it felt great to have that finished and out of the way (literally.) This meant I could move on to executing the Silvia front conversion. I’ve dreamed of completing a Silvia front end swap on an S13 ever since I helped my friend with his back in 2007, so I have been really anxious to see all of the items I have collected over the last two years come together. My Silvia fenders are used and have some imperfections, but for the price I got them for I couldn’t pass them up. I’ve owned three or four pairs during the process to try to piece together as clean of a pair as possible without breaking the bank. I thought they were fairly bent up, but after some advice from my pal Logan down in Houston, I got them to fit really well along the doors and hood with minimal effort. This put my mind at ease knowing they should come out pretty nice once they’ve been cleaned up and painted. I’ll need to go back and roll them at some point though, along with the rear quarter panels.

The first of many, many cuts to get enough clearance for the intercooler.

With the fenders and hood in place, it was time to tackle another job I’ve really been feeling anxious about- trimming my genuine Silvia aero bumper to clear the TRUST front mount intercooler. I was on the fence about this since this bumper is fairly tough to find these days and they aren’t exactly cheap. I even came close to running a factory side mount intercooler just to have perfect bumper fitment and to avoid hacking it up, but ultimately I gave in and decided it needed to be done. After some mock ups and measuring, I slowly started hacking away at the bumper.

This task was no joke- I probably mounted and removed the bumper 25 times, shaving away more material each time to try to get it to sit properly. It still isn’t perfect and I have some fine tuning to do, but I finally got the bumper and crash beam trimmed down enough to clear the intercooler and allow the complete bumper assembly to slide into place.

I next decided to install my OEM optional Silvia side skirts and rear valences to get an idea of what the complete package would look like. These are just sort of popped on the car for now, and obviously they are all different colors- but it was really exciting to see everything on the car at once. A lot of people prefer to run chuki 180SX side skirts on the Siliva since they are more flared along the bottom edge and look slightly more aggressive, but I’m a dweeb and just had to have the Silvia skirts. I think they match the lines of the coupe a bit better- even if they are less noticeable.

A day or two after I got the bumper and aero setup on, I was delighted to receive word from Jesse Streeter that my wheels I had ordered about seven weeks earlier had left Japan and were on their way to my house. I wasn’t sure how the whole COVID-19 situation was going to impact shipping and production, so to see the DHL truck pull up on a sunny evening earlier this week put a big grin on my face.

I really wanted to try my hand at a small wheel setup on the coupe for a number of reasons. Aside from it being something different and a bit out of my comfort zone, I really dig the look on coupes specifically for some reason. I also like the fact that I could leave the car four lug and save some cash instead of diving into a five lug conversion and Z32 brakes like I have on the hatch. I wouldn’t doubt that I will do that someday down the road, but I am geeked about trying this out.

I went with a set of Work Equip 40s in the standard brut silver face with polished lips and black hardware- nothing custom or crazy. I debated a staggered setup, but decided it would be cool to run the same sizes on all four corners- so I went with 15×9 -4 all around. Shoutout to Elvis of StanceNation fame for being supportive of me essentially copying the setup on his Silvia (not exactly, but to an extent) and helping confirm the specs I had in mind would meet my goals. I felt a little bad going this route since his car is so well known, but when a formula works it just works. I don’t often set out to do something groundbreaking or that no one else has done before, so I’m feeling very content about the direction. I think the color of the wheels will look amazing on the all black exterior (when the car is finally painted someday.)

With the wheels in my possession, I was dying to see everything mocked up. I tossed a wheel on the rear of the car and jacked up the rear suspension to grab some pics, but Jimmy convinced me to mock up the front as well. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this since I don’t have tires or coilovers just yet, but I was able to rig something up with the help of some garden pavers, a scissor jack, my floor jack, an old coat hanger, and a pair of vice grips. It was a little sketchy, but it got the job done!

Though I had mocked up the Silvia front previously, I had never bolted things in place properly or installed any of the lights I had sourced. I was fortunate enough to purchase everything brand new through RHD Japan’s OEM store (among other sources) over the span of about 18 months, so I was hesitant to take that stuff out of the boxes and slap it on the car. I didn’t want to risk any of it getting damaged so I had been avoiding it. But with the wheels here and the rest of the front end in place, it was time to get an idea of what the finished product might potentially look like. Part of me didn’t even want to use those lights, but what’s the point in keeping things in boxes for the rest of your life?

Nothing beats the feeling of taking a few steps to observe for the first time what you have poured so much time and energy into. It’s the feeling that keeps me going with this hobby- and probably the reason I am constantly changing things on my cars. Researching what’s needed, tracking down and collecting the hard to find goodies, and installing them is an adventure that I enjoy so much. To finally see a running (more or less) SR20DET swapped S13 coupe with a complete OEM aero setup and Silvia front end sitting in my garage next to my hatch was an incredible feeling.

I love the way it’s all coming together. I think the Equip 40s are going to complement everything perfectly and produce a pretty cool look. Dialing the ride height and camber in is going to be a process, but hopefully I don’t regret the specs I have chosen.

Still some trimming and adjustment needed here, but I am relatively happy.

Lots of body work needed… but it will get there someday.

There’s still a very long road ahead, but the sense of accomplishment I feel right now is akin to the way I felt when I first installed the complete kouki 180SX aero and CR Kais on my hatch back in 2010. To see such a transformation on a junky old rolling chassis that I picked up for free feels great. Sure, it’s still eight different colors on blown out suspension and bad brakes, but for the first time it feels like the end goal is within reach. I’m really excited to continue making some progress on the car. While there are still a number of items I need to complete it, it feels like the bulk of it’s here- it’s just up to me to put in the hours and executing the actual building.

Alexi wanted in on the glamour shots- she is my youngest at two and a half.

Hattie just turned six a little over a week ago.

Kinsey will be eight this summer… which blows my mind.

There’s talk of furloughs coming at my job, but I have yet to hear how it will impact me. I’m crossing my fingers that I am able to continue working since I have been doing a ton of projects related to COVID-19 and I am probably the busiest I have ever been, but time will tell. I’m sure everything will work out in one way or another, but these are definitely uncertain times. I’m hopeful I can continue to tinker though as it provides me with a healthy dose of sanity during all of this craziness. I know many people are in a much worse situation, so I really have nothing to complain about.

Thanks a lot for coming along on this journey with me- I hope you are as geeked about the mockup photos as I am! Looking forward to continuing with this project and making some more progress in the weeks ahead. Stay safe and stay sane everyone- take care of each other and have a great Easter weekend!

Damon

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We Have Ignition

I’m a little behind on last Friday’s blog post, but I really wanted to take the time to get something posted here to document my accomplishments a little over a week after my most recent post. For whatever reason, all of the craziness surrounding the COVID-19 thing has made me desire a creative outlet and some time on my own to do some tinkering and problem-solving more than ever. I debated waiting until Friday to share this update, but at this point most of us don’t even know what day it is or what life will look like by the weeekend- so why not share it now?!

While the recent stay at home orders have given most people a ton more free time to tackle their projects, I can’t necessarily say that rings true for me. I still spend the same amount of time (arguably more since all of this happened) working during the week, I just do it from my home instead of the office. My wife is busy caring for all three of our kids during the day (since my older two daughters are currently out of school) instead of just one, so this adds a lot of craziness to both of our lives. We still have the dinner routine and play time in the evenings with them like usual, and though we don’t need to worry about packing lunches, the typical tasks that come with taking care of a house full of little girls have not gone anywhere.

This usually leaves me with roughly 3 hours every evening to myself. But wait- that also needs to include spending some quality time with my wife. So yeah, the amount of time I have at my disposal is largely the same as it was before all of this happens- but that doesn’t mean I can’t get some work done on the cars.

My wife and I alternated nights last week between hanging out together and spending some time on personal projects. Alicia wanted to contribute to everything going on by sewing some masks to donate to local hospitals and health care workers which I thought was very admirable. My free time was spent working on getting my coupe running- a much more selfish prospect, but I suppose it might bring joy to a few people other than myself in the process.

So let’s see… where did we leave off last. The day after I made my most recent post, I was finally able to pull the hatch out of the garage for some photos with the Model Vs, N1 ducts, and OEM front lip installed. I am really pleased with the look right now and how the photos turned out. You’ve probably seen most of them via Instagram at this point since I just haven’t had time for updating the blog, but here they are for your viewing pleasure.

I couldn’t leave the coupe out, so I grabbed a few shots of that as well. It actually felt cool to get some shots of the two cars together. This was one of the first times that it started to sink in that I own two of these things. Even though the coupe is far from finished, it was a pretty cool feeling to experience.

The first task I set out to complete on the coupe last week was installation of the intercooler piping. The TRUST GReddy Spec LS kit came with just about everything needed for installation aside from a hot pipe, which I purchased from Enjuku. Plan to run without a blow off valve on this car just like I do currently on my hatch- and actually use the same intercooler setup on that car as well. After some measuring via my painter’s tape trick I used on the hatch years ago, I ended up drilling the 2.5″ hole through the battery tray. I prefer to go with a bit larger of a hole just to give myself some room for error and ensure that everything fits safely the first time.

A neat trick a friend taught me many years ago: use hair spray on your intercooler couplers. It makes them easier to slide together and adjust, but dries tacky to keep them from popping off under boost. Plus it smells great…

With the intercooler setup in place, I filled the oil and coolant. I roughly tossed the power steering hoses together and added a little fluid for startup even though I am still waiting on the return hose and some clamps to finish that portion of the install. I also mocked up the intake pipe and filter from my hatch to prepare for the first startup.

The next thing I did was complete the installation of my Wiring Specialties engine harness on the coupe. This is something I have done a few times in the past over the years on my hatch, but I ran into some issues this time around. After installing everything and attempting to connect the battery, I found that the negative cable would spark and make a clicking noise as soon as I tried to connect it. I later came to realize the car was actually trying to start as soon as it had battery power, even with the key out.

After some amazing diagnostic work from my friend Kev down in Houston, we found that I had mixed up three pairs of plugs on the harness that could all be connected together. The “jumper harness” that’s used to trick the ECU into thinking the car is always in park so that it will start was mistakenly plugged into the starter signal plug for the fuse box, so that is why the car was attempting to start. After Kevin helped me fix all of my connections, I was able to connect the battery and hear the all familiar door chime- which always feels like a huge accomplishment.

At this point the car would crank nicely, but the fuel pump was not priming. Last Friday, I applied power directly to the fuel pump (again with Kev’s great expert virtual support) and found that the pump was in fact working properly. Since my volt meter bit the dust a few months back and I have not yet bought a replacement, I made a crude test light out of an old side marker pigtail and some wire I had laying around. With the test light connected in the trunk, I had my daughter Hattie (who is always down to help) stand at the back of the car while I turned the key on to see if the pump was getting power. She confirmed that the light came on for a few seconds before turning off. Confused, we plugged the fuel sending unit back in, jiggled the wires, and went back to the front of the car to give it another shot.

To our delight, the fuel pump primed this time. After a few cranks to circulate the fuel, the car stumbled and fired right up before idling smoothly. I didn’t let it run for too long since I was watching the kids and the fumes were pretty bad without a cat or exhaust on the car, but it was enough to know that it’s now in running condition. Firing up your car for the first time is always a massive milestone and managed to put a huge smile on my face. To bring home an ugly, junky-looking beige rolling shell of a car without a drivetrain or interior with my wife, kids, friends, and neighbors giving me funny looks and manage to slowly turn it into an actual running, driving car feels amazing. There is still tons to do, but knowing the car runs is awesome!

As for parts that arrived this past week, the first item I got a hold of is a pair of new hatch struts for the 180. My struts have been worn for years and it always made getting into the trunk a hassle, especially for Alicia on road trips. I wanted to source a pair of 180SX struts from Nissan since the 240SX ones are discontinued, but the price was just too much to stomach. I ended up grabbing some aftermarket ones from Rock Auto for about $12 a pop and the results are amazing. It’s so nice to have this taken care of! I wish I had done it sooner.

The next item that arrived was a stock PS13 airbox for the coupe. I elected to leave all of the factory airbox brackets in place this time around to run a tidier setup since I am tired of the cone filter adapter on the MAF in my hatch bouncing around and scratching up the paint in the bay. I found someone in Washington that had just imported a Silvia and wanted to sell his complete setup, so I elected to snag it. I’m hoping to install this in the bay soon.

Finally, I picked up a set of USDM S13 pop up to JDM Silvia front end lighting conversion harnesses from Specialized in Nissan, an eBay seller and longtime Zilvia member. I am currently using his harnesses on my hatch as well to convert the US front and rear wiring to utilize kouki 180SX lights with a plug and play solution. The eBay store seems to be down at the moment, but I was still able to order them via DM to his Zilvia account, username “driftkeni.”

The future feels a bit uncertain with job security and the economy due to everything on. I know this is going to impact my and my family in one way or another, but just how much is still in limbo at the moment. I just want to say that I wish everyone out there reading this the best with the days, weeks, and months to come.

Everything is going to be OK in the end! We’ve just gotta be good to each other as we navigate all of this craziness. Take care & talk soon! Thanks as always for following along.

Damon

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Strange Times

Wow, what a difference a couple weeks can make. It feels like just yesterday that I was telling Jimmy that I didn’t think the whole Coronavirus thing would be a big deal. Before I knew it, my kids’ had their school shut down for more than three weeks (and I have to imagine that will likely be extended when we approach the proposed time that they were going to return in early April.) Stores are out of things like paper products, meat, and Kraft mac and cheese. Work has been completely out of control and I have been putting in some late evenings and weekend time to keep up with all of the changing conditions and new developments. I began working from home yesterday which has been something to get used to, but so far it hasn’t been too terrible.

Needless to say, working on my cars hasn’t really been at the front of my mind. I had hoped to return from Houston with a renewed sense of motivation, but a busy schedule and the craziness of everything going on sort of put a damper on that plan. It can feel a bit trivial to want to devote what free time I have to such a silly hobby, but I do think it is important to create and do something you love if possible during this global crisis. It’s good to focus your energy on something and spend a bit of time on your own. I’m sure that many people are not able to go out and enjoy their hobbies right now, so I feel fortunate that mine is still accessible for the time being.

So let’s see… what have I accomplished in the garage for the last two months? The short answer is- not very much. Before all of this craziness began, Michigan managed to have a couple of days in the low 50s which brought everyone out of hiding (though we did have a fairly decent snow storm in between those warm periods that brought my kids two snow days.) With warm weather comes outdoor toys for the girls, so my garage recently became a bit of a mess as those items made their way up from the basement. This prompted me to move all of the summer items from garage storage to their respective locations on the back patio. It’s too early still to be able to enjoy them, but it was an essential move to make space in the garage for working on the cars.

But back tracking a bit- the most recent part out car, a rusty black S13 coupe, left the garage on January 31st. This allowed me to move my coupe project back inside and get it on jack stands once more. I got the garage all clean and gave it a nice reset so that it would be ready for action in March. I went on two back-to-back trips in February and kind of chalked it up as a loss from a car standpoint: my family spent nearly a week in Florida followed by my trip to Final Bout Special Stage South in Houston two weeks later. Looking back now, I am glad I was able to get both of those trips in before all of the craziness and travel restrictions began.

The first thing I did to begin getting my hatch on the road for the season was take my AVS Model Vs to my friend Jalen to have the tires mounted up. The Model Vs are not in the best condition as they have been powder coated a silver with flake in it (which I am not crazy about) and have some dings/blemishes, but for the price I paid I can’t complain at all. The specs aren’t the best at 17×9 +35 and 18×9 +35, but I had to take what I could get within the price point in order to keep the coupe build on track. I ended up reusing the Advan Fleva tires I had left over from the silver TE37s as they didn’t see much road use before I parked the car last summer.

With the specs being as weak as they are, I had to order some bolt-on spacers to get things into spec. I ended up investing in a full set of GK Tech’s adjustable spacers since I’ve bought and sold spacers many times over the years. It seemed to make sense to just bite the bullet and get these so that I can get a lot of use out of them with any other wheel setups I may use in the future. The quality seems pretty nice from what I can tell. I am running +25mm in the rear and +30 up front at the moment but haven’t fine tuned everything yet.

I picked up a new set of brake rotors since my last set got fairly rusty from the car sitting around (at times outside while I was parting out cars) for the last eight months or so. I went with some coated MAX brakes this time around based on a recommendation from my friend Joe- hopefully I won’t have to worry about rust issues on these ones.

Before installing the new rotors and spacers, I tossed yet another replacement axle onto the passenger side of the car. Now that I have a spare set from the last parts car, I am going to try my hand at installing new CV boots to see if those last any longer than the tired old factory units. I am told they probably won’t, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m sure this used replacement won’t last much longer than those that came before it, but we’ll see. I was beginning work on the car to get it ready for Final Bout Special Stage Central in Shawano in May, but that has been postponed. I guess at this point there’s no rush!

Once those items were in place, I tossed on the wheels and attempted to bolt them down to find that my closed end Muteki lug nuts were too short for the extended studs on the GK Tech spacers. I ended up having to order a set of the long, open-ended version from Amazon Prime before I could put the wheels on and sit the car on the ground. While there are definitely flashier lug nuts on the market, I like these because they are affordable and steel instead of aluminum which tends to strip. The fact that they are widely available makes them a no-brainer.

I have to say I like the look of the car on these wheels a lot more than I thought I would. I am still fine tuning the fitment a bit and need to finish installing a lot of the interior items I removed this winter, but I hope to get it cleaned up and outside for some decent photos to share with everyone this weekend. It feels great to have the car on the ground and running again, even if I still have a few things to do before the weather breaks. It has been too long!

The next order of business was installing the new OEM kouki 180SX lip I acquired back in the fall. Since this lip still has all of the mounting tabs intact on the back of it, I had to drill some new holes to install it. It’s just mocked up at the moment as I of course will need to have it painted at some point in the not so distant future.

I stumbled upon an R33 GTR N1 duct for cheap on eBay and couldn’t pass it up. I snagged it and ordered a matching one to complete the set via RHD Japan that arrived a week or two later. I think this is my third or fourth set of these vents now as I can never manage to commit to installing them. This past week I decided it was time to finally bite the bullet and put these on since I need to have the front lip painted anyway.

I’ve always been worried about installing these correctly, but I think they turned out pretty solid! It’s hard to get a great feel for how they will look with everything being different colors, but I am confident they will be really cool when it’s all said and done. These definitely make me want another Koguchi Power hood and a pair of aero mirrors though to really complete the look!

As for the coupe, I am finally getting back to working on that as well. A couple weeks back I lowered the rear of the car to torque the crank pulley as I realized I had forgotten that step. Last night after finishing up the N1 duct install on the hatch, I switched gears to the coupe and installed the alternator. I had been waiting to do so since I wanted to install a remanufactured Denso unit, but ultimately decided it would be better to save the cash right now and just get the car running with the one that came with the swap. This is something I plan to replace on both my cars when I am able to for peace of mind as these things are getting pretty old and crusty at this point.

After that was finished, I tightened up the new Pitwork belts and once again installed the new OEM clutch fan, shroud, and Koyo radiator with all new OEM brackets and hardware- hopefully for good this time. I then installed a fresh set of OEM radiator hoses and clamps. I elected to go with the factory hoses this time instead of my usual Samco units which I think paid off. The fitment is perfect and the factory lower hose has a large insulator on it to protect it from rubbing against the fan shroud. Since my engine is largely stock, I think that makes sense. I’ll likely switch over to these on my hatch at some point as well.

Finally, I began bolting up the power steering lines but still need to finish that task. There really shouldn’t be too much more work needed before I can start the car for the first time- one of the main ones being installing the intercooler piping. I had my friend Mike at Detroit Drifting Co. weld up the factory blow off valve provision on my GReddy intercooler piping and picked up a hole saw bit for the battery tray- I just need to take the time to get the hole cut and the piping installed. Aside from that, it really should just be a matter of completing the wiring harness install, finishing the power steering lines, filling the fluids, bleeding the clutch, and seeing if it fires up!

As for other parts pickups, I ended up finding a great deal on a GREX Trust aluminum shift knob a few weeks back on the forums. The top emblem was very cloudy and damaged, so I found a cheap Honda pitch knob on eBay that I snagged for the replacement emblems. I think there is a chance it might be fake, but if it is they did a heck of a job on the packaging. In any case, I now have another one of these Trust knobs at my disposal. I am using a NISMO GT duracon shift knob in the cars right now, but it is always nice to have options. These have gone up in price a lot as of late so I was glad to get a good deal on one.

Roy at Auto Collect Storm was having a deal on his S13 fender braces recently, so I decided to grab a set for both of my cars. I intended to buy the original factory pieces that go in this position and found that they were available a year or so ago, but they have since been discontinued. Roy’s pieces are beefier anyway so these will be a nice addition to the cars! I will probably paint them black prior to installing them so they aren’t visible through the front bumper, but we’ll see.

So there you go! That’s a lot of words for not a ton of progress, but I think things will likely begin to pick up speed a bit in the coming weeks as the weather begins to cooperate and everyone continues to spend a serious amount of time at home away from the outside world. Though it has been difficult to focus on car stuff, I could tell last night that spending some time in the garage helped me to feel refreshed and a bit more positive about the future. It’s good to get away and focus on something trivial for a while- something that you do purely as an escape.

I wish everyone the best of luck with everything going on. Stay sane and stay healthy! Have a great weekend everyone and hang in there!

Damon

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Houston! Final Bout Special Stage South

Houston has become a bit of a second home for me in the past few years. After meeting Jimmy at the first Final Bout event back in 2014, we became fast friends and have been really close ever since. Fortunately flights are always very affordable from Detroit, so I try to make it down there at least once a year to see Jimmy and all of the other great friends I have made down there.

2020 has been no different thus far. Despite just being down there back in October, I returned sooner than I had anticipated- but not just to hang out with the usual suspects this time. Final Bout announced a few months back that there would be numerous Special Stages this year around the USA, including a stop at a local kart track not far from where Jimmy lives in Houston. Naturally I couldn’t miss this opportunity as I have never attended a drift event down there. It would be really cool to see everyone drive in their home state as when I come down we typically just hang out and don’t really attend drift events.

I arrived around 9:30 AM on Saturday, almost an hour ahead of schedule. I have never had this happen with a flight before, but I guess we must have had a good tail wind. Jimmy was kind enough to scarf the breakfast he had just sat down to at Waffle House and rip over to pick me up from the airport in his R32. It’s always a cool feeling to get picked up from the airport in a D car.

Logan’s car was one of the ones I was looking forward to seeing most. The body work on this car is amazing. Great to meet you Logan!

We then cruised right to the venue hosting the event, a local kart track called Speed Sportz. It’s a really cool facility with a couple of kart tracks that looked like they would be really fun to race- though I didn’t get to on this trip. We spent the day on Saturday greeting everyone as they arrived to set up their pits. It was super cool to meet lots of people I had talked to online and to see lots of friends as well.

Big Bad BH and Slide Squad Mark judging Kev’s car.

We left around 4 PM to head to downtown Houston for a pre meet hosted by none other than John P and Mayday Garage. It was super cool to see all of the cars taking over the highway on the way there- something I won’t soon forget. The meet got pretty wild and was very similar to the WekFest premeet I experienced during a Houston visit a couple years back, though with seemingly less shenanigans and police activity. There was a live metal show going on which added to the crazy atmosphere.

Houston’s own.

At one point I noticed that Streetstyle Jay and crew happened to roll by which was really cool to see. It’s crazy to see cars and people you’ve talked to online for years just cruise by in real life. Very cool to meet all of those guys and see their cars! We ended up leaving the meet fairly early (much to my delight as I was ready for some food and Tylenol at that point) and heading back to Jimmy’s house to have some pizza and celebrate Triggs’ birthday. We ended up going to bed at a fairly reasonable time as well which was great.

The birthday boy’s car.

On Sunday, we woke up and headed over to the track for the event. A lot of the event itself is a blur as the event went by really fast, but it was a great time. There was a lot of great driving, but the event wasn’t without its share of carnage either. Unfortunately some of my friends from FatCats were involved in a crash with Mike’s S14 taking the brunt of the damage, but everyone was OK and I think he was in good spirits despite the damage. Thankfully he was able to get back out there to enjoy some driving later that day.

The aftermath of Mike’s crash.

Cool shot of Jimmy’s car on track I took from the back of his truck after a quick on-track repair.

Andrew’s car fresh out of the paint booth and back on BN aero. So good!

Before I knew it, darkness had fallen and we had finished cleaning up after the event. I got to meet some cool people like Josh Buckley and Stewart Leask at the event which was awesome. I had known about Stew for many years through Zilvia and talked to him a fair amount, so it was nice to meet him and his wife. We headed back to Jimmy’s place before going out for some delicious and authentic Texas Mexican food at Taco Bell.

Very cool to see all of these cars and meet the owners!

Monday was very low key. It felt great to sit around in Jimmy’s driveway and shoot the breeze while everyone washed their cars from the event the day before after going out for a nice breakfast. Later in the afternoon Simba, Ilia, 3L, and Gaz came over to hang out for a bit. Gaz traveled from the UK for the event and was a really cool guy. In the afternoon Jimmy decided to remove the livery from his car as he was ready for a change, so we peeled all of that off rather quickly with all of us working on it. I was hesitant, but I actually really like the more street style of the car without the stickers on it. It turned out really nice.

The paint job on Harris’ Corolla turned out great!

Sticker removal party.

Monday hangs.

After grabbing some Chick Fil A, Simba gave me a ride to the airport since his flight to Chicago was due to leave around the same time as mine to Detroit. It was a little rough returning to the winter weather here at home, but thankfully things have been fairly mild since I got back. It was great to be home with the girls again though! Always nice to be home.

Kev’s finished car was another one that I was beyond stoked to see. Great build quality and even better driving all weekend. Great job Kev!

All in all it was a great trip! I can’t thank Jimmy enough for giving me a place to crash and carting me around all weekend. I feel a bit refreshed and excited to work on my own cars now. We’re supposed to have a few days in the 50s the next couple weeks, so I am hoping to get my hatch put back together and ready to be driven in the coming days. Hopefully I’ll have some progress to report next Friday.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to move your clocks forward on Saturday night. Hopefully this means spring will be on the way very soon! Have a great weekend.

Damon

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Garage Reset

Not a whole lot to report this week, but I am pleased to say the black ’89 coupe I have been parting out left the garage earlier today, as well as the two single cam KA engines that came with it. I didn’t expect the engines to sell at the same time, but the buyer of the chassis decided to snag those as well. So nice to have these things out of my garage! I typically don’t have luck finding a reliable buyer for the shell itself so this was a pleasant surprise.

I’ve only got a small amount of items left floating around in the garage- namely the carpet and a couple different interior plastics that people will hopefully be coming to claim next week. I’m really excited to completely clean things out and bring my coupe back into the garage tonight. It will feel awesome to be organized and back on track. Now I just need to resist any tempting cars that might pop up in the near future and get some work done. We’ll see how that pans out…

Hopefully I will have more to report next Friday for you, but I wanted to try to get back into the groove of sharing a weekly update. If you happen to use Instagram, I still have a few miscellaneous parts left from recent part outs for sale in my story highlights. Feel free to check it out and drop me a line if there’s anything you need.

Thanks as always for stopping by. Have a great weekend! Happy tuning.

Damon

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2020 is Here

2020- Man, it is weird to type that out. Time flies! It’s been just over a month since my last update so I’ll try to rack my brain a bit about what has been going on since then. I of course celebrated Christmas and New Years with friends and family which is always a hectic but nice time of year. I don’t think I really touched my cars through the remainder of December aside from installing the NISMO clutch line and slave along with the stock clutch hard line. I also buttoned up installation of the Walbro 255lph fuel pump.

In what has become a bit of a routine for me, I found myself distracted by yet another parts car opportunity shortly into the new year. After parting out three of them between August and November of 2019, I told myself I was done with it until the weather broke in the spring so that I could focus on my own coupe build. However, the weather has been really mild with above-average temps and a general lack of snow, so I sort of left my mind open should the opportunity arise. I ended up sending a lowball offer on a black ’89 coupe that was relisted after New Year’s with a lower price thinking nothing would come of it, but to my surprise the seller accepted my offer. Not only that, but he threw in a spare KA24E engine as well.

Part of my offer on the car was that the seller deliver it to me. He lived about two hours away, so I had expected him to decline- but I guess he was tired with the selling process and just wanted to be done with it. He arrived on a Friday evening right after my kids went to bed and we got the car off of the trailer and into my driveway. The fuel pump wiring was a bit messed up, so he had to connect a battery directly to the pump in order to make it run. One of the tires was flat due to dry rotting, but the unloading process was uneventful.

The car is a KH3 1989 240SX with a single cam KA and automatic transmission. Shockingly it only has 83k original miles on it and was essentially in stock condition. I don’t think any of the interior had ever been taken apart before, so there were a lot of good parts to sell and even a couple to keep for my own cars. It bummed me out to tear down a car with such low mileage, but rust has really taken a toll on this one as usual. The frame rails are virtually gone and there are large holes in several spots along the floor. I was excited to see that the car had a working heads up display (HUD) though! I had never seen one of those in person. The HUD windshield is even uncracked- though I doubt it can be removed from the car without destroying it.

Three weeks will have passed since I got the car tomorrow which is roughly how long it typically takes me to find the time to tear them down. My hope is to complete it by this weekend and get the shell out of my garage ASAP so that I can bring my coupe back into the garage. It’s been sitting outside in my driveway while I tear this parts car down and I am worried someone in my neighborhood might complain- though I haven’t heard anything just yet. Fingers crossed it stays that way! In any case though I would love to have it back inside and out of the elements.

In other news, Trucky and Red brought me my AVS Model Vs from Wisconsin when they came from Chicago to pick up some parts I had for sale. A number of people passed these wheels along to get them to me and I am super appreciative of that! I tossed them on the car for a quick visual and I think they have the potential to be pretty cool. I have tires for them from my TEs but need to order some spacers before I can install them. I’m kind of holding off on that for the moment in case something I want more comes along before spring, but unless it’s a set of 17/18 bronze LMGT4 I doubt they are going anywhere. I’ll also need to have my new front lip painted before spring as well, but I’ve got a bit of time before that needs to happen.

So that’s where things stand right now. The other thing that has taken a bit of my time this week is an email I got from Flickr explaining that they are raising their yearly subscription rate again for their image hosting service. This has been my home base for the last ten years and where I store and host all of my car related content. If you see a photo on this blog or in my build thread on Zilvia.net, that’s where it is currently hosted. My gut reaction is to not renew my account and find another solution as I think the company is likely going to go under, but that means dead images all over the place. It would take a very long time to go back and fix all of those images here on the blog as there are over 300 posts, so I am not sure what I am going to do. Many have encouraged me to just share my build content on Instagram exclusively, but I like having the opportunity to write in a format like this. Even if very few people read it, it’s therapeutic for me and I enjoy having such a detailed record of my progress over the years. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Finally, I saw that an artist named Duncan Brooks that I follow on Instagram was open for commissioned drawings back in December and reached out to him to see if he would create drawings of my hatch and what I hope to have my coupe looking like by the spring. I am really excited about how they turned out! You can see more of his work on his instagram account @duncanbrooksdesign.

With Duncan’s permission, I had them turned into stickers. I’ve added these to the store page- drop me an email if you’d like to snag some. I’ve also restocked some of the previous illustration stickers that I created in the past.

I’m looking forward to enjoying life and trying to continue to create cool things in 2020. In roughly a month I will be traveling to Houston, Texas for Final Bout: Special Stage South. It should be an awesome time! Looking forward to it.

Thank you as always for stopping by and checking out my long-winded posts. It means a lot to me to hear people still check it out from time to time! I’m doing my best to try to keep things rolling. Happy New Year!

Damon

 

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