Eight Years Later

Today marks the eight year anniversary of purchasing my S13. I’ll always remember that I bought it on November 4th, the day of the presidential election in 2008. I’ve sort of made it a tradition to take photos of the car on this date each year to show the build’s progress. They’re a bit less meaningful now as they show more of a current state than a progression, but it’s still kind of fun to do none the less.

Conditions weren’t ideal for photos today (a bit too sunny) and I rushed them a bit on my way back to the office from my lunch break, but here there are anyway for your viewing pleasure:

It’s kind of wild to think about how life has changed since I bought the car. Since that day I’ve graduated college, gotten married, bought a house in a new town, had a baby, parted out the car and sold the chassis, had another baby, bought the car back and rebuilt it, and changed jobs. Pretty thankful to have this car after all it has been through.

The days are getting shorter and the air is much more crisp in the mornings. I’ll probably try to sneak a few more quick drives in before the car is put away for good until spring. Going to miss it!

Happy Friday and thanks for stopping by.


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Summer Sixteen

I can’t believe we are already a couple weeks into fall. The leaves are turning here in Michigan and though we have had some unseasonably warm temperatures for the most part lately, it’s clear that the weather will take a turn for the worst very soon. Winter prep around the house is starting to ramp up and I am working to make arrangements for reliable winter transportation. It’s nearly time to bring the snow tires upstairs from the basement.

2016 has probably been the quietest season I’ve ever experienced with my S13. And though I often miss the build process and spending late nights out in the garage, there is something oddly satisfying about enjoying the simplicity. In its current state my car is about as bare bones as I can make it and still feel a sense of pride about it: No real aftermarket exterior additions, a virtually stock SR20DET under the hood, and a simple interior with very few modifications.

I’m sometimes tempted to feel disappointed in the car when compared to what it used to be like when I owned it previously. While it has the same core set of parts overall, it lacks all of the excess it used to feature- gauges, a roll cage, red fabric all over the place, cool spec braces, larger turbo setup, etc. But if this summer has taught me anything, it’s that simplicity really is the key. I elected to remove a number of “extras” from the car this spring and to be honest I really didn’t miss most of them. I’ve essentially got a stock kouki 180SX with wheels, coilovers, exhaust, and a couple interior tidbits but I thoroughly enjoy cruising around in it. While it’s really neat to have a bunch of rare parts, it really doesn’t take much to get enjoyment from driving your car. I think it’s got just the right amount of style and tuning as it sits for me to really appreciate it. I’ll always have a desire to make changes and try things that may be a little new to me, but I’m really focused on trying to leave the car as-is and enjoy it right now.

With that goal in mind, I think the only change I have made to the car since my last post in July is the addition of a pair of red Bride Brix 1.5 seats with Bride MO seat rails. While I did enjoy the look and feel of the kouki 180SX seats, I was really longing for something with bolsters. I’ve owned red seats in the past but have rarely gotten to drive a car with them in place. The Zeros and Ergo combo of late 2011/2012 saw little seat time as the car was torn down a lot for the engine bay project, and the Zeta II NEOS/Ergo for the GS never fully got bolted into the car during the rebuild as I chose to go with black seats instead. Overall I think the pair of brix add just enough to the car to make it pop a bit. It feels more complete and exciting with the red seats in the interior.

Since starting my new job back in February, my commute to the office is now exactly 1 mile. As you can imagine, that isn’t even enough time to warm the car up. I do still bring it to the office occasionally, but I typically ride my bike instead to get some exercise and save money on gas. It feels silly to drive such a short distance, but with the weather getting a bit nastier I am losing my motivation to ride. I did still get to log a good amount of miles on the car this summer though with a couple of day trips to the beach and two 8+ hour treks to US Air in Wisconsin- one for Final Bout in July and another for Club FR Bonus Round in September. Thankfully I had zero issues with the car all summer and haven’t had to do much of anything aside from getting it aligned and changing the oil.

While at those events at US Air I have grown incredibly close with an awesome group of individuals that all happen to hold one interest in common: drifting. They were close to convincing me to trying the skid pad (AKA parking lot) at the Bonus Round event, but I realized that my front tires touch the fenders when turning the wheel with the car stationary. While I was finally feeling eager enough to give it a try, I didn’t want to ruin the nearly perfect fenders on my car currently. I know it sounds lame, but I’ve wanted a pair of dent free metal fenders for years and finally got them in 2016.

So, the plan for this off-season and 2017? Leave the car largely untouched this winter. I have a couple of very small things I plan to install to prep the car and might even replace some maintenance items as a precaution, but otherwise it’ll pretty much stay the same if I can help it. I’ve been considering a wheel change for 2017 but just can’t find anything I like better than my TE37s. We’ll see if that changes during the off season though.

2016 has taught me to keep things simple. Try not to overdo it and you might be surprised with the results. Thanks for reading!



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Dinkin’ Around

Well, based on my last update you probably thought I was done dinkin’ around with this car for the whole season, didn’t you? If you’ve been around for any length of time, you likely saw through this ill-conceived notion.

While having the car’s exterior be completely OEM was fun, I also began to feel a bit nerdy. I like the contrasting amber color on a black car, but looked through some old photos of previous versions of my car (as well as some of the classics like Itoh) and decided I wanted to try removing the amber again. There’s something unmistakably Japan about running clear side markers and dual function position lamps with the OEM turn signals removed. It just looks much more aggressive this way. I tossed my old DMAX clear side markers back on and ordered a new pair of their dual function position lamps that will arrive tomorrow. I’ll keep all of the minty fresh OEM lights packed away in their original boxes should I decide to change back at some point.

I decided to try something that I have debated for years while I was at it. I’ve always thought cutting out the front plate bracket to expose the intercooler looks awesome, but I’ve never had the brass to actually do it. Despite wanting to persevere my newly purchased OEM bumper knowing that one day too soon they will be discontinued, I caved in and got out my dremel. It went fairly well- it’s not quite perfect, but I think I am happy with it for the most part. It can look a little odd from some angles, but after staring at it for a few days I think I really like it.

I took the opportunity to do a little maintenance on the car over the long holiday weekend as well. I finally got around to removing my old TE37 decals that had begun to chip and peel away, as well as all of the old adhesive from stick-on wheel weights over the years. While the car was on stands I fixed a power steering leak that had been bugging me for a decent amount of time and looked over all of the suspension components to be sure that nothing looked out of order. Hoping the car is ready for the trip to Shawano for Final Bout Special Stage Central in about three weeks.

I’ve got a couple other minor things in mind for the remainder of the summer, but nothing too drastic. I’ve decided to hold onto my TE37s and current tire specs for the foreseeable future. LMGT4s had been tempting me like crazy, but for now nothing beats the look and condition of my current wheels- especially with the new stickers!

Thanks for stopping by!


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First Day of Summer

I’m told that today marks the official kickoff to summer (according to Facebook.) It’s been close to a month since my last update so I figured now would be a good time to talk a bit about what I have been up to and what’s been going on with the car.

For the most part things have been relatively quiet in my garage (from a working on cars standpoint anyway.) I’ve done little to the S13 since my last update aside from removing my NeXt miracle cross bar and installing the factory rear seat belts in its place. This small change has allowed Alicia and I to take our daughters along with us which has been a real treat. While we haven’t done that a ton, we did take the car to Dairy Queen and a local car meet, in addition to the occasional daycare pick up and drop off duty per my youngest daughter’s request (Hattie mumbles, “Race car? Race car?” when I arrive to pick her up in the Mazda5.) After having the bar laying around in the garage for a few weeks, I ultimately decided to part ways with it and sold it for a price I was happy with last week. While it was always one of my favorite pieces for the car, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me to keep it around. I guess a more practical mindset is shifting into frame for me from a car standpoint right now. I went ahead and installed my 180SX headliner while removing the cross bar- so nice to finally have this piece in place!

I also parted ways with a few other items including my Ganador mirrors and Bride seat rail. I gave the Ganadors one more go and still love the look of them on the car, but I’ve grown accustomed to being able to actually see what’s behind me, so I decided to cash out on those as well. I’ve done this a number of times in the past so it’s not irreversible, but I am digging the look of the stock mirrors right now. Last week I removed my Raybrig headlight housings and HID kit and replaced them with a pair of Hella E Code housings and bulbs. I like the slightly more factory look of the Hella lights when combined with the full OEM lighting up front and they provide better light output with less unwanted attention- all good things. Finally, the NISMO 2 way diff I had previously installed was driving me nuts. I hated the constant clunking and blank stares from people at the grocery store assuming my car was broken. I’ve switched back to the J30 VLSD which works just fine for street cruising.

Yesterday I attended the Eyes on Design car show at the historic Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Point, Michigan that takes place on Father’s Day every year. It’s a pretty large show filled with everything from vintage bicycles and motorcycles to cars ranging in age from the Model T to 70s muscle cars, even new concept vehicles. There’s a small “tuner” class every year that always brings an interesting group of cars. It’s a bit of a catch all and probably pales in comparison to much of the show (my car included) but it’s always fun to be a part of it. This was my fifth year at the show and my third with the S13.

My cars at Eyes on Design shows from past years: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2016:

It was fun to see a lot of cool cars and run into new and old faces. My car seemed to hold up well aside from the obvious fact that I still really need to get it aligned. I haven’t been driving it much now that I work very close to home and don’t have a solid lead on a good alignment place at the moment so I have been avoiding it. Alicia brought the girls out for a bit and it was fun to walk around the grounds with them and eat sponge bob popsicles ( a welcome treat as it was sunny and 90 degrees out.)

In many ways the vehicles and owners of the more classic classes at this show reflect how I feel about my car these days. If my S13 is truly going to be the car I hold onto, it changes the way I think about what I do to it and what I use it for. I’ll always be into modifying cars, but this feels like a bit of a natural resting point for me right now. Many people have asked me what I am doing and if I am parting the car out again, but the only real answer is that I am enjoying a more simplified version of my car right now. It’s refreshing to take the car down to what you feel is the bare-bones amount of choice modifications to still enjoy it, and I feel for the most part that’s where I am right now. Having lots of cool parts is definitely a blast, but there’s something to be said for a conservative approach as well.

As for what the rest of the summer holds car wise, I really don’t think I will get into much. At some point I would like to add some sound deadening to the floor and under dash area in addition to replacing the carpet as mine still has holes in it from the Cusco cage and Do Luck floor bar. I will probably go with a slightly lighter hue this time that isn’t quite black like I have now- maybe a gray that is a bit darker than the stock carpet but isn’t black either. I would also like to add some fabric to the door cards to clean those up a bit- something subtle that will likely be a similar color to the new carpet. Alicia gave me the green light to pick up a new head unit and speakers for the car for Father’s Day, so I need to go ahead and order those items. I’ve always had the factory setup in my car and it really doesn’t work well at all due to its age, so it would be really cool to be able to listen to music on our trip to Final Bout next month.

I’ve been strongly considering changing my wheel and tire setup to something square- perhaps 17×9 +22 with a 245/40 all around. This would of course require the height to be raised, but if it still managed to look good I think it would drastically improve the car’s drivability. I’m pretty torn on this since I do love the TE37s and the way the car sits at the moment, but it sure would be nice to stroll into a normal tire place to have the car aligned and to get my tires mounted. I think the only wheels I would probably use for something like this would be either TE37s or LMGT4s, both in bronze. We’l see what the future holds though.

As for the engine, I would like to add a catch can at some point. I have a power steering leak that needs to be addressed but I have been too lazy to fix it. I am also using a fairly old air filter and the stock intake tube, so improving those things would be nice to take care of. I’m growing a bit tired of Cusco solid engine mounts and don’t need the clearance for the vented hood any more, so maybe I’ll swap those in favor of a pair of NISMO units. Aside from those small details I don’t plan to change anything under the hood unless something breaks.

So that’s where things stand currently! Looking forward to our trip to Final Bout: SSC next month in Wisconsin to see old friends and make some new ones. Thanks for stopping by!


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Suspension Work

Well, let’s see here… I’ve fallen a bit behind once again. After finishing up the aero install, I received my 25mm spacers and DMAX catback exhaust. I installed the spacers up front to dial in some more camber and finally get my wheels to clear the front springs. Once that was finished and the exhaust was bolted up, I pulled the car out of the garage for a couple quick snaps to see what I thought of the new look.

With confirmation that spacing the front wheels out 25mm would be OK, I finally decided on installing some front suspension components from GK Tech. I had purchased their front roll center adjusters a couple months back, but bailed in favor of S14 front control arms. In the end, I thought it would be best to correct the suspension geometry as much as possible while also spacing the front wheels out a bit. The GK Tech kit seemed like the best of both worlds. It’s nice that it corrects roll center and allows you to remove some preload from your springs while keeping the car fairly low.

I also opted to install a pair of GK Tech front tie rod ends to correct bump steer. After installing these parts, I found that my front wheels were still rubbing on the coilover springs. After a bit of research, I found that the two holes on the lower bracket that bolt to the front knuckle were too close to the body of the coilover, causing the wheel to hit the springs- even with the track width widened 25mm. This seems to be an issue with more generic S13 coilover setups. I removed the suspension from the car and finally decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to something a bit nicer.

I reached out to a friend at Touge Factory and picked up a set of the newly revamped Stance Super Sport coilovers. I’ve always heard good things about Stance products but had never tried them for myself. The main aspect that drew me to them was the fact that their lower bracket design was far nicer than my previous coilovers. The knuckle bolt holes were much farther out on the lower bracket, preventing my wheel from hitting the spring.

My proximity to Touge Factory (located outside of Chciago) was an advantage in this case. The coilovers arrived quickly, allowing me to avoid a few days of downtime waiting for parts to arrive from the West coast. I was really impressed with the box and packing materials. Most people don’t notice or care about things like this, but as a graphic designer I always have a nerdy appreciation for these things.

The new color scheme on Stance’s coilovers is quite classy. All of the components felt more durable and looked beefier than my previous setup. I especially liked the larger collar design. The camber adjustment on the front top hats is also much nicer than anything I have used in the past. The coilovers came with spanner wrenches, instructions, a few stickers, and a license plate frame.

Installation went rather smoothly. I did have to remove one collar up front and add a bit of preload to the spring to achieve the ride height I was after, but thankfully I didn’t have to flip the front brackets. Height adjustment was smooth and the coating/finish on all of the components is super nice as well. I opted to install my Kics 11mm spacer on the rear of the car to bring the effective specs to 18×9.5 +11, very close to the specs of my old silver TEs. I had to add a touch of camber as a result, but it looks nice with the added camber up front.

I was headed to my in-laws’ house for the weekend and decided to drive the S13 about five minutes after finishing the suspension adjustments. Despite the fact that I need a proper alignment, I am seriously blown away with how the car drives now. The combination of the Stance coilovers and the GK Tech components makes a noticeable difference in how the car drives. Bumps are much less harsh and dampening is very effective. Everything feels less bouncy/harsh all around a number of the clunks and noises I would hear from time to time seem to have disappeared. These are by far the best coilovers I have ever used on my S13. I didn’t expect to notice much of a difference, but I am pretty blown away!

While I was at it, I also replaced a wheel bearing that had gone bad up front while I had the car in the air for the suspension install. I also took the time to trim and install my brand new OEM fender liners that I picked up recently. I had a similar setup a few years back and really liked how it cleaned up the overall look of the car.

At this point the S13 is largely complete- for now. I still need to install the 180SX headliner this week. I ended up selling my set of AVS Model Vs- while I wanted to see them on the car, it just didn’t really make sense to keep them around. I knew that I liked the TE37s better, so I figured it was best to let them go.

I had planned to use the Model Vs as drift spares, but after looking at the calendar I am not sure when I’ll realistically be able to make it to Shawano again for another Club FR event. To be completely honest, my NISMO two way has been fairly annoying on the street. While I really am interested in trying drifting, a part of me doesn’t want to drift this car. While it seems casual, it’s a fairly big commitment for me that I’m just not that sure I am really up for. I’ll continue to cruise around town like I always do and who knows- maybe I’ll give it a shot at some point, or maybe I’ll think better of it.

Next on the list is an alignment and installing my headliner. Looking forward to enjoying the car a bit more as the weather finally improves (it was snowing last Sunday.) Thanks for stopping by!


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Close, But No Cigar

It’s been a while since my last update and I know I left a few of you hanging. Well, despite being very close to having the car completed for the Club FR Drift Day last Saturday, I ultimately decided it was best to leave the car at home to avoid any issues on the trip.

I drove the car to work on Friday morning and for the most part everything went smoothly. There was still a bit of contact up front between the wheel and the coilover spring due to a ride height adjustment I had made. For some reason my front wheels always seem to be extremely close to the springs with these coilovers and I have never figured out why. The wheels are 17×9 +22 spaced out to +11 and should have plenty of clearance. I’ll likely end up replacing them at some point in the future anyway so it’s not too big of a deal.

I called the body shop when I left work Friday and they told me that the remainder of my aero was completed. At this point I figured I was golden: Slap the aero on after the kids went to bed and head out in the morning, right?

As these things usually do, I realized once I dove into installing the aero that it was taking much longer than I had anticipated. I finally had a freshly painted set of OEM 180SX aero again and I wanted to be sure that I did my best fitting it to the car for a worthwhile end result. Sure, I could have slapped it all together in a rush or left it off for the event, but I really wanted to do it once and do it right.

By the time I got to the rear of the car, I found that my Trust DD was a bit too far to the left meaning that I couldn’t mount the valence on the left side. I tried messing with the hangers a bit and even swapping back to my test pipe, but just couldn’t get it to sit right. By now I was frustrated and exhausted. Sitting on the cold garage floor at 3 AM knowing that Jimmy (who was upstairs in bed by this point) were leaving at 6 AM to drive nearly eight hours to Wisconsin, I just had a feeling that doing that probably wasn’t the wisest choice. I decided to leave the car at home and make the trip with Jimmy in his rental car. Even though I was bummed out, I immediately felt a sense of peace and relief.

After sleeping for what felt like ten minutes, Jimmy and I hit the road. We stopped in Indiana after a few hours to pick up our friends Max and Tony of BloodRunner/Drift Wolrd fame. Shortly after they hopped in the car, we picked up their friend Garrett who was in town from Western Canada at an Oasis to come along for the Journey. Tony and Garrett both have very nice S13s. It was determined that I would ride in the middle of the back seat for the duration of the journey since I wussed out and didn’t bring my car.

The trip ended up being a blast. It was great to see old friends and meet some new ones at the track. Though it was a bummer that I wasn’t driving my car, people seemed to sympathize for the most part. I think many people were under the impression that I live closer or that I was trailering my car, so when most heard the circumstances they seemed to agree it may not have been smart to attempt to drive the car out for the event this early in the season.

After returning home, saying our goodbyes, and getting back into life’s routine for a couple of days, I removed my exhaust and finished installing my rear valences. I still have some adjustments to make with the aero fitment and ride height/camber, but overall I’m really excited about the state the car is in. I loved the aggressive look of the Hot Road aero and Koguchi Power hood, but this current look has me really pumped.

I found that my front fenders must have been pulled a bit in their previous life and the front wheel fitment is a bit weak. I received a pair of 25mm spacers from my friend John at Touge Factory yesterday, so I need to install those and add some more camber up front to see if I can make it work. I’m still not sure what I am doing with the front suspension, but that’s something I can sort out on another day.

My new exhaust should be here Monday, so once I make the small suspension and aero adjustments and bolt that on I should be ready to drive. I’m dying to start putting miles on this thing and making sure all of the kinks are worked out so that I can give attending a Drift Day another shot very soon.

I’ve currently got a full set of 17/18 bronze Model V in my garage in addition to the TEs, but I am probably going to sell the set. We’ll see though. It would be kind of fun to at least see them on the car first, but I am pretty confident I’ll like the TEs more.

Hope to have more content and seat time soon. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


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Roller Coaster

What a roller coaster ride it has been trying to get this car ready for my trip to Shawano. I’ve done a terrible job at taking photos of my recent progress, so this post will primarily be made up of words. I’ll try to throw a couple of random pictures from my phone in here to keep it at least somewhat interesting though.

Last Friday night was the only time I had set aside for the car all weekend as we had plans with the kiddos. I ended up driving to meet my friend Tim half way from his house to pick up my S14 control arms. The correct Whiteline bushings finally arrived the night prior, so my hope was that I could press those quickly and get the front suspension back together. As fate would have it, I wasn’t able to press them completely in my garage without a press. I was bummed about this, but with only one week to go until the event I ultimately decided to reassemble the front suspension to get the car one the road.

With the front suspension and brakes back in place, I moved to the back of the car. I installed my NISMO 2 way, replacement axle, catalytic converter, and Trust DD catback exhaust. I really like how the car sounds with a cat in place. It’s really odd for the car to be so quiet, and it has a nice refined tone. Finally, I trimmed my front bumper and turn signals to clear the intercooler and finished installing the front lighting.

On Saturday morning, my good friend and fellow S13 owner Joe came over from Toronto with his Dad. Joe brought me a complete set of kouki 180SX seats and a Canadian headliner for my interior. I’ve wanted one of these headliners for a long time now to complete my manual seatbelt swap but never had a way to get one here from Canada or the US. Pretty exciting! It’s very weird to be sitting in factory seats again, but I think it looks kind of cool for a street cruiser. I’m sure I’ll have another bucket at some point down the road.

By the end of the day Monday, my kouki 180SX front lip and side skirts had still not cleared customs in New York. I was pretty bummed about this but decided I would probably have to remove the wing and drive the car up to Shawano without aero for the event. But as luck would have it, I received a package slip in the mail Tuesday night stating that the aero was ready for pickup at the post office. I picked it up last night and will be taking it to the body shop on my lunch break today. Thankfully they have agreed to have the pieces done by end of day Friday, so with any luck that will happen and I’ll be able to install everything Friday night before Jimmy and I leave Saturday morning!

It’s taken a lot of things to fall into place, but I’m feeling pretty good about things at this point. Hopefully the car will be completely assembled and ready for departure by early Saturday morning!


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