Interior Restoration – Part 1

I’ve decided to embark on a years long restoration of my S13, as opposed to continuing to make further aftermarket modifications. I will attempt to provide helpful information for other members of the community should they also decide to follow this pursuit. I hope to publish new content every Friday at Noon EST. This is the first of such posts- more to come!

Interior improvements have always been one of my favorite aspects of building my S13. I remember thinking in 2008 when I bought my 240SX that it was going to be pretty tough to save it, but by today’s standards I was actually dealt a pretty good hand.

 My S13’s interior when I bought it circa November 2008.

My interior has been through numerous iterations over the years ranging from tame to wild. In 2016 I went back to kouki 180SX seats (after running a set in 2010 and most of 2011) and reinstalled the rear seatbelts I had removed many years prior to allow my two daughters to ride in the car with me. The convenience of a set of factory seats was great, but I ended up returning to a Bride Maxis and Brix combo with a NeXt Miracle Cross Bar for the 2017 season. My daughters were bummed they couldn’t ride in the car anymore, but my wife and I were expecting our third daughter at the time and I figured we wouldn’t really use the car for that purpose much anymore.

Fast forward to this spring and I was itching for a more convenient solution again. My oldest daughter is in kindergarten now and I wanted to be able to drive her to school in my S13. I also wanted to begin restoring the car and needed to free up some funds to do that, so it made sense to sell some of my interior items like the Bride seats to make the switch. My good friend Liam brought over a clean set of 180 seats from a car he was parting out in Canada which was a huge help. After cleaning them up a bit I installed them and have been enjoying them for about a month or so now.

I attempted to source new plastic covers for the rear seat bolts and sliders from Japan as they have been discontinued here in the states, but I found that unfortunately they aren’t available overseas anymore either. Thankfully a couple people from Instagram offered to send me theirs. It’s really cool to have small details like this that have been missing from my car for years.

I think my next interior modification should be cleaning it…

I wasn’t sure how to get the rear seatbelt covers to stay in place. It had been close to a decade since I removed them and I couldn’t remember what they were held in place with. Thankfully I found the part number (84995-75N10, you will need four total) and was able to order replacements. They’re now held securely in place. It has been really fun to take my two older daughters around town in my car again this spring. I’ve said it many times before, but I think this configuration is here to stay. Like they say about kouki 180SX seats- the third time’s the charm, right?

One of the seatbelt covers refusing to stay in place.

Now held firmly in place with the new clips installed.

My 180SX seat belt setup was missing some screw covers, so I was able to source two of them from Japan (Nissan part number 76998-40F00). Unfortunately the other two are L/R specific and are discontinued, but I am hoping to get a hold of some from a 180 that a friend is parting out. Another small detail I thought was pretty neat. These seatbelts and headliner are one of the favorite things about my interior- really makes a difference when compared to the USDM auto belts.

The plug on the right is one of the above pictured items installed. The hole to the left is missing its cap but unfortunately these have been discontinued.

Another item I was really excited to get a hold of were the rear strut top hats and carpet covers for the hatch area. My car didn’t have these when I bought it and I found that both were discontinued. Thankfully the Instagram community came to my aid again and someone sent both to me free of charge. The carpet covers were black and didn’t match my rear panels, so I decided to remove my panels and dye them black with DupliColor fabric spray. I’ve been considering this for years and was hesitant, but I am glad I finally went through with it. I’ll miss my Miracle Cross Bar as it is one of my absolute favorite parts for this car, but rear seatbelts are more important to me at this juncture. This also allows me to run my OEM privacy cover which I am in the process of sourcing some new OEM installation hardware for- more on that in a future interior post.

While browsing eBay one day, I stumbled upon a pretty neat part I had not seen before. My S13 is an SE model meaning that it came with power mirrors, but for some reason they haven’t worked for a number of years. I am usually running Ganador or East Bear mirrors anyway, so this hasn’t really been an issue for me since even if the power adjustment worked I wouldn’t be able to see very well out of mirrors designed for a RHD car. I thought the block off plate for base model cars without power mirrors looked pretty clean, so I decided to give it a try. I am actually running non-power OEM mirrors at the moment, so it compliments those nicely.

Still some items to address in this photo- all in due time!

At some point down the road I would like to install OEM power mirrors again and figure out why they aren’t working- I’m even considering installing 180SX power folding mirrors at the same time. But for now, the mirror block off plate is a neat option. It’s still available stateside as it works for numerous applications. The part number is 68493-01F02.

One of my favorite things I managed to track down this winter was the windshield wiper and turn signal stalks. Every S13 owner knows these are notorious for fading and just generally looking gross. I picked up a used pair to replace mine shortly after buying my car, but they still weren’t quite perfect. I decided to do some research and found that both items can still be purchased new. The windshield wiper stalk can be ordered through Nissan. The turn signal stalk is a bit tricker as it has been discontinued by Nissan, but I found the identical unit for sale through Rock Auto. I was skeptical about using what I thought was a non-OEM stalk, but it’s completely identical in every way including the brand name on it and part number- it’s just not purchased directly through Nissan.

Quick Sidenote: If you find replacing the stalks with new units to be a bit too pricey, my good friend Ron at RestoMod Ninja sells replacement water slide decals to allow you to restore your current stalks. He also offers instructions on his website Huge hat tip to Ron and everything he is doing for our community!

While replacing my window and turn signal stalks, Ron reached out to me and offered to send me a pair of restored window switches with his custom waterslide decals installed in exchange for my old, worn down units that he could use as a core. I highly recommend his decals and refinishing instructions- it’s crazy that these are what the buttons used to look like! And since I believe the window switches are discontinued stateside, this is really the only option at this point (since 180SX window switches are tailored for a RHD configuration and cannot be used without extensive modification.)

I also elected to replace my window switch bezels with new Nissan units. Truth be told, I bought the passenger side back in 2012 and fortunately it came back to me when I bought the chassis back in 2014. Unfortunately, the passenger side bezel has been discontinued, but the driver’s side was still available new. The bezels have a matte textured look, as opposed to the smooth and glossy finish they develop after years of use. If you’re stuck with what you’ve got, SEM Color Coat is a great spray paint solution for aging interior trim that has held up well in my experience.

The door panels will be addressed soon- stay tuned for a future interior post.

The interior item I am asked about the most is my replacement carpet. I think the word is more or less out there at this point, but for those that may not know I sourced my new carpet from Stock Interiors. They offer it in numerous colors and options. I originally replaced my aging factory carpet with this when I bought the car in 2008, but ended up replacing it again last fall as mine had seen a fair amount of abuse including holes cut for a roll cage and other items I no longer have. I nearly went with a gray color this time around to more closely match the factory carpet, but couldn’t stay away from the simplicity of black. I don’t think it was ever offered as an S13 carpet color, but this is one of those deviations that I am more than comfortable with. The carpet comes untrimmed and it takes a while to properly trim it and make all of the holes for your accessories to bolt in, but it is more than worth the cost and effort. The carpet in most S13s has been destroyed at this point. (Pro tip: be sure to keep the plastic retainers from your factory carpet and transfer them over- learn from my mistakes.) They also offer matching floor mats on their website- look for some content about those in a future interior post as I plan to forgo my checkered floor mats in exchange for something more subtle soon.

Lastly, I decided that a shift knob change was in order to match the more factory appearing interior look I am going for. I’ve been using a TRUST shift knob lately and really like it, but I thought a duracon NISMO GT knob would be a better fit. This shift knob holds a special place in my heart as it was the first shift knob I purchased when I bought the car in 2008. I’ve owned a couple over the years and was really bummed to see it had been discontinued when I tried to buy one again- even in Japan. Fortunately I found a fellow enthusiast through- you guessed it, Instagram- that was willing to let his brand new one (without packaging unfortunately) go. It’s much lighter than the TRUST knob which took some getting used to, but I really like the look of it.

More details on the kouki 180SX (Maxima head unit) in a future interior post.
The NISMO GT knob adds a subtle upgrade to the interior.

The factory shift boot was sagging a bit with this shift knob compared to the TRUST one, so I ended up wrapping some 3M double sided tape around the shifter below the boot to keep the boot in contact with the shift knob- a trick I learned from a Honda forum. Although the duracon version is discontinued, the titanium version is still in production- albeit it a bit more expensive.

I think that just about covers my most recent interior restoration efforts. I am feeling really good about it at this point, I’ve just got a few more details I would like to address. At this point the white face Defi gauges are sticking out like a sore thumb considering the rest of the interior is more or less factory appearing, so it may be time for those to go. I’ve got a number of missing screws and clips on the way as well to really button things up- some of which have been absent for years. Look for that info and more in a future interior installment.

Feel free to comment and let me know if you find this information useful. My primary goal is to document my build information for my own personal reference, but I also hope that it will assist other members of the community with their own builds. I am always open to questions! Feel free to drop me a line at

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A Changed Perspective

If the projects I chose to undertake this past winter have taught me anything, it’s that shifting my focus from modifying my S13 to restoring the aging chassis is a shift in the right direction. Lately I’ve found more enjoyment in scouring the ends of the internet looking for the necessary OEM Nissan components to bring my 25 year old S13 back to its former glory than I have trying to think of changes to make or aftermarket components to add. Maybe it’s just a reminder that I am getting a bit older, but preservation has become my top priority.

Since my last update in late January, I have managed to get the car more or less buttoned up and enjoy driving it a bit as the spring weather has finally decided to arrive here in Michigan. After finishing the Dynamat install and HVAC install, I got the car put together and began driving it a bit in mid-March. I would typically not drive the car so early in the season, but having functioning heat has made cruising around much more bearable- as long as there isn’t too much salt on the roads. The Dynamat made a noticeable difference in all of the noise often associated with driving an S13. It’s still far from silent and I still have a lot of noises to track down eventually, but overall it was worth the extra effort and cost to install it.

I’ve mostly been cruising around town locally as I am not away from my family that often and my commute to work is about a mile, but the car seems to be running well. I drove it out to visit my friend Tim about 1.5 hours away last month to check out his current S13 build- the first major drive of the season. On the way home I noticed a strange misfire that had me concerned, but a set of fresh spark plugs cured the issue.

I’ve done a great deal of research over the last four months to begin to understand and track down items to hide away for when the day finally comes that I can repaint my car. Painting my car has been a goal of mine for nearly a decade, and unfortunately it’s not something that will likely happen in the next year or two- but it is going to happen at some point. Repainting this car is something that I would prefer to do only once in this lifetime, so I want to ensure that it happens when the timing is right and with an experienced painter that has a an eye for detail. It’s going to take a long while for all of the cards to fall into place, but it will be very rewarding when it finally does.

In researching all of the components that were still available from Nissan and beginning to understand the scale of this undertaking, I decided to part ways with my Bride Maxis and Brix. I loved both of these seats, but they just didn’t really fit in with my current vision for the car. The market value for older Bride seats has also become pretty favorable to the seller, so it made sense to part ways with them to get the ball rolling on my restoration. I sold both to good homes and began ordering replacement moldings and weather stripping for the car. I’ve since replaced them with another set of complete front and rear kouki 180SX seats from my friend Liam in Canada- more on that in a future post.

I’ve managed to source a good amount of the items I would like to replace after the car is painted but still have more to collect. It has been a painstaking process to hunt down part numbers and stock for so many individual components, but it’s pretty exciting when each new discovery is made. I’ve always been one to enjoy the process (sometimes more than the end result) so it has been a lot of fun for me.

I’ve been documenting the whole process but have been torn on how much information I want to share. It’s a difficult position to be in at times as I truly love these cars and want to ensure that the community around them remains intact, but I also feel that there aren’t many people left with the same passion for the S13. I am growing older and the world around me is evolving, sometimes in a way that makes me feel like an old man. In a sea of YouTube and Instagram hopefuls, it’s easy to feel like a lot of people aren’t in it for the right reasons anymore. While this might not be the case, I am hoping to pull away from the social media aspect of the scene a bit in the months ahead and focus my efforts on what I have enjoyed the most all along- writing and documenting my build progress here, on a blog/build thread hybrid sort of platform. The audience will be much smaller but I think it might be much more rewarding for me on a personal level.

Quick Sidenote: I suppose that I should note that the whole YouTuber thing isn’t necessarily bad- it’s just different than what I grew up around- and different can sometimes be frustrating. There is definitely value in it as well as things like Facebook and Instagram, I’m just feeling a push to distance myself from it right now if I can. There’s no denying that Instagram has been instrumental in helping me find and sell parts, as well as answers to questions I have had for people in the Nissan community. It is definitely a force that can be used for good- I just believe strongly in the written word and putting forth a bit more effort by documenting my car in a build thread as opposed to quick posts on social media that will likely someday be lost.

It’s easy to want to hoard all of the information and part numbers I have gathered. I spent the time and put forth the effort to find all of this information, so why should I spoon feed it to others? This is a dangerous mentality to develop. At the end of the day all of the info I have gathered is available here on the internet, it just takes time and patience to find it all and execute on it. I’ve always tried to help anyone that reaches out to me with questions about these cars over the years as I feel it is the best thing for this community, so why stop now? Sure, it can be tiring to answer the same questions from time to time, but I’m sure I would not know nearly what I do now about this chassis without the people that were willing to help me along the way.

That being said, hopefully there’s interest in the journey I am about to embark on- but at the end of the day, my goal is to do it purely for personal satisfaction. My hope is to update the site every Friday with new information as I find it, I just need to think of the best way to organize the content in a manner that makes sense and ensures it is as organized as possible for future reference. I hope to create something of value for the people out there that love the S13 chassis as much as I do and help to preserve them for future enthusiasts to enjoy and appreciate.

Thanks for sticking around through this rambling post. Looking forward to getting back in the swing of this if I can!


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Progress Report

I can’t believe it’s been nearly three months since my last update, but I guess that’s what happens around this time of year. Things get hectic around the holidays and priorities shift for the better to focus on being with friends and family. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with friends from both Houston and Chicago during the month of December, as well as enjoy Christmas and New Years with my wife, our three daughters, and our extended families.

The weather in Michigan has been a bit of a roller coaster so far this winter, with one word dominating the forecast: COLD. We have seen many nights below zero during the past month and a half, as well as our fair share of snow. Despite having a small jet heater to use in my garage, it’s tough for me to find motivation to spend time out there when the temps are below 25º. Maybe I’m just getting old, but man- sometimes I can’t make myself do it anymore.

Despite the usual struggle with motivation in the winter, I have managed to make some progress on my car. If you remember back in October of last year, my wife and I took the car on a road trip to Northern Michigan and ran into several issues including a bad wheel bearing, a lack of heat and defrost, leaky floors and seals, and just a generally uncomfortable car to be in. My hope for this winter was to try to finally take the time to improve on all of the details that make my car uncomfortable that I often ignore or neglect in order to add other modifications or change things up periodically. Since the car more or less feels like a “Greatest Hits” album to me right now with a culmination of the best parts from all of my favorite stages over the past decade, I thought it made sense to leave the main pieces alone and focus on improving the driving experience.

The first order of business this winter was reinstalling a complete HVAC system I sourced from a car an old friend was parting out. The blower motor in my S13 either never worked, or worked for a very short period of time- at this point I honestly don’t remember anymore. The AC components in the engine bay were removed by the previous owner before I purchased the car. Back in the winter of 2011-2012 I decided to shave my engine bay and tuck my fuse boxes behind the dash. Well, this presented a problem as it didn’t seem there was enough room to do so. Since the blower and AC didn’t work anyway, I ended up completely removing the HVAC system to have room for the brake lines and fuse boxes. This ended up being one of the decisions that contributed to me parting out the car in October 2012.

Fast forward to today- I removed the complete HVAC setup from an S13 convertible back in November and installed it in my car. I had to remove my custom brake hard lines as those ran through the firewall where the heater core and blower motor are positioned. I decided I was over the shaved engine bay look, so I also took the OEM Nissan brake hard lines from the S13 convertible and am in the process of converting back to the stock line setup. This process proved to be a pretty tedious one, but I am pleased to say everything finally appears to be working properly. The blower motor still didn’t work when I initially turned the key on and tested it, but it turned out to be a bad relay (which was likely the cause of a lot of headache for me over the last nine years.) I then spent a long time rerouting wiring and tucking the engine harness behind the dash to get everything to fit properly with the HVAC setup in place- something I was too lazy and discouraged to figure out when I tucked the bay. This will require me to mount my fuse box in the glove compartment, but I rarely use it anyway. This isn’t the ideal solution in my eyes, but it will be worth it to have functioning heat and defrost again after all these years!

While all of the HVAC work was going on, I also took the time to seal up any holes or openings on the chassis that could be allowing water to enter the interior. I thought it would be a good idea to remove my sound deadening and save some weight when I first bought my car, but the 32 year old me no longer agrees with this choice. I used brake parts cleaner and Duplicolor Grease & Wax remover to take off all of the tar residue left behind from the factory sound deadening before installing Dynamat through nearly all areas of the interior: the firewall, floors, rear seat area, rear fender tubs, trunk, spare tire well, and even the roof. I probably went a bit overboard on this, but I am hoping the results are worth it. For those that might be curious, I used two kits of nine sheets each to more or less completely cover the interior. I still need to do the doors and add some 1/2″ thick Dynaliner I purchased to the floor area to further block noise and heat, but that work should be completed this weekend. I can’t wait to have the dash and carpet back in the car!

Another creature comfort I am actively working to address is the radio. I have only ever had the stock tape deck and speakers in this car. The antenna doesn’t really work anymore though, which left me with one option- using a tape adapter to play music from my phone (or several years ago, my iPod.) This worked (albeit poorly) for a couple months until the tape player ultimately stopped playing tapes. Through just about every road trip in this car, I have either listened to the hum of the SR20 or used headphones. I saw a cool writeup by Restomod Ninja that explained that a specific Nissan Maxima double din head unit is in fact the same part number as the optional head unit for the kouki 180SX in Japan. He sold me one for cheap that I am planning to wire up. My initial thinking was that I would simply replace all four speakers and utilize this head unit with a tape adapter or bluetooth adapter, but I’m debating if that will really be worth it. It would be much easier to go with an aftermarket head unit, but I hate the look of most of them on the market these days. The factory unit looks great and feels very period correct, so I typically choose aesthetics over a radio that sounds nice. We’ll see though- coming from not having anything or bringing a portable Bose bluetooth radio with us to listen to music on our road trips, this might be a huge improvement and a great solution.

So, this is more or less how the car sits currently. I’m hoping to make some progress on reinstalling the interior this weekend. As soon as the interior is back in, I need to paint the brake calipers (they’re a bit worse for the wear since being resprayed in 2014,) finish installing the OEM brake hard lines, and run the coolant hoses for the heater core. I still have a few seals and weather stripping pieces I want to replace before spring as well. My goal is to have everything together and road worthy by the time the weather breaks in April so that I am not playing catchup to get the car out like I often am. We’ll see how it goes though.

Looking forward to testing out the improvements made this winter sometime soon! I think the car should be a lot more pleasant to drive. Thanks as always for stopping by and have an excellent weekend!



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The Snowball Effect

The photos spread through this post are comparison shots from when I bought the car on November 4, 2008 and present day photos from November 4, 2017. I typically do a post recreating these photos each year and felt they sort of fit in with the overall vibe of this post, so I decided to include them.

This car can stress me out to no end if I let it. When you care about the little details of something like a car, one nagging issue easily snowballs into 100 if you decide to try to tackle it and do it properly. When you zero in on something that needs to be addressed, you quickly realize that no perfect solution comes without a host of new problems to solve.

Feeling this way about a project car can completely ruin the enjoyment of a build and prevent you from driving your car at all. I know this because it happened to me. I was so embarrassed and frustrated with the state of my engine compartment back in October of 2011 that I tore the car down and completely shaved the engine bay. While the end result was definitely nice, I found myself back in the same place the following year- plagued by small issues with the car, many of them I had created myself. It didn’t seem possible or practical to achieve perfection, so I instead decided to give up completely and part out the car.

As you’ll quickly learn from doing something like that, it’s better to have a car that’s imperfect than to not have it at all. As a little under two years passed, I realized what I had. Sure, the paint wasn’t perfect and the car had a host of issues, but it was the car that defined me in this hobby. I started to realize that my S13 was the car I really wanted, whether I had the means to make it perfect or not.

I decided to write about this a bit today because I find myself slipping back into the same trap I fell into when I parted out my car in 2012. I’ve more or less left my car unchanged from May 2016 to now (aside from subtle wheel and seat changes) to help reinforce the fact that I simply do not NEED to change anything anymore. As much as I absolutely crave the build process, I have done it enough times now to know what I like; to know when to call it quits and enjoy the simplicity. I can still enjoy tinkering with the car and maintaining it, but the large modifications and constant changes of past iterations have come to a close- largely due to the lack of resources like time and money that come with my current stage of life, but also because I need to train myself to be content.

The discovery of water in my headliner while washing the car back in September has thrown me for a bit of a mental loop. This caused me to really focus on the state of the chassis itself and finally begin to look at the worn out seals and rust that has been present on the chassis for years, despite my best efforts to ignore it. For someone like me, when you stop and look at something in detail, it creates a sense of panic and urgency in the flaws you notice. I’ve poured everything into this car for the better part of a decade, so finding things like rust immediately makes me stress about it. As everyone knows, rust is not something that is going to stop until it has been completely removed and corrected.

These discoveries quickly snowballed into the thinking that I must replace every OEM seal, molding, and piece of weather stripping on the car. Tear it down to a bare shell, strip everything, and have the car completely repainted. And while this probably is the right answer, I’ve forced myself to stop and think about the repercussions of this. Far too many builds fall prey to this mentality. People are praised for perfection, and everyone wants to receive that praise to some extent. It’s too easy for people to fall victim to this mindset. So many S-chassis cars are stripped down to nothing with this goal in mind, only to never be driven again. It takes a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort to build a car from the ground up with a goal of perfection- and let’s face it, most of us simply do not have the means to do it.

So sure, I could sell most of the aftermarket parts on my car to fund new seals and a paint job. I would essentially have a simplified and largely bare-bones version of my car with flawless paint. But where would that leave me? I would likely be afraid to drive the car because of the time and money invested to make it perfect. It would need to stay in the garage to be preserved- but for what? It’s unlikely that this car will mean anything to my three daughters when they are older, other than the fact that it was important to their father. Will gasoline cars even be legal by the time I have grandchildren? I would be proud of the finished product, but do I really want to spend my years staring at the car and not enjoying it to achieve this?

I’m rambling at this point now, but here’s the point: enjoy your car. Don’t get lost in trying to achieve perfection or having everything. Sure, that full paint job or crazy engine swap setup would probably be neat to have, but do you want to give up years of enjoyment to obtain it (possibly only to fail and never drive the car again?) It’s cheesy to say, but we don’t really know how much time we have on this planet. To put forth so much time and mental energy into something like a car is certainly silly, but I know more than anyone how much fun it can be. I guess I’m writing this to remind myself that chasing perfection is a fruitless venture. Put your best foot forward with the resources you have available, but also take time to enjoy what you have. Sometimes simplicity is the best formula.

Yes, my car has less than perfect paint. It has rust in a few places that will likely spread if not tended to. I’m not going to ignore these issues, but I will pace myself with addressing them as life allows me to. As long as I am grateful and enjoy what I have while doing these things, I think I’ll be able to look back on this journey someday without feeling regret. The car doesn’t need to be a perfectly restored museum piece to be enjoyed- and arguably, I’ll probably enjoy it more if it isn’t perfect.

It’s good to be passionate and want to put your best effort into building a car. Just remember to enjoy it while you can along the way and accept the bad with the good. Perfection isn’t obtainable- so don’t let the pursuit of it consume you.


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Season’s End

About a week or so ago, my wife and I drove the S13 up to Petoskey, Michigan to see the fall colors and have a little bit of time away from our three daughters. This was our first time leaving our youngest Alexi which is always a little tricky, but luckily it was a quick trip.

My fender braces arrives from GoodRide Garage on Friday after work, so I decided to lift the car and install those quickly while the girls were playing outside. Kevin and Roy have created a really nice product in these braces which are must beefier than the factory pieces (which are now missing on most S13s, including mine. The front fenders and bumper feel extremely solid with these in place now and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they even fit with my OEM fender liners.

My friends Kevin and Roy of GoodRide included some candy for my kids- they were pretty pumped!

My bumper was mounted fairly well thanks to the OEM brackets, but this adds a lot more stability to my fenders and fender extensions. Pretty trick!

While I had the car in the air for the install, I realized that my right front wheel bearing was bad. I had become suspicious of it after my trip to Shawano for Final Bout III, but had been to lazy to check it until now. Feeling a bit anxious about driving the car over 500 miles on it, I posted on the local 240SX Facebook page to see if anyone happened to have some hubs for sale.

I ended up finding a pair of front hubs not too far away and picked them up on Saturday. Of course, when I went to install it, I stripped one of the nuts on my front spacer in the process. This prompted a trip to harbor freight to purchase a grinder to cut the wheel stud and stripped nut out, allowing me to free the broke rotor. It’s always frustrating when things don’t go smoothly and take far longer than they should, but once the stripped nut was removed things went pretty quickly.

One of the many quick breaks in the clouds on the way up North.

We began our drive North on Sunday morning just as a large cold front and rain storm was passing through. This caused me a fair bit of anxiety on the way up as the rain was very heavy at times and we discovered that the carpeting was once again wet in the driver’s and passenger’s footwell areas. The holes from my former roll cage have been sealed for a while now since this happened leaving Final Bout II, but there must be other holes I have not properly sealed. This combined with all of the leaky window seals and a lack of heat in the car were stressing me out a bit, but I did my best to ignore it and enjoy the trip.

A rainbow and a peek of sun greeted us when we arrived at the hotel (The white and red building on the right of the photo)

How you have to dress to ride in my car in October.

One of the main attractions that brought us to Northern Michigan was M-119, also known as The Tunnel of Trees. This is a winding 45 MPH road that snakes along the coast of Lake Michigan through a heavily wooded area. There are numerous tight turns and elevation changes that make it a blast to drive. While the road is technically suited for two-way traffic, there is no center line and things get fairly tight at times. Most of the traffic is comprised of people putzing along to admire the fall colors, so you do get stuck from time to time- but it’s a lot of fun when you get a clear shot. My car bottomed out constantly due to some bumps and the crown in the road, dragging the skid plate and exhaust for much of the drive- but it was still a blast.

The Devil’s Elbow- apparently you can hear spirits here at night… or is that just squealing tires?

It was really cool to see the large waves in the Little Traverse Bay at the hotel on Sunday due to the high winds from the system moving through. We ended up making the best of the cold and often rainy weather and really enjoyed the trip and decided to make one last rip through The Tunnel of Trees on Monday afternoon before heading home. Unfortunately, my other front wheel bearing began to fail on the way home, causing an ear-shattering hum for the entire drive home.

The Little Traverse Bay seen just down the road from the hotel.

By the time I got the car home and in the garage on Monday night, I was feeling pretty drained and discouraged. The car was the filthiest I had ever seen it and almost felt like a lost cause. I took a couple days off from driving it and ended up washing the exterior on Wednesday which helped lift my spirits a bit. I then removed the carpet to dry in the sun and replaced the other failed wheel bearing. Even with no passenger seat or carpet in place, it was great to drive it to work on Friday to take advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures.

Unfortunately, a pair of large rain systems are currently moving through Michigan, bringing with them temperatures more in line with our seasonal average for late October. I’ll probably sneak in a couple more quick drives before the snow flies and the roads get salted, but this definitely feels like the end for 2017. This off season will likely not bring any new modifications to the car, but I hope to accomplish some restoration work to solve some of the issues we faced on this most recent trip. It’s time to focus on details that have been overlooked or ignored during my ownership. Hopefully it comes out of hibernation better than ever.

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Preservation vs. Modification

If you’re one of the few that has managed to follow the story of my S13 from the beginning in 2008, it’s probably pretty obvious that things have slowed down a bit in my garage over the past couple years. When I first bought the car, I was finishing my last semester in college, eventually starting my career a couple months later. Despite what I may have thought back then, I had the time and disposable income to dive into a very involved and in-depth build. The car was essentially a blank canvas that required a massive amount of improvement so there was plenty to do.

Fast forward nine years and things look a bit different. I’m married with three beautiful daughters and a mortgage payment. We decided it would be best for my wife to stay home after our third was born, so I am now the sole source of income for the household. Time and money are no longer things I have an abundance of, but fortunately my passion for the car has not faded. Not to mention the fact that I feel like I can finally say that I have the car more or less where I want it. Swapping out different parts numerous times during the years has allowed me to assemble what I feel is a great culmination of the different stages of the car. There are always things that would be nice to have, but additional major modifications aren’t really a part of the plan at this stage in life.

So, what to do? While pondering this and washing the car one night a couple weeks back, I discovered that the headliner near the windshield on the passenger side was wet. I knew there were a few spots of rust on the roof and A pillars that have been there since I bought the car, but I did not realize how bad the rust along the windshield has gotten. Upon further inspection, I could see that the rust along the reveal molding is likely causing the leak.

I’ve got to admit, this discovery got me pretty bummed out. At this stage, virtually every pane of glass on the car leaks in some way, but this one felt a bit more serious. It would need to be addressed soon to avoid my 180SX headliner being destroyed from the water. One thing I love about this car is the fact that I can always drive it, rain or shine. Driving in the rain can be a little bit of a hassle at times without heat or AC in the car, but I always manage to enjoy it- even despite the leaky windows.

The weekend rolled around and I payed my longtime friend Tim a visit to help him work on assembling his recently painted S13 chassis. He had purchased all new seals and moldings, removing the glass to properly spray the entire car. I began to research which OEM Nissan items are still available and was pleased to find that there’s more out there than I had expected.

All of this further fueled a shift in my mindset that has been brewing in the past few weeks- a shift from modification to restoration. The new found feeling of contentment this summer with the way the car looks has allowed me to see that it is time to focus on the details- the little things about my car that have been nagging at me for the last several years that I often ignore or brush aside in favor of more exciting projects.

My first instinct when hanging out with Tim and his painter (who was there cutting and buffing his freshly painted car) was to sell parts off of my car in order to fund a full paint job. Surely if I let go of some of the “bonus” parts like the seats, cross bar, and mirrors I could afford to have the car completely worked over and repainted. While that would accomplish something I have wanted to do since I bought the car, it would also destroy the feeling of contentment I have finally managed to obtain. I’d essentially be taking two steps back with a freshly painted car.

The other issue is my current life situation. Stroll past my garage on any given night of the week, and you’re likely to see my car getting hit with a Tinkerbell umbrella, grazed by a pair of training wheels, or covered in greasy hand prints. While I like to believe I could further train my kids to respect the car, kids are just that- kids. I try not to be too high strung about it, but these things happening to a car I just had completely worked over would surely turn any brown hair I have left to gray. Having this car fully painted is something I have wanted since I bought it- and it’s something I only plan to do once. That being said, that’s something that needs to wait until my kids are a bit older.

For now, the plan is to have the windshield removed this spring when the weather warms up. Tim’s painter TJ is going to repair all of the rust and dings on the roof. My hope is to replace the majority of the moldings and weather stripping on the car to stop all of the leaks I am experiencing in the rain so that I don’t need to worry about it anymore. I’m undecided if I want to install the moldings or hoard them until I paint the entire car one day, but that could be a long ways off- probably best to install them now and seal everything up.

The new door strikers were the first piece of the restoration puzzle. It’s fun to do something so simple and inexpensive that can provide so much satisfaction. The doors make a completely different sound when they close now and the gaps make a big difference in the appearance of the car. Last night, I spent a couple hours in the garage wiring up the rear window defroster. The original hatch on the car had numerous rust holes and wiper on it, so I swapped it out many years ago for a wingless and wiperless version. In doing so, I wired the third brake light but never bothered to wire up the defroster. I did some driving in the rain this week and the back window quickly fogged over like it always does. I decided to do some research and spend the time to wire it back up properly.

My wife and I will be driving the car a few hours North this weekend for a quick getaway- the first we have had since having our third daughter. There’s some rain in the forecast, so that will be a good test to see if the defroster wiring fix worked or not. After this trip, the car will probably be out for just a couple more weeks before the temps really drop off and the threat of snow and road salt looms. I’m looking forward to going over the car a bit this winter and attempting to restore many of the aspects that have been neglected for the last nine years.

Thanks for stopping by- have a great weekend!


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Mind the Gap

One thing that has bothered me since I bought my car in 2008 is the door strikers. The original owner had taped some cut up refrigerator magnets to the driver’s door in an effort to ensure that the dome light turned off when the door was closed. I tried to adjust the door strikers to pull the door in further, but ultimately turned the dome light completely off so that I didn’t need to worry about draining my battery when the car is parked. Not only that, but the doors never lined up with the rear quarter panels. It was a subtle issue, but one that bothered me.

Nine years later, I have finally solved the issue with a pair of new OEM door strikers from The plastic/rubber bushing on the strikers wears and develops play over time, which prevents your door from closing properly. It’s fairly straightforward to swap them out with a phillips screw driver, unless you manage to strip one of them like I did. I ended up having to drill one screw out on the passenger side and replace it.

The worn out bushing on my original door strikers.

New striker installed.

It takes a bit of adjustment to make the door close smoothly and ensure the door lines up with the quarter panel, but this is a cheap and easy part to replace to help your S13 feel like new again. Thanks to Ron at RestoMod for the recent inspiration to tackle little details on my car like this.

Before & after comparison of the door gap with old strikers vs. new.

Aside from that, there isn’t much to report. It’s been in the low 90s here in Michigan for the last few days, but it appears temps should begin to feel a bit more like fall again beginning tomorrow. It’s nearly time to start thinking about putting the car away, but I’ll try to keep it on the road until the first time they salt the roads. It’s going to be tough to park the car this year after driving it nearly every day- I’m very grateful for how well it has held up this season!

I’ve got one more trip planned for the car in the coming weeks that I’ll be sure to write about sometime in October. Here’s to hoping the good luck continues!

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