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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A New Year Approaches

Alright, let’s see here… let’s get back to making some progress on the S13 coupe. December has been a very busy month as it always is, but I have been trying to make chip away at the list for this car when I can. Motivation comes and goes, and it doesn’t always sync up with free time or reasonable temperatures to be working in the garage- but occasionally things fall into place and I manage to get some work done.

Since my last update, I managed to complete the sound deadening install on the interior of the chassis. I went with Dynamat again since it worked pretty well on the hatch. After getting that into place, I was able to reinstall the HVAC setup and dash bar. I bricked my phone a few weeks ago and I think I lost some of the in-progress photos of this, but they were less than spectacular anyway. I still need to add some to the doors and maybe the trunk area, but wanted to wait a bit as I may end up replacing the driver’s side door with a cleaner one to avoid the body work needed to fix the original door.

There was one floor plug missing from the car. I was bummed to find that it was discontinued, but stumbled across a Honda power antenna delete grommet on eBay that looked close in size and decided to give it a shot. Fortunately it fit like a glove!

After the sound deadening was installed, I went ahead and put the rest of the chassis harness and fuse boxes back into the engine bay. These had been removed by the previous owner of the car, but fortunately he did so with a lot of care and all of the clips were still intact. I cleaned the harness and fuse boxes thoroughly before putting it all into the engine bay. I elected to leave everything in the factory location this time around just to keep things simple. I ended up taking the day off for my birthday since it fell on a Friday and primarily spent it tackling this. This was one of the tasks I had been dreading and dragging my feet on, so it felt good to make some headway.

As I have done numerous times over the years, I turned to Wiring Specialties to assist me with an engine swap harness for this car. Their quality is second to none and Yury has always been willing to help me out over the years. It’s so nice to install a fresh, brand new harness with your engine swap and not need to worry about the condition of the harness preventing your car from running or causing other issues. These guys have it down to a science!

I’ve started running the harness through the firewall, but haven’t completed installation just yet. I am utilizing a factory ECU mounting bracket that I was amazed to find in one of the cars I parted out- I had never even seen one before. So nice to have the ECU mounted securely where it belongs! I also kept one to use on the hatch as well.

I think I forgot to share in my last update and have since lost the photos I took, but I installed the Parts Shop Max Cobra downpipe a couple weeks ago as well, along with a brand new O2 sensor I picked up from my friends at NissanParts.cc. The O2 sensor that came on the engine was an ISR one and I just felt it made sense to replace it with a genuine Nissan unit.

Moving back to the inside of the car, the next order of business was installing a fresh pair of turn signal and wiper stalks that I sourced from Rock Auto. These are 100% identical to the OEM Nissan units in every way- right down to the brand that manufactures them. Since one side is discontinued by Nissan, this is a great solution.

I also received my steering wheel and hub of choice- A Nardi Classic 330mm leather steering wheel and Works Bell Splash hub. I’ve never had a quick release before and always thought they were sort of neat, but not really necessary at all considering I just cruise my cars around on the street. It’s the best combo in my opinion!

The size difference vs. the stock wheel is pretty crazy.

The next order of business was installing some fresh carpet. As I have done many times over the years, I once again turned to Stock Interiors. I was pleased to see that they now offer a carpet kit for the S13 that does not have the molded provisions in the back for the automatic seatbelts which is great if you swap to Canadian/JDM manual belts like I have. I did experience a strange issue this time around when I went to begin installing the carpet. The molded pads for your heel and near the gas pedal on the carpet were placed too far back when the carpet was made. I reached out to Stock Interiors and they sent me a free replacement no questions asked. The replacement carpet looks correct, so I need to begin installing that next when I get some free time. It’s not a difficult task luckily, it’s just a bit time consuming.

Earlier this week, I finally received a piece of the interior that I had been waiting on for quite some time- a Silvia headliner from Japan. I had managed to source all of the other interior panels and the manual seatbelts needed for the swap some time ago, but I didn’t have the headliner that’s required to do the swap properly. If you install the JDM seatbelts and panels with a USDM headliner, there will be a gap between the panels and the headliner. Much like I did on my hatch, I snagged a JDM headliner and had it sent over from Japan to complete the look. I used Jakob at Get Japan to bring this over via container since the air shipping cost on it was a bit tough to swallow and I wasn’t in a hurry. It took about five months from start to finish, but I finally have it!

After tossing the headliner in, I was able to install other items I had collected like dome and map lights, sun visors, and the rear view mirror. This car had a brown interior when I got it, so I had to collect all of these parts over the last year or so to piece the full black interior together- mostly from a few of the cars I parted out along the way.

I next bolted the A, B, and C pillars in place, as well as the JDM Silvia front and rear seat belts. The front Silvia belts are pretty hard to come by these days as they differ from the 180SX belts- they have a small plastic guide on them that extends the belt towards the front seats. I knew I wouldn’t be happy with trying to make some random belts fit, so I was really excited when I found a set in good condition.

I was too excited about seeing the interior come together last night, so I had to toss the dash in for a quick test fit to get a peek. It has felt amazing lately to be bolting more parts onto the car and to see some real progress being made. I need to buckle down over the Christmas break next week and spend some time installing the carpet, dash, and remaining interior panels for good. I believe I have just about everything aside from the bracket that’s required to mount the handle on the A pillar on the driver’s side. I would have preferred a set of Canadian A pillar plastics as they omit this handle and look cleaner (this is what I have on my hatch,) but I haven’t been able to get a hold of a set and ended up settling for the JDM version. I also need a pair of front seats, but I haven’t decided on those yet- that’s something I will have to pick up later when I have the funds.

As for new parts, I got an order from RHD Japan not too long ago that contained some cool stuff: the Works Bell hub I mentioned earlier, a NISMO clutch slave and line, and NISMO bushings for the rear knuckles. The other boxes contain NISMO subframe bushings that I bought from a seller on Zilvia a while back that I plan to use on this car as well. I’m trying not to dive into much suspension work on the car just yet as I want to complete assembly of the engine, interior, and exterior first- but after that’s finished I will be diving into the suspension.

One of the few items I snagged on Black Friday was a Magnaflow high flow cat converter from Enjuku. I’ve been running the same cat on my hatch for a couple years now and the difference it made with the gasoline and exhaust fumes inside the car on long drives is awesome. I am not really concerned with power loss since I am running a stock SR20DET anyway, so it works well for my goals for both of my cars. I also think it gives the exhaust a really nice tone. I haven’t ordered a whole lot from Enjuku in the past, but their customer service has been awesome so far. With the fall of FR Sport, I think Enjuku and TF Works will probably be my go-to’s from now on when not using RHD Japan or Jesse Streeter. They even tossed me $5 as a part of some sort of cash prize contest they had going for Black Friday which I thought was really cool.

As for the hatch, I don’t have anything new to report there. With any luck I will have my Model Vs for it sometime in the next week or so and then I’ll be able to test fit them and evaluate if I want to run them for next year or not. I think it has potential to be a pretty good look- I will just need to order some spacers and get my tires mounted if I decided to use them.

Last week I received a visit from none other that @outsidesam, an S13 enthusiast that I occasionally chat with on Instagram from time to time. Sam was driving one of his S13s from Vancouver to Montreal and decided to take a Southern route through the United States on his way. Sam hit me up and asked if he could stop by on his way through Michigan and back into Canada. It was cool to have an opportunity to meet him quick in person and chat about these cars- very nice dude! Thanks for coming by, Sam.

Finally, my wife hooked me up with a second set of LED lights for the garage. Man, what a difference! It’s so nice to be able to see so well when working on the cars. It’s crazy to me that I spent so many years working in this garage under two light bulbs. Very appreciative of this gift that’s for sure.

I think I am at a point where the parts orders are more or less done for a while and it is time to actually focus on assembling the car. There are of course lots of things I still need, but this is a good stopping point to turn my attention to putting some actual wrench time in with the items I already have in my possession. I think it would be greatly motivating to have the car fired up and running by the end of next month, but that could prove to be a bit ambitious. I’ve been enjoying pacing myself a bit and spending time with my wife and kids inside where it is warm during the approaching holiday season. Once the presents are all unwrapped and we move into 2020, I’ll likely be able to get back to work on this thing once again.

Thanks as always for coming by. I wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season! Take car and enjoy time with friends and family.

Damon

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Bound to Happen

This week my passion for the 180SX returned with a vengeance. It’s no secret that I have been less than hyped on my hatch over the past few months after electing to sell my silver TE37s and let the car sit for the season to focus my efforts on the S13 coupe I picked up about a year ago. A surprise medical expense meant that something had to give, and I elected to sell my wheels instead of items from the coupe build to try to keep the momentum moving. After all, this was my fourth season on the silver TEs- and while I think they look amazing on the car, that is also a long time for me to commit to a single look. Parting with them felt like the logical choice as it gave me an opportunity to try something different in the future when I had my ducks in a row- not to mention they sold very quickly.

Oof. 2017 was an amazing stage- and probably the last time I feel the car
was relevant and true to my roots with the chassis.

As the hatch sat for the summer, I started to question if I should even be keeping it around. I had been tinkering with it for the last eleven years after all (save for the two year span where I famously parted it and sold the shell, only to buy it back again like an idiot…) so I thought maybe it had run its course. Perhaps the next decade was to be devoted to the coupe chassis and starting a new adventure from scratch.

This dash still resides in my basement waiting for the next
set of gauges to find their way into it.

My biggest issue with the hatch has been the fact that there aren’t really any wheels out there that excite me anymore. For many years it felt like I was climbing the ladder of cool wheels, eventually owning just about every different model that I really cared to try on the car. In my eyes it doesn’t really get better than TE37s. I always struggle if bronze or silver looks better on my car, but I think bronze has the slight edge overall. The only wheels left that I really get excited about are a set of bronze 17/18 NISMO LMGT4s. Jimmy and I agree that these are probably the final frontier. They’re just expensive and very difficult to source, especially in 17/18 specs and shades of bronze between the pair that actually match. It’s not impossible, but will definitely be a long shot.

The other issue is the whole restoration angle. About two years ago, I became obsessed with the idea of restoring my S13. I started scouring Japanese schematics and new old stock overseas to try to collect tons of items in an attempt to restore the car to like-new condition. While this process can be really rewarding, it can also be a curse. I’m essentially left with a big box of OEM parts in my basement that I don’t want to install until I can afford to paint the car properly. But for some reason, instead of addressing the rust issues and getting it painted, I elected to attempt to build a second S13 (that also needs a paint job) instead. Yes, I realize that makes no sense. I don’t really have a good explanation to be honest, haha. Chalk it up to getting “lost in the sauce.”

New old stock… super cool, but can I bring myself to actually use it?

Discontinued and new old stock items are really cool, don’t get me wrong. I would be lying if I said it isn’t a bit of  flex to have things BNIB items like Silvia brick headlights, 180SX quarter glass, a new S13 center console, etc. in my collection – it feels really cool. But at the same time, I have never been a hoarder. If I can’t make use of a part and it’s sitting around, I always find myself wanting to cash out on it. The other problem with these items is their value immediately decreases the second they’re removed from the packaging and bolted onto the car. It’s highly satisfying, but also a poor financial investment. I try to always have an exit plan with the money I spend on these cars. It’s not always possible with wear and maintenance items, but I am careful with the parts I purchase to ensure that I can almost always get my money back or make a profit should I change my mind.

Super cool… and super unnecessary.

The restoration angle is picking up steam with the S13 community, and for good reason. I’m just at a point where I am having a hard time with it. Once you drop all of that coin on moldings and weather stripping, you install them and forget all about it. 9 out of 10 people will never even notice the difference. And not that building a car is about being noticed by others, but I would imagine that most of you are in a similar situation to mine where every dollar counts. Does it make sense to spend the money on these restoration items when the car doesn’t even have paint, coilovers, or nice wheels yet? It’s something I have really struggled with lately as I would love to have those items for the coupe before they are inevitably discontinued.

I think this was one of the best stages for the car. Summer 2016.

To be totally honest, I really miss having cool parts on my hatch. I don’t think I would ever shift away from OEM aero parts, but I miss the bread and butter modifications that make this chassis so cool- Ganador Super Aero mirrors, R33 GTR N1 ducts, Koguchi Power bonnet, Defi Link Meter II gauges, Bride seats, and the NeXt Miracle cross bar. I’ve owned all of these parts in the past (some of them multiple times,) but ultimately let go of them in my pursuit of restoring the aging chassis and eventually building up a second S13 chassis.

I find myself once again at a crossroads. I still love the thought of building and completing the coupe, but suddenly I miss the simplicity of the past. Focusing on only one car has always been my MO, and I’ve always discourage others from trying to build two or more cars at once. While parting out a few cars this summer helped with the financial undertaking of building and maintaining a second car, there’s still a lot of work ahead of me. The question now is which route I want to pursue- trying to exercise patience with a couple of mediocre cars sitting in the garage as time passes by, or parting with one to kick start the other and produce a nicer product in the end.

This week I elected to remove all of the “branding” from my Instagram account and take down all of the stories of parts I had for sale. I believe it was about a year ago that I decided to try to take Instagram and this blog a bit more seriously, which I don’t think was necessarily a bad thing- but lately I’ve had a desire to get back to my roots and remove myself from all of that noise a bit. Trying to make my interactions on the web more serious than they really are can result in an added pressure to create and share content, which really is not necessary since this isn’t my job. I think removing myself a bit from that mentality will be a good thing. This is something I do purely for enjoyment and that’s what makes it successful. Taking it too seriously can result in sub-par results.

All the cool goodies circa 2015.

All this to say I am basically just transcribing my thoughts onto a digital screen. Nothing is set in stone and things can change in a matter of hours, as I’m sure you can probably relate to. But this week has definitely been all about the idea of modifying the hatch and returning it to its former glory. Plus, it has been a while since I wrote a good old fashioned pointless ramble on the blog. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

I hope you have a great weekend! Take care.

Damon

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