Fall 2011: I had just returned from Toby’s Nissan BBQ in Illinois and was feeling pretty bummed out about the state of my engine bay. I was more or less happy with the majority of the car at this point, but being the project-loving car guy I am I wanted more. I drove the car to a neighboring town to visit a friend in the rain one fall evening and realized that my alternator had failed. I limped the car home, threw it on jack stands, and began the tear down for my winter project.
At this point my wife and I had just found out that we were going to be parents. Our first daughter was due in June of 2012, so that immediately became the deadline for the rebuild. Thinking I had plenty of time, I set out to pull the engine and completely rework the engine bay. The plan was to shave the bay, relocate the battery to the trunk, tuck the fuse boxes into the interior of the car, and clean things up as much as possible. With guidance from Toby, I dove into my first attempt at body work.
Progress was slow for the first few months. I removed the drivetrain and stripped everything out of the bay, then began to sand it. I hired my friend Mike to make several trips to the house to weld all of the unneeded holes in the engine bay shut. We also ended up putting a couple of sheet metal patches in place to remove rust and delete the crusty factory battery tray. In order to fit the fuse boxes behind the dash, I decided to remove all of the car’s HVAC system. The AC was already partially ripped out when I bought it and the blower motor didn’t work, so it seemed like the right call at the time. I spent hours shortening the chassis harness and finding a way to relocate the fuse boxes to the area behind the dash board.
I decided somewhere along the line that I really wanted to try running a set of Blitz Type 03 wheels. I purchased about 10 of these wheels in various states of disrepair and kept the four that I planned to have relipped, selling the others to recoup the costs. I sent them out to Wheel Flip to be rebuilt to the proper specs and to have the faces polished. While Yuta did an excellent job with them, it ended up taking until June or July to get the wheels back to me. However, I wasn’t really finished with the engine bay project anyway so it all worked out OK.
With the grinding, filling, sanding, and priming complete I was ready to transport the car to my local body shop to have the bay painted. My friend Mike came to the rescue once more and helped me haul the car to and from the shop. With the car back home in the garage, I found that putting it back together went rather quickly. I installed a couple of new items during this rebuild including a set of ENDLESS front brakes, Tanabe fender braces, and a Do Luck floor bar. I swapped my previous DMAX mats out for red ones and installed a red Bride fabric shift boot with Pivot quick shift knob. The Nardi deep corn wheel was swapped out in favor of a Nardi classic, and I threw a Takata harness in the car that a friend had given to me.
By memorial day weekend the car was running again and nearly ready to go. Kyle came up to visit and hang out with his red car. The rear wheels had arrived, but we found later that there was an issue with the offset. They had been built to 18×10.5 +10 instead of +20, so they needed to be sent back to be corrected as this was more camber than I wanted to run. The front lips were still on order so the 17s were not yet completed. We planned to bleed the brakes and throw on a temporary pair of 03s up front to allow me to drive that weekend, but luck was not on our side. The brake booster delete kit I installed leaked from nearly every fitting and one of the wheel studs was stripped when installing my spacers. I ended up removing the brake tuck kit and selling it shortly after this experience. It set me back a couple of weeks, but in the end I built my own brake lines from scratch and used the factory brake booster with a Z32 brake master cylinder.
Finally, after months of headaches and a lot of sanding, I was able to pull the car out of the garage just before my daughter was born. I had purchased a used DMAX carbon fiber hood from a friend in Illinois and installed a pair of Cusco hood pins before having it painted to match the car. At this point the car was ready to go and I was simply waiting on the Blitz wheels to be completed.
My friend Ginash offered me a spot in the JDM Chicago booth at Another Level, a car show in Chicago that was taking place in August. This would be my one car event for the season now that I had a daughter at home and was not able to get out as much. Unfortunately the Blitz 03s were about a week away from completion and didn’t arrive in time for the show. I ended up borrowing my old CR Kais from my friend that I sold them to as they had been sitting in storage unused for nearly two years. This allowed me to still attend the show and take the car on its first substantial drive of the year.
Aside from the throttle cable coming disconnected on the freeway and my ignition switch constantly giving me problems, the car handled the trip well. It was cool to show off my hard work on the engine bay at the show, but it ended up being fairly boring. Kyle came to hang out despite his car not starting the morning of the show, so we had fun cruising around the city and visiting my brother after the show in my car. I was really disappointed that my wheels weren’t finished in time, but that’s the way things go with building a car.
After the show, I decided to install a pair of Ikeya Formula extended front control arms that I picked up used from someone on Zilvia. I knew that the rear was going to have quite a bit of camber and I wanted to ensure that the front had more than the rear to get the right look. I also installed some GP Sports tie rod ends. The overall process was fairly frustrating and it took me forever to get the ride height and camber in decent shape. I really liked how the car looked with this setup but the added camber meant that the car was even lower than it had been previously. Even getting out of the driveway became a fairly stressful task.
It was now October and Toby decided to have another Nissan BBQ. I needed to get an alignment due to the suspension changes, so I took the car to a local place that had done alignments for me in the past. The drive there was pretty scary as the car would dart sharply to the left or right any time I hit a bump on the freeway (which is a lot in Michigan.) With the alignment completed, I started my trek home. On the way, I bottomed out on a sharp concrete drop off at an intersection and smashed my GReddy oil pan pretty hard. On the freeway on the way home, the car was still darting sharply side-to-side and was very difficult to keep under control. It also rained very hard during the drive, causing the windows to fog up (I had removed my wipers when I shaved the bay and no longer had heat to run the defroster.) All in all it was a terrible experience and I was just glad to have the car and myself home safely when the day was done.
At this point I was very frustrated. Toby’s BBQ was less than two weeks away and my car was virtually impossible to drive. Thinking that the new suspension mods must be the cause of the driving issues, I ordered a pair of OEM S13 front control arms and a new pair of Tein outer tie rods like I had been running previously. As I was installing them, I noticed that my front passenger tire felt pretty soft. As it turns out, my wheel wasn’t sealed properly and had been slowly leaking. This resulted in me driving home from the alignment shop with what was essentially a flat tire. I was frustrated that I had taken the car apart and gone through so much effort for a flat tire, but at this point the work was done. I dropped the GReddy oil pan to reseal it as the seal had been broken when the car bottomed out. With the pan sealed up, the suspension converted back to its previous state, and the tire aired up the car was ready for the familiar trek to Illinois.
With the way things had been going for my car during the past couple months, I began to have second thoughts about keeping it. Being a dad was a full time job and I rarely wanted to be away from my family, so it was hard to really enjoy the car as much as I wanted to. I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep due to my daughter waking up through the night and I didn’t have a lot of free time for the car anyway, despite my wife being incredibly understanding and still allowing me to keep and work on the car. Overall, it seemed like it made sense for me to sell my project and condense the fleet down into one vehicle that I could modify minimally, enjoy all year long, and bring my family along with me in the back seat. I had always wanted an Evo and started to consider parting out the S13 and selling my daily driver to get one.
The trip to Toby’s place went well as it typically did, aside from it being very cold out. The lack of heat in the car was already proving to be an annoyance. My rear wheels were constantly rubbing the chassis on large bumps, greeting me with a very loud and stressful grinding sound. When Kyle and I left Toby’s house Saturday night, it was below freezing outside. The inside of the windows had frosted over and we had no way to clear them. The wheels were rubbing and we were both shivering as the cold SR20 struggled to chug along on the way to his place. At this moment I was fairly confident that I had had enough of the car and wanted to move on.
During the BBQ, Kyle and Toby’s friend Brad took me for a ride in his Evo IX MR. The car had a healthy set of cams and a large turbo on it. After going for a spin and hearing all of the selling points of the Evo, I was definitely intrigued. The car essentially felt like a four door, all wheel drive S13. As the sun peeked out exposing all of the S13’s flaws and swirl marks, I leaned more and more towards parting the car out.
After taking the car to one last local gathering a week after Toby’s BBQ, my mind was made up. Feeling that there was nothing left to accomplish with my S13 and wanting to begin a new project, I texted a friend named Loren one Tuesday afternoon that had expressed interest in my kouki 180SX aero should I decide to part the car out. Loren just happened to be in a town about two hours away from me for work that day and told me he could swing by to pick up the aero that night.
So this was it. I realized I would be parting out my S13 that very day in October of 2012. But as many of you know, this was far from the end of my 240. My sixth and final post will bring it all together and explain how my car ended up back in my garage. Thanks as always for reading!