2017 is Here (and Nearly Half Over Already)

I’m not sure how six months have passed since my last update, but here we are! Since my last post in November life has been moving at an unbelievable pace. Our winter in Michigan was very tame this year and I was able to enjoy driving the car until late November before the snow and road salt finally arrived. I ended up selling my bronze Volk TE37s and red Bride Brix seats around Christmas time not knowing what I was going to replace them with. As many can contest, things can be stressful around the holidays in many ways including from a financial standpoint. Between Christmas presents and a number of issues with my home and my cars, it simply was the right decision to make at the time.

I ended up taking a trip to Houston, Texas in January to visit my good friend Jimmy and all of the guys from ~Essence~. Jimmy is a great guy and treated me to a number of delicious meals with a lot of people I am proud to call my good friends while I was there and I am very grateful for his hospitality. I also had the pleasure of meeting the infamous John P of MayDay Garage fame while I was there which was really cool. I’ve been inspired by him and all he has done for our “scene” for a number of years.

By the time February rolled around I was itching to work on my car a bit. Being in Houston with my friends and seeing a number of cool cars gave me the itch to work on mine again. One of the changes I decided to make this winter was to bring back my factory dash with a set of white Defi Link Meter II gauges like I had previously. There are two different face designs of these and in the past I have always had a mix of the two, which bugged me a bit. After a ton of searching and waiting on the auctions, I was able to piece together a perfect set including boost, oil pressure, oil temperature, and water temperature. I swapped the original dashboard back in and wired up the gauges. These are much cleaner than my previous set and I hope to hold onto them this time.

While the dash was out I elected to replace my old, worn carpet with a fresh kit from StockInteriors.com. I did this when I first bought my car in 2008, but the carpeting had taken a beating since then. Between being cut up for a roll cage and a Do Luck bar, general wear, and getting soaking wet on the way home from Final Bout II due to holes from the old cage in the floor and a massive rainstorm it was looking pretty tired. I took my time installing the new carpet over a span of a couple months as I found the time and motivation and I am very pleased with the results. I’m a little undecided on floor mats at the moment, but for now my gray checkered mats should work just fine.

I elected to remove my rear seat and seat belts again for a few reasons, one of them being the fact that my wife and I are expecting our third daughter in late August. With another munchkin at home it’s going to be difficult to find time to drive the car at all, let alone with my whole family- not to mention the fact that we won’t all fit anymore and I wouldn’t take an infant in this car. I’ll still take my kids around the block and whatnot from time to time and I am sure that will suffice. There’s no reason I can’t switch back again at some point if I decide to. I ended up using some of the old carpet to create small patches to cover the bare areas that the hatch carpet doesn’t cover, which is something I have wanted to do for a long time. It now covers all of the bare sheet metal and really makes things look much cleaner where the back seat used to reside. I’ll grab a photo of that soon.

While I loved the look of the red Brix, I am constantly struggling with choosing between red and black seats. I think this is something I will always have a hard time with. The Brix were great in many ways, but it felt a bit uncomfortable on the driver’s side. I felt that I sat up pretty high compared to a bucket seat. This led me to picking up a red Zieg II from the auctions last fall, but it turned out to be a lot dirtier than it looked in the auction photos. After spending most of the winter without seats, my friend Brent decided to sell his black Brix and MO rail, which happened to be one of my old seats. I took the chance to get it back as it is the cleanest black recliner I have ever seen and those seem to be much harder to come by than red recliners.

Next I purchased what I thought was a super clean Zeta II from Japan only to find when it arrived that it was very faded and the auction photos had been edited to remove the purple hue. Bummed out, I posted it for sale and asked around to see if anything else was floating around out there. I ended up getting a DM from my friend Khal that offered me his black Bride Maxis. I had just sold a few spare parts and couldn’t pass on it, so I decided to grab it. The seat arrived a few weeks later and is in pretty good shape- it just needs to be cleaned up a bit. I found an old logo Bride head pad and back protector on Zilvia that I also grabbed to complete the setup. With the Brix and Maxis in place, there was only one logical thing left to do- install my fourth NeXt Miracle Cross Brace. (*Editor’s Note: Are we seeing a theme here? Installing the same parts for the third or fourth time? This will be important later.)

Here’s a teaser shot until I finish the installation of the cross brace and can get the car out in the daylight:

Finally, I installed an SR20DET tachometer my friend Tony gave me into my existing USDM cluster to give me the correct redline. I’ve always thought the old school NISMO clusters are cool but never want to lose my mileage, so this is a neat compromise.

As for the exterior, I have not made many changes since last November. I had switched to Hella H4 conversion headlights last season during my OEM craze, but I really missed how clean the Raybrig housings look on a 180SX. I ended up getting another set (my third I think? lol) and also picked up a 6k HID kit to go with them. I have a clean pair of headlight covers I need to have painted at some point as one of mine has a fairly large dent, but this hasn’t really been a priority as of late. I ended up with another pair of Ganador Super Aero mirrors (probably the 6th or 7th pair for this car?) that were already black in Japan and put those on to change things up. I would like to keep these and eventually have a pair of East Bears to alternate between.

The only other item related to the exterior I picked up is another pair of R33 N1 ducts. I think this is the third set of these I have owned over the years but I have never committed to installing them. I am still unsure if I want to use them, so for now they sit on the shelf. I recently found that they have been discontinued and I could not find any vendors with them in stock stateside. I came across a vendor that had a number of them in Florida, but they only had the left side. I ended up getting two left side vents for $100 shipped with the intention of trying to turn one upside down, but of course found that they are not symmetrical. I sold one of the vents for $110 to recoup my money and ordered a right side vent from RHD Japan since they still had stock in Japan. They’re about $430 for a pair now from Japan and it sounds like once the stock is gone, it will likely be gone forever. I debate selling them to make a little cash, but I should probably hang onto them this time should I ever want to use them.

Engine bay changes have also been kept to a minimum. I completed some general maintenance including Samco radiator hoses, oil & filter change, new fuel lines and clamps to fix a small fuel leak, and new fittings for my power steering rack to try to solve a leak that I still can’t seem to curb. I also installed all of the Defi gauge sensors along with a GK Tech water neck temp sensor housing. I sold my TurboSmart blow off valve and replaced it with a GReddy Type RS, only to find that one of the fittings was missing. After coming up empty with finding a replacement fitting, I sold it and replaced it with a standard hot pipe. I’m told running without a blow off valve will not cause any problems, so that’s what I will be doing for the foreseeable future.

Suspension changes have been fairly light too. I ended up removing my GK Tech 25MM roll center adjusters as I found that they made the car drive strange and I felt like there was a bit too much camber up front. As it turns out, I was running these with GK Tech tie rod ends, which also adjust roll center. By having both of these on the car, I was actually over correcting the roll center, causing the car to hunt the crown of the road and wear my front tires out very quickly. Lesson learned, but I did not figure this out until I had sold those items and switched back to the stock setup with Tein tie rod ends. This works out for the best though as my new front wheels will be too aggressive with the +25mm roll center adjusters in place anyway.

Speaking of wheels, I was really torn on what to do. The bronze TEs were arguably the best setup I have ever had on the car and were in super nice condition. I regretted selling them almost immediately, but it needed to be done at the time. It’s so difficult to find clean bronze TE37s that actually match for a reasonable price. Discouraged, I started to look at other options and stumbled upon a brand new set of old stock Work CR Kais on the auctions in the Work Metal Buff finish. I had always wanted these since I had my similar silver set on the car back in 2009 as WMB is an amazing finish, so I decided to give them a try. I picked up a new front pair of Kenda Kaisers to replace my worn pair from last year (that also had a nail in them, turns out) and tossed them on the car.

I pulled it out of the garage to get a look at them in the daylight a few weeks ago, and while I think it was a good look, something just didn’t feel right. I think it looked really cool (despite the front ride height being a bit off) but it just didn’t compare to the TEs in my opinion. I ultimately decided to sell them and hold out for something else. I believe I have something pretty cool lined up that I will share with everyone soon.

So this is currently where things stand. I have a coolant leak I am in the middle of fixing and I am waiting on my new wheels to arrive. Once those are here I can have the tires mounted, adjust the front ride height and toe a bit, and the car should be ready to drive aside from any hiccups that occur along the way. The weather has really gotten nice here in the past couple weeks, so I am looking forward to having the car on the road sometime in the first week in June if at all possible.

You may have noticed that nearly everything I have done to the car in the last six months is something I have installed previously. For whatever reason, I simply love to tinker with and build this car. My tastes and preferences change slightly over time, but for the most part I think I just like to wrench on it. There’s something satisfying about investing time and energy into the car to step back and see the finished product. I say this often, but my hope for this year’s iteration of the car is to finally settle down. Aside from extremely small detail items, the only other parts I would really like to have again someday are a Koguchi Power hood and a Safety 21 roll cage, both of which are still available new. Perhaps I will get to have those pieces again at some point down the road, but for now my hope is to enjoy the car when I have the time and leave it more or less alone.

I know, I know… I said the same thing last winter… and the winter before that. So let’s see what happens, haha. Thank you for stopping by- it’s always encouraging when someone takes the time to tell me they have enjoyed my build over the years. It’s very motivating and never gets old. I’ll try to post another update in the next couple weeks with some decent photos!


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8 Responses to 2017 is Here (and Nearly Half Over Already)

  1. TITO says:

    this is cool DAMON!

  2. Alicia Young says:

    Is this new carpet the one I drive right over? 😬 SOrry love ❤️

  3. Jimmie says:

    I’ve been following this build since 09! Its crazy reading up on updates with this car years later! hopefully find myself in another s13 someday keep it up Damon!

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