A Peek Inside My Head

I’ve had a burning desire to build an S13 Silvia coupe as of late. I have always thought it would be really cool to own and build both iterations of the S13 chassis- the hatchback and the coupe. I’ve only seen a few people complete this successfully, but the ones that have certainly make it look like a desirable stable to own.

The idea of trying to achieve this goal of course presents many obstacles, the first of them being the cost. I’m currently at a stage in life where I can barely afford to keep one S13 in the garage, let alone two of them. I definitely do not have the means to build and maintain two of these things right now, but I hope to be at the point one day where I will be able to pull it off.

Which brings me to the next consideration- would I part out my current 180 (I know it isn’t really a 180SX, but it’s so much easier to speak in these terms) to build a Silvia? I think I am getting closer to being OK with that by the day, but at this time I don’t think I could let go of my 180. I would greatly enjoy the process of building an S13 from the ground up again and the build would keep me busy for a while, but once it was completed I think I might feel some regret. The 180SX has a presence that just screams nostalgic and interesting every time you see one (especially with kouki aero), while the Silvia almost looks like any other commuter car in a way. It’s lines are much more basic and simplified. The car just doesn’t stand out in a crowd like a 180 does. This doesn’t necessarily matter a whole lot to me, but a 180 feels more like a car you hold onto until you are old than a Silvia does. (Purely my opinion of course.)

I briefly entertained the idea of replacing my Pontiac Vibe with a Silvia (again, not a REAL Silvia, but a 240SX coupe- but it’s easier to describe it this way) but this option also offers far too many hurdles. This would leave my family with only one usable commuter vehicle, our Toyota Sienna. Should something happen to the Sienna, we couldn’t rely on an S13 as a backup vehicle. While an S13 should in theory be able to complete my 1 mile journey to and from work each day, I am sure there would still be issues that arise. Not to mention I would not have space in my garage for it and leaving it outside would be pretty depressing. Driving it in the winter with all of the snow and road salt would also be a sure recipe for rust. Overall this just is not a viable option no matter how you look at it. A normal, fairly reliable everyday car is essential for me at this stage in life- even if I don’t use it very often.

So- I can’t add another S13 to the stable without sacrificing my 180. I can’t replace or sell my daily driver, even if it does just sit around most of the summer while I either ride my bike to work or drive the 180. What other option is there to make the dream of owning both versions of the S chassis a reality? Well, there are really two approaches from the way I see it:

  1. Wait- Keep my 180SX in the garage the way it sits now. Stop making any further modifications to it and hold off on repainting it until my financial situation allows me to do so, which will likely be many years from now. Hope that an affordable Silvia chassis is still available someday down the road in ten or fifteen years when I have the means to get one, and hope that I can still track down the parts that are needed to do so.

    While I do like the idea of this plan, it seems unlikely for many reasons. I tend to be somewhat paranoid about the existence of these cars and the parts required to properly restore them, so that side of me feels that it will be pretty difficult to find a decent S13 to build from by the time I can afford to do it. Moldings and weather stripping will likely no longer be available from the dealership. Many of the OEM replacement parts will be discontinued which could make the build process much more challenging than it is today. But, in the mean time, I will be able to drive and enjoy the S13 I already have.

  2. The Hoarder’s Way Out- Sell a number of items off of my current 180 in order to buy a Silvia chassis and a number of parts for it that are at a high risk of being discontinued or very expensive by the time I am able to build one.

    This method feels the most risky in a lot of ways. I would essentially sell a number of non-essential parts off of my 180 to fund the bare-bones necessities of a Silvia build. Ideally I would end up with a clean chassis of each variation, all of the necessary moldings and weather stripping for each car, and the OEM optional aero components for each- all piled in my garage. Neither car would be drivable, likely for quite some time.

    Ideally, I would keep the interior and exterior of the 180 largely intact. I would sell any spare parts I have sitting around that are not essential to the build, as well as items that will always be available like the intercooler, exhaust, suspension components, etc. The engine is a point of conflict for me though. Will SR20 engines really still be readily available in 5-10 years? We have already seen a decline in supply and an increase in price for these engines, so I am not so sure this is a wise choice. Keeping the engine in the car would of course be the ideal route to go, but might not free up enough funds to make this plan worth it in the long run. Ideally I’d like to have another blacktop engine in this car again someday just to complete the kouki 180SX feel, moving my red top to a Silvia chassis.

    So, I sell just about everything aside from the 180 chassis, the complete OEM aero, complete moldings and weather stripping, TE37s, and a full set of brand new OEM lighting. These things just sit around in storage, waiting for life to allow me to give them the attention they deserve. The freed up funds are used to purchase a clean Silvia chassis, complete OEM optional aero, a Silvia front end, and the moldings and weather stripping needed to restore it.

    This leaves me with two large hunks of metal and a pile of parts for each. Neither of them would be running for a very long time. I would essentially be hoarding the cars until I am able to paint both of them, install the complete exterior setups, and finish each with complete suspension and drivetrain components. Perhaps I could even begin to learn the process of doing body work in the mean time, prepping both of the cars for paint during this stage. This feels like an insurmountable goal for me and very intimidating, but maybe the challenge would keep me occupied. Either that, or it would result in me losing hope and selling everything, throwing in the towel on building and owning a project car all together.

    I would not have a “fun” car to drive for several years which is something I have not faced since the Lexus build back in 2014. This would likely be difficult to deal with, but I also feel like I do not get to drive my car nearly as much as I used to with three young kids at home and a very short commute to work each day. The thought of not having a “fun” car to drive at any given time used to give me extreme anxiety, but in looking at my life at this stage I feel like it might not be so bad if the end goal is still in sight. I rarely go to meets or car events anymore and don’t get the chance to put many miles on my S13 during the summer months, so maybe it wouldn’t really be a big deal. As long as I still have the ability to tinker with it at any given time, not driving it may not really be a problem.

I’ve seen a number of people hoard cool S chassis parts over the years, but this mentality always felt a little strange to me. Sure, they always had the coolest and rarest stuff, but they weren’t getting to enjoy or drive their cars at all in the mean time. I’ve always preached that being able to actually drive your project is what makes it all worth it, and I do enjoy having the option to go out to the garage and fire my car up any time I would like. I think when your car is torn apart for many years, you lose the connection with it and ultimately it makes the most sense to move on by getting rid of it all together. Some of these guys are just now finally beginning to paint their cars and begin the reassembly process, resulting in a hefty amount of jealousy coming from my side of the fence. But what were they doing for the last 7-10 years while I was out enjoying my car? They were saving money and hoarding parts. Collecting… and waiting. They did not drive or enjoy their cars during that entire time span.

I’ve had this car for nearly a decade now, and I feel like I am at the point now where I know what I want. The current stage of the car feels the closest to perfection it has ever been in opinion- it feels like the truest representation of my vision. I feel at this point I could probably get rid of the car entirely and feel like I accomplished just about everything I set out to do with the car aside from a proper paint job. If it were to leave my life now, I am not sure what I would really focus my time and energy on from a hobby standpoint, but I would definitely feel a sense of contentment with what I have accomplished.

I don’t know what the future holds for my car. All of these thoughts are likely just a product of boredom and my profound enjoyment of the process of building a project car. It’s no secret that I enjoy the process more than the end result, and maybe this stage of my car and the fact that it feels so complete is pushing me to want to move on and challenger myself in a different way. I don’t think anything will change through the remainder of summer and into the fall, and I for sure won’t be making any moves before my trip to Super D in Shawano, WI next month. But I definitely have a lot on my mind when it comes to what is currently sitting in my garage and where I want to go next.

Anyway, I am not sure how well this post reads, but hopefully it kept you entertained. I am sure many of you put yourself through a similar thought process on the daily, so I thought sharing what’s going on in my head as of late might be relatable for some of you.

I hope you have a great weekend! Thank you as always for reading.


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14 Responses to A Peek Inside My Head

  1. Lawrence King says:

    I would recommend option 1. Now I do agree with you that it’s probably going to be hard to find a 240sx coupe in a few years but I definitely say its the safest.

    Option 2 is very VERY risky in my opinion. I say this because our parts our getting discontinued at a alarming rate. I remember a few blogs back you talked about re finishing your ash tray, bezel and center console to make it look better. I was going to comment saying you can buy a new ashtray for 60 dollars but come to find out they discontinued it just recently! Its only a matter of time until we can’t source oem parts for our cars anymore. I personally think you were very smart for stacking up with all those moldings and pieces. I wrote down all the SKU numbers so I can attempt the same thing next year haha.

    This is why I love reading your blogs man. They are very relatable to me and probably every other S-Chassis enthusiast. Like for instance “The thought of not having a “fun” car to drive at any given time used to give me extreme anxiety” and “I’ve seen a number of people hoard cool S chassis parts over the years, but this mentality always felt a little strange to me. Sure, they always had the coolest and rarest stuff, but they weren’t getting to enjoy or drive their cars at all in the mean time”.

    I think the same thing. I get really jealous about some of these builds that go to this extent. The fact they have the patients to collect parts for so long without driving their car is very impressive. I don’t think I could do that. One year of not driving my car was very rough for me. Going over a couple of years would drive me insane but the ending result is usual phenomenal. Unfortunately though they didn’t drive the car throughout that period of time (like you mentioned) and I feel like you’re really missing out not driving a car for so long.

    As I mentioned above though, I would recommend option 1. Who knows, you may not to want to build a silvia coupe anymore in the next coming years. That idea may slowly fade away and if it does you still have the 180 to enjoy.

    Anyway good blog as usual!

    • Thanks a lot Lawrence, I appreciate the kind words! I definitely agree with you. Hoarding parts to build a car vs. actually driving it feels risky in many ways. It’s a tough pill to swallow and an endless cycle in my head. Hard to know what the right answer is!

  2. deanmjones92 says:

    Stick with the 180SX. Make pure Japanese, 90s sports car nirvana. Restore the hell out of it. P.S. you do great work 👍🏼

  3. Ingmar fiering says:

    Hi damon, i think you Should go for option 1. Don’t sell Anything because i think you might regret it. And Maybe it will end the same as the lexus. I am one of those guys who hasn’t driven his s13 in 5 Years 😦 And i can tell you it is hard, and it sucks. I thought About selling it so many times. Buy my wife kept me from doing it. But its hard to keep yourself motivated for so long without driving it. At one point i bought an other s13 as a daily driver to keep in touch with the feeling, but the problem is, you start seeing that as a project car too. And like you said building 2 s13’s is to expensive (especially in Holland) so i end up selling the daily s13. I am now in the lucky position that my brother owns a very Nice s13 that is almost stock And drives perfect so i can drive that from time to time to keep me motivated. But Yeah the hardest part of not driving the car for a long time is not driving it And keeping the motivation. My daily driver is a na miata And the family car is an lexus is200 sportcross, there are so many times the thought crossed my mind About selling the s13 to modify my miata and lexus, And that is just because i drive these cars and that makes you connected with them. So my advise: keep your 180, drive it, Enjoy it, And Maybe try to save Some money every month And Maybe you find a Nice coupe shell Some day And start building that next to a driving 180. You never know what the future brings.

    • Thanks for sharing your story and feedback, I appreciate it! I definitely know what you mean. For some people I think it is easy to hold onto things for long periods of time, but it’s really tough for me to let things sit around if I am not actively using them.

  4. tuzzio says:

    Start a separate fund and try to set aside X amount of dollars a week. When you have a decent chunk, find yourself a shell. if it sits in the yard for a while, so be it. Up here in new england, its a nitemare to find a saveable chassis, let alone a GOOD one. Don’t sell the hatch. Didn’t you let go of that car once and buy it back already? You can build another s-chassis and make it better in every way, but it’ll never be the same.

  5. BelfastBuilt says:

    Find a chassis and store the chassis. The longer you put off the more likely it own’t happen. You don’t want to wait 10-15 years, the chassis will be trash by then to be honest. Strike now while the iron is hot lol

  6. Duke says:

    I’m actually in the same situation with you on this one, so I would support the 1.

    This is what I’m doing on mine. I’ll keep my coupe as is for the time being, and make sure it’s in good, reliable running condition. (It needs a new paint job as well). I might be putting some parts I already have lying around on it though (cage, window visors, interior bits, etc.). I’m lucky enough to have an overseas connnection to have already secured a full oem 180sx kouki aero, that I consider the first step to do the 180sx project. The next step is to ship them over to the states. When the kit arrives (which should be sometime next year) I would be looking for a clean hatch shell to start the project. My intention is to have a reliable car for my son, who is 10, to drive to school in 6-7 years from now. I’m also lucky to still have my KA engine from my current coupe that I removed to do the swap. The stock KA is my goal to keep the car as simple as possible for a teenager (my son, when he’s eligible to drive) to drive and maintain.

    With that said, I would highly recommend you to keep your car running, while looking for a coupe shell. That way, you’d have a daily and can enjoy the coupe’s build at the same time. Just my $0.02

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