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!


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2 Responses to Strange Times

  1. Albert Huynh says:

    Awesome update Damon! Love the look of the ducts and the new lip. It’s quite nice we still are able to work on our hobby during this quarantine time. Im sure your daughters are enjoying you being home alot more now.

    Stay safe Damon!

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