Welcome to the Future – 2022 is Here

Well, here we are again- another year has arrived. I’m not sure it’s related to the new year at all, but I have been feeling highly motivated when it comes to my cars lately and I’ve been pushing myself to suit up in warm clothes and spend some time in the garage a few nights a week. This is no small task as it’s been in the single digits many nights with wind chills below zero. I’ve also really been wanting to update the blog, but just haven’t found the time until now. Before we dive into what I’ve been working on, let’s backtrack a bit to cover what happened since my last post in November 2021.

I ended up waiting a bit too long to gas up my hatch and tuck it in the garage and some snow snuck up on me, but I managed to get to it before the roads got salted. I had the cars together for one last time this season over at my mom’s place before grabbing a few photos in my driveway and pulling the hatch into the garage to put it on jack stands.

I tossed one of the LMGT4s on the car again to take a couple mock up photos. I still haven’t decided what I want to do with these knowing that I would only use them if I could find a way to score a 17/18 setup. I lost a bid on a pair of 17×9 +22 that would have been perfect, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be (or I’m not as crazy as some people are.) The prices that these wheels have been fetching in the past couple months make me wonder if I should be using them at all. I’m still considering trying to trade someone a pair of them (and have a couple people interested in doing just that,) but I’m really having a hard time justifying splitting up the set. For now they’ll hang around while I decide what to do, but I definitely want to see my hatch on a full 17/18 set at some point. This is the last big wheel setup I wan to see on the car and it would feel great to check it off my bucket list.

By late November, things got busy as they do every year around this time. My wife and I took a trip up North to the lake to celebrate her birthday, and surprisingly we were still able to take one of the side-by-sides out on the trails due to a lack of snow. I’ve gotten more comfortable taking the family’s Can-Am Maverick Trail on the smaller 50″ trails (as opposed to the larger 72″ routes we usually frequent) and I am excited to do more of that in the spring. I would really like to get a couple four wheelers to keep up there, but that’s likely not going to happen unless one of the S13s goes bye-bye- which is unlikely at this point!

In early December, I celebrated my birthday and took a solo trip down to Houston to visit Jimmy and our friends down there. My flight was about $60, so it was difficult to pass up. The Knuckle Up Friday Night Lights event was happening just a few weeks later on New Year’s Eve, but I wanted to come down prior to that to enjoy a low key weekend of hanging out. It’s fun going to watch friends drive at events, but sometimes it’s nice to sit car stuff aside and spend some time hanging out like normal people.

The rest of December was a blur with all of the hustle and bustle of Christmas. It’s always a chore getting everything done and attending lots of gatherings, but it’s fun when it finally happens. We were fortunate to see most of our families despite everything going on in the world and everyone made it through relatively healthy, so we were very fortunate.

My in-laws got me a new lawn mower for my birthday which I am very excited about. I’ve had a couple beaters for the twelve years since we bought our home, so having a brand new one is going to be amazing.

With the holidays behind us, I committed to make a push to get to work on the tasks I have wanted to complete on my hatch for quite a while. The first of those was creating a set of custom front position lamps. Ever since I went with kouki 180SX aero back in 2009, I’ve wanted a way to utilize the factory position lamps as both running lights and turn signals like they do in Japan. I’m pleased to say I finally tackled this project and it’s nearly complete. I took a fair amount of photos, so I’ll do a separate post soon detailing the process. Hopefully it ends up working well though.

Nothing like hacking up two sets of brand new turn signals… more on this in a future post.

As for new parts, I picked up a couple small things over the last few months. I saw someone share that GK Tech was having a sale on their OEM style coolant tanks and the price was too good to pass up, so I grabbed one of those for my hatch. I currently have an aluminum tank that is tucked down by the radiator, but I eventually want to make the engine bay more factory again. Maybe I’ll get to this at some point later this winter, but for now I want to leave the engine bay alone until the suspension is sorted.

The next item I picked up is a pair of East Bear mirrors. I have owned several pairs of both East Bears and Aero Markers over the years, and most recently sold my last pair in the spring of 2020 to fund the suspension and brake refresh on the coupe. Those funds allowed me to get the car on the ground and across the finish line, so it made sense at the time- especially considering I was on furlough back then due to the early days of COVID. I’ve been hoping to snag another pair for the coupe, but was having a really hard time finding any for less than $1,000- which is crazy considering they used to be $200 just a few years ago.

Eventually I was able to find this pair from someone on Instagram. They’re in sort of rough shape, but I should be able to save them. I took them over to my mom’s house last weekend to throw them on and see what they look like. I think it’s a cool option to have for the future. We’ll see if I actually use them this time, but it feels good to have both a pair of these and some Ganadors stashed away should I ever decide to use them again. With prices the way they are, it makes sense to keep them since I got a pretty decent deal on both pairs.

One more color doesn’t hurt right?

Speaking of the coupe, I have been heavily considering converting it to five lug hubs and Z32 brakes like my hatch. I change my mind about it daily, but I have casually started to gather some items for the project as they pop up. I currently have a set of Z32 rear drum assemblies and e-brake cables as well as a Gent5 Z32 brake master cylinder. I’m trying to make the hatch my focus this winter, but we’ll see what comes of this notion later this year.

Finally, I ended up grabbing a pair of new kouki 180SX tail lights and another kevlar RPS13 panel. As I am sure many people heard, Nissan discontinued the lower metal trim panel for kouki 180SX tail lights recently and it caused a bit of a frenzy. I’ve wanted to have a fresh pair of lights and a new kevlar panel socked away for whenever I finally paint the car, so this seemed like the perfect time to snag them before prices go up. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the lights are gone too. And who knows, maybe they’ll end up like Silvia bricks in a few years. Worst case I can sell them (or my current used ones,) but this is another item I am glad to have stashed away.

And now, on to the actual project work that’s been going on. I dropped the subframe on the hatch and tore everything apart for the refresh. I have had a few NISMO items sitting aside for close to a year now that I’ve been wanting to install, including subframe bushings, rear knuckle bushings, and rear lower control arms. After installing these items in my coupe during the build process, I really wanted to add the same to my hatch. I’ve always had solid subframe bushings in my hatch since I replaced the factory ones in 2009, but the driveshaft and diff noise has always been annoying. My rear knuckles got the Energy Suspension polyurethane treatment at the same time, but I didn’t keep up with greasing them, causing the rear suspension to creak. All said and done, I am older now and really just wanted to go with something simpler and less harsh. The NISMO rubber bushings fit the bill perfectly.

Here are the part numbers and quantities needed for the NISMO bushings for one car. I ordered all of these items through RHD Japan as they have the best pricing. Nothing but good things to say!

After tearing down the subframe, I gave it a good scrub down. The Parts Shop Max subframe risers tapped out easily with a hammer which was a relief. Over the span of two different nights, I used my 20 ton shop press that I bought back in the spring to install the new subframe bushings. The process was a bit tedious and nerve racking, but it went very smoothly. It’s tough to hold the subframe in position alone, but I was able to prop it up and figure it out. It felt great to have this task taken care of as I’ve been worried about it for a while now.

Setting all of this up to press in straight without tipping over was a chore by myself, but I am glad it worked out.

The next order of business was pressing the old Energy bushings out of the rear knuckles. I tackled that with my ball joint press kit which worked pretty well. Once those were cleaned up as well, I hit both the rear knuckles and subframe with a fresh coat of satin black. For many years I have wanted to powdercoat my subframes, but I always get impatient and spray paint them. As time has gone on, I’ve grown happier with this decision. For a car that sees a lot of street driving and isn’t meant to be a show piece, it works out just fine. It’s easy to touch it up and refresh it every few years if necessary. Powdercoating is definitely the nicer way to go, but this solution works fine for my needs. I’ll have to circle back to the knuckles soon to press the new NISMO bushings in which I’m sure will be a task, but fingers crossed it goes well.

Whenever I find myself back in the garage again, I am planning to replace the boots on my CV joints. I did one of them on my hatch back in the spring, as well as all four of them on my coupe, but I want to do the other three on my hatch while I have the subframe out of the car. I went with these Beck Arnley boots from Rock Auto again as they are much more affordable than the OEM Nissan units and are likely going to end up torn at some point in the not too distant future.

The clamps pictured seem to be the incorrect style- weird that only this one came with these. All of the others I bought came with the same clamps that Nissan uses. Pro tip- buy spares if it’s your first time installing them. I always manage to mess them up, but I’m getting the hang of it.

My SPC suspension arms are showing their age a bit, but seem to be in decent enough condition overall. I am tempted to replace them with a combination of Cusco and NISMO units, but I think I will try to clean them up and make do for a while. I like the SPC stuff because it isn’t funky colors, the bushings are rubber, and they’re an affordable alignment solution. The rubber does seem prone to cracking on low vehicles, but I guess it’s to be expected a bit. I would love to replace these with something Japanese again someday as I don’t really love having more American parts on my cars, but for now it makes sense to save as much money as I can for paint work. I’d also really like to install some sort of aftermarket LSD, but again- it’s just not in the budget right now. Someday I’ll get around to doing this on both cars- it’s high on my list to get them to a point where I’m fully content with them.

My goal is to keep spending a few hours in the garage 2-3 nights a week to try to get this subframe project wrapped up as soon as possible. I often tear my cars apart at the beginning of the off season and don’t get around to finishing the things I start until well into spring, so I am hoping to avoid that this year. To be honest, after working all day, helping around the house, and taking care of the kids each night the last thing I want to do is go in the freezing cold garage. It’s been a struggle and I’ve literally had to drag myself out there, but every time I do I am glad I did it and come inside feeling motivated and fulfilled. I’ve had lots of motivation and a desire to continue improving my cars in the last two weeks, so I’m working hard to see that it continues.

It’s easy to consider calling it quits on the blog and this hobby in general at the stage of life I find myself at, but somehow I’m still hanging in there. I hope to have my hatch presentable again and running well when the weather turns to enjoy it to the fullest this year. I’ve been content to stay a bit stagnant since the pandemic began as it causes a lot of uncertainty and makes you question what matters most in life. However, I’ve felt a renewed sense of motivation to continue improving these cars lately- we’ll see how long it lasts, but I am feeling good right now.

Thanks for sticking around and still swinging by to see what I am up to. People reaching out to me about finding enjoyment and useful info from this blog this many years into it is a huge source of motivation for me. I sincerely appreciate it! Onward and upward in 2022.

Damon

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