SR20DET Valve Cover Replacement

Back when I cleaned up the SR20 that would ultimately be swapped into my coupe in early 2020, I elected to send the valve cover out to TRG Coating for a refresh. TRG came highly recommended from a friend and from Zilvia, so I thought I would give them a shot (despite needing to ship the valve cover out of state.) Even with the cost of shipping, their prices were very reasonable and the work was top-notch. I can’t say enough about how positive the experience was.

Since my goal with the engine bay in the coupe was to keep things looking relatively factory, it only made sense to try to replicate the OEM SR20DET valve cover color. My friend Greg had recently had his cover redone in this color scheme and was kind enough to share the color combination with me. It turned out so nice, in fact, that I decided to hold onto a spare valve cover from one of the other SR20s I parted out in order to have a matching cover coated for my hatch.

My current valve cover that I had coated in 2009.

Fast forward to last week, where I finally collected just about everything I needed to swap the new cover onto the hatch’s SR20. I ended up purchasing new OEM nuts and washers for securing the cover (which are entirely too expensive for what they are), a fresh coil pack cover, a PCV refresh kit with valve and supporting hoses, and gaskets for the spark plug tubes and valve cover itself. I bought most of these items from my long time friend Russell at NissanParts.cc.

Fortunately, removing the valve cover on the SR20DET is pretty straightforward. I started by removing the coil pack cover and coil packs. Next, I disconnected the PCV/breather hoses from the various attachment points on the cover. Finally, I removed the 13 nuts and washers that hold the valve cover to the head. Make sure all of your wiring is disconnected from the front of the cover, and you should be clear to lift it off of the engine.

See that small gasket missing in the middle? Well, I didn’t when I took this photo… I always add a small amount of RTV to the half-moon shape portions of the gasket. I am still mad at Nissan for them making the gasket maker that comes with an SR20 gasket kit orange instead of black…

After replacing the main gasket and spark plug tube gaskets, I bolted up the fresh valve cover. In fact, things went so smoothly that I didn’t even realize that I did not install the small circular gasket in the center of the valve cover until I was completely finished with the job and was putting my tools away… doh! So I got to experience the installation process a second time. I had just put a full gasket kit on the SR20 in my hatch not too long ago now, so I was able to reuse the gasket I had. If you want to get all new gaskets for your valve cover though, make sure you get these part numbers: 13270-52F00 (x1), 13270-53J13 (x1 – this is the one I forgot about), and 13271-52F00 (x4).

After the valve cover was sorted out, I installed most of the new PCV hoses that came with the NissanParts.cc kit. This included the long line off of the PCV valve (as well as a new valve), the two small L shaped breather hoses it connects to above the fuel rail, and the two hoses that connect the OEM catch can to the valve cover and drain tube. I am running a factory Nissan airbox and catch can on my coupe, and am hoping to source the needed items to do the same on my hatch soon. I never thought I would see the day where I desired that sort of look, but it really cleans the engine bay up nicely. It’s great to not have an air filter flopping around loosely in there.

I’ll be replacing the vent hoses on this side with OEM ones soon- I just need to get a hold of a factory catch can and airbox. I need to order clamps for the PCV hose still as well.

So there you have it! A fresh valve cover for the hatch. I decided to hold onto my old wrinkle red valve cover as a garage decoration- at least for the time being. This valve cover is the original blacktop cover that came with my hatch when I bought it. Inspired by Kuruptr on Zilvia, I had it redone in wrinkle red in early 2009. I sold this valve cover with the engine when I parted my car out in 2012. When I bought the rolling chassis back, the guy I sold the engine to still had it- but wanted a lot more money for it than I had sold it to him for two years prior. However, he was willing to trade me valve covers so that I could have my old one back. It’s kind of a silly story, but it’s kind of cool to me I guess. Maybe it will look nice on display in the garage somewhere.

I should probably make an SR20 coffee table one of these days, eh?

Anyway, that’s about the extent of what I accomplished this week! I have some other cool stuff to share in the month of February though that I am really excited to post about. And hey, now that I mention it, I’ve made it a month into 2021 writing a new post every Friday- not bad! Let’s keep the streak alive.

My hope is to buckle down a bit this week and get my plans in order for what I truly want to accomplish with the cars prior to the weather ideally begins to break in April. Once those tasks are finalized and the parts are here, I want to try to keep a fairly aggressive schedule to ensure both cars are ready to drive as soon as the weather allows. 2021 is going to be a great year and I’m super excited to finally enjoy driving again.

I hope things are going well in your world- thanks for reading along. Have a great weekend!

Damon

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Garage Tuning

It’s no secret that my garage itself is a bit neglected in a lot of ways. I try to keep it relatively organized for how much junk is actually in there, but a lot of it could certainly be much tidier and nicer than it is. I’m fortunate to have such a space to enjoy my hobby, and it’s a fairly large garage all things considered. A three stall would definitely be nice, but it gets the job done.

I recently decided to spruce the garage up a bit by way of making some improvements to the door itself. I ended up getting a couple of items for Christmas from my in-laws that I had been researching as of late- the first being a new rubber seal for the bottom of the door. I noticed a while back that my seal had become flattened, brittle, and even torn in a couple of places. When we get blowing snow, I would find miniature snow drifts at the corners and in the center of the garage from snow getting blown in under the cracks in the seal.

It was simple enough to remove the old seal- it simply slid out. The new one, however, was much more of a hassle. I ended up finding that lubricating the track and the seal itself with WD-40 helped immensely with getting the new seal to slide into the metal track at the bottom of the door. It was a tedious process and not the easiest thing to do by myself, but I was able to get it done. It’s very satisfying to shut the door now and have a proper seal with the cement floor.

The other item I got for Christmas and recently installed was an insulation kit for the back side of the door. My home was built in 2003, so it’s got a bit of an older style door on it that isn’t insulated on the inside. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on how to install the kit and got to work. I ended up breaking up the install over two nights, but it wasn’t too bad of a process at all. I definitely should have done it in the summer, but I ran my space heater to ensure that the tape was tacky enough.

I was pleased to find that the material is very lightweight. Someone had mentioned their garage door motor burning out due to the added weight of their insulation kit, so that had me a bit concerned. I had to trim the sheets both vertically and horizontally, so it’s not perfect- but I think it turned out well. I ended up unbolting all of the hinges and reinstalling them over the insulation to help hold it in place should the tape fail.

Half way through installation. The kit included the double sided tape.

I can’t say I have noticed a massive improvement from these changes, but hopefully it’s doing something. It’s been crazy cold this week, so I guess I don’t expect it to stay too warm in the garage. I suspect my walls are not actually insulated behind the drywall which is unfortunate- that’s definitely something I would love to do, but the cost would probably be out of reach. My oldest daughter’s room is above the garage, so it would help a lot with the temperature swings in her room if I could insulate the garage better,

One aspect of my garage that people have teased me about for years is the lack of paint on the walls. It’s just one of those things that I have never prioritized from a time or cost standpoint. The drywall was crudely mudded and sanded when the home was built, but it still needs some work to be decently nice. I don’t really have experience with this process and I’ve just never managed to make myself do it. I would love for this year to finally be the year that I get some paint on the walls, but we’ll see if it actually happens.

But before I can paint, there’s another issue I need to address- the ceiling. I’ve had a leak in the ceiling for a few years now and have tried caulking various areas on the outside of the house to no avail. We’ve even had the entire roof replaced a few years back, but the leak persists during heavy rain from the North. I’m told this is a flashing issue, but I haven’t pinpointed the exact origin. I’m at the point where I am ready to pay a contractor this spring to repair the leak once and for all, as well as install a new piece of drywall.

The other thing I really want to do is have my floor coated. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time, but the lack of paint on the walls has kept me from ever moving forward with it. I’m hoping to finally look into this a bit this spring as well and see if I can manage to get it done. It would be amazing to finally have a nice looking floor.

I briefly considered building a workbench, but I really don’t want to sacrifice the space. I suppose I could build some permanent shelving and integrate it into that at some point down the road, but who knows. For where I currently find myself in life, this just sort of works. I would really like to build a shed in the back yard someday to house all of our lawn and garden tools as well as the girls’ toys, but that’s probably just a pipe dream for the time being. As the kids get older, maybe the number of toys will diminish a little bit… but we’ll see. All things that I often think about but never really address.

I had planned to spend some time working on my cars this week, but as the free time rolled around it was in the single digits at night and I just didn’t want to drag myself out there. I do plan to tinker a bit this weekend though and take care of somethings that have been on my list, so I’ll share some of that work with you next week! I need to install my NeXt Miracle Cross Bar on the hatch as well as the freshly powdercoated valve cover and gaskets, so expect some details around those projects soon.

I hope you have a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

Damon

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Achievement Unlocked: Dual Wield

My efforts in the garage this week resulted in the realization of a fairly significant milestone that I’ve dreamed of reaching for the last several years: I am now the owner of not one Nissan 240SX, but a pair of them- a 1993 fastback and a 1992 coupe. Sure, in typical S-chassis fashion they’re both a minimum of three different colors right now (the coupe being seven different colors,) but they are in fact running, driving vehicles that more or less include nearly ever component that I would like them to.

That’s a pretty big deal for me.

But before we get into all that, let’s talk a little bit about the progress on my original S13- the hatch. I think I have driven this car at least once every year I have owned it, but some years have definitely been lighter than others. After selling my Mercury Silver TE37s (for the second time) in June of 2019, the car sat for the majority of the summer “fun car” season here in Michigan. This was somewhat difficult for me to handle at the time, but it’s the sacrifice I chose to make in favor of larger obligations to my family and personal finances. It was tough, but at least I got to drive it for a couple months before putting the car away.

The hatch being put away in mid June 2019.

Enter 2020: I stumbled upon a great deal on a set of 17/18 AVS Model V and decided I could swing it. I got my tires mounted up and installed some GK Tech spacers to get the fitment decent. The car didn’t look terrible by any means, but the Model V definitely left something to be desired for me. As fate would have it, COVID swept over the world and essentially killed any real opportunity to drive the car. With being constantly stuck at home and uncertainty with my job, I ultimately decided to flip the Model Vs, put the hatch back on jack stands, and focus my efforts on the coupe build. That’s the way things stayed through the end of 2020- the hatch spending the majority of the last two years in my garage on stands, running and complete, without any wheels.

The short-;oved AVS Model V setup from Spring 2020. The car spent about two weeks on the ground last year.

Towards the end of 2020, the gentleman I sold my old front pair of bronze TE37 reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in buying them back. He had taken great care of them so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I expected the search for a rear pair to be long and difficult, but thanks to a tip from a friend I was able to source a matching rear pair somewhat quickly. I kept my Advan Flevas from the silver TE37s since they essentially only had a trip to Shawano and back on them and used those again for the new setup.

The specs on this bronze set of TE37 aren’t ideal like the Mercury Silver set, but they could be worse. This set is 17x9J +22 and 18×9.5J +22. I moved my +11mm Project Kics wheel spacers to the rear of the car to bring those to +11 effective offset, then purchased a pair of +15mm spacers for the front to bring the effective offset to +7mm. The result is a rear setup that’s 1mm more aggressive than the silver TE37, and a front setup that is +3mm less aggressive. Not perfect, but I can live with it for now. I also grabbed another set of Muteki steel lug nuts for the hatch since my previous set made their way onto the coupe during the build.

After a few weeks of navigating the holidays and waiting for the right opportunity to make the 30 minute drive to see my friend Jalen in Lansing, I was finally able to get the tires mounted up last weekend. Jalen is a fellow S13 owner and has had some really cool setups over the years. He’s always down to help me out with mounting and dismounting tires and works around my busy family schedule which I greatly appreciate.

The color matches fairly well in my garage- let’s see if the same holds true in the sunlight.

The moment had finally arrived. My wife had a Zoom call with some close friends from college this week and I was able to spend an evening in the garage bolting up the wheels and tires. Though the results are not really anything new or groundbreaking to me, I was still overcome with that feeling of excitement and accomplishment the first time I rolled the car off of the ramps and stepped back to take it all in. I stared in astonishment and muttered “that’s it” to myself. This is always the single best feeling of tinkering with these cars for me- stepping back and taking in the results of your carefully planned changes.

I would prefer to avoid the use of spacers, so this will likely be a temporary solution up front. I would like to convert to S14 front knuckles, control arms, and five lug hubs soon. We’ll see what happens.
I felt just as excited dropping the car on the ground as I did when I got my first set of TE37 back in 2011.

Yesterday Alexi and I went outside during my lunch break to move some cars around, shovel some snow, and grab some photos of the car back on the ground once again. Apparently my battery tender isn’t doing its job since the car wouldn’t start, but we rolled it outside anyway. The lack of clouds weren’t ideal for photos, but this was by far the warmest day in the forecast at 37° – so we had to take what we could get. I think the results weren’t too bad though all things considered.

My lawn is all torn up right now while a company installs fiber-optic internet in the neighborhood. I should Photoshop the flags out of these photos, but maybe I’ll revisit them later and get that done.

I was of course very concerned about the two pairs of TE37s matching. The front pair is a bit older than the rear, but both have the additional stamping along the lips that was added in 2011 or so. My previous rear pair of bronze TEs didn’t have this and it bugged me that the pairs didn’t match, so I was glad things worked out this time. The rear pair is newer and has a little more orange to the color, where the fronts have a more chocolate sort of hue. It’s very close, but I think it is just good enough that I can live with it. I almost get the feeling that if I didn’t point it out, 98% of people wouldn’t notice- so that’s probably just fine. I would prefer the older TE37s in the classic bronze finish like on Itai and Itoh’s cars, but that is getting so difficult to find these days.

Ride height needs to come up a pinch in the rear on this side. I’m hoping to make some rear subframe changes soon that will require that to be adjusted anyway though. Alexi shown here peeking out the window.

All in all, I think I am going to be really happy with this set of wheels. I think these will likely be keepers since it’s getting so difficult to find these things in OK shape for an affordable price. I know, I know… I’ve said that a few times before. We’ll see what happens. Despite it being fairly familiar, I think this is technically the first time the car has had bronze TE37s with OEM aero and Ganador mirrors. The N1 ducts are also a first for me and I am really excited to see them painted this summer. More on the Ganador mirrors in a future post.

Anyway, back to the realization that I have two of these things now. To be honest, I never had much interest in owning the coupe version of the S13. My interest in them came and went a few times over the years, but never got serious until 2016 or so. I always felt the 180SX just looked so much more aggressive with OEM aero than the Silvia did, and it just looked more like a sports car to me. But with a largely complete S13 hatch at home, I began to dream of owning a matching coupe as well. S13s were becoming scarce and Silvia front end parts were getting more expensive. My desire to own a coupe began to grow, and I even briefly considered parting out my hatch to build one. I’m pretty glad I didn’t.

Seeing both cars on the ground at the same time really is a wild feeling.

Alexi and I decided to roll the coupe outside as well to grab some photos of the cars together. And while I definitely questioned my sanity seeing both cars in the driveway at once, I also felt a massive sense of accomplishment. They’re not complete yet, and probably never will be, but they’re both mine. While all of the body panels aren’t painted, they’re all bolted in place. The black interiors are fully assembled. They both have running SR20DET engine swaps. This realization completely blows me away.

The coupe definitely looks a lot worse next to an S13 that’s nearly all one color, but it was still a cool thing to witness. I’ve just got to remind myself not to get discouraged and to enjoy the process they’ll get there eventually.

I only have one battery for the cars at the moment since I didn’t want to buy a brand new one for the coupe at the end of fall only to sit all winter, so after I got it charged up I was able to fire up both cars and back them into the garage again. So, I haven’t gotten to hop into each car and crank them up to hear them both run at the same time, but I look forward to that day this spring. What a crazy and silly feeling- two of the same darn car.

It’s a small undertaking to toss on a set of wheels and tires and roll two cars out of the garage, but this was a big day to me and a great start to my attempt at getting back into the swing of this hobby a bit in 2021. Sometimes a small step forward can feel like a huge milestone, and yesterday was for sure one of those days. I’m feeling very hopeful and excited for the future of my cars and this blog in the coming months. Life is crazier than ever, but I’m confident I can keep things moving!

You can’t take photos of the cars without at least one of the girls requesting a glamour shot.

Thank you as always for stopping by. It’s more of an ask than ever these days to try to get people to navigate to an actual website and read words, so I really appreciate everyone that is able to find some enjoyment and encouragement from following along. As always, don’t hesitate to drop me an email or DM (@camryonbronze) to chat or ask a question.

Have an awesome weekend!

Damon

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Headlight Tuning

One of the few things I have managed to mess around with on my cars in the couple weeks is the headlights on my hatch. (Editor’s Note: I know it technically should be called a fastback, but that just feels so strange to say. And I don’t want to call it a 180 because that bugs people too. So from now on, I’m just going to refer to the cars as my hatch and my coupe. Deal?) The headlight housings you choose for the iconic pop-ups have a drastic impact on the overall appearance of the car.

I’ve swapped back and forth between a few different options over the years as my tastes change. My experience includes generic eBay clear housings, Raybrig clear H4 housings, and Hella H4 housings. The other option I have considered for years is the Cibie H4 that Mike from ClearCorners.com used to always preach about on Zilvia.net, but I could never bring myself to spend the money and track a pair down. Mike used to always say those by far had the best light output.

For me, it’s never really been about light output as much as it has been the aesthetic. Raybrig housings have a very clean and sleek look that updates the front end of the car a bit. During some of my more OEM+ phases, I have ditched the Raybrigs in favor of Hellas. That’s what I had on my car for the last few years, but I recently wanted to give the Raybrigs a try once again.

I decided it might be helpful to document the visual difference between three different H4 headlight options for the S13- Hella, Raybrig Clear Type, and Raybrig Blue/Purple type. My previous sets of Raybrigs were always the clear type, but I bit the bullet and tried ordering the blue/purple type this time to see if I liked it. As fate would have it, the eBay seller sent me clear ones- so I had to order another pair of the blue/purple version from a different seller.

From Left to Right: Hella, Raybrig Clear Type, Raybrig Blue/Purple Type.

Here’s a side by side comparison of the two Raybrig options. The blue tint is fairly subtle, but you can definitely tell it’s there when compared to the clear type. Be sure to take note when you order these as some sellers sell the housings individually, and others sell as a pair. I was bummed to find I had been duped into ordering one light rather than a pair and had to order a second one. Rather than taking risks with eBay like I did, I would recommend ordering from a reputable retailer like RHD Japan just to be safe.

I tossed one of the blue Raybrigs on the car to grab some side by side photos of the visual difference between these and the Hellas. It definitely changes the look of the car quite a bit for something so simple. One key difference to note is that the Hella lenses are glass and the Raybrigs are plastic. I did have a Hella lens spider crack once a few years back from getting hit by a stone on the highway. Please excuse my aero items that are still unpainted- hope to address that before spring arrives!

Blue/Purple Raybrig on the left, Hella on the right.
There’s a major visual difference between the two types.

I was curious about the beam pattern and light distribution, so I snapped a photo of that as well. Honestly, I didn’t see as much of a difference as I expected to. I’ve always thought the Hellas were superior, but it’s not as drastic of a difference as I expected. I’m no lighting expert though…

Hella on the left, Raybrig on the right.

And finally, here are a couple photos to compare the clear Raybrigs vs the blue/purple version. It’s a little difficult to capture the color difference, but hopefully this info is helpful to people struggling with which option to choose like I did.

Blue/Purple type on the left, clear type on the right.

I ultimately decided to stick to my guns and run the clear type Raybrigs this time around. I like the blue/purple version a lot and think they’re really cool, but the clear type just seems to compliment my car a bit more in my opinion. I think the blue would suit the car more if it was a bit more wild, i.e. large aero and aftermarket seats etc.

Are there other options out there like projector retrofitted and LED housings? Yes. But in my personal opinion, those just don’t flow well with the type of S13 I hope to build. I’m sure the light output is much better, but I personally just don’t care for the look of those newer-age solutions. It’s probably silly to sacrifice drivability and visibility for the sake of appearance, but that’s sort of what this hobby is about in a lot of ways right?

So there you have it! Hopefully this info helps you out with your headlight decision for your pop-up equipped S13. I do plan to pick up some LED headlight bulbs for both of my S13s this winter, so perhaps I’ll check in with an update on how those work out. I’ll likely leave the other lights on the cars as normal halogen bulbs, but we’ll see.

Thanks as always for stopping by to follow along with my garage shenanigans. I hope you have a great weekend!

Damon

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Welcome to 2021!

Greetings and Happy New Year! It’s been a while since I checked in- over three months in fact. I would like to say I have gotten a lot done with my cars since then, but that’s pretty far from the case. To be honest, I can’t really remember the last time I spent an evening in the garage with my tools out tackling specific projects. Once the coupe was somewhat complete and in a running state, I sort of abandoned any kind of work in the garage and got swept away by life’s priorities.

There’s no disputing that 2020 was a difficult year for just about everyone. However, it was also a really great year for me in a lot of ways. While we were all impacted by things like being laid off from jobs, kids having to attend virtual school, and generally feeling tethered to our homes, I did experience some exciting life changes like starting a new job and getting my coupe on the road. Despite all of the difficulties that 2020 brought my way, I don’t think I could really say it was any worse than any other year in my life- and for that I feel extremely thankful. It was definitely different in ways I could have ever imagined, but many good things came my way as well.

With a new year comes new ambitions. While nothing has truly changed aside from the date, and many of the same challenges from last year will continue into the new one, it can still be a great opportunity to make changes in your life and set some goals for the months ahead. One of my somewhat lofty goals for myself this year is to attempt to post something here once a week- even if it’s fairly quick and lacking major changes to my cars. Goals like this can easily promote burnout and pressure you into creating sub-par content since your heart isn’t really in it, but I am excited to give it a try. I’ve done this in the past and failed, but I still feel it would be a cool goal to realize.

Yes, the pop cans have been steadily piling up since COVID began. Things got a little crazy, haha. I haven’t had a can yet in 2021 though!

Here are a couple quick photos of how my garage sits currently. You may notice a few subtle changes since my last post, but for the most part things are very much like they were last September. However, I plan to dive into the details around a couple small things that I have been working on in the weeks ahead- the idea being to complete a new blog post around lunchtime every Friday. I finally upgraded my tired old iPhone 7 to a 12 this week, so hopefully photo quality will improve a bit going forward. I was definitely due for an upgrade!

The coupe is still a million different colors and will be for the foreseeable future.
A couple things look different on the hatch though…

The stage of life I find myself in currently is just crazy. Between trying to accomplish working from home (my office returned to full-time virtual work in November due to a new order from the governor of Michigan,) getting a third and first grader to school every morning (my kids are still attending in person for the time being thankfully,) and having a third kiddo at home, my wife and I are completely exhausted by the time we get to sit down each night. This doesn’t always lend itself to finding time to spend in the garage.

I’m still loving the overall stance and wheel/tire setup on this car.
Concerned about the ride height for drivability but I am in love with the overall presence it has.

My mindset about the cars has shifted a bit in the last six months, and I don’t really find myself contemplating selling them nearly as often as I used to – or much at all, really. I’ve transitioned a bit to understanding that some stages of life are busier than others, and I’ll simply get to them when the time is right. Of course, finding a new job with a bit more security has certainly helped that mindset. With the prices of S13s and their associated parts skyrocketing in the last year, it only makes sense to simply let the cars sit and address them when I can. That being said, I am definitely excited for the weather to break as I have every intention of registering and street driving both of these cars as much as I possibly can this season.

Just let me get the .5x camera out of my system and I’ll return to normal photos – I promise.

In any case, thanks a lot to everyone that stops by to read this or reaches out to me via email or Instagram to share their own passion and motivation. Messages like that really make me feel great and motivate me to get things moving again in my own garage. If you’ve reached out and I still owe you a response, I hope to get to that sometime this weekend. I’m planning to get organized and come up with a rough plan moving forward for the remainder of the winter season to hopefully have these cars in decent shape when the weather finally breaks in April or May.

If you’re into podcasts or want to catch a rare glimpse of me actually showing my face online, check out Jimmy’s podcast next Wednesday. He’ll be sharing more details around timing on his Instagram next week (@jyw0rld). Looking forward to getting back in the swing of things and chatting about S13s with him and anyone that happens to tune in!

Happy New Year y’all! Don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have questions or if there is anything I can help with- or even just to chat! Have an excellent weekend.

Damon

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Fall Begins

I can’t believe another two months have passed since my last post. Some portions of 2020 have felt like they are dragging on for an eternity, while others pass in the blink of an eye. Back in late July, I had just gotten the coupe out of the garage for the first time- and I had just found out that I lost my job.

Almost exactly one month after losing my job, I accepted a new position as a graphic designer for a recruiting firm in metro Detroit. It’s a change of pace for me to work at a smaller company, but so far I am finding the work to be very rewarding. I have been working three days per week in the office and two from home which is also a nice perk. The new position has brought a much needed dose of normalcy to my life during these crazy times. Combine that with my daughters going back to school (in person no less) and life is really starting to get busy again.

My new job is about a 55 mile commute one way, so that’s the biggest change from my previous gig that was located only a mile from home. It’s tough not spending as much time with my wife and kids, but I have been enjoying the drive for the most part. This means I’ll have plenty of opportunities to log some miles on my S13s next year when I register them again, so I am looking forward to enjoying them if things work out as I hope. My previous commute made it really difficult to find time to enjoy driving the cars.

So, with that out of the way, let’s backtrack and cover what has changed with the cars in the past two months. As one might expect, I haven’t devoted much time to them as of late. The last weeks of summer meant spending time outside with family, taking quick trips to the new family lake house up North, interviewing for jobs, and going back to school. I did manage to get a couple small tasks done though.

Coupe

For starters, here are a few photos I took of the coupe the first time I got it out and was able to drive it. I know these shots will be significant to me for a long time to come, so I wanted to be sure I shared them here for reference down the road someday.

And a couple with the GTR grille fitted:

After getting the car on the road, I immediately found that the factory wheel bearings were trashed. I ordered a pair from Rock Auto and had my cousin press them for me at his work. I definitely noticed a reduction in noise after installing them, but I think the rear bearings might be junk as well. I’ll have to replace those at some point this winter to ensure everything is working properly. I’ll likely try to replace the CV boots at the same time.

August 9th (two days after Alexi’s third birthday!) marked the one year anniversary of when I brought the chassis home to my house for the first time. As is the custom, I had to take some comparison photos as a reminder of just how far the car has come in one year’s time. It’s always good to look back on your accomplishments as they serve as the best motivation to continue chipping away at the seemingly never-ending list of things that need to get done. It’ll actually be about two years since I bought the car this coming November, but I left it in storage at a friend’s place for a while before I officially rolled it into my garage and began working on it.

After a few weeks flew by, I finally put the coupe back in the air to take care of a few things- the first being a pair of Auto Collect Storm fender braces. These are a great addition to any street or drift car and keep your fender fitment looking solid.

The next item I installed was an Xcessive Manufacturing skid plate to protect the oil pan. I have the same one on my hatch and it has saved the engine many times. With the coupe being slightly lower, it was a no brainer to install one of these.

Lens was dirty… sorry about that, haha.

A new lower fan shroud was fitted after the previous one decided to hurl itself into the fan, breaking all of the mounting tabs. I’m not sure why that happened, but hopefully the issue is solved now.

With those things squared away, I switched gears to tackle the task of installing a brand new pair of fender liners on the car. This requires a fair amount of trimming and a bit of ingenuity on a lowered car, but it produces a much cleaner look than if you simply left them off of the car. I’m planning to post a more detailed how-to here soon, but check out my Instagram story highlights in the mean time (@camryonbronze) if you’d like to see what I am talking about.

While I had the front end apart, I finished trimming the Silvia Aero bumper to clear the front mount intercooler before bolting it firmly into place. I still want to play with the fitment a little bit, but at least everything clears now and it is firmly bolted into place.

My fenders were installed with random bolts I had hanging around, so I elected to replace them with all new bolts from Nissan. Who knows if these are the correct bolts, but they’re one of the part numbers I found when searching PS13 schematics- so they should work well.

The last order of business that I have yet to tackle is reinstalling the lights up front. The bracket for the passenger side headlight has some issues with the mounting holes, so I need to repair that before bolting them into place. Everything had just been mocked up more or less previously, so I’ll have to spend some time installing everything properly in the next week or so.

Hatch

As has been the case for nearly all of 2020, the hatch continues to find itself on the back burner. I adjusted the idle and timing slightly when I was tuning those items on the coupe, so it’s nice that the car finally idles more closely to where it should. I’ve had a new OEM vacuum hose for the cold side sitting on the floor of the car for a while, so I finally got around to tossing that on. A small detail that doesn’t really make much of a difference other than providing a little personal satisfaction.

I did secure one cool item for the car a while back- another NeXt Miracle Cross Bar. This has always been one of my favorite parts for the 180SX and I began to miss having one again. I think this might be my fourth one of these- maybe I’ll actually hold onto it this time? I previously reverted back to running a rear seat and seatbelts so that I could take my daughters for rides, but I figured the coupe can probably serve this purpose in the future. It’s quieter and the ride is less harsh, so it makes sense for that car to remain a four seater- and the hatch can be a little more wild if I choose to take that route. We’ll see what the interior looks like by spring, but I am excited to install it once I receive some of the hardware that was missing.

Finally, I sent out a spare valve cover from an SR20 I parted out a while back to TRG for coating. I elected to go with the same color I did for the coupe so that both cars will match. It’s a very similar color to the factory valve cover which I like for whatever reason. I need to order a few things to install it but plan to get to that sometime this off season.

So that’s about it! Life has been very good but also very crazy these past few months so I just haven’t been able to get much done. It’s not really for a lack of motivation or desire to work on the cars, just a lack of time. Uncertainty with my career has also been a factor, but fingers crossed I am now in good shape on that front. This is the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without getting to enjoy my car, so I am looking forward to putting as many miles as I can on them next year when all of this craziness has died down.

I recently got a request from someone to document how I went about tucking the exhaust on the coupe and steps I take to avoid major exhaust damage and leaks, so I am hoping to write about that soon. I’ll also be sure to place the fender liner how-to info here as well since people seemed to enjoy that. If you have something you’re curious about that you’d like me to explain in more detail sometime, feel free to drop me a line here or via Instagram! I would love to get back into the swing of posting more often and providing some useful content again.

I hope everyone is doing well- thanks as always for taking the time to swing by and read my rambling!

Damon

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Return from Hiatus

About twelve weeks have passed since my last post here- the longest drought in a while. Fortunately the weeks away from maintaining the blog have not been without progress on the automotive front. As I am sure is the case for most of you, life is still fairly upside down due to the continued fight against COVID-19. After spending the last thirteen weeks away from my job as a graphic designer on furlough, I was notified this week that my position has been eliminated. It’s a bit unsettling to get news like that, but fortunately my company is going to some pretty crazy lengths to ensure that employees that have been laid off will be supported during this difficult time. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I will land somewhere better from all of this, it just might take some time to get there.

In the spirit of making lemonade when life decides to throw you a few lemons, I can say this has been one of the best summers of my adult life. Thanks to the state and federal unemployment support during this global pandemic, I have been able to spend the last three months home with my family during the best weather Michigan has to offer. You would think this would afford me with endless time to work on my cars, but it’s not always easy to get things done with three little girls around. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to reorganize my socket set thanks to Alexi wreaking havoc on it as a distraction while I wrench on the car, but it has been nice to be able to work on things during daylight hours from time to time.

While I have taken it relatively easy on the wrenching front during this time to focus on my family, I do have a fair amount of progress to share. Let’s split things up into months to try to backtrack a bit and keep things organized.

MAY

As you may remember from my last post, I began the month of May with the cash from my AVS Model Vs in my PayPal account and a decision to make. I had just dropped the stock rear subframe from the coupe and was trying to decide if I should use those funds for getting a new set of wheels for the hatch or the suspension overhaul on the coupe. With no real end in sight to the odd state of our day to day lives during COVID, I made the decision to move forward with the suspension overhaul on the coupe. This would not only give me some goals to work towards and keep me busy, but it simply seemed like the right direction to go since I couldn’t really even renew the registration on the hatch and probably wouldn’t be taking it on any road trips this summer anyway.

I began by stripping the rear subframe down and giving it a lengthy cleaning. There were inches of dirt and grime all over it, so this took a lot of time and elbow grease to accomplish. When I finally had it all cleaned up, I hit it with a few coats of Rustoleum semigloss black paint. I probably should have powder coated it, but didn’t really want to deal with the extra cost and wait time with everything going on right now. I did the same with my hatch years ago during the suspension overhaul and don’t really regret it. For a car that sees a decent amount of street duty it just seems to make sense.

I’ve had a couple of new JDM-OEM trunk lock setups sitting around for my coupe build for quite some time now, so I decided to install the rectangular version for the heck of it. Both Silvia trunk locks are super cool and add a lot to the look of the exterior, even if the car hasn’t been painted yet. Definitely one of those small details that I am really geeked about.

I next turned my attention to replacing the aging rubber bushings on the car. I picked up a ball joint press from Amazon that ended up really coming in handy. I used this to remove the rear ball joints as well as the bushings from the rear uprights. I initially wanted to purchase NISMO rear lower control arms, but decided to just install replacement bushings and ball joints to save some cash. This proved to be an annoying decision that likely wasn’t worth the cost savings, but more on that later.

As the month of May continued to fly by, parts seemed to arrive almost every day. A majority of the items were purchased via Rock Auto, which some will likely scoff at. At the end of the day this vehicle is going to remain a basic street car, so this decision made sense from both a cost and practicality standpoint. I elected to keep the factory brake setup on the car since I planned to utilize 15″ four lug wheels, so that kept things relatively simple. I sourced replacement brake rotors, remanufactured calipers, front lower control arms, rear ball joints, a new brake master cylinder, tie rod ends, sway bar end links, and a number of other parts to essentially replace virtually every component of the brakes and suspension. On a chassis with well over 300k miles on it, this was a no-brainer.

For the aftermarket side of things from a suspension standpoint, I went with a number of replacement items from NISMO, including front and rear lower control arm bushings, rear upright bushings, and rear subframe bushings. The majority of the other suspension items I replaced were from Moog as I’ve heard great things about them over the years.

As for coilovers, I once again stuck with my go-to setup from Stance Suspension in Chicago, Illinois. John Kim at Stance has been a huge supporter of my cars over the years and was even gracious enough to include a set of shorter springs up front so that I didn’t have to preload them at all to meet my height goals.

At some point along the line I misplaced my front suspension nuts, so Russell at NissanParts.cc was kind enough to help me out with a set. This allowed me to begin assembly of the front suspension. After painting the factory suspension components I had decided to reuse, I pressed the NISMO bushings into the Moog front control arms and bolted them up to the car, along with Tein inner and Moog outer tie rods.

From an adjustable arms standpoint, I ended up following the tried and true path of SPC tension rods, traction arms, rear upper control arms, and rear toe rods. I’ve used these arms a lot over the years on my hatch as they’re relatively affordable, simple in design and appearance, and utilize rubber bushings instead of heim joints or something more harsh. I was definitely tempted to go with a more old-school JDM solution like Cusco arms, but the cost savings and convenience made sense in this case.

JUNE

With the front suspension bolted into place, I proceeded to installed most of the front brake components. Blank rotors, remanufactured calipers, and StopTech street brake pads were all snugged up to more or less complete the front suspension. The StopTech stainless brake lines were on a lengthy backorder and ironically took a long time to come in despite the fact that they’re located here in the states.

I had sourced a set of front and rear sway bar bushings from the 180SX in Japan only to find that they must not translate properly to the USDM chassis. I was able to make use of the front bushings after I trimmed a small portion of the rubber off of them, but the rears were not usable. I ended up ordering a set of Energy Suspension bushings for the rear as I couldn’t find the proper OEM setup and didn’t feel like waiting again for parts from Japan to arrive. The front sway bar was bolted into place with the trimmed Nissan bushings and Moog end links.

In attempting to press my NISMO bushings at home, I ended up destroying one of the rubber bushings on the rear knuckles that mounts to the rear toe arms. I had to order a replacement from Japan and found that it was backordered until mid July, but decided to order it and wait things out. I ended up waiting to press my bushings until I could do them with my buddy Tim at his shop since he had better equipment to press bushings than I did at home.

While waiting for a free evening to go to Tim’s shop, I decided to mount up the HKS Hi Power catback I purchased locally back when everything hit the fan to see what it sounded like. I found it on the local S13 for sale group on Facebook and the deal was too good to pass up. I had my concerns about ground clearance, but decided to give it a shot. When paired with the Magnaflow high flow cat converter and stock SR20 airbox, the car sounds super tame- a welcome change from what I am used to. I thought my hatch was quiet, but this setup is even quieter. I love the look of the classic canister on the coupe as well. I elected to utilize the same polyurethane exhaust hanger bushings on my coupe to try to maintain as much ground clearance as possible.

I finally managed to find the time to head out to Tim’s shop to press the bushings one night in mid June. The rear lower control arm bushings are a huge pain to remove, but Tim got them out with his air chisel. After pressing the bushings into the rear uprights and lower control arms, we turned our attention to the rear subframe. We tried to just use the air chisel and avoid the whole burning thing, but sadly the bushings were in too good of shape and fire needed to be utilized. Exhausted and ready to wrap up for the night, we hit a snag pressing the first of the four subframe bushings. We didn’t properly clean and lube the subframe causing the bushing to snag and ultimately be destroyed. I ended up leaving the subframe at his work and taking home my other suspension components feeling a bit defeated.

Shortly after that fiasco, I received a small order of items from NissanParts.cc that included small things like front bearing grease caps, some hardware that I needed, and a fresh set of door strikers with hardware. You can’t beat the feeling of a set of fresh strikers- definitely worth it!

I noticed that coolant had been leaking from the pinch rail near the passenger door when I let the car warm up long enough for the thermostat to open for the first time. This was really confusing to me until I finally realized what was going on- the heater core was leaking. I ended up having to remove and dry the carpeting, take out all of the dynamat on the passenger floor (since it got coolant under it,) and rip the whole interior apart again to remove it. Fortunately I sourced a replacement from Rock Auto and it arrived very quickly, allowing me to get it all buttoned up again relatively quickly. What a hassle though- I’ve never had to deal with this before and hope I never have to again.

While the interior was apart once again, I caved and decided to paint my gauge cluster bezel and buttons with some SEM interior paint. It turned out great and matches the shifter trim and center console quite nicely now. I was hesitant to do it before and decided to be lazy, but since I had to remove it again I decided to take care of it.

As June came to a close, I took my Work Equip 40s to my friend Jalen to have the 195/50/15 Advan Flevas mounted up. While Jalen was mounting the tires, I went over to Tim’s shop with the replacement NISMO subframe bushings in hand (thankfully it wasn’t backordered and arrived in less than two weeks) to press it in and finish my subframe. This time things went off without a hitch and I headed home with my fresh wheels and tires and completed subframe in tow ready to make their way onto the car.

Now it was time to get to work- I partially assembled the rear subframe with the SPC adjustable arms and other refreshed components. With the bare minimum of suspension items mocked up, I tossed the subframe back on the car so that I could roll the rear quarters. My fender roller was loaned to me from my friend Greg, so it made sense to just quickly mock it up to get the quarter panels taken care of so that I could return it to him. I elected to just roll the panels flat this time instead of pulling them like I did on my hatch- something I have grown to regret over the years. I also lightly rolled the front fenders to make clearance for the tires.

I was also able to solve one of the few remaining pieces to the puzzle after a lucky score on the local Facebook pages. I found a pair of S14 seats in pretty solid condition for a great price. After a decent amount of elbow grease they turned out fairly nice.

JULY

This brings us to the month of July. After rolling the rear quarter panels, I dropped the subframe once more to undercoat the rear portion of the car. This went fairly smoothly and cleaned things up substantially. I probably should have dropped the fuel tank and undercoated above it, but I knew this would make me want to install a brand new tank- another expense I couldn’t afford at the time. I didn’t let temptation get the better of me and left it all in place for now.

I elected to reinstall the subframe without addressing the factory open diff or axles for a number of reasons, the first being cost savings. I am not sure when I will have the funds for a proper diff setup and a refresh on the CV boots, but I really wanted to be able to get the car on the ground and drive it before the end of the summer. As tough as it was to toss those gross items back onto the car, it was necessary in order to make progress. Hopefully I can address that stuff this winter sometime.

With the diff and axles snugged up to the subframe, Alexi assisted me with bolting it into place for good. You wouldn’t expect a two year old to be very helpful with this tedious task, but it actually helped a lot to have her pump the jack up while I worked to ensure the subframe was going onto the car evenly. From this point I was essentially off to the races. I finished installing the rear suspension and brakes, again choosing to go with blank rotors and StopTech stainless lines and pads.

One item that came up around the time that I discovered the leaky heater core was when I realized that the bearing in my power steering pump had gone bad. I ended up finding a rebuilt one from a fellow named Ivan on Instagram, so I installed that after finishing the rear subframe.

After a long wait, the front Stoptech stainless brake lines finally arrived. After bolting those into place, I was nearly ready to put the car on the ground for the first time. All I needed to do was grease the ball joints and tie rod ends- easy, right? I have never owned ball joints that require greasing before, so this was surprisingly new to me. I picked up a grease gun at AutoZone (first mistake) that gave me a heck of a time getting it to work properly. After taking the grease fitting portion apart about fifteen times, I finally got it to work.

July 6th brought the moment of truth- my first time pulling the car out of the garage. After adjusting the ride height for what felt like weeks, I finally started it up and drove it into the driveway. There was only one problem- I dragged just about everything imaginable under the car when exiting the garage. This sort of surprised me since this is not an area that has every caused issues with my hatch, but I knew things were going to be different with the small wheel setup.

I spent some time messing with the height and fitment after this but just couldn’t manage to make things work. After talking to some people that run similar setups online, I elected to step up to a 195/55/15 Advan Fleva instead. While waiting for the tires to arrive, I removed the PBM Cobra downpipe from the car and hammered the floor pan a bit to get some additional clearance for the exhaust to tuck up higher on the chassis. For some reason the cat converter hangs lower on my coupe, but the downpipe was hitting the floor preventing me from tucking it any higher. I believe this to be a result of the NISMO engine mounts, but I could be wrong. After massaging the floor a bit I was able to get everything to tuck up nicely.

With the new tires in hand, I took the girls with me to see my friend Jalen once again this past Monday. He swapped the tires out for the 55 series for me, and man what a difference it made. I installed the wheels and tires when I got home before putting it on the ground and bringing it out of the garage once again- this time without any scraping. The new look is perfect in my opinion and affords me just enough clearance to drive the car around.

More photos from the car’s first day on the street coming in the next post…

Alicia and I spent the evening taking turns driving the car around the neighborhood shaking out little issues that come up with a freshly assembled car like adjusting the TPS and timing. I can’t describe what it feels like to drive a car for the first time that you brought home as an essentially bare shell- it’s very surreal. I parked the car in the street, set up my camping chair, and relaxed in the front yard that evening while the kids played with their friends in awe of the fact that it was finally out of the garage and moving under its own power.

I ended up opening my B Craft GTR front grille that I bought about a year ago on Yahoo Auctions to see what it looked like on the car. I definitely like the look and will probably switch off between that and the factory Silvia grille from time to time in the future.

Yesterday I buttoned up the interior by finishing the carpet install and bolting the passenger side S14 seat into place. I added small items that were missing including the door pulls and handle bezels, side mirror trim, and a pair of new window cranks. It’s amazing to see a complete black interior in the car considering what it looked like when I bought it.

I also spent some time swapping out the cracked tail lights for a cleaner pair that I kept from one of my part outs last year. Finally, I cleaned and reinstalled the rear trunk panels and carpeting. So cool to see a totally complete interior in this car!

So there you have it- all of this excitement of course being topped off by me losing my job. It was a wild range of emotions to experience in 24 hours, but life is like that sometimes. I am so glad I was able to get the car on the ground and drive it around before I received this news. I’ll continue to tinker and solve little issues for the remainder of the season, but will now turn my attention to finding a new job as soon as possible. The car will serve as a great distraction to keep me focus and positive in the mean time though.

Oh, and the hatch? Nothing has changed there. It’s still sitting on stands in the garage and will likely remain there until next season. Hopefully I will be able to pick up some wheels for it and address some of the issues it has before then, but it’ll remain on the back burner for the time being.

This is a crazy long post- my apologies! I will do my best to update a bit more frequently for the remainder of the year to keep things more manageable. Thanks to everyone that reached out to me during this time away to ask how the project was coming along and to check on myself and my family- I appreciate it! I hope to keep providing some interesting updates around the two clunkers in the future. Thanks as always for taking the time to read this and I wish you all the best with whatever craziness you might be facing right now.

Damon

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May is Here

Well, there I go again- dropping a fairly entertaining and substantial update only to fall off the radar for three weeks. While so many aspects of life have ground to a halt due to COVID-19 and everything that has come with it, life still feels crazier than ever.

After working from home at my job as a graphic designer for about five weeks, I got the news last week that my position would be furloughed until July 5th. I knew furloughs were going to impact my department for a couple of weeks prior to receiving this news, so it wasn’t really a shock. In fact, it was actually sort of a relief to know my fate and begin taking the necessary steps to move forward with the next steps of reacting to this life adjustment. I was hesitant to even share this info publicly, but I think it is good to discuss it since so many of us are being impacted by things like this right now. While it’s a scary time, I think my family and I should be able to weather the storm. We still have lots to be grateful for – that’s for sure.

So, I’m essentially on the longest vacation I’ve had since summer break as a kid in ninth grade. The only difference is I don’t live under my mom’s roof and I have a wife and three kids of my own to provide for. My two older daughters are both in elementary school, so it has been a bit hectic trying to complete all of their assignments with them each week for their “online learning.” I am really thankful to be off of work right now so that I am available to help my wife with this as getting through two sets of lessons every day while keeping a two year old busy is virtually impossible. The weather has also been improving drastically in Michigan since my time off began, so we have been able to get outside more often- which is definitely helpful for our sanity.

I didn’t expect to have time to think about my cars with all of this going on, but I do find myself daydreaming about them and what steps need to be taken next to progress. I did take a bit of a break after my last post to spend time with the family and address work and school needs, but recently started easing back into spending time in the garage- which, as always, has been a great escape for everything going on. Here’s an update on what’s going on with both of the cars:

Hatch

Not much has changed on the hatch. After giving it a wash recently, I closely inspected the roof along the windshield on the inside to see that the rust is visible there too- not just on the outside of the car. A steady stream of water pours into the car when you wash it in this area- it’s gotten to a point where it can no longer be ignored, which is honestly pretty frustrating.

So the car needs some body and paint work- that’s nothing new. It’s the same topic I have beat to death over the last few years. Yes, I could take the car in and have the roof repaired and painted along with dropping in a new windshield. However, I would really like to just paint the entire car once and be done with it. I’ve got all new moldings and weather stripping tucked away for it, but don’t want to install it until the car has been painted. I don’t currently have the funds for this, so the car just sort of sits and waits. ˇhe only difference is I have been able to drive it in this state until fairly recently. With the way it is leaking now, I can’t really do that anymore without destroying my interior.

The only thing I have really changed on the hatch is installing a pair of LE door panels that I got from my friend Jalen. I have wanted a set of these for a long time to match the glove box I have in the car. The grey suede-like fabric resembles the kouki 180SX door panels and glove box, which complements my seats nicely. They’re not in the best shape sadly, but they did clean up decent enough to make me decide to install them. It’s really nice to have fabric on the door panels again for the first time since the red Bride fabric in 2012.

Since I won’t be working anyway until July, I decided not to renew the registration or add insurance to the car. I can still drive it of course, but it has been rare for me to leave the house lately. The stay home order in Michigan was extended again until May 15th, so there’s not really much reason for me to risk going anywhere.

That being said, I also decided to part ways with the Advan Model Vs. I’ve done this quick about face with a few sets of wheels over the years- you would think I would learn to trust my gut by now, but I never seem to learn. I guess it is fun to see different wheels on the car if nothing else. I posted them for trade for a pair of bronze NISMO LMGT4, but decided to sell them after not having any luck. They were cool wheels, but the redone finish on them from the previous owner and high offsets drove me crazy. Someone gave me what I wanted for them, so I packed them up and shipped them out yesterday.

I don’t have a plan for replacing the wheels on the car at this time. The only wheels I am interested in right now are a set of bronze 17/18 NISMO LMGT4, but you have to pay to play as the old saying goes- and I don’t want to pay the prices these things are fetching right now. They’re tough to find, and when you do find them the prices are bonkers. Who knows- maybe it will happen someday, or maybe I’ll seek out a bronze set of TE37s again- but I think it has to be one or the other. For the foreseeable future though I think the hatch will be on jack stands once again.

Coupe

As is typically the case these days, most of my attention has once again been directed to the coupe. I’ve been working on the interior a bit, especially with completing the carpet install. It’s close to done now, it just needs to be buttoned up on the passenger side. I was able to keep the plastic guide pieces from some of the part out cars this time around to secure the carpet along the door scuff plates which helped a ton. I had never done this in the past with my hatch but I highly recommend it! I attached them to the new carpet with a staple gun.

The next order of business was painting the center console and ash tray to match the brand new OEM shifter trim I had for the car. I ordered some more SEM Color Coat Satin Black since I had run out when I sprayed the cowl and wiper arms. I can’t say enough good things about SEM paint- it goes on so nicely and dries really well. It’s not a perfect match to the shifter trim, but it looks MUCH better than it did.

After installing the center console, I put in the new shifter trim, shift boot, and non-power mirror block off plate I have been saving for the car. I also bolted the glove box and frame into place. This really makes the interior feel complete. I definitely spent some time sitting in the back seat of the car the other night admiring my work. I’m looking forward to wrapping up the interior this summer and sharing some before and after photos. Interior tuning is one of my favorite aspects of working on these cars.

I received an order from RHD Japan that included a few random items I wasn’t able to source stateside- front and rear sway bar bushings, bolts for the SR20 TPS, the large vacuum hose that connects to the cold pipe near the throttle body, the lower power steering hose and clamps, bolts for the hood, and clamps for the coolant overlfow tank hose. I ordered multiples of some of these items for the hatch as well.

The correct TPS screws vs. what someone else hammered into the throttle body.

When attempting to install the correct TPS screws, I found the previous owner of my engine had threaded in bolts that were too long- the original reason I ordered replacements. However, I also found they were the wrong thread pitch and had destroyed the throttle body. Fortunately I was able to find a spare on Instagram and installed it when it arrived last week. A major hassle, but something I am glad I took care of.

Next I installed the new power steering lines running off of the reservoir that I sourced from the 180SX in Japan. Neither line was identical to the US counterpart, but they were close enough to get the job done. I also installed the large vacuum line and clamps on the cold pipe. It’s so satisfying to have the proper factory hoses in place! There’s just something about it.

Old generic hose and clamps vs. the correct part from Nissan.

I then installed the new hood bolts I sourced from Japan. The ones that came with the car had been rounded off and mangled beyond repair, so it was nice to have these.

Wrapping things up in the engine bay, I installed a stock Silvia SR20DET airbox and Eneos filter that I purchased from a Zilvia member. He was replacing the setup with an aftermarket one on his imported Silvia, so this was the perfect chance for me to secure a nearly complete factory setup. I’ve grown tired of my air filter bouncing around in my hatch over the years, so I wanted to make life simple and go with a stock intake setup on this car. It was a bit of a chore to get the hot pipe to fit alongside it, but luckily I was able to make it work. I am very satisfied with how tidy and OEM the bay looks with this piece in place! Very cool to see.

Another order arrived from Nissan, this time via my good friends Russell and Erich at NissanParts.cc. This order included clamps for the cold pipe vacuum lines, new fender bolts for the coupe, the upper rear window molding for the coupe, nuts for installing the Silvia aero front bumper, clips for the brake and clutch lines, and new window crank handles to replace the brown ones the car came with. Definitely check those guys out and support them if you need any factory parts or hardware- they go out of their way to help with small dollar and odd ball parts. Great guys that have been helping me for over a decade!

Finally, I dropped the front suspension and complete rear subframe from the car a couple nights ago. I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads with how to proceed on the cars next, but I think I am leaning towards using the funds from the Model Vs towards completing the suspension and brake refresh on the coupe. This will allow me to complete the last remaining major aspect of the build, get the car on the ground, and eventually begin to drive it. I would love to be able to drive the car by the end of the summer if I can, so I think this is likely the direction I will go. Once the car is running and driving, I can turn my attention back to getting some new wheels for the hatch, Who knows though, that’s a few months out- I am sure I will change my mind a few times before that happens!

So anyway, that’s where things stand. I’ll likely weight things out one more time and make a final decision early next week. If I decide to move towards completing the coupe, I’ll begin ordering all of the needed items and tearing the rear subframe down to get it all cleaned up. It’s definitely the option that will keep me the most busy over the summer, so it’s probably what I will choose to do.

Thanks very much for stopping by to see what I am up to. I hope you and yours are happy and healthy during this craziness. As always, don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you ever want to chat or have a question about something. I’m always down to try to help! Have a great weekend and take care.

Damon

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A Good Friday Indeed

I gotta be honest with you- when the Governor of Michigan announced today that the Shelter In Place order was being extended from April 13th to May 1st, it kind of knocked the wind out of my sails. I knew it was coming and even predicted the date it would be extended to, but I think the fact that the sunshine and near 70º temps that we enjoyed yesterday had faded to snow and 40+ MPH wind gusts contributed to me feeling a bit defeated upon hearing this news.

It’s for the best, and it makes sense for everyone to be staying home and trying avoid going anywhere, but man is it tough to not spend time with family and friends or be able to go out to stores and other places as we please. It has definitely made me thankful for so many things that I previously took for granted. Michigan currently has the third most cases of any state which is pretty wild to me, but I don’t know the reason for that. Things are expected to peak about a week from now from the sounds of it, so hopefully everyone staying home helps to continue moving things in the right direction. We’ve got a ton to be thankful for and I really have no reason to complain. I’m looking forward to the return of warm weather and COVID-19 being a thing of the past. It feels so far away right now, but I am sure things will return to normal before we know it.

With the added stress of working from home with three little girls running around, my alone time in the garage every once in a while has meant more to me than ever. I love being with my kids and enjoying time with my wife in the evenings, don’t get me wrong- but it’s great to have a hobby and an escape that is purely my own to enjoy every few days. After getting the coupe running and celebrating Hattie’s sixth birthday about a week and a half ago, I spent a few nights continuing my progress on the car.

Knowing that both of the SR20s in my garage fire up and run feels like a huge hurdle has been cleared. I decided next to continue working on assembling the interior. I started by transferring the VIN plate to the replacement crack-free dash I sourced from a previous part out and bolting that into place. I was lucky enough to part out a few cars last fall that were completely stock, so when I took those apart I was sure to bag up every screw, clip, and bolt in individual baggies and label them for when the time came to assemble the interior in my own car. I had duplicates of a lot of them, but so far I’ve had every single item I needed to put things together properly- so nice!

A few months back, I purchased a 180SX gauge cluster as a donor and swapped the tachometer into my existing DOHC cluster so that it would display the correct redline for the SR20DET swap. After doing so, I installed a brand new cluster lens that I sourced from Japan. I think I lost those photos when my phone bricked a while back, but you get the idea. The refreshed cluster looks great bolted into the dash and was probably due for a clean up considering this car has nearly 350k on the clock.

After bolting the dash and cluster in place, I installed the radio and DIN pocket, HVAC controls, and a clean set of defrost vents I had been saving. This is always a stressful experience, but fortunately I got them in place without any damage.

Still usable, but a fresh hood release cable and handle was too tempting.

The hood release cable on this car had a broken mounting point, so I decided to purchase a new one. Though they were available just a few months ago, I found that they had been discontinued by Nissan North America. This has been happening to me more and more frequently as of late- a sign of things to come for the aging S13 chassis. Fortunately the part number for the 180SX is the same, so I was able to source two of them from Japan- one for the hatch as well. I installed the fresh hood cable before bolting up the lower trim panel under the dash.

Apologies for the terrible photo… but you can kind of tell there’s a handle there.

One issue I ran into when installing my Silvia seatbelt conversion was that I didn’t get the metal mounting bracket for the A pillar handle with the one I purchased from Japan. The 180SX and Silvia had an “oh sh*t handle” (for lack of a better term) on the passenger side A pillar, whereas the US and Canadian cars did not. I would prefer to have the Canadian A pillars as they look cleaner (not to mention it doesn’t make sense to have a handle on the US driver’s side) but wasn’t able to find a set like I have in my hatch- so I had to settle. I wasn’t able to bolt the handle in place without the metal bracket and had a heck of a time finding one on the auctions, but finally came across one on eBay from a JDM S14. It looked similar enough and the price was right, so I snagged it. I had to modify it slightly to allow for the clips on the pillar plastic to pass through, but it otherwise fit well and bolted right up.

In the back of the car, I installed the large rear plastic panels and a clean back seat I scored out of a parts car. Fortunately the rear seat belts were included with the Silvia manual belts I bought from Japan since the original ones in this car were brown (as was the rest of the interior.) Things are sitting relatively complete at the moment in the interior- I still need to finish trimming the carpet and install things like the lower kick panels, glove box, center console, shifter trim, etc. but hope to have that finished up fairly soon. I haven’t sourced a pair of seats for the car just yet. I would love to have some nice old school Bride buckets or something like that obviously, but it likely won’t be in the cards any time soon. I’ll probably settle for a pair of S14 seats if I can find a pair locally in decent condition and hopefully upgrade someday down the road.

Before hammering…

After…

Chassis wiring tucked up over the metal seam on the chassis to avoid the front tires rubbing through the wiring- a classic S13 task. This is the easier of the two sides.

Next on the docket was addressing the front fender wells. I sort of forgot about hammering all of the metal seams flat when I undercoated up there (it’s been about 11 years since I last did this) so I had to go back and take care of that before patching up the fresh undercoating. I next tackled tucking the chassis wiring and hood release cable up out of the way to provide clearance for the tires at my desired ride height. This was another task I had not tackled in many years, but luckily I was able to get some practice and help Jimmy out with it on his S13 when I visited a while back to help jog my memory. I think clearance should be good, but maybe I’ll pick up some Auto Collect Storm chassis harness shields in the future just in case.

I had been dreading the fender harness tuck job so it felt great to have that finished and out of the way (literally.) This meant I could move on to executing the Silvia front conversion. I’ve dreamed of completing a Silvia front end swap on an S13 ever since I helped my friend with his back in 2007, so I have been really anxious to see all of the items I have collected over the last two years come together. My Silvia fenders are used and have some imperfections, but for the price I got them for I couldn’t pass them up. I’ve owned three or four pairs during the process to try to piece together as clean of a pair as possible without breaking the bank. I thought they were fairly bent up, but after some advice from my pal Logan down in Houston, I got them to fit really well along the doors and hood with minimal effort. This put my mind at ease knowing they should come out pretty nice once they’ve been cleaned up and painted. I’ll need to go back and roll them at some point though, along with the rear quarter panels.

The first of many, many cuts to get enough clearance for the intercooler.

With the fenders and hood in place, it was time to tackle another job I’ve really been feeling anxious about- trimming my genuine Silvia aero bumper to clear the TRUST front mount intercooler. I was on the fence about this since this bumper is fairly tough to find these days and they aren’t exactly cheap. I even came close to running a factory side mount intercooler just to have perfect bumper fitment and to avoid hacking it up, but ultimately I gave in and decided it needed to be done. After some mock ups and measuring, I slowly started hacking away at the bumper.

This task was no joke- I probably mounted and removed the bumper 25 times, shaving away more material each time to try to get it to sit properly. It still isn’t perfect and I have some fine tuning to do, but I finally got the bumper and crash beam trimmed down enough to clear the intercooler and allow the complete bumper assembly to slide into place.

I next decided to install my OEM optional Silvia side skirts and rear valences to get an idea of what the complete package would look like. These are just sort of popped on the car for now, and obviously they are all different colors- but it was really exciting to see everything on the car at once. A lot of people prefer to run chuki 180SX side skirts on the Siliva since they are more flared along the bottom edge and look slightly more aggressive, but I’m a dweeb and just had to have the Silvia skirts. I think they match the lines of the coupe a bit better- even if they are less noticeable.

A day or two after I got the bumper and aero setup on, I was delighted to receive word from Jesse Streeter that my wheels I had ordered about seven weeks earlier had left Japan and were on their way to my house. I wasn’t sure how the whole COVID-19 situation was going to impact shipping and production, so to see the DHL truck pull up on a sunny evening earlier this week put a big grin on my face.

I really wanted to try my hand at a small wheel setup on the coupe for a number of reasons. Aside from it being something different and a bit out of my comfort zone, I really dig the look on coupes specifically for some reason. I also like the fact that I could leave the car four lug and save some cash instead of diving into a five lug conversion and Z32 brakes like I have on the hatch. I wouldn’t doubt that I will do that someday down the road, but I am geeked about trying this out.

I went with a set of Work Equip 40s in the standard brut silver face with polished lips and black hardware- nothing custom or crazy. I debated a staggered setup, but decided it would be cool to run the same sizes on all four corners- so I went with 15×9 -4 all around. Shoutout to Elvis of StanceNation fame for being supportive of me essentially copying the setup on his Silvia (not exactly, but to an extent) and helping confirm the specs I had in mind would meet my goals. I felt a little bad going this route since his car is so well known, but when a formula works it just works. I don’t often set out to do something groundbreaking or that no one else has done before, so I’m feeling very content about the direction. I think the color of the wheels will look amazing on the all black exterior (when the car is finally painted someday.)

With the wheels in my possession, I was dying to see everything mocked up. I tossed a wheel on the rear of the car and jacked up the rear suspension to grab some pics, but Jimmy convinced me to mock up the front as well. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this since I don’t have tires or coilovers just yet, but I was able to rig something up with the help of some garden pavers, a scissor jack, my floor jack, an old coat hanger, and a pair of vice grips. It was a little sketchy, but it got the job done!

Though I had mocked up the Silvia front previously, I had never bolted things in place properly or installed any of the lights I had sourced. I was fortunate enough to purchase everything brand new through RHD Japan’s OEM store (among other sources) over the span of about 18 months, so I was hesitant to take that stuff out of the boxes and slap it on the car. I didn’t want to risk any of it getting damaged so I had been avoiding it. But with the wheels here and the rest of the front end in place, it was time to get an idea of what the finished product might potentially look like. Part of me didn’t even want to use those lights, but what’s the point in keeping things in boxes for the rest of your life?

Nothing beats the feeling of taking a few steps to observe for the first time what you have poured so much time and energy into. It’s the feeling that keeps me going with this hobby- and probably the reason I am constantly changing things on my cars. Researching what’s needed, tracking down and collecting the hard to find goodies, and installing them is an adventure that I enjoy so much. To finally see a running (more or less) SR20DET swapped S13 coupe with a complete OEM aero setup and Silvia front end sitting in my garage next to my hatch was an incredible feeling.

I love the way it’s all coming together. I think the Equip 40s are going to complement everything perfectly and produce a pretty cool look. Dialing the ride height and camber in is going to be a process, but hopefully I don’t regret the specs I have chosen.

Still some trimming and adjustment needed here, but I am relatively happy.

Lots of body work needed… but it will get there someday.

There’s still a very long road ahead, but the sense of accomplishment I feel right now is akin to the way I felt when I first installed the complete kouki 180SX aero and CR Kais on my hatch back in 2010. To see such a transformation on a junky old rolling chassis that I picked up for free feels great. Sure, it’s still eight different colors on blown out suspension and bad brakes, but for the first time it feels like the end goal is within reach. I’m really excited to continue making some progress on the car. While there are still a number of items I need to complete it, it feels like the bulk of it’s here- it’s just up to me to put in the hours and executing the actual building.

Alexi wanted in on the glamour shots- she is my youngest at two and a half.

Hattie just turned six a little over a week ago.

Kinsey will be eight this summer… which blows my mind.

There’s talk of furloughs coming at my job, but I have yet to hear how it will impact me. I’m crossing my fingers that I am able to continue working since I have been doing a ton of projects related to COVID-19 and I am probably the busiest I have ever been, but time will tell. I’m sure everything will work out in one way or another, but these are definitely uncertain times. I’m hopeful I can continue to tinker though as it provides me with a healthy dose of sanity during all of this craziness. I know many people are in a much worse situation, so I really have nothing to complain about.

Thanks a lot for coming along on this journey with me- I hope you are as geeked about the mockup photos as I am! Looking forward to continuing with this project and making some more progress in the weeks ahead. Stay safe and stay sane everyone- take care of each other and have a great Easter weekend!

Damon

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We Have Ignition

I’m a little behind on last Friday’s blog post, but I really wanted to take the time to get something posted here to document my accomplishments a little over a week after my most recent post. For whatever reason, all of the craziness surrounding the COVID-19 thing has made me desire a creative outlet and some time on my own to do some tinkering and problem-solving more than ever. I debated waiting until Friday to share this update, but at this point most of us don’t even know what day it is or what life will look like by the weeekend- so why not share it now?!

While the recent stay at home orders have given most people a ton more free time to tackle their projects, I can’t necessarily say that rings true for me. I still spend the same amount of time (arguably more since all of this happened) working during the week, I just do it from my home instead of the office. My wife is busy caring for all three of our kids during the day (since my older two daughters are currently out of school) instead of just one, so this adds a lot of craziness to both of our lives. We still have the dinner routine and play time in the evenings with them like usual, and though we don’t need to worry about packing lunches, the typical tasks that come with taking care of a house full of little girls have not gone anywhere.

This usually leaves me with roughly 3 hours every evening to myself. But wait- that also needs to include spending some quality time with my wife. So yeah, the amount of time I have at my disposal is largely the same as it was before all of this happens- but that doesn’t mean I can’t get some work done on the cars.

My wife and I alternated nights last week between hanging out together and spending some time on personal projects. Alicia wanted to contribute to everything going on by sewing some masks to donate to local hospitals and health care workers which I thought was very admirable. My free time was spent working on getting my coupe running- a much more selfish prospect, but I suppose it might bring joy to a few people other than myself in the process.

So let’s see… where did we leave off last. The day after I made my most recent post, I was finally able to pull the hatch out of the garage for some photos with the Model Vs, N1 ducts, and OEM front lip installed. I am really pleased with the look right now and how the photos turned out. You’ve probably seen most of them via Instagram at this point since I just haven’t had time for updating the blog, but here they are for your viewing pleasure.

I couldn’t leave the coupe out, so I grabbed a few shots of that as well. It actually felt cool to get some shots of the two cars together. This was one of the first times that it started to sink in that I own two of these things. Even though the coupe is far from finished, it was a pretty cool feeling to experience.

The first task I set out to complete on the coupe last week was installation of the intercooler piping. The TRUST GReddy Spec LS kit came with just about everything needed for installation aside from a hot pipe, which I purchased from Enjuku. Plan to run without a blow off valve on this car just like I do currently on my hatch- and actually use the same intercooler setup on that car as well. After some measuring via my painter’s tape trick I used on the hatch years ago, I ended up drilling the 2.5″ hole through the battery tray. I prefer to go with a bit larger of a hole just to give myself some room for error and ensure that everything fits safely the first time.

A neat trick a friend taught me many years ago: use hair spray on your intercooler couplers. It makes them easier to slide together and adjust, but dries tacky to keep them from popping off under boost. Plus it smells great…

With the intercooler setup in place, I filled the oil and coolant. I roughly tossed the power steering hoses together and added a little fluid for startup even though I am still waiting on the return hose and some clamps to finish that portion of the install. I also mocked up the intake pipe and filter from my hatch to prepare for the first startup.

The next thing I did was complete the installation of my Wiring Specialties engine harness on the coupe. This is something I have done a few times in the past over the years on my hatch, but I ran into some issues this time around. After installing everything and attempting to connect the battery, I found that the negative cable would spark and make a clicking noise as soon as I tried to connect it. I later came to realize the car was actually trying to start as soon as it had battery power, even with the key out.

After some amazing diagnostic work from my friend Kev down in Houston, we found that I had mixed up three pairs of plugs on the harness that could all be connected together. The “jumper harness” that’s used to trick the ECU into thinking the car is always in park so that it will start was mistakenly plugged into the starter signal plug for the fuse box, so that is why the car was attempting to start. After Kevin helped me fix all of my connections, I was able to connect the battery and hear the all familiar door chime- which always feels like a huge accomplishment.

At this point the car would crank nicely, but the fuel pump was not priming. Last Friday, I applied power directly to the fuel pump (again with Kev’s great expert virtual support) and found that the pump was in fact working properly. Since my volt meter bit the dust a few months back and I have not yet bought a replacement, I made a crude test light out of an old side marker pigtail and some wire I had laying around. With the test light connected in the trunk, I had my daughter Hattie (who is always down to help) stand at the back of the car while I turned the key on to see if the pump was getting power. She confirmed that the light came on for a few seconds before turning off. Confused, we plugged the fuel sending unit back in, jiggled the wires, and went back to the front of the car to give it another shot.

To our delight, the fuel pump primed this time. After a few cranks to circulate the fuel, the car stumbled and fired right up before idling smoothly. I didn’t let it run for too long since I was watching the kids and the fumes were pretty bad without a cat or exhaust on the car, but it was enough to know that it’s now in running condition. Firing up your car for the first time is always a massive milestone and managed to put a huge smile on my face. To bring home an ugly, junky-looking beige rolling shell of a car without a drivetrain or interior with my wife, kids, friends, and neighbors giving me funny looks and manage to slowly turn it into an actual running, driving car feels amazing. There is still tons to do, but knowing the car runs is awesome!

As for parts that arrived this past week, the first item I got a hold of is a pair of new hatch struts for the 180. My struts have been worn for years and it always made getting into the trunk a hassle, especially for Alicia on road trips. I wanted to source a pair of 180SX struts from Nissan since the 240SX ones are discontinued, but the price was just too much to stomach. I ended up grabbing some aftermarket ones from Rock Auto for about $12 a pop and the results are amazing. It’s so nice to have this taken care of! I wish I had done it sooner.

The next item that arrived was a stock PS13 airbox for the coupe. I elected to leave all of the factory airbox brackets in place this time around to run a tidier setup since I am tired of the cone filter adapter on the MAF in my hatch bouncing around and scratching up the paint in the bay. I found someone in Washington that had just imported a Silvia and wanted to sell his complete setup, so I elected to snag it. I’m hoping to install this in the bay soon.

Finally, I picked up a set of USDM S13 pop up to JDM Silvia front end lighting conversion harnesses from Specialized in Nissan, an eBay seller and longtime Zilvia member. I am currently using his harnesses on my hatch as well to convert the US front and rear wiring to utilize kouki 180SX lights with a plug and play solution. The eBay store seems to be down at the moment, but I was still able to order them via DM to his Zilvia account, username “driftkeni.”

The future feels a bit uncertain with job security and the economy due to everything on. I know this is going to impact my and my family in one way or another, but just how much is still in limbo at the moment. I just want to say that I wish everyone out there reading this the best with the days, weeks, and months to come.

Everything is going to be OK in the end! We’ve just gotta be good to each other as we navigate all of this craziness. Take care & talk soon! Thanks as always for following along.

Damon

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