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Author Topic: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making  (Read 1919 times)

Offline mikey

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My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« on: 10:51:06 AM / 10-May-19 »
Long-time member here, but I've been mostly inactive for the last 10 or so years.  And honestly, it's been devastating watching the decrease in forum activity over the years.  And not just here, but all automotive forums, slowly losing members to generic social media platforms.  Enough of my "back in my day!" complaints. 

Here's a quick synopsis on my history with the S12 and how I ended up here:

I was an S13 kid, before the drift "scene" drove prices up for junk cars.  I daily drove a couple of them back between 2006 and 2008.  They were good fun, and very inexpensive.  Somewhere in between S13s, a red '88 S12 popped up for sale on the forums.  It was a very nice 100k XE example, with a KA24E motor swap and a full SE body kit.  The for sale ad pic shown below..



I paid $1,500 for the car, which was the most I had paid for any S-chassis up until this point in time.  It was a blast and treated me well.  I threw some Sportmaxx ( :no: ) wheels on it that I had at the time, and thought it looked rad lol. 







However I missed the S13s.  At the time, there was pretty limited information for aftermarket suspension options for the S12, and BC & Megan hadn't started producing any "off the shelf" coilover packages.  I ended up parting with it for '90 hatch, and regretted it ever since.  This was probably the early part of 2008?  I still regularly reference this car, even 11 years later.

Fast forward to last Saturday (5/4/19).  I'm laying in bed, and a friend sends me a link to a car ad on FB market place, with the following pics..







After years of casual searching, a red '88 pops up, 15 minutes from my house.  2 hours after it was listed, it was on my trailer.



The short backstory on this car:
It's a 1988 SE, V6 & 5 speed, with 120k.  It had been living in the western part of CT for the last 10-15 years, being used for track days by an enthusiast out there.  There are some car club stickers on the thing, as well as a couple tech stickers as recently as 2013.  The car has lowering springs, adjustable shocks, steel braided brake lines, as well as polyurethane everywhere.  The car eventually suffered from some brake line and clutch line issues and was sold as a project to the guy I bought it from.  He basically sold it to me in the same state in which he had received it.  It runs, though needs a good tune up, and really just needs to be gone through.  And that's where we stand today.



The short term goal: Get the VG30 tuned up and running well enough to put some miles on it.  I've never driven a V6 S12, so I'm curious to see what I like and what I don't mainly to help me make decisions for the long term goal.  I've already replaced the damaged brake lines, missing brake caliper, and dead slave cylinder.  Just gotta bleed the thing now and make sure nothing is leaking.  It does have a pretty substantial coolant leak from the large hard pipe that runs to the lower rad outlet, but I have a box of new coolant hoses with the car, so I'm not too worried.  The power steering rack is leaking BAD and there's a good bind and click in the steering that seems to be coming from the steering shaft u-joint.  Again, little stuff that just needs to be gone through.

The long term goal: I would LOVE to do a simplistic VQ build.  It would make PLENTY of power, while remaining true to the "Nissan" and "V6" badging on the vehicle.  Though height packaging is a major concern (low oil pan, high intake manifold), but it just seems to be the right option.  Also considering some other naturally aspirated powerhouses like the K-series (though height is a obstacle there too), 3sge BEAMS, etc.  And paint, some mild interior work, and proper suspension.  Either way, this car is being put together to be a DRIVER.  I loved the way my first one drove, and I want to finish what I should have with the first one!

Sorry for the rambling, I'm just very excited about the buy!  I'm stoked to be back.
« Last Edit: 10:55:36 AM / 10-May-19 by mikey »

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Circa 2007

Offline weitrhino

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #1 on: 01:51:54 PM / 10-May-19 »
Nice little story, certain elements of which reflect my own S12 story.

Welcome back.

Offline JonB

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #2 on: 03:22:02 PM / 10-May-19 »
Cool!

Looks like a good project with some cool mods already there from what I can see. Its not easy finding vintage steel in the north east.

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #3 on: 02:07:38 PM / 17-May-19 »
Nice little story, certain elements of which reflect my own S12 story.

Welcome back.

Cool!

Looks like a good project with some cool mods already there from what I can see. Its not easy finding vintage steel in the north east.

Thanks for the kind words!  My goal here is to do everything I always wish I had the first time around.

Quick update:  I made the decision to convert to S13 knuckles to help expand my options for the future regarding suspension mods and adjustability.  I then subsequently spent more than the price of the car in parts that are arriving piece by piece.  I'll take some pictures of the new stuff and the progress over the weekend.  I'm very excited about this!

Circa 2007

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #4 on: 11:11:00 AM / 20-May-19 »
I had a quick detour from the project for a local drift event hosted by Lock City at Thompson Speedway here in CT.  Only the second time this year I've had the M3 out to an event.  Hoping to change that now that I've done a major suspension overhaul! 







Okay back to the S12 mess..
After weeks of searching, I was able to track down a reman rack.



I bought a set of S13 knuckles from a local drift buddy in my area, which was also sort of difficult to track down.



After much debate, I decided to go with Z32 brakes for my S13 knuckle conversion.  Go big or go home, right?



Though it's sort of going to be a shame to get rid of these nice new stock calipers.





And of course everything was seized because old Nissan.  But eventually it all came apart.  I took all the hardware and bracketry that came with the brakes and toss them in the tumbler for the day.







Excited to start putting all this stuff together.

« Last Edit: 09:49:46 AM / 23-May-19 by mikey »

Circa 2007

Offline JonB

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #5 on: 09:02:47 PM / 20-May-19 »
I did the same thing; got the brakes in top order, then swapped them out for better stuff.

Its nice to see progress. Mine is just kept in running order until hopefully I get to upgrading it.

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #6 on: 09:47:03 AM / 23-May-19 »
Finally got around to painting the Z32 calipers.  Ideally, I'd like to split them to have them powdercoated and do a full rebuild, but I'm trying to pick my battles with where I put my time and money.
 And there was no fluid seepage from around the pistons, so I decided to just wire brush and respray for now.  I plan to do a full rebuild and coat them professionally at some point down the road.



It may be cliche, but I felt obligated to file the NISSAN logo lol.





I highly recommend tumblers for projects like this.  This is after about 6 hours in my Harbor Freight special.  I wish the pictures did it justice.







And my OZ Fittipaldis I've been [very slowly] rebuilding for the M3.  Though I debated for a second about throwing them on the S12 when it's done...  But 17x8.5/10.5" might be a little much on such a small platform.



Just got word yesterday that my Ichiba front hubs will be delivered today for the S13 knuckles, in order to keep the car 5 lug like it's supposed to be.  Also, my build-to-order BC coilovers are scheduled to ship out a week from today!  So hopefully within the next two weeks I can have this thing sitting on the ground.  But I have to track down wheels that will clear these brakes first  :nerdyembarassed:, something I totally forgot about.
« Last Edit: 09:55:22 AM / 23-May-19 by mikey »

Circa 2007

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #7 on: 11:09:47 PM / 25-May-19 »
I spent some time ripping the whole front suspension off of the car yesterday.



Started disassembling the control arms for new bushings, s13 ball joints, and some paint.









The first real hiccup I've had thus far is that RockAuto sent me two different inner tie rods when I ordered a pair of S13 items.  First glance they looked the same, but one obviously didn't thread into my new rack...  I'll have to take that up with them on Tuesday since it's a holiday weekend.



I've gotten so lucky that the PO included this huge box of new poly bushings.  Everything I've wanted to rebush so far has been included in this giant box of goodies lol.

« Last Edit: 11:25:09 PM / 25-May-19 by mikey »

Circa 2007

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #8 on: 09:18:20 AM / 04-Jun-19 »
Quick update:

I've been mostly sitting ducks here waiting for my coilovers to get here (scheduled to arrive tomorrow!)  I decided against replacing the rotors and brake hoses for now.  The rotors appear to have almost no miles on them, they just sat at the bottom of the ocean, seemingly.  The steel parts of the brake hoses were also pretty crusty but oddly enough the rubber isn't cracked with dry not or anything, so I'll use them for the time being.  Again, at this point getting the thing on the ground and running is the priority.  I hate to dump big bucks on things for a car that might not even function lol.







Took advantage of some down time and threw a new Z32 brake master and S12 clutch master in the car.  The Z32 master because I now need to move 10 pistons worth of brakes instead of the factory 4, lol, and the new clutch master because I realized when trying to bleed the new clutch slave that the old master was dumping fluid into the carpet.  That's what you get when you let cars sit for years!  Those rubber seals just disintegrate.







I made the stupid decision of insisting I only needed bare knuckles for my S13 front conversion, forgetting about things like the fancy washer, hub nut, and bearing cap.  Unfortunately, these items are about $50 new OEM.  Oh well.  Live and learn!



I finally threw the new Ichiba hubs on, now that the hardware was here.  These went on like butter.  Torqued to 80ft/lbs, which is apparently the factory torque spec.  Though that seemed suspiciously low...  Can anyone confirm this? 



New steering rack is now in, and with nice poly bushings this time around.



At this point, I started realizing that the stock wheels won't clear the brakes.  F.  What can I find that'll clear these brakes that's halfway presentable and cheap cheap...



This is what $160 gets you in a pinch, lol.  This car will get Super Advans once the right set pops up.  But for now, these will work.  Total coincidence that these are split-threes like the Super Advans are too.  It was a sign, right?



« Last Edit: 09:39:09 AM / 04-Jun-19 by mikey »

Circa 2007

Offline JonB

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #9 on: 07:58:47 PM / 04-Jun-19 »
Well that is interesting. Youve been quite busy.

The z32 rear calipers are 2 piston. Not sure if thats a problem.

The mustang wheels are cool and different, maybe loose the center cap with the horse?


Offline iceageg

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #10 on: 07:14:51 AM / 05-Jun-19 »
I suppose it would be fairly easy to fill the horse with bondo and repaint.  Might even be able to press a Nissan emblem into the bondo before it sets.
I was afraid all the five gallon buckets of pain stacked four high were going to fall over

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #11 on: 09:25:49 AM / 10-Jun-19 »
I made some good progress over the weekend.  Though had some frustrating snags.



Pulled some tires down from the attic and had those mounted up quick.



These FINALLY showed up after a month of waiting.





Here's what makes these really nice.  As most of you know, the IRS S12 has an odd hump on the rear trailing arm to hold the ID of the spring.  In most cars, this protrusion is round.  On the S12 it's a weird D shape.  BC makes a beautiful lower rubber/poly piece that perfectly fits snug onto that hump to hold the lower perch in place.  It's a great design.  I was skeptical about spending that kind of money on these coils, but the R&D alone is very impressive with how well thought-out everything is for such an uncommon vehicle.



Unfortunately, the Z32 calipers came with factory Z32 caliper bolts which are way too long to utilize with the S13 knuckles.  The S12 caliper bolts were the right length and thread pitch but the shank was slightly too large in diameter.  I threw them in the tumbler for a couple hours, and then chucked them into my drill press and filed the shank down to the perfect size.  This worked perfectly.



Unfortunately this is where it's gotta stop for the time being.  The wheels don't clear the brakes without spacers, so I have to order some 5mm spacers.  The lug studs are too short for the thickness of the pad on the Mustang wheels, especially if I'm going to be using spacers.  Also, when moving it out of the garage, the steering wheel had about 45* of play before the wheels turned.  It turns out, the rack bushings I used, which I believe were for a Z31 are too narrow to work on the S12 rack, so the entire rack was moving about half an inch in either direction.  Either way, I'm making progress!  Albeit slow progress.
« Last Edit: 09:27:14 AM / 10-Jun-19 by mikey »

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Offline weitrhino

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #12 on: 05:59:57 PM / 12-Jun-19 »
I like the ingenuity on filing down those bolts. Keep it coming.

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #13 on: 08:27:03 AM / 19-Jun-19 »
Well, turns out I used poly S13 steering rack bushings, not realizing that the steel strap/bracket that holds the driver side rack mount to the subframe is substantially thinner on the S12 than an S13, allowing the rack to move at least 1/4" in each direction.  The OEM S12 driver side bushing is NLA every where I looked, so I ended up buying Z31 bushings that are for a 3/4" bracket, as opposed to the 15/16" bracket.  The bushing is noticeably different.  Hoping to throw this in tonight and resolve the issue. 



My extended studs should also be here in the next couple days.  So very soon this thing should at least be a proper rolling chassis.  Then on to making it run properly!

It's beer season here in New England.  Cheers fam.

« Last Edit: 08:27:56 AM / 19-Jun-19 by mikey »

Circa 2007

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #14 on: 08:42:36 AM / 03-Jul-19 »
Unfortunately, progress has been rather slow.  A few friends and I decided to take a trip out to CO to watch the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which was quite the experience.  There's a whole lot they don't tell you about trying to attend these events lol.







The views were incredible.  And we did get to watch Dai grenade his transmission right in front of us at Devil's Playground.



So back to the limited progress:



Decided to get the front extended studs pressed.  For anyone who's wondering, Ichiba S13 5-lug conversion hubs use S14 14.25 knurl lug studs, NOT S13 ones.







I also did one of the rears, but this was way more involved and of course I didn't take pictures.  I used a small 1" hole saw to cut a hole in the brake dust shield from the back side and used that to remove the old studs and insert the new ones.  It really is a pain in the balls to pull the new studs in with nuts, but it's kind of my only option unless I want to take the entire rear hub assemblies apart, which I'd really rather not do.

After some suspension tweaking and doing the extended studs on that last corner, this thing should be a proper roller.  Now I just have to address the engine issues....  I'll get into that next time.
« Last Edit: 08:43:59 AM / 03-Jul-19 by mikey »

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Offline iceageg

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #15 on: 11:22:27 AM / 03-Jul-19 »
Love the progress and the race.  My son went this year with a friend but I ended up working that entire weekend.  If you're ever back in CO shoot me a PM.
I was afraid all the five gallon buckets of pain stacked four high were going to fall over

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #16 on: 09:19:58 AM / 09-Jul-19 »
Love the progress and the race.  My son went this year with a friend but I ended up working that entire weekend.  If you're ever back in CO shoot me a PM.

Thanks and absolutely!!  I'm out that way occasionally for work, as I have an office in Denver.

Circa 2007

Offline mikey

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #17 on: 03:11:33 PM / 16-Sep-19 »
Wow I've been horrible with updates this summer.  Here's the sparknotes:

I was able to get the car fully assembled.  The car has been running intermittently since I bought it though I was having a hard time diagnosing why.  While the car was running I did take it for a drive around the block, only to find out my reman steering rack leaked horrifically.  O'Reilly sent me a new one overnight at no charge, which was nice.  However by the time this rack was installed in the car, the car wouldn't run at all anymore.  I spent some time traveling over the summer and kind of let this fall to the back-burner.  A couple weeks back a friend came by and gave me a hand and we spent probably 6 hours in the engine bay checking everything.  We eventually narrowed this down to a faulty crank position sensor.  By some weird series of events, I had a spare in a crate upstairs from my S13 days.  This fixed the intermittent running issue, and I've since put about 300 miles on the car.

Since this point in time I've spent some time trying to diagnose a misfire at idle and on light throttle.  I've also spent a lot of time making small upgrades and just taking the time to clean the car up.  I'm really happy with how it's coming along.  What's crazy is every time I drive this thing it feels a little bit better.  Sitting for a few years really does some odd stuff to these old cars.  Gotta spend some time shaking off the dust to get all the components working properly again.

A couple quick pics from my vacation with the pup









And back to car stuff:







The horrible red lights that the PO installed everywhere..



The white LED improvement:







This glorious $90 MOMO that I love dearly















Now that the car actually ran and was road-worthy, it was time to throw a halfway decent SPAL fan on here to keep it cool for traffic use.



And then came more diagnosing of the misfire/hesitation..









And the never-ending clean-up project..













And the front main seal, that has started throwing oil pretty substantially...  As much as I want to put this off, I may actually have to address it sooner rather than later..

« Last Edit: 03:23:36 PM / 16-Sep-19 by mikey »

Circa 2007

Offline JonB

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Re: My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making
« Reply #18 on: 08:18:42 PM / 16-Sep-19 »
Cool on the vaca. Maine in a vanagan.

Keep up the good work on the S12. Theyre getting quite rare