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Author Topic: Project Heartbreak S13  (Read 270 times)

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Project Heartbreak S13
« on: 11:26:06 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
Ever since I became cognizant of cars, the S13 always stood out as a car I needed to own. Something of a perfect mix of size, weight, layout, dynamics, and price. Simple aesthetics wrapped around a simple chassis, with a simple, unpretentious goal: make every drive a fun one. I'd intended to buy one for my first car, but it was sold a few short hours before I had the chance. An S12 caught my eye the following day, and well, here I am.

But on February 22nd, 2013, I finally had the opportunity to buy an S13. This is that car's story.




Or, more accurately, this car:


First, some background. In February of 2013, I was going into another semester of college, daily driving a 1997 Grand Cherokee. As we know, Jeeps are unreliable. (My current daily is my 8th Jeep- I have a problem) Being unreliable, my Jeep quit working. This was difficult, since I had school to attend. So I began browsing craigslist for something cheap, simple, and reliable: an Acura Integra.

Which sold literally 5 minutes before I showed up.

But I was officially on the market for a car, preferably some kind of imported coupe that could get me to and from school somewhat reliably and economically. A lot of things struck my fancy over the next few weeks, from a 4WS Prelude to a pair of Merkur XR4Tis, but what really caught my eye (ie, what didn't sell before I got facetime with the owner) was a 1991 Nissan 240SX SE listed for $2000 at a garage in Hurst, Texas.

I made my way to the garage, borrowing my grandma's car, and briefly considered heckling this guy down the street from the shop to sell me his car instead


But then I rolled into the shop and found the car sitting in a corner, and I fell in love immediately. Here was a bone stock S13 in somewhat rough, but usable shape. The owner, a mechanic, purchased it from the previous owner when its head gasket blew, and she didn't want to spend the money to have it replaced. He'd brought it to the shop he worked at, to refresh the engine and give it a once-over, but he was a Chevy guy, and in way over his head. Six months had passed, and his boss told him he needed  to get the car out of his shop, or lose his job. The engine smoked following his rebuild- something a few of us here on Club S12 at the time speculated might be due to unseated rings- but otherwise the car seemed like it was in workable shape. I offered the owner $1200.



That night, he delivered the car on the back of a trailer. I'd finally gotten an S13, and I was going to spend the next weekend making it into my daily driver,  the perfect, vaguely reliable and economical sensible hatchback a college student needed.

If I'd only known how wrong I was.

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Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #1 on: 11:28:18 AM / 08-Mar-19 »


While the body was mostly straight, it had some dings and faded paint, commensurate with its age.





The interior was strikingly original, with an uncracked dash



Though the driver seat had a torn bolster



Even the stereo was original



Opening the hatch, I found the privacy cover and sunroof bag were still there



And even the owner's manual and brochure were still in the car


(Not pictured: key code plate, also in that pouch)


Under the hood, it could be any old KA-powered S13


With just under 170,000 miles on the odometer, I figured I'd gotten my hands on something broken in, but not run ragged




To pursue our theory about unseated rings, I hopped in the car with my best friend and set out to a nearby unoccupied stretch of road to put some load on the heavily-smoking engine and bring the rings to seating. After one pass up to 6500 RPM, it was still smoking, but I pressed on for the return pass. After a second pass, the rings should start to seat and seal up, in theory. I accelerated up the empty stretch of road, taking the engine back up to 6000- and then the rear tires locked up for an instant before the clutch realized it was the weak link in this drivetrain and melted as I coasted down. The engine had spun a main bearing, a result of the shoddy work done rebuilding it, by a Chevy technician who didn't know KAs don't have align-honed mains, and had ordered all one size of bearing.

My buddy jogged the half-mile back to my house and returned with his Isuzu Rodeo and a chain to drag my new purchase unceremoniously back to where we'd set off only minutes prior. My new daily driver needed a new engine. And the $1200 I'd spent to buy it, was the last $1200 I had to my name. This car was already earning its reputation.
Post Merge
The original KA had just become an actual boat anchor. I managed to find someone local selling another KA out of an S14, for a relatively decent amount of money- more on that in a bit- and managed to come up with said money by selling some parts I'd accumulated for the Jeep.


The guy selling the new motor happened to be across the street from JoTech, who have become somewhat famous for 1000hp GT-Rs


The new engine in question was pulled from a '95 S14 with, purportedly, 124,000 miles (not that I believed that for a second) and was listed with accessories and transmission for $450. A decent deal for a KA at the time- not the cheapest I'd seen, but I needed something fast. I roll up with my dad's truck and hand over the money and the guy pulls all the accessories, transmission, and flywheel off. I start to complain- that wasn't the deal at all- but his buddies emerged from the woodwork. "If you don't like it, I'll just keep the cash and you can fuck off." I quickly found myself the lone white kid in a brown part of town.

So I took what I could get, rolled my eyes, and fucked off with a new engine in tow.


And so on a rainy day in early March, the swap began






Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #2 on: 11:32:12 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
After a great deal of swearing, sweating, and a (now former) friend venting my perfectly-charged R12 air conditioning system to atmosphere, we got the engine out of the car. Between school and whatever odd jobs I could do at the time, I managed to get all of the accessories, flywheel, and transmission swapped over to the new engine, along with a new clutch. Not trusting my dingaling friends, who had not only vented my AC, but also undid my EGR tube by smashing it with a crowbar, unbolted the giubo in my driveshaft (and lost one of the bolts), and put a fat dent in my core support, I got my dad to help me put the engine back into the car.




It took a lot longer than I expected to get it running after the motor blew in February, but having spent my time borrowing the family truck and my grandma's car whenever possible, I finally took the car for my first drive in it on April 12th.




And I couldn't help taking pictures.









Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline snakezulu7

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #3 on: 11:33:49 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
Testing: I'm gonna have to go to the bathroom soon...
1985 KA N/A 200SX

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #4 on: 11:35:22 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
As 2013 began to draw to a close, I'd managed to get some money together and sold the Jeep, and I decided I'd buy another car to daily drive, affording the S13 the opportunity to become a project car. I found the perfect daily: a practical, spacious, 4-door wago- okay it was another Grand Cherokee. I have a problem. But this one had astonishingly low miles, was fully equipped, and was a special edition model I'd lusted after. So I drove the S13 out to pay for it.

Spotted a like-minded individual along the way




And the dealer selling the Jeep had a car with a 2JZ in it so that was neat.





Especially because of what kind of car it was.




And so ended my S13's tenure as a daily driver.  Snow and rain were becoming more common as 2014 approached, and apart from needing something more practical, I didn't want to risk Dallas drivers running into my pride and joy in inclement weather.






Besides, the Orvis Edition was pretty rad in its own right




In honor of my first year with the car, I washed it for the first time. With the condition the paint was in, there was really no point.







Summer came





And before I knew it, it was fall, and I was slowly falling out of love with the car. Selling auto parts doesn't bring in a lot of money, and the Jeep's maintenance had taken precedence over my limited funds. I'd neglected the S13, and scarcely driven it for months. Every time I'd take it out, it'd reveal another new problem. Other areas of my life began to spiral downwards. I dropped out of school, and I was strongly considering selling the S13. Even more so, because after some considerable abuse by my manager at the parts store, I quit my day job.
Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #5 on: 11:36:53 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
In my time selling auto parts, I'd made some friends, including a young man who was attending Lincoln Tech to become an auto painter. Together, we concocted a scheme to get the S13 pretty enough to sell, on a tight enough budget it wouldn't be a loss.

First, we pulled out the basketball-sized dent behind the driver door





Then we worked through the rest of the dings, dents, and scrapes







And filled in where the rear bumper had caved in from being plastic and shitty



Finally, the car was ready for paint






Much to the neighbors' chagrin, we erected a car cover the length of my driveway, and draped plastic sheets down the sides, to create a makeshift paint booth.




With the car inside, we got to work























And after a lot of polishing




The car was a damn mirror






I finally had a car worth washing. And now I couldn't bring myself to sell it.
Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #6 on: 11:37:41 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
Mechanically, though, the car was still a mess. Poor idle, bad throttle response, running rich, with old tires, worn out suspension, wobbly steering, and weak brakes. And I was barely scraping any money together working with my painter friend, doing whatever body work came in. So, as the page turned to 2015, I decided to do the sensible thing.

Which is to say I bought an S12 for $400 to add to the stable.




The Soffish would be a total side project, except that it quickly became my main project, and the S13 would remain neglected until April, when I finally got it running again on the 2nd anniversary of when I'd first gotten it running.



It was such a joy to drive, having not done so for months prior due to how poorly it was running. She wasn't giving me any trouble anymore, despite having been nothing but for half a year. She earned the nickname, Cecilia, for this, named for the Simon & Garfunkel song of the same name.

Cecilia, you're breaking my heart
You're shaking my confidence daily...
...Jubilation! She loves me again
I fall on the floor and I'm laughing










My painter friend moved back to Houston, and so what little money there was to be made doing freelance body work, dried up. I took a job as a mechanic at a local Honda dealership to pay the bills. An edifying, and ultimately painful experience that I wouldn't recommend to anybody. After a summer of that, I finally got my break, and took a job as a datacenter technician at IBM. Finally, I could start a career and make enough money to pay for this car in earnest, even if it did mean working the overnight shift.

















Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #7 on: 11:40:51 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
As the final quarter of 2015 passed, the car started to show its age. The automatic seatbelts started sticking, the dashboard cracked, and the door panel inserts came apart. Work kept me busy-  too busy to work on the S13, and frequently too busy to keep my daily driver in working condition.








After removing a shitty red paint job from the KA's valve cover, I decided I'd make the 240 a project in earnest- for real this time- and follow up on the dream set in motion by my first car, a shitty CA18DET-swapped S12.




I went on one last KA-powered drive to IHOP, opened up eBay...




...and 3 weeks later, Cecilia's new heart arrived in the back of a box truck.

Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #8 on: 11:42:28 AM / 08-Mar-19 »


The 1.8 L CA18DET was the last version of the CA engine to be released. It received a brand new DOHC aluminum head with 16 valves.



I'd purchased a CA18DET from an importer on the east coast. I fell in love with the CADET as a teenager researching the myriad variants of sporty Nissans we never got in the States. The presence of one in my first car, though it never ran, was a major factor in my decision to buy that car. I always felt it was the underdog of all the S13 engines- not as well supported as the more powerful SR, but not as cheap or torquey as the KA- and to be honest, I love the way it looks. It's a simple design with an 80s aesthetic that speaks to me on some deep level.




And so, after spending $500 more on the motor, than the car had cost me nearly 3 years prior, I got to work refreshing my new CA.









When I pulled the transmission off, I  was somewhat dismayed to find a 3-puck racing clutch bolted to a slightly scorched flywheel. The donor for the engine had obviously belonged to someone who enjoyed, shall we say, spirited driving. Who knows what abuse this engine must have suffered?




As I waited on parts to show up, and various existing pieces to soak in acid for rust removal, I took the time to tackle little side projects here and there. The old, yellowed and cracked coolant reservoir got ditched




In favor of a much nicer-looking GKTech replacement






As the teardown and refresh continued, I decided I wanted the engine to look like it belonged there, and that maybe it wasn't 25 years since the car was made, after all. I started taking pictures to document exactly how certain parts went together, so I could get everything back where it went, once it was pretty again.

















And then I got to work making it pretty again

















And boy did that work out





Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #9 on: 11:45:10 AM / 08-Mar-19 »


The more time I spent working on the CA, and keeping my new daily (pictured) running, the less time I spent driving the S13, and the more it began to show. I redoubled my efforts. And my expenditures.




The new clutch showed up- per somebody's advice, I bought a clutch for a KA24E, informed that it would fit if the locating dowels were removed. This was incorrect.




A mad GReddy FV blowoff valve showed up too.


The freshly cleaned-up intake went back on, mated to the cylinder head with a fancy new Cometic gasket set






But the clutch wasn't the only part that came in, unsuitable for the application. The timing belt was also wrong. Talk about setbacks. As I stared at my tiny GT25, I realized I'd need some new solutions if I wanted to keep this thing packaged neatly inside the engine bay.




So I bought an adapter for the compressor outlet








And then, all in the same weekend, the timing belt and this absolute legend showed up in town:




With the help of our very own IggyEguana (also known as Waylon, and the Silhouette Autosports guy) I got the engine timed and that much closer to installation.

Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #10 on: 11:49:29 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
As work on the CA progressed, I decided to use some of the stuff I'd gotten with the engine to make some immediate improvements to the car. An Apexi air filter kit and a thermoswitch housing were loosely attached to the CA when it arrived on a pallet. I tossed those into the car, along with the electric fan from an 89-93 Ford Taurus.










More and more parts arrived for the build, thanks in no small part to massive debt I let myself get saddled with to speed things along. I figured, I can save up for 4 years and maybe have enough money by then, or maybe die tragically in the meantime, having never  accomplished my goal. Or, I could just let Future Me pay for it.










The decision to go air-water for my intercooler was a no-brainer. I really didn't want to cut the car up to accommodate a large front mount, and the dead space inside a suitably sized intercooler lends to greater boost lag. I really feel like this is an underrated technology, shunned by tuners in favor of simpler, heatsoakier air to air cores. But, for the packaging, and for the fact that it's apparently good enough for quite a few OEMs today- not to mention the price- I have absolutely no regrets.









By the end of August, the engine was finally together, which could only mean one thing: Swap Time approached. In turn, that meant one thing: this was my last chance to see what the KA was good for. I took the car to the local tuner, and strapped her to the dyno. The results were surprising.





Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #11 on: 11:51:32 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
September rolled in, and I gave the car one last wash before time to swap.










And on the morning of 9/12/16, with a makeshift workbench set up in my driveway, I got to work.

















And this is where things started to go wrong. I was doing this swap on a pretty decently sloped driveway. Moreover, my engine hoist was barely long enough to reach the engine with the bumper installed. As I went to lift the engine out, instead of pulling straight up and freeing the engine from its mounts, it began to pull forward as well, tearing the mounts, and sending the engine forward into the A/C condenser.









After a great deal of work, a ruined front license plate, a destroyed condenser, and a pair of motor mounts I'd hoped to reuse (having replaced them only 3 years and 9,000 miles prior) the KA was out.





Which left me free to survey the damage.







And start cleaning up the decades of grime.







In order to fund replacing the parts that it destroyed on its way out, the KA went up for sale, regretfully along with its gearbox, which I'd loved to have kept for its longer 5th gear.









While I waited on parts to arrive, I dry-fit the intercooler and mated the new engine and transmission for what I'd hoped would be the last time. (Spoiler alert: It wouldn't)





Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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Offline CzechSilvia

Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #12 on: 11:55:10 AM / 08-Mar-19 »
moar!
« Last Edit: 12:01:38 PM / 08-Mar-19 by CzechSilvia »
But what do I know? All I know about cars I learned from youtube...

Offline SchizophrenicMC

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Re: Project Heartbreak S13
« Reply #13 on: 01:45:54 PM / 15-Mar-19 »
I've decided I'm going to do the rest as weekly Friday posts because I'm terminally lazy and can't be bothered to do another post dump.

September passed, and waiting on parts, so did October. Finally, in November, I got the engine into the car. This took some effort, and more help from my dad, but finally, I had a CA in my S13, perched proudly on Nismo motor mounts.








(Check out how much room there is in front of that tiny CA18)


Of course, somehow my driveshaft was too long. The car doesn't have ABS, so there should have been a solid inch of slip yoke, but nothing. So, I put a 1-piece shaft on order.




Fitting continued through November as work allowed.






I even managed to get the hatch working after a botched attempt at replacing the hatch struts in 2013 ended in the captive nut for the passenger side strut ball, snapping out of its spot weld and rolling away.




And so, in December, I towed the car to the local vintage Nissan guru, Tay Man, to have an intake made up, the intercooler finally mounted, and finally start the car.


















But the car wouldn't start. It would crank and crank, but never fire. Ignition, fuel, timing, and ECU were all checked, and all fine. But starting eluded the little engine, which had cost thousands already. I left the car at the shop, for Tay to figure out why it wouldn't start. And so 2016 came to a close, my project on hold in somebody else's driveway.
Nah, quoted for future use because not only is it lame and old, but it's a direct link to Schizo posting up homoerotic menswear fanfiction.
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zololn: wheres the check engine light on the s12?