My S12 Nostalgia Project, 12 Years in the Making

Started by mikey, 10:51:06 AM / 10-May-19

Previous topic - Next topic


Love it. Are you going to be the first one to have that motor in an s12?
Infrequently driving an s12.


Quote from: kelso840 on 10:41:07 AM / 28-Oct-19
Love it. Are you going to be the first one to have that motor in an s12?

There are a handful of people out there with the motor in S13s, but I believe I will be first into the S12. 

Circa 2007


I don't recall this swap into an S12.  With the standalone it should be fairly easy once the mounts are fabricated.  Ignore the hate that you anticipate.  Just don't butcher the V6 cross member if you can avoid it please.
Quote from: VG33ERGazelle? on 04:50:38 PM / 26-Aug-11
I was afraid all the five gallon buckets of pain stacked four high were going to fall over


Quote from: iceageg on 07:45:48 AM / 29-Oct-19
I don't recall this swap into an S12.  With the standalone it should be fairly easy once the mounts are fabricated.  Ignore the hate that you anticipate.  Just don't butcher the V6 cross member if you can avoid it please.

That's what I'm hoping for!  I know I'm definitely going to run into issues with the front sway bar, there's no way around that.  And there's a chance I'll need to do some modification to the trans tunnel for fitment.  Honestly though, I don't think there's going to be too many fitment issued based on my preliminary measurements.

Tell ya what, ship me over a 4cyl cross member and I promise I won't hack up the V6 one :idea: :grinwink:

Circa 2007


Quote from: mikey on 08:52:22 AM / 29-Oct-19
. . .
Tell ya what, ship me over a 4cyl cross member and I promise I won't hack up the V6 one :idea: :grinwink:

I wish I had a notch.  I'd trade you the members and start down the VG33 swap road with the notch.  I miss my notch . . . need S12 in my life again.
Quote from: VG33ERGazelle? on 04:50:38 PM / 26-Aug-11
I was afraid all the five gallon buckets of pain stacked four high were going to fall over


I tend to get consumed in these types of projects, and when I'm in my productive phases, I forget to document things as well as I probably should.  But here's what I've been up to over the past few months:

These goodies showed up, albeit looking like they were pulled from the titanic.  These are a set of factory Toyota ITBs from a 4AGE 20v Blacktop motor, which I believe was found in the JDM AE111s.  These are getting tougher (and more expensive) to come by these days.  They make an adapter plate to run these bodies on a 3SGE Beams motor, using almost all the factory Toyota components, which really rustles my jimmies.

At this point, I had to break these apart, as I only need the bodies and some of the linkage components.  The lower manifold, injectors, vacuum components, etc will not be used.

They do have to be modified to clear the BEAMS fuel rail.

Looking good!

This motor was a returnless system from the factory, utilizing an electronic regulator in the fuel tank to regulate the fuel pressure.  Since the Nissan uses a factory returned system, I decided to convert the engine to a returned fuel system as well.  Thankfully, Toyota put three ports on the fuel rail.  The top one is for the feed, and both ends have an M12 plug.  I ordered two M12 to -6AN fittings for each end of the rail, and used one of the stock Toyota plugs to block off the top port.  A very easy modification.  This is the kind of stuff that I like, lol.

Just some quick maintenance items.  Timing belt, water pump, front main, etc.  These items took over two months to get here, and to the tune of $400  :woow:

Now came the shitty part.  Test fitting to build the engine mounts.

I'm using a pair of BMW E36 Condor engine mounts.  For no reason other than that I like the design, and with one additional hole drilled in the engine mounts on the subframe, they bolt right up.  I also used a block of wood to ensure I would have enough clearance to get over the steering rack during test fitting, because this fitment was TIGHT.

And I still had to take a grinder to some of the casting marks/webbing on the aluminum oil pan to clear everything.

I wish I had more pictures of this process, but it was a pain in the balls lol.

Now because the J160 was used in several different vehicles, it was designed with a modular shifter.  This can be unbolted, and literally moved forward 3" with no new components whatsoever.  This allowed the shifter to end up almost dead on in the factory location.  I was ecstatic about this.

In this pic you can see the holes 3" back from where the carrier now sits, which were utilized in the Altezza.

Now this was by far the worst part of this whole process. 

But in the end, it came out decent.  It allowed me to get the extra 3/4" of clearance I needed in the trans tunnel for both the big shifter housing that the J160 utilizes, as well as the large circumference of this 6 speed trans.  It's tight, but it fits.  And it seems like the stock center console and dash pieces will still clear the taller trans tunnel.

This is how it now sits on its new engine mounts.

Before putting the engine in for the 9th (and final) time, I began addressing some areas of concern.

The strut tower on the driver side had a small crack, which was odd.  I end-drilled it to stop it from spreading and then welded it up.

I used this rust-converter solution on the material once I got it all cleaned up.  This stuff reacts black to any oxidation and apparently stops the chemical reaction.  Allegedly.  Next winter, when I started phase 2 of this project, I'll gut the entire bay and address these things with more detail, but this repair will definitely do the trick for the time being. 

Circa 2007


You're doing work. Those motor mounts and the trans tunnel came out great.
Infrequently driving an s12.


Quote from: kelso840 on 08:28:37 AM / 15-Feb-20
You're doing work. Those motor mounts and the trans tunnel came out great.
Thanks!  It's actually coming out better than I initially anticipated lol.
Post Merge

So I told myself I'd post some more frequent updates.  Here's what I've been up to this week:

A little more engine bay work. 

Including rust repair.

Everything has since been painted, I just didn't snap any pics for some reason.  I'll update with those later.

I'm very happy with how this turned out.  I was able to modify and utilize the stock Nissan vapor boot and bracket, by using some nutserts in the new tunnel.  It almost looks factory at this point!

Fuel time!

I had two long conversations yesterday with two different vendors that are essential for this thing to get up and running, and I want to shout out both companies for being extremely responsive and helpful.  Let me preface this by saying that I have NEVER had a custom drive shaft made before, let alone a cross-platform driveshaft; and I have NEVER spent any time around a standalone ECU.  Both of these paths are new for me (and two of the more costly components of the project), so naturally I had lots of questions..

Shaftmasters:  This company offers a lot of both Toyota and Nissan driveshafts on their website, for many different applications, so I reached out to inquire.  David got back to me very quickly and was able to spit the tech lingo with me right off the bat, which is always a huge plus when you're looking for help on a custom project.  He said that they will make me a one-piece Toyota J160 (W58) yoke to a Nissan R200 differential, out of aluminum, with a 2-3 day turn around for $379.  He even sent me a diagram about the correct way to take the measurements to ensure that they get it right the first time.  This was the first time I had heard of this company and I could not recommend them enough, based solely on their willingness to accept my oddball request with a crazy short lead time.

Excuse the horrible screen shot quality, but this came over attached for our first conversation back and forth. 

Link ECU:  Link had came highly recommended from a lot of the local Toyota guys, as it is apparently well-suited to control the complicated dual VVTI systems on both the BEAMS and late-model JZ engines.  Link makes a bunch of great products, including wire-in and plug-in solutions for tons of applications.  They actually sell an off-the-shelf item called ALTEZZALINK which is designed to plug directly into the factory BEAMS harness, which saves a ton of cost and time in making your own engine harness, and also comes with pre-programmed parameters for all of the factory Toyota sensors.  Of course, this computer was made to be used with a Toyota Altezza, not a Nissan 200sx sporting 3/4 of an Altezza's driveline, utilizing a 25 year old set of mechanical throttle bodies from a completely different vehicle, so I had some questions regarding the best path to take.  Jason from Link was able to bring the conversation down from IT-level to my computer-illiterate level and explain my options and what he would do if he was in my position.  By the end of our conversation, he pointed me towards ALTEZZALINK, told me to hook it all up and to give him a call, as he would be able to get it running good enough over the phone to get me onto the trailer to a local dyno tuner.  He even pointed me in the direction of recommended tuning shops with strong Link experience.

Circa 2007



Just a few small updates while I wait for parts to be delivered...

I made the decision to convert the whole power steering system to AN fittings and hoses for simplicity, at least that's what I tell people.  I really do it because I enjoy good hose-end porn.  I'm still taking measurements to make sure this next hose-end order is my last.  In the process of searching for components, I stumbled across a a nice horizontal power steering reservoir from a retired circle track car for $30 shipped on eBay.  This was nice because it puts the -10 feed line up high, which is needed when the power steering pump is up high like it is on the 3SGE engine.  If you guys are ever looking for universal components, searching for used circle track parts on the internet can make for incredible deals for high quality parts.  This thing needs some serious cleaning and some work to mount it how I want, but I couldn't pass it up, both due to price and the story behind it.

We had a freak warm February weekend here the past couple days, with temperatures in the mid-high 50s.  I took advantage of this acceptable weather and pulled out the power washer to get the factory carpet nice and clean.  I've done this a few times over the years with carpets out of various cars, but I always forget just how disgusting it is watching the brown and black sludge water run out of the carpet.  Anyways, this thing is sitting and drying in the sun as we speak!  It's finally starting to feel more like the reassembly process and less like the disassembly process, which is doing wonders for my project anxiety  :laugh:

So I took a gamble and bought a power steering -10AN feed adapter made for a 1jz/2jz engine, based solely on the fact that it looked similar to the 3SGE part.  Turns out, it is, so this allowed me to convert to more AN hoses.  There really is no benefit or reason here, other than that it's the upmost hose on the engine, and I didn't want a big ugly rubber hose and clamp to be the first thing I saw every time i opened the hood.


Made by some guy in his garage out west^^

Its quite a nice part.  We'll see if it leaks, though its a low pressure feed system, so I'm pretty optimistic it will do the trick!

I told myself I would be doing more garage-cleaning last night.  But I ended up mocking up these OZs I keep telling myself I'll finish one of these days.  Seeing one put together really does invoke some motivation though..

Also, the driveshaft shipped this morning!  Pretty stoked about this.  I also sort of forgot that I haven't even looked into the cooling system components yet.  I'll have to source a radiator, hoses, overflow, and some heater hoses.  When people tell you that a swap will nickel-and-dime you to death, they weren't wrong.  Especially when it's cross-platform  :woow:

Circa 2007


I made some progress, though nothing too dramatic over the last week, as I've hit a couple small road blocks.

Can't shout these guys out enough.  2 day turn around on a custom aluminum driveshaft from Toyota yoke, to Nissan tail flange.  All for $380, free shipping.  Great guys to deal with!

I was able to finally get the power steering system FINISHED.  As much as I love good hose-ends and a clean set up, finding all of the adapter fittings you need to go from a metric thread pattern to 6AN can get cumbersome.  And for anyone who hasn't worked with this stuff before, it's quite common to order a certain degree hose-end, thinking that it will point your hose in the right direction, and then find out your imagination is shit, only to have to reorder things all over again.  Thankfully this only happened to me once so far on this project.

Here's part 2 of my radiator saga...  First time around, I purchased a universal "Mopar" unit, advertising dimensions that would work in the bay.  It was also nice and narrow, leaving me room on either side for charge piping, if I decided to boost this engine down the road.  Well, they were 2" short on their "overall height" dimension.  I figured this was just a fluke error with their listing, so I returned it.  Fast forward a few weeks, and I decided to attempt a radiator purchase again.  This time, I went with a MK3 Supra radiator, as it put the radiator inlet/outlet in close proximity to the coolant inlet/outlet on the engine.  Here are the advertised dimensions for this Supra radiator:

Core Height:    14.75 in.
Core Thickness:    2.25 in.
Overall Dimensions:   26 x 18.25 in.

Now I'm staring at this thing, wondering what the hell happened.  The Nissan VG radiator that I took out measured 19" tall.  I know for a fact that I have to add holes to the tension rod brackets for the pegs on the bottom of the radiator to sit in, but that doesn't make up for this much height.  So I pulled out the tape measure to verify their measurements listed online.  Overall height: 20" on the dot.  How the hell do two completely different radiator manufacturers incorrectly list their dimensions.  And how the hell was I the idiot who had to deal with it, twice in a row?!

Anyways, I'll have to research that a bit further.  I want to get the engine out to finalize the drivetrain (clutch, flywheel, hoses, etc) but I really need to wait until I can get a proper radiator so I can get some coolant hoses on order.  I'm also waiting for my midpipe flange to arrive so I can start the tedious process of trying to snake a 2-into-1 downpipe/midpipe around a steering column. 

Now, the Altezza from the factory (and several other foreign and domestic Toyota vehicles) used a fusebox/ecubox that resides in the engine bay, and almost looks like an airbox.  Since I've made the decision to use AltezzaLink, which utilizes the factory ECU case and the factory harness, I've decided to take a stab at locating this Toyota electronics-box in the bay, in a way that appears as factory as possible.  Though this sounds easier said than done.  The biggest issue, is that I want it to appear clean and parallel to engine.  However, the factory frame rails in the S12 are not parallel at the front, instead they flair outwards.  So in an attempt to find a way to mock this up in the bay in a way that is appealing to the eye, I've started to build onto the Toyota box to mirror the shape and direction of the factory S12 frame rail.  In theory, this will make it easier to mount the box in the bay, and won't make the lack of symmetry between the shape of the box and the shape of the red frame rail jump out at you like a sore thumb.  As of right now, I'm just playing around with some plastic bonding.  I have a feeling this won't be my last attempt at this. 

Here is what I mean^^^

I scavenged some plastic from pieces I had to trim off the box to get it to clear the wheel well, as well as an old broken fan shroud from the VG engine.

Some trimming and glue-up

Still needs some trimming, but you can now visualize how the box will sit in reference to the frame rail directly beneath it.  I suck at taking pics during mock-up, because I simply don't have enough hands.  But I'll detail this in length once I have some more confidence in my plan  :thinking:

Circa 2007


Love the work you are doing.  If you are looking for strange AN fittings in the future don't forget to search aviation parts suppliers.  Aircraft Spruce has an expansive selection.  The drawback is aviation pricing.  Makes drift tax seem like pocket change.
Quote from: VG33ERGazelle? on 04:50:38 PM / 26-Aug-11
I was afraid all the five gallon buckets of pain stacked four high were going to fall over


Update time! 

The 20v Blacktop ITB adapter from Xcessive Mfg, while expensive, does have some cool features.  The adapter has an NPT vacuum port for each of the 4 runners, allowing you to sync the throttle linkage adjustments, while also using the vacuum from all 4 cylinders to feed a vacuum block, which can be used for things such as the brake booster, fuel pressure regulator, and the integrated MAP sensor in my stand-alone ECU.

I picked up this very inexpensive vac block off eBay and made a quick bracket out of some .125" aluminum sheet from work.  It utilizes some threaded holes in the factory lower plenum, which keeps it tucked nicely out of the way while still be relatively accessible.  Also, you can see the larger hose existing the left side of the vac block, which feeds the brake booster.

The silicone hose to brake booster, still using the factory Nissan check valve.  It's ugly, but it works.  I'll probably update this later with something a bit more aesthetically pleasing.  Potentially more AN stuff.

I picked up a cheap (yet surprisingly nice) catch can to route the factory PCV system. 

I was able to cut up the factory rubber hoses, use a couple brass PEX barbed fittings, and add silicone hose to connect the whole system.  I'm relatively happy with how it turned out.  Once the trumpets are on the throttle bodies, it should be less intrusive looking.  I hope.

Radiator #3 turned out to be the winner!  This is an oversize full aluminum unit made for a NA Mazda Miata.  It's nice and short, which was the problem I had been battling with my previous two radiator attempts.  The nice thing is that it shares a 1.25" inlet and outlet with the BEAMS engine, which eliminated the need for reducers in the coolant system.

By utilizing the factory upper radiator mounting points, I made some quick little brackets, which I suck and didn't get pictures of once welded and painted, but I will!

I was able to use the crossmember I put in between the tension rod brackets (initially to mount a skid plate) to attach a lower radiator mount.  It ended up being places perfectly for this, and its solid as a rock now.

I scored a Honda Accord coolant overflow from the junkyard a month or so ago, and took the sheet metal bracket with me to build my own for the S12

I had to get a little creative with the rad plumbing, though it wasn't too bad.  I still have to flare the pipe ends.  I just haven't gotten to it yet.

Then came the part I was dreading, which I took virtually no pictures of.  Mainly because of how filthy I was during this whole process. 

The downpipe proved to be relatively difficult, as one of the pipes would have to make a weird turn to make it around the steering shaft.

That's the completed midpipe before paint.  No pictures of the tailpipe section or the finished downpipe.  All three sections are now coated in a black high-temp header paint.  I'll grab some pictures before reinstalling.

And then it was time to pull the engine again.  I wanted everything completely mocked up before doing so.  The engine had no flywheel/clutch in it, and was missing a bunch of components.  It has basically been used just for mock-up over the last month or so.  I installed a new rear main seal, flywheel, clutch, starter, wiring harness, etc.  However, I did run into one hiccup.  The clutch kit that I purchased ended up coming with the incorrect throw out bearing, or "clutch release bearing" as Toyota calls it.  Battle Garage lists them, however they are currently out of stock, waiting for an incoming shipment.  This is a real kick in the balls, because I just KNOW this is going to be that damn part that holds me up for another month.  I put the whole driveline back together with the old worn throw out bearing.  Worst case, I can get it running and tuned with the old one, as it hasn't completely failed, it's just seen better days.

And two last pics before I started pulling the engine.  I put the car on the ground to move some things around.  I set the car down on ramps so that I could get my jack out from underneath, and put the car into gear before doing so, so it wouldn't go anywhere.  Well stupid me forgot that being in gear doesn't mean shit if there isn't a clutch or flywheel involved.  So the car ran out of the garage and down the driveway and scared the shit out of me.  Thankfully, no one was parked behind it.  But it gave me an opportunity to take a couple decent pics out in the sunlight.  It's starting to look like a functioning engine bay!

The 'Rona has given me some extra time at home, so I hope to have this thing up and running in a couple weeks, assuming I can get my hands on a wideband... 

Circa 2007


This thing showed up today.  The most expensive single piece of the project thus far.  For those who aren't familiar with Link, they make "plug-in" style ECUs that are just a replacement board for their supported engines.  The 3SGE BEAMS is one of those.

I did have to drill two holes in the ECU case so that the USB cable and the vacuum hose for the integrated MAP sensor could pass through.

And it all goes back together like stock.  Super stoked about this.

Even though this is plug-and-play, because I lost the factory intake manifold, there are some things that have to be modified about the harness.  In particular, I have to wire in a wideband, add an IAT sensor (which was included with the Link from PanicWire), and move the TPS sensor connector from the front of the engine to the rear.  Nothing all that difficult, but I want it to look nice.

Circa 2007


All the fab work really took a toll on my welding supply.  Had to take a trip out to the local welding supply store, which is now apparently doing curbside refills only.  No more in-store access, which is frustrating because I had a large list, and I always enjoy poking around at all the fancy machines I can't afford.

My wideband finally showed up, which was cool.  I keep saying that everything is the "last big piece of the puzzle" but then prove myself wrong.  Hopefully I'm right this time lol. 

Finally got around to painting all of the small bracketry I fabricated throughout the process.

Made a downpipe gasket from some stuff that's allegedly safe for use as a header gasket.  However it feels like poster board, so I'm not holding my breath.  The factory Toyota gasket is basically unobtainium.  Not unlike all of the other Altezza parts I've tried tracking down throughout this process.

At this point, the only things I really have left to do is install the new fuel pump, a couple final tweaks with placement of components, and WIRING.  SO MUCH WIRING.

I'm so frustrated with this part.  The factory S12 manual has mediocre wiring diagrams, and there are very limited resourced online to source BEAMS wiring information, and the few out there are discrepancies.  At this point, it seems that the S12 is missing a few essential relays (fuel injector relay, ignition coil relay, etc) that the BEAMS motor requires.  So instead of trying to find ways to bypass this and rig it together, I'm going to add in everything that the BEAMS wants right off the bat.  I'm too scared to damage the new computer or light the damn things on fire lol.  I'm definitely making some more work for myself, but i'd rather do it correctly and have it last a long time.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of a good resource for engine-swapping an S12, I'm all ears!  I'm looking for simple chassis wiring explanations with accurate color-coding.  There's some information on the internet, but it seems that MK1 and MK2 have some differences, so there's conflicting data out there.  I've figured a lot of the BEAMS side out, but I'm still working on the Nissan side.

Stay safe out there!

Circa 2007


So a lot has happened!  And I'm a bit embarrassed with my lack of pictures, but I will make up for it once the car is completely reassembled.  The car runs!  There was a few wiring gremlins I had to chase, specifically in the factory Toyota harness.  Once that was all sorted, it fired right up on the base map from Mark at Panicwire, and even held its own idle without any sort of IACV.  I took it for a drive, which was a bit frightening, because it was very touchy on the throttle, very loud, had a 3500 RPM rev limiter, and the lightweight flywheel with a lack of a good tune made the car want to stall every time you depressed the clutch from any RPM over idle.  But I was determined to put a fresh tank of gas in the car, and wanted it to do so under its own power.

Next up was dyno tuning.  Turbo Mike came highly recommended for a local guy within the drift community with a great reputation and solid experience with both BEAMS motors, and LinkEcu.  Two hours into the dyno session and this thing made 200whp and 135wtq at 8,200 rpm on a Mustang Dyno.  According to the tuner, unopened BEAMS motors generally put down 180-185whp on his dyno, so we were both very surprised with how healthy this engine seems to be.

Once the car was running nice, I decided to "temporarily address" some minor rust issues, with plans of painting the car sometime next year.  We'll fast forward 3 weeks and the car has been completely repainted.  This was not part of the initial plan, but given I'm not currently working, I had the time to put into it.

Here is some of the aforementioned "minor rust" I intended to "temporarily address"...

I ended up having to remake a portion of the inner fender, as well as about 1/3 of the actual wheel arch from scratch. 

It was at this point I realized I didn't have a choice but to respray it now.

Unfortunately, as most of you know, finding good body panels is not easy, so I had to make do with what I had.  These specific fenders were repops, probably from sometime in the 90s, and their fitment was garbage.  I probably had 12 hours into this one specifically, but I told myself if I find good OEM fenders down the road, I can always spray them and swap them out.

This car had had at least one full respray, and some panels actually had 3 coats of red on them.  The last coat suffering from terrible cracking, so many of the panels had to be stripped bare.  This proved to be very cumbersome.

Lots of bad body work to repair

The windsheild had to be pulled to repair some rust under the seal.  Thankfully, this is the first time I've addressed a rusty window frame where it did NOT penetrate the factory weld seam.  That made this surprisingly easy, though still time consuming.

Stripped and converted

And here's the after of the quarter panel repair.  Given I have very little experience with body work, I was pretty happy with the outcome.

I'm spraying the bumpers and some other small parts today, so hopefully it'll be completely reassembled by the end of the week!

Circa 2007


I'm completely jealous of the work you've done because I totally lack the skills necessary for body work and rust repair. My hat goes off to you.


You should move up to the Great White North close to me so I can send my cars over to you to do all the rust repairs and respray.
86 CA18ET....owner since 1990.
The name is Bossman, but you can call me Mr. Panda....My other car is a Buick....
My Skyline is here!  My Skyline is here!