2015 Queensland Matsuri Prep

Once I had the S13 back from paint, I had 5 days left to complete it. Those 5 days turned out to be the longest, busiest, most stressful 5 days of my entire life.

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This is the final story of the build before leaving for it’s maiden event.

As you can imagine, I got a bit emotional when I rolled it out for the first time as a finished piece. But honestly, wouldn’t you be the same after years of work?

I always knew I would get it to this point, but I was never sure I would make it in time for this event. So many times I doubted my ability to make the deadline and I can’t even remember how many hours I spent going over the list of things to do. I would always wake up and plan what I needed to do to the car on that day and the following day. Throughout the day, even while at work, I would make lists of what jobs were next and what needed to be done immediately. Countless times I was extremely exhausted and sleep deprived, even to the point where I would skip eating lunch at work so I could rest and recuperate.

Normal life plans weren’t a thing for me anymore, everything had to take a back seat while the car became my main priority. Each day when I woke up and opened my eyes, I would go straight to my S13 to do list and organise my day around whatever was on it. Towards the end of the build, the time of the day became less and less recognisable. I was going through stages of being awake for such an insanely long time, that it was causing me to see things. I’m sure there was a fish helping me fit my gearbox at some point, but maybe I just imagined that, not sure.

I can remember five sessions on the car that went for 40+ straight hours, with the longest run at the end being 63 hours… Straight. No stopping, no sleeping, just working away on it.

Often I would just stand back and congratulate myself on the work, but then start to dread not being able to make the final deadline. Those quick moments of happiness would just as quickly turn to stress and in return make me more and more worried about making it. I did think about quitting plenty of times and I almost did at one point. I was so frustrated at everything I was making myself do, just so I could drive a car at an event. But, I wanted to prove to myself that this was a possibility AND it was going to happen.

I made myself a promise 11 months prior and I was dedicated to making that promise happen. I wanted this thing finished so I could make it up for the debut event and finally live the dream I had in 2010.

So, here is the final run to the finish and the realisation that this is the single greatest achievement of my life.

Enjoy.

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From where I left off in the last post, this is what I was looking at.

It was 1am on October 2nd. I needed to be in Queensland in 5 days.

I had to refit everything I had taken off the week before, finish a few final touches, mount my entire kit, make new wing mounts and finalise everything in the interior.

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Started with everything in the boot first. NOS mounted, Accusump mounted, surge tank and fuel pumps mounted then everything plumbed into the rear firewall.

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Next up was the fiddly part, mounting everything in the engine bay. Of course I didn’t want to scratch my fresh 24 hour old paint, so I put the phone away and spent a little while making sure everything went in smoothly.

I stripped it down as much as I could to give myself a bit more room to play with. Unfortunately a pair of turbos strapped to the side of an RB26 isn’t exactly what you call a ‘small setup’. After a bit of playing around with the engine crane aligning the gearbox and engine mounts, it was in it’s final spot, for the final time.

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Mounted both the oil cooler and power steering coolers and started running the lines for everything.

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Next came time to do the lines through the cabin. It may sound a bit weird, but this was one of the most frustrating, yet exciting parts of the final stage. I was starting to see things come together. All the colours shining, engine sitting in it’s home and the interior coming together just how I wanted.

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Something I never covered was how I mounted my hydro! Yet another thing that had a bit of imagination involved.

Usually PBM Hydro’s are mounted like this.. (old photo)

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…but because of where I wanted to mount it, having it that way wasn’t going to work. The way it is most commonly setup is by having the end part of the handle (the piece providing the pressure into the cylinder) attached to the flange at the end of the piston.

Solution?

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Cut out the base and flip it 180º horizontally. This way, the lever point had been reversed, so the handle moved the opposite way. This gave me much more room with the master cyliner and more options when it came time to mount it. I totally forgot to take photos of when it was mounted though which sucks! I’ll have to get some up when I do some work in the interior.

After finishing the cabin lines, I jumped back into engine bay bits, couldn’t wait to get all the powder coated pieces fitted to see how it came out.

Super happy with the result!

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Just need that valley cover for the engine then I’m set.

By this point it was about 12am October 3rd. Engine and gearbox were bolted in, cabin lines were done, complete fuel setup was refitted and everything in the boot was complete.

I put the final bits of wiring into the car along with the dash, driver seat and all my switches.

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I had planned to take the car over to the tuners once everything mechanical was finished and back together. This way we could do one final check over to make sure it was all working properly without any issues.

So I put in 110% effort and starting working like crazy and got it back to a point where it was ready. It may not look like much had changed in the last few pictures, it’s the bits you don’t see that got the most amount of work.

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I had to make my new hydro lines and bleed them, clean up the wiring, mount my switch panel, do a complete bolt check, mount the exhaust (this was a pain in the ass by myself) and fill everything with fluid.

After a few minutes of recovery, I loaded everything onto the trailer and headed out to RacePace again.

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Everything looked perfect in the engine bay, had to take some more pictures.

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Only thing missing was my coil pack loom which had only arrived the day before and was waiting for me at the shop.

I had been awake for 43 hours by this point. One eye was 70% closed, brain was slow as hell, hallucinations were happening every 5 minutes, pretty much ready to die by then. I was so over all the shit, all I wanted to do was sleep.

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We put it on the dyno and had nothing but good news. Only tiny problem was a little air bubble in the cooling system, but nothing major. We spent a few hours finalising things and getting it to the safest possible point. I know 373w isn’t technically safe but it wouldn’t make any less than that!

I loaded up and headed off about 9pm, ready for some long awaited food and some sleep.

Actually here’s another thing I should mention. If you ever decide to put all your effort into building a car, make sure you don’t lose track of your eating. For those of you that don’t know me in person, I’m a skinny dude. Over the course of building this car I was consistently missing meals and skipping sleep which was causing me to lose weight. Probably not a good thing when I think about it, but I didn’t really notice until later on down the track. By the end of the build I had lost about 8kg which is a little scary considering I didn’t have that much to lose in the first place. I guess I had too many other things on my mind to realise what was happening.

I had some leftover bolognese and a well deserved sleep until 3am. Then back up, quick breakfast and got straight back into it.

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This is something I was super excited to try! All of the following was only setup for show, so expect some really wanky pictures.

Remember how I bought Nitrous for the car a few weeks earlier? Well now it was time to setup the LED purge lights!

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I wanted the pair to be mounted in each front guard so it was symmetrical. It was a bit hard doing the next bit because of how fresh the paint was, but it had to be done!

Step one. Drill hole in your brand new painted guards.

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Step two. Drill bigger hole in your ‘not so new anymore’ guards.

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Step three. Place LED in position and enjoy the fun.

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Before I could start firing it, I needed to modify some hardline to run out to the guards.

Normally NOS hardline is 1/8” which is a pain in the ass to get. So I bought some 3/8” stainless line, cut it to length and worked it through the engine bay.

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The solenoid has the feed line coming from the nitrous bottle, with a T-piece on the opposing side. From the T-piece, I have a pair of lines going straight out to each guard.

One for the passenger side..

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..and one for the driver side.

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The final job was to measure how far down to cut the 3/8″ line so I could have the 1/8″ line welded to it.

Why did I do this? The LED purge light has a 1/8″ hole through the centre so you can only fit that size. If you go for anything bigger or smaller, it won’t fit over the hardline.

Now when the nitrous fires, the LED lights up and illuminates the purge!

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And that is how you make your car fit in with the Fast and Furious movies!

No but seriously, it is actually pretty awesome to play with.

Next on the list of things to do was my rear brake calipers. No, not the first pair. The second pair for my hydro.

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Standard S13 calipers are usually mounted on the front side of the knuckle right? Well, the PBM knuckles offer a setup where you can retain the factory caliper in it’s normal position and use a secondary wilwood caliper for your hydro handbrake. The secondary mount on the PBM knuckles are great, but I didn’t want to use standard brakes for my foot brake. Instead, I wanted all four rear calipers to match and have the same capabilities.

To make this work, I had to cut up my brand new $500 PBM knuckles.

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Sorry.

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But this was all for a good cause.

Other side got cut up too. I felt bad doing this.

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The lower mount needed a little bit of shaving and relocating forward whereas the top mount needed to be completely reworked. Both weren’t too much of a hassle, but if you decide on doing this, make sure you cut the brackets off the knuckle completely straight. If you don’t, you will end up with an awkward mounting for the caliper which in turn will cause the rotor to wear unevenly.

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Bolted both calipers on and had a quick look.

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Really makes the rotors look like crap don’t they?! Sometime soon I’ll replace both rear rotors with something a bit better than factory OEM bits.

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Oh also, you can see the extent I went to with some of the LED lighting on the car. That is coming soon!

After finishing the brakes I went over the suspension while the car was in the air. I had to reset the height, align both front and rear, check all my measurements and get it ready to go back on the ground.

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It was 3pm October 4th and the car was almost ready to come off the hoist. Calipers were done, all the lighting had been fitted, new lines were done, exhaust was on and wheels were ready. Just a few other things to get done and I could put it back on the ground.

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10pm October 4th.

Finally on all four wheels, sitting properly, running properly and starting to look RIGHT.

Oh hey also, I had front and rear windows!

By this point I took a seat, looked at it and told myself I’d done a good job. I was so damn happy to make it to this point.

What was left? Still heaps of stuff but holy crap, look at what it had become! All those hours and I could finally see the finish line. Only a few more days and I was there! I spent almost an hour sitting on the creeper admiring the massive progress I’d had. All I wanted to do was keep working, but my brain decided against that.

I eventually woke up about 4 hours later, still laying on the creeper, with the car waiting for me. Waking up to see my dream in front of me was so overly ironic. All I had wanted since I bought this car was to get to this point and I was almost done!

I didn’t waste any time, jumped straight back into work.

Time for some lighting!

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos when I was refitting these. I do have some but they were taken before paint so expect some ugly colours here.

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Before I start, I have to make this clear. I have never been into buying ANYTHING from eBay. I avoid it like the plague. If you want to build a quality car and have a quality outcome, you will know to avoid ebay parts at all costs. Unless of course it is for LED lighting that has the possibility of getting destroyed in a matter of laps.

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Along with two sets of neons and strobes, I bought some bright green LED strips to fit in the wheel wells. The neons were mounted on each sill as well as a few on the rear end and two under the tube front. I’m sure you can figure out where the wheel well lights were mounted!

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Believe it or not, these things were insanely bright. They weren’t too cheap but compared to what you pay for some of the high end stuff, they were far from expensive.

(cable ties were temporary!)

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After refitting every LED light and putting some pieces back together, it was time to test the kit.

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Front bar was super cool to say the least. See the green sparkles in the light?

I threw the front and rear on and rolled it out into the night to check out the lights. This was so impressive, came out a lot better than I expected!

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Sorry for the crappy photo, it’s a little hard to get a photo in pitch black darkness with the only light being neons.

I was so close! The car drove, all the electrics worked, kit looked amazing, wheel fitment was exactly how I wanted and it sounded incredible. One final run to the end and it was ready to go.

1am October 6th, I was meant to leave October 7th at 5pm.

I drove the car back inside and got onto the final bits. Still had to do bash plate, make a cluster plate, design some new low mount wing stands and final fit the entire kit. This was going to be the longest session I had been through while building the car. Nothing else mattered, I cleared everything off my mind and focused on the finish line. 19 hours down, no idea how many I had left, but I wasn’t stopping.

I had originally designed a cluster plate without the control unit incorporated, but while I did spend hours looking for another suitable spot for it, I couldn’t put it anywhere and be happy.

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Instead, I worked it into the cluster plate design. It was going to be super tight, but it needed to fit. I wanted to try and replicate the cluster plate I designed for the 180sx back in 2012. So after measuring and lining up the pieces, I grabbed some 1.6mm aluminium and went to work.

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The downside to the S15 cluster is that it’s a lot smaller than S13 and 180sx clusters. You don’t have as much width across the face as you do with the older Silvia’s. This made it really difficult to get the spacing right because of how tight it was.

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Remember, the backing of the gauge is a lot smaller than the outer bezel (the ring around the face) of the gauge. While I would have loved to space them out more, it wasn’t a possibility. Luckily, by a matter of millimetres, the control unit was going to fit. The tacho and two gauges either side were very tight, but there was enough gap for them to move freely.

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I went over the aluminium with a sanding disc so get rid of the scratches and give it a cool effect. I wanted to have it powder coated so didn’t bother painting it at the time!

See the slots along the top and bottom? This was something I was very hesitant about doing. If you have ever pulled apart an S15 dash, you will know that the cluster is in two pieces. One piece is the cluster itself with your speedo and tacho, while the second piece is the clear plastic that sits at the front. Because of how the housing is setup in the S15 dash, it would look very weird if you just had a flat plate with nothing to fill in the gaps. To avoid that, I wanted to somehow make it possible to utilise the clear plastic if I wanted to.

I’m sure with a bit more testing and working, I will get it perfect so the plastic case can go over the plate, but for matsuri I just ran with the plate by itself. I didn’t have the time to spend on it getting it 100% perfect.

After playing with the cluster and designing some new wing stands, I jumped back into some work on the car itself.

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The kit needed to be mounted properly and everything needed to be aligned.

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This was one of the most tedious jobs to do. There were countless measurements as well as double and triple checking that things were lined up properly. You only get one chance when you try to line up a fibreglass kit, especially rear guards! Measure five times if you have to, so you only need to drill once.

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Finally getting to that finish line, now I could see the end.

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This was it. I had almost made it. Mechanical things? Done. Cosmetic pieces? Done. Fresh oils and fluids? All check.

It was 2pm October 7th and I had just hit 59 hours straight. For the very last time, I started going over the complete car and checking off the final list.  I had gone from a massive A3 piece of paper that was full of writing, down to a few dot point on a single A4 piece of paper. I could count on one hand how many things I had left!

Thinking back at what the year had been like was hilarious. So many times I had thought about quitting, getting out of it and just leaving the car for later. So many times I got super frustrated, and SO MANY TIMES I WANTED TO BURN IT TO THE GROUND.

But when you get to a point of 99% completion and you can almost reach the end, you try not to think about the hard times and instead think of the good memories you are going to make with it.

The last few things to do were make the wing stands, mount the passenger seat, mount both harnesses, mount the battery and drive it out as a complete car for the very first time.

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Looking back now, I really should have shortened the exhaust, but honestly that was the least of my problems!

I had to run home quickly and take my dog to a holiday park to stay at while I was away. Then grab the other seat, both harnesses and start making the wing stands!

I got back and put the phone away almost immediately. I wanted no interruptions, just me working 100% on the car to the finish. Seats were done and harnesses were setup in no time. The wing stands took a little while to make but they came out perfect!

Last piece to fit to the car, the bonnet.

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It had been 63 hours of straight working. I was seeing trees upside down, one eye was basically closed, my legs were at the point of folding if I gave them the chance and my brain had decided to partially shut down. I made a quick sandwich, got the car and took it out as a complete car for the very first time.

Life achievement unlocked.

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That was it! I had made it to the finish line! HOLY SHIT IT WAS OVER.

All those hours of working, all those nights of dreaming, all those days wondering when and if I would get it done. I had made it.

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It was October 7th and it was 7pm. I’m going to remember this date and time for a really long time. This was the date I had successfully completed a massive life goal.

I’m sure a lot of you may be thinking.. “Life goal? It’s just an S13”. It sure is just an S13, but after what I had been through the entire year, this S13 was a massive achievement for me. I had never spent so much time on something and I have never been so dedicated to anything else in my life. Even to the point of starving myself to save time and put it towards progress on the build.

If there was an option to give myself more time I would have taken every shot at it, but that wasn’t the case. I had a certain amount of time, so I dealt with what was available. Yes I could have pushed it back another year, but I didn’t want to wait. If that were the case, I would be sitting in this exact spot thinking to myself that I should have finished the car. I’m glad I didn’t go down the route.

I’m glad I spent the hours that I did on the car and I’m over the moon with how it turned out.

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To me, this was and still is an amazing achievement. I proved to myself that the impossible is possible if you put enough time into it. Sure it may come with loads of stress and plenty of emotional hours, but to see the end result and be able to enjoy your hard work is what makes it all worth it.

Would I do it all again? For sure.

I know I would have done so much differently but it would always end up being the same outcome. I would have a car with countless hours invested that I was proud of. This thing, no matter what other people think, is my favourite car of the four I own. I built the car from nothing to what you see above and I love it.

The final run to the finish, done. The build was over. Last thing left to do was drive 2200km north to Queensland and enjoy it at matsuri 2015.

Wow. 4000+ words and 50+ photos. Hope you enjoyed reading the final session of the build, definitely took me a while to write all this. Thanks to all the dudes that followed the car, wether it was only at the end or right from the beginning. Thanks for the love. I appreciate it.

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