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rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 None
6/28/21 9:28 p.m.

Long time reader, first time poster!

 

As I renewed my SCCA membership this year, I realized this is my 20th year of racing, wrenching, and crewing on terrible cars.   My own choices had me newly moved to the east coast, and without a proper race car, or place to park it!   Something needed to change, so I sought to return to my roots.  The most fun I’d had in those 20 years were the early days of rallycross, hanging out in a field in southern Illinois with a small group of like-minded friends flogging a RWD Nissan 240SX.

 

I’d bought this 240 as my first car, back in 2001.  Before drifting found it’s way to our shores, these were cheap ‘chick’ cars that had a mild sporting pretention.  After one fateful night, I found some episodes of Initial D on our dorm network, and started researching the cars in the film.  I had my heart set on a FC RX-7, but another twist of fate: a friend in the dorm blew up his car and found a cheap 240 to replace it with.  He didn’t know how to drive stick, so I went out to KC with him to test drive the car.  One twisty road later, and I was hooked!  I started my long search, and bought a cheap car, right color off of eBay sight unseen a week before the next semester:

 

 

What followed was a decade of learning to wrench on my own car, Autocross, RallyCross, Drift Days, an odd track session, and cementing my love of the S-chassis cars.  I even bought a second one, and in true GRM fashion, competed in the first RallyCross National Challenge with a car that owed me about $180 at the time!

 

 

Many years, racing events, and life changes happened.  I found myself with a garage packed full of random 240SX parts, a recently crashed 240, and a job that was on increasingly shaky ground after several rounds of layoffs after the 2008 financial crisis.  I decided to sell the car off with all the parts for cheap to pay it forward to another young racer, and prepare myself to move quickly if I needed to.

 

From there I tried many other types of cars over the next few years.  WRX, RWD Volvos, Miatae, BMW, G35 Coupe, and many other Subarus but I kept coming back to 240SX’s and flinging rooster tails of dirt.

A change in career saw me sell of the ideal 5 acre house with 3 car shops and 11+ cars in the middle of a corn field in Kansas, to live in suburban northern Virginia constrained to a 2 car garage.  With room for one ‘fun’ car, and the stinging financial loss of selling off all my car projects when I left Kansas, I decided to grab an ‘investment’ and bought a Datsun 260Z.  It was great fun to drive around the beautiful roads available in the area, but I still had a longing for something to beat on in the dirt.

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/28/21 9:34 p.m.

That brings us to this Spring.  A Facespaceplace Marketplacespace interaction had me at a local’s garage to grab an R200 diff and CV joint axles off of an Z31 turbo he was parting to upgrade my Datsun…. But a quick look around showed that he made a good amount of money parting various 240SX’s to the local drift scene.  SWMBO was along on this trip, and spied it over in the corner first, covered in pine sap, mud, and leaves.  “Are these cars for sale?” she asked, knowing fully that pandora’s box of crazy schemes was creaking open.  Sure enough, he was moving his operation this year, and looking to sell some cars.  This car was the spitting image of my first car, 89 SE Hatchback, swapped to a later twincam engine, and with a Viscous LSD from an Infiniti J30, exactly where my car was when I sold it.   The story was it had been swapped to an SR20DET engine, and was picked up to part the motor. It was now in a non-running state, with a twin cam engine just chucked in there.  A quick look over, and it was in reasonable condition for an East coast car in terms of rust.  I didn’t need it perfect for what I’ve got planned…

 

Then the inevitabilities of my living situation crept in.  Instead of a ¾ ton truck and car hauler, my wife now had a Volvo C30… even if I could scheme how to drag this heap home, I had no where to park it while I tried to breathe some life back into it to get it running…   But the seeds had been sown.  Many conversations later, and 12 tons of gravel show up next to the house, and Viola!  An instant parking area:

 

 

The second the gravel was down, I messaged the guy again, and the car was still available.  This time I went to check it out for real, but still viewed through the drunk goggles of nostalgia.  Sure I figured, most of that rust looks superficial!  You know, after you subtract Drift Tax, and ‘Rona Tax, this is surely only a $500 car.  A deal was done, and I stood there wondering how I’d get it home.  In the crazy schemes I’d thought up in the previous week, a surprisingly easy 3A’s tow home from ‘my shop’ had this rusting non-running heap in my possession!

 

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/28/21 9:37 p.m.

What are my plans for this car?

I want to be able to make it to a RallyCross this year.  That’s sporty considering the state of the car, and my available free time, but the tasks ahead of me seem to be:

  • Get it running.  See what’s wrong, fix it, make combustion noises, annoy the neighbors
  • Fix the rust.  It just needs to not rust into oblivion in the next year or so, so hit ‘pause’ on the east coast, not completely rustproofed, but enough I won’t worry about it.
  • Fix the suspension. It’s currently stupid slammed on some driftspec coilovers, I had to remove the exhaust just to get it off the towtruck
  • Make it reasonable to drive a couple hours to an event.  This means a new steering wheel, maybe a new seat, these seats killed my 19 year old back, my old ass likely can’t tolerate it now
  • Tires for dirt.  Likely some cheap snows or used tires on 15” Datsun wheels I have sitting around
  • Put the hurt to dirt.  See if I remember how to drive at RallyCross, and more importantly enjoy it enough to dedicate my weekends to the sport again.

Leave the rest of the car alone, perhaps the second off-season can be a more comprehensive build. Real suspension, S14 rear subframe, potentially more power, a real diff, etc.  I don’t intend to go into stage rally with this car at this point, but I don’t want to do anything to prohibit it from being a Stage Car.

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/29/21 8:07 p.m.

So, to the non-running status of the car!

 

Step one was to powerwash the years of sap, mud and spiders off the car and vacuum up all the varmints from inside the engine bay.

 

 

He claimed the car seemed ‘out of time’ the spare parts sitting in the passenger seat told the tale to anyone that’s chased this.  A timing light, a spare set of injectors, no less than three compression testers….  This didn’t look good.

 

The valve cover came off, and sure enough, timing was apparently set by Ray Charles.  Pretty quickly the engine came out, and the timing was bad enough that the head had to come off to look for damage. 

 

It was fun to work on a 240 again, it’s always been my wrenching ‘home’: simpler than the subarus, way more room for my hands to fit than the Miatas, no complicated electronics or plastic components like my newer cars.  The early 90s were a good time for us DIY wrenchers.  Here’s me just having fun with a picture from my first engine swap when I was 19 and now.

 

 

Sure enough, each piston showed the slightest little ding on the intake side.  The head seemed recently gone through, it was much cleaner than a normal KA, however it was also full of walnut shells and squirrel E36 M3. From sitting with the valve cover off for some period of time.  I cleaned it up slightly, and set the head upside down on the bench with some thin oil in each combustion chamber to see if the valves had been bent.

 

 

Sure enough, it leaked out of the intake valves, some more than others, but none came out the exhaust side!  With some new valves on order, I fired up the parts washer, and started thoroughly cleaning everything up.   Valve seats seemed in decent shape, and the guides didn’t measure too much wear.  I didn’t want to throw too much $$$ into the top end….

 

Again, my mindset was from 10-20 years ago, when nobody would dream of cracking open a KA engine.  They were $free from folks putting in SR20DETs, $200 from junkyards tops.  Just swap the motor out, it was cheaper than a new headgasket!  The march of time hasn’t been kind to the prices of these motors.  First people realized they could make the same power as an SR for less money by slapping an ebay turbo on the cheap KAs.  Then the ‘drift missile’ craze hit and demolished many chassis. Those free and cheap KAs were all but used up, and a quick search showed that now a reasonable condition motorset is in the $1,000 range!   

 

Ok, so back into this motor. Need the bare minimum without cutting too many corners to see if this heap will run, or if the bottom end will knock into oblivion too.  A wiggle of the rod caps seemed like it’s OK.  The cylinder walls weren’t the greatest, but nothing too alarming.  So I’d throw a new set of intake valves, no machine work, a good gasket kit, and a hard cleaning, twist the key and pray!

 

New valves in, and a quick check with oil trick to check the seal….  Success!

 

 

Ok, now to put it back together.  This is the most I’ve been inside a motor with any car, but armed with a familiarity, and a Factory Service Manual, and a set of thread chasers, it was all going smoothly. That is, until I got back to the timing.  I tried it several attempts to get the motor into the correct position, but each time I lined up the marks, nothing looked ‘right’.  I refused to turn it over until I was comfortable with what was going on there.  The timing covers came back off, and disassembled it again.  Much head scratching, rampant googling, and calls to old friends, and I determined with certainty, that the whole reason this car didn’t run was whatever timing chain kit this was had been built with the marker links off by 5 links!  So when it was put back together initially, the cheap timing chain kit put the motor completely out of time.  I didn’t (hopefully) repeat this mistake, and re-marked everything to line up as it should.

 

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/29/21 8:19 p.m.

As the engine was coming back together, I realized I needed to spend some time on the chassis to accept the engine.  It seems like every 240 with a certain age or mileage hits a common problem.  The heat from the exhaust kills the seals on the brake Master Cylinder, even quicker if it’s turbo’d.  Once these fail, it falls down rusting the booster, and eventually eats all the paint off of the drivers side frame rail where it meets the strut tower.  This bare metal is now subject to a nice horizontal shelf where all dirt, road salt, and moisture that enters the bay collects, and rusts the frame rails and strut towers clean through.

 

On my car, it seemed like this issue had started while it was parked, and not while it was moving around, so most of the rust was just on the surface of the rail, and some poking and prodding while buying it, showed there to be actual metal under there.

 

I’ve personally seen cars that would ‘settle’ when the owners popped the hoods, as it was the only thing holding the strut towers in place!   Knowing this was a losing battle if I were to ignore it, I decided to fire up the wire wheel, welder, and POR-15 to address it before it got too bad.

 

(racer excuses) I think my welder was damaged in the move, it seems like the wire’s not moving smoothly, I never really got that ‘bacon’ sound while welding, and it’s far uglier than anything I’ve welded in the past.

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy SuperDork
6/29/21 8:34 p.m.

Good stuff!  I'm in to follow along! I've always thought 240s were pretty cool and liked the shape. It's a bummer so many have been trashed. 

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/29/21 8:47 p.m.

Installation is the reverse of removal.  But with fastidious cleaning. 

 

The biggest hiccup was actually a 12mm socket!  The ARP headstuds use a 12 point, 12mm head on the nut.  In my two decades of wrenching on cars and trucks, I’d never needed this, but had a new shiny Craftsman 12mm 12point short socket in the toolbox.  It didn’t clear the stud to tighten the nut…  Then I found some random toolkit deep well socket, but the machined recesses in the head were too small for it to fit!  Some measurements grabbed, info on sockets out there was pretty thin, the only thing I could find data on was Snap-On….. I’m more of a Harbor Fright person than a tool truck guy…  one $42 socket later, and the head was torqued down.

 

 

The rest went well, until I got to the chassis parts supporting the engine.  The unknown history, and uninstalled parts made this a bit of a puzzle.  When the moment came to start the motor, it seemed like all that was missing was a coil and a battery.

I ran to the parts store, grabbed an Optima Redtop, a 5 gallon tank for the rancid gas in the tank, a new coil, and a length of fuel hose.

And with that, we were ready for the first start!

 

 

This brings us to more or less the current day, I was excited and nervous to get this thing turned over and running. 

 

Step 1:  Install coil, there’s like 4-5 un-used connectors over on this side of the engine, but one of them fit the coil.  I couldn’t recall if the bracket needed to be grounded or not…

 

 

Step 2:  Install line to pressure side of fuel rail to dump as much bad gas out as possible

Step 3: Install battery

Step3.5: freak out because I hadn’t pushed the car out of the garage and it’s pissing gas everywhere.

Step 4: Intentionally jump fuel pump to get gas out

Step 5: Install new fresh gas

Step 6: prime engine on starter till I see oil covering the cams

 

This is when I hit my first snag.  At some point, there had been a battery box installed in the hatch area #becauseracecar. As I was trying the key, I could hear the gear engaging, but no start.  After poking around, I saw the starter cable was loose and just hanging around.  Vice Grips to the rescue!

 

 

Step 6.5: NOW prime engine till oil covers cams

Step 7: Grab fire extinguisher

Step 8: See if it’ll start!

NOPE.

 

The good:

-Got gas in the rail easily, all 4 plugs wet

-Heard 4 distinct compression events on turnover, seems like there’s still some rings in there

 

The bad:

-Spark wasn’t even phoning it in… nothing.

 

A quick examination of the wiring diagram, and I had completely forgotten to source the ignition power transistor or ignitor. It’s typically attached to the coil bracket, which was missing on this car as it had been running an SR20DET with individual coils.

 

 

This isn’t a typical auto parts store buy, so I’m off to local Friendface Groups and ebay to see if I can find one.

jfryjfry
jfryjfry Dork
6/29/21 8:58 p.m.

Love these cars.  I have two and can't wait to see you get yours fired up

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/29/21 9:10 p.m.

Nice. we have one that occasionally comes to rallycross with us here in DC. Always looks like he's having a good time (he runs in stock class....he's smart to avoid our insane MR class around here lol). 

slowbird
slowbird UltraDork
6/29/21 11:20 p.m.

I dream of owning one of these with a Silvia front end and a V8...

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/30/21 7:19 a.m.

In reply to Lof8 - Andy :

Thanks Andy!  I always enjoyed the E30 as well.  When I moved to Kansas there were always a couple of them in DSP class in autocross that my 240SX paired up well with, and it was good to trade times back and forth.

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/30/21 7:20 a.m.

In reply to jfryjfry :

jfry,

Thanks!  Got any pictures/details of your 240s?  I always love seeing another S-chassis enthusiast's approach to the cars.

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/30/21 7:26 a.m.

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

One thing I've learned from reading this forum over the past couple years is that the DC region is certainly hurting for MR participation! wink

I plan on being out to run with you guys later in the summer.  When I picked up this POS13, I was hoping to have it out there by the August event.   Jumping into the deep end should help me remember how to drive faster, and be a good benchmark on if I've still got it.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/30/21 9:34 a.m.
rallyxPOS13 said:

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

One thing I've learned from reading this forum over the past couple years is that the DC region is certainly hurting for MR participation! wink

I plan on being out to run with you guys later in the summer.  When I picked up this POS13, I was hoping to have it out there by the August event.   Jumping into the deep end should help me remember how to drive faster, and be a good benchmark on if I've still got it.

Awesome. I mean that's how I did it 10 years ago. Jumped right into MR with a 90 horsepower stock E30 on some used gravel tires!

solfly
solfly Dork
6/30/21 2:47 p.m.
rallyxPOS13 said:

 SWMBO was along on this trip, and spied it over in the corner first, covered in pine sap, mud, and leaves.  “Are these cars for sale?” she asked, knowing fully that pandora’s box of crazy schemes was creaking open. 

this can't be real life

Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter)
Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/30/21 4:44 p.m.

If you're near DC and looking for another event in August... come play!

https://www.outmotorsports.com/event/rallycross-2021/

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/30/21 6:37 p.m.

In reply to slowbird :

For a year or so at my local autocrosses, some guys would come up from an AirForce base in Oklahoma.  one had an FD RX-7, the other with an Silvia front S13.  Both were incredibly well set up, and had LSwhatever engines.  When set up properly, these cars hauled ass and were in contention for FTD!  One of the ligthest ways to make an S13 fast for sure

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/30/21 6:42 p.m.
solfly said:
rallyxPOS13 said:

 SWMBO was along on this trip, and spied it over in the corner first, covered in pine sap, mud, and leaves.  “Are these cars for sale?” she asked, knowing fully that pandora’s box of crazy schemes was creaking open. 

this can't be real life

To firmly cement that my wife is largely in my imagination:  We met at an autocross, where she was driving a '98 240SX, black, black interior, 5 speed.  A true unicorn in many ways.  We also hung out at a mutual friends race shop working on IT cars before dating.

I know I'm a lucky man to have found someone who gets my hobbies!

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/30/21 6:51 p.m.

In reply to Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter) :

Fingers crossed I can get it running and sorted by then!

Who Sanctions your events?  Intersted to know what other games are in town.

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
6/30/21 7:01 p.m.

Some of you may have astutely noticed that the car had no radiator.  I figured this wasn't a huge hurdle to getting the car started to see what condition the engine was in.  But last night when searching for a local coil, I came across a forsale post with a $70 aluminum radiator... Carpe Aluminum!

He also had a cheap header that was missing a flange with good O2 sensor.  I figured I'd be welding something up under there anyway to get better ground clearance, since most aftermarket options are just draggy fart cans.   It's brought to you by the parts knockoff brand that instantly regretted it's naming: ISIS Performance!  (they've since rebranded to ISR performance)

Slapped those in the car and ordered a coil off of Ebay

 

If the shipping estimate holds (I never trust USPS) I should be able to try and start it again before the weekend!

 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/30/21 7:45 p.m.
rallyxPOS13 said:

In reply to Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter) :

Fingers crossed I can get it running and sorted by then!

Who Sanctions your events?  Intersted to know what other games are in town.

I think theirs is sanctioned by NASA, but it's not a series it's just one (or more?) individual events.

Aside from WDCR, Susquehanna SCCA also has a good program - they run up near Harrisburg and a lot of DC and Susquehanna folks go back and forth. If you want to go south, Tarheel SCC (not SCCA) has events down in NC, though they are known to be a bit rougher and said to be somewhat lax on the safety side of things. But they do have a big course when they run at VIR. 

Next DC event will be back at Panthera, which is an awesome venue (I like it MUCh better than Summit Point, which is a good venue in its own right). Panthera may be one of the most fun rallycross venues in the country (IMO). 

jfryjfry
jfryjfry Dork
6/30/21 9:56 p.m.

In reply to rallyxPOS13 :

It's a jdm rhd 180sx with a silvia front end.  Kw clubsports, a clutch lsd, some minor engine stuff, race seat....   it's quite quick around an Autox course. 
 

 

yours is looking awesome.  I'm very excited to see how this weekend goes.  Great score on the radiator!

Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter)
Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/30/21 10:10 p.m.
rallyxPOS13 said:

In reply to Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter) :

Fingers crossed I can get it running and sorted by then!

Who Sanctions your events?  Intersted to know what other games are in town.

This is just a one-time event that may turn into more in the future. For this one, we're running it through NASA for the sake of insurance and such. I brought some friends to a WDCR-SCCA event last year and way more people wanted to come so I said fine, put your money where your mouth is, I'm renting Summit Point.

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
7/5/21 6:52 p.m.

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

Oh man, Panthera sounds fun.  Now I'm even more motivated to get it ready.  I made it to Summit Point a couple years ago when I moved here with my Outback daily driver.  I quickly realized I needed a dedicated rallycross car after a 'hurt' the transmission and the LR started leaking.

I got to sample VIR's course at Hyperfest one year, it seems fun as well.  

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 New Reader
7/5/21 6:54 p.m.

In reply to jfryjfry :

The best of both worlds!  the lightweight slivia front and an aerodynamic hatch to throw tires in.  Sil80 (Sil40?) is the way to go.  Looks menacing with the aero.

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