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Bringing Up the Rear Part V: I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

9 Apr

As you can tell from my last entry, the latest round of mods to my Z have been nothing short of ‘interesting’. Basically, it’s kicked our collective asses, and it’s taken alot of blood, sweat, tears, money and patience to have it all come together. But we rounded an important corner, and I think I can officially say that for the time being “I’m done!” (well, sorta).

A couple weeks ago, I took the 8 hour drive up to Buffalo to have Mike from Innovative Tuning finalize the Haltech tune. The car decently enough on the way up, no issues. The ride back was even better, firstly because I found a different way to go, saving me about an hour, and secondly because it was nice to be back in a car that was properly tuned.

Last weekend we decided it was time to tackle the 4.3 final drive install. I’ve written alot about this custom setup in previous entries. It’s been sitting here for probably 6 or 7 months now, just waiting. Of course, this seemingly simple swap was not without it’s drama. First, we had a helluva time getting 1 of the exhaust bolts out. After that was solved, the exhaust came down and we found something that we at the shop call “no bueno”. My midpipe was cracked almost all the way around, right where the resonator meets the piping section. In addition it was developing a second crack at the resonator itself. It had noticeable scrape marks on the underside from numerous incidents. Since the car is so low, stuff like this is inevitable. The exhaust has been in the car for probably 5 years now, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Except…it’s titanium. As some may know, welding titanium isn’t exactly like welding anything else. Takes some pretty specialized stuff, that we certainly don’t have here. A few phone calls later and I was hooked up with Joe from Accurate Welding. I immediately ran down there, midpipe in hand, and in no time, I was back on my way!

This is one of the great things about being in NY, and I’m sure other areas of the country too. Everything you can think of is literally a stones throw away. Today we had some spare time so we finished up the install. Unfortunately it’s been raining most of the day, so I haven’t actually had a chance to drive the car yet. Kwame did though, and his words went something like “HOLY SHIT THAT THING IS QUICK!” He was all smiles – I hope I am too!

Moving Forward!

29 Mar

Posted this in my build thread but didn’t want to leave the blog out! It’s LOOONG….you’ve been warned

Been awhile since I posted an update, mainly because I have not had much to report. But, I am happy to say the car is now tuned, running great, and short of a few more changes I plan to do this Spring/Summer, I think it’s done for awhile. I need to just sit back and enjoy it all now, as it’s been a tough road this past 1.5 years. Here’s why

The car was running great, made good, consistent power, and was a blast to drive. In my quest to be different, stand out from the relatively small crowd of built NA guys, and see what we could get out of the current engine package, I decided to embark on an individual throttle body project that I had high hopes for. There is a thread about it somewhere in here. I purposely kept quiet about it all since we really were in unchartered waters. I had never worked with this company before, had never used/installed an ITB setup before, and this was a new project from the ground up. Fast forward a few months and the prototype arrived in our hands. At that point, I had just dodged a major bullet with issues around the previous crank pulley that developed at ZDayz 2008 (that whole ordeal is found in this thread, I forget what page though) and since the car was finally back on the road in the heat of summer (July 2008), I decided to wait till the car was away for the winter to actually start the mock up/install. From December 2008 to Spring 2008 we spent removing my old setup, and test fitting the new ITB’s. By early Spring we thought we had an idea as to what changes needed to be done and prepared for the maiden tune. This was just going to be the test to see if things were on the right path, before we decided to put it into production. Unfortunately, it never panned out. The prototype unit simpl had numerous issues and we were never able to even do basic level dyno testing. We did our best to bandaid our way around them but it wasn’t to be. By summer 2009, I decided to cut my losses and bailed on the project. Now I needed to reconstruct things.

Fast foward to Summer 2009. A good customer and friend in CA with a well known VQ powered project/toy was interested in getting his hands on a factory polished Cosworth plenum, in order to retain a warranty on it. The Cosworth plenum we had previously shipped to him back when they first came out was a ‘first gen’ unit, which he had polished on his own. As such, there was no warranty on it, and he wanted to cover his bases in case it developed any leaks (he’s heavily boosted). We had the ‘second gen’ factory polished ones in stock, so a deal was struck. I got the first gen unit, and we sent him the second gen. By this time, I had already sold all the cool stuff/factory stuff I previously had on my car (carbon intake pipe, Gruppe-M carbon intake, our 3 inch MAF housing, my entire intake plenum setup). I thought with the ITB’s, I would no longer need them, and after investing tons of extra money/time into ancillary parts, I was just trying to recoup some. Not to mention, I thought had no need for these parts. Now I needed them more than ever What’s the addage about best laid plans?

In preparation for the ITB’s, I had also made the switch in December 2008 to the Haltech (since it could run solely off a MAP sensor, unlike my previous UTEC). I also acquired the Racepak dash in preparation to use it completely in place of the factory cluster (more on this later!). In doing so, we did some wiring changes to the Haltech that we felt would help with the packaging of the now defunct ITB setup, namely, using the throttle sensor on the pedal as the TPS. It was really more a cosmetic thing, as we wouldn’t have to worry about mounting/wiring a TPS sensor in the engine bay. I like things clean. We also had obviously converted the car to run a throttle cable instead of the drive by wire, and I had reflashed the ecu accordingly so it would not throw any codes our way. Due to these things, I decided I would contine with the throttle cable-based setup. I found a nice BBK throttle body from I think a Mustang Cobra that measured up almost perfectly to the Cosworth plenum. At 75mm, it was the biggest we could use without totally hacking up the Cosworth. The bolt holt spacing was also extremely close, and since it didn’t have an onboard TPS sensor, it would work out great and allow me to keep the TPS sensor on the pedal as I had done. By Fall 2009, I thought I was ready to tune, so brought my tuner back down to get things sorted. In addition to tuning, he was going to setup my Racepak dash for me, since I didn’t have any experience with such units up until that point. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well either. Numerous issues cropped up that day that prevented us from getting the car on the dyno. Once they were finally sorted out, it was simply too late in the day to do any dyno testing. So, we decided to just do a quick down and dirty road tune on the car. While the tune was far from ideal, the car was driveable, and I was able to use it for a few months until it was time to go away for the winter. It ran rich as hell, got crappy gas mileage and didn’t want to idle well….but it ran good enough to take the car out a few times on nice days, and at least well enough to move it in and out of the shop if we needed to.

During this past winter, we took the opportunity to do a bunch of things I had been putting off. Namely, finally finishing my C West hood project, the addition our new urethane transmission mount, making a new bracket for the throttle cable (thanks jiggy!), and other miscellaneous stuff. By this point I had also finally managed to integrate the Racepak cluster into the car completely in place of the factory unit. On the surface it sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s far from it. The factory CAN unit relies heavily on the factory cluster being there, and when it’s taken out of the loop all sorts of funky things happen. Since the car was down for the winter anyway, I also sent the cluster out to Racepak for a firmware update and for them to update the main plug on the back of the unit to the newer style one (which was said to give better screen resolution). I also acquired their USM (Universal Sensor Module) at the same time. This black box is essentially like a Defi control unit, but just for the Racepak. It allows you to add up to 4 auxiliary sensors to the mix and then control their display on the IQ3 cluster. I needed this in order to (hopefully) display fuel level, and also decided an oil temperature display would come in handy too, so I got one of their sensors as well. With the newly updated dash back in hand, I set out to try to integrate the factory fuel level sensor, as well as get it to display an odometer setting. I figured I’d leave oil temp alone for now, until the other 2 things worked. So far, it hasn’t happened. The odometer function is still not operable (clearly a software issue, which we hope to work out with Racepak shortly). The fuel level sensor is connected properly to the USM, but I cannot get it’s values to display properly. We’ve spent alot of time with it so far, and I am confident I’ll have some sort of solution in the near future. Meanwhile, over the winter, I had scheduled dyno time with my tuner to get a real tune done on the car. Rather than have him come down to use and use a local Dyno Dynamics like we tried the previous 2 times, this time I figured it might be best to make the drive up to him. I’ve known Mike from Innovative Tuning since 2001. He has one of our first Subaru customers back when we were doint lots of stuff with those cars. We developed a friendship, and he even designed/maintained our first website for us! Over the years, Mike got more and more hands on and eventually started and opened his own shop. Now he flies all over the place tuning people’s cars for them on various engine management platforms, and also does alot of work at their large shop in Buffalo, NY. I chose Mike because I knew he was proficient with the Haltech, is as straightforward a guy as you can get, and knows the mechanical as well as electrical side of things. The only thing is Buffalo is around an 7.5 hour drive from where I live! Last weekend we had some awesome weather, so decided to take the car outside finally, clean it up and do a quick shakedown run just to make sure everything was ok to take on the long trip. I got about 1/2 mile from the shop when snap…the damn throttle cable snapped! Really? Could you just kick me in the nuts one more time please, I don’t think I felt the last 1.5 years with this car enough. I limped it back homusing a folded business card between the throttle stop and the “rotary” that holds the throttle cable. Now it was Sunday night, I was supposed to drive 7.5 hours in just a few days, I had to tear things apart to get a new throttle cable. The first one I got didn’t work (totally the wrong design) but salvation was discovered at a high end bicycle store! On Thursday night I finally got the car set. All the while I had been going back and forth trying to get the damn fuel level to display on the cluster, but we just couldn’t get it worked properly. Obviously doing a long drive like this without a fuel gauge is less than ideal. Thank god for Apps!!! I found a simple one that tracked mileage travelled and used this to gauge when it was time for fueling stops. Like I said, less than ideal, but it worked out in the end. Crappy gas mileage aside, the car made it up there Friday night without a hiccup.

Saturday AM I got to Innovative, we managed to get the car in the shop and on the dyno with the help of about 25 2×4 boards stacked in various configurations (thanks guys!). Mike’s newest dyno is a Mustang. He previously had a Dyno Dynamics. Both are great units to tune on, since you get to apply load to the car and really put it through it’s paces at all sorts of rpm/load points. Way more convenient than street tuning for hours on end. Anyway, I know you’re all wanting to see the charts, and I will post them as soon as they are emailed to me this week. Basically the car made about the same peak power as it has previously though the new throttle body/intake/plenum did cure the small power loss up top that I previously had. Now the car hits peak power and it stays flat all the way to the 8400 rpm redline. Torque curve is spot on to what it was before, though has a higher peak now that we were able to dial in the intake cam timing a bit better (could not do that with the UTEC, but these cams didn’t need much tweaking here, just a few degrees). The car runs great, holds an idle really nicely at 1000 rpm (without any idle control motor!)

I did find some interesting things while the tune was being done. First, we tried dyno’ing the car without any intake at all – just letting it breath from the throttle body. I got a 10 whp increase and about 10 ft lbs of torque almost across the board. We then put the intake pipe back on, sans filter, and while some power was lost vs just running it open, most of it was still there. So, this HKS filter is costing me about 5-6 whp and about the same amount of torque. I think it may be time to do a real filter test and see what we can come up with. That will make for a nice summer project, and won’t stress me out like all the previous stuff has! On the drive home I noticed that intake temps were right around 67F (about 40 degrees outside) which I’m happy with, considering the sensor is mounted in the plenum itself and not on the intake pipe. Not too shabby , and shows me that the vented hood, and the intake ducting I did last Fall were time well spent. Perhaps I’ll experiment with a longer intake tube as well, or try to create a truly sealed cold air box and see if we can get those temps even closer to ambient since the warm weather is around the corner. Right now my main concern and project is getting this cluster fully 100% integrated into the car. I’ve also got this new rear to install (Quaife + 4.3 final drive!) that was another major project unto itself (I’ve gone through it in detail on our blog), as well as dropping the subframe to do the rear bushings throughout. That stuff will be coming up soon too, and I cannot wait to see how the engine responds to the new gears

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Full House

22 Mar

Kwame’s car began the next phase of it’s life by relocating. First time it left his house since I think 2006! The end result is going to be so worthwhile…there isn’t another car out there that I’m aware of that will be done to this level.

My car will hopefully be roadgoing again this week.

All will once again be right with the world.


22 Mar

We’ll see. Certainly WAY nicer looking that the last cable I was using. Picked it up tonight from the area muscle car shop. Hopefully will be in the car tomorrow night, and god willing, the tune comes this weekend!

The Bane of My Existence (or Oh Snap! for you hipsters)

21 Mar

The past few days I’ve watched everyone and their mother take
their cars out from the long winter slumber and stretch their legs a bit. With the rough winter we had here in NY, the past few days has been a welcome change, and proof that spring is officially here. I’ve been struggling for the past 6 weeks trying to get this Racepak dash fully integrated into the car, a project we started last year. While it remains functional, the latest software update I had done was supposed to enable the odometer. Coupled with the addition of an add on sensor module and some wiring, we were also hoping to get the fuel level to display right from the factory sending unit to the dash. So far both “updates” have proven elusive.

Well today I said fuel gauge be damned, I’m taking the car out. I’ve had so much going on in the past month or so in my personal life, that I really needed this for just myself. A catharsis that could only be found at 8400 rpm. Cleaned her up and got about 1500 feet from the shop when WTF – where did my throttle go? The net result is shown. Tomorrow’s project – install a new throttle cable, and do so in such a way that this won’t happen again. Hopefully I can get someone from Racepak to call me back at the same time so we can finally get everything done….for now.

Mods Ahead

30 Jan

Organized the new round of bushings going into my car shortly

SPL solid rear differential bushings front/rear
NISMO rear upper control arm bushings
NISMO rear lower link bushing (aka spring bucket – inner)
NISMO Exhaust hangers
Whiteline urethane subframe bushings (traction kit)

Will be doing all this in conjunction with the 4.3/Quaife pumpkin – I hope to have it done in the next few weeks.

Right now, just waiting on my cluster to come back from Racepak with the latest firmware update (odometer…nice!). Will also be getting the USM module so I can integrate the fuel level sensor. Also picking up an oil temp sensor as well.

Pressin’ On

20 Jan

The press has seem some heavy action here lately – just swapping out stuff on our own cars! Kwame has a full array of bushings he still needs to do. In preparation for installation of my 4.3 final drive equipped pumpkin, we had to press out the stock pieces from the pumpkin. I picked this pumpkin up last year from a customer who had it sitting around. It had an inordinate amount of rust on it, and it made removing the bushings a royal PIA. Not to mention, when you’re trying to secure a ~100 lb pumpkin in a press, it’s no easy task. One bushing dropped out easily, but the second one just wouldn’t budge. Finally, after some coaxing with some Nuts Off (a really good penetrating oil), the air hammer and a cutting wheel, we managed to force it out. Next up we’ll file off the rest of the surface rust, and install the SPL Solid Bushings in their place. I think I’ve also been talked in to just dropping the subframe and doing the Whiteline Rear Traction Kit along with the rest of the NISMO bushings for the rear, as well as the NISMO exhaust hangers, to compliment the rest of the NISMO bushings already on the car. It never seems to end……

From Hell Part IV: The Resurrection

16 Dec

The hood is now wetsanded, and the main polishing is done. Still needs a bit more polishing, and we need to adjust the hoods stops a bit, but I am very very happy with how it finally turned out! Major props to Billy on this, he did an awesome job, and spent a ridiculous amount of time getting it right

From Hell Part III: In Color

8 Dec

Finally had a break from the nasty rain here and we were able to get the hood sprayed. After a few tries previously, I think this time we got it. This thing kicked our ass for sure, and shaving the large side vents was way more time consuming than I ever could have imagined. For now, just going to give it a few more days in the heat to fully cure, before we wet sand and polish. Also need to spray the mesh black. The car needs a detail anyway, so I’ll probably just wheel it all out soon, and get this thing installed!

DIY: Urethane Transmission Mount 350Z/G35

27 Nov

Had some time to sit down and install our new urethane transmission mount for one of our 350Z’s. This mount is a billet aluminum casing, and we offer it with 3 grades of urethane – 60a (comfort), 75a (sport) and 90a (race). We used the 75a for my car.

To start off, use the factory recommended jack points front and rear (see picture 1). With the car up in the air, your first thing is to remove the factory transmission cross member. This is a black steel beam that runs the width of the transmission (see picture 2). To loosen the crossmember from the chassis, there are 4 x 14mm bolts. You’ll now see the transmission mount, attached to the underside of the transmission (picture 3). Next, you will remove the long gold bolt/spacer from the stock transmount, which runs through the crossmember. To gain better access to the bolt, we found it easiest to remove the Y pipe, as it makes things. Since mine has been in there for a few years and I had noticed a bit of an exhaust leak recently, I took this opportunity to replace all the Y pipe gaskets and kill 2 birds with one stone. Take a jack, or jackstand, and place it under the transmission to keep it from sagging. It is still attached to the engine at the bellhousing, as well as the driveshaft, but you don’t want any accidents! Finally, remove the 2 x 14mm bolts and the transmission mount comes off the transmission. Fitting the new mount is just a direct reversal of the above process and goes right in.

So what does it feel like – HOLY SHIT stiff! The car immediately has a much deeper tone inside the cabin just by virtue of the fact that the new mount has much less slop in it, and has a full radius bushing (if you look in the picture showing the side by side with the stock mount, you can see daylight!). It was so much different sounding I thought my Y pipe was still disconnected! The shifter has a much more positive feel to it, which is very noticeable especially at higher rpm shifts. Engaging first and running through the gears from a dead stop, you immediately notice that the car has a much more direct overall feel. If you are in a higher rpm and just crusing (for example 2nd, entering a turn) the slight rocking back and forth that the car used to have is completely gone. I’ll drive the car through the weekend provided the weather is nice and post any noticeable changes.

More JDM-Ness

25 Nov

Seriously, does it ever end with these cars? Just when we say we’re done, we find some other neat accessory that we just gotta have. Anyway, Kwame had pointed this out to me a few months back. He tried ordering it online from some random online store because he didn’t want to bug me about something small and stupid. He ended up having to chase them down for a refund when they failed to deliver.

JDM Cargo/Luggage Net

Anyway, we just got a couple of these in, and it’s different than the US Spec one, which lays flat on the floor of the trunk (making it good for like random water bottles or cd’s but nothing with any size). This is great for making sure bags don’t go flying when you’re carving through the twisties (going to come in very handy at ZDayz!)

Anyway, if anyone is interested in one, let me know. Takes a few weeks to get.

From Hell Part II – Purgatory?

14 Nov

Got some more done today …. and going in the right direction

Finished sanding everything and primed it. Got a couple small pinholes to fill in on Monday and then she’s ready for color. Hopefully the weather cooperates and it’s dry out in the next few days. Hopefully all goes smoothly with the paint and clear, and it can resurrect itself into heaven status!

From Hell

12 Nov

This hood project is getting really tiresome – I seriously hope it is done soon. I’ve had this thing for over 2 years now, and I think it’s been on my car collectively for like a week! Such is the price for perfection

I loved the center vents on it but I could not stand the side vents. So, I cut them out and shaved/filled them in. Problem is, this hood was never designed to be a show winning piece. It’s super thin, and super light, although it fits great. No weird gaps or anything like so many of the wannabe ones out there. Anyway, we’ve tried to perfect it a few times, but it never quite came out perfectly. I think we nailed it this time though. Everything is sanded really flat and we should be ready for paint by the weekend. The third and fourth pics show what it “should” look like, though all stickered up on C West’s own Taikyu car.

Bringing up the Rear Part IV

5 Oct

Just a few other pictures Ben sent over to me before it all gets sent to NY for install.

The ring gear is now installed on the LSD, and both were rebalanced – it’s now within 1/2 1000’s true – pretty good 🙂


One of the really tricky things when doing a ring and pinion install is setting spacing of the pinion relative to the ring. Since these are machined parts, there can be some differences in tolerances between one set and another. Shims are used to equalize things, so that the pinion has the right mesh pattern with the ring. This ensures that everything runs efficiently, without making noise, and without producing uncessary heat. You apply some paint to the ring and pinion and spin the assembly, and take note of where the 2 are meshing. When I sent this batch of stuff to Ben, I included a bunch of shims that we had laying around. Nissan sells 14 different size shims for these things, so it can be a bit arduous setting it up. The shims we sent down were close, as you can see from the pattern. Ben’s the consummate perfectionist though, and wrote me “as you can see from the pattern on the ring gear I have more adjusting to do. The pattern is acceptable in most shops but, not mine, I know it can be better. I will have to custom grind a shim about 8 to 10 thousands to get it to a standard I can be happy with”. Gotta love someone who only wants things a certain way when they leave his shop! When you’re out there picking an installer for anything as involved as a rear end, or a motor, etc, this is the sort of attention to detail you want. When that project leaves the shop’s doorstep, it’s essentially being signed off as being “perfect”. If something isn’t perfect, it comes back and bites you in the ass. Picking the right parts is important, but picking the right guy to make those parts work is essential. If anyone out there needs a terrific guy to set up their rear differential and/or ring and pinion, Ben @ PuddyMod Racing is your man!

Bringing up the Rear Part III

5 Oct


Things are nearing completion on the 4.3 final drive setup. Ben forwarded me some additional pics last night. We’ll have one more to share once we’re ready to install it. Here is a quick shot of the Quaife LSD I’m going to use, after being rebalanced. You usually don’t go this far, since time doesn’t allow for it and the parts are relatively well balanced from the factory. But since this thing has been a custom affair from day 1, Ben went the extra mile to rebalance the LSD. He also microfinished and cryo’d the ring and pinion gears. Should be back in my hands soon, then we get to swap it in and try it out – I can’t wait!