In the garage

Project Laurel: Noooooooo!

If you read my last post, I was rushing to make the Laurel ready for the August bank holiday drift day at Teesside. Sadly all my effort was in vain, We got the to the drift day just fine, but no sooner had I paid up and signed on, than I was getting my money back and packing up again.

What happened? Well, it started just as we were unloading the car from the trailer, I backed it off with no issues, parked the Laurel up next to the trailer in readiness to set up my pit area. I’d left the car idling so as to get it warmed up, when I noticed something, there was an unusual amount of smoke coming from the exhaust. I gave the engine a few blips and sure enough I created a smoke screen that engulfed the road behind where I had set up my pit. Not good!!

What do I do now? Run it anyway and risk plunging all of Teesside Autodrome into a dense fog?

While there are many out there that would probably have sent it regardless, I’m not that way inclined, the thought of ruining a drift day for others is not something I ever want to do.

So, feeling slightly dejected I headed to the office, got my money back (thankfully there was a queue of reserves waiting!), loaded the car back onto trailer and headed home.

Once home and unloaded it was time to try and diagnose the problem. The first thing I checked was whether there was mayo forming, if you haven’t done this before its a pretty simple test all you need to do is remove the oil filler cap and check it, if you have something that looks like mayonnaise on it, this is usually a sign that coolant is making its way into the engine and mixing with the oil.

the next thing I decided to do was a compression test, this proved inconclusive as all 6 cylinders results were very close (around 150psi).

Then I decided to drop the engine oil and coolant from the engine to see if there were any signs of the two mixing, both looked fine, dirty, but otherwise fine.

However I hadn’t yet done a sniff test, so this meant I had to fill the engine with oil and coolant again (don’t worry I put fresh in just to be sure!)

The sniff test also proved inconclusive the fluid didn’t change colour. Finally after talking with a friend I decided to pull the intercooler piping off to see if there was any sign of oil or coolant in the pipes. It was just as I popped the coupler for the pipe going from the turbo to the intercooler off that this happened…

Sure enough there was fluid in the piping! As I took the rest of the piping and the intercooler off, the extent of the problem became clearer. Every piece of pipe I removed dribbled fluid from it, then I finally looked at the turbo itself. It was easy to see where all this fluid had come from:

So now I know what the problem is, what now?

As I write this, I’ve already removed the turbo and sent it off for a rebuild with Midland Turbo. They will be refreshing all seals and upgrading the ceramic internals with steel. I’ve also booked myself onto the next drift day at Teesside on 4th November, as I’m determined to get at least one full drift day before the end of the year!

Will I make it? Will I get to do a skid in the Laurel this year? Watch this space!

Death or Glory! C33 Laurel In the garage

Laurel Update

So Since taking ownership of the Laurel, what’s been happening?

Well, I wanted to get it to a drift day ASAP, I’m not one for hanging around but at the same time there were a few things that needed adressing before I could take it out on track.

Following the coilpack issues with the Skyline I decided to treat the RB in the Laurel to some new coil packs in the form of Yellow Jackets coilpacks. The installation was extremely simple, just unbolt the old ones and bolt in these, I also replaced the spark plugs for good measure.

While I was working in the engine bay I decided to do a little bit of tidying up starting with addressing the tatty looking rocker covers, they looked like they’d had something spill on them removing most of the paint at some point in the past, so while the engine is apart why not!

I had some spray paint knocking around in the shed so after a good clean and scuff I hit them with a few coats of high temp paint, followed by some fancy sparkle flake stuff I had knocking around and finally a few coats of clear lacquer before replacing the gaskets with new and re-fitting them.

Once the rocker covers had been refitted I realised that the cam cover now looked scruffier than ever, so that was the next thing to get the tidy up treatment.

Then it was time to do a bit of simplifying, as when we initially fitted a catch can there were a bunch of pipes that needed plugging, one of these pipes no longer went anywhere and so could be removed, it was weleded to another pipe that’s still needed so I broke out the angle grinder and got choppy! Sadly I forgot to take photos of this bit!

Since we first got the car it had had an aftermarket grounding kit fitted to it, this thing looked messy but at the time we didn’t want to touch it, it was working ant thats all that mattered. Sadly as time went on we found that were coming up against other problems that could be caused by bad grounding.

After a bunch of fixes that worked temporarily I decided it was time to remove the grounding kit (which by the way had two out of five of the ground wires going back to the negative terminal on the battery!) and try to find the source of the issue.

It didn’t take long, while I was working on the hot side of the engine I found the remains of a factory ground strap going from the top of the manifold to the chassis it had snapped near the manifold, I jumped online and bought a replacement and that sorted it.

It made sense while I was working in that area to finally delete the charcoal cannister too, doing this seems to be common on most drift and performance Jap cars and its a surprisingly easy job to do.

Now that the engine was back together, it was time to turn my attention to the interior. At the last drift day the gauges for oil temp, water temp and oil pressure stopped working, I was initially hoping that that sorting the grounding issues on the car would fix this too but it didn’t! Thankfully this was another issue where it didn’t take long to find the root cause.

The power for these gauges was taken from the switched power on the cigarette lighter, and the fuse for the lighter had blown so replacing the fuse fixed the gauges too. At some point I will find a better location to get switched power for these gauges but for now at least until after I’ve been to the track I’ll leave things as they are.

I also tried to get the stereo working again but sadly this wasn’t happening, I’m not sure why it isn’t working as its getting power so must be a grounding issue but all my attempts to ground it were a failure. Thankfully having music isn’t a must for a drift day.

After a bit of tidying up it was time to fit the new seats, I’d had these sitting around since they had first been released, I was originally going to fit them to the Skyline but when I decided to let that go I just HAD to keep them for the Laurel instead. I’m talking of course about my Shirts Tucked In (https://store.shirtstuckedin.com/) bucket seats.

I don’t think I need to talk about how I fitted the seats as most have fitted a bucket seat at some point. I was surprised, however at just how much these brightened up the interior! Coupled with my Yashio Factory harness bought from Otaku Garage they look amazing!! I really need to get a second one of these harnesses at some point for the passenger side!

So now the car is ready to take to the track, it doesn’t have a body kit yet, so to some its going to look a bit like a missile car but thats only temporary! The main thing is I start getting to grips with driving this thing hard!

NIssan R32 Skyline and Nissan C33 Laurel In the garage

The day I thought would never come

Firstly apologies, I have been quiet on the blog lately. This has been for a number of reasons, some are website and product related (new stuff coming soon!), the main reason is what I am about to discuss.

Following the Rogue Concept as you may remember from my previous blog post, the Skyline had developed a misfire. This turned out to be a coil pack issue, and mostly my own fault. Since I had started drifting nobody ever told me that it’s a good idea to remove the coil pack cover to make sure the coils don’t overheat. I did often wonder why so many drift cars had their coils exposed but I guess it just never clicked.

facepalm

Anyway the coils have now been replaced and the Skyline is working well again, good time!

While I was working on fixing the Skyline, Lucy asked me if I wanted the Laurel, I knew instantly why she was asking this… she was thinking about getting a new project.

We have a rule in our house that neither of us is allowed more than one project car at a time, mainly because we don’t want our home looking like a scrap yard. So what would this mean if I did take the Laurel? after discussing it with her the deal was that if I took the Laurel I would need to sell the Skyline, and the money from the sale of the Skyline would go towards Lucy’s next project. That’s fair, I mean neither of us have money coming out of our ears.

But did I want to sell the Skyline? When I first got this car it was a learning curve, both in terms of drifting and spannering on it. In the (almost) five years I’ve owned it, it has been amazing and has taken everything I have thrown at it. It has helped me understand how the changes I make affect how the car handles, in some cases how they have improved things and in other cases where I have made things worse and as a result had to revert them. The big thing for me though was that I always wanted one of these cars (but not an NA).

Death or Glory! R32 Skyline

When I first bought this car, it was between this one and a four door GTST that was in Ireland for the same price! I did kind of have my heart set on the four door as it was everything I was looking for, but the guy selling it took 6 months to come back to me about whether or not it was still up for sale (it was!!) by which time I’d settled on this NA beauty. Yes it was NA but at the time turbo engines were still reasonably priced so had I levelled up quick enough I could save and do a turbo upgrade at a later date.

As time went on the prices of RB’s started to increase and as a result I decided to just focus on pushing myself as far as I could with the NA, until I could go no further.

Then at the beginning of this year, Lucy decided she wanted to learn to drift… with the Laurel, so we got it ready and took it to Santa Pod so she should start off using the play pens. I had a few goes in the Laurel too and immediately fell in love with how amazing the turbo RB felt, and how well the Laurel skidded, so much so that when I was struggling to get the Skyline ready for Rouge Concept, Lucy was trying to get me to take the Laurel in its place if I couldn’t get the skyline ready.

So did I want the Laurel? Well, from the first day Lucy brought it home, I said to her that if she ever decided to get something else I would take it off her. Now I was in a position to do so it was a lot to consider. Yet there was something extremely inviting about having a project I could pretty much start from scratch.

Granted it had already had some mods done, for instance we updated the suspension to HSD’s and we’d fitted a welded diff, but other than that there hadn’t been a huge amount done. It also had some interesting… niggles that needed addressing, such as some bad earthing issues that caused the gauges mounted on the dash to stop working at random points.

There is also the fact that the Laurel is a four door, and the Skyline I wanted before the one I actually bought was a four door! What’s more it’s a bit different, there aren’t many Laurel’s in the UK at the moment and it’s always nice to have something interesting.

So it is, that the time has come for me to let the Skyline go. At the time of writing this post I have done what’s needed to prepare the car for sale, and have even accepted a deposit on the car, pending an MOT.

As dumb as it sounds I will be sad to see the Skyline go, but I know it’s going to a good home, and it will free up my time to focus on making the Laurel everything I want it to be and more.

Events & on track

Lucy’s first time at Teesside

The day started pretty much like any drift day, get up at an insanely early hour and head to the track.

This time Lucy would be taking the Laurel for it’s first proper turn around an actual track, and I would be there to offer advice/ have a go in her car too!

We arrived at the track just after 8:30am and fellow Death or Glory member Craig had saved us a space in the pits, being local he got there before us. The sun was already beating down as we set up ready for her first session.

Briefing took place and after a couple more checks on the car she was ready to go!

We focussed on the West course, being tighter and more technical we felt it offered a better place for Lucy to learn how to control the car around the corners. If you’ve only ever done donuts and figure eights around cones, moving to a track changes things completely!

We started out just driving around getting a feel for the layout, and getting her back in the mindset of her previous drift day (at Santa Pod) or at least this was the intention… To my surprise on her first run she was already trying to get the feel of those clutch kicks again.

Over the course of the morning she managed some good skids and also worked on undoing some of the habits she’d got into at Pod. Nothing major, just little things, for instance, when you start out by learning donuts you can often get the backend to break loose by turning in tighter, however if you do this on a race track one of two things happen:

  1. If you don’t have enough speed you either end up cutting the corner and coming off track (and smashing aero, the front bumper was the first to go!)
  2. If you have enough speed but don’t quite get your clutch kick right, turning in tighter causes you to understeer and the car to go straight on (I did this a lot on my first few times out and its a real pain to get out of the habit of doing!)

Having said that it didn’t take her long at all to realise this and start to correct herself. She put in run after run, pushing herself every time, some times getting frustrated at not getting something right, other times getting hyped when she held a good skid!

If you’re thinking of starting out drifting, or you’re new to it and you’re reading this asking yourself “is it common to get frustrated in the early stages?” I would say yes, it is especially for those who don’t start out using the handbrake but instead opt for the clutch kick.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that initiating with the handbrake is the easy option but out of these two ways to get the car sliding it is definitely the option with the least to remember.

I know I went through that phase (probably several times) and others I have spoken to also agreed that feeling frustrated plays a big part in the early days, its all part of the learning process! But keep at it and things will eventually fall into place!

As the day wore on I watched from the passenger seat as Lucy progressed more and more, each run thinking about what she did in the last time and where she might need to improve or change tack.

Overall I thought she did amazingly for her second ever time out! On my second drift day I was still piddling around in the playpens at Pod (big mistake on my part!)

The first corner of West course did prove an issue for her, but after speaking to a few other people who have driven Teesside they all said that they had issues with that corner too early on.

In spite of this it didn’t put Lucy off and she continued to push herself on turns two, three and four, showing some real signs of promise!

Towards the end of the day we did have one fight with a tyre wall. This led to the rear bumper being smashed, however we knew this might happen so we were (sort of) prepared for it.

It was down to not having the car in the right place for the transition and running too wide as she went into the uphill section after turn three, hitting the tyre wall, pushing the rear bumper out of line, and creating a new exhaust hole on the opposite side of the bumper as well as adding a few tyre marks up the rear drivers side 1/4 of the car.

It was great to see her out there, it was as much a learning experience for me as it was for her. I definitely think she will be back on track again, however next time she will more likely be using my Skyline as we have since decided that the Laurel is in far too good shape to use as for skids.

What’s next for the Laurel? The damaged bodykit will be replaced, and much more, but you will have to wait for my future posts to find out more.

Photo Credit:

Laura Johnson and Andz Smith of Aperture Arts Photography.

Events & on track

Here comes a new challenger

A couple of days ago I went with my better half Lucy to her first drift day down at Santa Pod raceway in Northamptonshire.

As we were making a roughly 300 mile round trip I thought it best to put my newly acquired trailer license to use and tow the car down there. That way if anything went wrong we could still get home to fix it. So I booked a trailer hire from Rothwell Trailers (I highly recommend them!) We got the car, spare wheels and tools loaded up. Set the alarm for 4:45am and hit the sack!

too early!

At this point if you’ve been to a drift day yourself, or a car meet, or car show, you know what happens, the alarm goes off way earlier than you’re expecting it to, you get up get out of the house and quick as you can and hit the road, and this is exactly what we did.

The journey down there was pretty straight forward aside from Google Maps deciding to set itself to avoid motorways! That gave us a rather nice view of Nottingham centre!

Once we figured out what was going on we set it to not avoid motorways and got back on our way.

We finally arrived at Pod just before 9:30am and promptly got straight into briefing before unloading the car and getting swapping out the rear wheels. She was ready to do her first skid!

Arriving at Santa Pod raceway

The morning started off pretty much as expected just trying to get her used to the feeling of the car when it breaks traction and then trying to make it break by stabbing the clutch pedal. As the morning progressed she start to get to grips with the car more and more and on a lot of occasions we saw the beginnings of her first donuts.

A wild RB20DET in the C33 Laurel

Lunch time came and we sat and chatted about how she was doing and talking over where she was struggling, the main things were:

  • What to do once the car has broken traction and the steering wheel has gone to full opposite lock.
  • To make sure you give it enough throttle to start and just listen to the engine to figure out whether the revs are up high enough.
  • Not to pay attention to the cones for the time being. While they’re good for learning to control the car around them I Think the fear of hitting them was getting in the way of her learning what to do to get around them.

With these in mind she went back out in the afternoon in the only playpen that didn’t have cones and within minutes she was a completely different driver! To the point that before when she had spun out she would immediately let off the throttle and start again, now she was holding it and letting the car skid and feeling her way around what happens when she turns the wheel while the car is spinning up those rear wheels. Before we knew it she had performed her first successful donut, and then another, and another!

Lucy getting the hang of donuts in the C33 Laurel

As the afternoon progressed you could see that the frustration of the morning had finally lifted, she was correcting herself where she needed to and most importantly she was having fun thrashing that Laurel around the pens, by the end of it she had not only done enough donuts to restock the local Krispy Kreme but had also performed several figure eights!

Smoking up the tyres! Lucy giving her beloved C33 hell!

For me it was amazing to see her out there for the first time after years of watching me and wanting to have a go herself. I can’t wait for her next drift day to see her progress and who knows one day maybe we’ll be driving together!

If you’re thinking of getting started in drifting in the UK, I would definitely recommend checking out Santa Pod’s DWYB days as they offer fenced off, safe areas for you to get to grips with the cars. However I would also advise caution, if your car is lowered you will more than likely find you spend the day listening to bits of bodykit or exhaust bouncing off the ground just as we did.

In the garage

Preparing the Laurel

Over the weekend Lucy and I spent some time prepping her C33 Nissan Laurel for its first EVER drift day.

This wasn’t as difficult as you might think. There are far too many people who think that in order to start drifting you need a million horsepowers, Wisefab all of the things, a full competition spec roll cage and a super expensive LSD among other things. But the truth is you don’t. The only things you really need are:

  1. A bucket seat and harness to hold you in place, there’s nothing worse than trying to maintain control of your car while being thrown around in the seat.
  2. Some coilovers, you probably could use lowering springs but if you’re going to do it you may as well do it right the first time.
  3. A rear wheel drive car, you probably can “drift” your front wheel drive Corsa with the aid of some freshly liberated serving trays from your local Maccies (MacDonalds) but lets be honest, it’s not the same!
  4. A Welded diff.

The Laurel already had most of these things, even though the car came with coilovers already on it we decided to put some fresh HSD coilovers on. We’d already fitted a bucket seat and harness for the driver, the only thing that was missing was the welded diff. After quite a bit of searching we found one for sale on Facebook Marketplace and headed to deepest darkest Shildon to pick it up. We could have welded up the diff that was in the car but since its harder (if not impossible) to get an MOT on a welded diff we decided it would be best to keep the open diff as a spare.

Then the weekend came and it was time to fit it.

This was pretty done pretty much as you would do anything on the underside of a car on your driveway, first chock the front wheels to make sure the car can’t move and crush you, next jack the back of the car up as high as you can get it (in our case we had to take the front bumper off as the car has many lows!) finally secure your car in the air with some axle stands, I placed these under the front bolting points of the rear subframe, the main reason being to keep the car secure but still give me as much room for manoeuvre as possible.

Next we decided to remove the drivers side rear wheel this was just to give us more space to get under the car and move around.

Now that the car was in the air the first thing to do is loosen the bolts holding the driveshaft in place, to do this it helps if you have someone with you otherwise you’ll be getting out from under the car a lot! Get them to put the handbrake on, this helps to keep the shafts from spinning. Unfasten the driveshaft bolts that you can see on either side of the diff, and keep working around, getting your helper to take off and set the handbrake again as you move the shafts around to the next bolt.

Once you’ve got all of the bolts free you should be able to pop the driveshafts out with a bit of force and move them out of the way.

Next is the turn of the prop shaft, there were four bolts here this time we also put the car in gear to stop any movement while getting these unfastened, finally you just have the bolts holding your diff in place and its ready to come out.

Since I already had one I decided to use a transmission jack to take the weight of the diff while I manoeuvred it out of the car, this made it much easier but if you don’t have one you can use a trolley jack, just remember that it isn’t going to be as stable so keep a close eye on it.

Finally, came the fitting of the welded diff, and fitting is quite literally the reverse of the removal, Where possible we used some thread lock on the bolts to ensure they didn’t start working themselves free.

So now the Laurel, and Lucy are ready for their first drift outing!