I love spring, for one very good reason. It’s racecar season. To celebrate that fact, I woke my rough looking 1992 Nissan 180SX from hibernation. Here’s what happened since.

It’s my second year with the racecar. You can find a list of all the previous stories here.

March 30th was a great day for me. After buying my brother breakfast to lure him into giving me a ride, we went the appartment complex where the car is stored, pulled it out of the underground parking area, and I got to drive home.

It’s home! Finally!

It ran like crap. It also ran like crap when I drove it there last fall, so no big surprise there. It started like a charm and idled like a new car, but any sort of load was met with a whole lot of nothing, and weird noises.

The task at hand was clear: get the old girl ready for the tune, and get it tuned. The preparation was easy: oil change, new fuel filter, and an overhaul of the fuel system. That one is critical, because these old Nissans were always limited by it.

Cracking open the fuel tank revealed a great piece of news. The fuel pump had been upgraded previously. A Walbro 255 unit was already in there. Dollars were saved.


Next up: a small, but very pricey adjustable fuel pressure regulator. The factory unit on these cars is not adjustable, so there is no way to compensate for the higher output of the fuel pump. After an hour of drilling and plumbing, my fuel system upgrade was complete.

All set! Time for a road trip and some horsepower. The adjustable fuel regulator is above the shocktower on the left.

The car was ready for its tune, so on one cold, grey morning, I hit the road. Now the shop I went to is located near Montreal, Canada. My hometown of Ottawa, is located two hours west. To get there, I had to baby my wounded car for two hours, on a hilly, bumpy highway. Did I mention the car has really stiff coilovers, a lot of rattles and a terrible sound system? Not fun.

After a stressful 2 hour drive, I managed to make it to the shop without any incident. Another hour or so of preparation work by the tuner’s expert hand, and the car was ready to lay down some numbers.

Strapped down and ready to go.

The tuner had to do a few runs to dial in the car’s brain and to get it to work right with the upgraded fuel system and turbocharger. After a few runs, and witchcraft from the tuner, I had a final number: 286.3 hp and 267.8 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels. It might look underwhelming on a computer screen, but to compare it to a new car HP rating, we have to factor in drivetrain loss. Using a conservative number of 15% loss, we end up with a hair over 330 HP at the crank. That’s plenty for my taste.

Dyno graphs, for reference.

On my late night drive back to Ottawa, I ended up burning double the amoutn of fuel I had used to get there earlier that day. I blame it on my newfound horsepower. Turbochargers are instruments of mayhem.


I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that my 180SX, for the first time since in my time owning it, is running right. I have to figure out what to attack next. I am torn between creature comforts like seats and A/C, or the much needed body work.

Battle scars hide a tough, fast, fun sports car.

I know where my next paychecks are going.

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