The state of my (race)car

I keep rambling on about my project car, a 1992 Nissan 180SX that I bought from my brother. I previously wrote about the car’s rebuild, purchase, and my ownership of that masterpiece. I guess it’s time a take a good, long, hard, unforgiving look at all its rougher edges.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And it’s beautiful.

If you’re wondering why there’s an ugly Nissan in the thumbnail, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 before digging in this post.


Let’s start with the obvious: the looks.

Front bumper looks nasty.
See that smashed rocker panel and the rivet holding the fender?

One good look at the paint reveals many issues. The rear bumper and the hood are in different shades of red. The rear quarter panels and the rocker panels are covered with primer. The rocker panels were caved in when some idiot tried to use them as jacking points. The driver side quarter panel looks like a skin rash with all that bumpy body filler.

Look at that nasty looking panel.

On the rear hatch, the hole used by the now missing rear wiper is covered with painted-over duct tape. The hatch itself was attacked with a grinding wheel, then painted over to stop the rust. The roof has an interesting pattern where the original paint was painted over with black paint, then sanded back unevenly. It’s like a red and black camo pattern. Kinda cool.


The taillights were polished to remove decades of oxidation. I’m kind of proud of the result: they look brand-spankin’ new. Except for the driver side one in the picture. it’s all cracked...

Left lens all polished. Center and right lens untouched, for comparison. Also, see those scars on the edge of the hatch.

Around the front. the front fenders are covered with patches of old body filler and a sanded black basecoat. At least they match the doors. The front bumper was prepped for paint years ago, but never painted, so the front lip is covered with nasty old masking tape. The hood is an original part, but the corners are all bent, the skin itself is slightly warped, and the inner structure is separating front the skin, so it’s even floppier than usual.

The door windows are covered in cheap window tint, the front windshield is scratched beyond repair, the rear defroster doesn’t work.


Everyone keeps asking if I’m going to paint it. I’m not sure. It would like so good, but’s I’m worried I’d be more careful with it if it was all painted nice. I can’t have nice things, so I try to mask the nice things with ugly paint. And it has so much character right now.

Before you ask, the underside is solid, and covered with an asphalt-based coating. See why I said “nice things”?


Let’s move on to the mechanical side of things, and more specifically, the engine bay. The car was converted from a crank-driven fan to two electrical fans on the radiator. Except only one is wired. The second one is just there for the ride. Not really needed, actually. The pipe that runs from the turbocharger compressor outlet to the intercooler is about an inch too long, the the silicone couplers are flexed at weird angles. And it has no A/C at the moment. It’s gets hot or loud in there. And shaky: the motor and transmission are mounted on brand new polyurethane mounts.

The transmission that came in the car had tired old synchro rings. At the time of writing, it is out of the car, and a new-to-me one is waiting to go in. I had a good transmission shop inspect it, clean it, and put new gaskets on it, so it should be fine.


The limited-slip rear end works, as far as I know. There is a pair of tire marks in my neighborhood that confirms the limited-slip feature is still going strong (location undisclosed).

Which brings us to the painful part: suspension and steering. The car is 3/4 of an inch lower on one side. Most suspension arms are adjustable, so it should be an easy fix.

It’s hard to see in the picture, but trust me, it’s lower on the driver side (right).

The steering rack was mostly empty for about 2 years, so when it was filled with high pressure fluid, it started leaking. It uses ATF as fluid, and ATF is full of detergents, so it’s making a cleaning stain in the garage.


The front coilovers include adjustable top plates. They are way out of adjustable at the moment, and I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to drive the car hard. Since I have a IT background, I like to think that “No news is good news”, and all four wheels are still attached (good news), so I drive the snot out of it anyway.

On to the interior. The interior is actually pretty decent. Clean carpet, clean seats out of a R32 Skyline GTS, a newly installed radio with four speakers, electric retractable mirrors, a back seat (more like a parcel shelf if you ask me). The shifter boot is missing, but the weighted factory shift knob is still there and clean, the steering wheel is an Aliexpress special.

Picture from the brother’s ad on social media. Looks great, for a 1992. The steering wheel has been replaced

Still, it’s not perfect. The seat rail on the driver seat is broken, so if I move it, the seat becomes all floppy. The dashboard is cracked right above the gauge cluster, the cluster itself rattles, the electric door locks don’t work. I hear the servos working, but they’re not connected to the locks themselves. So it’s manual unlock and bend over for your passenger.


I think that pretty much covers it. Except from that damn phone call I received this week, after I had my brother go over the car with his mechanic’s eye last week. A very expensive phone call it was.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter