corey_mck
corey_mck Reader
2/18/24 11:53 a.m.

I bought this car in March of 2021 and have been wanting to do another build thread, but I kept putting it off.  So there's going to be a handful of posts just catching up.

Chapter 1 - My friend made me buy a rally car
Like anyone who grew up playing Colin McRae's rally games, I thought rally was awesome but most likely an unobtainable goal.  By total happenstance, DC region's SCCA RallyCross program moved to my hometown at the same time I moved back home.  I bought a Volvo 240, prepped it and had an awesome time.   I did a build thread for it, too.  I still thought doing stage rally was far fetched, but I did get a truck I could tow with, a trailer, and acquired a ton of tools.  A Volvo stage car popped up for sale near me around 2017.  I went and looked at it, drove it, and ended up passing on it but made a friend.  I ended up crewing for him, then tried co-driving.  I kept shopping the whole time, but my budget was more in the "this car has potential" bracket than "go racing tomorrow".  I missed out on a few stellar deals, including a free logbooked Ford Econobox.  One day my buddy sent me this ad for a 92 Sentra SE-R with the comment "I already told him you'd take it".

 

 

 

I'll be honest, I didn't know B13 stuff at all so none of that meant much to me, but the car checked all my boxes.  I messaged the seller, made a plan, and drove 3.5 hours to pick it up that weekend.  We didn't even try to start it and had to wrestle the exhaust that was hanging off of it, but I loaded it and a truckload of parts up and brought it home.

   

 

I drained the tank, replaced the fuel pump, put a new fuel filter in and replaced the oil.  It fired up and drove off the trailer.  Here's a video of the first time it ran - excuse the fat breathing:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/a2WjFk7xXKubKMENA

The first thing I did was bolt the exhaust back up.  The list of things it needed was pretty big.  The wiring needed a lot of attention, the seat mounts were made for a bottom mount seat and needed redone, it didn't have gauges at all, and was missing some body parts.  That said, the previous owner did a lot of really nice work on the cage and chassis reinforcement, as well as running nice fuel and brake lines and cleaning up the engine bay.  It already had JVAB suspension, a trans with a 4.4 final drive, and a massive amount of extra parts.  It needed a lot of love, but the bones were there.  Check out that throttle pedal (affectionately referred to as a throttle bar now):

   

 

A few months passed and I didn't work on the car at all.  DC region announced that they were going to do an SCCA RallySprint, and I thought it would be a perfect first event for the car. 

I got my hands on a rear bumper, spoiler, and some other body parts and gave it a quick Rustoleum touch up:

After working on just enough wiring to make it start and run consistently, I got to work on the seat mounts.  It's easy to take for granted the effort that goes into getting seat mounts correct.  I wanted the seat as close to the main hoop as possible, as low as possible, and to be pretty in line with the steering wheel because it drives me nuts when the wheel is offset (looking at you, BMW).  All this stuff while making sure the belt angles are correct and in a place you can get to.  The B13 isn't a big car, so it took a good bit of test fitting and trying.  Eventually I came up with a plan.  I had to move one of the tubes that goes from the rocker to the tunnel, but it worked out well.  I should add that most of this effort was to keep my helmet away from the roof bars - not only for safety, but because I've been in other cars where there isn't much clearance and hitting your head on cage padding is super annoying.

This is what I started with ^

 

This is where I wanted it ^

   

This is what I came up with ^

With the seat and belts mounted I could finally drive my car, so I went to a gravel road behind my house to check it out.  The fun was short lived.  The first decent hit on the skid plate bent the oil pan.   Forewarning - this is going to be a common theme.

It still had oil pressure and wasn't leaking, so I just replaced it and tried to re-bend the skid plate to give more clearance.  After mounting up a passenger seat, fixing some more wiring, and building some mud flaps out of 18 wheeler mud flaps, it was good enough to go to a rallysprint.

 

The exhaust broke at a flexpipe right after the collector within the first few minutes. The car also got a little hot after each pass, and the suspension seemed a little stiff, but otherwise it drove great that entire day.  Here's a video of it's first outing:
 

 

And a picture from that event:

 

I was happy with my purchase.  I knew there was a ton of work ahead, but the car was a lot of fun and I was excited to get it logbooked and on stage.
 

Piguin
Piguin Reader
2/19/24 6:27 a.m.

That is an impressive start for a build. Can't wait to read more, hoping you've already found a solution for the 'recurring theme'

 

Heading over to read the Volvo thread.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltimaDork
2/19/24 7:47 a.m.

Oh excellent, more please.

corey_mck
corey_mck Reader
2/22/24 11:50 a.m.

Chapter 2 - Gauge Wiring and Logbook

Alright, after that first rallysprint I had a list of things to address:

-Insufficient cooling

-Broken exhaust

-Install gauges

-Acquire logbook

 

The first two were pretty easy fixes.  I decided on a Mishimoto radiator because of price and the lifetime warranty.  There was a small corner I had to grind out of the front of the core support that was really close to the filler neck.

The exhaust was also pretty simple.  I welded a new flex pipe to the existing downpipe, then took it to the exhaust shop for a 2.25" exhaust.  I asked the guy at the exhaust shop to do his best to keep it tucked up against the chassis, and he did a pretty good job.  I added an additional support right behind the flex pipe, as well as added a cheap universal catalytic converter.  After driving it a little bit I added a resonator as well.  I didn't like how "buzzy" it sounded.  In hindsight, I probably should have dealt with the noise and saved the weight of the stainless 22" resonator I put in.

 

Next I decided to tackle getting the gauges working.  I threw around the idea of doing something completely custom, but a friend hooked me up with an early SE-R gauge cluster with a cable speedo.  After digging through the wiring on the car, I found most of the gauge wiring was cut.  It seemed that the PO had some sort of plan for gauges, because some of the wires were sorted and neatly tied up, and others were cut short down at the ECU pins.  I really wanted a working tach, fuel gauge, dummy light for oil pressure, and turn signal and high beam indicators.  Getting the cable speedo going was another job.

One nice thing about B13s is that they are well documented, and the community seems to have a hands-on, DIY mentality, so finding wiring diagrams online wasn't hard.  I ended up buying cluster connectors with a few inches of harness that matched my cluster from a guy on a B13 Facebook group.

Between the factory service manuals and some online pinouts, I worked through the wiring, built another harness for the wires that were cut short, and got the important parts of the gauges working. I don't love splicing the harness to make it work, but the job was good enough and will last as long as this car. I don't have many pics of this process, but it was long and boring so you probably don't want to see them.

 

I also bought some horse trailer vents for the roof.  I wanted to run 2 of them if I could, but the V in the roof bar was going to make it a tight fit.  I took a bunch of measurements and cut two big holes in my roof, just to find out that there wasn't quite enough clearance.  Luckily notching the handles a little bit gave me the clearance I needed, and the vents work fine.

  

I wanted to get the car logbooked so I switched gears to making sure it was good to go.  I took a bunch of cage pics and sent some emails back and forth with a local scrutineer and the ARA technical director to ensure that everything looked fine.  They did ask me a couple of questions regarding harness locations and the seat mount, but in the end everything looked okay.  I know what it's like to cage something and look online for ideas, so I'm attaching all the cage pics I sent in case anyone wants to reference them in the future.

      

   

   

  

STPR was a couple of weeks away and I was already crewing for a friend, so I took the car up with me to get logbooked.  The scrutineer crawled around it for about 15 minutes, then brought me back a logbook for it.  That was a pretty big step to getting on stage.
 


 

corey_mck
corey_mck Reader
2/23/24 10:49 a.m.

Chapter 3- Suspension Woes Part 1 (there's going to be a few of these)

The first big job I needed to address on the car was the front suspension.  The previous owner mentioned that there may have been some issues with axles binding.  I jacked the car up before the rallysprint and noticed a very slight amount of binding on the driver's side, so I wanted to take care of that.  I also wanted to change the top mount setup.  The previous owner mounted a Techno Toy Tuning AE86 camber plate to the top of the strut tower, running the bolts up from the bottom.  I know he did it as a temporary measure to make the car roll.  It was good enough to rally sprint, but I wasn't going to trust it for stage and the axles were still binding.

Note the nice big plate on top of the tower and the brace running to the frame rail.  The chassis had some thought put into it when he prepped it.

These T3 camber plates are a nicely thought out piece.  They are just a spherical bearing inside of the top hat, but they put all the car's spring forces into this silver spring perch, then into the bottom of the gold block.  The car isn't riding on the spherical, the spherical only has to deal with damping forces from the strut.  The silver spring perch has room to move freely  around the top of the strut to deal with changing strut angles, and it has a needle bearing where it rides on the gold block.

Someone dropped this cat off as we were leaving for STPR.  We fed her and gave her water and she hasn't left since.  Her name is Kimchi and she keeps mice out of the garage.

The other issue was with the strut ears themselves.  Something was off on the measurements when JVAB built these struts.  I don't think he had a car around to measure off of, so maybe the ride height was a little off.  Full disclaimer though - John has been super helpful to me when I've asked him some questions about these struts.  I'll get more into that later.  Either way, all 4 corners have oval holes in the ears.  Not a big deal, once I get the ride height set, I'll take the car for an alignment and set the camber even on both sides with a big washer inderneath, then weld the washer to the strut ear.

I spent a few nights looking at the top hat problem and thinking about solutions.  I actually found that not only was the axle slightly binding, the ball joint was also maxed out.  The strut needed to be about 3/8" shorter than it was to alleviate both problems.  I didn't want to shorten the travel if I could avoid it - 3/8 isn't a lot, but there was plenty of room for up travel in the axle, suspension, and in tire clearance.  So limit straps were an option, but not a good one.  After talking to the previous owner about his thoughts as well, we came up with a solution.  I modeled some new, round strut tops in CAD to replace the red part of the T3 mounts.  The plan was to grind out the existing tower holes, cut a piece of pipe I got from the local machine shop's scrap bin,​​​​​​ and put the new strut top in it.  Essentially I was building a small turret out of steel instead of the aluminum red plate.

I sent the drawing off to my good friend Max Anthony at  Climax Offroad, a shop here in MD that does all kinds of CNC plasma, machine work, and fab stuff.  He cut the plate out of 1/4".  I took a ton of measurements, grinded out the holes, added a little bit of caster, tacked the pieces up and checked my work.

I didn't weld them completely until I took the car for an alignment.  I took the car (with the washers I talked about earlier on the strut ears) and had them give me an all around 0 alignment.  Then I finished welding the strut tops.  Easy enough, right?

 

Wrong.  The driver's side axle was a little too short, I realized.  This was only after pulling a boot entirely off the inner joint. At full droop, and with the wheel turned just a little, the tripod ball deal was barely engaged in its cup.

A bunch of thinking and measuring later, I realized the shaft had plenty of room to plunge into the cup more, about 1".  So a slightly longer shaft should fix that problem.  After going through a bunch of old forum posts looking at axle compatibility between the G20, B13, B14, and B15, and crossing all those to specs on RockAuto, I found an axle that fit both ends and had a .7" longer shaft.  It was from an 00-01 Sentra with a 2.0, manual, and LSD.  It worked great.  No binding, and it set the joint into the cup just enough.

I felt like I was on a roll, so I decided that I'd shoot for 2022 Lawrence Super Stages as a first rally for the car.  It was about a month and a half from this point, and I still had a pretty big list to get done. 

 

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