Nissan 180SX Gravel Rally Car- The Purchase

Welcome to post no.1 of our build of a Nissan 180SX (S13) gravel rally car build. To give some brief history we have been building, maintaining and competing in rally cars for a very long time. Along the way we have built many different types of gravel Rally Cars, too numerous to list. This however is our first foray into Nissan’s S13 platform. Well known in drifting circles (pardon the pun), Nissan’s S13 180SX/Silvia is  a good package on paper. A turbo charged 2L, rear wheel drive coupe with a good power to weight ratio and IRS.

Personally, we still prefer 4WD Turbo Subarus for our own competition and Gravel Rally Experiences, however some love rear wheel drive. This 180SX Rally Car is being built for a customer of ours. The car will contest the WA State Rally Championship in gravel rallies for 2013 and beyond.

Initially the plan was to find an empty S13 Silvia shell and build up all of the correct bits as we wanted it. To this end, we sourced a shell and started looking for a suitable drive train and other parts. Within a few days of sourcing the Silvia shell, we came across and ad for a 180SX that have been given a work order for being un-road worthy.

We went to have a look with the intention of possibly completing the road worthy repairs and re-licensing the car and continuing with the Silvia build. We realised not long after looking at the 180SX that it would be better suited as a base to build a rally car. We bought the car a few days later and headed back to the workshop to thoroughly examine what we’d bought. Note: We’d had a good look and test drove the car before we bought it. We have also created a Buying E-Guide to assist with purchasing used cars.

As the previous owner did not have much history on the car, some of the details were a little sketchy.

Under the bonnet is a red top SR20 engine, mated to Nissan’s reliable 5 speed and what appeared to be a locked diff in the rear end. Test driving revealed a button type clutch was fitted as well as a one piece tail shaft. Pulling back the passenger side carpet, we found plug & play Wolf 3D engine management. A Tomei sump, 3″ turbo back exhaust with venturi dump pipe and a big front mount intercooler, were amongst the other go fast bits included with the car.

Damage to both sills suggested drifting had been in the car’s history as well as some tell tale holes through the floor and carpets from a previously fitted roll cage. All in all, the shell is pretty straight and we think we have a good base to begin with.

With any used performance car you invariably find some modifications. Done properly, performance modifications can add value and reliability to a car. In the case of this 180SX, some of the mods were “animal” and needed to be removed. First up was the solid engine mounts that transmitted so much vibration that a John Deere tractor was a smoother ride (believe us we know!) Also the factory crank case ventilation had all been removed causing large oil/blow by problems. Added to the list of removals was a poorly installed alarm and a huge amount of bad wiring that powered everything from guages to previously fitted “Doof Doof”. The front mount intercooler was well engineered, however it’s fitting was dubious and some of the intercooler hoses used, no doubt caused boost leaks.

Once we had the car up in the air, we could assess what would need replacement or additional work.

The list was comprehensive, however there is always a long list when you build a full rally car.

We found all the factory rubber bushes in the rear end were cactus. The same applied for the front sway bar, lower control arms and castor rod bushes. The rack boots and tie rod ends had been replaced, however the factory rack end arms are as thick as tooth picks and needed replacement to cope with the rigours of gravel rally.

Engine mount replacement and a curious problem with the power steering lines rubbing on the sump needs solving. The waste gate actuator is wired on (agricultural) and it looks as though the waste gate may have been welded shut at some point! The car also needs to have a blow off valve fitted and the front mount intercooler removed.

The left hand inner CV boot was split and all the grease had sprayed over the rear sub-frame. We also found some small sections of rust that need treatment, thankfully there is only one small section in the right rear guard that needs a small patch welded in.

That’s it for now. We’ll update as we progress the build. -More build articles here

If you would like to go Rally Driving and don’t have the budget or time. Why not a Rally Driving Experience? You can drive 4WD Turbo Subaru rally cars sideways on the dirt and we’ll show you how: