Archive for the ‘Interior’ Category

My cluster build is complete. Although the finished product looks very basic, there was a lot that went into keeping the simple look. So bear with me while I post a lot of build pics during the process.

The first hurdle was the size of the MXL… it’s too damn tall to fit within the constraints of the cluster framework. As you can see in the photo below(don’t mind the crappy cell pics in the next four images) it is about 3/8″ too tall overall. The top is cut off and at the bottom the buttons are smashed into the lower lip of the framework. Note: the framework has obviously already been modified to the specs of my standard clusters I make.

I knew that I wanted to keep the front edge of the framework as is because I need the OEM cluster surround to butt up in front of it so it fits like stock. So essentially I need the front lower edge to stay put, but the back lower edge that butts up against the plate needs to drop down 3/8″. First I slit the bottom ledge at each corner just inside the lower mounting points:


Received my display yesterday… courtesy of Jeff & Jordan Innovations. Thanks again for the hookup! As most of you know I kind of build clusters from time-to-time, so I’m looking forward to building one for myself to house this bad-boy. It should actually be a bit more of a challenge than the clusters I have fabricated in the past, considering it doesn’t exactly fit into the confines of the OEM housing. But I prefer a challenge over easy… the reward is always greater!

I chose the MXL for a few reasons:

  • AiM Sports appears to be the leader in race displays
  • I like the clean look of the MXL
  • I like the fact that the display is completely customizable via a computer
  • The MXL supports CAN bus hook-up. Which means I can simply wire 4 wires and it will read every sensor off the LS3 ECU. Hookup consists of: IGN, GND, and two CAN wires.
  • I got off my ass and finished the heater core setup the other night. I cut the hard tubes down as far as I could and still allow me to get some 5/8″ heater hose onto them securely.

    As you can see I basically cut them down to the rib on the tube:

    I then simply sanded down the tubes so they were basically smooth:

    This is how they mate up to the backside of the machined bulkheads in the car:

    Some simple heater hose and temporary hose clamps… it’s done. I will ditch those nasty hose clamps for the final install and use some XRP Ensure Clamps.

    I also mocked up the radiator hoses:

    I will be doing a surge tank for my high point in the coolant system. I will be running the steam ports into the top side of the tank, looping the output heater hose through the bottom of the tank and then into the front port on the water pump. Since I have never done a surge tank before, I do have one question if anyone can confirm it: do I absolutely need to run a port from the top side of the surge tank to the top of the radiator?

    I officially have nothing left but to yank the motor/trans. Damon and Kyle are coming over tomorrow to help with the extraction. Damon had informed Kyle and I a couple of weeks ago that he would be coming down this weekend. So I tried to time it so everything would be ready for the motor to come out while he was here. I figured he would appreciate getting to help and I could always use an extra hand.

    Except for the motor, everything is out of the bay. Once the motor is out, I can start prepping it for some TIG action. I’m picking up a Miller TIG very soon… most likely next week. I have always wanted one and this gives me a really good excuse to finally pick one up. I will be welding up all the holes and whatnot to give the bay a tidied look. I will also be shaving some of the mounts, tabs and battery tray.

    In order to weld on the firewall, the entire dash-board also had to come and everything behind there. Which meant I had to remove the cage along with everything else up front.

    It has also become apparent that I will be doing an all new chassis harness since everything is out on the floor. I am trying to work with Chase from Chase Bays to try out his new chassis harness. If not, I will make my own. The engine harness is also sitting in this mess, but I will obviously be ditching that for the new LS3 harness.

    My basement is where I store all the important parts.

    I also snapped a couple quick pics as I was coming up from my basement. One of my dogs was laying down watching me organize stuff…. and he never sits still. He’s a wild man! His name is Wilson and he has a killer goatee.

    I get a lot of 240sx owners asking me about the best way to reupholster the S13 door card insert. It’s easily the most common interior mod, basically only interior mod, that S13 owners attempt. The OEM door card consists of a vinyl wrapped card with some nasty light beige/gray tweed material in the non-removable insert. If you have never seen it, it’s bad! This tweed insert usually just gets ripped off by most owners and the standard vinyl behind it is good enough for some. However, a lot of owners like to attempt to reupholster the insert. Unfortunately there are several issues when attempting this. 1) The area is concave… so the material is under a high stress and wants to “lift” in the concave area over time, or even in a very short time in the heat. 2) Off the shelf spray adhesive that most people use isn’t going to cut it. Forget about using the 3M stuff. 3) The entire door card is covered in vinyl… which can tend to lift off the actual door card in the concave area. So even if you found a spray adhesive that worked, the actual OEM vinyl is lifting, which means your material that you glued to the vinyl is going to appear that it’s lifting. I have recovered my personal cards about 4 times now, trying different methods or spray adhesive each time…..

    I have officially found the ultimate method on the S13 door cards. First thing is to get rid of the OEM vinyl covering in the insert area. This actually isn’t too bad… just may take a little time to get all the backing off. You can carefully run a razor blade in the groove around the insert area. You will cut through the vinyl and can then start to peel it out of the insert area. You will want to use some sort of flat tool to slide under the vinyl as you pull it off. The vinyl has a foam backing on it and the tool will help release it from the door card without the foam separating from the vinyl and sticking to the card. Kind of like pulling a nasty sticker off something… you want it to come off in one piece. You will no doubt have foam that sticks to the door card. You will need to scrape this off or whatever means you find to work. Make sure everything comes off the card. Now it’s basically the standard procedure of gluing on the material, however, you will want to use a contact adhesive sprayed out of an automotive spray paint gun. This is the only way to guarantee that your new material isn’t going to release over time. I recommend DAP Landau Top Contact Cement.

    Below is the material removed from the center section. As you can see in this picture, there is still some foam backing still stuck to the door card. For the best results, this foam needs to be removed to the best of your ability:

    Standard procedure for material application:

    Things needed: A small 90 degree hook pick, 3M blue masking tape, contact adhesive and spray gun, razor blade and some newspaper/packing paper/plastic etc.(anything to cover up the door card where you don’t want glue)

    1st: Use blue 3M masking tape to tape off the area to be glued.
    -You need to tape to the outside vertical wall of the valley.
    -I use a long piece of tape on the straights and a bunch of small pieces around the radius.
    -I use a 90 degree hook pick to help push the tape onto the vertical wall.
    -Then fold over the tape onto the door card.
    -Next tape paper etc. onto the tape that is folded over to mask off the entire door card.

    Here is an example of the insert taped off. Note: You will still need to tape off the rest of the door card with paper or similar.

    2nd: Spray contact adhesive onto the area not taped off and onto the back of the material being used.
    -Don’t worry about getting spray adhesive past where you need it on the material….actually it is recommended.
    -You will let the adhesive set up per directions…. usually at least 5 minutes, but no longer than 60 minutes.

    This is the gun I use:

    Here is an example of the door card completely taped off and contact adhesive being sprayed on:

    3rd: Next pull off all the paper and tape.

    4th: Apply your material onto the card. Make sure it is big enough to cover each direction by several inches.
    -NOTE: the glue will only stick to itself. So that’s why it doesn’t matter that you have extra glue on the material…. because it will not stick onto any of the plastic that
    doesn’t have glue on it.

    5th: Work the material onto the card making sure to stretch this way and that so you do not get any wrinkles etc.
    -Use a lot of force to work the material onto the card…. ESPECIALLY in the corners.
    -Keep applying pressure as you rub your fingers, thumb whatever back and forth over the material.
    -even after step 8, I will still keep rubbing the material onto the card firmly…..ESPECIALLY in the corners.
    -even after I wake up the next morning, I will go over it again applying pressure.
    -most glues don’t fully cure for 24 hours at 75 degrees.
    -The material should extend at least a few inches past the valley.

    6th: Use the hook pic to push the material all the way down into the valley.
    -Obviously make sure not to catch the end of the pick on the material. I use it at an angle so the end is sticking out of the valley.
    -You can usually just pull or push the pic through the valley and it will pull the material down in.
    -So you will obviously have extra material sticking out of the valley now.

    7th: Take a raw razor blade used in utility knives and carefully run it around down inside the valley.
    -This will make a perfect cut down inside there and the extra material will come right off.
    -I like to wrap the same blue masking tape around the razor blade except for the last 1/4″ of the tip.
    -that way the rest of the blade has no chance of catching on the material on the walls of the valley.

    This is with the material laid down and pushed down in the valley. You will notice the extra material extending past the valley as previously discussed. You will also notice the razor blade wrapped in masking tape as described above:

    8th: Unless the material you are using is very thick/plush, you will have a gap in the valley between the original OEM vinyl and the new material.

    -You can buy pre-made upholstery piping at your local upholstery/crafts store in the color of your choice. You will most likely need mini piping…. something like this:

    -This should simply pressure fit down in the groove and stay there without any other help(glue). I did have to trim the backside of the piping though. There was simply too much material on the backside. You will cut most of the excess material off the backside down the length of it… essentially only leaving the piping. You just need to make sure you keep the stitched seam intact.

    NOTE: If you decided to NOT remove the OEM vinyl, then you most likely will not need the piping as a filler.

    A couple of pics of the finished work and some up close of the upholstery piping:

    Part 3:  Vent Gauges

    Since I could only fit four gauges comfortably into the cluster, I had to find a place for the remaining three.  I am generally not a fan of A-pillar setups, especially on the S13, as they have skinny A-pillar trim.  I also don’t like them below the radio.  They just look too crowded and they are too low in my opinion.  Never mind the fact that I have a double DIN radio there.  So the only logical place was the center vent area.  Now this wasn’t some cool, new Broadfield idea.  It’s been done a hundred times, but for good reason:  it’s a great place to put gauges.  I don’t mind doing the same thing as others have done before if it works for me.  I don’t believe in doing something different just for the sake of being different…… it has to look good and fit the theme of the car most importantly.  So in the vents they are going.  However, I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like I simply threw some gauges in there.  So even though it was going to be similar to others, it had to have just a tad of my attention to detail.

    I don’t have build pics of the vent gauges at all, but will add some in when I do the setup for Daoud Sangwa.  I plan to take a ton of pics of the entire cluster, HUD, center console fuel gauge and center vent pod.

    UPDATE: Here is the link to his album, NOTE:  there are multiple pages.  Broadfield Gauge Package Build Pics

    I started off with a sheet of ABS plastic that I rough cut.  I then cut, filed and sanded until it fit absolutely perfect.  Perfection takes a tremendous amount of time and patience…… and to think I was only going to throw away this piece anyway.  I then transferred this shape to a piece of 1/8″thick piece of aluminum.  I marked the holes for the gauges then cut those out with a hole saw.  I decided I wanted the gauges to be angled towards the driver…. easier to see and to give the panel a little character.  I found some ABS angled gauge trim rings from Summit…. they even come in a pack of three!  They are only $10 and almost ready to use out of the package.  I sanded them a little to knock off some of the mold edges…. I’m picky!

    Test fitting the gauges with the rings presented the issue that a round gauge inserted at an angle, does not fit through a round hole.  So I simply used a file to make the round holes a little oblong.  Also, the silver U shaped mounting clamps pictured above had to be modified for these particular gauges.  The posts were too long and needed an angle cut on them also.  Once these were all modified, I assembled everything for a test fit.  Next up was the task of figuring out how I was going to mount this plate into the vent opening.  I wanted it to be mega secure and suck up into the hole.  Luckily, once the vent is removed, there is a little lip that the plate rests on.  However, there is no way for it to secure in there.  I think some people simply glue it in or try to use some double stick tape.  I didn’t see either of these options as good ones.  So I drilled out the center of each U shape mount to insert a threaded stud.  I drilled the hole so it was perpendicular with the plate.  I then tapped them out and inserted a short piece of threaded stud…. about 1 – 2 inches.  Next I made three strips of  aluminum about 3 inches longs that were 3/4″ wide.  These were to serve as “washers” on the back side. Back to the mounting in a bit.

    Now we are ready for paint.  First though I wanted to give everything a texture.  I like to use a SEM product called Texture Coat, part # 39853.  Comes in an easy aerosol can.  So with everything disassembled, I textured the rings and back plate separately.  I then sprayed them with a final finish coat of SEM Landau Black, part # 15013.  It is the perfect black paint for interiors and many other uses.  Literally dries to the touch in minutes.  I then assembled everything and used some yellow OEM hot glue on the backside of the gauges to keep them from spinning on the plate.  All that’s left it to mount this sucker into the dash.  I removed the climate control so I could have easy access to the back of the vent area.  Simply stick the plate into the hole from the front and put the custom “washers” over the threaded studs on the backside.  Then take wing nuts and thread those bad boys on nice and snug.  The “washers” will keep the plate assembly from falling out the front, and the lip on the dash keeps it from obviously falling into the dash.  So essentially you are sandwiching everything together.  You could pretty much hang on this thing.  I also want to add, that for obvious reasons,  I blocked off the vent tube behind the gauge plate.  A lot of people ask what the heat and A/C are like with the main center vent blocked off.  Really it’s not that noticeable.  Because it essentially forces more air through the vents that are still left.  Done!  As stated earlier, I will come back and add build pics within a month or so.

    Part 2:  HUD

    As stated in part 1, Defi doesn’t make a speedometer.  So I ordered up the new Defi-Link VSD X HUD.  This unit displays an image on a piece of plexi that is angled off the backside.   It is simply meant to be mounted on top of your dash.  My intention was to ditch the plexi and display it on the windshield.  I bought a piece of film from the old original Defi HUD VSD setup.  The old Defi HUD setup was basically the same as the new one, only it displayed on the windshield.  This was going to be perfect because I had sourced an OEM S13 HUD pod for the top of the dash.  My plan was to retrofit the Defi unit into the OEM pod.  Well, come to find out, there was no way I could get the angle correct to display on the windshield.  So I quickly came up with the idea to mold it into the top of the steering wheel shroud.  I felt it would be perfect for a couple of reasons:  1) The plexi is obviously clear, so I would still be able to see the main gauges in the cluster through it. 2) The top of the shroud has a natural notch in it where it comes up to the cluster.  So I would be able to simply extend the backside up to make room for the HUD module….. all the while keeping the overall OEM shape of the shroud.

    I don’t really have any pictures of the process.  Since I do this type of stuff for a living, I usually just rock through it as fast as I can and don’t bother with pictures.  Although I am trying to get better about taking pictures of all of my custom work.  So I will try to briefly describe how I did it.  I wanted to keep the profile as low as possible, so I ditched the bottom plastic casing of the unit.  Here is a picture of the unit in it’s stock form for reference,

    I then hacked a rectangular hole in the top of the shroud where I wanted the unit.  I took the guts out of the top half of the plastic casing, including the thin plastic film that the image shines through on the top.  The piece of plexi was simply bolted to the back of the casing.  I then super glued the top plastic casing onto the top of the shroud exactly where I wanted it.  I roughed up all of the surrounding plastic(the shroud and plastic casing) with some 36 grit sandpaper.  This would allow the bondo to adhere better.  I then simply slapped a bunch of kitty hair(bondo with fiber glass strands) onto the sides and front to build up the shape I wanted leading up to the plastic casing.  I basically faded the front edge of the shroud all the way to the front edge of the plastic casing.  Then filled in the sides and sanded it to have a natural curvature and OEM look to it.  Next up is a texture coat.  I love a product called SEM Texture Coating.  I use it on projects at work all of the time.  Depending how far away you spray the project, it will yield different textures…. big, small etc.  After that it’s time for a final finish coat.  I chose SEM Landau Black.  It is a very OEM’ish black.  Not too glossy and not too flat.  Simply reassembling the guts and reattaching the plexi to the back was all that was left.  As you can see I chose to do without the black rubber edging on the plexi.  I realize this writeup is very vague, but custom work is hard to put into words.  Some finished pics from different angles,

    Stay tuned for part 3:  The center vent gauges and the digital fuel gauge in the center console area.

    Preview of the end result,

    Part 1:  Gauge Cluster

    This project was a fairly quick one I did back in the middle of 2007.  I simply wanted something cooler than the OEM 240sx gauge cluster.  I had no idea at the time that it would garner so much attention from not only 240 owners, but I have also seen it posted on many other automobile forums.  So I am greatly humbled that others appreciate my hard work.  With all of the customization I do, whether it’s for my car or for my job, I like the OEM’ish look.  I want someone who knows nothing about cars to think nothing was done in my interior…. or maybe think that it’s an upgraded OEM option.  So onto the cluster.  First off the gauges:  I chose the brand Defi because, well, they are Defi!  They are of the utmost quality, they are the exact look I like, I have used them in previous cars, I like how the gauges are all linked together to a central control unit and I really like the brushed aluminum trim ring they use.  Another plus was that they came in various sizes:  52mm, 60mm, 80mm and 115mm.  Of course there are only a couple different ones that come in the two larger sizes….. so I was limited to what I got to choose for my two larger gauges.  I went with the black face because of my tradition of holding to the OEM’ish look….. especially since they had green illumination.   Blue illumination or white face gauges would of just looked out of place.  The only downfall to this entire gauge cluster idea is that Defi does not make a speedometer.  And since this car is daily driven in everything but snow and salt, I needed a speedometer.  I could of crammed a digital one in with only a small rectangular window to display the speed, but then it would of looked crammed in there.  I wanted a nice simple but not overly bare cluster.  So I got a hair-brain idea to use the Defi HUD and retrofit it into the OEM HUD housing.  I was able to find the OEM HUD housing for next to nothing… cool!  So I ordered everything up only to find out that the Defi HUD that displays on the windshield had been discontinued….not cool!  However, there was a new one that displayed onto its own back plate made of simple plexi-glass.  Sweet, I’ll take it and simply buy the old HUD film and display it on the windshield like I originally planned.  Well, not so fast…… more on this in part 2

    Building the cluster was pretty straight forward.  I simply hacked up an old cluster to begin with.  I wanted to maintain the OEM mounts, black interior surround and the OEM clear plastic front.  The only part of the OEM cluster that had to be cut to perfection was the black surround, as this was going to be butt up against the back plate.  So in order for it to look as good as OEM , it had to be perfect.  Once that was cut, I made a back plate out of 1/4″ hardboard.  I cut the holes for the gauges and turn signals.  The gauges were to be flushed in to give a smoother look…. so those holes also had to be perfect.  To be perfectly honest with you, I HAD to flush them in.  The two big 80mm gauges would of hit the clear plastic OEM face had I not flushed them in.  So sometimes things just work out for the better even when you don’t plan on it.   For the turn signals I took the OEM arrow and mounted it underneath a piece of PVC to form the housing,  I then hacked out the white plastic area that the OEM bulbs twist into.  I glued these onto the back of the PVC and I instantly had turn signal housings where the bulb could be easily replaced.

    The white housing back of the cluster just had to be hacked up good enough to clear for the back of the new gauges.  It didn’t need to be pretty.

    The new plate that the gauges are mounted in needed to be finished in an OEM look.  So I used two of my favorite products.  I used SEM Texture Coat to get the texture I wanted.  Depending on how far away you spray it, you can get varied results with the amount of texture.  For the finishing coat, I used SEM Landau Black.

    All that’s left is to glue the plate in, snap the back white housing on and attach the OEM clear front plastic.  Part 2:  HUD, coming soon!