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Project Infiniti G20 Racecar: Keeping it Running

By Steve Rockwood


Engine problems are not a good time, and there is usually a period of denial where you keep flooring your already toast motor, thinking it'll somehow "clear up" and fix itself.  Eventually, you hear the bang, and you're greeted by the sound of once meticulously formed pieces of metal, now turned slag, bouncing around under the car.  Then the smoke.  Lots of smoke.  Sweet Mary, this car's on fire smoke. 

It's amazing how fast you can exit a vehicle that's on fire. 


Project Infiniti G20 Racecar Trailer Loaded
It's best if your car is able to drive up onto the trailer under its own power.  Unfortunately, reality and desire sometimes don't agree.  Ah, the smell of extinguisher in the morning.

Which brings us to this article.  We know, we've read the comments: you've been jonesing to hear about how we made the mighty SR20 mightier.  However, before we set out on the quest for more power, we need to let you in on a lot of the lessons we've learned about how racing can take even the mighty SR20 and reduce it to a pile of slag.  For the record, we are on engine number five.  Yep, we've killed four SR20s that could've pulled quite a premium before Race Wars.   Engines that never even cleared 200hp at the wheels.  Racing, it turns out, is hard on engines.

Fact is, we needed to address our alarming ability to ventilate or melt the usually strong-like-bull SR20.  One of the biggest problem areas for the SR20 is, like many racecars, fluid management.  Overheating the coolant and oil brought a lot of problems to our table, and the cascade-effect from this overheating uncovered a new problem every time we fixed one.  Along the way, we also put on our Carnac the Magnificent hats, pressed our foreheads to the car's hood, and fixed problems before they surfaced.  Sweating in your car for 20 minutes while waiting for the tow truck to rescue you, or scrambling out of the car to put out an engine fire, royally sucks.

The most well-known reliability problem with the SR20 is overheating the coolant.  This comes from many fronts, but chief among them was the woefully insufficient radiator.  The OEM unit is pencil-thin, has plastic endtanks, and the overall design obviously sacrifices cooling ability for cost-cutting measures.  Luckily, Koyo has stepped up to the plate and provided a solution for us. 


Project Infiniti G20 Racecar Koyo Radiator Nissan SR20
Our Koyo Radiator, fresh out of the box showing off the girthy 53mm R-spec core.  While Koyo does not make a P10-specific application, we were easily able to adapt this unit meant for a 1991-1994 Sentra SE-R.


While Koyo does not make a P10-specific application, we were easily able to adapt the Sentra SE-R version (Koyo part # R1977) to work in our P10.  The mounts themselves are close enough to the P10 mounts to work without modification, and the only part that won't carry over are the fans.  The OEM fans, while capable of huge flow numbers, were heavy, bulky, and unnecessary since our car would rarely travel at less than 35mph, let alone end up in bumper to bumper traffic with the air conditioning on.  While stock fans from a Sentra SE-R would have bolted on without modification, we decided to use an aftermarket 12" slim fan wired and mounted as a puller fan to increase exposed surface area on the front of the radiator.

Project Infiniti G20 Racecar Koyo Radiator 12" slim fan
We mounted a 12" Derale slim fan to the back of the radiator to expose as much of the front of the radiator as possible.  Here, it is mounted with the "zip tie" kit that comes with the fan.  We are currently working on a hardmounted solution that utilizes the stock fan mounts built into the Koyo radiator.



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Friday, September 16, 2011 2:12 AM
Instead of using an underdrive pulley on the water pump, why did the owner of this car not use an electric pump? Meizere makes an electric water pump for the Sentra's SR20. And I've been told with modification it will fit RWD SR20s. Anyone else heard of this or, better yet, used it?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, September 16, 2011 5:00 AM
If I could get away with just a UD pulley I would do it. In a race car simpler is better. A racing SE-R I know had an engine failure due to a failing electric water pump.
Friday, September 16, 2011 5:11 AM
i ran the meizere electric water pump on our nx race car and it would cut out alot. we changed to the same set up and have had no issues what so ever. plus its alot cheaper. Gspec FTW!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011 5:23 AM
@ 8695Beaters: Why? Two reasons:

1. Cheaper. Every part you've seen on this series was paid for out of pocket. No sponsors, no media freebies. We researched and bought the most cost-effective piece that still gave us a competitive shot.

2. Reliability and simplicity. The stock water pump rarely fails, and wiring up another pump would add needless complexity under the hood.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Friday, September 16, 2011 7:40 AM
Steve - I love that every motorized vehicle you own has either a diesel or SR20! I love even more how you used the "pull a premium before racewars"! I'm still LOLing :D NA mods? I thought you guys stepped it up to FI? Oh, and I'm a SUCKER for aluminum face and beveled Autometers. They're just so raw!
Friday, September 16, 2011 9:14 AM
Maybe all of the SR20 guys should bug Coleman more. He's working on a solution to the water pump issue. I believe he posted something on here or his Project Silvia forum thread.
Friday, September 16, 2011 9:17 AM
So that electric pump you added is a secondary pump to the OEM belt driven pump? How does that stack up to the VE pump?

@ 8695Beaters

I have that Meizere pump on my FWD NX, the OE one kicked the bucket after 160K and I was trying to get away with the OEM radiator for future upgraded turbo manifold clearance, to avoid the issues with cavitation and to save money on a Koyo ( The cost of a Koyo, underdrive pulley and a new water pump was less than the Meizere was my math). The electric motor for the pump only has X amount of miles that it is supposed to be used for and then it is supposed to be replaced. The motor is replace-able so that is a plus. If I had it to do over I would have bought this pump instead http://www.daviescraig.com.au/ . It has a controller that changes the voltage the pump sees to act as a thermostat and will not over cool the car like the Meiaere pump, for right around the same price. The only thing your really get with the Meizeare pump is the block off plate ( which you could just gut the OE water pump plate and re-RTV) and a bracket that mounts the pump cock-eyed, which contradicts the instructions that come with the pump.
Friday, September 16, 2011 9:52 AM
@ jere: The electric pump's only purpose is to circulate oil to the cooler and does not supplement the stock crank-driven pump at all.

@ Jeffball610: We've got a solution in the works as well. You'll see it in a little bit. I've already tested it with success on my buggy.

@ Der Bruce: what can I say, I like overbuilt motors... ;-p
Dave Coleman
Dave Colemanlink
Friday, September 16, 2011 2:15 PM
Why so many TLAs? (Three Letter Acronyms)
Friday, September 16, 2011 2:50 PM
Thanks for the honest answers. I asked the same question a few years ago on another forum and all I got was people calling me an idiot for wanting to do something different. I was looking at an electric pump for my 240SX and I wanted to avoid the cavitation problem, but I'm definitely holding off until I see exactly what Coleman's done to his (I saw the pics on the forum, but since I haven't had to dive into my water pump yet, I really don't know what I'm looking at). I'm sure it's cheaper than the electric pump and just as effective.
Friday, September 16, 2011 3:59 PM
@ Dave: I work in CND for the DoD/DON employee by day. I excrete them involuntarily from every pore now. ;-p

@ 8695: No problem. Electric pumps work decently well, but the biggest problem is you can't tell when they fail while you're in the car. A mechanical water pump usually makes noise or weeps before it fails, so there's warning. Not so with an electric pump.
Friday, September 16, 2011 7:00 PM
Great article.

Btw, is ur f150 truck a 4.6L or 5.4L?
Friday, September 16, 2011 7:01 PM
Excellent read. I am part way along the journey so appreciate the detail.
Saturday, September 17, 2011 3:38 AM
Great Article Steve! Interesting to learn about your car!
Saturday, September 17, 2011 9:23 AM
@USAF: 5.4L. I've since sold that truck though. Cummins power now. The 5.4L was a good, reliable truck, but was not a fun tow. Needed more power, less whacky transmission, and better suspension.

@ HAR: Shanks!
Saturday, September 17, 2011 11:17 AM
Diesels are a great alternative to the gas trucks.
Do you have any expert opinions about Diesel trucks you'd like to share?

The SR20 F&F quote caught me off guard haha.
"Don't do it, he's got a hundred grand under the hood of that S2000" ;-)
Saturday, September 17, 2011 1:32 PM
That hose-clamped ground on your oil temp sender makes me cringe. No 2 wire sender available?
Monday, September 19, 2011 2:49 AM
@ econobox: Assuming we're talking pre DPF diesel, Cummins is the best motor. Duramax is a really nice powertrain, I just don't like the Chevy IFS, interior, and they're incredibly expensive used. The 6.0L Powerstroke is a mess.

@ DieselTech: At the time, I don't think there was. What makes you cringe about it?
Monday, September 19, 2011 7:24 AM
Really like how you used the MOCAL transfer pump to run the oil cooler circuit! I like that a lot more than having the factory pump doing it through a sandwhich plate the filter!
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Monday, September 19, 2011 10:57 AM
Econobox - There is a reason the Duramax has won something like 3or4 of the last 4or5 diesel power magazine shootouts! To give some perspective, I'm a Cummins/Duramax guy and we're actually getting ready to swap out a 6.5turbo diesel for a 12valve. The problem when comparing the Duramax and Cummins is that you HAVE to consider the trannies they're attached to and bone STOCK the Allison blows away the 46re, 46rh, 47re, 48re and 68rfe. As far as Steve's IFS comment (major limits but rides better on the street) and interior (Chevy seats WAY more comfortable, I've ridden in both a LOT) :p !
Monday, September 19, 2011 11:55 AM
I wouldn't say the Allison blows away the 48RE and 68RFE. The 68RFE vs. the 6-speed Allison has been pretty much a stalemate, with the 68RFE being able to take a little more before limp mode. The 47RE is mostly junk unless built, and the previous transmissions are more comparable to the 4L80E or similar, since we're talking mid-early 90s vs. 2001+.

The 48RE vs. the 5-speed Allison, they both need an uprated TC and shift logic/valve body if you do more than a 90HP chip. The 48RE does have one advantage in that it can be built to handle power for cheaper, and it shifts faster. There's a reason a number of mega-powered drag Chevies have switched to the 48RE.

Plus, the Cummins doesn't either murder a $1500+ set of injectors (and sometimes the motor with it) every 50-100k miles (more often than trans rebuilds on 48REs) or inexplicably overheat everytime you hook something heavy to it. Really, the only truly reliable Duramax setup is the 06+ LBZ or newer engines mated with the 6-speed Allison.

Either way, take the $5k+ in used price difference and spend 2/3rds of it at Goerend/Suncoast/DTT and have a trans that'll hold just about anything a Cummins or Duramax can throw at it... ;-p

BTW, 90K miles on my Dodge, not even a rattle. ;-p
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Monday, September 19, 2011 1:11 PM
The 48re trend has only come on strong, I think, in the last 18-24 months, but you're right, it does show that the aftermarket is strong for sure. Although, I'd say price has been a deciding factor.

I certainly wouldn't say the LBZ is the ONLY reliable Duramax, it's just the best one to buy 07 and earlier. It's kind of like the LS7s of the LS family. The LLY and LB7 are fine with minimal work. Seen an LLY with full exhaust (including the rare manifold fix - I think only one or two companies made it), intake, stage 3 on a PPE programmer go 144k no problem. Don't forget, GM finally warranted most of those injectors for 200k miles!

I'm a big fan of the Cummins as well, don't forget, for more reasons than I want to list here. For anyone looking though, I'd say don't buy a Cummins unless it's a 5.9 (4bt is cool too) and don't buy a Duramax unless it's an 07 or earlier. And if you're Hell Bent on buying a Ford, don't worry. They make kits to swap in a Cummins :)
Monday, September 19, 2011 1:35 PM
Well, the warranty is moot on almost all LB7s since it's a 7 year/200k warranty. :)

LLY did have a fair number of them randomly overheat when loaded up near GCVWR, so be concerned/prepared to buy a new inlet and a couple of other cooling mods. Once done, it's perfectly reliable.

The LBZ is the only truly reliable Duramax: as in Cummins-equivalent with no real common issues. With the Dodges, the 48RE is pretty reliable as long as you babysit it when towing (it wants to shift directly in OD, slip the converter, and commit suicide). Or, you stop dicking around with automatics and get a NV5600 6 speed... ;-p

Really, you can't go wrong with either one. If you get the Dodge, you'll get better mileage, and the transmission is reliable if you babysit it. If you get the Chevy, just buy the Cognito beef up parts for the front end, and fix the injectors/overheating issues (if applicable) and you've got a great truck with a really ugly dashboard. ;-p

And yeah, if you need to buy a Ford, just buy a bought-back lemon and use the saved money for a Cummins kit. CR Cummins, btw, came in more than Dodge trucks, so they're not as expensive as you'd think...
Monday, September 19, 2011 2:20 PM
Good Stuff!

Yeah the dashboards on the Chevy's are fugly.
I'm leaning towards the Duramax though. I agree with Der Bruce, price will be a factor. Or do a Fummins ;-)

Thanks guys : )

Looking forward to the next installment of Project G20.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Monday, September 19, 2011 4:46 PM
Steve - I was wrong, it was a 2004 not 2004.5, so it was an LB7 that went the 144k no prob! Oops!
Monday, September 19, 2011 9:26 PM
@ Rockwood: Its just the idea of a bare wire hoseclamped to a sender, open to the elements, that makes me cringe. Its probably not an issue on a SoCal racecar, but then some yahoo in Minnesota decides its legit for his year round daily driver and before you know it, theres corrosion everywhere. I might just be too picky about wiring. The racecar looks great.

And seriously everyone, no need to be Ford bashing. The 7.3L has more then proven itself. The 6.4L, when treated right, is very reliable. And the 6.0L, it had its issues, but as long as your not some redneck going around screaming for more black smoke, some good modifications and proper maintenance will give you a dead reliable truck that most likely didn't cost you all that much. I think Ive just got a soft spot for these engines as a former International tech. As a current certified Allison tech, I cant say enough about the 1000 series. Its truly a Medium duty transmission in a light duty application.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 5:08 AM
@ Der Bruce: No injectors yet? ;-p

@ DieselTech: The 7.3L is a beast of a motor, and other than a few issues - CAS, fuel hardline in the valley (which is a PITA to replace) - is dead-nuts reliable. It's a little short on power (I know, mod it) and the 4R100 is nowhere near up to par with the motor without a performance rebuild.

The 6.0L PSD can be reliable, but when something does go wrong, you either get to spend a weekend fixing even a simple problem, or pay someone good money to work on it. This is also a problem with the Chevy. Anyone who's popped the hood on a Ford/Chevy, then popped the hood on a CTD Dodge is usually completely surprised at the differences under the hood.

If you do get a Ford, try to get one with a motor built in 2006 when all of the updates were applied. Even still, request an OASIS report to see if you've got a problem child, and get a coolant filter and EGR delete ASAP. After that, just change the oil often, and never, ever throw mods at it. Oh yeah, and if it's ever hard to start, check out the high pressure fuel system before it leaves you stranded.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 7:44 AM
@ DieselTech: Yes, corrosion would be an issue, but it would be an issue on the sending unit's plug anyway. The factory dummy gauge sender uses a blade type connector that is exposed to the elements as well, but I haven't hear much in the way of corrosion issues from it either.

But yes, if this is going to be on a car driven on the street, I wouldn't recommend putting the temp sensor in the elements right there. I also wouldn't recommend using an electric pump on a street car as well, since you'll likely be able to hear it growling (sounds like an aquarium air pump, except MUCH louder) over the engine. ;-p

Oh, and for the record, that sensor, etc, was covered up with electrical tape. I removed it to take the photo, and will likely put some sealing shrink tubing on it as a better solution. Thanks!
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 1:35 PM
Steve - They had fixed the injectors by 2004, hence the reason that 2004 LB7s were kosher. ;) So yes, stock injectors when sold.

Dieseltech - I wouldn't say there was Ford bashing, I just think a few of us have seen or recognized the issues with the motor International built. You probably have such a soft spot because you worked on so many ;) I drove a 7.3 and 6.4 in armored trucks, eight hours a day, during my breaks from university, BUT I was driving the motors as they were designed, all day without the turn-on/turn-off of what most 'normal' powerstroke owners do. The trucks had 300k miles because they were bone stock and being driven, like I said, as they were intended to be. Don't forget the 7.3 will always be limited by the fact that oil pressure drives the injectors, as you well know.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 8:04 AM
I think I just need to write a non-DPF diesel truck buyer's guide...
Friday, September 23, 2011 9:10 AM
If someone made a non-DPF diesel buyer's guide, I'd read it religiously.
I saw something cool a while back, a 90's Ford with the square body with a cummins swap. Thing moves ; )
Saturday, September 24, 2011 4:59 AM
Der Bruce- I dont think the HEUI injection system necessarily "limits" the 7.3L and 6.0L powerstrokes (though the second gen HEUI did have more issues and leak points). It might if your building a full on race or pulling engine, but not for a normal street/tow pickup. Hell, International still uses HEUI injection in their MAXXFORCE DT, 9, and 10 medium duty engines (the 6.4L and big bore engines are all common rail). HEUI was the cat's ass back in the mid-90's when it came out, when Cummins was still rocking the inline pump, and Chevy was stuck in the days of IDI. I would think that 7.3L is limited more by its outdated design then anything.

Also, just like your saying, the biggest issue with these modern diesel engines (of all manufacturers) is idling. These engines need to be driven as they were designed to be. Try telling that to the guy who likes to drive his $60k King Ranch pickup like a car, and then idle it all winter because, "its a diesel, so you got to".
Monday, September 26, 2011 5:34 AM
Word. Hell, the only time my truck is idled for extended periods is after a long tow up a grade, or a slow tow off road to keep the trans fluid circuiting in neutral.

There really is no point, and my truck will gradually lose temp anyway if I idle it for extended periods.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Monday, September 26, 2011 11:59 AM
Don't forget guys, the idling isn't THAT bad. It's the fact that the turbos don't get spooled up (especially on the 6.0) like they were meant to. The other problem with the soccer mom approach to driving, with the Powerstrokes, is the constant turn on/ turn off heat cycling that's hard on the o-rings for those injectors :)
Monday, September 26, 2011 5:43 PM
My biggest concern is the declining coolant temps. Cold engines aren't happy engines. :)
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