We Can Rebuild It!

By Frank Ewald

It was the last day of the Ontario Time Attack season and the competition was at the Shannonville Motorsport Park's Long track. We'd been up the night before adjusting the timing and finally getting the car to perform, as evidenced by the fact that Katie had just caught and passed a Corvette. Then she pulled off to the side and parked. No noise. No smoke. It was just a graceful glide to a stop. The corner marshal, who helped hook up the towrope, said there wasn't anything unusual. Katie, who knows the car almost as well as I do, indicated the power just stopped. The car was towed off the track to our paddock and we started looking for the culprit. With the oil cap off the stationary camshaft told us that our engine had suffered a catastrophic failure and, with that glide to a stop, our ignominious season had come to an end.

Katie Ewald
My daughter, Katie, and myself have had an ongoing challenge to see who is the fastest.  In the first year (2009) we jointly participated in competition, I shared that she was the better driver but I still had the edge on speed. I've been playing catch-up ever since!

It wasn't for a lack of trying, but our Nissan NX1600 with its recently transplanted Pulsar GTi-R drivetrain had simply not met our expectations. It was amazing when it hooked up, but perhaps the learning curve for running a turbo'd B13 was too steep and I wasn't learning enough about the new setup as quickly as I needed to in order to be effective. The highs were keeping up with Corvette Z06's on the straights (well, that may have been because the wastegate hose was not connected properly and we were pumping out unlimited boost) to the lows of being towed off of the track with an issue of one type or another. Our erratic 2011 season was plagued by boost issues, overheating, handling challenges and human error that just made us want to pack up and go home. Three weeks earlier at Mosport human error led to an over-rev situation that resulted in a broken rocker and mangled intake camshaft. We finished that event borrowing Jeff Daley's NX2000 race car. Two weeks later, after a quick top end build, we thought we were ready to go but lady luck was not anywhere near us. We ended our season with a DNF and a lot of experience gained. Tear down showed that the Shannonville incident barely even nicked the camshaft, while the timing chain now had a beginning and an end. It was a gamble to assume that the chain hadn't been affected in the first incident at Mosport; history proved that it was not a gamble we should have taken. The four hour drive home from the race track seemed longer than usual. It was very quiet too.

At Mosport, now renamed Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, a broken rocker and damaged intake cam put our NX our of commission. Jeff Daley rescued us by allowing us to use his NX2000 for the day.

A sane person would likely have switched platforms at this juncture in time. In my professional role as an elementary school administrator I am usually recognized by my ability to make logical conclusions about situations. This, however, is quite different. If you've read earlier articles about this Nissan NX1600 you will have observed that there is a strong attachment to this car that I have owned for twenty years. It was not a question of switching platforms for the track (I do have a marvelous Mazda RX8 that would be a wonderful track toy) but how to go about with the rebuild. I have wanted the GTi-R drivetrain for over ten years and I was not ready to give up yet. After a few weeks of discussion with my very good friend and trusted mechanic, Dave Schlueter, we decided to start the rebuild in my single car garage. This would not tie up his shop space and would be close to home for late night and weekend work. That also worked for Dave, as he lives only five minutes drive away.

RX-8 NX2000
The 2004 RX8 was a late summer purchase. Who could pass up a car like this with only 17000 miles! It will not be seeing the track.


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Wednesday, March 07, 2012 5:12 AM
Sorry to hear of your bad luck in 2011. Nice to see you persevere and hopefully all your hard work will pay off in 2012!
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 2:18 PM
2011 is now history. The car is running well, just had it out for a drive as winter has disappeared for a couple of days, and I'm sure that 2012 is going to be a good year!
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 5:57 PM
Great job on your first real engine rebuild! Now with one season of boosted power under your belt, I'm sure this season will go much smoother. Can't wait to hear about it.
Chris H
Chris Hlink
Thursday, March 08, 2012 4:19 PM
Always nice to see an EGG put to good use, damn the enkie rpf01's look good on both NX's!!!!
Thursday, March 08, 2012 4:45 PM
sometime it got to go like this : if it doesnt break you didnt pushed it enough ;) otherwise with a nice rebuilted engine like this one, you should be able to make a few seasons !!... 54c never liked overrev.. you gotta be careful sensing the engine engaging when you drop the clutch... actually, just dont drop it !! ive already replaced 3 gtir engine in the last few years because of that mistake !

will probably see you around :)
from a Quebec gtir owner :)
Thursday, March 08, 2012 6:03 PM
Thank you for recognizing the effort and the learning that's going into this. I'm looking forward to the year ahead - it will be much smoother. Martin, you'll have to come and join me at Mosport sometime this year. I won't be able to make it to Tremblant. Chris, I love the look of the rpf's!
Saturday, March 10, 2012 12:05 PM
Very nice, going to be one well-sorted ride with some hopefully rock solid reliability. I completely overkill the cooling on my B13 for track use and never have an issue, though it's NA not FI so kinda apples and pomegranates ;) good luck with the coming season!
Saturday, March 10, 2012 1:50 PM
Now that is some dedicated commitment throughout the years...

That was a cool post, what a unique little track car. lol Can't wait to see what happens in 2012.
Saturday, March 10, 2012 6:34 PM
Dedication or perhaps some would say stubborn refusal to accept logic! LOL! But, it is a nicely sorted out car and it's wonderful to drive on the track and the street. Cooling is a challenge but I think with the aluminum rad, additional openings in the nose, hood vents and the oil cooler that will be covered.
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