Home » A Pocket-Rocket Ford And A Nissan With A Chandelier: Member’s Rides

A Pocket-Rocket Ford And A Nissan With A Chandelier: Member’s Rides

Members Rides Nissan Laurel Topshot
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I have done it Autopians! I managed to infiltrate the Evil Wrenching Lair of SWG and the Autopian overlords! I will not divulge how I found the entrance, or got passed the security guards (there were none), but once I got in, I knew I had it made! I was met by Torch, who looked at me and said “It’s about damn time! I’m late for my fuel line replacement. Get over here!” I ran over to see him with his finger holding down a red button on a large control panel. He told me to sit down and no matter what else happens, to keep that button down. I was confused, but I did as I was instructed. That was three weeks ago… Since I’m stuck here anyway, I figured I might as well be useful. I hacked into the mainframe (Password: “@ir-cooled rust”) and started digging through the files. I now sit here typing this with one hand as I try to keep this button down. I do wonder what would happen should my finger slip, but given my location under the volcano, I feel like that’s probably a bad idea. I have not seen anyone since Torch ran out three weeks ago, but surely someone will be in soon to relieve me so I can relieve myself… Right??? Anyway, while I’m here, I wanted to do something useful and restart members’ rides, so here we go!

When American cars are too mainstream and boring in your eyes, what do you do? If you’re anything like Autopian Member S13 Sedan, you find a unique JDM car, and then set out to make it truly one of a kind. Seriously, have you ever seen a chandelier in a car before?!

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

[Welcome to Members’ Rides. This is the weekly feature where we look at people who became members of the site by signing up here and parting with a little of their hard-earned dough to keep The Autopian going. Our plan is to do these every week! Today it’s S13 Sedan’s turn!]

For most people in the Detroit area, you drive American. It’s a story as old as time, your grandpa probably worked for Ford, your dad likely worked for Ford, and you better never allow a car from a different brand to darken your driveway, unless it’s a Lincoln. S13 Sedan works for Ford, and as such has the requisite Ford, in this case, the most fun Ford made in recent years with a 2019 Ford Fiesta ST (seriously, look at those seats and tell me you don’t want to put your butt in them!) but he added a JDM classic to the stable as well.

Screenshot 2024 05 27 At 10.10.18 am

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The Nissan Laurel entered production in 1968, and went through eight generations before ending production in 2002. It was never sold in the US, but thanks to the 25-year import law, a few have made the trip across the Pacific to win the hearts of discerning enthusiasts here. The car was marketed as somewhat of a luxury car, but was also known for having excellent handling. Combine sharp handling with the legendary RB straight six and it makes sense that many of these were turned into drift machines and lived hard lives throughout the decades. Luckily S13 Sedan’s avoided this fate.

Screenshot 2024 05 27 At 10.07.12 am

Tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got into cars.

I’ve always been into cars since I was a kid, I can’t remember a point in my life where I wasn’t into them. I’m not sure how or why since no one in my family has ever really been into them. I like all kinds of cars and their histories but tend to favor 60s-90s Japanese cars. Throughout the years, I’ve accumulated a pretty sizable collection of old Japanese car magazines even though I can’t read the language. I use them to draw inspiration for my own car and just because they’re neat to have, there’s so many cool cars in those magazines that would have otherwise been lost to time. In high school or so I started to get really into Japanese domestic cars. The JDM boom in America hadn’t really happened yet so I was only JDM stuff I was familiar with was whatever would make it into video games. I had a lot of free time in college and got really into google translating my way through minkara (it’s like Facebook but only for cars) and sites for small Japanese tuning shops where I started to learn more about the more obscure JDM cars that weren’t very well known in the west yet. Around this time, I also developed a thing for sedans.

What’s your current lineup?

2019 Ford Fiesta ST

2019 Fiesta ST:

 

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The Fiesta was very much an impulse decision. In 2019 right after Ford announced they were stopping production of all of their cars, I drove past a local dealer and saw one on their lot. I thought that Fiesta production stopped in 2018 and figured it was unsold old stock I could possibly get a deal on. I checked the dealer’s site and was surprised to see it was a 2019. I work for Ford and had a bit of a “Well I should probably use my A-Plan discount on something” moment and decided I wanted one. The one I saw at that dealer sold but a coworker tipped me off about one a different local dealer got in stock so I went to check it out. It was a car someone special ordered and picked every single option except for factory navigation but then backed out of the deal last minute. I test drove it for a bit and signed the paperwork that evening. The orange Recaros are my favorite part. The car is grey like most cars these days, but I think the orange seats contrast nicely against the grey and give it a bit of a splash of color. Plus orange has always been my favorite color. I constantly go back and forth between wanting to do some mild upgrades or just keep it stock. At the moment, it’s still completely stock.

Nissan Laurel

1991 Nissan Laurel:

The C33 Laurel is a very common drift platform, especially back then and I always really loved them. I think they have a really clean, sleek style but my favorite feature and what drew me to them the most is the fact that it’s one of the last true pillar-less 4 door hardtops. I still think that lack of a b-pillar is the coolest thing and I rarely drive with the windows up just so I can really get the pillarless effect.

I bought the car in 2018. I had a Miata at the time that I lost interest in and decided I wanted something imported. This was right before the JZX90 Toyotas were becoming legal to import so I was going to wait and see what they would go for here. If they were out of my budget, then it was sort of a toss up between a R32 Skyline GTS-T sedan, C33 Laurel, or an A31 Cefiro. JZX90s became legal and were immediately out of my budget but right at the same time, Japanese Classics in Virginia listed my Laurel for a good price so I hopped on it. At the time, I really wanted a turbo one but I felt that my car was a good compromise. It has an RB20DE which means I at least get 2 cams and it’s a factory manual transmission which is pretty rare as far as Laurels go. The Laurel was Nissan’s mid-sized luxury car for Japan so most of them were automatic.

I couldn’t get the time off of work to fly out to Virginia so I had it shipped to me. The first time I ever saw a C33 Laurel in person was when they dropped it off at my apartment.

What are some of the quirks of driving a RHD in the US?

Driving on the right side and shifting with my left hand wasn’t difficult to get used to at all. For the first 10-15 minutes, I had to really focus on lane placement so I didn’t drift across the center line of the road but then my brain figured it out and it wasn’t a problem at all. I did screw up the wipers and turn signals for a while though. On Japanese cars, the wiper stalk and turn signal stalk are flipped from where they’d be in an American car so if you’re new to driving a JDM car, you will have some moments where you go to use the turn signal and hit the wipers instead.

Screenshot 2024 05 27 At 10.16.17 am

(Having driven RHD on and off for several years, I still screw this up when going back and forth between my car and my wife’s)

Overall, it hasn’t been a terribly difficult car to own. Sourcing Laurel specific parts is tough but luckily those are really only body and interior pieces, and I haven’t had to do that yet. Mechanically, almost everything is shared with S13 Silvia/240sx, Z32 300ZX, or R32 Skyline. You can still generally get most RB specific parts, but they tend to be a bit pricey, and you may have to wait a bit on shipping but parts shared with S13 or Z32 are easy to get. I just did tie rods with S13 parts and the slave cylinder is a Z32 one, all from Rockauto.

It’s been a pretty reliable car and the only things that have broken have been things that you’d expect to break on a 30-year-old car like the fuel pump for example. At the moment, the A/C is the only thing on my car that doesn’t work. It’s only stranded me once when the fuel pump died. I did have to pull the motor to do an oil pump when I noticed pressure was getting a little bit low. I saved the engine before any real damage occurred and it runs great with plenty of oil pressure now. It doesn’t even burn oil which I think is pretty impressive for a fairly high-kilometer car. It has about 230,000 KM on it at the moment which is pretty high for a Japanese import. I put about 20,000 of those kilometers on it while I’ve owned it.

House real big, car real big

Tell us about the modifications, and the chandelier!

The style I’m going for is known as Haiso (combination of High Society. Japan loves to mash two words together like that). If you’re familiar with VIP style cars, it’s essentially the precursor to that style and was popular in the late 80s early 90s. The main idea is sort of what was considered fancy or luxurious back then but with a bit of tacky, bubble era Japanese flare added to it.

Mods wise, the car was mostly stock when I got it. I lowered it almost immediately and ran a different set of wheels before I went all in on haiso style. My car previously looked more like a drift car than it does now. Once I decided I wanted to commit to a haiso build, I found a set of Weiser centerlock wire wheels on Yahoo auctions. They’re a Japanese made wire wheel and are a popular choice in the haiso scene. I also got a new exhaust made up at a local shop to fit my current look better, it’s just a basic round Magnaflow with dual tips at the end. Other than that, it’s been mostly smaller accessories that would be appropriate for the haiso look. The beads, accessory lights, and chandelier are all a bit tacky, but they were popular in the scene and sometimes it’s fun to be a bit tacky. One of my favorite accessories are my Carrozzeria parcel shelf speakers. The logos on the speakers are backlit and when I have the headlights on, they light up green but when I press the brake, they switch to red. It’s essentially a third and fourth brake light.

I collect Japanese car magazines and I like to use some of them for research purposes. I’ll pay attention to the little details like what types of accessories, what styles of body kits and things like that were used back then and then either source those parts or others that would fit the style. Luckily there’s still people in Japan into this style as well so there’s still a lot of little accessories and things floating around on Yahoo Auctions. My personal goal is to keep my car looking like something that wouldn’t look out of place in one of my magazines from the early ’90s. To me, doing the research, paying attention to the little details, and hunting for parts is half the fun.

Period-correct audio. Nice.

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Most recently, I added the stainless fender trim and a new (actually old) head unit. Polished fender trim is a quintessential haiso accessory. The problem is that polished trim is impossibly rare for C33 Laurels. Even though they were sold as a luxury car, people realized pretty early on they were basically a long wheelbase, RB powered S13, and they mostly got drifted, so not a lot of more luxurious accessories were made for them. I started to look at what fender trim can I actually get that I might be able to modify to fit. Eventually I found a set on Yahoo Auctions intended for an ST160 Toyota Carina for cheap that I thought might be close, so I bought them. They only took a little bit of trimming and now you’d never notice they technically aren’t for this car unless you knew what you were looking for. Last month, I decided I wanted one of those old head units that plays Minidisc and has cool animations so I bought a Kenwood DPX-8200WMP. I even went all out and bought a Minidisc player/burner and a lot of recordable discs so I can burn whatever I want onto Minidisc and I’ve been having a lot of fun putting albums on Minidisc and keeping them in the car. The Yen being cheap right now is not good for my wallet!

Nissan Laurel

Any Future Plans?

Next, I want to focus on some appropriate aero parts since I feel I have the stance, wheels, and interior at a good place. This is going to be the hardest part as there isn’t much haiso appropriate aero for my car so I’ve been putting thought into parts for other cars that I may be able to modify to fit. I think I have a lip and spoiler figured out, but I still have no clue what to do about side skirts.

What would we find in the garage of your dreams?

Renault Alpine GTA

C130 Nissan Laurel coupe, C230 Nissan Cedric coupe. The earlier generations (1971-79) of Laurel and Cedric/Gloria both got coupes. I love the bigger Nissan cars of that era, they have this sort of uncanny valley American car styling that I really like. They look mostly like an American car, but something is off and it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what that is. Lots of guys in Japan do those cars up in a 70s American street machine style and it pulls the look off so well. I’d probably do the same if I had one.

Lotus Esprit. Every Esprit is cool, but I like the X180s (1988-1994) the most. During the pandemic, I became aware of what they were selling for and with some rough math figured that if I sold my Laurel, I could scrape up enough cash on top of that to get a maybe slightly rougher example. The problem is that I think I missed the boat on those because whenever I’d see one come up, it would be well outside of what I could cover. Maybe someday I’ll get one.

Thanks, S13 Sedan! If you’re a member and want to be highlighted, please check your email for a link to a survey you can fill out. If you don’t want to be featured, that’s also fine. Go here and join today!

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STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
25 days ago

Thanks ton for subbing-in and holding that button after Jason finished his shift.

The sharks (with the frickin’ laser beams) were successfully kept in their containment field below the magma pool and Daily Autopian Evil Tasks were able to be carried out according to The Master Plan.

Excellent quiver of cars and excellent taste (in everything that truly matters) when it comes to being a dyed-in-the-wool Autopian.

Bonus points for including my house in the opening line! Cheers, my dude!

AssMatt
AssMatt
26 days ago

What about that steering wheel? Looks like one of the last pre-airbag, late ’80s or early ’90s…

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
26 days ago
Reply to  AssMatt

It’s an aftermarket Momo model 78 with a real deal vintage JDM fake Ferrari horn button. But the factory wheel didn’t have an airbag either. It did have audio controls though which was cool but useless because the factory head unit was gone when I bought the car.

AssMatt
AssMatt
26 days ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

I’m not sure how to interpret “real deal vintage JDM fake” but it sure looks cool and I hope it sounds haiso! Thanks for sharing.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
26 days ago

A question…

What about the headlamps which the light output are pointed higher to the left as in Japan and the countries with left-hand rule of road?

I am sure you have your fill of the approaching drivers thinking you have headlamps on high beam and returning the gesture. Not to mention the signage on the right side of road not “illuminated” well.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
26 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

I was asking because the owners in the United Kingdom and Malta must either cover the “bowtie” part with deflector stickers or move the aiming mechanically or electronically (if equipped). The newer ones with LED or Matrix headlamps have automatic adjustment from the GPS navigation and optical recognition of the road signage.

The older JDM vehicles have halogen bulbs and headlamp lenses with optical diffusion flutes, which cast the softer light. That’s probably why you don’t have issues.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
26 days ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

You can definitely tell the headlight alignment is off but it’s not that bad in my opinion and you can still see the roads. I don’t drive at night a ton but I also haven’t had any instances where someone flashed their high beams at me.

Parsko
Parsko
26 days ago

I read this article yesterday in spotty cell service land, so it had no pictures. I’m glad I revisited. I’m staunch Never Nissan, but this is one of those exceptions. So beautiful. Well done, I love it.

Dr Buford
Dr Buford
26 days ago

Sweet rides ????

Dr Buford
Dr Buford
26 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

Poorly cast Napoleon Dynamite ref. Don’t text and drive the kids to school, kids.

Dr Buford
Dr Buford
26 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

Obviously you’re not a golfer :).

Good on ya for doing something beautifully different.

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
26 days ago

There used to be thousands of these Laurels around when I was growing up in NZ, always loved the pillarless look, although you wouldn’t want to be t-boned in one.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
26 days ago

Great job on the article! Thank you for choosing me for a feature, this was a lot of fun to be a part of.

Gubbin
Gubbin
27 days ago

What a great interview with a particularly fun person! In my mind, there’s nothing better than that kind of commitment to a thing, whether it’s S13 Sedan keeping a very specific Japanese car subculture alive in Detroit, or a vintage moped gang in Portland, or our friends who breed and train Belgian draft horses in Denmark.

My favorite travel tip: If you dig something offbeat, you can find people into it just about anywhere in the world, and visiting them is an absolute blast.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
26 days ago
Reply to  Gubbin

There’s a larger community of people on the west coast, mostly in Southern California and western Canada who are very into building accurate kaido racers and haiso style cars. Last December, I planned a small vacation in LA around N.A. Nonsuri, an event they hold for that style of car and I’m so glad I did. Everyone there was so nice and inviting and it was so much fun being around so many other people who really care about going into deep dives to learn about the little details of niche Japanese car subcultures like I am.

The quality of the builds there were amazing, I still can look back at the pictures and can barely believe that they were taken in America and not somewhere in Japan.

Gubbin
Gubbin
26 days ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

Now to find some vintage Shibuya-kei minidiscs…

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
27 days ago

Well done Forbes!

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
27 days ago

What a fun fleet! Welcome!

Also, kudos to Mr/Ms/Mx. Theweirdo (may I call you Forbes?) for a terrific debut!

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
27 days ago

By the way, the combination to the company pantry in there is 4-8-15-16-23-42. But do NOT touch Adrian’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. I won’t make THAT mistake again.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
27 days ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Isn’t that the firing order of that 48-cylinder bike?

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
26 days ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

And now we know why Adrian made the acquaintance of a “fixer”.

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