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Rice Wagon - VG33 510 wagon project

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Spoiler alert - the complete photo album for this project can be seen here:



Oh man, I just looked at the dates of the photos - I purchased this wagon in July 2005. Nearly 7 years ago! That's embarassing, but if you have a car that's been in hiding for years, and are losing interest and motivation, perhaps this will help you out...


I answered an add for a running 510 wagon near Ft Lewis with an L20 and 280zx brakes if I remember right. Brenda and I drove down, took it on a quick test drive (to the nearest Shucks to fill the leaking clutch master cylinder) and bought it on the spot.


We bled the clutch in the PO's apartment parking lot and headed north. Here are some photos from when I first brought it home.




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The name "rice wagon" came from my first impression given the racing seat, giant column mounted tach, the big exhaust, and other "ricer" like items. The car was super solid and very straight. I don't remember what else was going on at the time but I knew from the start that I wanted this to be my first VG car.


I found a VG30 w/ 5spd tranny. Got an install kit from Dave at www.vg30.com and then started tearing down the motor, only to find it had silicone sealant in some of the cooling ports, scratched cylinder walls, and damaged piston tops.... *sigh*



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Since I tore the motor and tranny out as soon as I got it home to get another car on the road, and since the first VG I started playing with ended up with issues, it just sat outside for a bit and waited... (I think I was rebuilding the motor and tranny in my 1972 suburban during this time so I couldn't park it inside)


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Rarely one to do things in the right order. I found a set of 280zxt snowflake rims (my favorite Nissan wheel) and set about stripping them down to prepare them for powder coat. At first I was taping off the rim because I had planned to polish the lip after powder coat. After taking all the time to do this, I realized it wasn't the right way to do it so I pulled it back off.






More on those wheels later...

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Now you'd think I'd finish the rims or start back on the engine swap but you'd be wrong...

A long time ago I took notes from Anthony Shcwisow's wagon build where he used fiberglass leaf springs to replace the stock steel leafs. Before I could get mine going Kelvin Dietz did his. This worked out great actually because between the two of them, I had a really good definition of what I needed when I placed the order with Mark from www.flex-form.com

I disassembled my rear suspension and took lots of measurements before finalizing everything.








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My leafs came in and I got a set of QA1 adjustable shocks to go with them. The shocks were slightly used from Kelvin. He wasn't happy with the damping but my spring rate is higher than his so hopefully they will work for me. I'm leary of the length at the moment, I think they are too long but we'll see.




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I think I got a little out of order here. In January 2011, I started building the front end. I had the crossmember and trailing arms stripped and powder coated and have all new ball-joints, rod ends, etc to mount. I also built a set of 280zx coilovers with adjustable inserters ready to go in. Dave Carroll shortened the struts for me. Thanks Dave!





Some day, when I actually have it sitting on the ground again, this suspension stuff might come in handy!

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And so, back to the engine. Last weekend I got the www.vg30.com oil pick-up and oil pan mounted. Then I put on a Fidanza aluminum flywheel and brand new clutch cover and friction disk from Nissan.


The engine is so new, the sharpie marks on the crank are still visible!


New parts are cool!!!!


oil pick-up mounted


pan test fitted and then gasket and sealant applied


pan installed




Headway has been made!

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flywheel and clutch parts


clutch cover


friction disk


Flywheel installed. It had to come back off because it turns out it had been machined by the PO for a different clutch set-up so the dowels and mounting holes did't line up. I didn't realized it had been modified but I grabed a brand new one off my shelf and it was obvious there was a second set of mounting holes added.

I had used an impact wrench to tighten the bolts but it was not powerful enough to remove them. I had to put a breaker bar on the crank snout and he-man the things back off. Boy was that fun!


Friction disk and alignment tool. I hadn't noticed the flyweel problem yet when this photo was taken.


New flywheel on and everything buttoned up.

I was going to mount the tranny next but I realized I had forgotten to order a new throw-out bearing.

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Today was a big day. It took a lot longer than I thought but I did get the motor in the car!

I started by puting the new throw-out bearing in the tranny and then I mounted the tranny to the motor. The two were not cooporating at first so I pulled them back apart suspecting that the input shaft wasn't getting in to the pilot bushing. Sure enough, even though I had assembled it with the alignment tool in place, it must have been saggin a bit from the weight of the friction disk as it was tough to re-install. I loosened up the clutch cover bolts, re-aligned the friction disk, and tried again with much better results.



Next up, I added the front crossmember and set the whole assembly down on a pair of furniture dollies



Then I raised up the rear of the car and came back to the front to lift up the nose so I could slide the motor and tranny under the car.


weird towing brackets welded on from some PO came in very handy for this operation!


Next I lowered the front end down, bolted the crossmember to the frame, supported the back of the tranny with a rope (I have not enlarged the shifter hole yet) and set the frame back down on jacks. I'll let the photos do the talking from here.















I'm very excited!

It seems a shame that after 7 long years, it only took two weekends to get the motor in between the fenders but let me asure you, it wasn't because I was sitting on my butt watching TV!

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It's great to see the car coming together Carter! :thumbup:


My understanding is that any upper will bolt to any lower.

There are some differences in the lowers with injectors, bracketry, etc however.


All of the uppers with six ports in a row share the same port and bolt spacing. The later Maximas with twin throttle bodies have a totally different lower. Disregarding the weird Max one, there are three different lower intake manifolds. Two injector/rail styles plus one really rare one that has the port order at the gasket flange mirror imaged (2-4-6 and 1-3-5 are swapped where they meet the upper for no apparent reason, they make the same power.) I angle mill a ton of VG lowers for hood clearance with Pathy uppers on 510s, 240Zs, and Z31Ts. Depending on which combination of injector/fuel rail/upper plenum you run it is sometimes necessary to grind clearance on the upper. I do not recall which combination(s) hit. If you want to run a Pathy upper on a Z31 lower with Z31 electronics you can use an '88 Maxima distributor cap as it clears the intake. This works with Z31 spark plug wires routed under the upper. You can also swap to an MPFI WD21 distributor and spark plug wires that go over the top as all VG30s use the same CAS in the distributor. (VG33s have the ignition coil in the distributor and do not play well with earlier ECUs.)


My understanding is that the 200sx manifold fits without modification, but the Pathy manifold breathes the best of all (ZX,SX, maxi, pathy, D21, and J30, hope I am not forgetting any...)


This is correct. The S12 intake clears by miles but is the worst flowing of the MPFI VGs. The D21/WD21 intake flows the best. I should note here that the R50 Pathy intake is very similar but uses a larger 60mm throttle body that has it's own bolt pattern and does not interchange with the others. I *think* the WD22 (Xterra) intake is the same as the R50. The R50 upper does not have the coil mounting location on the side since it's inside the distributor.


Another thing to keep in mind when swapping around VG intakes: VG33 lowers are machined wider between the mounting flanges where they attach to the heads and use very thin formed stainless steel gaskets. VG30 lowers are narrower and use steel retainers with neoprene sealing rings around the ports. The important thing is that if you run a lower from a VG30 you use VG30 intake gaskets and if you run a VG33 lower you run VG33 intake gaskets regardless of which engine they are on. Otherwise you get a nasty intake port mismatch and one of the timing cover bolts will not go in because the intake and water neck are either too high or too low. I discovered this when I built the VG34 for my '88 Pathy.

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