We Blew the Motor in the New Craigslist Project 240sx

Well, that didn’t last long. The 240 build process has been constant exemplification of one step forward and two steps back. Our first chassis was clean, with relatively low miles and original paint, but the transmission was slipping, the motor barely ran and it ended up having $700 worth of unpaid registration fees. We decided to end that project before we were deeper in the hole, and channel our energy into a new shell. Life happened, leaving both cars to bake under the merciless California sun for two months, untouched.

Four months in now. This process had started long ago, but we hadn’t much to show for it. Wasn’t the goal to build a cheap car and learn how to drift with it?


Why was the new car rotting away in the back yard? Despite looking like a dilapidated pile, it seemed to run well enough, or at least it did when we last drove it around the block.

“There’s an event this upcoming Saturday.” “Let’s do it.”

Just like that, all three of us had signed up for our first drift event. The next day, it suddenly dawned on us that it was finally happening, in a few days, we would be trying to drift our beater 240. The car wasn’t ready at all. It was scramble time. The Roadkill Boiz aren’t the only ones with big cardboard to-do lists.

Step One: Weld the Diff

Time 4 skidz.

One tire fire would make sliding much more difficult, and there’s no way even a used O.E. viscous LSD was in budget, so welded diff it is. Sunday night (T-minus 6 days) the differential was dropped, drained and opened up to prepare for welding. Diff swaps are extremely simple on 240's. Monday, the diff was welded and we were liberated of $40 for the privilege. Tuesday, the diff cover was fitted, diff filled with fluid and reassembled into the car.

Step Two: Fluids

Gritty, black brake and clutch fluid being bled out of the car.

Wednesday the brake and clutch fluid were bled, which was a good call because both came out black and gritty. I think we were really ambitious and threw in an oil change as well. We topped off the power steering fluid, but the rack still bled dry in a day.

Step Three: Safety?


Calling it safety is a stretch, but the car needed a few items made up to pass the tech inspection. The event organizers required a fire extinguisher mounted in the car, so we picked up a $20 “automotive” fire extinguisher from Home Depot. The supplied “mounting kit” was junk, so Julian fabbed up and welded together a bracket that shared the passenger seat mounting bolts, tucking the extinguisher under the front of the seat. We also made a battery tie down to replace our non-existent OEM one, preventing the battery from flying out of the car .

You are now caught up to Thursday night, the event is Saturday morning. We would leave HQ in 30 hours. It was at this time that we realized we had yet to actually drive the car any appreciable distance besides around the neighborhood. I volunteered to drive it to work the next day.


And so it was, that on Friday morning, after airing up the flat tires, and a packing a sizable box of spares and tools into the backseat, I began the 20 mile slog up the I-405 towards West Los Angeles in Rattlecan (Yes, we named it), our 50 Shades of Primer 240sx. You know what? It wasn’t bad. Despite the alignment being out of whack, the steering wheel being clocked 15* off center and the general rattyness of a 26-year old, Cheap Nissan, no major calamities to report.


After 19.5 miles of stop and go, it appeared: a solid half mile opening just before the home stretch. 5th gear, clutch in, rev match into 3rd gear, full throttle. Now, the speedometer didn’t work, but I hit 7000RPM in 3rd, which I’m guessing is a ferocious 85MPH, and it pulled as hard as 160 tired horses could be expected to. Like I said, not bad.


Navigating the parking garage at work was an exercise in hilarity. Between the full header, test pipe and 3" catback exhaust straight off of eBay and the welded diff causing the car to hop and chirp the tires around every corner, setting off alarms was happening, even at a demure 1500RPM. I had fully embraced the jankyness of 240 ownership.


Time flies when you’re daydreaming of the sidewayz lyfe. Work over, escape the office, breathe in that sweet weekend musk in the air. Atop of the garage in a flash, flick of the ignition, let the 240 burst into life. POP! Scheisse.

I quickly shut the car off, and checked the vitals under the hood. Fluids fine, belts fine, accessories all still accessorizing. What the hell was that noise?


“I’m not towing this car home.”

Key meets ignition, compression and combustion occur, the car is running but now there is a rattle. Below 2000RPM it’s quiet (as quiet as the eBay exhaust will allow), over 2000RPM: the rattle. The drive home is slow, deliberate and generally nerve-wracking, with Los Angeles traffic not helping the situation. 90 minutes and 20 miles later I am home. The rattle is constant now, sounding louder and more grating with each compression stroke, please let it end. This was a death rattle, the siren song of the KA24DE too far gone to be rescued.


7:30PM: the event began in twelve hours, and required three hours of driving to get there. After listening to the motor run, the issue was decidedly coming from the top end. With the valve cover removed, our issue become more clear. The timing chain had a ton of free play and had left scoring marks where it was slapping the timing case. A guide for the timing chain had decided to detonate into many pieces within the timing case. After doing some more peaking around, it seemed as though this motor had been through a basic rebuild at some point. However, whoever spearheaded said rebuild opted to disregard the common opinion of Nissan and the Internet, and instead of using the more durable OEM timing guides, instead choose to use cheap plastic ones, straight out of an eBay timing kit. The plastic guide had worn out through contact with the chain and let go, causing the timing chain to flop around. It just so happened that today was the day it finally let go. It was inevitable.

“Fortunately” for us, we had some spare KA timing pieces in the garage, including guides. It was time to tear down the motor and replace the timing pieces. Oh god.


We we’re swift - for once, and in a rather quick fashion, we had removed all of the accessories and belt driven pieces off the engine and actually bagged and tagged the hardware.


The upper timing case we relieved of duty and we got a better look around - the shattered timing guide was stuck at the bottom of the timing valley and there was no way to slip the chain off and get the replacement guide in place without fully disassembling the timing cover and whole front end of the engine. So we continued onwards, unbolting and removing everything until it was time to pull the lower timing cover off.

The timing cover wouldn’t budge.

Let me amend that: it moved a small amount. However, no amount of prying, wedging, hammering or pulling would get it to go any further. After some Google searching and practical thinking we made an observation: the oil pump and pick up is right up front where the timing cover sits. That pickup is effectively preventing the cover from releasing off the front portion of the oil pan. The oil pan is directly above the front subframe, so the only way that’s moving is to drop the subframe, or pull the engine up with the hoist until the oil pan clears.



By this point, it 11:00, it was dark, we were tired and we definitely didn’t have the manpower or collective sensibility to pull the engine tonight and be on the road by 4AM the next day. Our drift day was over before it began.


It was decided that after a good night’s sleep we would do the deed and pull the engine from the car tomorrow and figure out what to do with it. And come Saturday afternoon, that’s what happened. By this point, this was the second S-chassis that we had pulled an engine from, so it was a pretty swift endeavor: unbolt the driveshaft, exhaust, transmission mounts, engine mounts, wiring harness, remove the radiator and fan, and crucially: remove the hood to spare the agony of pulling an engine with the hood in the way. Crucially, “we” forgot to do a few things, and by “we” I mean “I,” and by few things I mean remove the shifter assembly (the shifter was banging against the chassis when it inevitably got stuck) and drain the transmission, which puked everything when we yanked it free.


Well, now that we pulled the motor, it was time to shove the car in the backyard and pretend like this whole fiasco didn’t exist for a month or so. Great plan.


Tune in next time to see what happens on Project Craigslist 240SX.

Jake Stumph is a certified car nut and track day bro. He is prone to making bad financial decisions with cars, and is known to enjoy rolling 3rd gear burnouts. That said, you should follow him on Facebook, or YouTube. Why? Because he managed to write this bio in the third person and not break character.

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