Project Nissan S13 Silvia – The Great Bumper Fire of ’04

“Dude! You’re on fire!”

Yea, yea, the car’s fast, but I just melted an intercooler hose or something, so this isn’t exactly the best time to talk. Nor is it really the place. I mean, everything was going great a second ago, but something just popped and now every time I hit the gas, I get this lazy “blaaaah” and the car just gets slower. We could chat about it, but we're over a blind hill, we're going 7 mph, and the track is still hot. Maybe we should catch up in the pits…

Just as I’m about to yell across a short explanation of my malady and encourage him to move on, Scott Higashi leans even farther out the window of his SE-R and yells again, with the clear enunciation usually reserved for people who don’t actually speak your language.



A quick glance in the mirror reveals exactly the same heat waves and ominous black smoke you never want to see coming from your own car.

I yell as loud as I can, hoping desperately my voice can escape the confines of my full-face helmet, waft across the swirling chaos of noise between two cars on a racetrack, and somehow penetrate all the way to Higashi's ears, “DO YOU HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER?”

He seems to get the message, settles back in his seat and yells back, “NO!” and promptly drives off.

That tingle of panic hits my whole body at once, engulfing me in a cloud of dumbass. I should have seen this coming. The bumper was already starting to melt months ago, and the hose connecting the turbo to the hot-side intercooler pipe has melted before. Seems it's a little too close to the exhaust manifold. In fact, it was smoking for about five minutes after the last lapping session. That should have been a hint.

With a hole in that hose, all the boost blows out. The MAF just sees all the air going into the turbo, though, and doesn’t know most of it’s leaking out the hole. Thinking it’s getting huge air, the ECU delivers huge fuel. Apparently, this time, that was enough fuel to send a five-foot cone of flame out the exhaust.

Below 1200 rpm the amount of air entering the airflow meter and the amount actually getting to the engine are close enough that it will run, so I limp along at this agonizing pace, wondering when the flames are going to spread enough to make a Hollywood fireball out of my pride and joy. Finally, after an agonizing journey, we reach a corner worker’s station and Dave Joliff, my hapless passenger, sprints over to grab an extinguisher.

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