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


The intercooler hose, it turns out, didn’t melt, it simply blew off. In my laziness, I had only bead rolled one end of the intercooler pipe. Reassembling the pipe, I tighten the clamp extra hard, and drive directly to WalMart for a fire extinguisher.

Most people would stay off the track for a few minutes after a fire, but flush with the confidence you only get from a brand-new fire extinguisher, I head straight back out. The freshly cleaned, uber-clamped hose was unlikely to blow again, and the bumper was burned back well clear of the exhaust now.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when the other side of the same pipe, the side that was bead rolled, blew off just four laps later. The hose blew at the end of the front straight at perhaps 120 mph (the speedo has never actually worked), leaving me enough momentum to roll to the exit of turn 2, right where the functional cars are powering out of the corner at 90 mph.

Bad place to stop, but the only alternative is to park my hot car on the dry grass outside the track. A look out the window reveals a very functional Datsun Roadster roaring toward me slightly ass-out.

I’ll take the grass.

After causing my second red-flag of the day, I limp back off the grass and glance in the mirror, only to see the familiar black smoke. The adrenaline kicks in again, Michael Spreadbury, my new daring passenger, tosses me the extinguisher, and I burst from the car. My new pride and joy is a cheap, $10 extinguisher with some goofy pushbutton trigger. I pull the plastic pin, push the button and extinguish the bumper for the second time in an hour.

I’m preoccupied with the extinguisher when the fire truck drives by. I’ve only used a fraction of the magic fire powder, but the trigger button hasn’t come back up enough to put the safety pin back in. Like any other chimpanzee, I pull on the button, which promptly pops off.?
Wait, why did the truck drive by? I’m the one on fire…

Turning around, I see two black patches in the dry grass. Thunderhill in the summer is a tinderbox–rolling brown hills of kindling waiting for an errant cigarette, lightning strike, or flaming blob of bumper snot to flash burn the entire state of California. Not content to stand around with a fire extinguisher in my hand while the some guys with a firetruck save the day, I jam the button back in and run toward the closest patch of smoldering weeds. The button is strangely resistant after having been monkeyed off the extinguisher a few seconds earlier. I push harder and… sproing! The button tiddlywinks across the field and lands in the fire.


The grass was cut short, so the fire’s not that intense. Just as I’m reaching down to bat the belligerent little yellow piece of plastic from the flames it leaps out of the way on a jet of lukewarm water. Oh. The pros are here.

Meekly, I pick up the button, pop it back into the extinguisher, and return to my car.

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