We Can Rebuild It!


First step was to calculate the parts necessary. I knew that between G-Spec Performance and Kitchener Nissan, who sponsor the car in Ontario Time Attack, that I had virtually all parts covered. I had the engine gasket kit on hand, ordered the timing chain, guides, tensioner, ARP head studs and then ordered some extras that would be useful. An oversized water pump pulley, solid aluminum front mount, ES insert for my tired transmission mount and an oil cooler. Second step was mentally working through the process – I left that up to Dave and he was positive that we had everything we needed, including space, to do the timing chain and head work in my garage.

GTi-R engine
The engine swap by Can-Alignment looks like factory. Why didn't Nissan do this?

With the basics in my hand, the wrenching began. The car was about 2 feet up in the air on gigantic truck stands. I carefully disconnected all of the electrics and noted how they were colour coded so they would be a snap to put back into place. Every bolt or nut that came off was put into zip-lock baggies and marked to ensure they were put back in the proper spot. Like a charm, everything broke free easily and the intake was loose in no time. Except that it would not come out. It was tight against the NX's firewall. So splitting the intake plenum was next on the list and that allowed enough room, albeit still very tight quarters, to get the intake off of the head.

SR20DET downpipe
Aaron Weir, at WeirTech, is an artist with a welder. The downpipe he created is simply beautiful and promises significant performance improvements.

Now to the easy part, removing the head. Lots of room and yet I found it surprising how much effort was required to break the head bolts loose. This is only the second time I have removed a head from the block of a car. (Now you understand why I have prominently mentioned my friend Dave.) You have to realize that I was hoping for a miracle. Part of that had already occurred when the camshafts were untouched. The miracle didn't occur when the cylinder head was pulled. When the timing chain snapped number four cylinder's rocker snapped – we already knew from testing that the valves were bent – but really were praying that the piston was not damaged severely. That was not the case – it looked like four fingernails had gouged into the top of the piston. Even worse, there were light marks on pistons 2 and 3 also. The job had suddenly jumped to the worst case scenario. I did not think that my single car garage could handle the pressure of the rebuild; plus it was getting close to winter and my garage always gets turned over to my wife and her car each winter. Mine in the summer.

SR20DET downpipe
I chose the divorced downpipe because it looks better and, even though the stock turbo is not divorced, I wanted to reduce the turbulence.

Thus it was time to move the car out of the garage. The easiest decision was to send the car, with the head back in place, to WeirTech where I'd arranged to have a custom downpipe built. Aaron did not have time to make a full exhaust so I was able to pick up a VRS exhaust through a group buy on the SR20 forum. The downpipe and the exhaust were both stainless and provided a 3”  thoroughfare which should free up some ponies. Aaron has made a number of unique custom exhausts so when he provided me with some details, pricing options, and indicated that the timing was good for him I hauled the car to his shop – about an hour and a quarter drive from my home.

SR20DET downpipe
Aaron checking the fitment as he does the final touches. The four point bar that you see was made by Can-Alignment to clear the OEM exhaust. With the new downpipe I've been able to reinstall my Whiteline four point brace.


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