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maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/20/18 1:34 p.m.

This will be a short-lived build thread. More of an ownership log. I recently bought this 2003 Infiniti G35 sedan on craigslist for the sole purpose of donating its useful organs to the cause of GRM $2018 Challenge glory. Engine, trans, suspension, rear end, wiring, all will be scavenged and stuffed into a tiny 80's Datsun. More on that another day. 

I am not yet ready to dive into a $2018 build, so for now I am nursing the donor car back to health, checking its vitals after 151,000 luxurious miles, and putting it through a full physical once autocross season begins. The story starts on craigslist. The previous owner rear-ended someone and decided to buy back from insurance. The damage from the hit included:

  • Smashed grill and headlight
  • Core support split and bent
  • Radiator cracked, spewing coolant everywhere
  • Fan shroud shattered into pieces
  • Airbox is missing a chunk
  • 1 fan blade MIA

I met the guy and drove it around the parking lot, filling it with coolant and watching the temp needle climb and seem to stabilize. Though advertised as a clean title, the insurance company had already marked the windshield with a giant circled "T". Though the title was clean, we did know what the BMV would do with it. So we settled on $1,100, signed the paperwork, and I called AAA to tow it home, which is another story. I followed the tow truck home, went to sleep, and woke up the next day to this thing in my driveway, and the all-too-familiar look on my wife's face.

Yeah, it was a bad hit, but the rest of the car is in great shape. Everything in the interior works, stereo sounds good, windows roll down and up. Somehow the A/C condenser survived unscathed, so even that works too.

On to the damage. Nothing you see here is securely mounted. The grill rattles. The fan scrapes the shroud. Every time you even think about touching the front end, chunks of plastic plummet to the driveway. 

Here's a closer view of the split core support, which is some sort of composite material, meaning I can't just pull the dent out and weld it back up. Also note the low, tight fitment of the stock radiator. This will have to be replaced.

I couldn't find an exact-fit radiator locally, and I don't think this car deserves a new one. But I did find a guy parting out an 06 M35x, which uses the same engine. The filler is on the wrong side, but the hose locations match up. For a mere $30, it's worth a try. Close enough, right?

Wrong. It totally does not fit, even after extracting what was left of the fan shroud. After half an hour of struggling to wedge it in, I decided what the hell. The core is support is toast anyway, so I got the shears out and clipped away some clearance. I was able to re-use the lower mounting grommets, but the uppers mounts were long gone. I snipped a couple lengths of sheetmetal, drilled a few holes, slipped a short piece of coolant hose over each post on the radiator, and sheetmetal screwed the metal straps to the core support. I lengthened the expansion tank hose with a piece of brake line.

Not sure if I should be proud of myself, or ashamed.

Bleeding the system was a whole different story. I couldn't get heat to be hot, or the engine temp to stabilize. This is a notoriously difficult system to bleed, and it's very sensitive to air bubbles. I picked up one of those radiator cap funnels, but not before breaking the bleeder valve plastic connector. Once I replaced that, I got it to bleed, and drove to the gas station for some fresh 93. 

And it behaved! So I changed the oil, got it registered and insured, and started driving it to work. The BMV didn't bat an eye at the title, so I think I might be getting a clean one soon in the mail. I guess the insurance company never got ahold of it, so it never got branded as rebuilt. Not that it matters, it's a parts car...right? Which means I have to part it out...you know, some day. Once I'm done enjoying it...which I very much do. This may be the nicest car I've ever owned.

TL;DR: I have a running, driving, 15 year old luxury car for about $1,200 and I don't know if I want to give it up just yet.

mikedd969 New Reader
2/20/18 2:12 p.m.

Great find!  I've always admired the G35, such a great looking car, basically a more comfortable and luxurious 350Z as far as I can tell, and those engines are awesome. My MIL's Nissan Quest has basically the same engine and that damn thing is quicker than any minivan has a right to be. (Except for the R63 of course....) I've never understood why G35s don't get more love.  They were even available with a manual gearbox!  One of these days I know I'll have to have one, a coupe with the 6-speed stick......  Hmmm......time to go to Craigslist methinks....  wink

cghstang Dork
2/20/18 2:16 p.m.

I saw the CL listing when it was live.  Glad to see it ended up in good hands :)

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/20/18 2:43 p.m.

proud.   definitely proud.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
2/20/18 3:26 p.m.

That's good work. Carry on and do awesome stuff.

maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/20/18 4:21 p.m.

More damage pictures. Yes the hood is shut. Yes, all the way.

This is my life now, the guy at work who drives a wrecked car.

untchabl Reader
2/20/18 7:14 p.m.
maschinenbau said:

This is my life now, the guy at work who drives a wrecked car.

I was that guy for about a year. Except mine was the wife's former DD Mazda Protege, it was hit in the driver rear corner and required a bungee cord to hold the trunk lid down. I liked the car so much that I bought a clean shell and swapped the drivetrain. Just finished it up last weekend actually. Cheap beaters are the best cars to drive.

Bill Mesker
Bill Mesker Reader
2/20/18 8:12 p.m.

I'm surprised that the air bags didn't pop. Must've not been that hard of a hit. But with the damage I'm actually really surprised they didn't pop.

Billy_Bottle_Caps Dork
2/20/18 8:29 p.m.
AngryCorvair said:

proud.   definitely proud.

Agree proud....

Vigo UltimaDork
2/21/18 12:07 a.m.

I've done that purge thing on those (and the radiator). Very aggravating the first time. From what i remember, purging it while cold and at an elevated rpm (~1500+ to stimulate enough flow through those heater pipes) was the trick. 

I recently went through a phase of looking at how hard it would be to put a vk56 into one of those.  I like the basic car quite a bit. 

sethmeister4 SuperDork
2/21/18 6:23 a.m.

Great find!  I'd love to find a rough 6spd sedan to take to the challenge someday.  I'm also VERY interested in seeing how your swapped Datsun challenge car turns out!  Following along!

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand Reader
2/21/18 6:31 a.m.

Good find, and I agree with your approach. I watch the listings for these on CL, too.

Gunchsta Reader
2/21/18 7:33 a.m.

If it were me I would fall madly in love with it, spend a bunch of money getting the cosmetics sorted, and not be able to part it out.

Then I wouldn't want to drive it in the winter (here in Minnesota we have to hide our nice things for half of the year) to keep the salt off of it. So I would need to find a new beater. Ad infinitum. 


This is one of my favorite styles of thread on here, I love seeing discarded cars being brought back to life. Keep up the good work! 

maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/21/18 8:30 a.m.

I think the trans fluid might be low and/or old, because the shifts seem a little slow and soft. But I have no way to check it, because the very early models didn't come with a dipstick, just a silly plug on top of the dipstick tube. Another $20 gets me a brand new OEM dipstick that fits the tube, shipped to my door. Parts are pretty cheap for this car!

It could probably use a drain and fill anyway. Some claim you must use OEM Nissan Matic-S (replacing Matic-J) which is apparently distilled from a byproduct of unobtainium mining, or else your trans will explode, the car will catch fire, a hex will curse your family for generations, etc etc. Others say any fully synthetic ATF that meets the JASO 1A spec will do just fine, like Mobil or Castrol or whatever. 

java230 SuperDork
2/21/18 2:27 p.m.

In reply to maschinenbau :

IMO if it meets the spec required its just fine, as far as the ATF goes.

Indy-Barely Functional-Guy
Indy-Barely Functional-Guy SuperDork
2/21/18 8:04 p.m.

Two things:

1) Awesome donor for the wagon parking lot build.

2) I can see why you're torn about busting this one up.  It's still plenty nice.  Not sure I could sacrifice it if it were mine.....

Carry on

dannyzabolotny Reader
2/21/18 11:13 p.m.

Reminds me of the $1500 BMW 540i/6 that I scored recently, clean title and 142k miles, just needed a cooling system. Cheap luxury cars are the best!

maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/22/18 8:14 a.m.

It's been raining a lot, and I'm nervous about driving it in the rain for a few reasons.

  • Needs new tires like 8 years ago.
  • The wipers suck. Probably never fix that since I'll only drive it a month.
  • The intake side of the airbox was crushed during the wreck, so there is no "snorkel" to protect to the filter element. Pics above show it. Not sure if it matters that the K&N filter gets wet?

So the real question is what to do about wheels and tires. The stockers are 17x7 +45mm offset with 5x114.3 lug pattern and 215/55r17 tires. I want new tires due to self-preservation, but maybe I also want different wheels that look better for the wagon? Or do I put new street tires on these wheels, and buy a wider, racier set for autocross season/Challenge to put stickies on, that might also make the wagon look cooler? Remember, the G35 running gear will be under the wagon, so any new wheels must clear G35 brakes,. Not worried about body fitment in the wagon because I have an angle grinder and BFH.

Or maybe I'm getting too far ahead of myself.

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
2/22/18 9:03 a.m.

i know tire selection for 16" rims eats almost as much dick as Hennessy Honda of Woodstock GA, but the early S197 V6 cars had a sweet vintage-looking wheel that you can probably score relatively cheaply and IMO would look great on the wagon.

edizzle89 Dork
2/22/18 9:29 a.m.

I picked up a set of 4 18x8 factory 350z wheels with good tires on them for $260. there are a couple different sizes that the 350z's came with depending on trim but i think you can find them up to a 10.5" width. might be a cheap option to look into

jstein77 UltraDork
2/22/18 2:39 p.m.

Just sayin'

Front end perfectly intact.


Mad_Ratel Dork
2/22/18 3:46 p.m.

mustang wheels and 350z wheels will fit.

craiglist should net you some 18x8's or so with decent rubber in the $500 range...

maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand Dork
2/23/18 1:52 p.m.

If I keep the stock 17x7's, can anyone recommend a good mostly-summer tire? Stock size is 215/55r17 but open to whatever will fit and is priced right.

Casual Six
Casual Six UltraDork
2/23/18 7:53 p.m.

IIRC the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 is available in 215/55r17. Great tire for the money. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I'm planning on picking up a set of summer wheels for my G35 that costs more than your G35 did surprise. I guess that's the price to pay for forged wheels, though.

Casual Six
Casual Six UltraDork
2/23/18 8:03 p.m.

Oh, another cheap source of 18x8" wheels that look great and fit is the 2004-2008 Maxima SE.

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