It’s been ages since I wrote a proper blog post, so here’s a few words regarding my recent developments on the X8. I believe when I left off last, the Cressida was sitting on S13 lower control arms and knuckles, KYB struts for an S13 in front and an MA70 in the rear, and Tein S-Techs for an S14 all the way around. Since then, I’ve made a few changes. Warning: copious use of instagram within this post.
After several months of being immobile, the Cressida has finally resumed it’s role as my daily driver. First and foremost, I would like to thank the companies that made this possible for all of their help along the way. Era-1, Battle Version, and Fortune Auto were invaluable resources to me throughout my project. The three of these companies provide a level of customer service and support that is hard to come by in our field anymore, and of course the products they sell are not only well-engineered, but also built to a standard of excellence that you can rely upon the strength and durability of any of their offerings on the street and in motorsport alike.
My previous suspension setup was compromised when the left-hand steering knuckle snapped at the steering arm. Instead of simply replacing the knuckle, I elected to upgrade the entire suspension, making improvements based on knowledge gleaned from my previous effort.
At the core of these improvements lies a pair of Era1′s cast steel drop knuckles. Being of one-piece cast construction they cannot fail in the same manner that my previous set did, and the casting process insures that each set shares the same geometry that has been proven on, among others, Walker Wilkerson’s Formula D car. The ‘drop’ aspect of the knuckles is that the pickup point for the lower control arm has been moved down 1.8”, providing geometry correction which is essential on a car that has been lowered as far as mine. Of course, Era1′s knuckles have been designed to be used on an S14, which necessitates several changes when moving up from S13 gear.
The ’14 knuckle utilizes a stronger 32mm shank, up from the 30mm diameter shank used on the ’13, so the wheel bearings must be changed accordingly. A junkyard-spec conversion utilizing J30 hubs with homemade spacers underneath to correct for a difference in offset is possible, and chinese hubs are available on ebay, but I opted for genuine Nissan hubs. As before, the wheel bearings have been replaced with ARP hardware designed for a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, to remain consistent with Toyota’s M12x1.5 thread pitch.
The M12 bolts that hold the strut to the knuckle had been upgraded to M14 for the S14 (makes that change easy to remember, right?), so while it’s certianly possible to use sleeves to take up the difference in diameter or drill out the holes on the struts, I decided that it would be an appropriate time to upgrade to coilovers from Fortune Auto. Of course, ordering coils for such a car is no easy task, but the skilled staff at Fortune are able to build coilovers to nearly any spec that you come up with, so in under a month I had a set of Fortune 450′s (similar to BC type-BR coils, but made to Fortune’s standards) which had been revalved in-house in Virginia with one-off ultra-digressive valves, modified from those used in their 510 line for use in my shocks, to work in perfect harmony with up-rated 12 kg/mm front and 10 kg/mm rear springs.
Instead of the weld-on tubes for normal Cressida suspension, Fortune supplied me with front lower brackets for an S14, and they gladly shortened the rear shocks by 40mm to help me achieve my desired ride height without needing to sag spring or pull collars. Cressida owners will be happy to know that shortly after my set was produced, Fortune decided to ditch the ill-conceived 450 / Comfort line of coilovers, and began developing a JZX81 / MX83 application for their famous 500 series coils.
Finally, the ’13 and ’14 do not share the same taper angle for the balljoint shank, so you must swap balljoints when changing knuckles. Instead of simply replacing the balljoints in the S13 front lower control arms with energy suspension polyurethane bushings that were currently on the car, I went to the local junkyard and grabbed a pair of J30 lower control arms, which are identical to those of a ’14. The X8 chassis appears to have less room in the wheel wells than a 240sx, and with steering modifcations it’s common for the angle to be limited by the tire fouling against the chassis in the rear of the well at lock, so I planned on pulling the control arms forward with shorter tension rods.
The Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings I had installed in the ’13 arms on the car would have bound badly once I pulled the control arms forward, so I cut the control arm off before the bushing, and had chassis tube ends welded on so that I could use a heim joint for the inner pivot instead of a bushing. I sourced Summit Racing heims, Seals-It dust shields, and FK racing chassis tube ends from Summit, and McGill Motorsports of the UK was able to ship me a set of 5/8” to M14 high-misalignment spacers quickly at a surprisingly decent cost. In addition to the tube ends being welded in, I had them box the lower section of the control arm.
Moving on to the rear of the car, I dropped the stock open differential, and brought it to a local shop along with a MA70 Supra clutch-type LSD. Two days later, I had a heavily shimmed clutch diff in a MX83 housing, ready to bolt up into my Cressida. A stud-conversion for the rear cover from Xcessive Manufacturing made reinstallation a breeze, and their urethane bushings are sure to hold it firmly in place.
The rubber in the stock suspension arms had deteriorated over the years, and everything was seized in place, making adjustment impossible. Not to worry, Battle Version sorted me out with one of their first full sets of arms for the MX83 chassis. Quick adjustment, light weight, and a name present on the rear window of many top-level drift cars made choosing Battle Version a no-brainer, and they worked quickly with me to resolve some issues I had with their traction arms (the design had yet to be finalized when I ordered mine, so my Cressida was their ginuea pig).
Unfortunatley, installing those arms took longer than expected due to the poor conditon of my car. If your car is anywhere as old and rusty as mine, expect to spend plenty of time under the car with a pneumatic cutoff wheel, air chisel, and in the worst cases, an oxy-acetelyne cutting torch. Count on replacing the cam bolts which adjust camber and caster as well. I found out the hard way, if you go into this job unpreparred, you could be stuck without a car for longer than you’d expect.
Once the car was put together with it’s new suspension, it became clear that I’d have to make some more modifications to get it out of the driveway. Most obviously, the 1.8” of drop at the knuckle and the short front struts intended for use with weld-on-tubes instead of an S14 bottom bracket gave me an extremely low ride height.
Hammering inside the wheel well was needed, and the wire harnesses on both sides of the car had to be re-routed clear of the tire. For good measure, the fender tubs forward of the strut tower were cut out, and the surrounding metal beat out of the way. Downsizing the tires from 205/50R17 to 215/40 freed up crucial bump travel, but put the oil pan precariously close to the pavement.
Furthermore, because of a geometry change on the new lower control arms, the stock tension rods were now far too long, pushing the wheels back in the well. Xcessive Manufacturing, once again, came to the rescue with a sturdy yet affordable skidplate, and adjustable tension rods of a simple design which were easily cut shorter and re-welded. The longer lower control arms also required longer inner tie rods, so my first-gen Subaru Legacy inners made way for AE92 Corolla parts.
And there we were. One day, I went to the parts store, picked up some tie rods, threw them on the car in about a half hour, and everything was finished. Relatively unceremoniously, I was able to pull the Cressida out of the driveway and take it to work after countless weeks of hitching rides with my little brother. All the suspension bits work flawlessly, and the ride quality of the Fortune coilovers is surprisingly good considering the car rides with the skidplate and frame rails just a few fingers off the pavement, and as far as I can tell the valving was developed with little more than educated guesswork on Fortune’s part. Of course, there were a few kinks here and there… I had to find a way to keep the fusebox dry inside of the fender to drive the car in the rain, and my Oni-Kyan combined with horribly wrong front toe settings caused my already marginal front tires to give up the ghost about two weeks after I resumed driving the car.
After resolving that with a new pair of tires and a driveway alignment using paper, sharpie, a bubble level, and a measuring tape, the car drives nicely. Now, I’ve left town and am on vacation in Cape Town, South Africa, but when I return I’m sure I’ll find more work to do to the Cressida. I’m told that this year we will have local drift events into October, so despite not being able to make the event on September 3, the morning after my 21st birthday, I should be able to get the car sorted out in time to make the last event of the season. The biggest obstacle that stands in my way is the partly-functional A340E automatic transmission currently shifting my X8, which I must replace with a reinforced R154 5-speed before the car is worthy of sliding. Stay tuned for updates.