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Written by Colin Brassington (aka Brash)   
Monday, 20 July 2015 17:18

It was a tough 7 weeks, but I got there. And while the fight with the insurance company is still not finalised, it was finalised enough to start looking for cars again. And instantly came up with the age-old question of exactly what I was looking for.

GranTurismo-Prelude-Replay

And as much as I hated driving the Prelude again, it has served it’s purpose as reliable transport. The first weekend I drove it again was just like the old days when I first bought it. A flood of happy memories came back, of good times, great people and all the places that Maggie and I had been together. Although this is part of the issue, as this particular car is practically the only link I have to my old married life. In early 2013, that whole chapter of my life closed; I even moved across the country to ensure it was so. But then I needed a car, and the Prelude was there.

After driving the car for a few weeks, all those happy feels had gone. Replaced with the anger and disdain that I held for the car when it failed so unspectacularly that warm January night in 2013. Because for years I had been wondering how I could talk the wife into letting me offload the car. Because as nice a car as it was, it was far from what I wanted. Driving that car had gone from something that I enjoyed to something I hated. Even today, despite its somewhat lively chassis and attractive 2 door body, this car represents everything I hate about many modern cars, such as the Camry. Because as good as it is in many respects, there are just as many WTF moments, and just as many things that have been done inexplicably poorly, even for the time.

I mean, yes it was a sporty, entry-level luxury car, but the actual luxury cars of the world were already moving on from the 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual. Then there’s the fact that in 1997 when the Prelude was released a VT Commodore Executive had a digital trip computer, adjustable lumbar support on the driver’s seat, an early version of the ‘see me home headlights’ and a remote boot release; all of this on a car worth $29,760 plus on road costs. As opposed to the Prelude VTiR, that when optioned with the leather interior was a $55,000 car that didn’t have these basic features. And sure it’s easy to dismiss these as small things – and they are – but my point remains that when compared with a normal family sedan of not much more than half it’s value it doesn’t stack up. Though having said that, it also needs to be said that in pretty much every case somebody looking at a Commodore wouldn’t have looked at a Prelude. Though on the flip side, I’m not sure what else somebody who was looking at a Prelude would have looked at.

So we find ourselves at a cross road. I am done with the Prelude in every sense other than it being basic transport, and I don’t really want to look at an S14 again because I won’t find one as good as the one I had. Especially since the insurance company quite comprehensively screwed me on the deal, which taught me a valuable lesson about being underinsured. Maybe I’ll tell that story at a later date.

Now the first thing to think of when you’re looking for a car is how much you want to spend. This in itself was a big issue because I want to buy a house toward the end of this year. The insurance payout would not leave me with enough money to directly replace the dearly departed Betty Boost, but would taking out a small car loan to upgrade to something in the next price bracket effect my chances of a home loan in the next 6 months? Well, on the advice of a friend who works in banking, yes it would. So that scrapped that idea. Dad had tried to talk me into taking out a larger loan and buying the Toyota 86 that I covet, but the banker’s advice put the kybosh on that too.

So with only the menial payout as a budget (plus what I was able to get parting out the wreck) I started looking. Driving enjoyment is still paramount, as is a clutch shifted manual gearbox. I prefer something lighter over something heavy, and track days matter more than leather trim. Space for golf clubs is still important, even though I don’t remember when I last played.

I straight away went to my old list, searching Mazda RX-7s, and almost instantly deciding that there wasn’t anything worth spending money on at this price point. While I dismissed a number of front wheel drive hot hatches a number of mates would randomly post used car ads on my facebook wall, or tag me in other ads. I was tagged in everything from FD3S RX-7s that were way out of my price range, to S14 200SXs that had been run into the ground by a succession of rough young blokes like me. Integra Type Rs, Subaru WRXs, they were all there.

Then one day I spotted a S13 Silvia. It was cheap, so my enterprising mind started to think about buying a cheaper car and dealing with the problems. And this first S13 I went to look at sure had some. From some minor rust issues, to the lack of working heater and air conditioner. All things that I could fix easily, but things I needed to fix nonetheless. But I looked at a number of these basket case type cars.

In fact, I looked at more cars than I ever have before. When I bought my Corolla in December 2002, it was pretty much the first car we looked at. The Honda was also the first car that we actually went and saw, after spending nearly 3 months on various car sales websites and looking in the Trading Post (who remembers that?!). Even the S14, I visited 3 cars before settling on the white one. But while I probably looked at more ads than ever before, I also inspected more cars than before too. All up I looked at 7 cars in person before deciding on the one I brought home.

RPS13-180SX
Here sits Mako, roughly 20 hours after purchase. Yes, that is a racetrack. Yes, car does mad skids :-)

And what a car though.

The Speaker of The House and I welcome to the garage, a 1995 Nissan 180SX. Just like the former Silvia, it is equipped with an SR20DET and 5-speed gearbox, and has some minor mods performed. Though this one has some level of craziness with the bodykit, and is exceptionally low for no real reason. (Other than it looks awesome)

It’s funny how the world works. When I was just discovering Japanese sports cars as a young teenager, Gran Turismo was really as far as any of us knew. I mean, I had vague memories of a Nissan GT-R at Bathurst, but other than that, it was Gran Turismo or magazines; Hot 4s, High Performance Imports, Fast 4s & Rotaries. That was it really. And the whole “import” scene was still in it’s infancy in Australia, so 14 year olds like myself often didn’t even read about high end stuff like the GT-Rs or Supras.

But while playing the first Gran Turismo, my cars of choice rarely changed. The car I used for any of the races that required an ultra fast car was the R33 Nissan GT-R. As a fan of the R32 that conquered the Mountain and the Australian Touring Car Championship twice each, the R33 was the logical choice given that it was the newer Godzilla. Any race that required a front wheel drive car I would use a Honda Prelude Type S. After I won all the FWD specific races, the price car was a Mugen Type S, in red, which replaced the random one I started with. And any race that called for a rear wheel drive car, my choice was pretty much always a 180SX. Sometimes a SilEighty when that came about later in the game, but the 180SX was a constant. These choices were carried with me throughout GT2 and 3, though thanks to a mechanic at the workshop I did my year 10 work experience in, the AE86 Toyota Sprinter had been added to the list of staples.

GranTurismo-Nissan-180sx-type-x-96

5 years ago, if you told me that I would be working where I am currently working, and driving a 180SX after recently having my S14 written off, I probably would have laughed at you for about a half hour. Maybe it shows that my childhood ambitions weren’t so far off afterall.

 

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