Midnight Run

Posted: August 28, 2012 in 300ZX Build, Documentary
Tags: , , , , ,

Ztuner Engine Build and Jsworks Documentary Shoot

It’s nearly midnight on Saturday as Harry and I work to get the newly assembled VG30DETT loaded up and into my rental trailer – battling exhaustion and swarms of Florida mosquitoes… It’s been two straight days/nights of filming & engine building. Tomorrow I set off for the final 1200 miles (of my 2400 mile journey) back home.

Harry’s been a real trooper. I don’t think he quite knew what he was in for when I asked to film all of this for the documentary. Constantly stopping to recompose a shot, move lights, or just answer one of my many interview questions; took what was normally a few hour assembly job, and turned it into a two-day affair. The long hours and lack of sleep have made us both a bit loopy, but it’ll all be worth it in the end.

U Haul Trailer Tires Dry Rotted Requiring a Change in Georgia

The trip began with two days of driving – interrupted only by a motel for the night, and an unplanned pit stop in Georgia the following day… waiting for U-Haul to change the tires they let me leave PA with.

About 900 miles into the trip, I glanced at the trailer tires while stopped in a rest area – only to realize they were completely dry rotted and literally starting to split at the seams. It never even dawned on me to check their condition till now. I just assumed U-Haul had. There’s that old adage – when you assume, you make an ASS (out of) U (and) ME again. It’s a miracle I didn’t suffer a blow out.

Thankfully Morgan’s Mobile Tire of Georgia had me back on the road in no time. The tire tech (my apologies for forgetting his name) was a real nice guy who had owned a few drag cars in his day (most notably an old Chevy Monza with a V8 stuffed in). We chatted about cars while he de-beaded and swapped tires on location. Pretty cool to watch!

The tech from Morgan's Mobile Tire in Georgia de-beads a tire on location.

Who needs a fancy tire machine?!? Old school tools and a little muscle had the old tires off and changed in no time.

Honda CIVIC with trailer in tow.

Back on the road with several hours to go, I had plenty of time to reflect on how truly awful my gas mileage had been thus far. Normally, the Civic gets about 38 mpg. Pulling the trailer had reduced that to about 20, that’s right… 20 mpg.

I had done a similar trip years ago with a Mazda 6 (V6), and saw only a modest drop of about 25% in mpg. But the Civic’s little 4-banger just couldn’t muster enough muscle to pull the trailer comfortably. Add to this the trailer’s height/shape, coupled with the Civic’s low roofline, and I effectively created a giant air brake continually working to slow the car from behind. Even on downhill stretches, I had to keep my foot in the gas to stop the car from losing speed. Yikes!

Jay and Harry unload the old dissasembled VG30DETT.

The next morning I linked up with Harry and Sean (our Florida director of photography for the day) over at the Ztuner shop. After a quick equipment check and setup – we got right down to business unloading the old VG30DETT.


The old motor sits idle as its replacement comes together.

Harry torquing the final connecting rod in place. A staged process is required (and critical) for torquing these bolts.

Giving Harry a hand as he set's the timing belt in place on the VG30.

Here I am giving Harry a hand (ba-dum ching!), helping to install the timing belt. I remarked – “between us we make a pair of hands, Harry.” To which he quipped, “don’t you find it nice a box of work gloves last twice as long?”

New VG30DETT built by Ztuner.

Two days later, I had an engine to haul home! At the risk of boring the non-car people who read this to tears, I’ve decided to split this post in two – saving the full engine specs for a detailed tech post some time next week.

I’m still waiting on a few parts we were unable to source at the time of assembly. Once they’re in my hands (err, I mean hand), and I have a chance to finish up the motor, a detailed tech post will follow. There are a lot of little details that go into a VG build (both to correct known OEM issues and to enhance/improve performance). Harry’s knowledge & attention to detail is top notch, and I hope to capture that in the next post.

Harry AKA Ztuner sits down for a light test in preperation for his interview.

A quick note on the docu side of things – in preparation for this shoot, I went out and made some large equipment purchases for the film (on the good ol’ credit card). Namely a wireless mic system & LED light kit.

We’d been barely surviving without them up to this point (due in large part to the generosity of friends), but knew they’d be critical on the road and not easily borrowed. Trying to get the best bang for my buck, I researched for weeks on end before finally settling on a Sennheiser wireless receiver kit (with a Tram TR50 mic) and Ikan 3 light LED kit.

Needless to say, I was incredibly nervous using said equipment for the first time (especially on a critical road shoot such as this). A huge weight was lifted when our DP Sean pulled the very same wireless mic setup from his backpack. Phew! Sean was equally happy with my choice in lighting gear. I learned a lot from watching him setup and use our new equipment that day. Some Arri lights from Sean’s personal kit helped the background to “pop” a bit. Will definitely look into a small Arri kit to compliment the Ikan LED’s when funds are available.

It was a long 13-hour day of shooting in the Florida heat. Shout out to Sean for all the hard work he put in that Friday. I went behind the lens Saturday and manned the camera for the remainder of the trip.

The drive home was a straight shot that lasted 22 hours. And I was amazed the whole trip went off without a hitch… that is until I accidentally tagged my mirror on a tree (in my driveway no less) while leaving to return the U-Haul. I guess that’s why they say accidents always happen closest to home. Oh well, could have been worse.

For those who may read this and think of planning a similar road trip (to pick up an engine or otherwise), do yourself a favor and have it shipped. When you factor in things like the hitch, trailer rental, gas and hotels – shipping would have cost me about half what the trip did. Honestly, if I hadn’t planned to film with Harry for the doc (requiring me to bring all the film gear, be there, etc.), I would have definitely shipped it.

Ah, who am I kidding, life’s about the journey right? I’d probably do the same all over again.

Stay tuned!


  1. libs012 says:

    Love it! All of it! Still can’t believe only 20mpg though! Sheesh. I know not a lot- but I know that’s no buono! Glad you made it there and back despite the break down-made for a good story though 🙂

  2. Thanks Libby! What’s on the agenda for Never Have I Ever?

  3. libs012 says:

    Skateboarding friday. downhill mountain biking Sunday and maybe a guitar lesson on Monday

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