Whitebird - the no-nonsense version

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Whitebird - the no-nonsense version

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 14:35

A certain Wolfman asked me to start a thread about my project car. I hadn't really thought about it previously, though I've read and paged through countless other project threads. I was going to save the roll out of this thread for the publication of DQ 9.3 (wherein my project is detailed), however it isn't that grand and certainly won't spoil many people's appetites if I lay it out here as it will be IMAX-expanded. So, here goes.

I sold my previous 510 (http://www.jetlink.net/~okayfine/JCdatsun.html) in May of 2007. I have come to discover that I like to build and tweek at least as much as I like to drive a 510, so once my blue KA510 got to a certain point, I felt like it was a good time to get what money out of it I could. The urge to sell was also fanned by BB list admin Derek selling his Coupe on eBay. After orchestrating the all-Coupe DQ issue 8.1, I really, really wanted to get in on the JDM action. In the end, the budget I'd set didn't allow me the ability to buy either of the two desireable Coupes that were available at the time. I stuffed my money in the bank and waited.

Up popped a white, stock 4-door Bluebird on eBay. I'd seen the car when it originally went up for auction on Yahoo.jp and sold then for ~$6000USD. Freshly imported, the sellers started out asking a significant premium for a stock car, be it a Bluebird or no. As we all know, there's only a very small market for bone-stockers, and what market there is doesn't command the prices a well-modified car will. The other part of the market for bone-stockers is made up of people like me who want a blank canvas and don't want to deal with OP hacks and dodgey mods. To make a long story slightly less long, after a couple failed eBay attempts at selling, the importers and I worked out a deal.

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Whitebird started out as a 1969 Bluebird 1300 Deluxe. Bluebird denotes it was a JDM car, right-hand-drive. 1300 gives away the engine size, a nice, robust L13. Deluxe means a few different things, most notably the style of fender mirror (flat panel versus SSS bullet), the differential ratio (4.375). One or the other also dictated the transmission type (three-speed manual with three-on-the-tree shifting), and braking arangement (four-wheel drums). Other rare features of this car include the taillight garnish panel.

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The car itself presented very well. The body was straight and it had been repainted before it left Japan. That's not to say the body was rust free, despite the sellers saying exactly that. Bottom line - the car lived in Japan most of its life, it has rust. Still, no cancer, and no rust-through concerns. The drivetrain and suspension were original and many components were from the Nissan factory. Lots of deteriorated rubber in the suspension, but it drove perfectly well on the way home and the few months that I drove it before beginning the tear down. The interior was immaculate, with everything stock and free of rips or other damage. The carpet had some odd fading, but a little clothing dye took care of that.

So, at this point I'd fulfilled my desire for something JDM, something RHD. No, it wasn't a Coupe, but maybe next time. I still had the beginnings of something cool and rare, but where to take it? Having driven it around town for a few months, it definitely needed something more. Stock was boring to drive, no fun at all (and this wasn't helped by the lo-po L13 nor the three-second-shifts steering-column mounted shifter. I needed a plan.

Thankfully I'd developed a plan even before I actually traded cash for the car. The car was too stock to modify greatly (ala my blue KA510) but a well-chosen set of modifications seemed like it would suit it perfectly. The basic theme was "period JDM" - things that (for the most part) could have been done to it back in the day.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Wheels

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 14:43

The first thing I did was change out the wheels. The tires were OLD and cracked. As I had moderate performance plans for the car, I needed something more than a 145/80/13. The 195/60/14s had served me well on my blue KA510, better visuals, still decent choice of tires, not too much weight, cheap, and most importantly it still allowed the car to handle without surrendering to out-right grip. Call it the "Dance Of The Dime" if you want, but IMO large, wide, high-grip rubber takes some of the fun out of the car.

JDM Formula One rims were bolted in place. They seem like Panasport copies, and though I'm more of a fan of Watanabes, the price was right. 14x6, Yokohama EVS100s. Rollin'.

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Browsing eBay, I found a listing for a single center cap for a '79 200SX. An email to BB list Chad, the Nissan parts guy got me four of these to keep the overall theme of originality:

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Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Exterior

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:02

Continuing on the exterior theme, mirrors were the next thing to be changed out. The Deluxe panel mirrors are fine, and I probably would have kept them (and avoided the expense of the NOS SSS pieces I ended up buying), but I could not adjust them enough to make them useful. Their limit of adjustment seems to have been made with '60s Japanese males in mind. In any case, the purchase of NOS SSS mirrors made that irrelevant, and themselves dictated a certain change in direction of the project.

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I started to think about converting the car to SSS badging. But I didn't want to just slap on some SSS badges and call it good, there's no difference between that and some 318Ci joker adding an ///M to his trunk lid. No, if I was going the SSS route, I was going whole-hog.

So I imported this grill:

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The rare 1969 SSS Coupe cast grill. The headlight surrounds are made from cast pot metal and each piece weighs about as much as an entire PL510 grill. The center grill is also different from any other year. All together it is one of the pieces that really make the car. But, one of the surrounds was busted! Well, a little add-on metal work brought the damage to 5-foot status, which is fine for me.

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Qwik510 provided one of my other favorite pieces for the car, the "Do It In A Datsun" license plate frame.

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I also added the 1600SSS badge to the beaver panel. The underlined Bluebird badge on the trunk lid was another addition, but it didn't last long. It's slightly wrong for the car in that the underlined badge is a '71+ thing, but that's not why I put the kaibosh on it.

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I ended up removing the Bluebird trunk and fender badges in order to replace them with the proper pieces. I'd come to call the car "Whitebird" due to it being a Bluebird with white paint, however I had the means to get something truely unique made for this car. Something keeping with the originality theme but at the same time really making the car stand out. My third (of four) most favorite things for this car, the Whitebird badges:

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I had drawn up the Bluebird script in my illustration program and early on had played with the shapes to create the missing letters of the Bluebird "font." The "W" was the hardest to create.
Last edited by okayfine on 17 Mar 2009 13:52, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Interior

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:21

As mentioned, the interior was in unbelievably good condition.

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Rear-seat ashtray placement is unique:

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However, as with most aspects of the car, the incredible originality wasn't always pulse-quickening. I settled on about four choice modifications for the interior of the car, starting with the most important thing - the seats.

I'm a self-described seat snob. I love good seats and can barely stand bad seats (2000 Toyota Tacoma bench seat, I'm staring in your specific direction). All my cars have had seats other than stock. I tend to favor the high-backed, winged seats ala Recaro Sport, but that certainly wouldn't fit the theme of this car. Given the originality (there's that word again), I needed something that looked good, felt good, but that would fit in with the interior of the car. Recovering a choosen seat was an option, but every car project has a budget and this one is no different.

$400 later, I picked up this mint pair of E30 BMW 325is seats. The leather (I guess it's leather, but not as we know it in today's interiors) graining and pattern match the rest of the interior so well, I won't be recovering them. Most people wouldn't know they weren't the stock seats, and this suits me just fine.

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The stock steering wheel was also pulled. Having looked at umpteen Yahoo.jp auctions for Coupes and just general Bluebird drooling, the Nardi steering wheel seemed like defacto factory equipment. So, I got this piece off eBay from Japan, a 14" black/black Nardi wheel:

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With the drivetrain details to be detailed below, one of the things I had to make room for (literally, no tranny tunnel hole) was the shifter for the 5-speed transmission. Again, the theme dictated the appearance of the shifter lever and boot. I topped the shift lever with a Hurst cue ball shifter with three-speed engraved pattern to pay tribute to the original three-on-the-tree transmission.

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Lastly (as I don't consider the addition of seat belts a modification, though the car came with none), I added the statement piece for the interior. The last of my most favorite bits, I replaced the cherry '69 instrument cluster (that I never liked and even replaced with individual gauges in my blue KA510 which was also a '69) with an imported, disasssembled, detailed, reasssembled 1969 SSS instrument clussster.

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This helps make the case for the SSS rebadging as well as gives me some more useful gauges versus idiot lights. It also adds the very useful tachometer. And most importantly (say it with me), it keeps the originality of the car intact. I could have made another gauge cluster with Autometer stuff, or I could have slapped on a tach to the steering column. But, c'mon, would you?
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Suspension and Brakes

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:32

I built my KA510 as a typical 510 go-cart. Low and stiff, it worked well for that, but I've changed my driving habits since then and I didn't see doing the same thing for Whitebird. Rear suspension got a slotted rear crossmember, Savage washers, Tokico blue shocks, and cut D50 springs to give me ~150in/lb wheel rate. No pictures of this because it's pretty old-hat.

Front suspenion was much the same - GC coilovers with 150in/lb springs on stock struts with Tokico blue inserts. I acquired a pair of progressive-rate springs that I will be playing with once the car is up and running and I have a baseline as to the suitabiility of the 150in/lb straight rate springs. The progressives are spec'ed for a VW AII GTI, but the rates obtained from Koni put it in the usable spectrum for my car. We shall see. It's a 12" long spring, hence the 12" straight rate spring below.

Brakes were another matter. Given how I figured I would drive this car once I finished it, I knew I didn't need four-wheel discs. I also didn't need huge front brakes (ala 11 inch Z31 rotors and Wilwood calipers of the blue car). As mentioned, the Whitebird came with four-wheel drums:

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And, after successfully sourcing four new aluminum drums, I decided to keep the four-drum setup. I wasn't going to take the car on the track and my canyon driving is milder than it used to be. I expect to stop, but not out-brake Super Mario. Of course, I won't be going as fast either.

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This is the front wheel (big "D" center cap right side up in this shot):
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Last edited by okayfine on 03 Oct 2008 07:54, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Engine

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:44

So, how to update the engine of Whitebird without tossing all that originality out the window? Well, I really couldn't think of a good way, or at least a way that wasn't significantly better than what I decided on.

Modern engines are great, parts are more readily available, they are better engineered, they last longer, etc. And, with Whitebird being a Japanese car and being imported from Japan, well, it needed a Japanese engine. So, as anyone has probably guessed, I went with the SR20DE.

The SR requires a reversed crossmember which wasn't difficult (and years easier than the oil pan I made for my KA510), and I built mount towers to use the S13 hydro mounts. I cut and sectioned a stock transmission crossmember to fit the 5-speed. Driveline was shortened as appropriate. The SR has mostly been an installation without fuss. Of course, the easy part is bolting it in.

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Being RHD, the lovely Autech SR header doesn't require the rework to fit as it does for a LHD 510. I still had to cut the flange from the header to clear the idler arm, but I was going to do that anyway (it's HUGE) to make way for a v-band flange.

How does all that fit with the theme of the car? Well, I'm not doing an EFI SR. It will be carb-fed. And, given all the other work to the car, what kind of carbs make the most sense (especially given a certain carb-centric web page...)? The SR will be fed by a pair of Datsun Roadster SUs.

Of course, that requires a manifold. HKS made a few SR/Weber manifolds, but even those are rare and spendy. No one makes an SR SU manifold, for obvious reasons. Still, in for a penny, in for a pound:

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Having gotten this far, I'd like to redesign the manifold. But that won't happen. It's taken a while to get this far and I'd rather keep this project moving. The placement of the carbs requires a much shorter brake master cylinder (and you thought that being RHD would solve all your problems) so I found a '87 VW Jetta piece that is ~4-1/2 from base to end (versus the 7" for the stock Datsun piece). I'll also have to relocate the battery to the trunk, which is something I didn't want to do. Alas.

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:arrow: So that's about the current state of the car. Things are probably 70% completed at this time. I hope for a rebirth before the end of the year. I'll update this thread as things get accomplished. If I've skipped steps you're interested in, please ask.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:46

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Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:03, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:47

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Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:04, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:50

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Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:05, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 02 Oct 2008 15:55

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Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:06, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 03 Oct 2008 08:06

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Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:06, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 03 Oct 2008 08:12

.
Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:07, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 03 Oct 2008 08:20

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Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:10, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Whitebird

Postby okayfine » 03 Oct 2008 08:30

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Last edited by okayfine on 10 Jun 2009 13:11, edited 1 time in total.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Exhaust

Postby okayfine » 03 Oct 2008 09:18

Contrary to my "I hate detail work" above, I love building exhausts. I built two different headers for my KA510 just because I love playing with tubes. If I had a TIG welder and knew how to use it, I'd be dangerous. That said, I have a lowly MIG and, even with stainless wire and blowing Argon, it's not the same. Still, I've learned a much better method for welding tubes, and specifically stainless tubes, with a MIG. Tack/spot welds. Tack, tack, tack, tack, instead of trying to run a bead, which just ends up looking like the stainless header on the KA510. Instead of that, it just looks like poor TIG welding, but I'll take it. If you go to look at the full-res photo of the tail section of the exhaust at http://www.datsun510.com, you can see the end result.

Still, you use what you have where you are, or something. Having the mother-of-all-loud-exhausts (think a crack-smoking two-stroke) on the KA510 (and, strangely, never getting popped for it), I knew I didn't want to repeat those efforts. While it fit the KA510, it wasn't going to be appropriate for Whitebird. I wanted to keep it quiet(er) but I didn't want to choke flow and reduce performance. So I developed an exhaust system that, I hope, will give me the best of both worlds. 2.25" pipe with a medium-length resonator and 2.25" Magnaflow muffler with 2.0" core. Neither of the KA510 exhausts had resonators and each had a full-pipe-size straight-through muffler.

I'd intitally considered doing header number 3, incorporating all I learned up to that point. However, with stainless prices hitting the roof (my last header used 11 u-bends), I looked at other options. It was suggested I try to find one of the Autech RWD SR headers, as the header has a much easier path in a RHD car like Whitebird. I found a never-used header and figure the $400 cost saved me a few bills in time and materials.

All stainless, TIG-welded, 4-1 mid-length header. Teh Shiny:

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Well, it's shiny when it's not in a crap picture. The collector ends in a 2.25" tube. It comes with a huge 3-bolt flange which I had to cut off to fit around the idler arm, and which I would have cut anyway. After exhaust number 2 on the KA510, I really liked the v-band flanges. They're expensive and need to be welded on, but they make exhaust disassembly a snap (key if you fiddle with exhausts as I have) and, unless you warp the flange upon welding, they seal really well. Exhaust leaks suck. Or do they blow...?

So, after cutting off the flange I added two small sections of 2.25" stainless bends to clear the swing of the idler arm and orient the pipe towards the rear. I added the v-band to this, then continued the pipe into the transmission tunnel. There's a stainless flex pipe just before the transmission crossmember, then 2.25" tube back to a stainless resonator.

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Again, you can barely make it all out. I should have taken pictures of the pieces before I installed them. In any case, this is labeled as a "silverline" resonator, but the Thrush stainless jobbies look to be the same. ~20" long resonator body, perforated 2.25" stainless tube with ceramic filling. This should help moderate the tone of the exhaust without unduly restricting the flow. $68, shipped, via eBay.

The exhaust goes through the crossmember, which was a mistake I'd made. When I had the crossmember out for slotting, I should have enlarged the exhaust hole. It's ~2.5" ID, and I'm sticking a 2.25" OD pipe through it, so at best there's 1/8" of clearance between any one spot (which isn't true as I don't think the pipe is perfectly parallel with the hole). I ended up wedging silicone hose in that 1/8", so we'll see if that works to prevent clanging and, if so, how long it lasts. I may end up revisiting this area, but I really, really don't want to pull the crossmember out.

And out the back:

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As the pipe comes through the crossmember I cut it and sleeved it to allow the 2.25" of the tail section to slide over it, securing with a band (not v-band) clamp. This was done to allow me the ability to remove any one section of the exhaust completely from the car, if necessary. The sleeving of this section should help prevent leaks from the band clamp, as I've had previously poor experience with them. Again, this would have been solved if I had enlarged the hole in the crossmeber, in which case I'd just have used another v-band. The OD of a v-band flange for 2.25" pipe is nearly 3", though.

In any case, the 2.25" pipe goes up to a Magnaflow round muffler. Again, all stainless, perforated inner core. Back to the issue of excessive noise, I ordered the Magnaflow muffler with 2.25" ends to easy my fabrication of the exhaust, but this particular part number has a 2.0" inner core. The added restriction should help lower the sound level of the exhaust and not unduly affect flow. The exhaust gasses at this point are much cooler than they were nearer the head, where they were allowed the full 2.25". Here, at the back, they've cooled somewhat and become more dense, so they need less area.

That's the theory anyway. It remains to be heard what it sounds like. I welded 1/2" round bar off the ends of the 4" can and it uses the original factory rubber hangers and stock muffler body mounts. It fit really nicely. I don't have a tip and may not end up putting one on. They're kinda spendy ($40+) and I like the dull stainless look of the exit tube of the Magnaflow.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson


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