Interview with a Zombie Vampire

5523 Interview Title Pic

5523 Motorsports: Interview with a Zombie Vampire

by Joe Lu and Chuck Johnson

5523 Interview Title Pic

5523 Interview with a Zombie Vampire

So here we are on the flip side of Speed Week 2013, epic road trips to Utah and record runs down the Bonneville salt flats were had, but let’s rewind a week and pretend that we’re just a few days out from Bonneville.  In fact, we’re sitting in a swelteringly hot garage at 5523 Motorsports in Escondido, California wondering if we’ll make it to Speed Week at all.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Bonneville Salt Flats Racer

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Bonneville Salt Flats Racer

A few weeks prior, Project 240SX LSR had set a new land speed record at El Mirage, but then developed engine issues immediately after.  The car is now sitting nearby with its de-stroked SR20DET bottom end separated from its exotic VVL cylinder head.  It’s crunch time and the team is scrambling to fix the problems and get the car back in one piece before Speed Week.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET disassembly

5523 Motorsports SR15VET dis-assembly

Of course, I see it as the perfect time to pester our resident Zombie Vampire, engine builder extraordinaire, and co-proprietor of 5523 Motorsports, Nick Hunter with a barrage of questions.  What better time could there be to find out about Nick’s life and how he came to be the hybrid of two mythical creatures when there are a million things to get done?

5523 Motorsports SR15VET prep work

5523 Motorsports SR15VET prep work

What was that old saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness”?  Before starting work on the head, Nick Hunter lays out a clean sheet to work on.

Joe: So Nick, what exactly are we doing in here today?  Cuz its getting hot in here and my pits are starting to stank.

Nick Hunter: We need to finish work on this new head, and get it back in the car today.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET engine blueprinting

5523 Motorsports SR15VET engine blueprinting

Joe: What happened to it?

Nick Hunter: As you know, the car was having problems starting at El Mirage, and even before that when we dynoed it so I decided to investigate so the motor won’t have problems when we get to Bonneville.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET engine prep washing

5523 Motorsports SR15VET engine prep washing

Joe: So what did you come up with, Sherlock?

Nick Hunter: As it turns out, the previous owner of this head had installed oversized valves. However, they did not install new valve seats and instead cut the OEM seats deeper to fit the new, oversized valves.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET vale job

5523 Motorsports SR15VET vale job

Nick Hunter: On a street car, this probably wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but my zombie intuition tells me that when cylinder head temps were drastically increased as a result of the extended durations of a land speed pass, the valve seats ended up shifting.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET vale job

5523 Motorsports SR15VET valve job

Nick Hunter: On a street car, this probably wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but my zombie intuition tells me that when cylinder head temps were drastically increased as a result of the extended durations of a land speed pass, the valve seats ended up shifting.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Porting

5523 Motorsports SR15VET Porting

Nick Hunter: Too much material had been removed from the seats and they lost some of their interference fit as they got thinner, allowing our problems to happen. Since we’re in a time crunch and couldn’t get new valve seats in time from Japan, we had to source a new 20V head and give it a port and polish, as well as a valve job.

Chuck sleeping at 5523 Motorsports

Chuck sleeping at 5523 Motorsports

Joe: Dude, these long ass explanations put Chuck to sleep… so to sum it up…

Nick Hunter: Because racecar!!!

Joe: That’s more like it!  So other than Chuck’s “2 liters is too much” engine build, is there anything else you’ve been working on lately?

5523 Motorsports SR15VET valve job Nick

5523 Motorsports SR15VET valve job Nick

Nick Hunter contemplates while smoking a cigarette

Nick Hunter: Hmm.. some Grand Am racing, I built this bastard VQ35HR stroked to 3.7L for AM Motorsports.

Chuck being a monkey at 5523 Motorsports

Chuck being a monkey at 5523 Motorsports

Right around the time Chuck woke up from nappy time.

Chuck: So what do you call that? VQ37?

Nick Hunter: VQ37HR pretty much. (Not to be confused with a production VQ37VHR).

5523 Motorsports SR15VET valvetrain prep

5523 Motorsports SR15VET valvetrain prep

Chuck: Something that technically doesn’t exist, but it does here in Zombieland.  So how much power was that putting down?

Nick Hunter: With JE Pistons and JWT cams, right around 400 on a Dynapak, this was before they did more development, it’s probably more now.

5523 Motorsports SR15VET

5523 Motorsports SR15VET

Zombies… check!!!

Joe: You look like you’re from the East Coast somewhere, are you from Pennsylvania?

Chuck: No dumbass, he’s from Transylvania, that’s where Zombie Vampires come from!

Joe: Zombie Vampire, like Thriller meets Count Chocula, what’s the deal with that nickname anyways?

5523 Motorsports SR15VET at Bonneville record setting inspection

5523 Motorsports SR15VET at Bonneville record setting inspection

How Zombie Vampires usually look in photos.  Unlike Chuck though, at least something in the photo is sharp…

Nick Hunter: As best I understand it, I came out blurry in all of Chuck’s photos, and you know how vampires don’t show up in photos, and then all of you know I also don’t sleep… and then these jerkwads like to make up names… to make a long story short, instead of Chuck the photographer catching crap for having a case of the crazy arms and not knowing how to use his camera, I got a stupid nickname…

Joe: Chuck likes to give stuff nicknames, because that’s smart, like getting drunk off pancakes.  I have noticed that you’ve been up at ungodly hours posting your progress on this motor on Facebook, we know you’re a zombie, but how do you not sleep?

Chuck at 5523 Motorsports

Chuck at 5523 Motorsports

Nick Hunter: Sleep in a bottle pretty much.. and brains of course!!

Joe: So what’s your background? How did you get started with all of this building cars stuff? And what is 5523 Motorsports?  Are you trying to bring back OG pager codes or something?

ZV: As a kid, I knew this guy, a neighbor…

Chuck: …and what did this neighbor do to you?

Nick Hunter: Not everyone had neighbors like you did Chucky… Anyways, he was a Benz technician and kicked ass at it, and pretty much inspired me to pursue automotive *tear*(-_-).  As for 5523, if you translate to Japanese, it becomes “Go Go Ni-San”

Joe: The best kind of Go-Go I’ve heard of since Go-Go Taquitos. Clever Zombie!

5523 Motorsports in stock GTR fluids

5523 Motorsports in stock GTR fluids

JDM booty lube + GT-R juice, something tells me big things go on around here

Joe: Speaking of clever zombies, I hear you work on GT-R’s these days, is this true?

Nick Hunter: Yeah, pretty much, I’m ASE master certified and a Nissan master technician in addition to being GT-R certified and HEV certified.

5523 Motorsports Nissan Master Tech

5523 Motorsports Nissan Master Tech,

Joe: Quite the range, going from GT-Rs to Leafs, or leaves?  What is the plural of Nissan Leaf?  Prii??  Whatever… Moving on…

5523 Motorsports owners

5523 Motorsports owners

Nick Hunter and Jen Drach of 5523 Motorsports (and Chuck demonstrating how SR15VE race motors get paid for).

Joe: Why don’t you introduce us to the better looking half of 5523 Motorsports?

Nick Hunter: Hey everyone, meet Jen!

Joe: Nice to meet you Jen!  I noticed that the other half of the shop is way too clean to have been Nick, so I knew there had to be someone else at work here.  I’m guessing you’re the element of sanity around here?

5523 Motorsports Office

5523 Motorsports Office

You’d never know we were in a shop…

Jen: Pretty much, I handle all of the customers, all the stuff with the state, vendors, and also specialize in bringing people back to reality, because no, we can’t build you a 1000hp engine for $1000.00.

Joe: A dollar per horsepower, sign me up!

Nick Hunter: Jen’s also a great wrench; she just doesn’t like doing it!!

5523 Motorsports things not to do

5523 Motorsports things not to do

Odd contraption removed from a customer car

Joe: So as business partners, what kinds of things bug you guys the most?

Jen: Shoddy work!  Half the time we’re sitting here fixing other peoples’ mistakes!

5523 Motorsports things not to do2

5523 Motorsports things not to do

Nothing flows like a nice hacked up 90 degree bend as your turbo outlet pipe, if anything on your car looks like this, you done messed up son (also removed from a customer car).

Nick Hunter: My biggest pet peeve is GT-R owners who cheap out on getting quality work done.  Seriously, you wouldn’t believe all the crap I’ve seen done to them!  Makes zombie angarrrryyyy!!

Joe: Sounds like someone’s gonna be busy around here. You’re the Captain save-a-hoe of GT-Rs I think. Any dream projects for you guys?

Jen: I’m a Rotary girl at heart, I’ve got my project already, an FB RX-7, but I guess if could have anything, it’d have to be a Cosmo.

5523 Motorsports MAzda RX7 - FB

5523 Motorsports Mazda RX7 – FB

Under the hood of Ms. 5523 Motorsports’ FB, old school Racing Beat!

Nick Hunter: For me, an R32 probably, but if all logic was thrown out the window, KPGC10 with an S20, built of course!

5523 Motorsports S13 coupe

5523 Motorsports S13 coupe

Is that Annie Sam’s shrunken head on top of Nicks project car?  Apparently, he’s a Witch Doctor too.

Joe: So clearly, Mr. Go-Go Nissan, we all know what your focus is on here, but do you work on anything else?  My trusty Prelude needs its muffler bearings changed soon.

5523 Motorsports shop

5523 Motorsports shop

Nick Hunter: For sure, I work on anything, as long as people wanna go fast and wanna do it the right way.

Joe: I know you’ve put in some serious time on this little project motor for Chuck, you can obviously build an engine, what else do you do for customers at your shop?

5523 Motorsports SR20DET

5523 Motorsports SR20DET

Chuck: Yeah Nick, I noticed you have some private areas in this shop, what do you do in there?

Nick Hunter: Usually I don’t build ‘punch yourself in the balls’ engines that try to make power with LESS displacement for starters, and secondly, two words, yo momma!  To answer the real question, we do everything here, build engines, swap engines, race prep, and even repair work, like this Sentra over here that John’s working on, which is getting a new motor and turbo.

5523 Motorsports Mazda Miata - NC 300+ whp

5523 Motorsports Mazda Miata – NC 300+ whp

Chuck: We see that there’s a Miata outside, did Mike Kojima come out of the closet finally?

Nick Hunter: Oh, that’s a customer car, he did a 2.3 swap from a Mazda6 in his backyard and then he decided he wanted boost so we took a turbo kit the customer had found that wasn’t gonna cut it and re-engineered a quality turbo kit for him.

5523 Motorsports 2.3ltr MZR 300+whp

5523 Motorsports 2.3ltr MZR 300+whp

Chuck: So what’s it putting down?

Nick Hunter: I think he’s doing 346hp at 10lbs or close to that

Mike Kojima at 5523 Motorsports

Mike Kojima at 5523 Motorsports

Mike’s duties for the day, supervise assembly of the head drink Diet Coke.

Chuck: In a Miata… This is definitely what Mike would drive if he finally came to terms with himself.  What was the most interesting car you guys have thrown together?

Nick Hunter: That’d probably have to be when we took a 4G Civic station wagon and put a B18C5 in it and made a road race car.

Joe: The Wagovan of all Wagovans???

Chuck: Oh great, now you got Joe walking around here with a big old hard-on.  (I love the wagovan.)

Joe: Schwing!!! We really should get back to work… Are there any shout-outs you wanna give?

Nick Hunter: For sure, to Jen of course, and also my buddy John Wemigwans (Wigwam), who helps out big time around here, you both kick ass!

Joe: Thanks for your time Nick!

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