It is all too easy to see a beautiful car and make assumptions. Although it may be true that the way a car is styled can give you an idea of the owner's personality, it is impossible to understand the journey the car and owner have gone through with a passing glance. This is especially true of builds that appear flawless. Perhaps it is simply human nature to associate flawlessness with simplicity and simplicity with ease, however, this is often a mistake, as assumptions usually are. Making something appear effortless usually means that in reality the task is not at all simple or easy but quite the opposite. Elmer Lee's S14 is a perfect example of this paradox. The car is essentially flawless. It's extreme in every possible way, yet simple enough to make the build appear easy. It's executed so well that to somebody with little experience, the sheer magnitude of what went into this masterpiece is lost in the details.
The journey of this man and his machine began in 2007 when Elmer realized that a widebody S14 was the car that he had always wanted. While browsing the Internet he came across a photo that would change the course of his life for the next several years, an S14 with over-fenders and large dish wheels filling out the extended bodywork. At the time, Elmer was living in Arizona, immersed in everything the automotive scene had to offer there and driving a '95 Integra GSR. Elmer started researching immediately, force-feeding himself every piece of information he could find on S-chassis cars, he knew that in order to build the car that he dreamed of he needed to know the exact ingredients of that car down to the smallest detail. Once Elmer felt that he was ready, the search for a suitable platform to build upon was underway. A listing on an Internet forum was found, the owner was contacted, and a deal was made. Elmer would be trading his Integra plus cash for an S14 that already had a Kouki frontend conversion, over-fenders, and wheels. This is when the nightmare began.
The morning that Elmer was to finally become the owner of an S14, the seller called to inform him that the car had been stolen the previous night. Hanging onto the little hope they had, both parties awaited the car's safe return. Instead, they received word that although the car had been found, it had been stripped to a bare shell and torched. Despite the setback, Elmer stayed optimistic, continuing his search for an S14. He found another suitable platform, a similar S14, another converted Kouki, this particular car was equipped with an authentic BN Sports Blister kit and Amistad Dish wheels. The car had previously been powered by an SR20 but the owner had actually swapped in a KA24 with an automatic transmission for the sale. Quickly realizing that this car would be a great starting point for his project, Elmer contacted the seller and planned his trip to Seattle to make the purchase. The seller had assured him that the car was in good running condition, so Elmer chose to fly there and drive the car home to Arizona. After crunching the numbers, Elmer figured that a full 48 hours would be more than enough time to get the car safely home. A flight was booked, the time off had been reported to his employer, and he was on his way to meet his new car.
The car appeared to be as it had been described at first, but then Elmer noticed a couple small issues that had not been mentioned. Despite being thousands of miles from home without a return ticket, Elmer assessed the situation and stuck with the plan, concluding that a small oil leak would not be an issue as long as he constantly checked the oil level on his drive home. Little did he know, the minor issues were indications of major problems to come (and the less than respectable character of the seller). Miraculously the car and its new owner made it to Northern California with no major issues, but at this point the car had reached its limit; it's shoddy construction became apparent and the car literally started to fall apart. As it turns out, the car had never been aligned-the massive amount of toe took its toll on the front tires, the inner edges had been reduced to cords. With very few options available to him in the early hours of the morning, Elmer parked in front of the first tire shop he found and slept in his car until they opened. When the shop finally opened for business he was turned away; the shop refused to work on his modified car due to liability reasons. Elmer drove to several other tire shops on tires that could've blown out any moment, and finally found a shop that was willing to mount two new tires on his car--for an outrageous $600. Left with no other choice, he took it. Now that the car was somewhat driveable, Elmer was faced with yet another challenge: finding a shop that would align his car. Luckily, Elmer found an alignment shop that same day, one that had an in-ground rack and a willingness to work on lowered cars.
Finally equipped with fresh tires and a proper alignment, Elmer and his S14 got back on the freeway, a full day behind schedule. Immediately Elmer noticed that the rear of the car would shift to one side for no apparent reason, not wanting to take any chances he went straight back to the alignment shop. The car was put on the lift for an inspection. The tech noticed that a rear wheel appeared to be loose, but the lug nuts were torqued to spec. A wheel bearing had failed completely and driving the car in this condition was out of the question. A new wheel bearing was located, but would not arrive at the shop until the following morning. Discouraged and exhausted, Elmer found a hotel nearby to wait and get some much-needed rest. The next morning Elmer picked up his car and was finally back on the road, two days behind schedule, but the car appeared to be holding together. Upon reaching Southern California, overheating became an issue. The car would perform just fine on the open highway, but as soon as traffic thickened or by simply exiting the freeway, the water temperatures would rise uncontrollably, forcing Elmer to shut off the car and coast, adding an element of strategy to something as simple as refueling. On one of these refueling stops, as Elmer was walking into the gas station to buy some oil, he heard air pressure being released from his car accompanied by a cloud of steam--the radiator had cracked. Still several hundred miles from home and in an unfamiliar area, he threw caution to the wind and bought several gallons of water. At this point the importance of saving an engine that was to be removed from the car anyway was dwindling as quickly as his patience.
Elmer continued on, refilling the radiator with water and the engine with oil more often than topping off his gas tank. As Elmer neared the Arizona border, he hit yet another figurative speed bump. It started raining hard. It was monsoon season, and this particular storm had just started. Driving through heavy rain can tell you a lot about a car, and this ordeal turned out to be a major eye opener and an even further letdown. The car quickly started filling with water. The cause would later become apparent--the rear quarter-panels had been cut for the over-fenders but never sealed; they had not even been welded shut, they had been cut, folded over, and wood screws had been used to hold the two layers together. Elmer moved his belongings off the floor and trudged on. He was on the last stretch of road now, only a few hours from home, when the car simply turned off; there was no electrical power in the system. With no cell reception, the exhausted, defeated new owner sat in his dream car and considered his options. Finally a passerby offered him a ride, if Elmer paid him of course. They went to a nearby Wal-Mart where Elmer purchased two new batteries, hoping that they would get him home. It turned out that the previous owner had cut the main power wire to the battery and twisted the two ends back together, securing them only with electrical tape--naturally, they had separated. Quickly repairing this, Elmer was once again back on the road.