Building an all-encompassing car is quite simply a form of art. A stock car is a blank canvas just waiting to be filled with colorful ideas and ingenious modifications that exhibit an individual's creative ideals and personality. Vehicles are manufactured for two reasons: For commuting and for customizing. While the first is a mere necessity, the second is a chosen path that, when mapped out precisely, sometimes leads us to perfection. Mike Savage, an Arizona native, has created many admirable images along the way and it is these trials and tribulations, along with unavoidable u-turns and the knowledge gained that have finally led him to a masterpiece.
Savage got into cars at the young age of 15, and since then, he has been lucky enough to have a car for every phase he's gone through. Like any real enthusiast, Savage never left any car stock. "I'm into anything really, so long as it looks good or is fast. Muscle cars, imports, drifters, draggers, it doesn't matter to me," Savage says.
His first car was a VW Bus, which he lowered, but soon got tired of it. Savage then took interest in a Dodge Neon that was more capable of receiving modifications than the bus. He added a set of aftermarket wheels and tires, nitrous and did some suspension mods. When the import modding wave hit, Savage abandoned his Neon dreams and made his way to the Honda camp. It was then that he picked up a '95 Civic DX to play with. Savage did what most EG hatchback owners do-stuff in a B-series swap, gut the interior and throw on aftermarket suspension, wheels and tires.
When the new Subaru WRX came out, Savage saw the opportunity to really put his creative mind to work. Instead of putting on the same boring, minimal mods that everyone else was doing at the time, Savage took advantage of what the Subie chassis was capable of. A JDM Version 7 engine was swapped in along with a T-6B turbocharger and a full C-West body kit with a dry carbon hood was tacked onto the body. All of these fancy goodies made for a pretty fast car, netting an 11.3-second quarter-mile time in full-weight trim. Although the car was damn fast and looked the part, it just wasn't enough. Savage craved smoky burnouts and the other kinds of fun that comes with a rear-wheel-drive car. That's when the Nissan camp called out to him.
Just like an artist seeking a better medium to paint on, Savage sought out a Nissan 240SX hatchback. After swapping in an RB26 engine and completely gutting and stitch welding the frame, Savage quickly realized that he was getting too deep into the project and decided that spending 50 grand on a 16-year-old car was ridiculous. In an attempt to start over with a more realistic state of mind, Savage bought a '92 240sx coupe.
The car was an ugly gold color and the stock tan interior looked like a pack of angry chinchillas had their way with it; in other words, it was tore up from the floor up. After trying out different colors and wheel setups to make the car look somewhat decent, Savage was disappointed because it still looked like every other S13 on the road no matter what he did. Once again, he kicked his creativity up a notch in order to break the mold.
Like any good artist, Savage used outside resources to obtain ideas for his project. He always liked the electric blue color the Mini Cooper is offered in, so he hit up Chris Soehren at VIP Motorsports in Chandler, Ariz., to spray the car and install the Chargespeed wide-body front and rear fenders and carbon-fiber vented hood that he ordered. To complement the wide-body accents, Soehren added Origin Aggressive front and rear bumpers and sideskirt. Savage then topped off the exterior aesthetics by installing the Volk Racing GT-7 18-inch, gunmetal wheels that he had on his previous Nissan. And when it was all done, Savage's S13 looked just the way he envisioned it-different.
With the exterior out of the way, the interior needed a personal touch. The complete tan interior was scrapped in favor of a stock S13 grey dash and panels, a black ultra-suede headliner and brand new black ACC carpet. Although changing the main parts of the interior would be enough for most, especially since this is a street car, a true artist's work is never finished.
Savage continued his customizing quest by adding a pair of blue Bride Zeta III Type XL seats to match the exterior. Unlike other S13 owners that have ineffectual gadgets in their cars, Savage's interior features an array of electronics that keep with the adage of "function over form." Defi EGT, boost, oil and fuel pressure gauges keep Savage informed of his engines vitals and the Apex'i Power FC commander and GReddy Profec B2 boost controller keep him in control of how the engine performs.
One glance at the engine bay, and it's easy to notice that Savage's artistic touch played a role in it. Although the JDM SR20DET engine that he selected is popular among all S13 enthusiasts, his engine is spiced up with his own personality. Sure, the electric blue valve cover makes the engine look pretty, but it's the huge Garrett GT30R turbo next to it that really draws attention. Connected to the turbo is a Peakboost downpipe and wastgate that flow out to an Espelir JGT 500 exhaust.
On the other side, drawing in cold air is a GReddy VSPL intercooler and piping with an ARC blow-off valve. In order to get the engine running correctly, proper fuel delivery is key, so Savage went with a Walbro 255lph fuel pump that flows fuel, managed by a SARD fuel pressure regulator, to the RC Engineering 750cc/min injectors. All of these engine mods equated to 280 wheel hp at 18psi.
Transmitting this kind of horsepower to the ground and keeping the car stable is always a difficult task. The stock SR20 transmission was retained, but Savage installed an Exedy street clutch and flywheel and a Tomei Technical Trax advance 2-way limited slip to put the power down. To hold the power in the corners, TEIN Type HE coilovers and a Nismo Power brace were put in and Stoptech brake rotors and Hawk pads stop the car on the dot when needed. After all these modifications were made, Savage ultimately felt that he had created a piece of artwork that would embody his true idea of how to build a car.
A true artist never backs down when it comes to creating a real work of art, he also never does it half-assed. Savage's S13 is proof that with proper planning and the right state of mind from the beginning, a blank canvas can be turned into a masterpiece.