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1996 Nissan 240SX - Skin Deep

Heart Of A GT-R, Face Of A 240SX

David Luong
Feb 10, 2010
Photographer: Scott Dukes

The Nissan Skyline GT-R is a legend and a dream all rolled into one. Due in part to its absence from U.S. shores as much as its performance capability, the GT-R and its fabled history only further drives its popularity. We've made due with its closest cousin, the Nissan 240SX, tinkering with upgrades on every subsequent generation. But with the 240SX saddled with the less than inspiring KA24DE engine, many 240SX owners have found one of their first major modifications to be an engine swap. The Silvia-inspired SR20DET swap is still incredibly popular, and a few intrepid souls even attempt to stuff the GT-R's 2.6L inline-six RB26DETT twin-turbo engine under the hood of a 240SX. But very few have ever attempted to meld the GT-R's entire soul to the 240SX, creating an all-wheel-drive, twin-turbo monster in the process.

Louie Liu, a member of Southern California's own Team OverRev, attempted just such a build. Together with fabricator Tony Wei, Liu drew up plans to create the most insane project ever to emerge from the Nissan parts bin. The build called for plenty of experimentation and custom fabrication in order to create a race and time attack ready 240SX that would be, in all essence, a home-brewed Skyline GT-R.

The recipe began with a chassis. A 1996 Nissan 240SX was purchased and then promptly torn apart. With two extra cylinders in place, the inline-six RB26DETT requires much more space under the hood than the stock inline-four KA24DE engine. Custom mounts hold the engine in place, while a swap of the stock radiator and fan shroud for a GReddy aluminum radiator frees up some extra space up front. An Odyssey mini battery and custom battery tray are a necessity, with barely any room under the hood to house a standard-sized car battery. Liu even had Wei bend up some custom hard brake lines, which lend a much cleaner, more professional appearance and allow proper routing due to the new engine clearance.

The stock Garrett T28 turbochargers are still in place, although a custom downpipe and 4-inch exhaust system were mandatory upgrades in order to properly funnel exhaust gases out past the 240SX's rear bumper. On the inlet side, a pair of HKS Megaflow air intakes breathe into custom-fabricated intake piping, bent and welded up specifically to clear this Nissan's sheet metal. A Blitz front-mount intercooler kit is used to cool down the intake air charge, with custom-modified piping and mounts welded on for two Blitz blow-off valves.

With this Nissan fully painted and cleaner than a surgery room floor, it's hard to pick out the custom work behind the scenes. But look closely and you'll find the telltale signs of the addition of the Skyline GT-R front shock towers and floor panel. In order to make his 240SX a fully functional all-wheel-drive GT-R, Liu had to be able to fit every single bit of powertrain from his donor car, a R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R. A R33 rear differential was fitted, along with custom mounts for the R33 all-wheel-drive transmission. A custom driveshaft connects the power to the rear wheels and GT-R axles are used all around. The R33 GT-R also donated its 5-lug hubs, suspension arms and links. The only problem then was interfacing the Ksport R33 GT-R coilovers to the 240SX chassis, a task accomplished with a swap of the front shock towers.

With the heart of the beast set in place, work began on the rest of the coupe. The interior was completely gutted and stripped, leaving it devoid of any door panels, sound deadener, carpeting or interior trim. A custom 8-point rollcage was fabricated for the car, which features crossed door bars, gussets connecting critical areas of the car to the cage for chassis stiffness, as well as multiple supports to provide optimal occupant safety should a roll occur. A single seat remains, a Recaro unit plucked out of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII, and is joined with a four-point Sparco harness. Carbon-faced water temp, boost and exhaust gas temperature Blitz gauges are on tap in a custom aluminum mounting panel, but the real deal is the R33 GT-R instrument panel that has been seamlessly integrated right before the driver's eyes. There's no better way to keep up on the heart of a GT-R than with the GT-R's own display unit.

In order to provide the best balance between looks and speed, Liu chose AME's Circlar Spec-M wheels. These blue hued two-piece wheels measure 19x9 in the front and monstrous 19x10's in the rear. Wrapped in Toyo Proxes T1R rubber, the AME wheels cover the ferocious stopping power of Brembo four-piston front-fixed brake calipers. With the ride height adjusted on the Ksport suspension, the AME wheels fill up the fender wells and the 295mm rear Toyo tires push the limits of the stylish AIT Racing B-Magic widebody kit.

With the heart, legs and brain of a R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R perfectly transplanted and fully functional, Liu has succeeded in creating a GT-R with the face of a 240SX. This 240SX has cleaned house at local area Hot Import Nights events and still has a host of competition track events ahead of it. But with this much attention spent on keeping in line with the GT-R's original performance ethic, we know that this 240SX will dominate whatever and wherever it goes.

Specs: 1996 Nissan 240SX

Base Engine: RB26DETT (R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R)
2.6L Inline Six, Twin Turbocharged
Stock Garrett T28 Turbochargers
Blitz SBC-iD Boost Controller
Custom Downpipe
Custom 4-Inch Exhaust
Blitz Front-Mount Intercooler System
Twin Blitz Blow-Off Valves
GReddy Aluminum Radiator
Custom Radiator Hard Piping
Nismo High-Pressure Radiator Cap
Polished Intake Manifold
Samco Sport Silicone Hoses
Twin HKS Megaflow Air Intakes
Custom Intake Piping
HKS Oil Cooler
Odyssey Mini Battery
Custom Battery Tray
Relocated Fuel Cell
Sparco Fuel Door
Custom Fuel Feed Piping
Microtech Engine Management System

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Transmission
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Rear Differential
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Axles
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Shock Towers And Floor Panel
Custom AWD Manual Control System
Exedy Hyper Racing Clutch

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Front Arms
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Rear Arms
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Suspension Links
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R 5-Lug Hubs
K-Sport 16-Way Adjustable R33 GT-R Coilovers

Brembo 4-Piston Front Brakes
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Rear Brakes
Stainless-Steel Braided Brake Lines
Custom Brake Hard Lines

S14 Kouki Front End Conversion
VIS Racing Carbon-Fiber Hood
AIT Racing B-Magic Widebody Kit
Rear Silvia Badge

Custom 8-Point Rollcage
Doorpanels Removed
Gutted Interior
Lancer Evolution VIII Recaro Driver Seat
Sparco 4-Point Safety Harness
R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R Instrument Cluster
Sparco Steering Wheel
Sparco Quick Release
Nismo Shift Knob
Blitz Fatt Turbo Timer Blitz Boost, EGT, Water Temp Gauges
Custom Aluminum Gauge Mounting Panel

AME Blue Circlar Spec-M Wheels (19x9 Front, 19x10 Rear) Toyo Proxes T1r Tires (245/35/19 Front, 295/30/19 Rear)


Toyo Tires USA
Blitz USA
Azusa, CA 91702
By David Luong
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