At some point in our lives, we've all heard the classic axiom; "Do it once, do it right". There are many different variations of the saying but they all lead to the idea that you should do it right the first time. It applies to all aspects of life; any time you want to perform a task or do basically anything, you want to "do it right". In a perfect world, this would probably be possible. No one would ever make mistakes and it would just be a world devoid of any errors. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and people make mistakes. That's not necessarily a bad thing. With mistakes and failures comes growth. You learn from the error of your ways and you really don't grasp the concept of how to do things right the first time until you've screwed up somehow before. This is very evident in our automotive hobbyist endeavors. The concept of how to build a car "right" is really left up to the eye of the beholder, but the vision isn't quite clear until one has been through the perils of modifying cars.
The entire idea that you can build a car "right" the first time you do it is terribly unrealistic. You don't just wake up one day, throw parts on a car, and be happy with it the rest of your life. Creating a custom vehicle is all about the learning process. The final product is important, but it is the journey to that pinnacle that makes the build worthwhile. Not only do you learn as you go, you also develop different tastes as you get older. What you liked in your younger years may not be the same as what excites you later on. The whole adage of doing it once and doing it right is ironically flawed in itself because there's no such thing. The only time you'd ever be close to executing what you view as perfection is after you've already tried it once before with another car or perhaps in a different stage of your current project's existence.
People who have the adequate resources to build a car may have an easier time achieving what they view as "right". These are the same enthusiasts who are probably a little bit older and have some experience tinkering with cars under their belts. As a starving, struggling, college student, building a car is almost a comedy of errors. It is going to take some time to really get the car to what you envisioned it to be. You find yourself doing regretful things to your project car because you lack the time and money to devote to it.
Jeffrey Lu, the owner of this Crystal White 240SX coupe, knows the struggle all too well. He at one time was a starving college student moonlighting as a car enthusiast. The only reason his S13 came to fruition was to make up for all the follies he made the first time around with another S13 chassis. "I got into cars right after I graduated high school," Jeffrey says. "I started reading about grip driving and drifting because I found it interesting. My friends were all talking about it and I eventually bought a 240SX chassis to mess around with. The car was pretty junky but it was my toy during my college years. I even missed a midterm one time because I was looking for a good parking spot so I wouldn't risk getting my car bumper-checked by some random student. At times I couldn't even focus on my classes because I was just constantly thinking about driving my car—it was like a drug."
There's a real sense of love that exists between man and machine when you're willing to miss a class just to find a good parking spot for an otherwise beat-up Nissan. And while we don't recommend doing poorly in school because all you can think about is cruising around, we admire the candor. "After driving the car for a few years, it started to develop some serious wear and tear," Jeffrey says. "It wasn't even about trying to modify the car. Most of my time was spent fixing whatever was breaking constantly. Eventually I had to decide on whether or not to keep pouring money into it or look for another car. I couldn't see myself parting with the car, so I continued to do the necessary repairs on it. There wasn't a whole lot I could do with a minimum wage job and financial aid, but I even did an engine swap. It wasn't an SR20DET or anything but it was something. After that I added some suspension pieces and exhaust upgrades too. It wasn't anything to look at but it was mine."
Jeffrey's determination to keep his S13 paid off down the road, as he would meet a man who would change his outlook on automotive tuning forever. Dan from Rcrew Racing was looking for a new employee to help clean up around the shop and Jeffrey was the man for the job. His tasks were simple—clean, run errands, and do whatever else was needed of him at Rcrew. As a perk, he forged a great friendship with Dan who taught him everything he ever needed to know about not only road racing, but also the meaning of life and well-being. His relationship with his 240SX, however, deteriorated as he found himself having to ultimately sell the car because of financial troubles.
"I was so full of regret selling that car because I put everything I had into it," Jeffrey says. "I saved up later and thought about building a different car but I missed driving my 240SX. I had to build another one, but this time I'd build it the correct way."
The search for a new S13 led him to Bakersfield, CA. He hopped on a Greyhound bus and drove the car home, excited as ever to dive back into another S-chassis. Once he got the car home, the teardown began. The first order of business was to replace all the dated suspension components. Jeffrey was a regular on popular S-chassis forum, Zilvia.net, which had a trusted list of vendors. He did his research on the message board and chatted with fellow members before purchasing a myriad of suspension enhancements from companies like Tein, Whiteline, Cusco, Kazama, and Circuit Sport. Giving his newly acquired 240 a beefier overall appearance is a set of staggered, lightweight 18-inch TC105N from Japanese wheel manufacturer Weds.
Visually, the outside of his S13 contains a mishmash of products from all over. The coupe wears the face of its Japanese Silvia counterpart, but the factory bumpers and sides have been succeeded by a more stylish Chargespeed aero kit. The hood is a lightweight carbon-fiber equivalent from Seibon, and the rear spoiler is a rare carbon piece from the Japanese tuner once known as Wise Square, now known simply as Behrman. Both the front fenders and rear quarters have been massaged to make room for the aggressive wheels before the entire shell was repainted in a new coat of white.
As mentioned, Jeffrey learned quite a bit during his time with Dan from Rcrew. Of all the knowledge he gained, one of the most important ideas that he always kept with him was the idea that "cheap won't be fast and fast won't be cheap". Anybody can be fast for a few fleeting moments using cheap parts and labor, but those who are truly fast are the enthusiasts who can generate reliable power. Dependable power usually equates to quality engine parts, and in this S13, all you'll find is the best of the best. Jeffrey had never experienced SR power with his previous 240SX so he made sure to do right by his build when he finally obtained an SR20DET motor. "Tomei Power" was the theme with this engine build. The entire SR valvetrain was upgraded with Tomei pieces, including their signature Poncam camshafts, and the turbocharger used their ARMS M8270. Greddy products also come into play with their intake manifold applied and a massive front-mount intercooler resting behind the opening of Jeffrey's Chargespeed fascia. Fuel comes via 850cc SARD injectors delivered by a Walbro pump and regulated by a Tomei FPR. It all comes together to make a healthy 380 whp—a far cry from the days when he was struggling to keep his tired stock engine running in his other S13.
"I think that the most important thing that I've gathered over the years is to be patient," Jeffrey says. "I started out with nothing and made a lot of mistakes with my first S13. With patience and some great advice from friends, I was able to turn it all around and I'm very content with my current build. You can't really build a nice car with cheap parts and shortcuts so it is important to take the time to do it right."
Behind The Build
San Francisco, CA
Snowboarding, road racing, eating dessert
To build a reliable and fast vehicle
1992 Nissan 240SX
Output 380 hp/371 lb-ft of torque
Engine '93 2.0L "Red Top" SR20DET; Tomei Poncams, valvesprings, valve retainers, valveguides, rocker arm stoppers, ARMS M8270 turbocharger, fuel pressure regulator, oil cap, radiator cap; Greddy cam sprocket, intake manifold, intercooler, aluminum pulley kit, oil pan, turbo elbow; ARP head studs; A'pexi 1.1mm head gasket; Cusco motor mounts; Blitz LM air intake; Walbro 255-lph fuel pump; Circuit Sports fuel rail; SARD 850cc fuel injectors, oil catch can; Buddy Club Spec-II exhaust; Splitfire coil pack; HKS tubular exhaust manifold, turbo up-pipe, SSQV blow-off valve; Moonface Racing EX Chamber downpipe; Koyo radiator; Samco Sport cooling hoses; Mishimoto radiator fans; Nismo thermostat
Drivetrain NISMO GT Pro differential; Peak Performance transmission mounts; Drive Shaft Shop aluminum driveshaft; Exedy Hyper single carbon disc clutch; HKS shifter spring; Circuit Sports short shifter
Suspension Tein Super Drift coilovers (8k front/6k rear), inner/outer tie rods; Whiteline front sway bar, rear sway bar; Cusco Tri-Bar rear strut brace; Kazama rear upper control arms, traction rod, tension rod, rear toe rods, tension support; Nismo Power Brace; Cusco Safety21 five-point rollbar; RSR suspension bushings; Moonface racing roof bar; Circuit Sport subframe brace, reinforcement brace
Brakes Brembo Sentra Spec V front brake calipers, STI rear calipers; Hawk front/rear brake pads; Circuit Sport front/rear brake lines; OEM Z32 master cylinder; ATE Super Blue Racing fluid
Wheels/Tires front: 18x9.5 +10 Weds Sport TC105N and 215/45-18 Nitto Neogen; rear: 18x10.5 +12 Weds Sport TC105N and 235/45-18 Nitto Neogen; Project Kics neochrome lug nuts; NISMO extended wheel studs
Exterior Chargespeed aero kit; Behrman GT R32 carbon-fiber rear spoiler, carbon-fiber front grille; D-Max roof spoiler, taillights; Seibon carbon-fiber OEM-style hood, trunk; Crystal White paint; Automation LED lighting; Vision carbon-fiber side mirrors; JDM S13 Silvia front end conversion
Interior Bride GIAS carbon Kevlar seats; Takata safety harnesses; MOMO steering wheel; HKB steering hub; NISMO shift knob; Razo pedals; custom Bride gradation upholstery
Electronics Pioneer AVIC-D3 head unit; A'pexi PowerFC, AVC-R; Defi boost gauge, air/fuel meter, oil pressure gauge; Bee*R Rev Limiter
Gratitude "My family; my girlfriend, Terry; Dan from R-Crew; Alex Crispi; Jimmy Uy; Kris Yu; Mike Cruz; Alex Hsieh; Mark from Revspec; Dave Chan; Matthal; and Laudar."