So here's an interesting fact: Drifting originated in Japan. Sure, we can argue this until we are both blue in the face. Somebody will swear that the little town his grandfather grew up in used to organize contests for who could swing the rear end of their tractor out the longest and furthest, or somebody will chime in with movie references involving a certain orange Charger. At the end of the day, however, the competitive drifting that we see here in America is a derivative of what dudes in Japan did in the early '90s to showcase their car control skills. One of the most fascinating things about America is its ability to take something foreign and put a distinct spin on it, sometimes making it much more suitable for the local population. Take the burrito for instance—it's considerably different in size and ingredients in the United States compared to what is commonly found in Mexico. Drifting has also evolved into something very different here in the United States than what is commonly found in Japan. What was originally born from the desire to show off both the driving skill and the automotive styling of oneself in Japan has become something much crazier here in the States. Cars with chassis engineering and fabrication work more extensive than even D1 level cars are becoming abundant at amateur level events. The amount of power these cars are creating is also astounding—not to mention the torque. At this point, drifting in the United States has adapted and evolved into something almost completely different than Japan. The changes make sense of course. Local parts availability and cost play a large part in how cars are being built, hence the growing number of domestic V-8 swaps present in drift cars.
American drifting also seems to have a much larger emphasis on machine preparation, from partially tube-frame chassis becoming the norm to the widespread use of fuel cells and the nature of the engines, which are becoming total powerhouses, boasting huge numbers that dwarf even dedicated race cars. Many of the cars here seem to be built as tools or equipment used in the sport, whereas in Japan, even to this day, performance often takes a back seat to aesthetics. Perhaps this is a by-product of the difference in culture between the two countries. In many cases when a Japanese drift car is wrecked and suffers major damage the vehicle is repaired regardless of the cost. In many parts of the United States, where rust and strict inspection laws are not an issue, the damaged car is oftentimes "re-shelled", swapping over anything salvageable from the crashed car to a new chassis. Differences such as this highlight the inclination of a combined mind-set to follow the most efficient and effective path.
Mike Burns, the owner of this '90 Nissan 240SX is a drifting aficionado, and has built this car for the sole purpose of partaking in this activity. The car you see before you is actually his second 240SX, purchased to take over the job of his first S13 after the abuse he had put it through became more than the tired old chassis could handle. This car is a great example of an American-built drift machine put together with Japanese influences. One of the most important aspects of Japanese drifting is the sound that the participating cars emit. Who can honestly say that they do not enjoy the horrific yet beautiful sounds that an uncorked turbo engine creates? Yes, in this day and age of "torque drifting", Mike has chosen the tried-and-true SR20DET engine to power his 240SX—the engine that Nissan had designed to power this ever popular platform. The engine was built, however, with parts sourced from manufacturers based on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. An AEM pump sends fuel through a SARD fuel rail and pressure regulator before entering the intake manifold through 1,000cc Smart Fire injectors, where it is converted into exhaust gases and sent through the Streetorstrip exhaust manifold before becoming the force that spins the 57 trim turbocharger or being expelled by the Tial wastegate, depending on the intake manifold pressure level at that moment. Once past the turbo, the exhaust gases are sent through a custom 3-inch elbow, downpipe, and ISIS cat-back. From the suction generated by the aforementioned turbo, air is pulled into and pressurized before being forced through the intercooler and ultimately into the engine. Drifting places an especially large amount of strain for the cooling system due to the lack of direct frontal airflow. To remedy this, Mike chose not to take any chances. An aluminum Koyo radiator replaces the old and frail original part. Due to the very limited fuel choices available in the United States this car runs on E85, a popular alternative to race fuel with similar properties to high-octane gasoline—another distinctly American aspect of this car.
American innovation becomes even further apparent when taking a closer look at the drivetrain. The main point of interest is the six-speed transmission originally from a 350Z adapted to work with the SR20 engine, the strength of the transmission and the added ability to keep the engine within its powerband proves the conversion's worth. Well-thought-out modifications like this transmission play a large part in giving Mike the ability to tandem with V-8-powered cars, which don't really need to worry about being in their powerband thanks to the endless amount of torque available. A Spec clutch and flywheel were installed between the engine and transmission, a Maverick Motorsports transmission mount holds the gearbox in place, and a custom aluminum driveshaft transfers the rotational force to the KAAZ 2-way differential before being transmitted to the rear wheels through axles that Mike describes only as "always broken".
The exterior of this 240SX utilizes both Japanese and American parts and styles, blending them into a unique look. The BN Sports Type II aero kit is obviously Japanese, and is a very nice touch among the hoards of stock body drift cars found in the United States. The aggressive style that BN sports is known for effectively eliminating virtually any gap between the ground and the car, which is a huge plus for the aesthetic appeal of this car. A custom rear spoiler was created, as were the flares on the Origin Lab over-fenders, by Mike himself. Once the full aero kit, front and rear over-fenders were installed, the car was in dire need of a full respray. The paintwork was performed by Elite Automotive Finishes, who mixed up a batch of custom teal for this car, complete with pink flake mixed into the clear and, of course, the wild lace pattern roof. The gutted interior, engine bay, and doorjambs were also painted. Mike chose a metallic pink for these areas, which provides an eye-popping contrast from the blue exterior. Of course, the ground-scraping aero would not have nearly the same visual effect on the car at stock height or with any wheel-to-fender gap present. This was addressed with the addition of KSport adjustable coilovers replacing the tired old shocks and struts, stiffening up the ride and bringing the whole chassis down a significant amount. The noteworthy ride height change threw any chance of getting the car anywhere near reasonable or usable alignment specs right out the window. To remedy this, a full set of adjustable Intense Power control arms were installed, replacing the old worn-out bushings in the process as well. While Mike was under the car, he chose to modify the steering rack mounting position, moving it forward on the crossmember to get better feel and eliminate binding at full lock—a drifting-specific modification that is growing in popularity. The rear subframe on these old Nissans is known for the original bushings having loads of movement, contributing to sloppy and unpredictable rearend feel. To remedy this, Mike solid-mounted the subframe to the chassis, raising it in the process to bring the control arm angles back down as much as possible without affecting ride height.
By combining the "best of both worlds", so to speak, Mike has created a machine that functions exactly as he planned, allowing him to pursue excellence in the art of drifting. He has made it very clear that he plans to absolutely destroy the car in time—and that there is no avoiding it. By doing so, there is no possibility of regret, only the knowledge that he pushed his skills to the limit with the catalyst that he created with his own two hands, and that he will keep finding that limit faster and deeper than the last time he encountered it.
Behind The Build
Baseball and Drifting
'90 Nissan 240SX (RPS13)
Engine AEM fuel pump; SARD fuel pressure regulator, fuel rail; Smart Fire top feed 1,000cc injectors; ISIS 3-inch exhaust; custom 3-inch downpipe, turbo elbow, up-pipe, intercooler piping, shaved and polished valve cover; Optima battery; 57 trim turbo, manual boost controller; Streetorstrip Concept exhaust manifold; 36mm Tial wastegate; Moroso oil pan; Koyo radiator; Ford Taurus radiator fans; NIStune ECU; Greddy boost gauge, water temp gauge
Drivetrain Nissan 350Z transmission; Maverick Motorsports transmission mounts, shift level; Spec clutch, flywheel; Kaaz 2-way differential, custom aluminum driveshaft
Suspension KSport Slide Kontrol coilovers; Nissan 240SX Hicas rear sway bar; Intense Power front lower control arms, rear lower control arms, rear camber arms, rear toe control arms, rear traction rods; custom 6-point rollcage, steering rack mounting points, solid raised rear subframe
Wheels/Tires 17x9.5 +15 Rota P45R; 17x9.5 +12 Work XD9; 235/40-17 and 255/40-17 Federal 595 RSR
Brakes Z32 Nissan 300ZX front calipers, rotors; Project Mu brake pads
Exterior BN Sports Type II body kit; custom rear spoiler, lace paint; Origin over fenders with custom flares, taillights; URAS hood vent
Interior Bride bucket seat; custom low mount seat rails, suede wrapped S14 dash, suede upholstery; Sparco harness, steering wheel; NRG steering hub, quick release; Exclusive Nights shift knob; S14 Nissan 240SX gauge cluster
Gratitude "KSport USA, Elite Automotive Finishes, Maverick Motorsports, Streetorstrip Concepts, MAK Auto, Scott Yacuel, and Joe Haven"
Special Thanks Street Sweeper Gang