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1995 Nissan 240SX - Tryin’ To Function

Form follows function in this builder’s case, but in the end this V8 S14 has it all!

Andrew Beckford
Oct 21, 2014
Photographer: Somya Siva

It seems that over the last five years or so, two schools of build philosophies have risen in our culture: the "school of form" and the "school of function." You already know the "form" students by their air suspensions and affinity for negative camber. The "function" students, as you can imagine, put function before everything else. Lovers of "function" hold the belief that aesthetics are byproduct of something that has been built for a specific purpose and in its ability to serve that purpose lies. One of the biggest characteristics of a person who subscribes to "function first" is that they are not purists. They do not hold to the idea that a car must be a certain way to maintain its sense of what it is. Nothing is sacred in their world. Damian Kho's 240SX is the perfect example of a build executed all in the name of function. Damian spends most of his time building cars for his clients out of his shop Tarmac SPL in New York. He specializes in Nissans, but the cars of his past include an Eclipse GS-T, three (AE86) Corollas and a few 240SXs here and there. Usually, Damian likes to keep at least two cars on hand: a daily driver and a track car. However, about three years ago he decided he wanted a weekend car that was still completely functional as a street driver but something that could hold its own on a track carving corners or sliding through them sideways. That is when he began working on the V8-powered S14 gracing these pages.

1995 nissan 240SX nardi classic steering wheel 02 Photo 2/16   |   1995 Nissan 240SX - Tryin’ To Function

Besides being a Nissan specialist, Damian chose the 240SX due to its excellently balanced platform. In his eyes, the S14 has the "perfect wheelbase and perfect weight." He was also attracted to the S14's ability to accept various motors with little modification needed—this is where Damian's quest for balance really began. He started with an S13-sourced SR20DET motor that he built to the tune of nearly 500hp. He enjoyed that setup for a while but found that the lack of torque and boost lag was starting to take the fun out of things. From there, he went with another SR, but this motor was built specifically with torque in mind. It had less top-end power but much better throttle response. In fact, the torque ended up being a little too great, causing the engine to suffer from spun bearings. Fed up with the pitfalls of boost, Damian decided that he would go the naturally aspirated route on his next motor build—something lightweight, reliable but with sufficient torque. This is what led him to the LS. The LS2 had the highest compression of any other LS-family engine and it is also lighter than a stock KA series Nissan engine. Really, it was a no-brainer, yet he did this at a time when dropping a domestic V8 in an import was still something of a controversial modification. Despite the haters, Damian was going to go with what best served his purpose, so he ignored the fanboys.

To get the LS2 to sit nicely in the engine bay, Damian used a mount kit from Fueled Performance. The engine bolted in with no headaches. He installed a large Griffin radiator to help keep it cool, but its size would have put it past the hood line. To remedy the problem, Damian mounted the radiator at an angle in a similar way that Chevy does with the Corvette. Then, he fab'd a custom ram-air scoop to make sure the radiator core gets as much cold air as possible. With the motor all buttoned up, Damian selected a T56 tranny with a Diamond Clutch stage 2 unit to escort all those horses down the driveshaft. Splitting the power between the two rear wheels is an ATS Carbon 1.5-way differential. Exhaling all of the exhaust gases from the LS2 is a custom cross-pipe dual exhaust fabricated in-house at Damian's shop.

1995 nissan 240SX vertex lang rear bumper 04 Photo 3/16   |   1995 Nissan 240SX - Tryin’ To Function

Once the engine and drivetrain were squared away, it was time to make sure this S14 could handle its double duty as a street and track car. The footwork starts off with complete Stance Pro Comp coilovers. To aid in fine-tuning, Damian fitted front tension rods, rear upper arms, tie rods and rear traction rods. The front and rear lower control arms are custom units, again from Damian's shop. A set of front and rear sway bars from Whiteline helps keep the S14's weight balanced in the corners while Carbing front and Cusco rear strut bars plus a GT Spec trunk bar help keep the chassis rigid. To help bleed off speed, there is a Project Mu brake kit up front and Brembo calipers in the back to bite down on the rotors.

Now that the performance was settled, it was time to address the exterior. This is the area where there is some crossover between those who believe in form and function. Although a functional-minded person such as Damian tends to show a bit more restraint in exterior mod choices, he started out with one of the cleanest S14 Kouki body kits around: the Vertex T&E "Lang." It shaves some weight, adds a bit of downforce and makes it look so damn good all at once. To mix things up, Damian did go with Chargespeed for the rear over-fenders to ensure that the wheels would remain flush. Speaking of wheels, we think anyone would find Damian's choice of three-piece Work Meisters a wise decision. This is apparent when you look at the offsets: -1 in the front, -13 in the rear. These rollers really pop, especially against the brilliant white paint of the body panels.

1995 nissan 240SX AiM sports MXL digital cluster 05 Photo 4/16   |  
AiM dash for the win!

For the interior, it can be easily seen that this is where indulgences were allowed as the inside is practically dripping with carbon fiber in all the right places and stacked to the headliner with quality JDM bits. Both passenger and driver get to back it up in to Bride Zeta III seats and buckle up with Willians five-point harnesses. All the engine vitals are shown to Damian via an AiM Sports MXL digital gauge cluster.

When it's all said and done, the philosophy that someone chooses when building a car is of little importance. We've always found that the best project cars were built by an owner who was more concerned with his own expectations rather than the expectations of others. It's a "can't-miss" strategy that people from both sides can appreciate. You can say what you want about Damian's ride, but it can never be argued that he did it his way...

1995 nissan 240SX chargespeed rear over fender 08 Photo 5/16   |  
Chargespeed over-fenders allow for the massive 12-inch-wide wheels and 265-series tires to fit in the back.

Tuning Menu
1995 Nissan 240SX

Owner Damian Kho

Location Fresh Meadows, NY

Occupation Owner of Tarmac SPL

Engine GTO LS2 engine swap; Fueled Performance mount kit; Melling upgraded oil pump; ASP crank pulley; custom front-mount cooling ram; Griffin radiator; TM SPL dual X-pipe exhaust; PCM tuned

1995 nissan 240SX LS2 engine swap 06 Photo 6/16   |  
Under the hood, Damian’s S14 is all about function with a 450hp LS2 motor swap.

Drivetrain Six-speed T56 transmission; Diamond Clutch stage 2 kit with lightweight flywheel; 1.5-way ATS carbon differential

Footwork & Chassis Stance Pro Comp coilovers; SPL front tension rods, rear upper arms, tie rods and rear traction rods; TM custom front and rear lower control arms; GP Sport rear subframe; Whiteline sway bars; Carbing strut bar; Cusco rear strut bar; Yashio Factory front subframe connectors; TEIN inner and outer tie rods; GT Spec rear trunk bar; HRE Fab front crash bar

Brakes Project Mu front four-pot big brake kit; Brembo rear calipers with Ferodo pads

1995 nissan 240SX work meister s1 wheel 07 Photo 7/16   |  
Only the best JDM parts here with Project Mu brakes and Work Meister S1s.

Wheels & Tires 18x9.5" -1 front, 18x12" -13 rear Work Meister S1 wheels; 235/40 R18 front, 265/35 R18 rear Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 tires; Project Kics lug nuts; NISMO racing studs

Exterior Vertex T&E Lang body kit, headlights and front fenders; East Bear side mirrors; Chargespeed rear over-fenders

Interior AiM Sports MXL digital cluster; Nardi Classic steering wheel; Work Bell quick-release hub; Bride Zeta III seats; Willians five-point harness; Mazworx harness bar; Yashio Factory shift boot and drift knob; MGW short shifter; NISMO shift knob; Hella kill switch; Pioneer head unit

1995 nissan 240SX bride zeta III seats 03 Photo 8/16   |   1995 Nissan 240SX - Tryin’ To Function

SR20DET vs. 1JZ-GTE vs. LS
Words Aaron Bonk

Getting rid of Nissan's factory-equipped KA24DE has never been easier. Knowing what to replace it with has never been more difficult. That's mostly because of the number of four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines, both boosted and naturally aspirated, that are swap-compatible with only moderate effort on the S-chassis.

The most obvious candidate is Nissan's own factory- turbocharged SR20DET. A seemingly endless supply of Japanese specimens means the whole transplant can be completed for about two grand. Add a couple of bolt-ons and eclipse the 300whp mark with little effort. Nissan's SR series of engines has long been discontinued, though, so sourcing a low-mileage version in good shape can be challenging.

Even 20 years later, Toyota's inline, six-cylinder JZ engines are considered among the best Japan's ever made. They're virtually bulletproof, which is why your Civic will almost always lose to any Supra. The smaller-displacement, easy-to-find but seldom-used 1JZ-GTE is especially intriguing, though, like the one in Chris Milan's ride. Pick up the single-turbocharged 2.5-liter engine for about $1,500, but don't forget about the added cost of engine management and retrofitting a compatible transmission into place.

You love hating American muscle. Until you sit behind 400 lb-ft of torque. Then all of a sudden it seems like a good idea to retrofit any one of General Motors' ubiquitous eight-cylinder LS engines under the hood of your Nissan as Damian has demonstrated. The number of LS engines aren't few and range from as low as 300hp to well over 500hp. Pick one up for about a grand but plan on shelling out exponentially more to finagle it into place and allow it to play nicely with whatever electronics and transmission you've got.

Web Exclusive Photos

1995 nissan 240SX vertex lang front bumper 09 Photo 9/16   |   1995 Nissan 240SX Vertex Lang Front Bumper 09
1995 nissan 240SX exhaust tips 12 Photo 16/16   |   1995 Nissan 240SX Exhaust Tips 12
By Andrew Beckford
50 Articles

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