"I just might have to go rev it in front of the cops again," JuanPablo Velasco says with a laugh. "Just to see what they'll do this time around..."
While JuanPablo's relationship with the police departments near his hometown of Santa Ana, California, has been a bit contentious over the past few years, his '95 Nissan 240SX has ultimately benefited from the drama.
Growing up in and around his dad's shop, J V Autobody, JP's interest in cars started at an early age. "When I was in high school, I would come in on the weekends and help him out," he tells us. "These days, I do a lot of the painting, bodywork, and kit installs." When he's not working on something at the shop, JuanPablo also lends his talents to RAD Industries. "I've known Dan Burkett for a while," he says. "I do paintwork on his Supra drift car as well as his customers' builds."
JuanPablo says while he has a soft spot for the Ford Mustang, he has always gravitated toward the import scene. "My dad worked at Saleen Performance back when it was in Lake Forest, so I got introduced to the performance world through that. But after I saw the '71 Hakosuka, my interests shifted toward the Japanese stuff. The domestics just didn't appeal to me in the same way."
When the time came to get started on a project of his own, JP started looking for ways to combine style with performance without breaking the bank. "I liked the design of the Nissan Silvia, but, of course, those were never offered in the U.S.," he explains. "So, the 240SX was the next best thing. I found this car on Craigslist back in 2011 and picked it up for three grand."
Though cosmetically a bit worn out, the car was basically stock, making it a great foundation from which to start. "I knew I would be repainting it, so I was more concerned about it running well and that the interior was clean," JuanPablo explains.
He drove it around in more or less stock form for a few years before he got the itch to step things up. "I wanted more power," he says. "So, I decided to do an SR20 swap." The 240SX would spend the next three years motivated by Nissan's famous four-cylinder turbo, but a botched attempt to fly under the scrutiny of Johnny law would put the car's future in jeopardy.
"It was a Wednesday, and I had planned to take it over to Auto Talent that weekend," he recalls. "I had just upgraded to a bigger turbo and it needed to be tuned, but at the time it was my only car, so I was still driving it. I was on my way to school and saw a bunch of police stopped at the scene of an accident, and I had to pass through there to get where I needed to go. So, of course, the car backfired right in front the cops."
Irvine PD sprang into action. "Right away, I saw a cop signal another one to go after me," JuanPablo says. "So, this motorcycle cop pulled me over, and the first thing he asked was why I had a boost gauge in a car that wasn't supposed to have a turbo." It wasn't long before the boys in blue were going over his S14 with a fine-tooth comb, eventually concluding the SR20 powerplant was verboten. JP would have to get a smog-compliant powerplant in the car again or face some steep penalties. "I heard that on the third offense, they just crush the car," he notes.
Determined to retain the S14's performance chops without running afoul of the law again, he started looking into his options. "I found out General Motors' E-ROD crate engines were California smog-compliant, so I sold the SR20 and pulled the trigger. The car was down for almost two years, but we finished everything up a few months ago."
Under the hood now resides a factory-stock 6.2L LS3 V-8 that dishes out 430 hp and 424 lb-ft. The grunt is channeled through a T-56 Magnum six-speed manual gearbox and sent to the rear wheels by way of a Tomei differential.
The S14 rides on JIC coilovers, which are supplemented by Kazama control arms and a NISMO power brace, while stopping power is provided by calipers from a second-generation Cadillac CTS-V, Winmax pads, and rotors from a Nissan 370Z. A JDM Navan aero kit, D-Max rear spoiler, and custom-fab'd diffuser help the 240 stand out to Nissan aficionados without raising too much attention.
JuanPablo says that while he's considered turning the car into a dedicated time-attack machine, right now the plan is just to get it back on the road. "My state inspection is coming up next month. Once it's legal again, I'm probably just going to use it as a daily driver for a while." But as history has shown us on countless occasions, you just can't keep a good gearhead down. "Maybe further down the road, I'll throw a few bolt-ons at it, or a supercharger," he adds. "Now that it has the legal swap, I bet the cops won't even look at me anymore!"