You can make a very strong case that the 240SX chassis has become the “new” Civic in the broad spectrum of the import automotive community. More and more modified S13/S14 builds pop up every year, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. You can thank drifting for shining the bright spotlight on the 240SX. Both chassis are cheap and readily available and when enthusiasts got into drifting, the Nissan S13/S14 was definitely the preferred chassis to start with. Even if drifting had never become a hit Stateside, these cars would still have eventually become very popular, due in part largely because of the strong aftermarket support from Japan. Though the S-chassis was easy to find, they weren’t always in the best condition. If you could find a clean shell, then you had a gem on your hands. If not, it didn’t really matter too much because the guys who were building them were making entry-level drift cars. The probability of beating up the body further was a very likely scenario. At some point during the height of the 240SX’s popularity, it was almost a standard to have a beat-up one because owners were given a certain level of “street cred”. If it didn’t look banged up you weren’t cool. The ones who appreciated the longevity of their Nissans were almost shunned because it seemed as if they weren’t putting their cars to use. The “in” thing to do was to have an S13 or S14 that looked like it had run into a wall of some sort. It didn’t even matter if you were into drifting, the more hood your project looked, the better.
No corners cut for this restomod S13
If you are a part of the current crop of import enthusiasts, then you probably have a good understanding of what we’re trying to say. These Nissan coupes and hatchbacks are everywhere these days. Some are legit drift cars, most are half-built junkers, and a very small percentage of them are pristine, well-rounded builds. For those of you who have been around imports for a decade or more, you probably remember the older, more memorable 240SX builds—that’s all that really existed before. There weren’t that many guys working on these cars and the ones that did invested a very large sum of money and time into creating some incredible builds. Guys and gals back in the day built these cars to be “different”. Today, having an all one-color Nissan S-chassis with a clean engine swap—that isn’t a combined effort of throwing four or five salvageable parts cars together—would probably be considered “different”. If you don’t care for a clean build and enjoy sliding around in a bucket, by all means, you are entitled to your decision. We prefer a build like this beautifully simplistic red S13 coupe, owned by John Ma of Rosemead, CA.
“I’ve always wanted to build an S13.” John says. “I remember back in 2001 when my cousin’s husband took me out for a ride in his. It had an SR20DET swap and I just fell in love with the way it felt. I didn’t get to pick one up until about six years ago, and have been working on it ever since. Most of my friends were into Hondas but I always knew that I wanted to build an S13. The only issue was money. I had all these lofty dreams of what I wanted to do to the car but I just didn’t have the funds to execute it. I was working but my money was spent on paying for school. Every little bit of extra money went to collecting parts for my coupe.”
The beauty of this particular build is John’s use of original factory Nissan components. His staggered, 17-inch Panasport G7s are definitely rare, but pale in comparison to parts like his factory S13 coupe rare valances and rare discontinued window visors. Anything that was worn down from age or damaged by the previous owner was replaced with new original equipment pieces. Other than the aftermarket Origin taillights, everything from the JDM S13 Silvia frontend to the “Chuki” side skirts and JDM black carpet inside are all original Nissan. Even John’s brake upgrade is OE Nissan but instead of Silvia, they are of the twin-turbo 300ZX variety. John was so meticulous in his search that it has taken him about seven years to find everything he wanted—some parts he tried locating even before he had a chassis to build.
Money was no doubt an integral part of this S13 reaching its current state. As the saying goes: “You have to pay to play.” A person can have all the dreams in the world but you definitely have to have the proper funds to finance reality. John understood that; he just didn’t expect to make a vital error that would prove to be a detriment to his build’s completion. “I had originally swapped out the stock KA motor for an SR20DET from an S14 Silvia.” John says. “It ran great until I blew it up one day on a dyno from over-boosting. Having to find another engine was a huge setback for me. I learned from my mistake though and went all out with the current motor. I knew if I wanted to make reliable power out of it I would have to build the motor from the inside out.”
Most of my friends were into Hondas but I always knew that I wanted to build an S13.
The heart of John’s S13, an SR20DET from a Japanese market S15 Silvia, has been disassembled and resealed with original Nissan parts. Vital components like the oil pump, water pump, and associated engine bearings have been replaced while the valvetrain sees upgraded goodies from Tomei and Supertech. The block has been decked, honed, and micro-polished along with a balanced crankshaft, as well as the addition of new CP pistons and Eagle connecting rods. Since John got a little too boost-happy on his previous motor, he made sure to utilize the proper electronics from Blitz, HKS, and A’PEXi to maintain high boost pressure from his Garrett GT2871 turbocharger. Tomei products help deliver adequate fuel to the SR motor, as airflow is driven from the HKS Type S intercooler into a matching HKS intake manifold. If the who’s who list of big-name Japanese aftermarket companies represented underhood isn’t enough to make your jaw drop, John has taken the liberty of also doing a custom wire-tuck and relocated brake lines. The absence of a bulky engine harness and brake lines only help to increase the visibility of all the great things happening inside this engine bay.
John’s Nissan 240SX is a prime example of what a timeless S13 street car should be. It’s very simple in its aesthetic approach and has a heart of an S15 Silvia that makes horsepower numbers that are more than respectable. You won’t see John sliding around on the streets with fiberglass body parts zip-tied together—that’s not what this build is about. He has taken the steps to source out every OE part possible to not only restore it to its original factory form, but also to create his image of how a Japanese S13 Silvia should look. We often ask the owners of the cars we feature what motivates them to build the cars that they do. John’s answer: “I wanted to have one of the cleanest S13 coupes around. It not only had to look good, but also had to have the balls to back it up.”
You won’t see John sliding around on the streets with fiberglass body parts zip-tied together—that’s not what this build is about.
Behind the Build
Building cars, snowboarding, traveling, hiking, and anything with fast cars!
To have the cleanest S13 around
1992 Nissan 240SX
Output: 379 hp / 348 lb-ft torque
Engine ’00 Nissan 2.0L SR20DET; decked head; Tomei ProCam 260/260 camshafts, valvesprings, retainers, rocker arm stoppers, fuel pump, fuel injectors, turbo elbow; Supertech Bronze valveguides, valves; ARP head studs; Cosworth head gasket; balanced/micro-polished crankshaft; decked, honed, and micro-polished engine block; 86mm CP pistons, piston rings; Eagle connecting rods; Cusco motor mounts; entire motor resealed with original Nissan parts; custom oil filter relocation kit; Hamp oil filter; HKS air intake, DLI 1 twin ignition, Type-S intercooler, intercooler piping, adjustable actuator; 60mm N/A S15 throttle body; GReddy intake manifold, Type R blow-off valve; Sard fuel pressure regulator, fuel rail adapter; Autolink fuel pressure gauge; Earl’s soft braided lines; Circuit Sports exhaust, hood dampener; Catco 3-inch high-flow catalytic converter; Denso iridium IK27 spark plugs; Garrett GT2871R .64 A/R turbocharger; Blitz downpipe, SBC Dual-Spec R boost controller; Koyo aluminum radiator; Samco Sport cooling hoses; Flex-a-lite dual radiator fans; NISMO thermostat, oil cap, radiator cap; Toyota OE antifreeze; Password:JDM headlight diffuser; custom engine wiring harness by Smoothlinez Auto Salon; powdercoated valve cover; custom brake line tuck, engine wire tuck; aluminum coolant overflow tank; ENEOS fluids
Drivetrain Nissan S14 five-speed transmission; NISMO transmission mounts, two-way limited-slip differential; Driveshaft Shop one-piece aluminum driveshaft; ACT Extreme heavy-duty clutch; C’s short shifter; Motul transmission fluids; steel-braided clutch line; Circuit Sports brass shifter bushing
Suspension KTS 12K/10 kg/mm mono-tube coilovers, front camber control arms; Tanabe sway bars, Sustec front under brace; NISMO front strut tower bar; Cusco OS+ T-Bar, rear camber control arms; SPL rear toe control arms, front tension arms; Peak Performance rear traction arm; Kazama rear subframe bushing sleeves; Energy Suspension endlink bushings; 240SX HICAS steering rack with Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings; Tein inner and outer tie rods; Circuit Sports aluminum steering bushings; stitch-welded front chassis; custom front skidplate
Brakes Nissan OE Z32 300ZX TT front, rear brakes, master cylinder, brake booster; Project Mu B-Force brake pads; Brembo front brake rotors; Rotora rear cross-drilled rotors; SPL steel-braided brake lines; ATE Super Blue Racing Dot 4 brake fluid;
Wheels/Tires 17x9 +12 Panasport G7; 215/45-17 Yokohama Advan (front); 17x10 +15 Panasport G7; 255/40-17 Dunlop Direzza (rear); Project Kics R40 Neo-Chrome lug nuts; NISMO lug studs
Exterior Nissan S13 Silvia Aero front bumper, rear valance, S13 Silvia Chuki side skirts, S13 Silvia headlights; Origin taillights; Philips H4 4300K HID; OE window visors
Interior Bride Brix seats, MO-Type seat rails; NISMO 340mm suede steering wheel, aluminum pedal set; Momo steering hub; Works Bell quick release; Kazama shift knob; JDM S13 Silvia black carpet
Electronics A’PEXi Power FC, turbo timer; GReddy oil pressure, boost gauges; AEM wideband O2; Alpine head unit, rear speakers; Eclipse front speakers; Phoenix Gold amplifier; Monster Cable audio wiring
Gratitude Thanks go to Rick from Smoothlinez Auto Salon, without him I would have never got this far with my car; Infinit Wheels for refinishing my Panasport wheels; and Standard Functions for getting all my powdercoating and polish work done.