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1989 Nissan 240SX - Golden Child

Nikki Dela Cruz's Unique S15-Powered S13 Stands Out Amongst The Sea Of Modified 240Sxs.

Nate Hassler
Nov 12, 2010
Photographer: Patrick Lauder

These days, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd as a 240 owner. With low entry cost and abundant availability, it's not surprising that many drifters and grassroots grip racers prefer the S13 chassis as their weapon of choice. It's also not surprising that with so many people driving these cars at the limit, a lot of them get beat up pretty badly. There's nothing wrong with a car that gets used and abused - nothing wrong at all. But the fact remains that in a sea of zip-ties, broken bumpers and mismatched body panels, Nikki Dela Cruz's S13 shines through as a golden beacon.

Modp_1012_01_o+1989_nissan_240sx+front_left_side_view Photo 2/10   |   1989 Nissan 240SX - Golden Child

Nikki picked up his S13 a few years ago - after owning a boosted Prelude for a short time - and decided that he wanted a new project, something RWD and with more tuning potential. Nikki tells us about how he came to own the car you see before you. "A friend of mine is a real 240 fanatic," Nikki says. "He owned several 240s at the time and he wanted to get rid of some, so he actually gave the car to me for free." That's a pretty sweet deal no matter how you slice it, and although the car was pretty beat up, it was a complete car - and a running one at that. Not a bad way to start, but as the saying goes, a free car is worth every penny. "I drove the car for about one week before the engine blew up on the freeway," Nikki says with a laugh. "At that point, I decided to rebuild it and do the car right, from the ground up."

The project began on the outside, with paint and body coming first. Nikki knew he wanted the build to follow the OEM styling cues of the JDM Silvia, and he wanted as clean a conversion as possible. There would be no huge wings or aggressive kits here, that's not Nikki's style. Starting off with the rare and hard-to-come-by Silvia K's Aero, Nikki is right on track with his goal. A Nismo R32 GT-R front grille looks right at home, as do the array of JDM Nissan badges and small trim items. A set of high-polished Work Ledsled wheels add a nice touch of bling to the car's otherwise subtle demeanor, a very good aesthetic choice indeed. BMW gold paint was chosen to coat everything on the car (excluding the engine bay, which was about to receive some major attention of its own).

Modp_1012_04_o+1989_nissan_240sx+rear_left_view Photo 3/10   |   1989 Nissan 240SX - Golden Child

With the car down and ready for a full makeover, Nikki decided to go all out on the JDM conversion by tearing up the firewall and swapping driver sides. Although Nikki originally went with a S13 Black Top powerplant, he soon set his sights on a S15 Spec R long-block he saw at the RCrew Racing Garage. The S15 motor is more powerful and more modern, and is equipped with a variable valve timing system. There are a bunch of other small differences between the motors, including a better intake design and a different turbo on the newer S15 motor. The S15 Spec R 6-speed transmission is also better and more sought after than its more common 5-speed counterparts. In the rear, the factory VLSD was also replaced with a Nismo unit.

Nikki knew he had to have the newer SR for his ride, so he made RCrew Racing owner Dan Phan a good offer and the deal was done. The S15 heart remains stock internally, with only minor mods like the HKS air filter, turbo inlet, downpipe and WORKS9 exhaust to free up airflow. Cooling is handled by a stock S15 side-mounted intercooler, an effective choice for a modest engine setup.

Modp_1012_03_o+1989_nissan_240sx+engine Photo 4/10   |   1989 Nissan 240SX - Golden Child

Nikki claims the car makes about 250 whp, not a lot by any means, but he doesn't want to go too wild in any one department with this car - after all, it's his daily driver. There's plenty of room to improve the motor down the road, though. The stock SR20DET block can handle upward of 400 horses, and these numbers can be realized fairly easily with the addition of a set of more aggressive cams and a proper exhaust manifold, as well as an upgraded turbocharger, and of course, proper fuel delivery and engine management. Nikki plans to build the motor from the ground up in hopes of entering the 500hp club.

On the suspension side of things, Nikki left no stone unturned. Knowing that the subframe is a weak point of the S13, a larger more beefy S15 unit has been retrofit in its place. Kazama bushings, rear upper control arms, toe arms and tension rods help keep everything in line, with Kei Office coilovers handling damping and ride height duties. A custom front "power brace" from Mekan1zm and a R32 Skyline rear sway bar complete the handling department.

On the inside, Nikki chose to keep it street friendly and simple, with a bolt-in Cusco rollcage and a pair of Bride seats. A Nismo harness keeps Nikki in place and safe, while an iconic green Takata harness secures the passenger. Custom Bride fabric on the door panels add a little more visual flair, and the obvious right-hand-drive conversion is front and center, a good way of reminding onlookers of what rests underneath the hood. A Personal steering wheel with a Splash quick release and Works Bell hub make a good JDM-inspired combo, as does the OEM optional digital climate control, another cool part you don't see every day.

Now that the car is practically complete, there's only one thing left to do: drive it. And Nikki does exactly that. Not only does the car see daily commuting duty, but Nikki isn't afraid to take it out to the dragstrip or to a car show. He also plans to give drifting a try soon, and with a great platform like this, we hope he does so very soon. He's got no excuses to drive the car at anything less than its full potential.

Specs & Details
'89 Nissan 240SX
Engine Nissan SR20DET S15 Silvia Spec R inline-4

Engine Modifications S15 side-mount intercooler; Cusco engine mounts; HKS air filter, turbo outlet, downpipe; GReddy boost gauge; Blitz "voice guided" turbo timer; WORKS9 dual exhaust; BEE*R rev limiter misfiring system; Pivot fan controller, Speed Meter Z w/ speed limiter cut; wire tuck & brake line tuck

Engine Management GReddy Profec B boost controller

Drivetrain S15 Spec R 6-speed transmission; Nismo limited-slip differential; Uras transmission mount; DSS Custom driveshaft

Suspension S15 rear subframe w/ offset bushings; Kei Office coilovers; Custom Mekan1zm front power brace; Kazama subframe bushings, rear upper control arms, toe arms, tension rods; A'PEXi rear strut bar; R32 Skyline rear sway bar

Exterior OEM Nissan Silvia K's AERO front end conversion, side emblem, side moldings, rear spoiler, trunk lock; OEM Nissan Silvia parking pole, power folding mirrors, taillights, rear emblem, S15 hood emblem; Nismo GT-R front grille; BMW gold paint

Wheels, Tires & Brakes Work Ledsled wheels 17x8.5" +35 (f), 17x9.5" +30 (r); S15 5-lug conversion; Fuzion ZRi tires: 215/15R17 (f) & 235/15R17 (r); Z32 calipers (f/r)

Thanks To Team MEKAN1ZM, Gen & Josh Baet for helping w/ the build, Dee De la Cruz for helping w/ the build & selecting the right "PYESA" parts & my family for tolerating all the noises in the garage even when they're sleeping

By Nate Hassler
182 Articles

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