This car has a V-8 in it — let’s just get that out of the way up front. Love it or hate it, the LS-swap craze is here to stay, so if that’s a problem, you better stop reading this story now. After all, this is the tale of a 240 transformed, a car that has been through many different phases leading up to how it sits now. This car has been there, done that, and now the final result is a culmination of all the good things from along the way, and Stephen Knoop couldn’t be happier with his finished product.
As most of us are aware, it takes a long time to build a car from scratch. When Stephen first picked up his ’95 240SX about five years ago, it was a far cry from this clean, drift-inspired street car. And as you may have guessed, this isn’t Stephen’s first rodeo — he’s a self-proclaimed drifting fanatic and a true Japanese car lover. Stephen told me all about his history with his other cars and how he went about putting together this super-clean example of a truly well-rounded, purpose-built street/drift hybrid monster.
“Growing up, my best friend and his dad were really into cars,” Stephen says. “I was around cars being built and the typical Honda ‘tuner scene’ for a good eight to nine years before I took any interest in it. The summer after my senior year of high school, I spent a lot of time hanging out with one of my friends who was really into cars; he spent a good chunk of his summer each year going to Japan. He introduced me to late ’90s to early ’00s Japanese style and drifting and also introduced me to the S-chassis; I hadn’t known anything about it before then since all of my other friends were into Hondas and other FWD cars. At some point between him showing me drifting videos and pictures of cars he had seen in Japan, I became hooked.”
Stephen’s first excursion into the world of drifting came in the form of another 240, a car that Stephen used to get his feet wet turning wrenches. Over the course of about two years, Stephen did a fairly major overhaul on his first Nissan, including a KA turbo setup, DIY paintjob and of course plenty of amateur drift days. “I ended up trading that car for my current 240,” Stephen recalls. “But when I first got it, my current car was a completely stock ’97 240SX SE, automatic. I was pissed for the first few weeks after the trade; I knew in my head it was a good trade, but in my heart it hurt to have gotten rid of my first ‘real’ car.”
Not one to rush in headfirst without a plan, Stephen took his time with the build after college. “About six to eight months went by before I got a job and I could afford to get parts for the 240,” Stephen says. “My graduation present was a trip to Japan, and since it was 2007 the yen rate was still really nice! After returning home, I starting pulling together parts for a 5-speed swap. I eventually ended up with a SR20DET swap, which was a good starting point for the 250 whp I wanted to achieve. Fast-forward another season and a half of drifting as much as possible, and I had the itch for more power again. I got laid off in 2008 when the economy tanked, so I spent a year unemployed looking for work. During that time, I began to roll fenders for friends of mine with more prevalence; I started gaining a reputation in my area for being the go-to guy for fender rolling, a side job that helped me fund the money pit of a habit that we’re all too familiar with. I ended up going back to Japan for a vacation after I finally found a job, and it was that trip that re-motivated me to bite the bullet and start building the car into my ultimate drift/streetable car.”
The build slowly began to materialize over the following months, and Stephen’s main goal was to keep the car functional by approaching the low ride height from a DIY engineer’s kind of standpoint. By researching and asking around on several Nissan-based forums, Stephen was able to design and fabricate his own suspension components. “Since there wasn’t exactly a plethora of knowledge out there about S-chassis suspension fabrication, there were a few trial-and-error periods in the year-and-a-half-long excursion of building this car,” Stephen recalls. “I think I’ve been through two sets of front control arms, a handful of bearings, and three sets of knuckles. Then there was my custom tie-rod setup — I’m not sure how many of those I went through, I know I ended up using a Z33 TEIN inner tie-rod with a custom-machined section and a ¾-inch heim joint with a 5/8-inch grade 8 bolt for the tie-rod mounting point and some thick sidewall tubing for a spacer to eliminate bumpsteer. I would say the biggest problem I ran into during the build was all of the custom suspension and wheel fitment work I did.” A set of Fortune Auto 500 series coilovers dial in final ride height and handle damping duties.
With the suspension department finally in the place he desired, Stephen’s next area of concentration was the power. He knew that a GM V-8 was the route he wanted to go with, and with the help of a few friends the swap was completed without too much hassle. The LS1 block has been fully rebuilt with upgraded new rod and main bolts, bearings and hardened push rods. The heads have been treated top to bottom as well, with a custom cam, upgraded valvesprings and retainers, and of course several custom parts required to make the V-8 work in his S-chassis. Sikky Manufacturing is one of Stephen’s sponsors and the company provided him with a complete mount kit (which includes CNC machined mounts, driveshaft, power steering lines, master cylinder relocation kit and an oil filter relocation kit) and a robust 7-quart oil pan. All in all, the swap is incredibly clean looking and functional — Stephen has little to worry about whether he’s drifting on track or driving down to the store for groceries.
On the outside, this S14 has received some of the most serious fender massaging we’ve ever seen, but Stephen achieved those massive pulls using the OEM metal — no overfenders here. A nice selection of body parts finishes off the car with an aggressive but not over-the-top look. The front bumper (GP Sports G Sonic One) flows nicely into the side of the car, which is accented by modified Friends Style side skirts and Bomex Type 2 mirrors. The JDM rear bumper with URAS Valances and C-West mini spoiler finish off the body work, and everything has been sprayed in a nice dark green Porsche metallic paint coat. A set of custom-built BBS RS wheels have been powdercoated white (and look oh so right at home); the specs are 17x10-inch +7mm up front and 17x11-inch -1mm in back.
The interior cabin of Stephen’s S14 sports a custom-built Formula D/SCCA-spec cage courtesy of RE-Spec Garage sets things off right away, and the rear of the car is, as you might expect, gutted. The whole interior has been painted white in pursuit of cleanliness, and the theme carries forward to the driver’s area, where a black Sparco bucket seat with white Crow harness holds Stephen in place on his adventures. White gauge faces and a Nardi steering wheel finish off the inside in a clean and race-oriented fashion.
It was a long road, but in the end, the build yielded a car beyond what Stephen had imagined at the beginning. “I was initially going for pure function, but I realized I wouldn’t be happy with that somewhere during the build and went for something that I could be happy drifting and just cruising around on select roads,” he tells us. “I certainly couldn’t have completed this build without the help and dedication of my friends; it really was a community build. I tried to get my hands on everything that was done, but I can’t weld (yet) and am lucky I have such an awesome group of friends!” And there’s not much more we need to say after that, Stephen has pulled off quite an impressive and well rounded build, a car that we would be proud to call our own.
Specs & Details
'95 Nissan 240SX SE
Engine Chevrolet LS1 V-8
Engine Modifications ’98 Chevrolet LS1 bottom end; ARP rod & main bolts; custom 224/224 Lutani cam; Clevite rod & main bearings; LS4 oil pump; LS2 timing chain; 703 truck heads; dual valvesprings & retainers; Trick Flow hardened push rods; LS6 intake manifold & PCV system; Modified Hooker Block Hugger headers w/ 3"; Sikky complete mount kit (CNC machined solid motor mounts, aluminum driveshaft, power-steering lines, master cylinder conversion, oil filter relocation kit w/ SR20 Grex oil cooler); Sikky 7-quart oil pan; custom exhaust w/ high-flow cats; Mishimoto radiator; Corvette fuel pressure regulator & fuel filter
Drivetrain Rebuilt F-body T-56 transmission w/ Spec Stag 3 clutch & SLP lightened flywheel; OS Giken Super Lock 1.5-way LSD
Suspension Fortune Auto 500 Series coilovers w/ Z32 rear mounts, traction & toe arms; Swift Springs 10K (f) & 9K (r); RE-Spec Garage Super Angle Spec knuckles; custom-built tie rods w/ TEIN Z33 inner tie rods; custom shank; ¾" heim joint; modified lower control arms w/ custom roll-center adjusters (f/r); Cusco tension rods w/ RE-Spec Garage boxed in tension rod brackets; modified Z32 rear aluminum uprights w/ Skullworks & Defworks shock mount spherical bearings; SPL rear upper control arms; Parts Shop Max rear subframe risers; OS Giken strut bar (f) RE-Spec Garage tubs w/ fenderwell modification for maximum wheel clearance
Exterior GP Sports G Sonic One front bumper; JDM grille; Modified ‘Friends Style’ side skirts; JDM rear bumper & URAS valances; C-West Mini Spoiler; Bomex Type 2 mirrors; Ramey Built Custom front bumper support/bash bar; custom OEM metal fender pull; Porsche Racing Green Metallic paint; body work by Stock or Modified Body Works
Interior Sparco Rev seat; Bride FG rails; Nardi Deep Corn 350mm steering wheel; Works Bell hub; NRG quick release; RE-Spec Garage Formula-D/SCCA spec cage
Wheels, Tires & Brakes Custom powdercoated BBS RS wheels 17x10" +7mm (f) & 17x11" -1mm (r); Nitto NT05 tires 235/40R17 (f) Yokohama S-Drive tires 245/40R17; Q45 front brakes
Thanks To Sumospeed; RE-Spec Garage; Sage Auto; Ramey Built; Stock or Modified Body Works; Fortune Auto; Sikky; BC, Raz, Justin, Keith, Mike, Taylor, & everyone else who either had parts lying around, lent a hand or even just gave moral support! I also need to send special thanks to everyone on Zilvia.net & NissanRoadRacing.com for providing me w/ countless pieces of valuable information