When it comes to building a car, patience is a virtue. There will always be people completing high-budget builds in a matter of months, gaining notoriety along the way, only to part with their creations seemingly as quickly as they had built them. While we can appreciate a fast-paced, high-budget build just as much as the next guy, there's something special about a car that the owner has been working on for years-saving money and purchasing parts along the way to assemble something truly special and meaningful.
Louis Lim is a great example of someone who has set his sights on a very specific kind of build and put in the necessary time, hard work, and patience to make his dream (the '93 Nissan 240SX you see on the pages before you) a reality. As with many of us, the dream of picking up his first set of wheels captivated Louis at the age of 16. He landed a job through a friend at a local oil change shop. "At first, I was oblivious to anything automotive related. Oil changes, tire rotations, and preventive maintenance were all foreign words to me," Louis explains. He wasn't particularly interested in a fast or flashy car-just something to allow him to experience the freedom of being a teenager with a freshly earned driver's license.
While spending his afternoons surrounded by gearhead coworkers at the oil change shop, Louis got the inevitable itch to purchase and tinker with a project car of his own. He took any opportunity he could to tag along with his friends whenever they needed a hand working on each other's cars, learning as much as he could along the way. Slowly but surely, he became more and more knowledgeable of the inner workings of cars and their engines.
After a year of saving his earnings and learning what he could about modifying cars, Louis finally had enough cash to purchase a car of his own. His manager drove a 240SX (an S13 to be exact), and he began to take an interest in the chassis. "Although it wasn't the most attractive vehicle at first glance, there were many factors that drew me in to admire its beauty. My hunt was aimed toward getting an S-chassis." And thus began the often long and daunting task of locating a clean S-chassis platform to build from.
Weeks went by without any luck. Finding a clean S13 within the budget was proving a bit harder than Louis had anticipated. He became discouraged until the day he finally got the phone call. One of Louis' friends had located a mint-condition S13 at an unbelievable price. He immediately set up a time to look at the car with his friend in tow, and he knew he had to have it at first sight. The car's body was bone stock and had very low miles. After laying down the cash he had worked so hard for the last year to earn, Louis was the proud owner of a '93 Nissan 240SX. The drive home, though not without a few stall-outs here and there, was a very happy one.
Not long after returning home with his new car, Louis began to scour the Internet and magazines to learn as much as he could about the S13. He joined as many forums as he could, and he soon began to dump paycheck after paycheck into building his car. His first mission was to add more power via a simple, low-budget turbo setup for the factory KA24DE engine. In one year's time, Louis had turned his stock and mild-mannered S13 into a turbocharged machine. He enjoyed the setup immensely for about two months, until the pistons began to melt, that is. . . .
Since the car was his daily driver and only form of transportation, Louis was determined to rebuild the engine to maintain the power he had created while still remaining streetworthy and reliable. He found a replacement motor, this time building it from the ground up with forged internals. He maintained and tinkered with this much more successful setup for a few years. It was during this time that he turned his attention to the exterior of the car. He started watching old drifting videos, and soon his intentions were clear: Louis wanted to re-create the classic Japanese styling of the JDM 180SX.
Louis was anything but a drifter, so he didn't want his car to look like many of the other S13 drift missiles on the road. He sourced a host of OEM Nissan exterior upgrades, including a Kouki 180SX front bumper, taillights, and rear valances. The side skirts are OEM Nissan pieces as well from the S13 Silvia. He decided to complement his Kouki 180SX taillights with an increase in lighting output at the front of the car as well, via Hella H4 conversion headlight housings. The factory paint color was left intact, leaving the exterior of the car looking much more aggressive while still maintaining a clean, OEM look.
After the exterior was freshened up, it was time to make the cockpit a bit cozier. Louis accomplished this task with the addition of OEM Nissan Silvia (S15) seats, which add some much-needed support for driver and passenger without taking things over the top. A Nardi deep corn steering wheel and NRG quick-release hub replace the stock and awkwardly designed steering wheel, while a host of gauges from STRI keep Louis informed of the engine's vitals. Some JDM180SX flair was added to match the exterior by installing a Kouki 180SX gauge cluster and digital climate control unit. Lastly, the headliner and glovebox were wrapped in black suede.
During the build, Louis met Chris Bishop, owner of DressUpBolts.com. The pair became fast friends, and Chris was always willing to help Louis with his questions and the direction of his build. Chris became a big inspiration to Louis and eventually persuaded him to ditch the KA-T he had built for the 2JZ-GTE Toyota Aristo engine you see on the pages before you. "Although I had an emotional attachment to my KA-T, there was always a feeling of uneasiness since the first time it blew up, so I never pushed it hard. I wanted something truly reliable with more power," Louis says.
With the help of Chris and his shop, Louis ended up going through with the swap. He picked up an Aristo 2JZ-GTE engine and R154 transmission that made their way into the Nissan's engine bay. But why stop with swapping a stock engine? A Garrett GT4082 single turbo was added to push a few extra ponies, along with Mk4 Supra 550cc injectors to feed the thirsty new engine. A custom Momentum Autoworks turbo-back exhaust system was added to free things up a bit, while a Mishimoto radiator, a TRD thermostat, and dual slim 12-inch E-fans keep engine temps under control.
What build would be complete without a few suspension upgrades? Louis consulted the vast aftermarket for the S-chassis to help keep his 240SX planted during aggressive driving and to meet the new demands of the larger powerplant. Stance GR+ coilovers give the car its slammed appearance, while suspension arm and tie rod upgrades from Fortune Auto and Tein allow the alignment to be dialed in accurately. Front brakes from a Nissan 300ZX bring the car to a stop much quicker and more efficiently than the stock single-piston calipers, while Energy Suspension bushings replace the old and tired factory units. No car could be considered finished without a nice set of wheels, so Louis turned to an OEM S14 five-lug conversion to utilize a set of timeless bronze Volk TE37s in classic 17x9- and 18x9.5-inch sizing.
Though Louis' S13 build spanned a period of nearly eight years, it's clear to see that all his persistence and hard work have paid off. It's both impressive and refreshing to see that people still have the motivation to learn about a platform and save up their cash to complete a build at their own pace, however fast or slow it may be. Louis shows us that with patience and a clear goal in mind, you can piece together a top-notch build without an endless budget.
Exterior Nissan 180SX kouki front bumper, rear valances, taillights; Nissan Silvia side skirts; Hella H4 conversion headlight housings
Specs & Details
'93 Nissan 240SX
Engine Toyota 2JZGTE turbocharged inline-6
Engine Modifications Mk4 Toyota Supra 550cc fuel injectors; Garrett GT4082 turbocharger; Momentum Auto Works custom turbo-back exhaust; Custom intercooler and piping; Synapse 40mm wastegate; Mishimoto aluminum radiator; TRD thermostat; dual slim 12" E-fans; ARP head studs; Wrinkle black powdercoated valve cover, intake manifold; Starfire pearl coil cover; Dress Up bolts custom engine and engine bay titanium bolt kit
Drivetrain Custom one-piece driveshaft; Freed Engineering motor and transmission mounts; Toyota R154 transmission
Suspension Stance gr+ pro coilovers; Fortune Auto suspension arms; Tein inner and outer tie rods; Energy suspension master bushing kit; Nissan S14 5-lug conversion
Interior Nardi deep corn steering wheel; NRG quick-release hub; Nissan 180SX kouki gauge cluster; digital climate control; ATI column-mount gauge pod; STRI 52mm water temp, boost gauges; Custom black suede headliner, glovebox; Nissan S15 Silvia front seats, sunvisors
Wheels, Tires & Brakes Volk TE37 17x9 +15 (f) 18x9.5 +12 (r); Nissan 300ZX 30MM front brakes; Project Kics lug nuts