Perhaps the unfortunate part about readers writing in and asking if their cars are good enough to be featured in the magazine, is telling them "no" - not because they don't deserve it, but merely because their cars lack certain elements that can make them a serious contender for a feature slot. Whatever the case may be - not enough parts, car still in a build phase or simply just not what we're looking for (and please, don't take this as any offense if you have submitted your car to us) - we always reserve a few spots in our Readers' Rides section for these types of cars; it lets you know that you're almost there and we want to recognize your efforts. There is certainly the über extremely rare circumstance, however, where a letter catches our eye, forcing us to take action and get that car shot. After all, you have just as much a chance as anyone else does; most of the time we just need to know that you're out there.
For this special Nissan issue, we received a letter from a dedicated reader by way of Miami, Florida - Gabe "The Babe" Elias - and his '91 240SX LE is just the sort of car we'd been looking for to feature. In some ways, if you can believe it, the 240 has taken the place of the Civic in that there are a ton of them on the road, modified, yet somehow impossible to find. So when Gabe's letter found its way to our inbox, we in turn found ourselves relieved and lucky because his car is exactly what we were looking for!
The second owner of this gem, it's Gabe's first car, which he purchased on his 17th birthday and as he describes it, "was a clean car that I subsequently turned into shit" over the course of the following year as he started college. Like most students who love fixing up cars, he spent most of his time looking for parts than actual studying and scrounged up enough money saved (and from selling his stock KA) for a SR20DET, which he installed during a weekend with the help of his friends. That motor wound up having a bad knocking issue so he sent it back to the importer for another that also crapped out, forcing him to get a third engine before it ran right. Hence the subsequent "shit". "It ran horribly," says Gabe, "didn't have A/C, a bum turbo and a host of other problems made me practically hate my car." That's when a light switch flipped on in his mind - "I was there to become a mechanical engineer, not a mechanic," he says, "So I let the car sit. It sat outside my apartment on campus, collecting dust and I messed with it occasionally on weekends to fix the problems I caused by trying to build a car half-assed." It wasn't until he sold a set of SSR Dori wheels that he had enough funds to get started on the rebirth of his 240, and from there it was all about "building a car that would truly turn heads, not because of how flashy it is, but because of how on-point and clean it is."
You see, in Florida - according to Gabe's world - there's a term that's thrown around to describe cars that try to match California's standards but wind up failing in the process called the "Florida Fail". "I always admired Cali-style and true Japanese style over what was happening here," he says, "I couldn't stand to see one more flat black, busted-up 240SX. I think I was able to bring a little bit of that Cali style back east with the way I built my car." Gabe surrounded himself with people who knew how to build cars and how to build them right. He researched forums and devised a list of parts he knew would work for his car as it hit various stages, thus beginning the "Sexy Stage" resurrection.
Gabe's first order of business was stance, an important part for every 240 owner. He tracked down a complete 5-lug conversion from a JDM S14, complete with the ABS-equipped spindles and brakes. He then had his friend, Logan Yoshida from Work Wheels USA special order him a set of staggered 17'' and 18'' XSA 03c wheels to replicate the kind of stance you'd see traditionally in Japan - which often means low and with aggressive offset. "I hate over-fenders with a passion," says Gabe, "I wanted rims that would fit very well on a stock, rolled and pulled body. While waiting for the wheels to come in, I went ahead and started piecing the rest of the exterior parts together." He scored a deal on a set of Kouki taillights, D-Max crystal running lights/side markers and installed a Shine Auto "Sexy Style" body kit but not without repainting his car with a fresh coat of Mazda Stormy Blue Mica paint, a color similar to Midnight Purple but shines brighter in light than the famous Nissan GT-R factory color.
The wheels came in shortly after Gabe finished the bodywork on his 240 and soon after he got back to driving Miami's streets with his newfound "sexy" style and lo-lo stance; even the SR doesn't seem to be a problem like it was before. He adds, "Rome wasn't built in a day, neither will your car. I sat on some parts for months, waiting for everything to come together. Building your daily driver is easily one of the hardest things you can do." But there's one thing Gabe loves now that the car has reached the level of quality he originally sought out: he's enjoying the immense neck-breaking effect the car now has. And like many others, it certainly caught our attention.
1991 Nissan 240SX LE
Owner Gabe Elias
Hometown Coral Gables, FL
Occupation Mechanical Engineer
Power 240hp at 6500rpm
Engine 2.0L SR20DET; HKS Super Suction Neo intake, SSQV and radiator cap; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; GReddy Power Extreme II 80mm exhaust, 3'' downpipe, M-Spec intercooler and high capacity oil pan; custom 3'' test pipe; OEM Nissan SR20DET radiator and hoses; NISMO thermostat and engine mounts; OEM SR20DET wire harness; Royal Purple street synthetic 10w-30 oil and Ice Radiator Super Coolant
Drivetrain Nissan J30 LSD; Blitz Active clutch and lightened flywheel; Nismo solid shifter and transmission mount; Royal Purple Synchromax transmission fluid
Engine Management OEM Nissan 62 ECU with Mine's re-flash; HKS Type-1 turbo timer; tuning by Flat 6 Motorworks and Speed Demon Racing
Footwork & Chassis TEIN Flex coilovers, camber plates, front tension rods, hard tie rods and tie rod ends; Suspension Techniques front/rear sway bars; Cusco front strut bar; Energy Suspension front/rear lower control arm bushings; Peak Performance rear camber control arms; Circuit Sports rear subframe collars
Brakes Nissan JDM S14 K's front calipers and Z31/'03 Altima rear brakes; Project Mu Type NS brake pads; StopTech brake lines; Nissan S13 ABS brake master cylinder
Wheels & Tires 17''x9 +10, 18''x10 +10 Work XSA 03c wheels; Federal 215/40R17 and 235/40R18 595 tires; Gorilla Tuner lug nuts
Exterior Shine Auto 180SX body kit; Mazda Stormy Blue Mica paint by Bug Doctor of West Palm Beach, FL; graphics by Barcode Graphics; fender work by Gabe Elias and "Madcow" Anthony; Hella H4 conversion housings; D-Max crystal blinkers and front position lights; OEM Nissan 180SX Kouki taillights; H4 6000k HID; shaved rear quarter signal lights
Interior Status Racing Ring GT carbon leather seat with Bride seat rails; Status Racing 6-point harness; Personal Neo Grita suede steering wheel; Works Bell Basic steering hub; GReddy GREX shift knob; OEM carpet full of coffee stains; HKS 60mm boost gauge
Ice Sony Xplod head unit; Infinity Reference 4x6 plate speakers
Thanks you David Rodriguez and Raul Brenes at Flat 6 Motorworks - the car would have never been anywhere without your help; "Madcow" Anthony Palaez for being an awesome friend and one of the most helpful people I know; Mom, Pops, Ariel and Samanthrax for being there for me; all my good friends from State of Stance: Leo, Danny, Serg, Geoff and Johnny; Neil Tjin, Logan Yoshida (sorry for bugging ya for five years straight) and Brian Harte; Dev Bootle, Steve D, Randy Schwartz and everyone else who told me that I couldn't do it.