Imagine you’re at your local grocery store, spending your paycheck away on copious amounts of junk food that you really shouldn’t be eating. You don’t really understand why every supermarket has eight checkout lanes with only two of them being operational at any given time so you grow impatient, and opt to try your hand at the “self-checkout” machine. It sounds easy enough, but of course, the thing you want to buy the most won’t scan. Now you’re holding up the line at a section of the store that’s meant to speed up the process of payment. You realize that your attempt to battle the automatic payment machine is futile so you ask for help and walk out with your head bowed in shame.
As you stroll toward the parking lot, you suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of pressure in your chest. There’s a vibration—a rumble. It feels familiar but you don’t immediately recall what it is until the sound approaches and jogs your memory. You’re a car guy so the rumble and sound is like violent music to your ears. It’s a song that only all-American muscle can sing—eight cylinders of pure bliss that any automotive enthusiast can appreciate. When you finally gather yourself, you look around but don’t see anything remotely American. The only vehicle that’s approaching is a Desert Sage Metallic Nissan 240SX. You’re more confused than you were at the self-checkout stand because you’re thinking that there’s no possible way an S14 could emit such an unnatural tone but holy shit, does that sound nice. You decide to see what this Nissan is all about so you stand off to the side and wait for it to park. Once it does, your curiosity gets the best of you, and you want to talk to the owners to see what’s going on under the hood of their Nissan.
The driver-side door pops open and you begin to walk towards the coupe. Forward progress is halted when you see a cream high-heeled shoe make contact with the grocery store pavement. The driver is definitely female and she has a child with her. It is within your best judgment to leave her alone because she’s a mother just trying to get some groceries with her daughter at the store. Unfortunately, you’ll never know what was under the hood of that 240SX. The only thought you’re left with that day is that this woman has one hell of a grocery-getter.
This “imaginary” scenario seems a little far-fetched but for many in the Orange County region of Southern California, it’s as real as can be. On any given day, residents of that area may encounter this S14, mother, child and all. “My wife takes this car out all the time,” Peter Vong, (co)owner of the 240, says. “She just takes it out whenever she needs to run errands or take care of things like purchasing groceries. We only have two (running) cars currently and I take our stock BMW 3-series to work every day. It was a project that we built together but she drives it almost 90-percent of the time. It’s crazy the type of looks she gets when she rolls up somewhere in the car.”
A driver of the female persuasion is certainly unexpected but what lurks under the hood may be even more surprising. This ’95 Nissan 240SX has a deep V8-like grumble to it because, well, it has an all-American V8 heart. The GM LS1 engine that once resided in a 2001 Pontiac Firebird WS6 now sits snuggly inside Peter and his wife Theresa’s S14. If it weren’t for the engine covers with the red “Corvette” logos emblazoned on them, the average enthusiast probably wouldn’t even notice the swap. Somewhere there’s either an American muscle car guy or Nissan aficionado crying blasphemy but the engine almost looks like it belongs in there. So you may be asking yourself why anyone would want a GM V8 in a Nissan but the rationality behind it is quite simple. LSx (LS1, LS2, and so forth) motors are much easier to find here in the U.S. than an SR20 or Skyline RB-series engine and they have great power and torque straight from the factory. The motor is also all-aluminum so there are no concerns with the car being top-heavy in comparison to the power and weight ratio of say, a Corvette. You’ve become accustomed to seeing SR and RB swaps in 240s over the years but these Japanese/American mash-ups are starting to become more and more common. You would have to dump a much larger chunk of change to get an SR20DET to make the type of power that an LS1 could make with just a set of headers and an aftermarket cam. There’s also something that is just so undeniably “cool” about seeing an American V8 inside an older Nissan, or any other Japanese car for that matter. Just that nasty snarl alone of a mildly-built V8 is enough to send chills up anyone’s spine.
Until the RX-7 hits the streets, expect to see more of this V8 S14 at your local So Cal area grocery store, driven by none other than Mrs. Theresa Vong herself. Peter says, “I feel kind of left out whenever I see her take off in this car or when people tell me that they see our S14 cruising through the streets. I’m stuck with this stock BMW every day. I’m thinking maybe I should start doing some work on the Bimmer so I can roll in style like her.” (Theresa responds with a smile.) Peter finishes, “I love building cars with my wife. When it comes to car stuff, she’s all for it. The possibilities are endless.”
Peter and Theresa Vong never intended for their S14 to be in the state that it’s in now. Any modification that they did to this project was simply to keep the seat warm for Peter’s real dream build; an LS1-swapped FD3S Mazda RX-7. Any and everything done to this S14 was done out of sheer boredom and to keep the Vongs busy while the RX-7 build went full force. “He has so many big plans for the RX-7 that it has taken much longer than we both anticipated,” Theresa says. “We had some extra funds so we decided to allocate them to the S14. It was supposed to be just wheels and an addition of a front lip but it became much more than that—it turned into a full-blown project. The custom wheels, widebody, air suspension, and LS swap just sort of fell on our laps. We were at the right place at the right time and the whole thing just came together in a mere six months time.”
“The best part of this build was the amount of money we were able to save by just simply scouring the internet for parts,” Peter states. “I think we were able to save almost $10,000 just from looking through car forums like Zilvia.net and finding deals. We didn’t need any sponsors or anything of the sort. Probably 75% of the parts we bought were second-hand parts from Zilvia. We just made the parts our own, if you know what I mean. The complete C-West kit, air suspension and interior components like the Recaro SR5s were all bought from other people. It was a cool process because we got the chance to meet a lot of great people in the process.”
The LS-swap is one of the more notable features of the Vong’s build but Peter insists that it is just a minor detail in the greater scheme of things. “My wife and I did not build with any particular theme in mind. As you can see, it’s a mix of a little bit of everything; From the Japanese parts to American LS1 performance components mixed with Japanese VIP-style elements and a mild race feel—we made it our own. I also learned a great deal about LSx swaps that will help a great deal when we decide to break the bank on our RX-7 build.”
1995 Nissan 240SX
Owner Peter & Theresa Vong
Hometown Westminster, CA
Occupation ceo at vtekhardware.com/ ceo at sinfullattraction.com
Engine 2001 GM 5.7L LS1; Hinson Supercars engine mounts and headers; Comp Cams camshaft, valve springs, adjustable timing chain, camshaft gear sprocket and steel spring retainers; Pro Magnum rocker arms; ARP bolts; Eagle H-beam connecting rods; GTO oil pan; OEM Corvette fuel pump, intake manifold and engine covers; custom intake with Spectre air filter; RS*R EXMAG GT2 muffler with custom exhaust piping; Koyo radiator; modified subframe; custom ported throttle-body and power steering line; Baller Bolts titanium strut tower nuts
Drivetrain GM T56 transmission; Pro 5.0 shifter; GM LS6 clutch; custom steel driveshaft; modified OEM GM transmission mounts; custom remote clutch bleeder line; Energy Suspensions transmission bushing
Engine Management Factory GM WS6 ECU
Footwork & Chassis D2 Air Suspension 5-gallon air tank w/9 ¼-in fittings, high speed air compressor, air snubber (x4), high-pressure air hose, High-Tech Silencers plate base, 120-150PSI air pressure switch, paddle valve switch (x2), ¼-inch air line, battery power cord, fuse box, shock absorbers (x4) and air bags (x4); SPL tension rods, tie rod ends, rear upper control arms and adjustable rear toe arms; Nissan Z32 tie rods
Brakes OEM Nissan R33 Skyline front brakes, rear brakes and emergency brake lines; OEM Nissan Z32 brake master cylinder
Wheels & Tires 18x10" +11 (F)/18x11.5" +5 (R) SSR Vienna Kreis with custom “Black Solar Rain” painted wheel faces; Goodyear 245/35R18 (F) and 275/35R18 (R) tires; Muteki lug nuts; Ichiba 15mm front/rear wheel spacers
Exterior PPG Lexus Desert Sage Metallic paint; C-West front bumper, rear bumper and side skirts; JDM Zenki front grille; Supermade Zenki headlights; D-Max Zenki front corner lights, side markers and rear roof spoiler; 6000K HID conversion; Seibon carbon-fiber hood; AeroCatch hood locks; Origin 30mm front fenders and 30mm rear fenders; Intense Power LED taillights
Interior Nardi “Maziora Edition” 350mm steering wheel; Baller Bolts burned titanium steering wheel bolts; Recaro SR5 seats; Takata 4-point long safety harnesses; Wedge Engineering seat brackets and seat sliders; Works Bell steering wheel quick-release and short hub; Broadway rearview mirror; Dakota Digital speedometer pulse converter, tachometer, oil pressure, water temperature and fuel gauges; OEM Corvette Z06 shift knob; Alpine head unit with iPod connection; iPod Shuffle; Pioneer component speakers; JDM C-pillar bar; D2 Air 200PSI dual-needle air pressure gauge, paddle switches and brackets
Props Our daughter Emalynn Neveah; family; Eric, Jason, Kelvin, Jon Jon, Dat from Double D Garage, Tim and the rest of R-Technique; Andrew Ferguson from HoneyMoon Garage; Paolo and Virginia from Simple Wheel Werks; David; Long and the crew at DTM Autohaus; zilvia.net; and last but not least Jeffery DeGuzman
www c-westusa.com; d2racing.com; zilvia.net