Quick question folks: How many people do you know that have legitimately built their project cars completely inside their own garage? And no, the guy you know down the street who’ll install lowering springs for $40 doesn’t count. What we’re talking about are more thorough builds that are labor intensive, with engine work or engine swaps, as well as installation of a vast variety of parts or possibly even bodywork. Your answer’s still ‘no’? It’s harder these days to find builds like that, at least here on the West Coast. That has no bearing on whom or which end of the coast is better of course; it’s just a different type of mentality along with geographical limitations. On the Westside, it’s a fast-paced life lived—do the job as quickly as possible and do it right. No winter to worry about, no downtime.
Things weren’t always this way though; once upon a time in the early ‘90s, nothing was available so you made do with what you had and you built your car in the only place you trusted: your garage. Enthusiasts built their cars until they reached a certain limitation of modification. Either your car blew up at the street races or you just wanted to move onto something else. When you found your next project, you transferred whatever was left over from your old car into the new one—after all, you didn’t really have much of a choice. There was no online catalog of new parts, and there weren’t too many people who could get you parts that you didn’t even know existed. You worked with what you had and you made the best of it. That mentality often helped to build the best kind of project; a car that was built by you with your own blood, sweat and tears inside of your haven, your home. We’ve conjured up this interesting introduction because it coincides with the introduction of Brandon Burke’s 1991 Nissan 240SX. As you may have gathered from what you read previously, this S13 coupe was birthed inside of a garage—and a messy one at that. By the looks of it, you would never believe that this pristine, Aspen White 240SX was put together here.
Your attention has probably been directed immediately to the absurdly low ride height of Brandon’s coupe and we don’t blame you; it is also what caught ours at the LA Hot Import Nights last December. This S13 is practically married to the pavement it rides on. Watching him drive in and out of his garage was gut-wrenchingly painful, both visually and audibly. The ride height, altered heavily by Fortune Auto suspension parts, in conjunction with the aggressive 17-inch SSR Professor SP1s, just screams what the newer crop of enthusiasts are into these days—which is all things “stance”. Don’t let that take away from the rest of the vehicle though, because the rest of it is anything but “aggressive”. If anything, the simple and understated nature of this S13 is where it really shines.
How it came to be is a true throwback as to how imports were built back in the early days. Back when this S13 was considered to be a newer car, young enthusiasts all wanted the same thing: to have a clean car slammed as low as possible on some Japanese-spec aftermarket wheels. If you were well-off (or had the means to do so, questionably speaking, which we never asked), you also had an engine swap that put your stock motor to shame because it actually made some decent power. For the exterior, the simpler it was the better. People would actually take things off the body so that it had cleaner lines. If the option of aftermarket lighting was there, you added it because it set you a part from the rest of the crowd. There were no aftermarket “aero” options. If there was, it probably wasn’t available stateside or remotely affordable. Those who wanted to add a front lip had to search the local junkyards to find something from another car that might fit. As for wheels, there was only one option; if you wanted something nice, you saved up and spent good money on wheels. Everything that applied in those times applies to Brandon’s S13 now.
“A couple friends and I put this entire car together inside of my garage,” Brandon says. “From start-to-finish, it all happened at home, with the exception of the paint. I did the bodywork in the garage as well, but I took it to a spray booth and we painted it there. I didn’t really have that much experience prior to building this car but I’m happy with the overall result. There are some imperfections here and there, but I can live with it.”
Considering how much pavement the frame of his S13 makes contact with, it’s very surprising to see how spotless the exterior looks. Before paint, Brandon and friends took the time to streamline the body of this coupe. The windshield washer nozzles were shaved, along with the rear side markers, as well as the trunk lock. The Japan-spec Silvia front-end came with the bare chassis when he originally purchased it, so the only other thing he had to worry about aesthetically was modifying his fenders and wheel wells to accommodate the SSR wheels. To add a bit of aggression to his Japanese Silvia face, he installed an OEM Accord front lip. Accord front lips are easy to come by so he had no fears scraping it up while driving. If anything, the front lip served as a marker to indicate impending doom if there were anything on the road that could potentially be gobbled up by the chassis.
The popular choice to power these Nissan S-chassis are typically of the JDM SR20-variety. Under the hood of this coupe, however, is anything but typical. Before you jump the gun, know this: it’s not a GM LSx swap, not from the SR-family, hell, it isn’t even a RB26 from a Skyline GT-R. It is from a Skyline though, a single turbo 2.5-liter RB25DET. When we asked why he decided to go with an RB25, his reasoning was as simple as the outside of his coupe: “It came with another S13 that I had before. It was a weekend track car that I had before but I abandoned that project and saved the motor. The swap over to this car was simple because it already had everything I needed.”
Being that this was a street cruiser, Brandon didn’t really concern himself with making gobs of power. The only added alterations to the engine are a GReddy intake manifold, A’PEXi intake filter, and McKinney intercooler upgrade kit. Giving his slammed S13 a menacing voice is a 2.5-inch straight pipe exhaust with 3-inch dual exits. A RB25 5-speed manual transmission and R32 Skyline viscous limited-slip differential are responsible for getting the Federal SS595 tires to the ground.
Speaking of contact-patch, the only two items keeping Brandon from touching the pavement are the scraped-up floor pan and a Signal Auto bucket seat. You won’t find much else in the interior, just a Nardi Classic steering wheel, Auto Meter boost gauge, and a limited-edition, old school D1 A’PEXi PowerFC Commander, one of the earliest available options for aftermarket engine management.
The best feature of Brandon Burke’s S13 is not the ride height/wheel combo, nor is it the engine swap—it’s the simple fact that what you see is what you get. No crazy wire tucks, shaved engine bays or insane bodywork. There’s a reason why this was the first and only car we took notice of at a show that usually plays home to some of the industry’s most over-the-top vehicles. Builds like this stand the test of time. How the chassis deals with the battles of scraping, grinding and hitting every imperfection on the road is a story for another day.
1991 Nissan 240SX
Owner Brandon Burke
Hometown Lancaster, CA
Power Est. 280hp
Engine 1996 2.5L Nissan RB25DET; GReddy intake manifold; A'PEXi Power Intake Kit; OEM Infiniti Q45 throttle body; Walbro 255lph fuel pump; custom 2.5" straight-pipe exhaust w/dual 3" exhaust tips from Eastside Muffler; McKinney intercooler and intercooler piping; Dual Flex-A-Lite radiator fans; custom wrinkle red powdercoated valve cover; smashed OEM oil pan
Drivetrain 1996 RB25DET 5-speed manual transmission; R32 Skyline VLSD; DriveshaftShop 1-piece driveshaft; Z32 300ZX axles; Spec Stage 3 clutch kit; Royal Purple transmission fluid
Engine Management A'PEXi D1 Project Limited-Edition PowerFC Commander; ATP boost controller
Footwork & Chassis Fortune Auto 500 Series coilovers (7K front/6K rear) and rear toe control arms; modified slotted front strut mounts; Megan Racing front toe control arms, tie rod ends, traction rods and rear upper control arms
Wheel & Tires 17x9" -1 (front)/17x9.5" -8 (rear) SSR Professor SP1 wheels; 205/40R17 (front)/215/40R17 (rear) Federal SS595 tires; Muteki SR48 lug nuts; extended wheel studs
Exterior PPG Aspen White (51E) paint; JDM Nissan S13 Silvia coupe front-end conversion; Bricks Circuit Sport clear headlight covers; ‘94 Honda Accord front lip; shaved hood squirters, trunk lock and rear side markers; rolled/pulled rear fenders; hammered front fenders; H4 HID kit
Interior Nardi Classic steering wheel; NRG steering wheel hub and quick-release; NISMO aluminum shift knob; Signal Auto driver seat; Nagisa SL seat rail; OEM R32 Skyline passenger seat; S13 rear leather seats; Pioneer head-unit and front/rear speakers; Auto Meter boost gauge
Thank You Gus Rivera; Jimmy Tena; John Markley; Kody Carlon; Shane Wager; Tony Crispin; Carl Panameno; Elvis at Stance:Nation; RareJDM; R-Rydes; Danh at SSR; William at Night-Import; Eastside Muffler; Terry at Fortune Auto
WWW apexi-usa.com; fortune-auto.net; greddy.com; ssr-wheels.com