It’s inevitable—at some point, we all need a trustworthy mechanic that we can depend on. Not all friends can wrench and most of the time it’s hard to find a spare moment to work on your own, that’s when you have to learn to place your trust in the hands of another. If you’re the one who happens to be the “one” who’s called upon to help wrench on any of your family or friend’s cars, you already know how tough it is to do the work and not really expect much in return. That’s a “solid” or favor you know that’ll never come back. As much as you’d like to send them off to a standard repair shop, you can’t fathom the idea of them being ripped off just as much as you wouldn’t want to be taken for a sucker. There are plenty of scams waiting to happen; you shouldn’t be the one who fell for it, or worse, the one who referred someone to them.
While you can check local Yelp listings and business reviews, finding a reputable repair shop can still be a daunting task. Mom and pop shops are often so small that the people there probably don’t know |what a Yelp is, and short of driving to the actual business, it’s pretty much impossible to tell if they treat their personal cars like piles of shit or Lambos. It all comes down to one question: Who the hell can you trust?
Picture a scenario where you pull up to an automotive repair center and spot one of the workers stepping out of this pristine 1992 Nissan 240SX. You’re a car guy so you know all about them; they’re nice cars and very popular among your fellow enthusiasts. They’re relatively inexpensive to own and often times aren’t in the greatest condition. You can thank amateur drifting for that, but we digress. This particular S13 chassis is in mint condition. The age of the car in relation to its great condition shows that the owner cares about what he drives. While it remains an affordable chassis you can tell the owner has invested some money into it to maintain its state. This probably means that they have some money to spend but have remained humble and aren’t trying overly hard to flaunt their resources. It’s all speculation but ask yourself this: Would you trust your car in the hands of someone who owns a $100K+ vehicle or someone who has maintained their two-decade old vehicle to a nearly-new state?
We present this scenario to you because the owner of this beautifully assembled S13 is also the successful owner and operator of his very own automotive service shop. RPM Auto Center is a well-known repair center in Temple City, California that prides itself on being the more affordable “dealer-alternative”. Steven Lam, the proprietor of this repainted S13 240SX, has also built himself a “dealer-alternative”. “I’ve had the opportunity to build a couple of other cars before this one so I’ve definitely applied the best of my experience for this build,” Steven says. “My previous projects include a full-blown track-spec Honda CR-X and a classic ’67 Datsun Roadster. Here and there I’ve also built a couple other Nissans and Hondas, but for this chassis, I just wanted to own a clean street car with some power. I managed to find a really clean chassis but then I spun a bearing on the stock motor and blew it. It wasn’t too big of a deal, however; I pulled it out and decided to just build a new one.”
It would have been easy to find a used Japanese-spec SR20DET out of a Silvia but Steven wanted to challenge himself. Having owned another 240SX (S14) in the past, he knew how reliable the KA24DE motor was. An SR was tempting but a KA-build was more affordable. Add on top of that how much money he would save by doing all the labor himself, it was an easy decision to make. The additional money went to boosting his soon-to-be built KA. He made sure his engine block could handle the stress of turbocharging by installing forged pistons and rings from JE while the cylinder head received valvetrain upgrades from Brian Crower. The KA24DE was originally naturally-aspirated, but the addition of a JGS Precision manifold allows for a Turbonetics T3/T4
ball-bearing snail to be installed. Custom plumbing was necessary to connect the turbine to the Blitz LM intercooler and intake manifold. An AMS fuel system helps deliver gas to four Siemens top-feed injectors as spent exhaust gases run from the JGS downpipe and exit through a rare Circuit Sports muffler.
The turbo and motor sing a harmonious melody through finely-tuned electronics from AEM. Before he helped create RPM Auto Center, Steven spent his days as an engineer at AEM Electronics in the R&D division, so he knew exactly what devices to use, including their EMS (Engine Management System), boost control solenoid, MAP sensor and intake air temperature sensor. Mounted in the cockpit of this Nissan is AEM’s Serial Datastream Gauge. This digital gauge works in unison with the EMS to read 19 channels simultaneously to provide information on boost, exhaust gases, air/fuel ratio and a ton more; it also eliminates the need to run multiple gauges. Also inside Steve’s S13 are Recaro SRD seats, a NISMO shift knob and concave Nardi steering wheel.
The outside of Steven’s 240SX has been meticulously restored to showroom condition, albeit with a more Japanese-feel due to the removal of the original pop-up headlights and stock front bumper. In its place is a complete front end conversion sourced from a JDM S13 Silvia chassis. A fresh coat of A50 Nissan red paint from a newer model Altima SE-R brings the aged-chassis back to life, as does a carbon-fiber hood to reduce a bit of weight. TEIN Flex coilovers bring the chassis a couple inches closer to Earth and a complete 5-lug changeover provides a home for the period-correct 17-inch Riverside Stitch wheels. Seated just behind the staggered mesh wheels are a set of front brakes originally intended for the S13’s bigger brother, the Z32 300ZX. Bigger brakes with Axxis Ultimate pads grant better stopping power for the now-boosted Japanese Silvia counterpart.
After having a more thorough look of Steven Lam’s S13, would you trust your vehicle with anyone else? He’s meticulous in his ways and paid careful attention to his own build. His experience and expertise alone is well worth a visit down to his shop, provided you’re in the area and need something looked at. And if any of your friends needs convincing, just show them this story.
1992 Nissan 240SX
Owner Steven Lam
Hometown Temple City, CA
Occupation Owner, RPM Auto Center
Engine 2.4L KA24DE engine; JE forged pistons and piston rings; Eagle connecting rods; ARP head and main studs; Clevite main and rod bearings; Brian Crower valves, valve springs and retainers; NISMO engine mounts and thermostat; JGS Precision turbo manifold and downpipe; Turbonetics T3/T4 ball-bearing turbo; Blitz LM intercooler and DD blow-off valve; custom intercooler piping; AEM air filter and fuel system; Walbro 255LPH fuel pump; Fuel Lab fuel pressure regulator; Siemens top-feed fuel injectors; Circuit Sports exhaust; Denso Iridium IK17 spark plugs; Westco battery; Koyo aluminum radiator and high pressure radiator cap
Drivetrain RPS full-face clutch and heavier pressure plate; Fidanza flywheel; Redline transmission fluid; OEM Nissan VLSD
Engine Management AEM EMS, boost control solenoid, MAP sensor, intake air temperature sensor and serial gauge
Footwork & Chassis TEIN Flex coilovers; GTO 5-lug front conversion hubs; OEM Nissan S14 5-lug rear hubs; Cusco rear strut bar
Brakes OEM Nissan Z32 front brakes; Axxis Ultimate front brake pads; ATE brake fluid
Wheels & Tires F: 17x8" +12 (front)/17x9" +15 Riverside Stitch wheels; 215/40R17 (front)/235/40R17 (rear) Falken FK452 tires
Exterior JDM Nissan S13 Silvia front end conversion and side skirts; carbon-fiber hood; Nissan A20 Red paint
Interior Recaro SRD seats; Bride seat rails; Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel; HKB steering hub; Works Bell quick-release; NISMO GT shift knob; Alpine head unit; Rockford Fosgate amplifier; Sony component speakers; Kicker Solobaric subwoofer
Thanks You RPM Auto Center
WWW aemelectronics.com; rpmautocenter.com; tein.com