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 |   |  1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon
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1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon

Turning up the head on Project Stick

Carter Jung
Feb 29, 2012
Photographer: Henry Z. DeKuyper
Ssts 0664 01 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+driver side front view Photo 1/8   |   1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon

Every dog has its day. And for the scoundrel mutt that is the 240SX, that day has come. Ten plus years ago, when our scene was still considered underground, a subculture blip on the radar, Honda's ruled the streets of California. FF econo-bucket turned pseudo-sports car, it was cool to take your mom s Civic, slap on a hissing cone filter, cut the stock springs and weld on a muffler that sounded like a pack of Africanized honey bees.

The 240SX, on the other hand, went largely unnoticed. Only a select few US fanatics appreciated the heritage of the Nissan brand. Others realized the potential of a rear wheel drive 2.4L platform.the very few that looked through Option magazines and saw its true tuning potential. Civics and Integras may have roamed wild on the So Cal streets, but in Japan, their version of the 240SX 180SX and Silvia reigned king on the Tokyo highways. While us stupid Americans were struggling to tame the normally-aspirated FF beast in the quarter-mile, the Japanese were unleashing stock turbocharged FRs for drag, track and the emerging drift.

Ssts 0664 03 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+boost controller Photo 2/8   |   1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon

But times have changed and we Americans as a tuning society have changed. The fallen-from-grace 240SX has regained almost all of its lost glory. Four years ago, you could ve easily picked up a scorned, yet clean titled, running and straight bodied S13 for under a $1,000. Now? Good luck. The S-chassis Nissan prices have appreciated more than a Microsoft IPO. So when it came time to finding a stock 240SX for Project Car on a budget a Primedia-sized one, mind you it took some effort.

Because affordable 240s were harder to find in So Cal than a camouflaged Bin Laden in the desert, our scope had to be broadened like a two-thumbed Dirty Sanchez. With a total budget of $7,500 for the and a target budget of $2,000 for the car, the led to a $1,800 charcoal S13 that started off Missouri.

Dubbed Project Stick, aka the street/track car, only thing sliding was the motor. With over 210k on the odometer, keeping the stock KA made about as much sense as Primedia yanking Ricky from the already short-hand Super Street staff to work on a new magazine, especially with Stephen at G-Dimension calling about a great deal ($3,000) on a complete Red Top SR20DET motor pre-stuffed with a low compression metal head gasket and HKS valve springs. Smaller by 0.40L, but strapped with a turbo that makes it feel much taller, the Red Top found in JDM S13s was and is a US marketing enigma. Why Nissan chose a 2.4L truck powerplant instead of a 2.0L turbo for the US is beyond any of us, but thanks to the ingenuity of dudes like G-Dimension's James Chang who pioneered the SR swap, what was once J-exclusive is now commonplace.

Ssts 0664 04 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+bumper holes Photo 3/8   |   1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon

SR swaps might be pretty standard, but unfortunately for the full-time Project Car staff (all one of him), there was place to wrench on the 240SX. Luckily, William Law from DME had a garage, a very understanding family and more free time than he knew what to do with or so we d like to think. Having performed many a SR swap, Will and Ricky managed to yank, spank and crank the turbocharged 2.0L in under nine hours an almost dubious feat considering it was done off the floor, on jack stands, feeding Will's insatiable appetite, and on a 110-plus degree summer afternoon in the city of Walnut, California.

The newly transplanted 240SX up and running and with less than half the budget remaining, outlining the necessary mods to achieve the 200hp and two seconds quicker on the quarter-mile goals became paramount. Freeing up the airhungry turbo became the affordable solution as a Circuit Sports downpipe and exhaust was matched to a Fujita 5 air filter. Taking full advantage of the increased flow, a WORLD Racing Pro Boost Controller 1 was wired up to manipulate the boost. With the stock clutch feeling softer than Lance Bass watching girl-on-girl porn, an ACT unit was called on to increase the clamping force of the new Twins Turbo Dyna Pack, spinning 197.5hp at 185.1 lb-ft of torque motor--2.5 hp shy of the target goal.

Ssts 0664 05 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+spare tire compartment Photo 4/8   |   What AAA memberships are for.

With the power quotient of Project Stick up to par, tautening the handling was next for the afternoon crew. For suspension, Tein Type Basic coilovers replaced the stock struts, while front and rear strut tower bars and a trunk bar from Circuit Sports upped the rigidity. Bigger 17x7 Tenzo Racing GF7 wheels wrapped in staggered Falken FK-452 stickies (205/40R17 front; 215/45R17 rear) were called upon to take advantage of the suspension upgrades. With less than stellar braking and no budget for a big brake kit, a set of Power Slot rotors combined with more aggressive Hawk brake pads and Techna Fit stainless steel brake lines were added.

With the budget nearly exhausted, the remaining dollars were spent on a few interior details. Lacking any audio, Ricky purchased a Pioneer P3800MP head unit to keep William from singing his hip-hop rendition of Unbreak My Heart. during fast food lunch runs. A 180SX tachometer was swapped with the noncompatible stock single cam cluster and a Pilot Motorsport short shift and Circuit Sports shift knob adds spruce and speed during shifts. DME cooling panels drop water temps, while the custom (read: free) circle cutouts keep the stock side-mount intercooler effective.

Ssts 0664 08 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+circuit sports exhaust Photo 5/8   |   1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon

The 240SX improved its quarter-mile run from stock by 2.2 seconds with a 16.5 mph increase in trap speed (14.3 at 100.7 mph). All in all, it's not bad considering the car was finished under budtget and wrenched on during the hottest dog day afternoons of summer.

Ssts 0664 02 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+passenger side view Photo 6/8   |   1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon

Stock Car vs. Project Car
Quarter-Mile16.5@84.2MPH 14.3@100.7MPH
0-60 Braking158.28FT145.46FT
Budget $7,500Price List
Red Top S13 SR20DET Motor$3,000$3,000
Circuit Sports Downpipe$350$280
Circuit Sports Exhaust$599$480
Fujita Air Filter$75$6
WORLD Electronics Pro Boost Controller 1$419$335
Power Slot Brake Rotors$398$318
Hawk Brake Pads$151$121
Techna Fit Brake Lines$115$92
Tein Type Basic Coilovers$890$712
Circuit Sports Front Strut Bar$125$100
Circuit Sports Rear Strut Bar$125$100
Circuit Sports Rear Trunk Bar$125$100
Circuit Sports Subframe Bushings$95$76
DME Cooling Panels$98$79
Tenzo GF7 Wheels$900$720
Falken FK-452 Tires$450$360
Slim Lugs$30$30
Mount and Balance$30$30
Bumper Holes$0$0
180SX Tachometer$0$0
GReddy Full Auto Turbo Timer$102$82
Circuit Sports Shift Knob$35$28
Pioneer DEH-P3800MP Head Unit$130$104
Antenna Harness$12$12

Beyond our Budget

  • S15 Turbo
  • Front mount intercooler
  • 550cc injectors
  • Air Fuel Controller
  • Bigger cams

Spec it Out

'90 Nissan 240SX SE

Ssts 0664 07 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+red top sr20det Photo 7/8   |   The SR20DET motor looks right at home and it should, considering we installed it in a garage.

Under the Hood
SR20DET motor, ACT clutch, Fujita 5 air filter, Circuit Sports downpipe and exhaust, WORLD Racing Pro Boost Controller 1

Stiff Stuff
Tein Type Basic coilovers, Circuit Sports front and rear strut bars and trunk bar

Tenzo Racing 17x17 GF7 wheels; Falken FK-452 tires 205/40R17 and 215/45R17

Power Slot brake rotors front and rear with Hawk brake pads; Techna Fit stainless steel brake lines

DME cooling panels; drilled bumper

Pilot Motorsports short shifter; Circuit Sports shift knob; Pioneer P3800MP head unit; 180SX tachometer

Ssts 0664 06 o+1990 nissan 240sx se+tenzo gf7 wheel Photo 8/8   |   1990 Nissan 240SX SE - Dog Day Afternoon

DME Inc., Twins Turbo, Phase 2 Motortrend, S.I.X. Autoworks, Tenzo Racing, Falken Tires, Pioneer, WORLD Racing, Power Slot, Tein, Alamo Motorsports, Fujita 5, Pilot Motorsports, G-Dimension

Deep Thoughts
Although it's no doubt the least attractive of the bunch, it's definately the most fun to drive. The turbo on the SR more than makes up for nine hours of global warming California summer heat. And think of it this way, the less we work on the exterior, the better we feel when we bang it up at the track.

By Carter Jung
164 Articles



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