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1991 Nissan 240SX - Forging Ahead - Project LS13

Suspension, wheels, brakes and interior get a makeover.

Peter Tarach
Sep 30, 2011
Modp 1110 01+1991 nissan 240sx+cover Photo 1/22   |   1991 Nissan 240SX - Forging Ahead - Project LS13

Progress continues rather quickly on Project LS13. I’ve been spending many long days, including weekends, piecing the car together. This month I tackle the rolling gear and interior of the car as it patiently sits on jackstands, awaiting its maiden voyage, which can’t come soon enough.

Wilwood Big Brake Upgrade
The stock brakes on the 240SX are pathetic. The small single-piston calipers paired with inadequate 10-inch rotors make for a dismal stopping experience. What’s worse is when you pair them with a large set of aftermarket wheels; not only do they look aesthetically bad but they fail to provide any sufficient braking. A common brake upgrade is to use the 300ZX front brake calipers and rotors because they’re a bolt-on affair. This setup can work fairly well, but tends to fade out on a track day if pushed too hard. Your best bet is to run an aftermarket big brake upgrade.

I know what most of you are thinking: the cost of big brakes these days are astronomical. But I’m here to tell you that Wilwood offers a great upgrade at a very reasonable price. For around $1,100 you get a forged superlite 4-piston aluminum caliper, two-piece 12.9-inch slotted and drilled rotors with aluminum hats and Smartpad BP-10 brake pads, along with all the stainless steel lines and fittings needed to bolt this setup onto your 240SX.

On looks alone, this kit is worth the money, but with large-surface-area calipers and massive rotors, it will provide ample amounts of braking both on and off the track. I want to ensure I’ve got adequate stopping ability with the amount of power that will be on tap in this car. It’s no good if you can’t slow it down, and Wilwood’s big brake upgrade is the perfect solution for just the right price.

Modp 1110 02+1991 nissan 240sx+wilwood brakes Photo 2/22   |   1991 Nissan 240SX - Forging Ahead - Project LS13

KW Suspension Clubsport
There are a lot of suspensions on the market that allow the S13 to be hammered to the ground — a trend that’s still extremely popular and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. The problem with slamming your car is the loss of suspension travel that results in a bone-jarring ride, something I’m trying to avoid at all costs. Admittedly, I want to lower the car as much as I can without seriously compromising the suspension geometry, and I’m willing to give up some comfort for the look, but you’re not going to see a stanced-out, super-stretched tire setup on this car. I’m the type of person who wants a practical setup over anything else, and because I plan to use this car as my main mode of transportation, it needs to ride well and clear my driveway at home.

That’s why I once again chose a set of KW Suspension coilovers. I’ve preached how well they work on my Acura Integra, and I hope they’ll provide the same results on the S13. The Clubsport version that I’m going with offers both rebound and compression adjustment, so not only can you dial this suspension in for the street but the Clubsports have been developed on the Nordschleife Nüburgring, making them a very capable track coilovers as well. The quality of these German-designed coilovers is top notch and the stainless steel bodies ensure a rust-free environment, a must-have for those living in four-season climates.

An optional but very worthy feature for the Clubsports are the racing top mounts that provide ample camber adjustment. A necessity for any 240SX.

Modp 1110 03+1991 nissan 240sx+caliper Photo 3/22   |   Wilwood’s big brake upgrade comes complete with everything needed for a bolt-on install, including Superlite 4-piston aluminum calipers.

Much like with the other products, full street test reviews will have to wait until the S13 is road worthy, but once the engine is in and secure I’ll be able to quickly align and set the ride height on the coilovers before I go for a proper alignment.

Enkei NT03+M Wheels & Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position Tires
Wheel choice is like selecting the name of your first-born — a trivial and nerve-racking process. Not only do you want to pick the right style of wheel but the specs have to be spot on, otherwise you’ll quickly regret your decision. This particular time, I wanted to find a silver wheel for a stock-like appearance and it had to have a timeless design. The Enkei NT03+M fit the bill spot on. With its multi-spoke, race car–inspired design it will never go out of style. Plus, the inner brace ring not only makes for a stronger wheel but it’s a characteristic that makes the NT03+M stand out among all other similarly styled wheels. For the hardcore racer, the wheel offers a dual valve stem setup for precise air-pressure monitoring.

Modp 1110 13+1991 nissan 240sx+fitment Photo 13/22   |   A quick test fitment proved that the NT03+Ms should fit with very little hassle up front.

For tires, the new Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position max performance summer radial was an ideal choice because of its great handling characteristics and street-worthy longevity. With a 280 UTQG treadwear rating, the S-04 will provide some good tread life with plenty of grip, thanks to the large outboard shoulder and interlocking tread blocks. Add the wide circumferential grooves, and it’s also a very capable wet performance summer tire. The S-04 should prove as a worthy contender for street use on the S13, but with more than 400 hp on tap it will be hard not to smoke the grippy Potenza’s once in a while. Specing the Enkei NT03+M wheels, I decided on an 18x9.5-inch +27 offset setup for all four corners. With the S-04s in a 235/40R18 size, I should have ample room in the rear to fit the combination, while the front may need some tweaking of the suspension to get it to fit just right.

The upside of buying a car in Southern California is that its body and undercarriage have never seen salt. Even rain is a rarity, making the 20-plus-year-old 240SX a breeze to work on mechanically. The downside is all that sunshine ages the interior. My particular car didn’t have the common cracked dash, but the seats were well past their prime and the carpet was in even worse condition due to some coffee stains that were left to bake in the sun for who knows how many years.

Aside from the rear seats, everything had to go, starting with the carpet. I purchased a replacement carpet at — as a bonus, I was able to get it in black. When it arrived, I was impressed by how thick and insulated it felt. This definitely wasn’t a cheaply made carpet. The only downfall to this replacement carpet is that you have to cut out all the stock holes manually. It doesn’t seem like a time-consuming job, but it took me practically an entire day of trimming and cutting to get everything looking like the stock carpet. Even though I love the new carpet’s look, the amount of work put into installing it made me rethink this purchase, but it’s about the only solution other than sourcing a cleaner, better-condition used OEM carpet.

Modp 1110 14+1991 nissan 240sx+new carpet Photo 14/22   |   1991 Nissan 240SX - Forging Ahead - Project LS13

I wanted to stay far away from a race-looking seat in this build, therefore I pursued an OE-looking aftermarket seat and ironically found exactly what I wanted at Racing Seats USA, one of the biggest Corbeau seat retailers that happens to carry the exact model I wanted. The GTS II seats are stock appearing (with proper headrests) and will pass as OE-style seats, aside from the Corbeau stitching. The black microsuede material feels incredibly soft and comfortable, while the bolsters actually provide ample later support that I think could be sufficient for track use if need be.

If you’ve ever sat in a S13, you know headroom is an issue, and with the GTS II seats, the lower foam padding raises the ride height even higher than stock. To remedy this issue, I had a local interior shop remove excess padding that seems to have worked very well. With the Corbeau seat rails (that sit very low) and the shaved cushion, the ride height is the same as what the stock seat provided. With the new carpet and seats in place, there was just the matter of addressing the rear seats. I couldn’t keep them looking all faded and gray, so I picked up a couple cans of Duplicolor vinyl and fabric paint, and after cleaning the seat, I sprayed several subsequent layers with surprisingly good results. The seats now look like they came in a black fabric color from the factory. They feel a bit brittle, but I don’t plan on having many people sitting back there, and the paint doesn’t come off when you touch or push on the cushion. Mission accomplished.

Modp 1110 21+1991 nissan 240sx+back seats Photo 21/22   |   Some Duplicolor vinyl and fabric spray paint transformed the faded gray rear seat into a new-looking black one.

The black interior makes the S13 feel like a new car again, but there’s still the matter of addressing the stereo system and installing a good alarm. That will have to wait for another issue. With all this progress on the exterior and interior of Project LS13, I’ll soon be getting ready to drop in the LS3 engine and really dig into the logistics of swapping a V-8 into the chassis.

Modp 1110 22+1991 nissan 240sx+cushions Photo 22/22   |   1991 Nissan 240SX - Forging Ahead - Project LS13


Big Brake Upgrade
KW Suspension
Clubsport Coilovers
18x9.5-inch NT03+M Wheels
Potenza S-04 Pole Position Tires
Racing Seat USA
Corbeau GTS II Seats
Black Replacement Carpet


KW Suspension
Sanger, CA 93657
Enkei USA
Columbus, IL 47201
Wilwood Brakes
Camarillo, CA 93012
By Peter Tarach
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