On paper, the idea of an up and coming modern classic from Nissan with a retro muscle car makeover may sound a little strange… but that’s nothing when you see what’s going on under the bonnet of this Nissan 240SX!
The world is full of ‘go-to’ guys, people whom you instinctively turn to get a particular job done. If you want to kill everyone in the building, call Liam Neeson. If you want a song written about said massacre, get James Hetfield on the blower. Need someone to beautifully document it all on film? Get Annie Leibovitz involved. And if you want to drool over a badass car that’s going to break necks across the globe and smash every conceivable scene to pieces, Steve Pham is the man in the know.
He’s got a Rocket Bunny NSX, for goodness’ sake, and a Liberty Walk Ferrari 458, and a particularly naughty Nissan GT-R… but perhaps the finest of them all is the brutal vision you see before you: yes, it’s wearing 1970s Datsun race livery, and has a 1960s American muscle car nose, and sure, there’s a BMW straight-six under the bonnet, but those of you in the know will have spotted that unmistakable rear profile. You’re right, it’s a Nissan S14 – specifically a 240SX. And its devil-may-care approach to originality has got more than a few people all riled up.
A little nomenclatural housekeeping to begin with. The 240SX was a car that Nissan introduced to the American market in 1988, the S13 replacing the old S12 200SX. (Don’t worry about the model numbers too much – if you know, you know; if you don’t, it probably doesn’t matter.) The ‘240’ refers to its 2.4-litre engine, and the car you see here is a second-gen 240SX, the S14 model sold from 1994-98, so the last ones celebrate the big 2-0 in 2018. Basically, it’s like the 200SX we got in the UK, but it’s got a KA24DE engine instead of the SR20DET 2.0-litre turbo we got. Clear? Cool.
The job of filling those mighty arches fell to Rotiform, who came up trumps with a set of 18in four-spoke RB1s, the rears measuring a hilarious 12in across. Naturally you can’t just bolt on big rims and keep the puny brakes behind, particularly if you’ve suddenly got ALL THE POWER, so StopTech swung by to drop off a 14in BBK too. Which was nice of them. You’ve probably noticed that the thing’s sitting gorgeously low too, and that’s all down to the Air Lift Performance setup. That’s right, purists – it’s not just a 240SX with a Beemer motor, but the damn thing’s bagged too. As the Americans like to say, get ya some of that! With those sights still set firmly on SEMA, it was vital that the car be flawless inside and out, so there was no scrimping when it came to the Nissan’s innards. Enter stage left another key player in the build, Gearheinz Rios, whose custom roll cage you’ll find artfully welded inside. There’s also a plethora of track-friendly treats in there, from the Sparco Pro 2000 seats to the Wilwood pedal box, and it’s all presented utterly flawlessly. It’s almost too clean to use. Almost…
How do you get a modern BMW motor to behave in a 1990s Nissan 240SX, then? Well, the answer is ‘with not inconsiderable difficulty’. Gearheinz, who was responsible for swapping the engine in and taking care of all the necessary fabrication, had his work cut out. For one thing, he had to mercilessly hack out a section of firewall to get the block sitting 8-inches further back, and then, of course, that had a knock-on effect of where to position the pedals, and the gearbox… there was also very little clearance in the bay itself, which made fabbing the custom single-turbo manifold rather tricky, and then there were the engine mounts, the intercooler piping, the propshaft… all a big pain in the backside. But a worthwhile one, because just look at what they’ve achieved! All of that blood and sweat dissolves into a sepia Hollywood fade of retro-inspired glory, somehow brought screaming back to the present with the liberal sprinkling of ultra-modern tech.
Of course, if you’re going to own the scene, you’ve got to put the work in. This stuff ain’t easy. You can’t just bolt on a set of wheels and hope to take home all the trophies. This is hard, passionate labour, and Steve’s 240SX speaks for itself. And we just love the downright cheekiness of it – you see that livery he’s had it covered in? That’s inspired by the BRE [Brock Racing Enterprises] Datsun 510 race cars of the 1970s (look them up, they’re awesome) but on this car you’ll find the number ‘N54’ on the sides. Yep, it’s the BMW engine code. Just to rub everybody’s faces in it, as you do, right?
Sure, it took Steve, Gearheinz and LTMW over two years to nail this project together, and it pretty much fought them every step of the way. But what they’ve ended up with is, unquestionably, one of the coolest cars on the planet today, and the fact that it enrages the purists is just the cherry on the top.
See, it’s like we said – if you want to know about world-class builds, there’s a go-to guy for that.
Rocket Bunny V2 Boss widebody kit; Datsun 510 BRE-inspired graphics.
BMW N54B30 3.0-litre straight-six; Turbonetics GT-K 850 turbo; RG-45 wastegate; Godzilla blow-off valve, intercooler; Gearheinz exhaust manifold, 3.25-inch downpipe, intercooler piping and motor mounts; CSF radiator and oil cooler; BMW ECU with JB4 Motorsport Stage 3 tune; BMW six-speed manual transmission; dual pass transmission cooler; upgraded axles; welded diff; Gearheinz prop; 657bhp, 590lb.ft.
10.5×18-inch (front) and 12×18-inch (rear) Rotiform RB1 forged 3-piece wheels; 225/35 (f) and 295/30 (r) Toyo R888s; StopTech 14-inch BBK front and rear; Air Lift Performance air-ride setup; Hardrace front and rear control arms and tension rods.
Gearheinz weld-in six-point roll cage with laser-cut gussets; right-hand-drive conversion; Gearheinz sheet metal panels; Sparco Pro 2000 seats; L550 steering wheel; four-point harnesses; Wilwood floor-mount pedal box.
This article is taken from Retro Cars magazine. Words by: Dan Bevis. Photos by: Mike Kuhn