JDM Hotrod: LS V8 Power in a Classic Nissan 240SX
For any enthusiasts that remembers the early days of online automotive culture, the idea that domestic and import builds would share the same space would have been inconceivable. Although domestics had lost a lot of their bite in the eighties and nineties, the introduction of the LS in 1997, the modernization of the Mustang with the SN95 Cobras, and Dodge’s LX platform gave muscle car fans something to be excited about. The nineties saw VTEC, turbos, and rotaries dominate the conversation, but eventually, even import fans had to acknowledge that there very well may be no replacement for displacement.
No Replacement for Displacement
Interestingly, it would be the sport of drifting that would really begin to bring unity culturally. From the earliest years, American muscle cars had a presence, with GTOs, Vipers, Corvettes and Mustangs sharing the track with more traditional Japanese builds. As power levels increased, and the more theatrical smoke-filled American style of professional drifting took root, more and more cars transitioned to V8 power. From an economical standpoint, it’s just cheaper; and that’s largely true at every scale.
Drag, Not Drift
To call this 240SX a drift-inspired build, however, would be selling it short. Culturally speaking, owner Mason Brackett is much more likely to be found at the drag strip rather than sliding in the streets. Born and raised in rural Georgia, Mason belongs to a quiet cohort of enthusiasts that are ALWAYS LS-swapping something. Interestingly, there’s not a lot of bias in platform choice, one month it’s a first generation Colorado, the next an NA Miata or an FRS.
Upgraded LS Power
For this car, Mason went with a 408ci Stroker LS with an LS3 top end. The 408 Stroker is a common upgrade for the iron block 6.0L, transforming the humble truck engine into something that is capable of more power and more tunability, while still remaining relatively budget friendly. Mason outfitted the swap with upgraded CTS-V accessories for increased reliability and additional durability. With a conservative tune, the car makes 430hp/430ft-lb of torque at the wheels.
The car sends all of that power to the rear wheels via a T56 Magnum F transmission. The Magnum-F leverages TREMEC’s pervasive TR-6060/Magnum architecture in order to provide significantly improved performance and relief from a shrinking pool of quality T-56 replacement parts. A Nissan 300ZX differential sits at the tail end of the system to ensure the power actually makes it to the ground.
Wheels and Tires
The wheels, of course, are pure JDM. The fenders are filled with 18x10 and 18x12 Weds LZX split-spoke wheels for that authentic ‘90s JDM drifter aesthetic. Mason covered the wheels in Nitto NT555 G2 ultra high performance summer tires, with 225/40/18 in the front and 275/35/18 in the rear.
The tires provide performance off the line, confidence in the corners, and assurance on the road. This car was built to be driven, and Mason has found that the NT555 G2s strike a good balance without the concessions that a more aggressive radial or track tire would require.
Wide Body Transformation
Frankly, Mason could have stopped there and had a respectable 240 build that flew under the radar of most enthusiasts. But this wasn’t meant to be a sleeper. The 240SX received a huge makeover with the full Spirit Rei Miyaba body kit. In a world dominated by wide body builds, this one stands out for the smoothness of which it integrates with the stock Nissan body. At first glance, one could be excused for not recognizing it as a bolt-on kit, as it follows the stock body lines impeccably well.
In the rear, Mason added a 326 Power wing to finish the make-over. Additionally, a healthy dose of JDM 180SX parts, the across-the-sea designation for the hatchback bodystyle of the S13 S platform.
NA for Now
Interestingly, the original build for this car included a Magnuson TVS2650 COPO Camaro blower mounted to the top of the LS, but heat issues plagued the project until Mason decided to stick with naturally aspirated V8 power. “Yeah, it was a huge heat pump”, he remembers, “My iats while cruising at 60 were 120°. It needed an ice box and a bunch of other things. I just got tired of it always being one thing after the next. With a V8 turbo is definitely the way to go.”
While that last line seems like a hint for this car, Mason has a second 240SX that's getting a similar treatment, but with more of a focus on a drag setup. This one, for all intents and purposes, is done. Mason wanted a car that exuded Japanese style, and he certainly accomplished that; as long as you are standing far enough away to miss that tell-tale rumble of an American V8.
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