Project 240SX Land Speed Racer: The Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men
By Chuck Johnson
If I could go back in time, I would ask myself, “What the hell were you thinking?” and then follow it up with a swift slap to the side of my own noggin. In all fairness to myself though, how the hell was I supposed to see this coming? Even “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”
In the beginning of this perhaps irrational quest to conquer a land speed record, I somehow rationalized the purchase of another S13 hatch because I just “couldn’t bring myself to ruin another perfectly good street car.” It’s funny how life has a way of correcting you when you’ve made a wrong turn though. In order to preserve my clean S13 street car, I bought another S13 only to instead end up having someone else ruin my original S13 for me. WTF, Chuck? I guess my crystal ball was overdue for calibration as I didn’t see that only a few months later, an uninsured motorist would cut a corner short and clobber the very S13 hatch I “couldn’t bring myself to ruin.” [Insert long string of profanities here.] In the eyes of the insurance company, my S13 was a total loss.
This car has a lot of history, both personally with me and in the industry spot light. Fresh out of College and completely unemployed, Joe Lu, now Moto IQ photographer and I, decided the smart thing to do was to invest in a project car. Slightly mislead and perhaps partly moronic, we bought an S13 and then completed the SR20 swap in Joe’s Mom’s garage when we should have probably been looking for real jobs. Instead of polishing resumes though, we spent our time detailing the build on the now defunct Nissan Performance Magazine.com, which by the way, eventually evolved into the website before you today. I would like to think the S13 build helped Joe weasel his way into a marketing position at SEMA and me into an engineering position in the racing industry. I guess we weren’t so dumb after all.
A few years after the initial build, the S13 was featured in Sport Compact Car (SCC) Magazine’s, “Budget Bad Boys” issue where it was subjected to a battery of SCC testing. As the S13 build continued to evolve, it was then featured in Grass Roots Motorsports Magazine and finally, made another appearance in the 20th anniversary issue of SCC. IMO, it's every car guy's dream to have his car featured in print; this S13 managed it three times over.
With Toyo RA-1s wrapped around its 17″ Gram Lights, it could easily pull over one lateral G on the skid pad. And after it was done shredding the skid pad, it belted out a respectable 330 plus horsepower on the dyno with the help of a maxed out Garrett GT28RS and a slew of parts from Jim Wolf Technology.
What I loved most about this S13 was how well rounded and versatile of a machine it was. During its life, it saw action at both Willow Springs and Battle of the Imports while remaining dead reliable during thousands of miles commuting in brutal Los Angeles traffic. Damn, I miss this car. Nonetheless, sometimes sacrifices have to be made to accomplish greater things.