NICOclub: Was there anything that you were concerned about(or read that was an issue) that has been solved by a new product or method?
Carlos: These cars were never designed for V-8s, so there are a few small concerns. Heat is the big one, as there’s an exhaust path through areas that were never intended to have one. We need to come up with a solution for dropping engine temps for prolonged lapping sessions, likely through a combination of better ducting and heat extraction. The other issue that everyone warned us about was oil starvation. LSX’s with stock pans don’t like to spend a lot of time over 1g laterally. The baffled Moroso pan that came with our Fueled Racing swap has held up pretty well, though. Our Racepak datalogger shows that we get a few seconds over 1g before pressure begins to decrease, and it only drops just a little. We’ll be looking into an Accusump or dry sump system in the future.
NICOclub: What made you choose the LS3 over the other available engine swaps out there for the 240SX?
Carlos: Living in California means smog is a real issue, and the E-Rod LS3 kit is the only engine swap that you can legally perform. That’s huge. Also LSX’s have a terrific power-to-size ratio too. A 6.2-liter V-8 may sound huge, but it’s a super compact engine – and a lightweight one too, thanks to aluminum construction and a simple valvetrain. We only gained 68 lbs. with the complete drivetrain swap, but most importantly the weight balance didn’t change at all. Now we have roughly the power-to-weight ratio of a new Stingray Corvette, and that’s with a stock engine! So we have huge reliability with the motor and crazy headroom for more power. Should anything break, we can go to a local part store for a replacement part. The rest is a matter of preference. I love naturally aspirated engines because their linear power delivery makes throttle control more satisfying. Plus, you can’t deny the satisfaction of the sound of a V-8 shifting at redline.
NICOclub: How would you respond to those who say it’s a sacrilege to put a GM engine in a Nissan?
Carlos: Think anybody said the same to Carroll Shelby about the AC Cobra? It’s interesting how people erect these rules and barriers around how you can modify cars. Ultimately it’s damaging because these rules can inhibit ingenuity and creativity. While we certainly didn’t break the mold with our build, we built a car that, in my mind, is amazing fun. I’d tell those who say it’s sacrilege to look at the logic behind the swap: Legality, reliability, and easy power. And then I’d say they need to drive it. Once you do, you get it.
NICOclub: What type of rear differential did you end up choosing? Did you stay with the stock one, or did you upgrade to something like the Z32(300ZX) or Infiniti J30 differential?
Carlos: We’re still using the stock viscous diff, if you can believe it. Yeah, it phases in and out on power exit, which makes the tail move around a bit more. But it’s hard to fault because the diff was never meant for this level of power. That said, it actually does a pretty admirable job of providing forward traction. We’re looking into a 1.5-way in the future.
NICOclub: Seeing as the car is registered in California, is it completely street legal after doing the swap? Did you run into any issues trying to get it to pass inspection if it is?
Carlos: Completely legal. We hire CHP during video shoots for traffic control and whatnot, and they’re always checking out the stuff we have. The day we filmed the 240SS on the road, the officer checked under the hood, expressed his enthusiasm for the engine swap, and then asked for our CARB EO sticker. I eagerly pointed at the sticker on the firewall. He took a look and said “Cool.” That was it. After that, I asked him to walk around the car and look for infractions. He did so and couldn’t find any. That moment felt nearly as great as driving the car for the first time.
NICOclub: Considering the wide variety of vehicles you’ve been behind the wheel of, why did you choose a 240SX for your build rather than something else?
Carlos: 240SXs in stock form were great driving cars. I found an old copy of Motor Trend where the editors likened it to a less expensive Porsche 944. They were simple and light, produced back when it seemed everything from Japan was all about driving satisfaction. The interior has excellent forward visibility, and all the controls are at just the right places. They’re nicely balanced too. There’s a ton of them on the used car market, and they aren’t terribly expensive. Combine that with an extensive aftermarket scene and a generous engine bay, and you have a terrific platform.
NICOclub: Were there any other vehicles that you considered aside from the 240SX?
Carlos: I was also considering a Miata and an E30. Both cars seem ripe for making the kind of fun driver’s car that I wanted the 240SS to be. We may still do one once we’re satisfied with the 240SS.
NICOclub: If you had to choose a current model year vehicle that is close to the 240SX in terms of OEM capability/performance and execute the same project you have with this build, which vehicle would you choose and why?
Carlos: The BRZ/FR-S is about as close as you can get, but I’d doubt you’d fit an LSX in there as easily as you can in a 240SX. They don’t need an engine swap though; just a set of brake pads, new tires, and you’re off to learn rear-drive car control.
NICOclub: Nissan currently does not offer a vehicle similar to the 240SX. Do you feel that there is a market for that type of vehicle again, since the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ have come along; or do you feel like they have it covered with the Nissan 370Z?
Carlos: I would love to see a new Silvia/240SX – there can’t be enough inexpensive rear-drive cars in the world – but I’d be curious to see if there’s a business plan. I imagine that the success of the BRZ/FR-S and new Miata will dictate what happens in the future.
Up next – Carlos walks us through the build, and some of the challenges and triumphs of building the 240SS… and you GOTTA see the video!