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Blank Canvas – Nissan 180SX


They don’t make them like they used to anymore but they certainly don’t come without their fair share of baggage after more than two decades on the road. So what’s a man to do?

Well if you have a sizeable piggybank, you start from scratch of course…a blank canvas from which you rebuild your very own coliseum. That’s precisely what the owner of this Nissan 180SX did when he got his hands on the slightly weathered and pre-loved car.

It wasn’t by any means falling apart or losing compression in any of the cylinders but after more than two decades on the road, it was in dire need of some TLC. And let’s be honest here, if we all had the means and time we’d definitely strip it down to the shell and refresh it.

There’s no better feeling than driving an analogue machine where the driver is judge, jury and executioner. He makes the judgement, decides if it’s worth pulling off and executes the move.

So that’s exactly how it started. The car was sent to JTuck Motorsports to be stripped bare and the shell was then rolled over for rust removal and a refresh before being repainted in a process that took the better part of a year and many switchbacks between the shade of choice.

A deeper shade of light blue was being considered before something classier came to mind and the owner finally made up his mind on this custom brown/bronze mixture that lends the car a much more sophisticated silhouette and shaves back on boy racer vibe that the blue would have amplified.

Now you must be thinking that under the hood resides a built SR20DET with all the goods and power figures in the 400+hp region. Sorry to be a wet towel but this engine is pretty much stock save for some choice mods that increase reliability and allow the boost on the stock turbo to be raised without blowing it all to bits.

That’s right, it’s still on the stock but responsive factory turbocharger.

Prior to be dropped back on Nismo engine mounts into the freshly repainted shell, the engine was given a refresh as well to spruce up the appearance and peg on the selected components that would be added on for reliability’s sake.

Internally, the pistons have been replaced with stronger 87mm pistons from its sibling Nissan Fairlady Z32. The rest are all factory internal bits. A pair of Works Engineering cam pulleys foreshadow the next round of upgrades that will be coming soon.

Fuelling has been bumped up with larger Denso 850cc injectors on an aftermarket fuel rail governed by a Sard fuel pressure regulator and fed by a Walbro fuel pump in the tank.

Air enters via an Apexi open-pod air filter before rushing through the Z32 airflow meter and into the turbo before being cooled by the HKS Type-S intercooler and making its way to the throttle body. A GReddy Type-S blow-off valve keeps the compressed air from returning into the turbo and causing compressor surge.

Following combustion, the exhaust gases run out a custom three-inch straight through exhaust system and out a three-inch twin-barrel shotgun exit.

Supporting the engine are a host of auxiliary components such as a GReddy oil cooler and custom oil catch tank. Cooling is handled by a larger S14 radiator with a custom radiator overflow tank and a Nismo thermostat. Sucking in more air through the radiator is a GKTech clutch fan that increases the air volume passing through by up to 60 per cent over the stock piece and makes for a simple but effective upgrade.

On the electronics side, an Apexi Power FC works with a HKS EVC 5 boost controller to handle the engine’s operating parameters.

Sending drive to the rear wheels is the stock five-speed manual but sitting between it and the engine is an Ogura Super Single clutch set. A Cusco Type-MZ LSD keeps both wheels spinning at roughly the same speed and allows for some easy drifts if the owner ever decides to give it some beans.

Bringing the car to a halt is a tried-and-tested recipe in the Nissan world. A Skyline R33 GT-R donated its four-piston Brembo calipers and rotors for the front as well as its two-piston Brembo calipers and rotors for the driven end. Endless brake pads and GKTech braided brake lines help with bite and consistency during hard drives.

By now, you might have noticed the rather purposeful stance the car sports. Helping the square Work Emotion CR Kiwami wheels measuring in at 18×9.5j with an offset of +20 tuck under the slightly flared arches are a set of BC Racing RM series coilovers with pillow-ball mounts on the front. Achilles ATR Sport rubbers in a 225/40 front and 235/40 rear sizing wrap the satin black wheels.

Rounding up the handling upgrades are a Cusco anti-roll bar, Cusco rear strut bar, Cusco adjustable rear camber arms, Cusco adjustable caster rods and Nagisa Auto adjustable rear toe arms.

The refresh of the shell carried over to the interior as well. All the panels, trim and rubber were replaced with new pieces possible to accentuate the new-car feeling.

That doesn’t mean that everything remained as is, absolutely not. The driver plonks himself down in a Bride Zeta 2 full bucket mounted on a Bride railing and grabs on to a Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel.

Keeping an eye on the engine’s vitals ensures that you’re not picking up your engine’s internals off the street when pushing too hard and a hose comes loose. For that, a trio of Defi DIN-gauges helps the driver monitor oil pressure, oil temperature and water temperature. A Defi Racer boost gauge ensures no boost surge is prolonged and a Blitz Fatt Advance turbotimer does the mandatory running of the engine after the key is removed. Lastly, a Pivot RHU-M sleepy eye controller gives the car that all important slightly lifted flip-up lights look.

During the painting stage, just like the uncertainty regarding the colour there was equal fickleness on the body kit. A Rocket Bunny kit was the first choice and championed by many of his friends for its aggression and would have been one of the first in the country at that time. Bragging rights is priceless.

However, in the end he went for a Type-X that replaced show with suave. This comprised a Type X front bumper with lip, side skirts with rear bumper valance, rear spoiler, rear lights and rear carbon look centre garnish. It wasn’t an exclusive Type-X party as an Origin Labo Type II front bonnet and Ganador Super Aero mirrors gatecrashed the do.

At the end of the day, you have a car that looks better than when it rolled out of the showroom with a bit more bite under the hood and just as much reliability for the occasional touge run as well as show-and-shine; which is where it ends up most of the time. Something as pretty as this needs to be driven like it was stolen.

Car – Nissan 180SX

Engine – SR20DET, stock turbo, Z32 87mm pistons, Z32 airflow meter, Works Engineering cam pulley, Denso 850cc fuel injectors, aftermarket fuel rail, Sard fuel pressure regulator, Walbro fuel pump, GReddy oil cooler, custom oil catch tank, custom radiator overflow tank, S14 radiator, Nismo thermostat, Apexi open pod air filter, HKS Type-S intercooler, GReddy Type S blow-off valve, GKTech clutch fan, GKTech spark plugs cover, Nismo engine mounts, aftermarket 3-inch downpipe, custom 3-inch straight pipe exhaust with twin 3-inch barrel exit

Transmission – Stock SR20DET gearbox, Ogura Super Single clutch, Nismo gearbox mount, Cusco type MZ LSD

Electronics – Apexi Power FC, HKS EVC V boost controller

Brakes – R33 GTR 4-piston Brembo calipers + rotors (front), R33 GTR 2-piston Brembo calipers and rotors (rear), Endless brake pads, GKTech braided brake lines

Suspension & Chassis – BC Racing RM series fully adjustable coilovers + front pillow ball mount, Cusco anti-roll bar, Cusco rear strut bar, Cusco adjustable rear camber arms, Cusco adjustable caster rods, Nagisa Auto adjustable rear toe arms

Wheels & Tyres – Work Emotion CR Kiwami 18×9.5j offset +20, Achilles ATR Sport 225/40 front and 235/40 rear, Rays Engineering chromoly lug nuts

Interior – Bride Zeta 2 driver seat + Bride seat railing, Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel, Defi DIN-gauge (oil press, oil temp, water temp), Defi Racer boost gauge, Blitz Fatt Advance + (turbotimer, voltmeter, boost), Pivot RHU-M sleepy eye controller, Pioneer headunit

Exterior – Type X front bumper with lip + side skirts + rear bumper valance + rear spoiler + rear lights + rear carbon look centre garnish, Origin Labo Type II front bonnet, Ganador Super Aero mirrors with custom LED signal indicators, Raybrig multi reflector headlamp

Garage – J Tuck Motorsports

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