Sun glares through the desert sky casting onto a hot day in the Phoenix region. In a tight, two car garage, a box fan placed on the floor pushes the dry breeze across an engine bay while hunched over, a brown-haired woman wrenches on another new upgrade for her 240SX. But this isn’t just a quick repair. This piece is another addition to her long term project. Like a fine Japanese sake, with every year, it keeps getting better – and so is the case with Ellen Z’s 240SX.
Though long before she ever purchased the Nissan, she was helping work on cars as a pastime during her father’s racing days throughout the 1990’s. Back then, he wheeled jogged a 1269cc powered 1968 Triumph Spitfire MK3, across the SCCA circuits and between races, Ellen helped in the garage alongside her dad and brother repairing and modifying the car. Needless to say, her enthusiasm for turning wrenches didn’t stop there.
Fast forward to 2017 and searching on Craigslist for a project car, she found a stripped down, 1990 240SX shell. Being priced extremely cheap and wanting to build a fully custom car, it was a perfect start. After practically dragging it to her garage and placing it onto a set of jack stands, she immediately went to work on the bare bones body. First order of business, building a new fuel system with lines and custom mounted Aeromotive A1000 fuel cell, and of course seat brackets to mount the drivers seat.
Next on her list was to add a drive train, where she opted for a Skyline R33 RB25DET 2.5 liter, single turbo engine swap, backed by a Series 2, 5-speed transmission, one-piece drive shaft and a stock 240SX differential with a welded up posi-traction. She then installed a brake system composed of GK Tech dual caliper plates with vented and drilled rotors for both the front and rear.
To beef up the chassis, with help of a local fab shop Fathead Fabrication, a full tig-welded roll cage was installed and integrated into the entire chassis. Meanwhile she upgraded the suspension with Cusco rear upper control arms and tension rods, then boxed welded the front lower control arms. Lastly, she threw on a set of K-Sport “Kontrol Pro” coil overs for a touch of stance and handling.
Under the hood, the engine bay needed some refining. The space was cleaned up starting with a Wiring Specialties engine harness and swapped out the stock engine intake manifold for an Ebay Greddy style Plenum which she took to a machine shop, paired with an Aeromotive adjustable fuel regulator. Then she mounted a CX Racing Intercooler and Mishimoto radiator, and for the exhaust — bolted on a CX Racing 3-inch manifold downpipe and custom 3-inch PHP exit system. Taking things a bit further, she retrofitted an electric rack and pinion from a Toyota Prius.
The look of the car was to have a drift car stance, so she opted for 2F Performance “Super Doof” aero kit with front bumper, side skirts and rear bumper. While the fenders were replaced with AIT S13.4 fiberglass conversions with Supermade canards and the rear fenders covered with Duraflex Sportwide 50mm fender flares. Up front of the car, the stock hood was upgraded with a DMAX fiberglass hood vent and the trunk topped off with a Big Country Labs wing.
When fitting the interior, Ellen continued with a stripped down, minimal race look, so she opted for a Bride Zeta 3 drivers side seat coupled with a Brix passenger seat with Takata harnesses. Upgraded the steering wheel with a suede version and column NRG quick release. For extra controls she installed a set of Auto Rods switch panel, along with a Turbo Smart boost controller.
Finally it was time to paint the exterior. Performing most of the task herself, she tackled the body work, then eventually masked off the car sprayed it with color you see on it now, a Toyota cement grey. While the cabin and roll cage was covered in a solid white, giving a clean contrast to the dark exterior – and with the doors off, it really adds a sinister look of the car. “I was painting inside of the car so the doors needed to come off and looked cool, so left them off for the summer. It was also super hot with no air conditioning, so thought it might help.” She says.
The look of the car was topped off with a square tire set up by adding a set of Advan RS 18”x9” wheels wrapped in 240/45/18 Nankang tires. Needless to say the overall look of the car is clean and gives off a radical impression.
“A lot of people ask, why haven’t you done a tubed front end yet or more extensive fab work?” She says, then replies. “When I wreck I’ll do that!”
But luckily she hasn’t wrecked such a great looking project car, though with that being said, driving a project car usually comes with mechanical issues, one that recently experience was a wheel bearing locking up, which left her stranded. “It just randomly happened one night when I was out driving around downtown.” She says. “I ended up having to get a U-Haul trailer to pick it up and it took a lot of phone calls – it was a long night.”
Ellen has been showing it off around the local scene hitting the streets ad showing up at local car meets, and of course onlookers always seem to share their opinion’s. “People usually love it or hate it!” She says, “Some say things about the doors, or others about the wing being to large for their tastes.” But that just goes with the territory. Building a car is about dong it with your own style and taste — and in our book, Ellen is building one very radical looking S13.