I've been waiting to see this Nissan S14 finished for the last two years. "Not your average," doesn't quite sum up the gravity of this build. It breaks laws and defies limits, but maybe that's why I've grown fond of it. It brings out emotion within enthusiasts of all types whether good or bad. There's so much imagination and courage involved to not only draw up the blueprint for a project car like this, but also to execute it to a tee. It's not cheap, it's not easy, and it's not going to make everybody happy, but maybe that's just part of the car's attractiveness. It gets people talking and gets the industry thinking in new ways. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first of its kind, a joint venture among LTMW, Gearheinz, and the car's owner, Steve Pham... Introducing the world's only BMW N54-powered, Rocket Bunny Boss, Nissan 240SX.
To begin, this '96 240SX started life as a right-hand-drive-converted rolling chassis previously owned by Bernardo Pena, another familiar face in pbskids (Liberty Walk Nissan GT-R feature in 11/14). Bernado passed the torch to Steve halfway through the build, and it couldn't have been more fitting as Steve might be the biggest Rocket Bunny advocate we've met—his Rocket Bunny GT-R starred in our '16 calendar. He's also got a Rocket Bunny NSX that's in the process of being completed for the '17 show season. However, none of the cars in his collection can match the degree of difficulty and utter craziness of this S14.
Steve's 240 was originally destined for SEMA '15 to be one of the first vehicles to debut the Rocket Bunny Boss kit. And since LTMW, lead partner in the build, is known by many as a BMW specialist, why not put a BMW motor in the Nissan to make it stand out from the rest? The project was on pace to make the annual Vegas convention with the B110 Sunny-inspired widebody conversion installed and painted BMW's Laguna Seca blue. Then other partners of the build came through, for example Rotiform, which built 18" staggered four-spoke forged wheels. Stuffed behind the wheels were StopTech big brakes all around, while Toyo provided its sticky R888 tires. To get the full "show car" stance, Air Lift air suspension was thrown into the mix. The interior wasn't spared, either, with the addition of Sparco steering wheel and seats, a full custom 'cage, rear seat delete, and one-off panels. With all these upgrades in the bag, all that was left was the most difficult task of them all: getting a modern-day BMW motor to run in an old Nissan chassis.
There are lots of ways to make power in an S14, especially in the 500+hp range. "We could have put an LS or RB motor in there, but there'd be nothing cool about that. It's been done a hundred times," explained Gearheinz Rios, the man responsible for the swap and much of the car's custom fabrication. Gearheinz was the mastermind who successfully built a custom individual throttle body setup for our Scion Tuner Challenge Scion FR-S in '14, but he knew he had his work cut out for him with Steve's car.
The powertrain that was brought to Gearheinz was BMW's N54, commonly found in the 335i. Its twin-turbocharged 3.0L inline-six is considered by many to be the RB26DETT and 2JZ-GTE of the Euro scene. Why? Well, despite it only being rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, the direct-injected engine is just as stout and tunable as its Japanese counterparts. BMW tuners are pushing up to 650 hp without changing out the N54's stock forged internals. That's more than double the factory horsepower!
The team knew the motor was strong enough for what they wanted, but once Gearheinz began shoehorning in the inline-six, he realized it was going to be a lot trickier than he originally thought. After all, an S14 is a much smaller platform to work with than a late-model 3 Series. "To clear the front crossmember, we had to sit the motor far back in the engine compartment. I had to section the firewall and move it back 8 inches," he explained. And that's just the beginning of the custom modifications Gearheinz needed to do. Because the firewall and engine were moved farther back and closer to the driver, it began to interfere with the stock pedal compartment. This required installing a Wilwood floor-mount assembly. Next on the list was the turbo manifold. Sure there are pre-made manifolds out there, but Gearheinz faced clearance issues with "inches to work with" due to things like different shock tower locations. So a custom 6-to-1 stainless steel manifold was fabricated, along with a 3.5" downpipe that runs in front of the motor, then around the side, and finally exiting out the factory exhaust location. Other custom work was required for the intercooler piping, motor mounts, and driveshaft. When all was said and done, it took two months to get the motor in and for it to "look good." But getting the motor in was only half the battle. "The car wasn't perfect, even though it has looked like it has for over a year on the outside. The fit and finish still weren't there, and wiring was another problem," Gearheinz revealed.
Getting the electronics and wiring to look and operate like factory is often the biggest challenge builders face with a project of this stature. According to Gearheinz, "Wiring, on a difficult scale of 1 to 10, it's a 10. What we had to do was take every single wire from headlight to taillight out of the 335i, stick it into the 240, and then start eliminating wires one by one. It took a few months by the time we got everything shaved down, re-loomed, built a new fuse box, mounted everything properly, and had the engine running properly. It would have been easier for us to run a MoTeC standalone, but that wasn't really an option—it cost $10K. Overall, we've saved more than half of what the MoTeC costs, we still have the OBD2 port, and we're running a standard tune on the stock ECU. This car is the definitely the hardest build we've participated in. There's nothing else like it," Gearheinz concluded.
There you have it... A right-hand-drive, stripped-down 240 on air ride with a 600+hp turbocharged BMW engine, all put together in Southern California. By our decision to put it on our cover, you can take a wild guess that we think it's pretty badass; however, we know not everyone is gonna like it. Regardless, there's no denying the time and effort that were put into this car. Let it be a topic of conversation... It took LTMW, Gearheinz, and Steve Pham two years, several obstacles to overcome, and relentless determination to complete something this unique. Use this BMW-powered, Rocket Bunny Boss S14 to show you that anything is possible when you dream big and have no fear.