Here’s another good reason to LS swap the world. This is further proof that a car can be fun with any engine and isn’t any less “like itself” just because it has an LS engine or whatever else the naysayers say.
This is Aaron Weinberger’s 1989 Nissan 240SX and it is a certified fun drift car with an LS engine in it. The story began sometime around four years ago when Aaron bought this beast from a guy in Vacaville for $2,500. At the time it was still completely stock with its single-cam engine and manual transmission. Even though it was stock, the drift bug ended up biting Aaron as well so it was time for the single-cam to hit the track. Buckle up ‘cuz this one’s a fun story.
The night before the Drift Central event in Salinas, Aaron had a guy who had never welded a differential do just that on the 240. He then drove down to Santa Rosa to get new tires from a friend and drove all the way back to Sacramento to get the car ready. After a night of wrenching, Aaron woke up at 3:30, met his friend in a 350Z, and drove over two hours from Vacaville to Monterey for the drift event.
The fun didn’t last long though and just 20 minutes in, POP, went the engine. In place of that sweet JDM roar was the nice thump of the rods knock knock knocking on heaven’s door. Not only that but his friend in the 350Z also blew a coolant hose and drove without coolant all day without knowing so that makes for two unreliable cars and a 200-mile trip home.
As the two were getting ready to leave after the event, the friend said his car kept shutting off so they pulled over at a Shell gas station and discovered the absence of a coolant hose. After some futile attempts at fixing the car, they contacted Carlos, the guy who ran Drift Central and he was nice enough to let them crash at this house. They trailered the leaky 350Z to the house and drove the rod knocked 240SX with plans to drive it the next day from Salinas to Sacramento.
When they woke up the next day, Carlos gave them the keys to his Corolla wagon so they could go to the track and see FormulaD Pro1 Driver Matt Field. After a day of fun, the two still had to somehow make it home with two mostly broken cars. They followed the previous day’s plan, hopped into the 240SX, and got 20 miles out of town before they had to go up a hill to get to the highway. Like a friend failing a trust fall, the engine “just let go” and they were left stranded on the side of the highway in California’s July heat.
As anyone would do, they called AAA to come to tow them into town. Not too long after, the AAA guy showed up, pulled over, and promptly left because their registration was expired. They ended up calling the side of the highway their home for almost ten hours before Aaron’s friend and current FormulaD driver Rye O’Connor saved them. At one point they even traded some guy in an Audi some engine oil for water to drink. That oil was filled with metal though so whether or not he made it home is anyone’s guess.
When Aaron and the car were safe and sound back in Sacramento, it was time to source a replacement for the dead engine. At first, he rebuilt a friend’s single-cam, put that in the car, and drifted on it for about two years as he worked on developing the chassis and suspension to his liking.
Not too long before that, a mutual friend of a friend had passed away in a car accident so his mom was selling his stuff including this LS1 engine which Aaron believes is from either a 98 or a 99 Corvette for only $400. It wasn’t all fun and sunshine though as a compression test revealed that one of the valves was burnt among other things and the whole thing needed to be rebuilt.
A year of collecting parts later, the engine was rebuilt by the local LS Garage and it was really to be assembled. Some of the key components that make this 240SX such a fun drifting machine are the CD09 transmission from a G35, subframe out of an S14, a differential from a G35 sedan, Holly Terminator standalone ECU, custom driveshaft, 350Z axles, and a modified angle kit.
As a real car guy should, Aaron drives the car, drifts it, and takes every opportunity he is offered to have fun with it. In the future, he wants to make it more reliable with an oil cooler, coil-overs, new fluids, and other parts. Someone even offered him $20k for it but he would never sell it since he doesn’t want anyone else to have fun with it. It’s always fantastic to see a JDM legend burn some rubber the way it was meant to instead of being some garage princess.
Remember kids: “It’s not meant to be super pretty, it’s meant to be functional!”
Big thanks to Aaron for letting me bother him at his shop for a few hours about the car. If y’all are in the Sacramento area and wanna support a really skilled independent mechanic, check out Repairin’ Aaron! He said he might even take me to a drift event in this thing so if that ends up happening, you can bet I’ll write an article about it!
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