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Tomei Powered USA Nissan 240SX - Icon

USDM meets JDM

Text By Steve Enomoto, Photography by

Craigslist, Orange County, CA, classified section is where it all began when Tomei Powered USA in Lake Forest, CA, was looking to acquire a company vehicle. This prospective vehicle was initially only intended to be used as a reliable means for transportation amongst the Japanese Tomei executives while they conducted business here in the United States. Being a new corporation in a foreign land, however, company budget constraints had to be calculated into this purchase. Other choices in automobiles were widely considered, but ultimately the most ideal candidate filtered down to the S14 Nissan 240SX, since the company had deep knowledge and experience with this Japanese Silvia-badged version since its release back in 1995.

The Craigslist seller agreed to meet up locally near Tomei USA's office in a remote parking lot inside the University of California at Irvine, where the S14 was fully inspected and concluded to be in satisfactory condition. The most alluring factor was that this chassis was an SE model equipped with five-lug wheel hubs that pretty much sealed the deal for immediate acquisition. Later, the Tomei engineers, however, learned a valuable piece of information concerning something that the U.S. S-chassis enthusiasts have been distressed with for years. In place of the coveted SR20DET that they were so used to seeing, a twin-cam KA24DE engine widely recognized as a "truck engine" was poutfully idling in the Nissan 240SX engine bay like a disgruntled kindergartner who just received a time-out.

Over the years the S14 still maintained and loyally served its original purpose until the fatigued KA24DE started whimpering in near death submission. The next logical course of action for the Tomei staff was to stuff this thing with a complete Tomei Genesis crate engine and make a demo car out of it. Plans were steadily moving forward toward the faithful agenda until one day a Formula Drift competitor by the name of Kenji Yamanaka brought forth a proposition to enable Tomei USA's name into the prevalent drift series. Not about to miss this illustrious opportunity, the SR20DET Genesis engine that was originally built for Tomei USA's demo S14 was transferred into Yamanaka's competition vehicle. Yamanaka would later repay this debt; the sponsorship grant was executed very quickly and without any debate since the engine was already ready to go. The terminal KA24DE was again asked to hold up and endure a bit longer until its more powerful distant cousin, the SR20DET would show up to take its place.

The best things, however, come to those who wait the longest. The marketing geniuses at Tomei headquarters decided it would generate more media exposure if this vehicle were shipped off to Japan, being that it is a USDM 240SX with lefthand-drive and outfitted with a truck engine from the factory. Bluemoon Performance in Costa Mesa provided maintenance to the vehicle as well as successfully setting up shipping logistics and paperwork to the Tomei headquarters in Machida, Japan. The S14 arrived safely, and it wasn't long until the engineers surrounded the chassis and popped the hood pointing fingers with various murmurings of such words as 2.4-liter, automatic, and truck engine in comprehensive fascination.

For Tomei, the arduous plea of the U.S. enthusiasts played a large role in the conclusive decision to develop performance products for the KA24DE. Moreover, the SR20DET engines were never sold in the United States and many S-chassis owners still believed that the KA had the potential to surpass the SR since it had the upper hand in terms of availability of parts, larger displacement, and a solid cast-iron block. Upon disassembly, the connecting rods and crankshaft were discovered to be quite robust and even capable of handling turbo boost in factory form. Starting from the bottom end, the factory crankshaft met substantial strength requirements so it was reconditioned and reused. The other components, such as pistons, piston rings, and connecting rods, were custom designed and manufactured from forged metal. Everything else from the head gasket to the camshafts (270-degree 9.5mm lift) were designed and manufactured as prototype JDM units. The head and block were pampered with the entire luxury "Genesis" treatment of machining, honing, porting, decking, and deburring by the masterful hands of the skilled engineers in the most optimal environmental conditions possible. The plans of these components hitting your local dealer shelves has not been entirely confirmed, but rest assured that if they take development and production to this extent, they cannot simply deny the consumer demand.

The KA24DE that originally came in the '94 240SX chassis is rated at 9.5:1 compression ratio so why would the engineers drop the compression to 9.0:1 with overzealous forged internals? The one and only reason in the world to drop compression on an engine is when forced induction is being implemented. This was in the form of a Tomei ARMS M8270, which is the larger aniki (brother) of the M7960 designed for the SR20DET that matched perfectly with the 2.4L KA and its performance output objective. Various exhaust manifolds were skillfully bent and welded by the experienced Tomei Expreme craftsman along with ultra lightweight and durable titanium intercooler pipings. A trusty Haltech Platinum Sport 1000 linked to a Racepak IQ3 Data Logger meter system controls the entire assembly—two brands that Tomei share joint product research and development projects.

The automatic slushbox finally took its last breath in its homeland after a long trek in the open California roads. A Nissan five-speed manual transmission was located and outfitted with all the manual transmission conversion parts sourced from Nissan. An OS Giken clutch and flywheel was chosen for its well-balanced nature, translating the final power and torque to the rear Tomei two-way Technical Trax limited-slip differential.

An Endless Zeal Function X monotube 30-way adjustable suspension coilover kit was arranged to replace the tired factory struts. Endless couldn't just stop there. Being well known as a brake manufacturer, their M4 four-pot calipers and slotted disc rotors, steel braided lines, and Type-R pads were also selected to be part of this build. The new big-brake setup had to be shown off so it was matched up with 18-inch Work Meister five-spoke wheels and Advan Neova AD08 tires with plenty of negative offset lip.

The hottest JDM aero kit gaining in popularity like a speeding freight train is the Rocket Bunny 6666 Customs kit by TRA Kyoto. Here, as mentioned earlier, pro drifter Kenji Yamanaka had something to offer to Tomei on top of the thriving brand exposure in U.S. soil. Being a professional autobody installer by trade, Kenji offered to install and paint the Rocket Bunny kit onto the vehicle. The Pearl White finish draped new life into the Nissan 240SX, transforming it into a completely new and improved identity while still a part of the vehicle clinging onto its subtle USDM essence.

The interior doesn't get any more JDM as this. Bride Low Max GIAS II and Stradia II seats were planted with the trademark Takata racing harnesses replacing the speckle-patterned USDM factory seats. Other components include a Nardi Deep Corn steering wheel, Works Bell steering hub, Tomei shift knob, and a PLX air/fuel ratio gauge. The best part of the interior is the lefthand-drive vehicle in the land of righthand drives!

After the long journey from a Craigslist ad to becoming one of the most iconic demo cars of all time, this is an extraordinary story line deserving of its chronicle being recognized everywhere in the world. With Tomei Powered's successful execution of this vehicle buildup, us jealous Americans would really like to see this car back on our soil someday.

After the long journey from a Craigslist ad to becoming one of the most iconic demo cars of all time, this is an extraordinary story line deserving of its chronicle being recognized everywhere in the world.

By Steve Enomoto
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