Photography by: Dan Chavkin
Bloody knuckles, agonizing tears and a cardboard-box bed might describe some transient who walks the streets. But this also describes Richard Tang of Hacienda Heights, Calif. Calling the office home for two weeks and getting a total of 10 hours of sleep, Tang burned the midnight oil to prepare his 1991 240SX for the 2004 SEMA convention. With his buildup deadline merely two weeks away, he worked around the clock. Despite knowing the pains of procrastination, Tang, like many SEMA exhibitors, began working on his project vehicle, dubbed JDMRICE3, only days before the big event.
Two months prior to SEMA, Jiro Adachi of Tanabe USA was looking for a candidate to build an S13 with Kazama’s suspension products and Nagisa Auto’s (NAMS) chassis products, which were recently made available in the States under Tanabe’s More Japan division. It seemed Adachi’s search had finally come to an end: There was no one more qualified than Tang for the buildup. He had already built one sick-ass S13, dubbed JDMRICE2, for the 2003 SEMA show; this car eventually graced our cover in December 2003.
There was one daunting task: Tang was asked to create an exact replica of the Kazama S15 that Manabu Orido drove to set a record lap time of 59.45 seconds at Tsukuba Circuit in 2003. “I knew it was going to be a hard project to build, but I still accepted the offer and was determined to take on the task headfirst,” stated Tang.
While waiting for the body kit and suspension components to arrive via air from Japan, Tang disassembled his 240 fastback. He drove it to G-Dimension located in the City of Industry, Calif., where the stripping process began. With the aid of James from G-Dimension, Tang and a friend removed the perfectly running stock KA engine with plans to install a SR20DET. After removing all the wiring and engine components, they towed it to P.J. Bonifacio for prepping and painting. Prep work included removing the factory panels to keep the interior design simple. After scraping sound-deadening material from the interior, the body was then stitch-welded over a grueling two-day period.
Recaro Profi SPG XL buckets and Takata MPH four-point harnesses add some JDM flavor while keeping the driver out of harm’s way at all times. A Nardi steering wheel attached to an NRG quick-release hub enables Tang to enter and exit without re-aggravating his hernia. In place of the factory shifter resides a C’s short shifter attached to a Kazama shift knob. A matching Kazama spin-turn release knob completes the interior transformation.
Audiophiles might shed a few tears knowing the factory head unit compartment has been overrun with HKS’s newest meter lineup. The black face RS DB 60mm boost, oil temp and fuel pressure meters are custom-mounted in a carbon-fiber plate allowing Tang to use the meters’ warning, peak hold, simultaneous display and playback to their full potential.
Only Kazama offers a publicly available, S13 to S15 front-fender conversion kit, which enables any consumer to implement the coveted S15 front face. Using a set of limited-edition silver S15 headlights, the Kazama front bumper was attached using corner-mount fasteners and then topped off with a Seibon S15 AB-style vented, carbon-fiber hood. With blister fenders out front, the rear quarter-panel needed wider hips.For two days straight, Tang and his fellow employees at P.J. Bonafacio Auto Design meticulously molded a set of M-Sport wide fenders to the skin. The rear bumper and side skirts are also M-Sport issues, which were purchased through Renova Auto. Superior Nissan came through for Tang with a set of 180SX late-model Type-X taillights. In the rear, a Rotora 3-D GT wing channels downforce to the rear tires when sliding through the turns.
With the newfound fender space, oversized offset rims became a necessity. Tang opted for a set of custom J-Line wheels. New to the market, these 18×9.5- and 18×10-inch rims are laced with the newest trend in foot apparel: red chrome center spokes. Graciously sized Toyo Proxes T1-S tires, 235/40-18 up front and 255/35-18 in back, tuck within millimeters of the fender well. Replacing the underachieving factory brakes are a set of Brembo Skyline four-piston calipers in front and two-piston units out back. After completing the exterior, Tang’s friends, James and Danny from S.I.X. Autoworks, paid a visit to help him install an office full of suspension product from Kazama, NAMS and Tanabe. Because the vehicle was a moving advertisement for the top three Japanese suspension companies, Tang sat under the car with a toothbrush in hopes of cleaning off the 14 years of dirt and oil that had accumulated in the wheel wells.
Kazama supplied its front tension rods, super tie rod ends, tension support bar, rear camber arms, rear toe arms, rear traction arms and sub-frame bushings. NAMS was also in the mix. Its top-selling Gacchiri fender brace and Shakitto strut tower plate, dramatically reduce body flex. Tanabe supplied its Sustec Pro Type II coil-over system, front and rear strut tower bars and–for added vehicle control–a set of front and rear sway bars.
With so much detail going into the suspension and body, it’s a good thing Tang wanted an engine that would also set new standards. Enlisting the experts at Phase 2 Motortrend of Hacienda Heights, the crew rebuilt the SR20DET with HKS goodies. A set of HKS step two camshafts with a 264-degree intake and exhaust maintain extreme revs with the aid of a HKS rocker arm stopper kit and valve springs. Pressurizing the hot pipes, the enormous Type-S front-mount intercooler chills the intake charge while a Super Sequential blow-off valve releases excess pressure into the atmosphere. Spent exhaust is vacated though a Tanabe downpipe and finally terminates though a Super Medallion racing exhaust. Tang purchased a 1.2mm HKS head gasket and Power Enterprises Kevlar-lined Super V-belt. A Power Enterprise aluminum radiator and hose kit replace the notoriously inefficient factory radiator. A set of 660cc Power Enterprise injectors are given sufficient fuel through an HKS racing fuel pump. Dyno figures prove that older cars such as the 240 will benefit from an improved grounding system. The SR20 now sports a Sun Automotive Hyper ground system and Hyper voltage system. Transferring the power to the tarmac is an HKS single plate clutch. It delivers equal power to the rear tires though a NISMO two-way limited-slip differential.With body work and prepping done a week before the debut, the team worked in a frenzy to custom mix and match a color similar to the Kazama car using only sample photos and magazine clippings. Using a stage four derivative of Ford’s E9 Laser Red Metallic paint, Tang produced a color strikingly similar to its predecessor. It is a blood red hue that suddenly changes to a luminous pearl metallic when in sunlight.
With the paint still fresh, the 240 was towed to Euphoic Designs in Gardena, Calif., where Jessie and his crew designed the graphics on computer by simply looking at the same photos used to match the paint. The final design speaks for itself. The intricate spider web design took 18 hours to complete. With the clock ticking away, Tang trailered the vehicle and sped off down the Nevada Highway. Lady Luck was on his side as he managed to deliver the Kazama replica car.
“Many consider this vehicle a completed project,” said Tang. “I say it’s a never-ending process and I still have a long way to go before I am truly satisfied with JDMRICE3.” Tang plans to drive the car back to XS Engineering of Huntington Beach, Calif., to extract additional horsepower and fine-tune the HKS V-Pro for this year’s Time Attack and drift events. So, watch out guys, JDMRICE3 is coming to a drift event near you!