They say to never judge a book by its cover, and yet we as humans seem to have a strange desire to take things at face value and place them into specific categories.
Worst of all, these designated categories are created, used and blindly followed within milliseconds without much creative thought being put into them. In all facets of life we can witness this happen, including the automotive community, where purchasing a specific car apparently means you have an interest in a specific activity.
Case in point, my own Project Rough: ‘Oh Ron, you bought a four-door ER34 Skyline, so you must want to drift it, right?’ Err… no.
In the case of Noji-san’s RPS13 Nissan 180SX, he originally purchased the car as he knew it would make a great drift base. What he didn’t realize at the time, is that for him, it would make an even better grip machine.
It was while Noji had time to kill waiting for a limited-slip diff to arrive that he decided to give circuit racing a go. That one moment of open-mindedness dramatically altered the destiny of both the car and Noji himself, as he found it even more enjoyable to hustle around a track as quickly as possible than sideways.
It was the only taste he needed for the 180SX build to shift from drift to time attack. After years of various iterations, what you see here is the latest version of Noji’s RPS13.Girth & Aero
Starting with the obvious changes, the widebody kit was put together through an assortment of aero pieces that were worked over to form one cohesive and aggressive exterior.
The end result is an overall increase in width from a narrow 1,690mm, to a staunch 1,900mm (+210mm). To help paint a picture of just how wide that is, a factory Ferrari 458 measures in at 1,937mm wide.
The extra body width opened up extra room for some meaty tires. Noji tells me he could go bigger in size still, but is satisfied with the balance of the 255/40R17 Nankang AR-1 rubber on all four corners. Furthermore, the Enkei NT03 wheels provide enough space for S15 brakes up front and BNR32 GT-R brakes out back to clear.
DG5 suspension provides an ideal solution for the track and enough adjustability to make the ride tolerable on the street. But with a target of 1:00:000 flat lap time at Tsukuba Circuit on road-legal tires, Noji was going to need more than increased mechanical grip to help him achieve his goal. So he began experimenting with different ways to manipulate the airflow to create downforce.
A combination of wet and dry carbon fiber and fiberglass parts can be found all over the 180SX. The front splitter, canards, under panel and rear diffuser all work to push down or suck the car to the tarmac.
The Esprit GT wing measures in at 1,800mm from tip to tip. Again, for a point of reference, the Dodge Viper ACR wing measures 1,776mm across.
Noji wanted to ensure that the gigantic wing was not only stable and allowed some hatch access, but that all the downforce generated was transferred to the chassis and not just the trunk area. Noji and a friend designed and fabricated a rail system to accomplish it.
With the hatch open you have a clear view of the added chassis bracing provided by a NEXT Miracle Cross Bar, half roll cage and custom floor bracing.The Rest
When tuners are trying to set blistering lap times around Tsukuba, aero alone usually doesn’t cut it. Horsepower can help you dig out of the slower corners and take full advantage of the track’s 432m (.27 mile) back straight.
With high power comes the added risk of something going pop, or extra financial costs to increase reliability. Seeing that this is more of a passion project and not a job, a blend of extra power and reliability without breaking the bank was Noji’s goal under the hood.
The SR20DET has been lightly breathed on with upgraded camshafts, a head gasket swap and Tomei M7960 turbocharger. 350hp is the result.
In something that weighs a little under stock, that’s plenty of power. It finds its way to the rear tires via an ATS twin carbon clutch, a 5-speed transmission pieced together by Nagao Techno and the aforementioned LSD.
Seeing that Noji still drives his 180SX on the street from time to time, he hasn’t (yet) fully sacrificed comfort for outright weight savings. Bride Zeta seats, a Nardi steering wheel, Nismo shifter and added gauges to relay engine vitals make up the changes made.
As the Nissan sits now, Noji hasn’t managed to achieve his illusive 1:00:000 lap time goal around Tsukuba Circuit. But his best, a 1:01:889 on regular street tires is still pretty damn impressive.
After the shoot, Noji and I discussed different ways he could achieve his goal, such as being a bit more aggressive on the weight savings, turning up the boost, or finding out how to make his aerodynamics more efficient to balance out downforce and drag. Whatever he decides to do I can’t wait to see how it evolves this not-for-drift 180SX.