For The Love of S Chassis…
We here at Exciting Hero love Nissan’s S Chassis, and own (or have owned) a couple ourselves. SR All Star Meeting is a yearly gathering of some of the best S Chassis Japan has to offer, and it is a must for any lover of Nissan’s famed rear-wheel drive car. The event usually falls within the string of holidays in Japan known as Golden Week.
This is the fourth running of the event, and I jumped at the opportunity to see many of the cars I had previously only ever seen on the other side of a screen. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to geek out on S Chassis like never before. Fair warning, it can get pretty nerdy in here.
Stepping out of the rental car and into the parking lot at Fuji Speedway, I was greeted by this tastefully modified white 180SX.
Though mixing and matching aero setups can often end badly, the GP Sports G Sonic side skirts and rear bumper flow well with the OEM front end, topped off with an aggressive set of Work XT7’s with just the right fitment.
In what is a surprise to nobody, S Chassis are becoming increasingly scarce. A victim of ever increasing demand and a dwindling supply, original cars have become extraordinarily rare.
This late-model PS13 two-tone is the stuff of dreams, with a full factory-optional aero kit and carefully chosen modifications to enhance the base car without destroying its character.
The later model PS13 Silvia can be distinguished at a glance from the earlier CA-powered model by its spoiler, LED third brake light, and trunk badge. Early models came with a square trunk badge and a more traditionally shaped wing.
The BBS wheels fit the OEM+ theme perfectly.
Say it with me now: kouki. As in koh-key. Not cookie, not cow-key, kouki.
With that out of the way, lets move on.
This pearl white kouki 180SX was yet another survivor, and had a few rare oem-optional trinkets as well, such as the 3″ Nismo exhaust…
…and the dealer-installed 180SX rear glass decal.
It’s easy to forget what these cars look like totally unmodified. The sky-high ride height seems to clash with the aggressive OEM kouki body style, as if Nissan knew these cars would be modified anyway.
This one’s for the Initial D fans – and yes, it was driven by two girls.
Not far from Impact Blue was a silver-green two-tone Silvia and another blue Sileighty seemingly based on the anime.
These two Silvias made a great pair. One slammed on R33’s, one less so on Work Seeker SX’s.
The two-tone Silvia was one of the best I’d ever seen, with careful attention to detail and parts selection. From the seats to the 180SX bumper lights…
…to this marvel of eighties bubble economy technical innovation, the Nissan Puretron MZ-1, released in 1986. Smoking is extremely common in Japan, and the MZ-1 is meant to purify the cabin air of the car while doubling as a replacement of the factory third brake light. Novelty tech like this was very much in-fashion in eighties Japan, with a form factor smaller than that of the factory light to aid in rearward visibility… however negligible the difference may have been.
Volk GT-C’s used to be everywhere in the mid 2000’s. Now though, most people tend to forget about them or even call them ugly. Looking at this kouki S14 on an aggressive set of concave face GT-C’s, I fail to see how these ever fell out of popularity. I challenge anyone to argue that this doesn’t look good.
326 D-LUX with clear headlight covers on this S13.
Moving into the main show area, I was greeted by the some of the best S Chassis in Japan.
Front-and-center at the RemainsLow booth was this 180SX from Ishikawa Body. This car has been making the rounds on the internet lately for its ultra-high level craftsmanship and aggressive all-metal widebody.
The S15 dashboard seamlessly blends in with the rest of the 180SX interior, which has been totally done up in tan leather down to the Recaro semi-bucket seats. Ishikawa Body even made slip on leather covers for the roll cage, tying the whole theme together.
Ishikawa Body recently had the bodywork of this car laser-scanned and will be releasing FRP fenders, no doubt opening the flood gates for more low and wide S Chassis show cars in the future. Just when you think the tuning ceiling has been reached on these cars, someone finds a way raise the bar even higher.
I tried to get everything SR All Star Meeting had on offer, but this coverage may be a bit heavy on kouki 180SX photos. My apologies. The heart wants what the heart wants, after all.
Kouki 180SX builds often get called ‘cookie cutter’, due to the notion that all they need to look good is a decent set of wheels and proper ride height. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to stick with a tried and true formula, but truly great kouki 180’s aren’t as numerous as the internet would like you to believe; in fact they’re few and far between.
This white 180 was one of my favorites of the event. It has all the typical kouki aero parts, but its the Advan VS6 wheels and ride height that pushed it ahead of the others, and it’s rare to see a pearl white kouki.
A popular modification to OEM kouki front bumpers is to cut out the license plate mount area for increased airflow to the intercooler and radiator. It also looks cool, so there’s that.
Here’s a spotless early-model S13. As stated before, the wing and trunk badge are different from the later SR-powered models. Now you can use that piece of information to break the ice with someone at your next singles mixer, or whatever it is you do. You can thank us later.
This was the Zenki of the show for me, with it’s subtle wide bodywork and aggressive ride height topped off with rare-spec Model 5’s. Bonus points for sticking with the Navan wing instead of the more aggressive kouki wing.
This black and white duo was representing USDM style at SR All Star Meeting.
At a glance, what makes this 180SX USDM may not be immediately apparent, but look closer: things like part selection, wheels, fitment and ride height all play into the Japanese concept of USDM, which has become synonymous with low, aggressive fitment in Japan (no doubt owing to the hellaflush/illest trend of the past… which itself based its style on Japanese tuning trends of low and aggressive fitment). This car also has a USDM 240SX gauge cluster and rear sidemarkers, which Japanese-market cars weren’t equipped with from factory.
In addition to that was the NeXt Miracle Cross Bar, a coveted piece so deeply associated with JDM abroad, that it’s inclusion in many high-profile builds in the west over the years has made it both a JDM and USDM icon.
Having spoken to a few Japanese S Chassis enthusiasts, the consensus here is that the american-market 240SX is cooler than the Japanese equivalent, with one owner even telling me he’d actually prefer a 240SX to his 180SX. The grass is always greener, after all…
Some have even gone the extra mile to import their very own 240SX, like this one here. It even has the original KA24, still ticking away under the hood.
Sticking with the USDM “simple and clean” theme, the car has retained its flip-up headlights with the only changes being a kouki front bumper, Silvia aero side skirts, and rear valances.
This Silvia may look like just another low and wide build on the surface, but the devil is always in the details. For one thing, the already wide front fenders were further widened by overlaying another, wider fender over them. The Z33 mirrors flow surprisingly well with the rest of the car as well. To top it off, this car is driven at this height, no doubt aided by the fact that Japan’s roads are kept in far better shape than what we’re used to.
Garage Mak cars are known for their aggressive, track-oriented aero packages, often making use of splitters, canards, and GT wings. While their styling can be somewhat over the top at times, it breaks out of the mold of the typical S Chassis.
Here’s a car I’d seen lots of in my days cruising and perusing Minkara. It’s a relief to see it’s still around and in such good shape. The owner, an older gentleman, was kind enough to show me around the car, and even rev up the engine for me!
This S15 on TE37V’s was a looker, and the Hasemi Sport front lip is a welcome touch. The widebody was also subtle, helping to keep those wide wheels in check.
Next door to the gray s15 was this. The Autech S15 came from the factory without a turbo, but still put out close to 200 horsepower thanks to higher compression, aggressive cams, tubular exhaust manifold, improved intake manifold, and most importantly – a red valve cover. This particular car went a step further with individual throttle bodies for ultimate response.
OZ Futuras on this car were very aggressive, and the interior was a tasteful tan/black combination. This car also had many USDM touches, including California license plates, 240SX sidemarkers and gauge cluster.
Spoon Silvia? Spoon Silvia.
This JZX-face S14 was interesting. The over-the-top wing, almost reminiscent of RWB, makes this car just crazy enough that it comes back from being almost too weird to actually being cool.
More classic style on this S15 sitting on a set of lesser-known-but-fully-excellent Blitz Z1’s.
GP Sports was present with a booth showing off some of their beautiful exhausts as well as their Gallery 180SX.
This car really needs no introduction, but I’ll give one anyway. Gallery is known for building “The Driver’s 180SX”, a title earned by being one of the fastest RWD’s in Hot Version’s Touge Battle. For the uninitiated, the kit on this car costs about $13,000. Needless to say the chance of seeing one in the wild is unlikely.
This interesting find is a Tommi Kaira M18Si, a rare modified version of the naturally-aspirated CA18 S13. It’s somewhat of a shame to see such a rare car with bolt-on flares and a wangan wing, but at least it still looks cool.
I really don’t care for RPF1’s, but Japan manages to make them look good.
Best valve cover of the show?
Reasons Nismo LMGT4’s are timeless:
The dashes of chrome on this S15 gives it an elegant touch.
Vertex widebody and Koguchi Power wing go great together on this S15.
They say you should never meet your heroes; that they can never live up to our expectations of them. In this instance I can say that I certainly was not disappointed.
Though there were other cars at the event with more extreme body work, engine work, aero, and wheel setups, to me Noriaki Nagato’s 180SX was the best of the show. The massive venting on the rare Racing Service MAX hood and R33 GT-R N1 vents are just some of many elements that make this car a shining beacon of 180 style. This is what the perfect 180SX looks like.
This hood predates the modern Koguchi Power MAX hood, and has a somewhat more subtle shape that even retains the window washers. The later Koguchi Power hood is largely the same, but has a raised cowl and no windshield washer holes. The original MAX hood is highly coveted among 180SX die-hards as one of the rarest parts in existence.
The rear quarters have been beautifully widened in such a way as to maintain the coveted original metal bodywork. The staggered 17/18 Blitz BRW 03’s are another classic touch – a timeless wheel and a 180SX standard. It may be easy to argue that these wheels have been “played out” by a certain subset of the car community, but this car is a testament to the fact that proper reverse-lip 03’s will always look good.
The 240SX rear sidemarkers are a nice touch!
Tohoku is the north-eastern part of Japan’s main island of Honshu, and the region is known for producing some of the best 180SX’s of all time. Preserving Tohoku’s 180 style, Nagato’s history with the S Chassis stretches back to the golden era of the early 2000’s alongside the likes of the Tohoku pioneer Itoh of Break, Koguchi of K-Style, and Shigihara of B’Club – who’s car also happened to be silver, no doubt an influence on Nagato’s choice to repaint his car silver not too long ago.
The hallmarks of Tohoku style are simple – vehicle height is low. Drift is good. In order to ride at this height without risking damage to the body or oil pan, the suspension is stiff.
In the front, the car has been subtly widened by way of 12mm Vertex aero fenders.
The interior is deceptively simple, with a pair of no-nonsense Brides doing the butt-holding duties. The Nardi Classic is the de-facto wheel of choice, and Defi gauges provide valuable insight on engine vitals. The car is otherwise beautifully uncluttered, inside and out.
Also representing Tohoku’s style was this red 180 from team WELLBARUNS. Like the silver 180, it’s aggressively low, with Advan AVS T6’s that only just fit within the wheel wells.
The Hot Road front aero was an influence from another 180SX legend, Itai of Ricoh Racing. Its essentially a one-piece kouki front with a molded Group A vent, so called because its the same vent used on the Group A/Turbo A JZA70 Toyota Supra.
Three-finger headlight rule is also a major key.
Together, these two cars represent everything right and good about the S Chassis. Getting the opportunity to speak with the owners of these two cars and discuss the finer points of 180 style with someone that was there at it’s golden era peak is a dream come true.
My Japanese has improved much in the past eight months, but I’m not yet fully conversational. However in spite of the language barrier, we all spoke the common language of friendship – and it was a mutual love of these cars that made it all possible. Every one of the Japanese owners I’ve met after following them online has always been very kind and down-to-earth; in fact they’re always surprised and humbled to see that they have fans from all corners of the world following in their footsteps, me included.
If you ever find yourself in Japan during Golden Week, make your way to this event. You won’t regret it.