Slap bang in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean is a spot where this V8-engined Nissan 200SX would be right at home. Originally built with a turbocharged four-pot engine, this Japanese coupe has been given an all-American push rod V8 heart by UK firm Apex Performance Parts. The result is effortless speed, impeccable reliability and an incredible grin factor from that V8 noise.
Bren Simpson, managing director of Apex Performance, is no stranger to highly tuned Japanese machinery. The company has quickly grown with the help of 200SX enthusiasts who like Bren’s way of doing business: every Apex part is extensively tested. From suspension components to exhaust manifolds, Apex Performance put their parts on their cars and their money where their mouth is. They have a strongpresence in both Time Attack and the European Drift Championship, and anyone buying parts for their road or track car benefits.
So why the change to V8 power? Well, the story is a long one, but essentially it boils down to reliability and cost. Bren explains, “A few years ago, 1 got tired of unreliability with our 596’bhp RS3 GTS-t track and drift car. I spent tens of thousands on it to try to get to an acceptable level of reliability. We had issues with engine failures, turbo failures, manifold failures and gearbox failures. It was a nightmare.”
Bren continues, “In the end it was running an expensive straightcut dog ‘box, MoTeC M800 management and a custom GReddv/ Garrett turbo kit. We still had issues with surge at the end of the season, and after destroying another RB25 engine because of poor oil control, enough was enough. The RB25 came out and an old-school 6.3ltr V8 went in, running 53lbhp and 500lb/ft of torque. The car was great. Powerful, grunt coming out of its ears and, more importantly, it ran an entire season with no issues.”
This was the seed that eventually grew into the V8 200SX you see here. Bren found an engine and gearbox in America from a 2006 Pontiac GTO with just 18k miles on the clock. The moment it arrived, the whole package was installed by Gary Hay ward at AP-Tuning. Bren provided Gary with a ‘Sikky’ conversion kit from the States for the job, which consisted of all the engine and gearbox mounts and the propshaft. With Gary’s spanner wielding expertise, the car soon fired up. Only the transmission tunnel needed very gentle persuasion. However, like so many of Apex’s products, this was only the start of the journey.
Bren adds, “This was always intended to be our test mule for the V8 conversions, which we are now offering on our V8Apcx.com website.” The car was running within weeks. This was at the start of 2009, and for the rest of the year and throughout 2010, the car has been undergoing changes. The aim has always been to keep this a comfortable road car – a daily driver for both Bren and his wife Ann, and their expanding family.
Yet it has still claimed the scalp of stripped-out competition cars. It has a minimal but MSA-approved roll cage, kill switch and a plumbed-in fire extinguisher, so it was able to enter competitive events. It finished second in a hillclimb at Prescott Hill organized by the SX Owners’ Club. It also consistently finished above midfield in the Time Attack Club Challenge. Even a last-minute decision to let Apex drifter Kieran Cameron drive it in a round of the FJ)C at Knockhill resulted in a podium finish. Quite remarkable for a daily-driven car with a bogstandard engine!
In fact, it was a moment of EDC competition that resulted in a minor bump on the front end and the start of the custom widebody conversion. The car already had wide arches from ABW Designs, but they were reworked expertly by Richard at RT Autobodies. After trying several aftermarket front bumpers that had really poor fitment, Richard ended up creating his own using an OE bumper as a base, l ie then took a mould of the bumper and recreated it in FRR The result is an aggressive-looking car, not unlike the C-West Silvias raced in the Japanese Super GT series.
In fact, you could definitely imagine NISMO releasing a roadgoing version of those GT racers, and the result would look very much J like this. A look that is enhanced further by the growling presence of that V8 motor and the wide track provided by 9-5in wide wheels, pushed out by Apex adjustable suspension arms to provide a wider wheelbase and much greater grip.
So, what does Bren say to people who see the GM LS2 engine as old technology, with its pushrod design and only two valves per cylinder? “Just try one,” he smiles, “You’ll quickly understand why I love it. We haven’t turned our back on the SR20DET engine – in fact, we’ve been building a very special 200SX for a long time. It has a Tomei 2.2ltr forged engine and will run a large T78 turbocharger. The Chevy V8 is simply another option for our customers – once you’ve experienced one and done the sums, the conversion makes perfect sense.” You can’t put a price on happiness, but after three years Bren has no plans to sell this car. It still puts a smile on his face every time he turns the key and hears that 6.0ltr V8 roar into life. The joy of six indeed!