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s13 project 240sx land speed racing 200 mph sentra 150 club 130 mph club scta sr20det 200 mph club bonneville speedway el mirage nissan

Introducing Project 240SX - Land Speed Racer

by Chuck Johnson

Around the turn of the millennium, I had a gear head epiphany.  I had spent the half-decade prior figuring out how to shoehorn a SR20 into a B12 Sentra and then turbo charge it.  With the exception of many all-nighters furiously wrenching and a few days at the drag strip, the sum of my automotive experiences could be detailed on the slim piece of paper found inside of a fortune cookie.  As much as I love wrenching, I came to the realization that it's the experiences that you have with your project car that makes all the knuckle-busting sacrifices worthwhile.  For the next ten years, this epiphany would inspire me to immerse myself in the automotive world and experience as much as I could, from racing in the Silver State Classic Challenge to building and piloting a super fuel efficient vehicle with a college SAE team.  Out of all these experiences though, only the nostalgia of land speed racing at Bonneville has left me really wanting more.  

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Salt Fever
They call it "salt fever."  This seemingly incurable disease first infected me after reading an article about the Progress/Vortec Honda Civic Si setting a new land speed record at Bonneville.  The nostalgia of Bonneville intrigued me, while the idea of setting a land speed record challenged me.  Challenge and intrigue; it was a perfect combination.  Unlike drag racing or AutoX though, you can't just drive over to your local racetrack and set a new land speed record; and obviously, there is only one place to truly gain the experience of Bonneville.  After scouring the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) rulebook, I was disappointed to find that only a heavily prepared car, safety wise could legally race on the salt. 

 

The 130 and 150 MPH Clubs
My dreams of running on the salt were halted until I found The Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA). A perhaps lesser-known organization, the USFRA runs an event every September at Bonneville called "The World of Speed" and offers a 130 MPH and 150 MPH club tailored just for mildly prepared street cars.  The USFRA's motto for these clubs is, "It only sounds easy."  Although it would turn out that my Nissan Sentra made more than enough brutish horsepower to overcome its Soapbox derby car aerodynamics and get the job done, it would still take me three agonizing years to finally secure membership into both clubs.  Why?  In short, the Bonneville Speedway turns into Lake Bonneville after a good rain.  

s13 project 240sx land speed racing 200 mph 24 hours of lemons sentra 150 club 130 mph club scta sr20det 200 mph club bonneville speedway el mirage nissan
After a 9 hour tow to Utah and one fouled pass, it began to rain and I woke up the next morning to find Bonneville Speedway under water.  They were right, "it only sounds easy."

The "Triple Crown"
After finally entering both the USFRA 130 and 150 MPH clubs, I figured that my addiction for the salt had finally been quenched.  As it would turn out though, this little venture would merely whet my appetite.  Only a few minutes after making my final pass into the 150 MPH club, the proverbial stick and carrot would be dangled in front of my nose once again.  

Photo by Bryn MusselWhite


Feeling awfully proud of myself, I sat humored on the tailgate of my truck as I watched a man carefully tape up each seam of his Porsche when a lady commented, "Not bad kid."  Two clubs in two days, you make it look easy."  When I looked over, a lady well into her golden years and wearing all white, to perhaps reflect the intense sun, walked over to me and then sat down.  "Ever heard of the Triple Crown?  I think only a couple of people have done it before."  For the next few minutes, the lady explained that the "Triple Crown" was when someone successfully gained entrance into the 130, 150, and 200 MPH clubs.   I was hooked.    

To be honest with you, I don't even know if this "Triple Crown" thing even really exists.  And that lady?  Well, she could have easily been a desert mirage brought on by dehydration and too much sun.  Regardless, the "Triple Crown" sure did sound cool.  

 

 

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Comments
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 2:53 AM
I'm looking forward to this project!
carmo
carmolink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 3:13 AM
Really curious to see what gearing gets used.
Bernd
Berndlink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 6:36 AM
What you need to break 200 mph, SR20VET with Garret GT35 an an RB 25 gearbox with its long gearing s done by this guy http://vimeo.com/26984033 in Germany.
He has around 535 hp an hit 323 km/h at the Autobahn at night...
sr20freak
sr20freaklink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 6:43 AM
"My B12 Sentra had easily put me into the 130 MPH and 150 MPH clubs, but it has the aerodynamics of a pine wood derby car made by a 7 year boy scout… without his father's help."

hahahahahahahaha...... oh man my stomach hurts......thanks Chuck! And now I get to go teach a bunch of boy scouts tomorrow night about cars.
I need to make sure to get the boys hooked of these awesome projects and tech articles!
spdracerut
spdracerutlink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 7:50 AM
@ Bernd, the salt creates a lot more drag than driving on a paved highway, so more HP will be needed.

Chuck, I was thinking a GTX4294R would do the job.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 7:58 AM
Excellent read Chuck! Looking forward to the direction you take and if you're going to have to scavange the B12 to save $. I think I still have the issue of SCC where you guys took the B12 out. It was a great read back then!

Oh, and don't knock the wedge shaped pinewood derby cars. I won a tournament using my wedged design! It's all in the axle, wheel and how well you can keep the friction down. Lube goes a long way!
Bernd
Berndlink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 8:25 AM
@spdracerut Right I forgot that, but there are no other people on the road ;) but more power in that car is just a question of a bigger turbo, the VET in that s14 is in the development atm, should be bringing more, like the mazwork SR20s do. And its also a question of the gearing, the RB 25 tranny gearing is just a little bit to long and is getting optimized.
Why not build a SR22VET with GTX 4294R?:D:D
tyndago
tyndagolink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 1:50 PM
Nice. 240's are great cheap cars.

As far as gearing goes, it shouldn't be too difficult. There are a bunch of R200 ratios, out there. There are options on the gearboxes- RB25, Z33. Tire height, and RPM, and it should be very doable.
willscarcast
willscarcastlink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 2:59 PM
im excited for this build.
Grunt
Gruntlink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 4:19 PM
Will it be a nissan or nisevy?
Chuck Johnson
Chuck Johnsonlink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 4:38 PM
Thanks for the responses everyone. It's great to see the interest.

@ der bruce- agree with the wedge shape pine wood derby car. I actually beat out an entire class of ME and tech students during an SAE event with a wedge shape car that I made back in college.

@ tyndago- We've managed to find a R200 mystery diff that may do the trick. There are some many variants of the R200 that its actually more difficult than I originally thought. I'm curious about the RB25 trans swap though. Do tell me more!
tyndago
tyndagolink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 5:54 PM
@Chuck - tyndago= Sean Morris. Thanks for the pistons. Did Merritt send you pictures from the wedding? Anyway. I should have stopped and thought for a second. RB25, RB26, and 300ZX all use the same internals on the trans. 5th gear is 0.752.

There are adapters for SR to 300ZX.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 6:50 PM
Chuck - If you're going to the trouble of making an adapter and custom trans bracket, might I suggest an '03 and later t56 tranny. Beefy internals, a .08 5th gear and .063 6th gear. Realistically someone probably already makes the t56 trans bracket due to all the LS swaps. Just a thought!
Chuck Johnson
Chuck Johnsonlink
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 3:48 AM
@bernd, the displacement cut off for the record we are aiming for is 2.0L so we will be sticking with a stock bore and stroke SR20DET.

@Sean, I figured that was you under those silly shades. So the RB trani isnt the solution... which means it still comes down to this mystery R200 rear end from japan that is sitting in my closet. More on the gearing stuff in a later article though. You'll see your wedding gift featured in another article. Do you have the pictures posted up of your center pieces?
Bernd
Berndlink
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 9:14 AM
Hm i#m excited to see whats happening with the engine
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