This is no ordinary S-body Nissan. This is Carl Taylor’s tuned Nissan 180SX, and it’s come here to kick sand in your face and pinch your lunch money…
There’s a lot of drift cars out there, and a lot of S-body Nissans, and the crossover on that particular Venn diagram is pretty sizable. But when a car as flawlessly put together as Carl Taylor’s S13 presents itself, we can’t help but take notice. This is a machine whose entire spec list exudes such perfection, such inherent rightness, that you can imagine it taking home show trophy after show trophy until its owner’s house was creaking under the weight of silverware. But instead, this S13 has been built with performance and aesthetics on a level pegging. And given that it looks divine, you can imagine the quality of the engineering beneath…
Naturally, given the ostentatious way that the ever-surprising Mr Taylor lives his life, this was always bound to be a star-studded build, rocking all the correct scene-friendly parts and crafted to be a flawless show-winner as well as an eye-bleedingly fast and ear-shatteringly noisy creation. If you’re unfamiliar, Carl is one of the brains behind the Players Shows, and these effervescent shenanigans are really all in a day’s work for him. He’s also a marketing superhero for Air Lift, with ties to Rotiform along with a variety of the most aspirational brands in the aftermarket, and what he doesn’t know about badass show-stopping rides could be comfortably felt-tipped on the back of a postage stamp.
You could argue that there’s a certain formula, then; a Carl Taylor build will usually feature a ground-breaking new wheel design from Rotiform in a set of hashtag-worthy widths and offsets, some manner of wide-arch kit or other aggressive bodywork finished in an attention-grabbing shade or pattern, plus endless power and some bespoke Cobra seats from which to enjoy it all. But to generalise his work like this would be to do him a great disservice – Carl’s one of the guys who works hardest to push our scene forward, and when he decides to have a crack at an S13 180SX, that’s something for us all to be excited about; you may most closely associate him with E36 BMWs or big-power Audis, so this is quite an entertaining new string to his bow.
Now, you don’t get to be the figurehead of an industry powerhouse like Players without having a few ideas buzzing around the ol’ brainbox – here’s a man who, after all, can count around fifty cars in his personal history with every single one of them being modified in some way or another – so of coursehe had a plan for this car. Being his first JDM build, he had to come out swinging, so job one was to strip the 180SX down to first principles and build it up right, straight from the start.
This enabled him first and foremost to ensure that the base was strong, that everything was arrow-straight and solid before he set about artfully reworking it all. He had a cartoonishly brutal colour choice in mind – Porsche’s Signal Green – which you’ll note is not only slathered skilfully all over the exterior, but comprehensively covers the stripped interior too. No half measures here, this is the real deal.
The decision was made to keep the interior stripped in the racer style, entirely devoid of any sort of sound deadening or superfluous trim because, well, that crap just slows you down, doesn’t it? So aside from the custom Cobra buckets on their Street Faction mounts, the Momo x Illest steering wheel, the custom rollcage and the towering hydraulic handbrake handle, you won’t find a lot else in there. No cupholders for your Big Gulp, no place for your old parking tickets and Werther’s Originals, this is essentially a race car for the road. He’s only kept the dash and doorcards because he’s driving on the streets in a hot part of the US, so it’s handy to have air vents and somewhere to rest your elbow while you’re waiting at the lights.
Race cars need race car power, right? Well, helpfully the 180SX comes ready equipped with an SR20DET, which is a playful sort of engine that loves to rev, loves even more to be tuned, and gets positively giddy at the thought of cramming extra boost in. Carl’s now packing somewhere in the region of 300bhp thanks to an uprated Garrett turbo, GReddy intercooler, K&N induction, hilariously shouty Buddy Club exhaust, and a radiator and intake manifold from ISIS Performance (now hastily renamed to ISR Performance for obvious reasons).
OK, 300bhp isn’t the sort of figure that always drops jaws today, but only because we’re greedy – it’s a hell of a lot of thrust in a car this small and light, and importantly it’s within the parameters of what the SR20 can take without becoming highly strung and unreliable. This is meaty, accessible power that can be exploited all day, every day, keeping those wide rear tyres over-rotating with hooligan panache. The motor looks pretty sweet nestled in that bay too, doesn’t it?
Carl’s vision was all about smoothness, and the bay’s been fully shaved and attention has been paid to every single bracket, join, angle and mounting to ensure it all looks spot-on. The rocker cover, usually found in red or black, has been painted orange simply to tie it in with the amber indicators in the bumper. Carl likes to drive around with his bonnet off, you see, to show off that masterful handiwork – and the jaffa hue ties the aesthetic together very neatly. Like Kermit getting off with Fozzy Bear.
You can’t miss the bodywork either, that goes without saying. Even if it wasn’t so astonishingly green that all the other green things in the world become slightly less green because of its existence, those Rocket Bunny arches really do make a statement. It’s a case of ‘one hand giveth, the other taketh away’, as the arches and sideskirts provide ample width to cover the vast new footprint and the ducktail is like a ghetto preacher raising his arms heavenward, but the rear bumper is demonstrably absent, deliberately revealing the factory ‘X’ pressings that were always meant to be hidden.
This is a clear nod to drift culture, echoing the countless S-bodies that have run the wall a little too close, lost the rear bumper and just kept on going. Carl’s augmented this nod to drift heritage with some flawlessly executed aero addenda; high-quality carbon fibre canards, front splitter, and beautifully aggressive rear diffuser. This means business on every level.
Naturally there’s a fresh new set of Rotiforms here, Carl deviating from the future-facing norm with something overtly retro: those satin black four-spoke RBQs are actually three-piece splits, measuring 11.5×18” up front and a mighty 13×18” out back, all wrapped in sticky Falken rubber. (Not toosticky, of course, as this baby loves to slide!) And the really exciting story here is the way the thing sits. You see, knowing that Carl’s an advocate of Air Lift’s various height-altering technologies, you’d assume this S13 would be running air-ride – the hunkered-down stance would certainly suggest so.
But hang on a minute… look in that stripped-out boot area, there’s no evidence of it. No tanks, no lines, no compressors. Has Carl bucked his own trend and swapped to static?
Aha, no, it’s even more clever than you think… this modified Nissan 180SX is indeed bagged, but Carl’s had the help of Gino at Vaderwerks to sneakily hide it all from view – the compressor and manifold are secreted behind the dash, the air tank is tucked up in the passenger footwell, and the 3H controller mounted on the dash where you’d normally expect to find a stereo. Yes, of course the thing’s running air-ride – but you had to look closely to find out, didn’t you?
This vivid and imposing 180SX is a car that ticks a lot of boxes. It’s a show car, a drift car, a road-racer… it’s also an innovator, a showcase of new technologies, a testbed for fresh ideas, and above all, it’s a very Players-appropriate build. Something so clean it’d make Mr Muscle weep with jealousy, yet so capable it could comfortably snarl from the show-and-shine to the drift arena, the track or the dragstrip and set about taking names. The boy’s killed it again; this isn’t just a modified Nissan S13 – it’s your new favourite S13.
TECH SPEC Nissan S13 180SX
Porsche Signal Green paint, Rocket Bunny widebody kit, carbon fibre canards and front splitter, rear bumper delete, carbon fibre diffuser, kouki tail lights.
SR20DET 2.0-litre 16v twin-cam turbo, full Buddy Club performance exhaust system, GReddy intercooler, ISR Performance radiator and silicone hoses, ISR Performance manifold, HKS blow-off valve, custom Garrett turbo, K&N hard-pipe induction, relocated race battery.
11.5×18” (front) and 13×18” (rear) 3-piece forged Rotiform RBQ wheels, 265/35 (f) and 315/30 (r) Falken Azenis RT615K tyres, Rotora forged 6-pot front calipers with 320mm discs, Nissan 350Z rear brakes with twin calipers, hydraulic handbrake with Wilwood master cylinder, full Air Lift Performance air-ride setup with 3H management – compressor and manifold hidden behind dash, tank in passenger footwell, Voodoo13 toe, camber, traction and tension rods, Megan Racing anti-roll bars.
Fully stripped and painted Porsche Signal Green, custom rear rollcage, Cobra Suzuka Pro Custom seats with Street Faction custom seat mounts, Cobra 6-point harnesses, Momo x Illest steering wheel with NRG release boss.
Words Dan Bevis Photos Viktor Benyi