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CARSPOTTING> Lowdown Heartbreaker S12 200SX

While I was walking around the sea of nostalgic Japanese goodness at the Japanese Classic Car Show last year, a particular S12 Nissan 200SX caught my eye. To be completely honest here, I’ve never been the biggest fan of S12s. Most people pretty much disregard the S12 as far as “cool Nissans” go… to most people, the S12 is definitely the red-headed stepchild of the 1980s Nissan family, especially when you compare it in popularity to S13s, Z32s, and Z31s… hell, even Nissan Sentras are more popular for some reason* than the S12 200Sx. (*Well… I think one of the reasons the Sentra was so popular for racing is because of all the R&D that Mike Kojima did with them when he was still working for Nismo as a race engineer) Either way though… I’d way rather have an S12 than a Sentra. There’s no question about that… especially after seeing Henry’s S12?! This has got to be the dopest looking Nissan S12 I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

So what was it about this particular 200SX that caught my eye? It just had to be the style in which it was built up. Let’s take a closer look…

This S12 200SX is owned by a talented Bay Area-based photographer named Henry Nguyen. I was first introduced to Henry by videographer Ross Fairfield about a year and a half ago. At the time, I was testing out a pre-production Nissan 370Z at Willow Springs during the winter of 2008 and needed help capturing some pics of me driving the car (I never seem to have anyone around that can take pics when I’m actually driving on the track). Thankfully, Henry volunteered to help out, and captured a pretty awesome photo of me driving the 370 at Streets of Willow.

I didn’t actually bump into Henry again until the JCCS event that just recently passed. I was standing next to the 200SX with my friend Chihiro, admiring the way its mismatched wheels really went together well, when Henry walked up and said hello. I didn’t even realize it was Henry’s car that I was admiring… nice surprise!

This side profile is by far my favorite angle to view Henry’s S12. From this viewpoint, you can see how hopelessly low the car sits; I don’t even think a box of cigarettes will clear underneath the front mudflaps! Additionally, I think the +20 year old 15×7.5J (-12) Work Equip 01 3pc wheels wheels on the rear look PERFECT with the 15x7J (-1) SSR XR4 wheels that Henry’s running up front. (If it were my car though, I’d try running the Works up front, and the XR4s in back. I think it would look super dope that way.)

Walking around the car, I noticed that Henry had a bandana tied to one side of his Bride Low Max bucket seat… when I asked why he had the LA Bloods gang accessory tied to his FRP bucket, he explained that it was just a protective measure, so his OEM seatbelt wouldn’t wear out the seat unnecessarily in that spot.

Looking past the seat, I thought at first that his car had a Momo Monte Carlo 350mm steering wheel. However, a closer look revealed that it was no Momo wheel… it had only 5 bolts in the PCD. I inquired, “WTF?! I know you didn’t put a ghetto ass Grant steering wheel in your car, right Henry?”

Henry explained, “Nooooooo! It’s actually a steering wheel from an Initial D sit-down console arcade game!” Henry insisted, “My friend jacked it from the arcade and gave it to me.” Suuuuuuuure buddy. Whatever you say, sticky fingers.

Inspecting the interior further, I was impressed at how clean the floor of the car was. It certainly looks like whoever removed the sound deadening on the floor did an extremely clean job of it, being careful not to scrape up the paint underneath too much.

Staring inside this car further, it also becomes painfully apparent that the car is owned by a young guy from the Bay Area… Aside from the Illest sticker on the glovebox, the hyphy purple and teal contrasting hues look like it were a streetwear outfit. In fact, I think that e-brake lever might just have a bicycle handle grip on it. What the… is that a fixie handle grip, Henry?!

Whatever, just remember not to ride one of those fixed gear bikes while holding your DSLR ever again. EVER. (Umm… well, I’ll let Henry explain that painful story to you.)

Even from this view, the cleanliness of the sound deadening removal is just so impressive to me. The floor was not repainted as far as I know. It just looks super clean like that, without the carpet. Just a bucket and seat rails. Awesome. I also love how the rear seats are still installed, and they’re clean. (Stop gutting out your car interiors for no apparent reason, people!) Henry exhibited good taste in the way he removed the carpet and left the seats. Very nice.

Actually, I’m just going to shut up now (finally!) and let Henry tell you about the car in his own words…

“The car was pretty much built to be a track/fun car and it’s been
doing its job. I got it for 800 bucks about four years ago, right after
highschool, and I just decided to give it a try. Of course, with heavy influences
from the Corolla/240sx crowd and grassroots drifting too. The going price
for a decent running non-turbo S12 is still below $1000, though this chassis
type really lacks a decent community (or following for the matter) in the US…
so it only makes sense that the aftermarket is practically null.

It really is the red headed step child of 1980’s Nissans, most trendy
s13/s14 owners have never even heard of an S12 before, even though it’s
the predecessor to their own cars.

My S12 was a budget build, but like all budget builds, it went way over. I’m
more proud of the process of the build though, since I did 90% of the
work alone in my garage at home over the course of 2 years, with most
of the work done during the weekends when I was home from school. Just
a slow, thorough build, and with a “while I’m at it” attitude.

-Henry Nguyen

From the rear view, this car really screams 1980s. Its boxy lines and boxier taillights definitely suggest 1980s styling cues, while the newer, GReddy DD-style twin exhaust pipes indicate that the driver of this car is sports minded indeed.

Dig the 1980s period correct blue/yellow California license plate and the rear camber too.

Speaking of camber, the car sits low because Henry installed S13 coilovers, with the rear springs and shocks separated (somewhat like an AE86). He attempted to get rid of any squeaky old bushings by replacing all his bushings with urethane, and also fitted Q45 front brake calipers on the car to make it stop better.

The side window has the words “Henryisarobot?” written on it, in Henry’s girlfriend’s handwriting. I don’t like robots, but I like Henry. (Um… not in THAT way.) What’s really important though, is that Henry’s gf likes Henry, and if he’s a robot, then whatever… that’s just fine. I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, anyway.

Underneath the hood, you won’t find the CA18 that used to sit in Henry’s engine bay, nor the turbocharged VG engine advertised by the car’s exterior emblems. Instead, you’ll find a KA24DE engine/trans from a 1993 240SX, with the words “Heartbreaker” written on the valve cover. Heartbreaker is the name of Henry’s car crew, but I wonder if they came up with the name because they break engines a lot? Maybe, maybe not.

Here’s the S12 sitting out in front of Henry’s house… I’m sure everyone notices the S30 240Z sitting in the garage. That’s actually Henry’s other project car. He had another 240Z shell previously, but he sold it to a good friend of his, who began modifying the suspension to make it lower. In fact, if you’ve been on the internet at all in the past year, you might recognize the car.

I gotta give Henry props for choosing to build a relatively unloved car and making it look good… and if this car is any indication of his style, then I can’t wait to see what he does with that 240Z once it gets underway!

:: Antonio Alvendia

More Heartbreaker stories on MOTORMAVENS

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61 Responses

  1. Josh

    “He had another 240Z”. OMG when I read that I was thinking surely not THAT 240Z? Turns out I was right then.

  2. Great coverage on a cool car! I have always filed the S12’s body lines with the ever so popular Corolla hatchbacks and the same period Honda Accord hatchback *le gasp!*.

  3. LOL Generz, I didn’t wanna say “Accord hatchback” but I’m glad you did it for me! hahahahahhahaaa I hate when people go “hey look at that hachiro…oh… Accord.” LOL

  4. Mack

    I found Henry’s blog when the Z 1st started popping up and instantly fell in love with his car. My dad had an S12 when I was little, so it brings back some memories.

  5. I’ve been diggin’ this car for some time now. I’m stoked to see a full feature on it. This car gave me hope (and love) for S12s. It’s just too bad every other one out there lets me down. Haha

  6. kurisu

    since when was the CA18 a V6?? I thought you of all people would know its a straight 4 cylinder!?

    cool car anyways, looks so similar to a trueno from certain angles….

    oh, and just to be even more pedantic, that’s not a steering wheel from an initial D arcade machine, it’s one from a Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 cabinet, hence the Namco horn button (Sega makes the initial D games)

  7. Jaime

    I agree, never thought that a S12 could look so so dope!
    It’s rad&original as fuck!
    Props Henry
    PS: Are you the brother of Linhbergh? It’s too much coincidence: Antonio said that you took an awesome pic of him in the Z, you have style for cars…. Hummm!

  8. deadpirate

    FUCK YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HENRY GETTING THE LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    DAMN, that is frikkin DOPE! I used to know some fellas that had one of these with an Sr in it. I always wondered why I didn’t see too many of them rolling around or even drifting. They kinda look like the Ae86’s though, maybe that is why. It’s still a great looking oldie though.

  10. @kurisu: SHIT!!! Thanks for pointing that out to me. OF COURSE I know a CA18 isn’t a V6… lol I fell asleep at the keyboard last night and had a full page of iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii when I was writing this story. I must have backspaced too much, LOL. Fixed it now! Thanks alot, my bad! =D

  11. @Jaime: and they both have the same last name, and they both are from San Jose CA… but no, I don’t think they’re related. (ARE YOU?! Henry/Linhbergh? Cause like… I wouldn’t wanna just overgeneralize that all Nguyens from SJ must be related somehow, haha.)

  12. @Kurisu: I just read your other comment about Wangan Midnight… and again, you’re absolutely right. Thanks for keeping me honest! haha

    I freakin LOVE the Wangan Midnight arcade game. I wasted way too much money playing it at this arcade in Shibuya last time I was in Tokyo… and I suck at video games. But that one and the D1 arcade game is super fun!

    I like the Initial D arcade game too, but there was this old school arcade game (SEGA maybe?) that was super dope… I don’t remember the name though. It was from the 1990s… it was in Japan, and had Miatas, AE86s, FTOs, GTOs, FC3S, FD3S, JZA80, JZA70, all sorts of dope cars… anyone know what I’m talking about?!

  13. I’m so glad to see Henry’s car finally getting the exposure it deserves! congrats Henry & props for bringing it to the masses Antonio

  14. ImprezaKing

    Always wondered why no one did anything with the 200SX – I always liked the styling. Now I want one…so cleeeaaan…

  15. DUBteez

    Always thought these could be cool. Looking at this one makes me wonder why i have an s13 when my gf’s dad has a turbo s12 just sitting behind his house…

  16. Adrian

    That’s so I’ll. S12’s are my favorite “Sylvia.” There are a few really cool ones in Washington with RB20’s in them.

  17. Thanks Antonio and everyone for the comments!

    And clarification for the curious, the ebrake handle is actually one of the grips from a RAZOR scooter and after the sound deadening was removed, I rattle-canned the whole interior battleship gray. The steering wheel is from initial D however the middle NAMCO button is from maximum tune (apparently they use the same wheel) and I definitely broke my nikon 50mm 1.4 falling off a friend’s fixie, haha.

    The s12 is also on 15×9 ssr’s now (shameless plug!)

    Thanks for the love everyone!

  18. Pingback : CARSPOTTING> Lowdown Heartbreaker S12 200SX – MotorMavens | Drakz Free Online Service

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  20. Showa Kuruma

    Hey Antonio, you should probably try to write stories at more respectable hours. When you write stuff half asleep, people find pretty much every single typo you write! LOL

    Take a NAP man! haha

  21. ben

    Nice s12, I think the styling makes it look like a toyota than a Nissan though, since he has the greddy dd style exhaust, that actual exhaust is for jza70’s as far as I know, and the flip up lights scream mk3 supra to me lol maybe that’s just cause I own a mk3.

  22. @ben: hmm… maybe THAT is why i like this car more than i thought i would. toyota styling?! hahaha

    @kurisu: hmm… maybe it IS battle gear. not sure. i googled battle gear, but still am not sure. that might be it though.

  23. Pingback : nice JDM pictures - no msg!! - Page 24 - The Ford Focus Forum | Powered by Focaljet

  24. ben

    That could very well be antonio! I love 80s and early 90s toyota styling, hense why I own a 1986.5 supra :) but henry did a great job with the s12, I would totally rock that car even though I prefer toyotas, I would have like to have seen a rb20 swap though, I love those engines.

  25. Dope ride. I’m digging the clean interior.

    Id also swap the wheels front to back hah. it would look doper-er that way imo…

    Would it be possible to retro fit some R31 tail lights?
    Shit would look sick with those haha

  26. Haha, I could see how it sorta looks like an jza70. But yeah, I really would have preferred to have those equips up front since the faces are a tad bit smaller and less spokes in front would have been more aesthetically pleasing. What stopped me though was the size and offset, those equips wouldn’t have fit up front without a fatter spacer (xr4’s needed an 8mm spacer) because of the face design and q45 calipers and at the time I didn’t wanna push it out any further.

    But currently the car looks a little different. mk1 side markers and grille went back in and it’s running on 15×9-27 xr4 rear and 15×9-17 mk3 up front. It isn’t totally on the road yet though, I still need to pull the fronts more and get s13 front LCA’s for more camber.

    Oh and the exhaust is just aspec blast pipes with 3in piping.


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  28. That’s tight Henry, super jealous of your motormavens exposure!

    Are you interested in going to the Marina auto-X this Sunday? I want to talk to Peggy about not canceling the Marina drift events.

    The guy that was telling you about the blue POS springs we both bought from daymotorsports.

  29. Hey Grant! I’m gonna be busy this weekend at a show but I really wanna hit up those marina auto-x events! I want to get the 240z up to attend, especially since it’s 40 minutes away from my house.

    But yeah, PLEASE talk to them! I’ve called them on a couple occasions and they seem really discouraged because of what happened the last driftocross.

    hit me up on via email or something

  30. I think they are called the gazelle here in Australia. And you are right… no following… they are pretty cheap if you can find one =)

    Looking good… really clean

  31. gavesonerisma$$%

    I really love this car and any JDM ride from the eighties…they never loose value in appearance! especially ones with battle scars ( drift car with zip ties)…..

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