The Nissan 240SX is a popular retro sports car that was released by Nissan in the late 1980s. It was the successor to the Nissan 200SX and was in production from 1989 to 1999. The cars were made in Japan but were popular across the world.
There were a few different variations on the Nissan 240SX S-chassis. Here, we discuss the key differences between the S13, S14 and S15 models:
The Car for the Drift Explosion
The Nissan 240SX was a significant upgrade from the S12 model of the 200SX. In the United States, two generations of the 240SX were made. The S13 was in production from 1988 to 1994. Meanwhile, the S14 model was available from 1994-1998.
Nissan also made the Silvia and 180SX cars for the Japanese markets, and the 200SX for the European market. Those vehicles were also based on the S platform and had similar features and specifications.
While the car was not marketed for drifting specifically, it became popular within the drift community because of the S chassis' performance in drift competitions. Even though the S14 has been out of production for many years, there is still high demand for the vehicles, and for 240SX aftermarket parts. Popular racing video games such as Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizons 4 continue to feature the 240SX, even though it was discontinued decades before the games were released.
Models for Western Markets
In the United States, there were two generations of the 240SX. The S13 and the S14, but what's the difference?
About the U.S. Nissan 240SX S13
Released in 1988, the Nisan 240SX S13 can, itself, be divided into two different versions, which were then offered in hatchback and coupe variations, and with different trips.
The S13, as with other variations of the 240SX, has a short wheelbase and is lightweight, with a well-balanced chassis. The engine has more than enough power for the size of the chassis, and many enthusiasts viewed the car as being great value for money.
Early models of the Nissan 240SX were powered by the single-cam KA24E, which had 140HP and 160lb/ft of Torque. From 1991, the S13 was upgraded to use the KA24DE, a dual-cam motor with 155HP and 160lb/ft of torque. Some models of the S13 came with a 4-wheel steering system known as HICAS. This was controversial among enthusiasts since it is much harder to drift with a HICAS setup.
Engine upgrades weren't the only thing to happen to the S13 as the years went on. In 1991, the vehicle received some cosmetic upgrades, too. The teardrop design matte silver wheels were replaced with 7-spoke wheels with a polished aluminum look. These new wheels produced more drag but offered better brake cooling. To make up for the increase in drag, the nose was smoothed out and the slots at the front (which were purely cosmetic) were removed.
Reviewers loved the S13 for its superb handling, good suspension and sharp steering. It was considered a capable sports car, but one that was slightly underpowered. It's interesting to note that there were some differences between the U.S. and overseas models. For example, foreign models had a limited slip differential as standard. The Japanese model featured digital climate control.
About the U.S. Nissan 240SX S14
Launched in 1995, the S14 was released in coupe-only form, and had a slightly different style of body. Models from 1995-1996 have oval-shaped headlights, while the 1997-1998 model has 'shark-eye' style headlights. Other than the shape of the headlights, there was not much difference between the two S14 variations. Both styles came with the KA24DE engine, just like the later model of the U.S. S13.
The S14 was heavier than the older models, and there were some cosmetic changes made, along with some safety changes. For example, the pop-up headlights of the S13 were swapped for fixed headlamps. Dual airbags were added to the vehicle, and the chassis was altered to make it more durable and stiffer. Overall, the changes made to the 240SX's engine and construction were so extensive that the parts used for the S13 were not compatible with the newer model.
Quality of life changes were an important part of the upgrade process. The S14 offers keyless entry, leather seats, a CD player and an antitheft system as standard. These features may seem standard today, but in the mid to late 1990s they were considered to be quite luxurious. The car was generally well-received and seen as offering good handling.
Towards the end of the S14's lifespan, Nissan made a number of changes to the chassis. The pre-facelift models are referred to as Zenki models, and the post-facelift ones are known as Kouki models. The Kouki redesign included a new front bumper, fenders, taillights and hood, and the transition to projector headlights.
Unfortunately, the Kouki did not do as well in the United States as Nissan had hoped. Consumers were moving away from sportscars and choosing SUVs and other more practical vehicles. Because of this, Nissan ceased production of the 240SX S14 in July 1998.
The Japanese Nissan 240SX S15
The S15 was not released in American markets. Nissan released it in Japan in 1999, where it had the newest SR20DET and a T28 ball bearing turbo. The addition of bigger fuel injectors, at 480 cc/min, meant that in some respects this model had better performance. The six-speed transmission sounds good on paper, but many drift enthusiasts were unimpressed because of the thinner gears. Drifters were, at this point, the core audience for the 240SX, and the break at 350-400HP reportedly frustrated them. It's likely that this is why the S13 and S14 remain popular on the drift scene in the United States to this day.
Foreign Models of The S13 and S14
Nissan released S-series chassis in many countries, although it was not always referred to as the 240SX. In Japan, the 240SX S13 Fastback was marketed as the 180SX and came with a slightly different engine. Another version of the S13 was sold under the Silva name. The Silva S13 was almost identical to the 240SX coupe, although the headlights and engine differed slightly. Buyers had the choice of Jack, Queen or King tiers for the engine, and Club/Diamond for their optional extras. There was also a limited edition "Almighty" version available, although it is thought that only a few of those sold.
The 240SX had a 2.4L engine, while the 180SX used a 1.8L engine. That difference alone is worth noting, but the similarity in chassis is something that a lot of enthusiasts focus on. For those who are interested in a sporty vehicle, the drive train, ride height and weight can be of as much, if not more, importance than the engine.
To add more confusion to the matter, models released in Europe had different numbers again. The 180SX was known as the 200SX in Europe. It used the same S-chassis, and the same engine. The 180SX marketed in Europe was a different vehicle entirely, based on the older S110.
In 1994-1998, Nissan sold the S14 chassis under the Silva name. The Silva S14 was identical to the 240SX S14, with the exception of the motor. Japanese buyers had a choice of motors for their vehicles, with Jack, Queen and King tiers available. The main difference between tiers was the presence or lack of a turbo. Higher-end models made between 1991 and 1995 used the SR20DET, which is referred to as the 'red-top' because of the red valve cover.
It would have been nice to see a sporty 180SX-like car in the United States, but the safety standards in the U.S. and Japan differ, so the dimensions of the vehicle had to change to allow it to reach the U.S. market. In some ways, that's unfortunate, but we should still count ourselves lucky for getting the sleek and sporty model that we did.
A Popular Car To This Day
Even today, demand for the Nissan 240SX is high. The car remains popular among drift racers, and as such aftermarket parts are very much in demand. So much so that enthusiasts joke about the "drift tax".
Masato Kawabata was seen using a 240SX in 2013, so its clear that it still holds up to modern scrutiny. It's hard to believe that the last 240SX S14 rolled off the production line well over two decades ago. The car still has a large following of enthusiastic owners, a lot of aftermarket parts available, and good support. It's a reliable, simple vehicle that is fun to drive and that was so futuristic, upon release, that it does not feel dated today. It's easy to understand why so many people seek out this sportscar, and why it is turning into a modern classic.