The Nissan S-Chassis is one of the most recognizable and popular Japanese platforms despite being over three decades old. Over its decade-long production run from 1989 to 1998, the Nissan 240SX won over the hearts of countless enthusiasts due to its timeless styling, massive modifiability, and inclination to get sideways.
In the US, the 240SX was offered in two distinct generations, sometimes referred to as early and late models. The two generations received their own chassis codes. The S13 was the first generation 240SX, released in 1989 and replaced in 1994. The S14 took the reigns in the spring of 1994, sold in the US as the 1995 model year. It remained in production until 1998.
The two generations differ in a number of ways, but there are arguments in favor of both. The S13 provides a more raw and barebones experience which some enthusiasts prefer in a dedicated track car. The S14 is more rigid than the S13 and also offers modern creature comforts absent from the S13. The S13 vs S14 argument is a nuanced one with no clear winner. It really boils down to personal preference.
S13 vs S14 Historical Overview
Heading into the 1990s, Nissan was ready to introduce a new front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car to the world market. The 240SX was Nissan’s replacement for the older S12 (200SX), which was produced between 1983 and 1988. The first generation (S13) 240SX featured an array of significant improvements over the outgoing 200SX. Some upgrades include MacPherson struts and rear multilink suspension, a more advanced KA24E/DE engine, and better chassis dynamics.
The S13 went by different names depending on the market. US-spec cars received the 240SX designation, while Japanese models were called the 180SX and the 200SX in European markets. There are significant differences between US-spec 240SXs and Japanese-spec 180SXs and Silvias. While most US 240SXs featured the KA24E/DE engine, Japanese models used the more powerful, turbocharged, SR20DE/DET engine.
The second generation 240SX was released in 1994 with the S14 chassis code. It is clear that Nissan’s intention with the S14 was to refresh the platform and introduce additional technology consistent with the time. In terms of quality of life improvements, the S14 featured keyless entry, an anti-theft system, a CD player, anti-lock brakes, and an optional limited-slip differential.
Both the S13 and S14 had their own distinct versions that included primarily aesthetic differences. We’ll cover those differences in-depth in the following sections. The S-Chassis continued to evolve past the 240SX in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in the form of the S15. The rest of the world missed out on direct S15 sales.
Nissan 240SX vs Silvia
In many enthusiast circles, you’ll hear people use 240SX and Silvia interchangeably. With that being said, there is a difference between 240SX and Silvia models. Outside of the US domestic market, the 240SX coupe, as we know it stateside, is called the Silvia. Aesthetically, the S13 Silvia is nearly identical to the USDM-spec 240SX coupe, barring the Silvia’s fixed headlights and right hand drive configuration. The S13 Silvia was offered in three different trim levels, the “Jack,” “Queen,” and “King.” The primary difference between the trim levels is the engine choice. Early model S13 Silvias, from 1989-1991, in Jack and Queen spec utilized the CA18DE engine. From 1991 to 1993, Jack and Queen Silvias received the naturally aspirated SR20DE engine. In King configuration, the S13 Silvia got the turbocharged version of the respective engine depending on the model year. Early model King S13 Silvias received the turbocharged CA18DET, while late model King S13 Silvias got the Red Top SR20DET.
Unlike the S13 which was sold as both the 180SX and Silvia in markets outside of the US, the S14 was exclusively sold as the Silvia in non-USDM markets. The S14 was only sold as a coupe, so naturally every S14 Silvia is also a coupe. The engines and right hand drive configuration is the only differentiator between US spec S14 240SXs and S14 Silvias. Like the S13, the S14 Silvia also came in Jack, Queen and King trim levels. Jack and Queen S14 Silvias received the naturally aspirated SR20DE engine, while the king received the Garret T28 turbocharged SR20DET engine.
Nissan S13 Specs and Details
Now that we’ve covered the 1000-foot view of both the S13 and S14, we’ll talk about them individually. We’ll start with the first generation 240SX. As we covered briefly, the S13 is the more barebones and analog iteration of the S-Chassis. Despite being more basic from a technological standpoint, the S13 features quite a few performance-oriented components that make it a favorite among drift and time-attack communities.
S13 Benefits Over S14
- 64lbs lighter than S14
- Available in hatchback bodystyle
- Retro / Sharper Styling
- Barebones / Fewer Driver Distractions
- Pop-up Headlights
One of the primary reasons that so many enthusiasts love the 240SX is its unparalleled chassis dynamics. The S13 set the precedent for that. The 240SX has a comparably long wheelbase, low curb weight, front-engine-rear-wheel-drive layout, and a highly tunable engine. The S13 is also 64 lbs lighter than the S14, allowing it to break traction easier. All of those factors make the S13 a great choice for a drift build or lightweight track build.
Aesthetics are another reason why some people might prefer the S13 over the S14. The S13 came in three different body style configurations. These include a 2-door coupe, 3-door hatchback, and 2-door convertible. From 1989 to 1991, the S13 featured teardrop wheels and a sharper front end. Following its facelift in 1991, the S13 received 7-spoke wheels and a smoothed front facade. Some people prefer the hatchback styling of the S13 which wasn’t offered with the S14. In the final year of the S13’s production, 1994, the S13 was only offered as a convertible for the US domestic market.
In addition to aesthetic upgrades, facelifted 1991+ S13s were also equipped with the higher performance KA42DE engine. The KA24DE is the dual overhead cam version of the KA24E, which bumped power up to 155 horsepower. The K24DE also features an additional valve per cylinder, bringing the overall total to four valves per cylinder.
Nissan S14 Specs and Details
The second generation 240SX, or S14, is seen by many enthusiasts as the more “touring” oriented S-Chassis option. It’s easy to see why, as the S14 comes with quite a few more quality-of-life improvements over the S13. With that being said, the S14 is no slouch when it comes to performance applications. Despite being heavier and larger, the S14 has better chassis stiffness and rigidity than the S13.
S14 Benefits Over S13
- Increased chassis stiffness (50% torsional, 100% bending rigidity increase)
- Better daily drivability (keyless entry, leather seats, anti-theft)
- More modern styling
- Better safety features (dual airbags)
- Improved suspension geometry
One of the most important distinctions between the S13 and S14 240SX, especially when it comes to drifting applications, is the added chassis rigidity. Chassis rigidity is important in performance driving, as the more rigid a chassis is, the more likely it is that the wheels will remain pointed in their desired direction. It also makes direction changes more direct and predictable. That is essential when drifting.
The S14 also features higher rear strut mounts which enhance the S14’s suspension geometry. Suspension is another one of the most important aspects of performance driving. In that respect, the S14 beats out the S13.
Like the S13, the S14 received a mid-production facelift. The early model S14 is nicknamed the “Zenki,” which features a more rounded front end and fixed headlights. The post-1997 “Kouki” facelifted models featured more aggressive slanted fixed headlights, a new front bumper, fenders, taillights, and hood. Unlike the S13, the S14 was only available as a 2-door coupe.
Generally speaking, the S14 is the more in-demand model of 240SX. Late-model S14s, or Koukis, are perhaps the most sought-after of the entire 240SX range, mainly because of their aesthetic appeal.
Like the S13, the S14 also utilized the KA24DE engine. Many enthusiasts found the KA24DE’s 155 horsepower and 160 lb-ft of torque to be insufficient for a sportscar. That argument is furthered by the fact that the S14 is even heavier than the already underpowered S13. While it doesn’t provide much power from the factory, the KA24DE’s aftermarket support is comprehensive enough to remedy that issue.
Nissan S13 vs S14 – Price Comparison
When comparing the S13 vs S14, price, especially in today’s market, is an important consideration. Since the 90s, drifting has become an international sport that has penetrated virtually every country and culture. As a result, the best of the best JDM chassis’ have skyrocketed in price in the last decade.
Naturally, the 240SX falls near the top of the list as far as desirable drift chassis are concerned. You’ll often hear the term “drift tax” associated with the 240SX buying process. Due to the high demand, it is almost impossible to find a 240SX in decent condition for a fair price. Frankly, it is hard to find one at all nowadays, let alone an unmolested example. It was a different story around 5-10 years ago when you could take your pick at any 240SX model for under $5,000.
Based on recent Bring A Trailer auction prices, early model S13s with the single overhead cam KA24E engine are the least valuable. This is followed by late model KA24DE equipped S13s. Zenki S14s carry a slightly higher premium, yet are still relatively attainable. Kouki S14s are the most valuable 240SX model and frequently sell for upwards of $20,000 for clean examples.
These price estimates are based on Bring A Trailer auction sales and current Craigslist listings. Of course, 240SX pricing can vary widely based on multiple factors. Some factors include your location, the condition of the car, and how heavily modified the 240SX is.
- Early Model 1989-1991 S13 – $3,000 – $7,000
- Late Model 1991-1994 S13 – $4,000 – $8,500
- Grail Condition / Unmolested S13 – $7,000 – $15,000
- Early Model “Zenki” 1994-1997 S14 – $4,500 – $8,000
- Late Model “Kouki” 1997-1999 S14 – $6,000 – $18,000
- Grail Condition / Unmolested S14 – $12,000 – $25,000
Nissan 240SX S13 vs S14 Mods and Upgrades
The Nissan 240SX is perhaps one of the most modifiable Japanese cars in existence. That statement pretty much stands for every 240SX model, regardless of if it is an S13 or S14, early or late model. There is actually a fair bit of overlap between the mods that can be done to both models due to the fact that the S13 and S14 share the same KA24DE engine.
Most of the most common 240SX modifications surround power and that really isn’t a surprise. Since the KA24DE is a rather underwhelming engine from the factory yet has a lot of performance potential, the 240SX aftermarket community provides a wide array of engine modifications available for both the S13 and S14.
Since the KA24DE has a cast-iron block that is rated for somewhere around 350whp with stock internals, it is a very good candidate for boost. Turbo kits are one of the most popular 240SX performance mods for good reason. First, turbocharging is the fastest and most cost-effective way to significantly boost stock 240SX power. Second, forced induction is a great choice for drift applications as power delivery is predictable and provides quick-onset power to break rear-end traction. If you want to learn more about the KA24DE, we have a guide all about it!
Aesthetic mods are also very popular in the 240SX community. There’s practically no end to what you can do to your 240SX from an appearance standpoint. One of the most common aesthetic modifications for S13s and Zenki S14s is a Kouki front-end swap. It is a bolt-on swap that can be done primarily with OEM parts.
S13 vs S14 Engine Swap Capabilities
Oftentimes, the KA24DE doesn’t cut it for 240SX owners looking for the immense power required for serious drift applications. Beyond turbocharging, engine swaps are one of the most common in-depth performance mods for the 240SX.
Some of the most common engine swap options for the 240SX are JDM-spec SR20DETs found in Japanese 180SXs, RB26DETTs, 2JZ-GTEs, and LS engines. Since all of these swaps are relatively common in the 240SX community, there are kits and endless information available should an engine swap be in your scope.
While both the S13 and S14 have huge engine swap potential, the S13 is a better candidate. This is especially the case for other more powerful Nissan engines. The S13 chassis shares a similar construction to the Skyline R33 platform, meaning that it is relatively easy to swap in an R33 cross member. This makes an RB26 engine swap much easier on the S13 than the S14.
This is an important consideration for those looking to make their 240SX a truly capable drift or track monster. With a well-tuned RB26 or 2JZ engine swap, a 240SX is capable of producing around 800 horsepower with stock internals. That’s a very impressive number for a car that only weighs 2,700 lbs.
Nissan S13 vs S14 Summary
As we stated earlier, there is no definitive answer as far as which is the better 240SX model. Both the S13 and S14 have their own unique benefits and shortcomings. At the end of the day, the S13 vs S14 debate is only decided by your own individual needs and desires.
The S13 is the more stripped-back, analog option. That comes with the benefits of fewer driver distractions, lighter overall weight, and retro styling. The S13 also has more bodystyle configurations, with hatchback and convertible bodystyles available beyond just the coupe. Early model S13s are handicapped by the inferior KA24E engine, yet have better support for RB engine swaps.
In contrast, the S14 is the more luxurious and daily driver-focused option. The S14s inclusion of keyless entry, leather seats, and an anti-theft system make it easier to live with. The S14 also benefits from a stiffer chassis, despite being heavier than the S13, which makes it slightly easier to handle in a drift setting. Some people prefer the S14’s more modern styling and fixed headlight front end. With all of that covered, plan to shell out some additional dough if you are dead-set on buying one.
Either way, the Nissan 240SX is one of the most beloved JDM chassis for a reason. Neither the S13 nor the S14 is a bad car and either way you lean, you’ll drift away in a cloud of smoke with a smile on your face.