The cars we loved.
The Nissan 240SX has a solid reputation of being a great handling car. It’s only problem was that it was underpowered. When introduced in 1989, it was supposed to be the spiritual successor to the original Z car, as the 300 ZX of the time had just become an expensive near supercar. The lower priced 240SX filled the void nicely with it’s independent suspension and rear wheel drive. The only problem was it’s 2 liter 140hp inline 4.
Nissan decided to take 240SX in a slightly different direction when a new 240SX was introduced in 1995 (S14). Nissan’s research concluded that the car had been popular with women, especially the convertible from the previous generation. So in a strange attempt to market the car in that direction, it rolled out a softer less aggressive looking car available as a rear drive coupe only. Despite it’s softer appearance with fix headlights, it still featured the same basic mechanicals previous car and offered in LE and up market SE trims. Rear wheel drive was not typically what female buyers were looking for in a sporty coupe, although they may have liked it’s predictable handling and comfortable ride compared with other RWD cars. Although priced similarly, it could not compete with Camaros or Mustang’s from the stoplight, but could easily get them in the curves. It’s interior was simple, but elegant with a center stack that moved smoothly into the dash much like it did in the sportier and more expensive 300ZX. A minor restyle in 97 made the car appear more aggressive, but it kept the rather large underpowered 2.4 litre 155hp engine introduced in the S14 in 1995.
The conflicted nature of the car never really caught on with buyers in general, but became a aftermarket hit for the drifting crowd after it’s cancelation in the US. The combination of good suspension dynamics, rear wheel drive and plenty of available parts from Nissan and a growing community of aftermarket manufacturers meant that all sorts of modifications could be made from engine swaps to front end swaps.
The car had already become a poster child for the burgeoning drifting movement, along with Toyota’s AE86 thanks to animated Japanese show Initial D and the Fast and the Furious films.
After the car’s cancellation in the US market in 1998, Nissan offered no direct replacement. The car continued on in other markets as either the Silvia or 180SX. To this day the sting of the short lived 240SX experiment in America has left a void in Nissan’s compact sporty coupe segment, as it has chosen to concentrate on sedans and expensive high performance coupes like the 340Z and Skyline.