S13 Sleeper with Godzilla Guts: 1990 Nissan 240SX RB26DETT Swap

  • January 19, 2021
Why We Like It

What was once a run-of-the-mill Japanese sports coupe, the Nissan 240SX (“aka” S13 Sylvia) has become arguably the most iconic drifting platform ever produced. The 90’s era vehicle finds itself at a critical juncture of old world drivetrain layout blended with small simple proportions rarely found today. The 2+2 layout was also offered in the iconic z car that same year, but the 300ZX had grown in every which way...weight, width and complexity. By comparison, a 240SX was not a halo car. Consequently, it didn’t suffer under the hopes and dreams of aspiring enthusiasts with their corresponding lofty expectations. People just bought them, drove them, and got on with it. That is, until tuners realized those attributes could be exploited with a cheap, reliable chassis that offered one thing the competing Celicas, Civics, and Preludes of the era didn’t – tail-wagging oversteer.

s13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swappeds13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swapped01515 6TKbYL0AZOgz 0CI0t2 1200x900Now, as far as outward appearances are concerned, this icy blue 240SX reveals nothing about what lies beneath its sheet metal. It’s a real sleeper. Walk around the perimeter of this first gen S13 and the only modifications noticeable would be the performance exhaust and the larger 32mm brake calipers fitted front and back, donated from the big sister Skyline. However, not even the best trained eye would assume someone had the courage to shoehorn a Skyline lump under the hood as well. The RB26DETT is a 2.6 liter inline 6 cylinder equipped with dual overhead cams and twin turbochargers, with later iterations like the one fitted here offering 316 peak ponies and 289 lb ft of torque. Compared to the original engine, a slightly smaller 2.4 liter 4 banger with a single cam and half the power, the difference is night and day. In JDM and drift car culture, it isn’t quite as sacreligious to borrow motors from other brands. For example, fitting these cars with a 2JZ Supra or a K24 Honda isn’t unheard of and wouldn’t elicit too much scorn. By contrast, slapping a coyote into a Camaro or an LS into a mustang would be unheard of, and a bridge too far in most everyone’s book. Regardless, it is a testament to the quality of this build that brand loyalty won the day, and we bet the engineers back at Nismo would only smile.

Speaking of the Nissan Factory tuning house, the seller states that genuine Nismo turbochargers have been fitted here, further bumping the power from stock Skyline trim. The extensive build sheet outlines intricate details for inquiring minds, including forged pistons and uprated ARP head studs, with factory fresh timing and cooling components to offer peace of mind. Rounding out the powertrain is a 5 speed manual transmission fitted from the middle brother Z32 300ZX. We wish all siblings got along so nicely. As an added bonus, the seller will even provide you with a spare gearbox for free!s13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swappeds13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swapped00O0O 3WdoDOKDHKnz 0CI0t2 1200x900

s13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swappeds13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swapped00j0j bPZDDoSwHtRz 0CI0oq 1200x900The powertrain may be the most exciting aspect of this car’s build, but the attention to detail found elsewhere rounds out the whole package. The suspension has been gone over with a fine toothed comb. Polyurethane bushings replace rubber wherever possible, and new control arms and ball joints accompany. An aftermarket strut tower brace is a welcome addition, as well as new 5-lug knuckles to handle all the extra grunt that didn’t come standard on this car. Dampening duties are handled by TEIN height adjustable coilovers with fixed valving settings which the seller states are “very smooth”. We hope they strike that perfect double duty balance of road and track work.

The interior has been largely left alone, with the exception of adding the gauge cluster for the Skyline motor and fitting seats from a newer S14 car. The dash and touch points are peak purposeful design, clean rounded edges and soft cloth appointments cradling you in 1990s goodness. Thankfully this car has been spared the shiny aftermarket shift knob and racing steering wheel often found in lesser builds. Moving to the exterior, the seller states that the car received a quality respray 4 years ago and is wearing it well thanks to being mainly garage kept. The aftermarket Volk wheels look like quality pieces, capable of handling repeated abuse and putting all that power down nicely. We are glad the seller resisted putting larger wheels on, 17” feels like a sweet spot of wheel/tire ratio and doesn’t overpower the 90’s look. Rounding out the package are some JDM taillights and side markers which will only be noticed by enthusiasts, but again, the devil is in the details and the cohesion of everything should be much appreciated by the next owner.s13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swappeds13-sleeper-with-godzilla-guts-1990-nissan-240sx-rb26dett-swapped00H0H 3FohNOsJQG5z 0CI0jQ 1200x900

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Putting a value on this car requires you to factor in the cost and complexity of this build. Since most 240SXs on the market have been modified, you have to attempt to compare apples to apples. This Bring a Trailer auction HERE offers a window into current pricing, though the original lump means it doesn’t really compare. On the other end of the spectrum, this car being offered for sale in Florida HERE is nowhere near as tidy and the exact same price. If we expand the search to include Sylvias, like this example HERE we see how far comparable money goes. The caliber of this build, the sleeper styling and the brand loyalty go far here, and we consider it well bought at the seller’s ask. Only task left is to find a trusted local tire supplier, we think you’ll have made a new best friend.

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People reacted to this car
I like just about anything with an RB26 in it, and this swap looks like it could have come straight from the Nissan factory. 25k seemed a little pricey at first, but I expect you'd spend a lot more than that to replicate it now that clean S13s are so hard to come by.
1 month