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by Jay Traugott
Nissan's 240SX was part of an era of cheap and fun to drive Japanese sports cars. Fortunately, it looks as though this segment is making a comeback.
It's funny how one brand's hot new model has the ability to literally change industry dynamics overnight. That's literally been the case with Toyota and Subaru's GT86/BRZ twins and several competing automakers have taken notice. Fellow Japanese brand Nissan is one of them and considering it too has a long history of affordable sports cars, it should come as no surprise that it's working on a new coupe to rival the GT86. Before this, Nissan's 240SX was a dominant force in both the US and Japanese markets.
It debuted in 1989 and, like the GT86, it too was a basic, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe that wasn't a powerhouse competitor to the likes of the Mustang, but rather a simple car that gathered a cult following. Also known as the Silvia in Japan, the first-gen 240SX was offered in three body styles, a coupe, convertible and fastback. The exterior design was simple and it featured the then common pop-up headlights. Power originally came from a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter four cylinder with only 140 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque, but this was later upgraded in 1991 to 155 hp.
Buyers could choose either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed slushbox. The car received regular styling and mechanical updates throughout the first half of the Nineties just until the second generation debuted in 1995. Unlike the previous 240SX, Nissan completely did away with the fastback and convertible body styles, leaving only the coupe. It also grew a bit both in length and width, which added about 80 pounds. Still, the new 240SX received upgrades such as dual airbags and the elimination of those ridiculously annoying automatic seatbelts in favor of the regular type.
Nissan also ditched the pop-up headlights for fixed units. However, the 2.4-liter four-pot remained the sole engine offering but Nissan slightly increased chassis stiffness to help improve handling. The 240SX received another styling update in 1997, but production ceased altogether in mid-1998. During its relatively short life, the 240SX was also used in motor sports and was a favorite for drifting enthusiasts. Like many other Japanese sports cars, the 240SX was also quite popular amongst tuners. This particular 1996 240SX that's currently up for sale on eBay has had over $16,000 invested in its paint and bodywork alone.
All told, more than $60k was spent in upgrading it. Everything from the engine, suspension, exhaust, brakes and wheels has been enhanced to a great deal. The exterior has a fully custom wide body kit, carbon fiber hood and bumper, molded body panels and one-of-a-kind two-tone paint. It rides on a set of custom 18-inch wheels. Even with all of this work, it can still be used as a daily driver as well as at regular track events. Although it has some 89,000 miles on the clock, it supposedly sat in a Nissan dealership showroom floor for many years, helping to keep it in overall solid condition.
It has a Buy it Now price of $22,000, which sounds like a bargain considering the huge sum of money invested. Now that there's been some early rumors of Nissan reviving the 240SX, it should be interesting to see not only if the car makes production, but rather how much influence the original will have on it.