Why the 180SX is the perfect 90s Nissan

Why the 180SX is the perfect 90s Nissan

Yeah, the GT-R Skyline is Nissan's 1990s hero. A swaggering four-wheel-drive, twin turbo coupe packing a nuclear-grade double-overhead cam six-cylinder engine and a racing and tuning pedigree few can hold a candle to.

But Godzilla's legacy is also its greatest downfall as the price to buy, own, modify and repair the King Nissan can be breathtaking even before the current price boom. And waiting in the wings are the little four-banger brothers; Silvia and 180SX. 

While Nissan's sports coupe originally dates back to 1964's CSP311-series coupe, the most famous models are the 1988-2002 S13, S14, and S15 final generations. While Nissan offered them in two-door coupe (Silvia) or three-door hatchback (180SX) variants, tuners the world over have rejoiced in building their own variants by swapping the 180's pop-up lights onto Sivlias to make One-vias, and Silvia fronts on 180s to make Sil-Eightys (or Strawberry-face if it is an S15 front).

While they were offered with a range of 1.8-litre, 2.0-litre and (in the USA) a 2.4-litre four-cylinder motors, manual and auto transmissions, and all sorts of quirky options but we're just going to look at the full-fat SR20DET-powered five-speed models as we're all about that choo-choo dori-dori life, as many 180 owners were. 

Originally offered in the 1991 S13-series update the SR20DET would be available with between 150kW and 185kW by the time the final S15 Silvia rolled off the line in 2002, though the 180SX finished production in 1998 with the fabulously aggressive Type X model.

Featuring a well-balanced chassis, strong suspension, and a plethora of handling and power upgrades, the 180SX also proved to be more practical than the Silvia thanks to its hatch making it easier to take spare wheels and tools to track days and mad drift sesh's.

You could easily daily drive one, thanks to the factory power steering and air conditioning, and they had plenty of room up front so you could easily swap in all sorts of other mad turbo six-cylinder or V8 powerplants. Back In The Olden Days, 2JZ swaps were ridiculously simple and made bulk skids.  

Debate rages over whether the Silvia (200SX in Australia) or hatchback 180SX is the better model, but the reality is it is largely a Pepsi versus Coke argument. I mean, we all know an RB26-powered, Strawberry-faced Type X 180SX is the ultimate Nissan, right?


  • Kenneth Ehrett

    All this talk about the holy grail RB 26 engine swaps seems to have given everyone amnesia in regard to the stunningly brilliant and woefully neglected Fairlady build. You already have the most beautiful car anyone could ever want. All that car needs is a little love and a first class paint job not unlike the devotion that Marty has bestowed on Supergramps. Get a grip Moog and start appreciating the diamond already parked and ignored in your garage. That silly little 180 SX is not fit to hold Fairlady’s shift nob.

  • Rob from Winipeg

    Moog, why not do originality. Keep the car beautiful on the outside. IF your gunna swap (not saying the SR20DET isn’t great) but is it the best? Keep it 4cyl. Look at other Nissan 4cyl engines. QR25DE 2009 forward, get with Al (turbo yoda) no boost it puts out 200hp, and is torque monster. You might have to DIY a RWD variant, but if Al get’s his hands on it, add a little Haltech, E83… there’s no telling what it could do. Originality is the mother of power!

  • Mike Higgins

    You know, Moog…a fun project would be for you to create your own soundtrack to some of the Initial D. episodes. Perhaps the OVA with Mako in the Sil-eighty…?

  • Leroy

    I always had a soft spot for these cars, i do love a sil80 thought

  • Jon

    Super excited to see a 180 back on the show. Like mine though, it might just end up on stands most of the time (this is my fault because I cant stop fiddling)

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