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When Nissan, née Datsun, returned its Silvia nameplate to the market in the mid-1970s, the automaker likely wouldn’t have believed that the humble, economical two-door would amass a near-cult following among tuners and drift racers worldwide. Indeed, the first few generations of the Silvia, rebranded as the 200SX for the U.S. market, were largely unmemorable and overshadowed by Toyota’s popular Celica.

By the late 1980s, Nissan hit its stride on American shores with the new first-generation 240SX — also known as the S13 to JDM (Japanese domestic market) fanboys — which ran through 1994 and boasted handsome coupe, hatchback, and eventually convertible body styles. Power to the rear wheels came from a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 140 to 155 hp, depending on the year.

Reviewers praised the 240SX for its lightweight body and balanced handling, especially with the optional sports package that added a limited-slip differential and four-wheel steering. Yet, it was also criticized for being somewhat underpowered. So the question is, how similar was the Nissan 240SX to its Japanese sibling, the Silvia, especially under the hood?

The first Nissan 240SX was a blend of 2 JDM models

Comparing the Silvia and 240SX isn’t as simple as one might think. That’s primarily because the Silvia had not only a derivative in the overseas 240SX but also a domestic sibling called the 180SX. According to the enthusiast website 180SX Club, all three variants shared the same “S” chassis and many other interchangeable components. However, while the Silvia was a coupe with more boxy styling, the 180SX had a sporty fastback body with a sloping hoodline that culminated in the ultimate ’80s indulgence: pop-up headlights.

Fortunately for Americans, Nissan exported the version of the car with pop-up lights, meaning the first-gen 240SX ultimately has much more DNA in common with the 180SX than the Silvia. However, it could be argued that the 240SX coupe blended both JDM models.

1995 Nissan 240SX SE instrument panel
1995 Nissan 240SX SE instrument panel | Nissan Motor Corporation

Under the hood, the Japanese S13s had a smaller 1.8-liter (and later 2.0-liter) four-cylinder engine than their American sibling, but don’t be fooled. With dual overhead cams and factory turbocharging options, the smaller JDM motors delivered a horsepower advantage over the U.S.-market single-overhead-cam naturally aspired 2.4-liter.

The S14 generation brought the Silvia and 240SX closer

1995 Nissan 240SX Coupe concept drawing
1995 Nissan 240SX Coupe concept sketch | Nissan Motor Corporation

Nissan redesigned the 240SX for the 1995 model year and, in the process, eliminated the hatchback and convertible body styles, leaving only a coupe with fixed headlights. This second-generation 240SX, the S14, was more closely aligned with the Silvia coupe than the outgoing model was. A hatchback 180SX was still available in Japan but no longer exported to the States.

Although the 240SX now sported a dual-overhead-cam variant of its 2.4-liter engine with 155 hp, it still paled compared to the Silvia’s turbocharged 2.0-liter that cranked out about 200 hp or more. In 1998, Nissan dropped the 240SX, making for a relatively short production run, though the Silvia lived on in Japan until 2002.

1996 Nissan 240SX SE-R
1996 Nissan 240SX SE-R | Nissan Motor Corporation

Regardless of whether they’re wearing a Silvia, 180SX, or 240SX badge, the S13 and S14 Nissans enjoy enduring popularity in Japan, the United States, and beyond. Tremendous aftermarket support exists for engine swaps and other performance mods, including unholy alliances such as Toyota 2JZ and Chevrolet LS swaps. Plus, a classic rear-wheel-drive architecture makes them a perennial favorite for drift racing, which, for the three readers who might not know, involves creating intentional oversteer and loss of traction to slide a car around a track with great showmanship.

The only catch might be locating a reasonably priced, decent-condition car. Per the valuation site, the average selling price for an S14 240SX over the past 12 months is $21,217, though truly pristine low-mileage examples can fetch even more. As always, have a knowledgeable mechanic inspect any potential purchase before cash changes hands. If you’re lucky enough to already own a sweet 240SX and crazy enough to want to sell it, you can check out the value using the Edmunds appraisal tool.