In the late '80s, Nissan decided to revolutionize the sport compact market by introducing the 240SX, an affordable RWD sports car that almost single-handedly made the hot hatch platform obsolete. Here are a few reasons everyone needs to own one.
Photo by Owen on Flickr
In order to have a car make an impact on society, it needs to have a value per dollar that other cars struggle to compete with. The Nissan 240SX is simply one of the best cars you can buy for not that much money, not only because it's affordable to virtually anyone, but because the amount of cars sold and the range of condition for those cars bring prices down to the point where you could probably barter a fixer-upper with coins you found in your sofa and some McDonald's coupons.
Photo by Eric Delaney on Flickr
Pictured: WILL DRIFT FOR FOOD
However, the reason they've never been cheaper is because the 240SX has already hit the bottom of its market and is actually appreciating in value. Drifting and tuning culture have increased the demand for these cars 100 fold, and at the same time made clean, running, rust-free examples much more rare and desirable to the average enthusiast and collector. This is the reason a tastefully modified S14 ('95-'98) in good condition can fetch more than $10,000 in the private-party market, even though the Kelley Blue Book value is less than half of that. The platform may not skyrocket in price in the near future, but it will steadily increase as the demand for analog, reliable sports cars with tons of value are scooped up.
Nissan's mantra (in my mind) has always been incremental change with proven results. Their 240/260/280/300 Z platforms handled remarkably well for their weight and power, and one key ingredient in that handling salad was the rear-wheel drive drivetrain.
The reason rear wheel drive is just better is because it's like a government that actually works — it simply delegates its responsibilities more efficiently. The front wheels handle the turning, and the rear wheels handle the engine's power and propel the car. When you have the front wheels taking care of the power and turning, they lose traction on high-power turns, the rear wheels become dead rolling weight, and that's how you end up with 10 percent unemployment. Thanks Obama.
Another key ingredient in having a car that will pull enough lateral Gs to make you second guess ordering Mexican for lunch is lightness. The stock 240SX, in both the S13 and S14 forms, are over 300 pounds lighter than a standard, brand new Ford Focus, 800 pounds lighter than a Ford Mustang V6, and you could fit a fat friend in the trunk and still not be as heavy as a Porsche Cayman. It's pretty impressive, but it doesn't have to end there.
If it's a dedicated track car (or if you're the typical 240SX owner, a very impractical, noisy daily driver) you'll likely get rid of needless stuff like rear seats, sound proofing and air conditioning which will bring the curb weight down to something that can be blown over with a stiff breeze. One could, in theory, take a clapped out 240sx with a barely running engine, give it a mild tuneup, gut the interior, and you'd have something with not only the race-car feel (read: lots of very loud rattles), but the power-to-weight ratio of much more high performance cars for literally no money after your initial purchase.
Photo by Zach Zupancic on Flickr
Pictured: "Yeah, bro, I walked a Ferrari 360 on the way back from the Sonic meet."
Think of the Nissan 240SX as the BRZ that can take the occasional hit. Since the price point is such that it can be repaired by anyone on any budget, you can afford to drive a bit less gingerly than you would with a car on which you still owe 36 months of payments. It's the go-to car for those of us courageous/insane/stupid enough to go drifting for the first time (just ask Mighty Car Mods and Ryan Tuerck), and if set up correctly, it can be a damn near unstoppable autocross and IMSA racer.
Pictured: Worst case scenario: If it crashes, you could fix it with a hammer and enter the 24 Hours of LeMons.
Be honest. This is exactly the reason anyone buys a 240SX. In stock form, it's not the worst car ever made, but it certainly leaves a lot on the table. The chassis itself can handle a metric ton of power, with various tinkerers within the countless communities swapping in everything from LS1 Corvette drivetrains to Cummins turbodiesel engines. This is the car to get if you're on a budget because the possibilities for a build are only limited by your imagination and skills.
Photo by James Craig on Flickr
Parts are beyond plentiful, with swap meets regularly selling parts for the S13 and S14 chassis, and aftermarket overseas manufacturers making affordable parts that, although aren't as good quality-wise as their high-dollar counterparts, get the job done for the average backyard modder. It's the perfect car as a project, and the perfect car to learn how to wrench on the weekends. The sky is the limit as far as power and handling are concerned, and there are plenty of real-world examples of people taking a car destined for the scrap heap and giving it a tire-roasting second chance.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images, flickr.com)
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.