It’s not surprising that one of the most popular cars for drifting is the Nissan 240SX. Lightweight from the factory, rear wheel drive, and tons of performance modifications available, this car is ready for race prep to make it a top contender for such racing as drifting. The 240SX is also inexpensive since it’s an older car and many prior owners don’t know the potential and demand these cars have, so a used 240SX can be had for only a few thousand dollars, making it a perfect starting point for anyone wanting to get into the sport of drifting.
That brings us to this post. With such popularity of the car, popularity of drifting, and so many people loving both, it’s only natural that people are going to have a lot of questions about how to setup a Nissan 240SX for drifting, and what all of the acronyms and terminology mean that people on forums and blogs talk about. We’ve been getting a lot of questions from customer recently asking us about what mods and what year 240SX was best for drifting, so we decided we’ll create a basic guide and direct our customers here. Our goal is not to be the most comprehensive guide, but something that will give you enough information to spark deeper questions about the specific build you want, and what path you need to take to achieve your goals of setting up your 240SX for drifting.
What is a Nissan Silvia?
A Nissan Silvia is basically a Nissan 240SX, but in Japan. Nissan created what they call the “S-platform”, which is Nissan’s rear wheel drive sort compact platform that they used from 1976 to 2002. The Silvia and 240SX used the “S-platform”, and the name Silvia was used interchangeably for all 240SX’s from 1989 to 2002, though production for the 240SX in the United States ended in 1998.
What is JDM?
JDM stands for “Japanese Domestic Market”. This means that when someone refers to something as JDM, that means the part or car they are referring to was only available to the Japanese market. Most JDM parts are rare, and must be imported to the United States.
What is an S13, S14 and S15?
S13, S14 and S15 refer to the chassis of the Nissan 240SX and Silvia. The S13 is the first generation Nissan 240SX, and was built from 1989 to 1994. So if your 240SX is built on or between these years, your 240SX is an S13. The second generation 240SX is an S14 and was built between 1995 and 1998. The S15 or third generation, wasn’t available in the United States, so this Silvia was built from 1999 to 2002. Between 1989 and 1998, Nissan built 251,410 240SX’s. There is a convertible that was available between the years of 1992 and 1994, and Nissan only built 8320 of these.
What’s better for drifting, an S13 or S14?
This is a tough question, and is really up for debate. Some say the S14 is slightly better balanced, while others say the S13 is a more natural drifter. Both are actually very similar, with the S14 weighing a little more but otherwise there are too little differences in terms of which is better for drifting. Many prefer the S13 because it’s less expensive and is roughly 120lbs lighter than the S14.
Ok, so I bought a 240SX. Where do I start?
We recommend to drive the car stock for a while. While stock is boring, it will also help you get used to sounds the car makes, how it behaves, how it feels, and other feedback the car is going to tell you about what condition it’s in, and what you should be upgrading first. Once you get a good feel for the car, you can decide what to upgrade first. You also need to decide if you are going to use this car as a daily driver or if it will be track only. If it’s track only, we recommend to take it to the track bone stock. Sure, the car will be slow, and won’t perform well, but it’ll still be fun, and will give you a good baseline for where the car is, and how awesome it will be once its drift ready. If it’s going to be a daily driver, and a weekend warrior, we recommend to just drive it to work or school every day bone stock. Take it to an autocross event, or a drift event, and have some fun with it stock.
In the video above, you will see a 1991 240SX being drifted that is bone stock except for a coilover upgrade, and a few other suspension parts. Drifting a stock 240SX is a good way to get a feel for the car before adding too many upgrades. This car has a factory LSD (Limited Slip Differential) which is a great find.
Suspension upgrades – lots of choices, which is right for you?
There are a ton of suspension upgrades available for the 240SX. Since you are setting up your car for drifting, you need to get the right suspension from the start. We highly recommend a quality coilover system. A coilover kit comes complete with all 4 shocks, coilover springs, and properly matched pieces to get you an incredible system right out of the box. It also gives you the ability to lower your car to suit your taste since it’s height adjustable. We recommend that you purchase a coilover kit that is adjustable on the shock body instead of by compressing the spring. This way you can lower the car and still maintain full shock travel which is essential for drifting. We do not recommend lowering springs because they don’t have the proper spring rate and are mainly used as mild suspension upgrades and are too mild for drifting. We also recommend a camber kit, and to replace your worn suspension bushings. Get an upgraded rear sway bar as well to keep the rear a bit looser and allow easier drift initiation. Also upgrade your tension rods, tie rods and toe links to ensure strength and durability during drifting.
Drifting a car is all about disturbing the balance of the car to initiate “organized chaos”. Essentially, you are forcing your car to lose control but then controlling it during this time as graceful as possible.
Remember not to lower your car too much. You’re not going for looks here, but for performance. Make sure you get an alignment, and take it to an alignment shop that knows how to setup cars for drifting. They can recommend a ride height for you based on your setup, and also offer suggestions on how to adjust your car for the best results.
Don’t make your shocks too stiff. If it’s too stiff, the car will hop and be hard to control. If it’s too soft it will feel like it’s floating. Keep adjusting during your practice runs until it feels right.
Are tires important? What kind should I get?
Absolutely! Tires are one of the most important things to ensure you get a clean and smooth drift line. One of your biggest expenses when drifting is going to be your tires. Some people run different tires in the front than they do in the rear. The tires need to be designed for racing, so they can handle the incredible abuse they are going to take from drifting. Drifting makes your tires slide while essentially doing a burnout, so they are being torn apart in two different directions, causing them to wear quickly. A quality tire will wear evenly. Get lightweight aftermarket wheels, and a quality tire from a good manufacture such as Falken, Toyo, Maxxis, Yokohama, Nexen, Cooper or Federal. Everyone has a different opinion on which is better, so choose the cheapest tire that is predictable and don’t come apart or clunk.
Do brakes matter?
Yes! We recommend at the minimum a good set of brake pads and brake rotors and some stainless brake lines. Many people don’t realize the importance of good brakes until they realize they’re in over their heads during a drift around a corner, and aren’t able to stop in time before hitting the wall. We also recommend the stainless brake lines to keep your stock rubber brake lines from expanding when slamming on the brakes. While a big brake kit is the best setup, it’s also very expensive. A good set of pads, rotors and lines can get you most of the way there.
Are name brand parts important?
We highly recommend to buy quality parts, and usually name brand parts are the best in quality. Cheap knockoffs can’t be trusted during high speed runs, and we have seen cheap coilover kits literally break in half at the shock shaft or body welds. Don’t buy cheap parts just to have to buy replacements when they break. Cheap knockoffs will cost you more in the long run and can be downright unsafe.
More advanced drifting
Once you get a good feel for your car with the stock engine and transmission, we suggest that you start to upgrade your power and brakes. First make sure you are comfortable with your suspension and you feel that you are able to drift comfortably. Add power slowly, and decide if you are going to keep the stock KA 2.4L 4 cylinder motor, or upgrade to a SR20DET turbo motor from a Silvia, or do an engine swap such as an LS1. Since you had experience with your car before it had more power, you will be better able to feel what the suspension needs and how it needs to be adjusted when you add more power to the mix. The more power you add, the more skill you need, so work your way up gradually until you feel comfortable.
This video shows a LS1 S13 240SX drifting. This is a heavily modified car, and you can see the difference between the first video and second video. This is a much more advanced drifter with a much more powerful car.
Words of advice
Don’t get frustrated or discouraged. Professional drifters make the sport look easy, but it’s far from it. It requires a lot of practice, and there is nothing that can beat time behind the wheel. Experience will help you decide how to continue modifying your car. Take our recommendation of leaving your car stock for a while seriously. We know many people are eager to start modifying, but the knowledge you will gain from the progressive steps will help you tremendously as you will appreciate where you are because you will know where you came from.
Most importantly: Have fun!