Nissan Silvia S14 Buying Guide
Overview and Brief History
While still producing the Silvia S13, Nissan Unveiled the S14 Silvia in Japan in 1993, carrying over the SX name prefixes (200SX, 240SX) for export markets despite decreasing sales. The decrease in sales was being felt by every car manufacturer producing 2-door coupes or liftbacks as sedans, wagons, and SUVs became more practical. Also, Nissan still didn’t offer the SR engines in the Nissan Silvia for most export markets leading to negative customer feedback and low sales. In Japan, wider and taller dimensions led to the Silvia S14 being classified as a compact car; thus, buyers faced higher road taxes. Yet, it remained a favorite and common sighting on drift tracks and tuner shops.
Is the Silvia S14 better than the S13? Well, the S13 remains an icon for being the first proper S-chassis car, and whether the S14 is a better car entirely depends on the driver. The S13 is cheaper, lighter, and more tail happy, but it’s more prone to rust and chassis rot. On the other hand, the S14 has better build quality, engine options, and a roomier interior. Nonetheless, both are great cars and since the S15 isn’t legal to import to the United States yet, you can enjoy either without questioning which car is better.
Nissan didn’t offer other body styles for the S14 like the S13, and the coupe was the only body style for all markets. Early model years from 1993 to 1996 have oval-shaped headlights updated to aggressive-looking projector headlights in 1996 across all models. Other mid-production changes include tinted taillights and the turbocharger in the SR20DET got a more efficient ball bearing.
Models and Specifications
1993-1998 Nissan Silvia S14
Unlike the previous generation, only one S14 model, badged as the Nissan Silvia was offered exclusively for the Japanese market. The 180SX name had been discontinued after Nissan canceled the 1.8-liter CA18 engines for the S14. However, the 180SX was still in production but on the older S13 chassis until 1996. The S14 was wider, longer, and taller than the S13; thus, it was heavier, and Nissan had to lower the ride height for improved handling but still used the same double wishbone suspension setup.
Engine and transmission (4-speed automatic, 5-speed manual) options remained similar to the S13 but with a few upgrades. These include a bigger turbocharger, increased compression, upgraded injectors, and Nissan’s VCT (Variable Cam Timing) system in the SR20DE and SR20DET engines. Although Nissan had intended for the VCT system to improve emissions when they introduced it in the 300ZX in 1987, it also resulted in a slight power bump. It alters valve timing in high RPMs and has fewer components, unlike Honda’s VTEC system. This makes it maintenance-free and easy to delete the VCT system, which most Silvia owners do, as it can be problematic due to component failure, old age, and oil starvation, among other issues.
In Japan, the Nissan Silvia had the same trim levels as the S13 180SX and Silvia S13, with the only difference being that all trims got ABS as standard. Also, the Aero and Navan replaced the Diamond and Club trim levels as the top-spec variants. The S14 Jack and Queen were sold with the 2.0-liter SR20DE without comfort features such as power windows and doors, fog lamps, and a rear window wiper. Nissan sold most of them with the 4-speed automatic transmission, but the 5-speed manual was made optional.
Pre-1995 units didn’t get a driver’s and front passenger airbag, but the driver’s airbag was made standard after 1995. All other top-spec trim-level features, such as a front spoiler, viscous LSD, colored head unit, leather seats, and projector headlights, were optional in the S14 Jack and Queen.
All S13 Kings and S-Types were sold with the 2.0-liter turbocharged SR20DET with sportier touches such as alloy wheels, a front and rear spoiler, and larger vents on the front bumper. In addition, buyers could opt for leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel in the S-type, a luxury-oriented S14 Silvia. The S14 Navan isn’t different from the S-type; its only difference is its unique rear wing and side skirts. Super HICAS was optional for all sportier high-spec S14s.
In 1994, NISMO (Nissan Motorsports) built 50 anniversary S14s featuring the SR20DET pushed to 270 horsepower hence the name Silvia NISMO 270R. It’s easy to distinguish one from an average S14 due to a front-mounted intercooler and hood vents. If not repainted, upholstered, or unmodified, you’ll also find NISMO badges in the interior, rear quarter panels, and rear bumper, similar to the R33 NISMO 400R, which was unveiled two years later.
1994-2000 Nissan S14 200SX
In Europe and other LHD markets, the S14 200SX was sold with one engine option, the 2.0-liter turbocharged SR20DET, thus the name 200SX Turbo. There was no change to the transmission options as Nissan offered the same 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission in the JDM S14 Silvia. However, the 200SX got some features that weren’t even available in the American 240SX, such as heated seats, wooden interior trims, an aftermarket stereo, and better OEM paint job options. All these resulted from Nissan’s efforts to improve sales by marketing the 200SX as a luxury sports coupe to compete against dominant manufacturers such as Mercedes, Porsche, and BMW.
Nissan didn’t offer any trim levels, but all units got ABS and an LSD as standard. Buyers could opt for packages that added more features to the vehicle. The racing package offered leather seats and steering, wooden interior trims, a Sony stereo, paint-matched floormats, and BBS alloy wheels.
Other packages had similar extras but better. For example, the Sportline 200SX OZ double spoke wheels, a 10 CD changer, Sportline badges on the floormats and leather seats, chrome-tipped exhaust tips, aluminum pedals, and aluminum shift knob. The Z package added aftermarket lowering springs to the same OZ wheels in the Sportline package. Finding a European-spec 200SX today isn’t a walk in the park, as Nissan only produced less than 2000 of them. This is because they didn’t sell well despite being well spec’d than the JDM Silvia and American 240SX.
1994-1998 Nissan S14 240SX
The second-gen S14 240SX was unveiled in 1994, but the liftback and convertible variants were discontinued. It was only sold as a coupe bearing no virtual differences from the JDM Silvia and the European 200SX. However, the powerplant, 2.4-liter KA24DE, remained unchanged, which is the same for the 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmission options. Trim levels were reduced to three, including the base trim, mid-trim SE and the luxury LE. The base 240SX had a cloth interior, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a driver’s airbag, but standard features in the SE and LE were made optional. ABS wasn’t a standard feature in all trim levels.
Dual front airbags, cruise control, a rear sway bar, and an LSD were standard in the SE and LE trims. In addition, leather seats, a CD changer, an anti-theft system, a sunroof, and keyless entry were optional extras in the 24SX LE. Nissan introduced packages in 1996, allowing buyers to choose additional extras to any trim level. For instance, the ABS and LSD package added an updated ABS and LSD, and the convenience package added cruise control, an aftermarket stereo system, power door locks, and window controls. Some features were available in two or more packages, thus eliminating the relevance of the base, SE, and LE trim levels after 1996.
Nissan Silvia S14 Pros and Cons
When Nissan introduced the S14, it had the same engine options as the S13 but had some upgrades that might come in handy should you decide to take the power increment route with stock internals. The SR20DE had a low lift camshaft due to stringent emission laws, but Nissan had something up their sleeve that helped push the power up from 140 horsepower to slightly over 160 horsepower. They installed their NVCT (Nissan Variable Camshaft Timing) system, which delays valve opening and closing depending on the RPM. They also installed lighter connecting rods, piston groups, and roller rockers, lowering fuel consumption and emissions and improving engine responsiveness.
The SR20DET in the S14 (blacktop) greatly benefits from smaller ports fed through the redesigned manifold. The smaller ports increase air velocity compensating for the low port head. A larger turbocharger, wider throttle body, and increased compression make it slightly easier to milk power out of than the SR20DET in the S13 (redtop) with stock internals. The S14 SR20DET also features the same connecting rods, VCT system, and other upgrades in the SR20DE.
Nissan didn’t offer the SR engines in the United States, and the KA24DE remained unchanged from the S13 except for a few fuel injection upgrades and a thinner block for engines manufactured in Japan. But with increasing prices of the SR20 engines, car owners and tuners are slowly beginning to realize its potential and an engine swap is unnecessary if you have an S14 with a KA24DE.
However, the Mexican KA24DE is better if you plan on turbocharging a 240SX as the block is thicker; thus, it can handle more power. How can you tell the difference between a Japanese and a Mexican KA24DE? If the engine were manufactured in Japan, the dipstick would be at the center of the engine. On the contrary, the Mexican KA24DE has its dipstick toward the rear.
The S14 Handles Better Than The S13 When Stock
Structural and mechanical components upgrades in the S14 make it a better handling car, but the difference will be felt when sampling both cars without any mods. The S14 has a 50% torsional and a 100% rigidity increase over the S13, contributing to better chassis stiffness. This makes the S14 easier to drift as it’s not as tail-happy as the S13 due to reduced oversteer. The rear suspension in the S13 was also revised, and the strut mounts were placed higher, thus improving the ride comfort.
Better Build Quality and Less Rust
Anyone who buys a Silvia S14 lists that one of the reasons for doing so is to avoid chassis rot and rust, among other structural issues more common in the S13. But this does not mean that the S14 is immune. Rust and interior trim wear are inevitable in older JDM cars, only it’s worse in the S13, especially in early model years. In the S14, rust doesn’t eat into the frame rapidly due to better chassis and body panel toughness. Interior trims also hold on for a bit longer, except the dashboard, which is a weakness in all generations, including the S15. If you find an S14 with a mint dashboard, you better apply moisturizing dashboard treatment and utilize a car or windscreen cover if the car is constantly exposed to the sun.
Roomier Interior Than The S13
Comfort isn’t a priority in a sports car, especially if it’s a 20th-century JDM sports coupe such as the Nissan Silvia S14. However, it has a roomier interior than most coupes of its time, thanks to the longer wheelbase and wider dimensions. Driver and front passenger legroom and headroom are slightly better than in the S13. Also, the rear seats can be utilized as passenger seats instead of luggage carriers, and fitting a baby seat is pliable if you want to drop off your kids at school on your way to work.
It Doesn’t Offer Value For Money
One might argue that the Silvia S14 is a better handling car with better engine versions than the S13, but these do not justify current S14 prices. It’s better to get an S13 over an S14 and wait until 2024, when it will be legal to import an S15, hoping you’ll have saved enough. The S13 is just as tunable as the S14, has adequate aftermarket support, and is a great drift car. Also, S13s are everywhere, so it’s easy to find one if you’re rushing to find and complete an S-chassis drift project before the local drift season beings. Nonetheless, both cars have one common disadvantage, most units available for sale in the United States have been worked over with some drifting history. It’s up to you to pick your lemon and make lemonade out of it.
Nissan Silvia S14 Common Issues
The Nissan S14 shares problems with other S-chassis cars starting from the S13, except the few listed below, which are more common in the S14.
Rapid Camshaft Wear
Most tuners will advise replacing the OEM camshaft with an aftermarket one before tuning and installing power increment bolt-ons. All engines in the S14, including the KA24DE, got lighter connecting rods and a lighter camshaft that doesn’t respond well to figures above 250 horsepower. Using incorrect engine oil and failure to fill up or change engine oil according to schedule shortens the camshaft’s lifespan even more.
VCT System Failure
The NVCT (Nissan Variable Cam Timing) system in SR engines doesn’t require any maintenance, provided oil levels are always in check, and the correct oil is used. However, the few components that make it up get old and wear out like other vehicle components leading to what is known as the rattle of death among Nissan owners. The rattle is caused by the VCT gear struggling to lock onto the camshaft and dies after a few minutes of driving.
Sometimes, low oil temps might cause it to rattle, but if you notice a drop in gas mileage and white smoke coming from the exhaust. Depending on the extent of damage, you can either replace the VCT system components or delete the system, which requires extensive mechanical work. A more straightforward way of deleting the VCT system is unplugging the solenoid so that it doesn’t receive data from the ECU to block oil flow from the rear of the camshaft.
Fuel Pump Failure
This usually happens at around 60,000 to 80,000 miles if the car still has the OEM fuel pump due to contamination and accumulation of debris in the fuel tank. Early signs of fuel pump failure include hard stars, power loss at higher RPMs, and spluttering. Loud noises from the fuel tank also indicate imminent fuel pump failure, and these are heard when starting the engine. Replacing the fuel pump with a high-flow aftermarket one shouldn’t be time-consuming or complicated, even for beginners, and you don’t require any special tools. The high-flow fuel pump provides a higher fuel flow to the engine, which is necessary for older engines, and you don’t need to replace it again when undertaking upgrades to increase power.
What To Look For When Buying a Nissan Silvia S14
Rust is unavoidable in older JDM cars, and the Nissan Silvia S14 is no exception. It’s among the top issues to look out for when buying one. Common rust spots include wheel arches, rocker panels, and footwells. It’s also important not to leave out underneath the car since chassis rot is a shared weakness in all S-chassis cars. While at it, check if the previous owners have painted the chassis to prevent rust. If this is the case, feel the quality of the paint and inspect for bulges and rust bubbles, which indicate welds and rust bubbles forming underneath the paint.
When buying any car, buying the best you can get, not just any available one, is advisable. But this doesn’t apply to the Nissan S13 since most available for sale have a history of drifting, misuse, or crash damage. This is why you should inspect the car panel by panel, checking for signs of repair, mismatched panels, and misaligned panel gaps.
Boost, vacuum, and coolant leaks are expected if the lines have never been replaced since the old ones become brittle and crack over time. These are some minor issues you can use to negotiate the asking price. Also, when buying a 240SX and it still has the 4-lug wheels try factoring the conversion costs into the negotiations.
A mint S14 in factory condition might seem unproblematic and tempt you from inspecting it, but such cars can sometimes have the worst issues, especially if the mileage is through the roof. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s an ex-drift car or a 240SX with several hundred miles; you must test drive the car before buying. Pay attention to the engine and suspension during the test drive as you accelerate, decelerate and turn. Any strange sounds require diagnosing before closing the deal.
The S14 is the least popular of the pair, but when we factor in durability, handling, and engines, it wins over the S13. The S13 is only better if you consider weight, and it has a better chassis to swap an RB engine since it has a Skyline cross member.
Yes, all Nissan Silvia S14 model years are old enough to import to the United States.
Apart from the neat aggressive styling, the SR engines in the S15 have larger fuel injectors, and the SR20DET got a larger turbo pushing power to almost 300 horsepower. The S15 also got more features, such as traction control and ECS (Electronic Stability Control). Nissan also used a 6-speed manual transmission for the first time during the Silvias production run.
A clean S14 240SX will set you back around $10,000, but the Japanese and European S13s can cost twice as much, especially if you are eyeing one with the 2.0-liter turbocharged SR20DET.
The S14 might be heavier than the S13, but by a small 100-pound margin weighing in at roughly 2700 pounds, the S13 weighs 2600 pounds.