Nissan Stagea Buying Guide
You have probably seen a Nissan Skyline R34, but when you draw closer to it, you realize that it has four doors and is a wagon, the Nissan Stagea. Probably the best-looking wagon you’ve ever seen. Nissan first made the Stagea in 1996 based on the Nissan Skyline R33 platform and sharing major mechanical components with the R33 Skyline and the Nissan Laurel C35.
However, the WC34 Stagea has a similar body architecture to the Nissan Skyline R34, especially later first-gen production models produced between 1999 and 2001. You’ll see most Stagea’s with an R34 swapped front end, with some owners going to extensive limits to get OEM GT-R front ends, including the front fenders.
You rarely see the W35 Stagea with a swapped front end, but some swap the front end with an R34 or R35 GT-R one. But you don’t need to do a front swap on a W35 Stagea as it looks good with the OEM front end. Aftermarket body kits will give your W35 Stagea a better look than an R35 swapped front end.
The first-gen Stagea (WC34) was made from 1996 to 2001, while the second-gen (M35) was made from 2001 to 2007, the year Nissan discontinued it. What makes the Nissan Stagea unique is that you can buy it for cheaper than you can get a Nissan Skyline or a 350Z but with the same engine and transmission options.
When stock, the Nissan Stagea is the ultimate sleeper wagon. You get the WC34 Stagea with the same RB engines used in the Nissan Skyline R33 and R34, including a 300-horsepower RB26DETT in the Stagea 260RS. The M35 Stagea comes with a series of VQ engines similar to those in the 350Z and other Nissan and Infiniti sports cars and SUVs.
Pros and Cons
Great Engine options
Nissan put two of their greatest engines in the Stagea, the RB and VQ engines, in all their different variants. The base spec WC34 Stagea comes with a 2.0-litre RB20E and RB20DE engine driving the rear wheels via a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. Higher spec models have the 2.5-litre RB25DE, RB25DE NEO, RB25DET, and RB25DET NEO driving the rear wheels or all four wheels via a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission.
The Stagea 260RS is the most powerful spec with the 2.6-litre RB26DETT, the same engine used in the R32, R33, and R-34 Skyline GT-R. Depending on the spec, the power output for the WC34 Stagea was between 130 to 300 horsepower at production time.
The Second-gen Stagea (M35), made from 2001 to 2007, comes with more powerful V6 (VQ) engines, including a 2.5-litre VQ25DD and VQ25DET, 3.0-liter VQ30DD, and 3.5-liter VQ35DE. The VQ25DET and VQ30DD are the most powerful engines in the M35 Stagea. They made slightly over 270 horsepower at the time of production. Other engines made around 200-260 horsepower.
RB engines are highly tunable, even the RB20Ewhich can handle up to 250 horsepower with stock internals. Other NA RB engines hand handle around 300 to 500 horsepower. Suppose you are lucky enough to get your hands on a 260RS Stagea. In that case, you can push the RB26DETT engine to over 600 horsepower with a few bolt-on mods without worrying about the internals.
VQ engines are also tunable, as you can easily get 30% more horsepower on a VQ25DD, VQ35DE, or VQ35DE engine by installing a turbo kit and other supporting mods. Increasing power output on a VQ25DET can be done by upgrading the turbocharger, air intake and fuel injectors, fuel pump, ECU remap, and other bolt-on mods. This will easily double the power output, but anything over 500 horsepower puts the engine internals and block at risk.
Wide Aftermarket Support
The Nissan Stagea might not have a huge following or presence in the JDM car scene, but getting aftermarket parts is easy since it shares mechanical and body components with the Nissan Skyline and Fairlady. You can easily use Nissan 350Z, 370Z, or Skyline parts on a Stagea without worrying about compatibility.
The Stagea is also slowly gaining aftermarket support by itself as it recently became legal for import in the United States. Manufacturers are now making Stagea-specific body kits, wheels, tail lights, headlights, and interior components, among other parts.
Suppose you prefer authentic Nissan Skyline or NISMO parts. In that case, you can still get them from Japan, but these are more expensive than most aftermarket parts. Still, they are authentic and increase the value of your Stagea as it now identifies as a “Skyline Wagon.”
Better Than Skyline Sedans
What’s better than a Skyline Sedan? A skyline Station Wagon. If you are confused about whether to buy a Skyline sedan or Nissan Stagea, you better buy a Nissan Stagea. It is cheaper, more practical, looks better than any skyline sedan, and is unique since fewer units were made.
Suppose you are going on a road trip for the weekend. In that case, you can take your RB-powered wagon and fit your whole family and their luggage in it without worrying about what will fit and what won’t. The trunk space is large enough to fit grocery shopping and some equipment when you go to the mall or convenience store. Also, when you lay down the rear seat, you have enough sleeping space for two people.
Early Models are Highly Collectible
Like the Nissan Skyline, the Nissan Stagea is also collectable. Between 1996 and 2001, Nissan only made 133,415 units of the Nissan Stagea, lesser than any skyline ever made from that period. A Nissan Stagea might not be as rare as a Skyline GT-R NISMO or V-Spec, but prices will be similar in coming years.
260 RS Stageas sell for more than $50,000, which is more expensive than a base-spec R32, R33, or R34 GT-R. Only 1734 units were made. If Stagea has an OEM swapped R34 Skyline front end, it will sell for more than a standard one, especially if it has an RB25 or RB26 engine with a manual transmission swap.
Basically, you can buy a Nissan Stagea WC34 for cheap and turn it into a GT-R wagon, which will make it cooler and quicker. Still, you are also increasing its worth in the future if you don’t plan on selling it.
RB power has never been cheaper and easy to get. Prices for the Nissan Stagea start at approximately $15,000 for one that is bone stock. Which is the best condition you can get one in. It might need some interior and exterior rejuvenation and some rust removal. Still, you have an engine under the hood that will take out most modern wagons with no mods.
Great Reliability and Durability
Fuel consumption might be on the higher side on a Nissan Stagea, but it’s nothing to complain about for a 20-year-old JDM that has been stored away or constantly used. RB engines have a cast-iron block which is heavier than the aluminum block used in VQ engines but is more durable and has a higher power rating. You can easily make more power out of an RB engine than a VQ engine, but the RB engine is heavier.
However, the reliability and durability of a car are not only measured by the engine strength. A Nissan Stagea will last around 400,000 to 500,000 miles before you start replacing major mechanical components but only with regular maintenance. It’s more of a daily driver and heavier than your average Skyline. The only major thing you’ll have to replace regularly is the bushings.
The interior is also high quality, especially if you get one with a leather interior maintained throughout previous owners it has been through. Rarely will you see cracks on the dash, warping leather, or a leaking floor on a Nissan Stagea.
Attracts Attention from Cops
An R34 front-end swapped Stagea will attract cops who are always waiting to pounce on skyline owners. You might get pulled up in your Stagea because the Skyline R34 is not yet legal in the United States. When cops see an “R34 wagon,” it definitely raises concern. But swapping the front end of a Stagea is not illegal, and there shouldn’t be much explaining to do. However, some cops will still insist on some silly mistake, and you might end up getting a ticket or your car being towed.
Not only is the Nissan Stagea a cop magnet, but also a thug magnet. Failure to park your Stagea in a safe parking area will lead to vandalization, or the car itself will get stolen. Thugs have a liking for classic JDM cars. The Stagea is no exception, and let’s face it, older JDM cars do not have the best security systems, and installing a better aftermarket one does not help much.
The Nissan Stagea might be fast, but not as fast as a sports car, mainly because of the weight. It weighs just over 3500 pounds, with the lightest spec being 100 pounds lighter. This means that you have to replace brake pads and rotors more often than on a lighter wagon. Other parts that are affected by weight include suspension bushings and tires.
But on the other hand, the Nissan Stagea feels more planted on the road. It has a lower centre of gravity, lesser body roll, and excellent weight distribution.
High Fuel Consumption
RB NEO engines are some of the most fuel-efficient engines made. Still, other RB engines are known to be fuel-thirsty, especially when you decide to play around with them. Turbocharged RB engines are not ideal for daily driving, but if you have the gas money, why not drop off your kids at school and commute to work daily with your sleeper wagon.
VQ engines also love frequenting the fuel pump even when unmodified. When you have a car as heavy as an M35 Stagea, fuel consumption is higher than your average 350Z with a similar engine. Older cars, such as the Nissan Stagea, with an automatic transmission, also have a higher fuel consumption than cars with a manual transmission.
Depending on the engine and driving habits, a Nissan Stagea will average 10mpg to 15 mpg. An increase in power output means the engine is burning more fuel; thus, the fuel consumption will reduce depending on how much horsepower you are putting down.
Most Stageas have an Automatic Transmission
Few specs of the Nissan Stagea come with an automatic transmission. Most manufacturers were making cars with automatic transmissions. It was cheaper, and cars with an automatic transmission sold better. The manual transmission wasn’t appreciated as much at the production time, especially on large and heavy cars such as the Nissan Stagea.
Most drivers hated shifting gears, and it made more sense to use manual transmission in sports cars such as the Nissan Skyline and smaller sedans and wagons such as the Nissan Avenir. The Nissan Avenir is the Stagea’s smaller brother and comes with the SR20 engine.
With old JDM cars, expect rust either when buying the car or in the future. Rust on Nissan Stagea mainly occurs on the driver’s side kicker panel, under the front wing mirrors, number plates, and underneath the car. Luckily, all these places are easily accessible.
An AWD Stagea is the perfect daily driver wagon eve when driving on snow. However, if the snow gets stuck underneath, salts accumulate and eat into the paint, promoting rust on the metal. It’s impossible to wash your car daily, but ensure that you clean underneath your Stagea, thoroughly checking for rust every once in a while.
Also, avoid parking in parking spaces with tall grass where the dew can reach underneath. Covering up exposed metal by painting also prevents rust from occurring.
Electronic Failures Due To Brittle Wiring Lines and Plastics
Due to old age, the wiring system in older cars becomes brittle and non-conductive, leading to electronic components failing. The earliest sign you’ll notice are headlight failure, dash lights failure, and a faulty stereo.
When the wires and wiring harnesses become brittle, they break off and lose contact; thus, there is no flow of current from the battery to the electronics. Sometimes the issue can be so bad that major components such as the ABS module or fuel pump stop completely working.
Suppose you decide to fix this issue by yourself and notice there is more than one broken wiring harness and a couple of brittle wires. In that case, your Stagea is due for a complete rewiring.
This is a common problem in Stageas with a VQ engine, which rarely happens in RB engines. However, in both engines, it happens for the same reason, when the turbo lines get choked up with carbon and oil sludge.
The turbocharger needs oil to keep it cool and lubricate any moving parts. Using the wrong oil or failure to change oil at recommended intervals clogs up the turbo oil lines causing damage to the turbocharger internals. Oil starvation can also occur if the oil is introduced to the turbocharger at low pressure.
Using the incorrect oil will lead to turbo failure, and the damage can also spread to the exhaust system. The turbo can also blow, and the engine might follow suit too.
Before it’s too late, you should pay attention to the following signs before the only solution is replacing the turbocharger. Suppose you hear a whining noise coming from the engine bay. In that case, the turbo is not working or is working inefficiently to muffle the noise from the exhaust manifold. Also, you’ll notice power loss at high RPMs and poor fuel consumption.
Timing Chain and Timing Chain Tensioner Failure
On VQ and RB engines, it’s recommended to replace the timing chain and tensioner after every 40,000 to 60,000 miles depending on your driving habits. RB and VQ engines are some of the engines that you just expect the timing chain and tensioner to fail. Having spares in your garage helps out a lot too.
High Oil Consumption
High oil consumption on high-mileage RB and VQ engines is typical and doesn’t interfere with reliability. But when you have a car with both high oil and fuel consumption, deep pockets come in handy, and that’s one of the main disadvantages of owning a Nissan Stagea.
However, there’s a way around the high oil consumption and reducing oil leakages which is one of the reasons the engine is using up more oil than usual. Rebuilding the engine is the best way to reduce oil consumption and prevent leakages by replacing worn-out gaskets and seals.
Gaskets and seals are made of materials that wear out over time and are meant to be regularly replaced. To be safe, you should install better aftermarket gaskets and seals and check for warping, especially on the cylinder head, before installing the head gasket.
Since the Nissan Stagea shares the same engine as the R32, R33, and R34 Skyline, you can read more on RB engines here.
The average selling price for a Nissan Stagea is approximately 20,000. Still, you can get one for less or more depending on the spec you want. A Stagea with an RB20E or VQ25DD engine will sell for around 15,000 when bone stock. If you are planning a crazy engine swap, that is the Stagea you should go for.
But if you want to keep the OEM RB or VQ engine and mod it to massive horsepower figures, go for one with an RB25 or other VQ engines except for the VQ25. These definitely sell for more but are worth it as these are the most tunable engines on the planet that you can get for a price tag of below 25,000. High Spec AWD models such as the Stagea 24t RS FOUR S, 250t RS FOUR V HICAS, and 26RS are listed for over $40,000, and getting them isn’t that easy.
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Models and Specifications
1996-2001 Nissan Stagea (WC34)
In the late 1990s, manufacturers made fast wagons like the Subaru Legacy GT. Others were making luxury sedans like the Toyota Chaser with massive horsepower engines under the hood.
The Nissan Stagea was introduced in 1996 to replace the Nissan Skyline R31 wagon, which was discontinued in 1990. It was more like a Skyline wagon but produced independently for the Japanese market and sold globally, unlike the R31 Skyline (GXE), which was only sold in Australia.
Nissan built the Stagea on the R33 platform, taking almost all mechanicals from a Skyline R33 sedan and putting RB engines in all models. The base-spec model, Stagea 20G, comes with a 2.0-litre SOHC RB20E engine which made around 130 horsepower at the time of production. Not the most powerful engine, but it saved buyers money as Stageas with the RB20E engine were the cheapest.
Due to the Stagea’s weight, Nissan used more NEO engines in the Stagea than any other production car, including the Skyline. These included the RB20DE NEO (2.0-liter DOHC), RB25DE NEO (2.5-liter DOHC), and RB25DET NEO (turbocharged 2.5-litre DOHC).
Most Stagea models come with an automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. Higher spec trims also have an automatic transmission but with turbocharged RB25 engines, including the RB25DET and RB25DET NEO. The Stagea 260RS is the only Stagea made only with a 5-speed automatic transmission as standard. Other models with an optional 5-speed manual include some variants of the 25t RS V, 25 RS FOUR, and 25t RS Four S.
Autech, Nissan’s customization unit, couldn’t resist getting their hands on a Nissan Stagea. This led to the development of the Nissan Stagea 260RS, also called the Autech Stagea. Instead of tuning the RB25DET engine, it was swapped with a 300-horsepower RB26DETT driving all four wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Nissan Stagea is capable of a 0-60 time of around 5.5 seconds and completes a quarter-mile in just under 13 seconds. These figures were obtained at the time of production, but if you get one that has been maintained well over the years, you have a sleeper wagon that can take out some modern sports cars.
Autech also installed a stiffer suspension, Brembo callipers, Brembo vented discs, bucket seats, alloy wheels, and a rear wing specific to the Stagea 260RS. These upgrades led to a 200-pound increase in weight as the Stagea 260RS weighs just under 3800 pounds.
2001-2007 Nissan Stagea (M35)
The second-gen Stagea is a wagon version of the V35 Skyline wagon made from 2001 to 2006. Nissan continued producing the Stagea as sales for the WC34 Stagea were through the roof even though limited units were produced.
Nissan didn’t discontinue the RB engine until 2004, but it was not used on the M35 Stagea. You get the M35 Stagea with VQ V6 engines instead of Inline-6 RB engines used in the first generation, which is a letdown as the RB engine is better in so many ways.
On the brighter side, VQ engines have more power than RB engines and are less expensive. At the time of production, the base spec M35 Stagea with the VQ25DD made almost twice the horsepower as the base spec WC34 Stagea with the RB20E engine, which made 130 horsepower.
The base spec M35 Stagea, 250RS/250RX, with a 2.5-litre V6 engine (VQ25DD) driving the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. There’s also a 250RS and 250 RX FOUR with the same engine but driving all four wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission.
The turbocharged VQ25DET was used in the 250tRS and AR-X FOUR which also has the 5-speed automatic and is AWD. The AR-X FOUR spec has increased ground clearance with plastic body mouldings to protect the body paint from scratches and is AWD. The 3.0-litre V6 (VQ30DD) can be found on a 300RS model, with a 5-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. AWD models
Autech used a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter VQ35DE on the M35 Stagea, but unlike the Autech WC34 Stagea, the M35 is rear-wheel-drive only. It was the only Stagea in the second generation with a 6-speed manual transmission and is badged as the Autech Axis 350S. However, the Autech Axis was produced from 2003 to 2004 and replaced by the 350RX (RWD) and 350RX FOUR (HICAS AWD).
The Nissan Stagea is not a Skyline. The first-gen Stagea (WC34) is built on the Nissan Skyline R33 platform and shares most of its mechanical components with the Skyline R33 Sedan.
You can build a Skyline on the Nissan Stagea’s platform, but this will take extensive manhours and dent your pocket to levels you have never seen before. However, you can turn a Nissan Stagea into a “Skyline Wagon” by swapping out the front end and any other body panels and parts that can fit, such as the front fenders and taillights.
The Autech Stagea, also called the Nissan Stagea 260RS, was made by Autech and came with a 2.6-litre RB26DETT engine similar to that found on the Nissan Skyline R32, R33, and R34 GT-R.
Between 1996 and 2001, Nissan made 133,415 Nissan Stageas (WC34), and between 2001 and 2007, 58,552 units of the M35 Stagea were made.
Production of the Nissan Stagea began in 1996 and ended in 2007.
Prices for the Nissan Stagea start at approximately $20,000, but you can get one for more or less depending on the spec you want.
Yes, the Nissan Stagea is legal for import in the US.
Very few models of the Nissan Stagea have a manual transmission. You have a better chance of finding a manual transmission first-gen (WC34) Stagea than a second-gen (M35) Stagea. Only the Autech Axis 350S was sold with a manual transmission.
How to Import a Nissan Stagea
Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan
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