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The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

S13, S14 & S15, from Japan, America and beyond—these are the finest examples of Nissan's RWD sportscar ever built.

Bob Hernandez
Apr 20, 2020
Photographer: Super Street Archives

The Nissan S-chassis is as elemental to the Japanese car tuning scene as the Honda Civic, and that's saying a lot considering how many built Civics are out there. Three generations of the platform in particular have become so popular, they now come with what is informally known as a "drift tax"—or the premium sellers are asking because they know drifters want to get their grubby mitts on the easily slidable RWD fastbacks and coupes. But as we've found over the years, S-chassis are pretty fertile ground for creating show pieces, too, or even just composing a build to satisfy its owner's ideal vision of what the perfect one should look like.

With decades of S-chassis stories in the Super Street vault, we figured out through traffic metrics which ones you, our astute audience, dug the most, filtering a list down to 10 vehicle features about 11 cars (we have one article that covered the two S13 of a father-son build effort). Our roundup includes seven S13 (1989-1994), one S14 (1995-1998), and three S15 (1999-2002), breaking down to one 180SX, seven 240SX, and three Silvia. Five of the builds boast SR inline-4 power, another two stick with Nissan motivation via RB inline-6 swap, and the rest opt for either Toyota JZ inline-6s or GM LS V8s. And while most stuck to a pretty well-worn path of customization, the first entry—the overwhelmingly most popular of the bunch—kind of blew our minds.

    • Speed Warhouse '91 Nissan 240SX (S13) - The DeathKart
    • Masaru Ishikawa's 1996 Nissan 180SX Type X (S13)
    • Eliot & Jarrett Ewald's 1990 & 1991 Nissan 240SXs (S13)
    • Adam LZ's Formula D Pro 2 915HP 1999 Silvia Spec-R (S15)
    • John Markadakis' 1995 Nissan 240SX (S14)
    • Justin Derendal's 1989 Nissan 240SX (S13)
    • Jason Pham's 2001 Nissan Silvia (S15)
    • Martin Oberheim's 2002 Nissan Silvia (S15)
    • Derrick Pompeo's 1989 Nissan 240SX (S13)
    • Dave Guerra's 1993 Nissan 240SX (S13)

Speed Warhouse '91 Nissan 240SX (S13) - The DeathKart

10 Greatest S Chassis Speed Warhouse DeathKart 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Speed Warhouse DeathKart Rear Wheel Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

Mike Perez's skinless, postapocalyptic, 1JZ-motivated 240 on Super Swamper tires and with a .50-cal machine gun poking out through a louvered windshield is like nothing else on this list, and we mean that in every way possible. There was no tried-and-true method used to design the DeathKart. Mike just let his imagination run wild. He made trips to the local junkyard to pick up scrap metal and started affixing things wherever he deemed fitting. He'd add and bend tubes the same way. And it didn't matter if it was imperfect or rusted, it just had to work for him. The end result is the wildest S13 we've ever laid eyes on.

1996 Nissan 180SX Type X (S13) - Happy Wife, Happy Life

10 Greatest S Chassis Hitomi Ishikawa 180SX Type x 04 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Hitomi Ishikawa 180SX Type x 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

Hitomi Ishikawa's S13 might fall a little into the OEM+ category of build, but whatever you consider it, we think it's pretty stunning. Put together by her hubby, Masaru, who also has history with SS via the story on his 1JZ Mark II wagon, the centerpiece modification was massaging the 180SX's fenders in order to retrofit a set of staggered 19-inch NISMO wheels, the ones originally manufactured by RAYS Japan and commonly found on the '13-to-'14 370Z. Typically, an S13 comes factory with 15-inch wheels, so this wasn't any afternoon job. The custom gloss camo valve cover under-hood is also really friggin' cool; when story author David Ishikawa compared the car to "an artisanal handcrafted work of art," he wasn't kidding.

2 S-Chassis Honorable Mentions:
Rocket Bunny Boss Nissan S14 Silvia
Car Modify Wonder 180SX

1990 & 1991 Nissan 240SXs (S13) - Like Son, Like Father

10 Greatest S Chassis Ewald S13s 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Ewald S13s 04 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

Eliot Ewald takes the credit for getting his son into cars, but in a reversal, that same offspring, Jarett, influenced his pops to come to the dark side and build something with more J flavor. Both S13 have SR20DET swaps and SSR Professor SP1 wheels under the fenders, but that's where the similarities end. For example, comparing exterior to exterior, Jarrett's 240SX utilizes Spirit Rei Miyabi aero kit, Type 2 Kamikaze front and side diffusers, OEM Type X rear wing, Kouki taillights with RPS13 garnish, and D-MAX carbon-fiber roof spoiler, finished in Fiji Blue Pearl paint and gloss black roof. Dad Eliot went full Type X with front bumper, front spoiler, side skirts, rear valance, rear wing, turn signals and taillights with RPS13 garnish, tied together with BMW brown pearl paint. These are some #familygoals right here.

Adam LZ's Formula D Pro 2 915HP 1999 Silvia Spec-R (S15)

10 Greatest S Chassis Adam LZ S15 03 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Adam LZ S15 02 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

BMXer, YouTube sensation, and now pro drifter Adam LZ used the 2018 SEMA Show to debut his competition car for the Formula D 2019 Pro 2 championship, and after a little hiccup at the start of the year wound up improving each round, ultimately landing on the second step of the podium at the season finale and earning himself an FD Pro license, in the process shutting down a lot of haters. The Silvia seems almost too nice to beat up in that way; Enjuku Racing did the fabwork on the Nissan and LZ sourced a Vertex Edge widebody kit for battle, opting for SSR SP3 rollers at the corners. Power comes from a stroked, E85-gulping 2JZ-GTE tuned to make 835 lb-ft. of torque at the wheels. This thing is a beast, and it looks like Adam might be, too.

1995 Nissan 240SX (S14) - Straight-Six Sensation

10 Greatest S Chassis John Markadakis 1995 240SX 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis John Markadakis 1995 240SX 04 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

How does one stand out from an S-chassis community that has proliferated so much in the last 15 years? If you're John Markadakis, you try to go just a little less common with the parts selection. His dream build S14 came with a Skyline RB25DET NEO engine swap (albeit needing lots of work), and to the exterior he switched things up with GP Sports G-Four kit, Kouki headlights, Uras Type 1 grille and hood spoiler, Ganador mirrors, Yashio Factory carbon hood, Chargespeed fenders, Car Shop Glow LED taillights, SARD GT 1700MM wing, Annointed Aero carbon front splitter, and Rize Japan carbon canards. This JDM heavy creation struts its stuff on timeless TE37SL wheels.

1989 Nissan 240SX (S13) - Chasing Perfection

10 Greatest S Chassis Justin Derendal 1989 240SX 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Justin Derendal 1989 240SX 02 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

If we're being honest, not a whole lot of V8-swapped S-chassis look as good as Justin Derendal's 240SX, so we understand why so many of you checked it out. It's hard to believe something so beautiful could have a 7.0L LS7 in between the front strut towers, but there it is, slapping you in the face when you pop the hood. The vehicle around it is captivating, on the outside marked by a Silvia front-end conversion, BN Sports Type-II aero, Koguchi front and rear fenders, Chargespeed carbon vented hood, custom Bling Factory x Ray's Factory splitters, and Bling Factory custom low-mount GT rear wing. EA Finishes sprayed the 240 in a custom color, and those multi-piece Work Meister S1 wheels the car is rolling on are chrome dipped and assembled with 24K-gold hardware.

2001 Nissan Silvia (S15) - Taking the Leap

10 Greatest S Chassis Jason Pham 2001 Silvia 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Jason Pham 2001 Silvia 02 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

Jason Pham's S15 is like the Silvia we'd build turned up to 11. At the center of its spare, pristine engine bay is a built RB26DETT flanked by some sick-looking custom titanium plumbing. The interior screams for attention with a pair of thematically contrasting yellow Recaro Wildcat seats in the front row. And the body around everything rocks Vertex areo, an Origin Lab underbody kit and carbon canards, Car Wonder Japan hood, and M Sport fenders and rear spoiler, finished in color-changing Midnight Purple 3 paint by PPG. After more than a decade in the game and two strong builds under his belt, Jason made good on a dream with this Silvia.

2002 Nissan Silvia (S15) - Pure Dead Brilliant

10 Greatest S Chassis Martin Oberheinm 2002 Silvia 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Martin Oberheinm 2002 Silvia 03 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

We spent three years trying to nail down Martin Oberheim's Silvia, a textbook Super Street build with authentic JDM style and an LS2 V8 power plant. Thing is, Martin lives in Scotland, which apparently is not the easiest place to get to, and finding a skilled car photographer out there proved to be a bigger challenge than we expected. But find one we did, and we have the images of one of Europe's most exceptionally modified Nissans to prove it! The Porsche Grey Black painted S15 is additionally modified with NISMO hood and side markers, DMAX taillights, and Volk TE37SAGA wheels to go with all the OEM aero on the car, and much more.

Derrick Pompeo's 1989 Nissan 240SX (S13) - Living Proof

10 Greatest S Chassis Derrick Pompeo S13 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis Derrick Pompeo S13 02 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

Hailing from Mukilteo, Washington, 25 miles north of Seattle, Derrick Pompeo would often travel to the Uwajimaya Japanese Market as a teenager to buy Option and Drift Tengoku magazines, and from those experiences knew before he could drive legally that he wanted an S13. When he turned 15, he decided he didn't technically need a license to own a car, so he picked up a bone-stock, automatic 240SX fastback listed for sale by the original owner. Over a decade, the 240 has seen multiple engine swaps, many modifications, and lots of drifting, Derrick all along the way caring for the machine like it was a show car. When we caught up with it, the S13 featured an SR20VET, BN Sports hatch and hood and Type IV body kit front and rear fenders, D-Max spoiler, D.Pomps canards and splitter, and Garson Ryugi 3D Chrome wheels at the corners.

1993 Nissan 240SX (S13) - Dependability Over Complexity

10 Greatest S Chassis David Guerra 1993 240SX 01 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever
10 Greatest S Chassis David Guerra 1993 240SX 04 Photo 45/45   |   The 10 Greatest S-Chassis Builds Ever

Dave Guerra's 240SX proves, when it comes to building your first drift car, it's reliability you need over power and complexity. He keeps it simple with a blend of tried and true elements like the S13's SR20DET swap and Work Emotion CR wheels on its hubs. But reliability can look sexy, too; exhibit A is the build's body, which boasts DMAX vented hood, Sard Aero Blade vortex fins, Racing Service MAX 50mm front and 70mm rear fenders and 3D GT 1750mm full carbon GT wing, MSports front aero bumper, canards, and splitter, and Vertex side skirts and rear bumper, tied together with a custom Blue Pearl paint by Angel Soto.

By Bob Hernandez
882 Articles

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