Cohort Sighting: Nissan 200SX – An S12 Gets Some Much Needed Love


There is a Z32-series 300ZX somewhere missing its wheels.  It’s quite likely they were replaced by less attractive rims, but at least they’re being used on this S12-series 200SX, whose owner probably appreciates them a lot more.  They don’t entirely match this car’s blocky lines, but are still appropriate, considering this car shares an engine block mostly identical to the piece found in the car which donated them.

The lowering springs are also a good choice, considering the ground effects and this North American-exclusive V6 model’s additional power.  Nissan had used the S-chassis cars in rallying, but with the discontinuation of the 240RS rally car (based on the S11 chassis), the company was left scrambling for a replacement.  The upgraded motor for these cars was always a turbo four, and in North American tune, the boosted 1.8 liter CA engine left a lot to be desired.  Japanese buyers, not surprisingly, had their pick of much better engines, but as their sales were divided among multiple trim levels, none of which sold 5,000 units annually, there were no cars which Nissan could qualify as homologated specials.  So, they fitted a new hood and stuffed the 300ZX’s VG30E into the 200SX, since the minimum number of cars in SE V6 trim could be sold easily in the US.

Whatever the reasoning, it seems like more of these sold than the then-new–and very cool–Celica All-Trac Turbo (GT4), even though the Celica outsold the 200SX overall.  It might’ve made more sense for Nissan to simply use the newly CA18DET engine, since the single cam version was already used in the US and since the engine would go on to meet great acclaim in the S13 (that is, everywhere except in the US where the KA truck engine would be used instead).

The decision to use the V6 at least benefitted US customers, but as the Eclipse showed, there was a market for powerful Japanese coupes that Nissan did not exploit.  There were a lot of other excellent Nissan engines that American consumers never saw.  Did you know, for instance, that the SR20 engine was available in Japan with a turbo, with a variable-lift head and, in the CRV-rivalling X-Trail, a special version which combined both?  We didn’t even get a compact crossover until 2008!  I’ll never know the reasons for Nissan’s bizarre product planning, but don’t get me started.