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Should I Buy A 240sx S13 For My First Ever Project Car?

2858 Views 5 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Philippwuese
I recently have been exploring the JDM car world. I find it really cool and was looking into buying a second car to work and learn how to work on a car. I don't know much about cars but the Miata NA/NB and the 240sx S13 really caught my eye. I don't know witch one to buy because I know the Miata is a good starter car to work on and has a lot of potential to do what ever you want but I also really like the S13. I came on this website to see if the S13 is a good car for a first car and to learn how cars work. The current S13 I have my eye on see like it's in good condition but I also know that most of the S13s on the market are really worked on and usually have after market parts on them.

240sx I have my eye on listed for 8,900:
1990 Nissan 240sx hatchback KA24DE swap - Clean title with tags up to date until August 2022 with pink slip in hand & everything under my name - Ka24de swap with a full rebuilt on the motor 2 months ago - A & N Engine rebuilt machine shop 4330 E Brooklyn Ave los angles 90022 with receipt in hand - Cylinder head with a new Valves, new stems , resurface heads , new springs and push pins - Enjuku racing full gasket & seals kit Graphite head gasket, Intake manifold gasket, Exhaust manifold gasket, Valve cover gasket, Viton valve stem seals, Camshaft seal, O-rings, Front crankshaft seal, Rear main seal, Water pump gasket - No check engine light on - Smog done 2 months ago - Full tune done 2 months ago - New NGK spark plugs cables - New NGk spark plugs - Bore aligned done, Pistons refurnished - Mishimoto Performance radiator - All new coolant hoes replaced - Aftermarket cool air intake - All new intake hoses replaced - Lowered on God speed coilovers - Performance Rear adjustable camber arms - Front adjustable performance tension Rods - New Power steering pump with ISR high pressure stainless steel power steering lines - New brake booster with ISR performance stainless steel brake line - Full system with Infinity speakers for the highs and Kickers for the low - Redline DND Spline V1 Quick Release Steering Wheel with short Hub - Enjukuracing Front bash bar - Rear bash bar sold separately - Short shifter - 5 lug conversion - Kenwood amplifier and 2000 watts full wiring kit - New OEM o2 sensor - Performance ready headers with O2 sensor still on so no check engine light on - Manga flow exhaust - New battier from 03/2022 with receipt in hand and 1 year warranty - New water pump and pully - Nissan 180sx full body kit, front bumper , rear bumper and side skirts with a extra original rear bumper - Wide body kit - welded dif - Touch screen radio with Bluetooth - Bride bucket seat with NRG seat bracket - Full interior with all original seats for rear and passenger - Interior 9/10 with carpet still in good condition - New privacy cover and rear speaker covers - New thermostat & gasket - Aluminum aftermarket reservoir - Clean engine bay - New distributer cap & rotor - LED aftermarket cluster lights - New OEM flip headlight motors - Bosch Temperature gage

Is this a good car to buy as my first project car? It seems like it has a lot of care taken into it but is it also easy to learn on? Also should I just learn how to work on a car with a Miata if the 240sx isnt worth it?

What are some things to look for when buying a 240sx?
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Welcome to the forum.

As a long time owner, I do have to share this with you.

Truthfully, an older honda civic from the 90's will be cheap enough to let you learn on. Same with a 90's mustang or even early 2000's.
Hell a 350z could be had for half of that $8900 price tag and whoop that S13.

If I had to start over, I would not be looking at S chassis anymore.
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For a first project, this is a huge commitment. A lot of people will buy a s chassis project and end it project hell for years before selling it off. If you have worked on cars before it could be fun and rewarding but for a lot of people it could be a money drain that never comes to fruition.
I guess this would depend what your end goal is and/or budget. If you want it done right, it can get quite expensive. I could of had a nicely tuned Skyline by now. Instead I kept redoing and improving on some things and its still not running. I for one wont be selling mine since all that is left is putting it all together. Another big factor is available time and if you need the car for a daily commute. Its an old car with a lot of aftermarket support which can be distracting at times.
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Pros: Not too hard, huge aftermarket support, lots of knowledge and resources available, you’ll look very cool
Cons: Pricey, lots of discontinued OEM parts, older cars mean more problems you’ll have to address, you’ll have to give it more care than a modern car

Gonna try and ignore budget restraints for this question so you can have a different perspective.

On a scale 1-10 (10 being most difficult), I would rank it a 6 on the difficulty of working on it - just from personal experience. It’s honestly not too difficult of a car to work on, and the best part is that because so many people have worked on it, there’s a lot of information on how to do things and lots of people to ask questions for when you’re stuck on something. I definitely recommend you have prior experience working on cars (or a mechanic friend), not many places will work on S-chasses just because of the age, so you’ll have to do a lot of it yourself.

The downside is that these cars are old and you are guaranteed to put in work. There’s no avoiding the eventual degradation of many mechanical parts, most commonly the timing chain which is hell on earth to get to unless you’ve done it before. You’ll also need to stay on top of inspections because with older cars you can’t just wait until something breaks to replace it - if one thing breaks, I guarantee you something else will be broken with it and then you’ll be out of a car for up to a few weeks.

The other downside is that while it does have a very extensive aftermarket, many of its stock parts are discontinued… You will have to look very hard for parts that are not made by an aftermarket supporter. For example, door locks are discontinued, many hatch parts are discontinued, weatherstrips/insulation parts are discontinued… You have to be actively searching in places like Ebay, FB Marketplace, forum marketplaces, etc. And while I said I would ignore budget, I will say that it can get pricey. Be prepared to shell out $300+ for a necessary/required mechanical part. Definitely not horrible prices, but if you’re not financially stable with expendable income I wouldn’t recommend the S-chassis just yet.

For context, I used to have a 2001 Eclipse that I was working on as my project. There were so many issues, but the glaring issue is that it had no aftermarket support and a very small community. If you had questions, you were basically SOL a lot of the time. I also felt like it was just harder in general to work on - I’ve worked on a 2008 Focus, a 2010 Mazda3, and a 2006 Scion tC… All were very straight forward but had their own set of challenges, but nothing quite like the Eclipse. The Mazda was the most expensive, the Scion was the easiest, the Focus was the cheapest, and the Eclipse was the hardest.

The S13 is solid and straightforward to work on and I like that a lot. Even for me - someone with limited experience working on cars - I was able to figure out a lot of things (with occasional road bumps of course). There’s no weird parts or many special tools needed - simple hand tools will do the trick.

Final note… if you manage to find an S13 for a good price (these days, less than $8000; depends on what area you live in), more than likely you’ll need to do an engine rebuild if you want it running longer than a year (at best). Unless you have a way of doing it yourself, you’ll likely spend upwards of $2500+ on rebuilding it. You’ll probably think “I’ll just swap something else in” but if it’s not in top-notch condition you’ll probably need to rebuild that too… And even something in good condition like a good SR will be about $3500-$6000. What I’m trying to say is that you should have an extra $3K lying around before getting an S13 if you plan on actually driving it lol

That’s about it on my end. Remember, this is all from my experience - your mileage may vary. Hope this helps someone.
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Hey! The 240sx is an excellent platform for a project car. The KA24DE engine is a great motor to learn on and has a ton of aftermarket support.

As for whether you should go for the 240sx or the Miata depends on what you're looking for in a car. The Miata is a great starter car known for being easy to work on, but the 240sx has a bit more power potential and a larger aftermarket community. Also, check out how much does it cost to ship a car here. Good luck!
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