Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese manufacturers became known for affordable performance, and the Nissan 180SX embodied that ethos when it debuted in 1989. By today’s standards, the pint-sized fastback can seem a little dated — but it doesn’t take much work to make this coupe a competitor to modern-day cars. And this particular 180SX up for sale on Japanese Classics goes above and beyond.
At just 2,700 pounds, the 180SX wasn’t the lightest car to come out in 1989 (the Mazda Miata had it beat by nearly 700 lbs), but a lively turbocharged 1.8-liter engine with a 7,500 redline and pumping out 167 horsepower at the rear wheels meant the coupe had genuine performance. In addition to a 0-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds, the 180SX was available with optional rear-wheel steering, enabling it to move from side to side just as well as it could hustle as in a straight line.
This ’89 Nissan 180SX Type II keeps the stock look on the surface, but underneath, it’s an entirely different beast. Stare into the engine bay, and you’ll see the previous owner fitted an Apexi intake, Blitz Super Sound blow off valve and Kakimoto Catback exhaust to add to the horsepower and decibel count alike. The real party trick, however, is hidden in the wheel wells. At each corner, suspension upgrades come courtesy of Tein coilovers, Cusco strut tower braces and the Tein EDFC (Electronic Damping Force Controller), which lets the driver adjust the dampening force of the suspension with a dash-mounted control module on the fly.
Like most Japanese sports cars of the time, the Nissan 180SX proved to be the perfect blank canvas for power and performance-hungry tuners. While some went on to gain regrettable body kits and gaudy paint jobs, this ’89 Type II clearly enjoyed a better fate. Modestly modified 180SXs in such excellent condition like this don’t come up for sale very often — and at just $12,995 with only 80,000 miles on the clock, it still very much qualifies as a prime piece of Japanese affordable performance. It just happens to be a classic now.
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