Nissan has long been one of the most popular go-to brands for enthusiasts who want to have some fun on track without breaking the bank. In many cases, these individuals use lightly modified Nissan vehicles both as their daily drivers and as weekend warriors out on the track. While the adventures these drivers and cars get up to are the very essence of adrenaline, the cars themselves are not hard to come by in terms of cost or rarity. In fact, some may now be available at your local Nissan dealer.
While automobile racing is traditionally a rich person’s sport, these days, events like Autocross make it easier than ever to get racing. And there is no better way to do that than with a used Nissan. For under $10,000, you can find yourself a raceable example, and if you are willing to do a little work, there are even solid used Nissan options under $5,000. While Autocross may be slower than NASCAR, it the sort of affordable racing that will develop important car control skills in an environment that allows one to push their car to the limit while being safe, legal, and soft on the vehicle’s mechanical parts. It can even build friendships and connections that could very well last a lifetime.
For those more willing to spend the money and push themselves and their car even harder, Drifting and Time Attack offer more visceral and higher performance disciplines. While the cost in time and money is higher than with Autocross, the entry levels of these competitions are still accessible to amateur drivers in cars that also drive their owner to work.
Originally designed specifically as a “date car” for young men to take ladies on drives in, right from the outset, the Nissan 240SX became the car of choice for the burgeoning drift movement. With a front-heavy weight bias, front-engine rear-wheel drive layout, and just enough power to kick the tail out on command at low speed, the 240SX was made for drifting. Relentlessly popular and mindbendingly modifiable, the humble 240SX also proved easy to repair from most accidents and cheap to maintain, all paramount attributes to have in a car consistently operated on the edge of control.
The 240SX has had a wild ride not just on the racetrack but in the used market. Before drifting was mainstream, a complete 240SX could be purchased for under $5,000 dollars, but as the sport gained popularity, so did the poster child of the sport. Known as the “Drift Tax,” the effect of all this demand caused prices to shoot through the roof. However, these days, the 240SX is no longer the primary focus of those wanting to get into the sport of sideways. For this reason, the surprisingly practical hatchback Nissan sports car is once again a decent buy on the used market, but expect to pay classic car money for one that hasn’t been drifted.
The 240SX may have been the first drift car of an entire generation, but now a new group of young people is getting into the sport, and they are going after the Nissan 350Z. The Z33 generation Nissan Z-car carries many similarities to the 240SX in terms of layout, with the front-mounted engine supplying power solely to the rear wheels. That said, it carries a significant upgrade to the 240SX in its engine bay.
The 350Z is powered by the VQ V6 engine, offering roughly double the power of a base model 240SX. This more than offsets the car’s extra weight and makes it even easier to get sideways on the large and wide American tracks the Z33 can commonly be seen drifting. As the 2000s era car has aged, it has become increasingly affordable, and examples that are solid enough to drive daily are often sold for less than $10,000. That said, beware of overly cheap ex-drift cars, as they have likely met a wall more than once.
The current iteration of the Nissan Z has been on sale for over a decade, and thus many are available on the used market for significantly less money than new examples. For under $15,000, they can be great hassle-free daily drivers, making grocery-getting and the daily commute into an event. But as it happens, the Z34 generation Z also makes a solid Street Class Time Attack competitor basically out of the box. And the amount of speed one can wring out of a modified version depends solely on how much one is willing to spend on seat time at the track and upgrades in the shop.
What makes the 370Z perhaps better than other time attack competitors when it comes to double duty is that it uses a relatively large naturally aspirated engine instead of a smaller turbocharged engine. This makes it reliable enough for track use without reengineering the engine bay for greater cooling and a much-reduced risk of fire when the car is modified.
The R35 GT-R is not what one would call a budget track car unless your definition of a normal track car is a Ferrari. That said, for about $60,000, a used R35 can reliably outrun Ferraris and a bevy of other incredibly exotic machinery with a minimal amount of effort. Lightly modified, R35s make for incredibly fast machines that are still reliable and easy to daily drive. More heavily modified, they can take on the greatest time attack cars ever built. And win.
For those ready to get serious about their motorsport pursuits, or for those with a larger budget and a penchant for computer-aided speed, the high tech Nissan GT-R is always a supremely capable choice.
By far the best motorsport for anyone new to the world of going fast would be Autocross. Cheap to enter, easy on both car and driver, yet utterly thrilling, Autocross provides all the upsides with very few downsides. More expensive vehicles actually tend to offer less intense driving sessions in Autocross, as the courses are essentially scaled-down racetracks marked out by cones in a parking lot.
In Autocross, the driver is constantly swinging the wheel, working the pedals, shifting the car’s weight, and dancing between cones. It’s good fun, especially in a compact and affordable vehicle. Nissan once offered a car that was similar to Autocross in that it was so cheap and easy to get into, yet so fun and capable. That car was the B15 generation Sentra SE-R.
Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V
Even the compact B15 Sentra’s base model would be more than capable of putting a smile on its driver’s face through an autocross course, provided it was equipped with a manual transmission. But the 2002 to 2006 SE-R Spec V was anything but a normal Sentra. It was hot-rodded with a Nissan engine intended for much larger vehicles, dramatically oversized for its roughly 2,600-pound body.
This engine provided the little compact with unprecedented get up and go, and this wasn’t the only party trick the SE-R featured. The engine put its power to the ground through a limited-slip differential, making the front-wheel drive car rotate through corners like few other vehicles in its class. All of this came from the factory, and to this day, the B15 Spec V is one of the most sought after Nissans by enthusiasts.
Visit Your Nissan Dealer to Experience Excitement
No matter if you’re just getting into motorsport or you’re an old hand looking for your next racecar, your local Nissan dealer has the sports machine you need. For both the weekend warrior or the championship-chasing racer, Nissan has built sports cars and exotics that perfectly suit what you want to do. However, even Nissan’s more mainstream options provide the performance you need to have fun. As the old ads used to say, Nissans are built for the human race.