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[Datsun 1200 encyclopedia]

Engine Swaps

From Datsun 1200 Club

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Categories: Engine Modifications | Engine Swaps

What's the Best Engine?

Engine stuff you need to know


Best engine -- the A12?

There is no "best" engine, unless popularity counts for anything. Millions of vehicles were produced with the A12 engine, making it the most successful. Plus, the 1971-1973 A12 simply fits into the 1200 engine compartment by design of Nissan factory experts.

A special hi-po version of the A12 is the A12GX Engine. These came in Japan and South Africa Datsun 1200 GX models.

803.jpg A12 Engine

Should I build up my A12, or just get a bigger engine?

Building up your A12 can be quite fun and very educational. However, it will generally be more expensive than getting a larger engine. You could easily spend $2500-$4000 USD building up the A12. Also it will generally mean time that the car is not driveable, while an A14 engine swap can be done in a weekend.

On the other hand, if you find used parts, you could keep the cost down. Even adding a turbo is inexpensive if you do all the work yourself. Paying to have a shop do it usually costs around $2500-$4500 USD.

So what kind of performance increase can you expect? For $2500, you could drop from the stock 20-sec 1/4 time down to 17 seconds. That will make the car feel twice as fast. See discussion.

A-series Nissan Engines

Similar engines in the Nissan A-type series are the 1974-and-up A12, A13, A14, A15 and A12A. All fit in the 1200 with only minor changes. These are by far the most popular swapping candidates, since they just about slide right in. Other pluses of the A-series are: light weight, smooth running, and availability of racing parts. These are all excellent engines, but the bigger displacement of the A14 and A15 means more power/torque than the A12, A13 or A12A.

The A12A uses the "short block" casting as the A12 and same stroke as the A12, but uses 75mm bore instead of 73mm. NOTE: bore of the A14 and A15 is 76mm. reference: Nissan Competition catalog. The A12A is not to be confused with the Japan/Australia A12 from 1974 up. The "A12A" is the official designation used by Nissan for the 1977-1982 1237cc engine.


A12A comparison data

12200-H8500 CRANKSHAFT ASSY B310 A12S, A13S
12200-H1000 71-73 A12 (superceded by H8500)
12200-H5001 A12 -7909 (replacement but different)

piston w/pin
12010-H8661 A13 std 8011-
12010-H9022 all Canada A12A, USA 0879-0780
12010-H9512 USA A12A 0880-

12100-H8500 A12, A13, A12A
12100-H1000 71-73 A12

776.jpg A14 GX Engine

4779.jpg A15 Engine deck

4780.jpg A15 Engine (left side)

1974-up engines have the motor mount bosses in a different place compared to the 1971-1973 A12 engines. So the engine mounts are a bit different. This photos illustrates the difference:
Stock left-side mount in Datsun 1200, but Newer A12 engine. A better way is to move the brackets on the engine, to get the engine lower. You could also 1) use the 1974-up ute crossmember or 2) modify the crossmember.

A14/A15 Installation

See main article: A-series Engine Swaps

What's Better? A14 or A15?

It depends on what you mean by 'better'. Better fuel economy? Better acceleration?

A14 advantages

  • A14 often have better availability, meaning you can more often find one at an inexpensive price.
  • Racing class rules may allow a 1400cc engine while disallowing larger engines. In this case the A14 will be preferred by racers. Even though the A15 would be faster, they are not allowed to use it in that particular class.
  • A14 may achieve slightly better fuel economy

A15 advantages

  • A15 has 7% more capacity than the A14, giving an automatic power increase in low and mid-range RPMs
  • Since both use the same cylinder head, there is little top-end power advantage with either engine (both will put out the same top-end power, but the A15 has additional power at lower speeds)
  • A14 and A15 stock bottom ends can both rev to 8,500 rpm so there's no advantage there. With modified short blocks, both can rev to 10,000 rpm
  • A15 accelerates harder, when built the same (e.g. 80hp A15 vs 80hp A14) and geared the same
  • A15 can give better fuel economy when paired with low-ratio diff final drive, although this will reduce the performance/acceleration down to A14 levels.

Remember: "There is no replacement for displacement"

But isn't the A15 stroke to long to rev high?
If you drive an A15-powered car, you will see the tachometer rev up. No worries.

A long stroke determines how fast wear occurs at a given RPM. But compared to an even longer stroke Chevrolet smallblock V8 running at 10,000 rpm, the A15 stroke looks small by comparison. A15s could rev even higher than 8,500 RPM, but just like the A14 would need special valve train modifications and for highest RPMs need a scavenging oil pump with dry sump to make it worthwhile.

Since A14s and A15s run the same cylinder head and valve train, maximum horsepower is for all practical purposes equal. All things being equal, with both the A14 and A15 using the same well-prepared and flowed cylinder head, they'll make the same top-end power.

Doesn't the A15 have an inferior cylinder head?

Not true. There is no A15-specific head, but all A15s use heads designed for the A14. Late A15s can come with a swirl-port head with reduced high-RPM power -- but that same head was used on A14s. Early A15s used either the early A14 oval-port head or the A14 round-port head.

My friend swapped in an A15 and it had less power than his A14 did

Yes, A15 comes in 80 hp verions and 67 hp versions. A14 came in 80 or 65 hp. The lo-power versions came with round port heads (or small-oval ports) and shorter-duration cams. So make sure you get the 80 hp version of the A15 (or swaps the cam & heads if you have a lo-power version).

Rod length-to-stroke ratio

A long rod-length-to-stroke ratios is more efficient. To get this, you need longer rods to match a longer stroke. However, A14 and A15 use the same length rod. From previous discussion, an optimal rod-to-stroke ratio is good for about 1% power. The A14 doesn't have an optimal ratio but would need a longer rod itself. But either way the A15 is 7% larger displacement across the entire RPM range.

Other Nissan Engine Swaps

Sometimes you just want a bigger engine. After all, there's no replacement for displacement. Or maybe you come across an engine for free or very inexpensive price.

Following are some popular swap choices:

L-series OHC fours

See L-series Engine Swap

The Nissan L-series engine (as in the 1600/510) e.g. L16, L18, L20B.
NOTE: The L20B is taller though so not commonly used, but it will fit under the hood. Nissan put the L14 in the Japan-only PB110. A super-rare racing engine was the LZ20 twin-cam, fitted to 1200 racing cars.

92.jpg L18 fitted

95.jpg LZ20 DOHC engine

Z-series engines

See Nissan Z Engine

Z18ET turbo, Z20, Z22. These crossflow-headed engines are based on the L-series. All install into a 1200 more or less the same way.

The nice thing about the Z18ET is its a factory setup, legal in most Australia states for a 1200. The downside is how available is it, including the wiring harness?

43.jpg Z18T Turbo Engine

79.JPG Z20 NAPS-Z engine

825.jpg Supercharged NAPS-Z engine

829.jpg Turbocharged NAPS-Z engine

E-series OHC

E15, E15ET, or E16 OHC engines. These are plentiful in mid-80s Pulsars and Sentras, are similar to the A15 and have plenty of go-fast parts available.

See E-series Engine Swap


See KA Engine Swap

A less popular swap is the KA24 engine, this is a big one! at 2.4 liters. In many countries, it is readily available and inexpensive coming out of Nissan pickups.

1830.jpg KA24E in Datsun 1200

The main downside is that it is fairly heavy -- as heavy as an L-series engine (the KA24 is based on the L-series engines). One or two club members have swapped this into their 1200s with good success, reporting 14.0 second 1/4s with a stock motor. Reportedly, a stock KA24DE can handle a fair amount of turbocharger boost, but not as much and doesn't rev as high as the SR20DET or CA18DET. So it's a good engine for street use, but the others may be better for high-dollar supercar buildups.


See main article: CA-Series Engine Swaps

  • CA18ET SOHC (not DOHC) turbo engine
  • 4173.jpg
  • CA18DET. Many say this is the very best engine for a swap. Excellent engine. High power potential.
  • The CA20 looks promising as it's a big 2.0 liter four similar to the A-series, but it has a poor reputation
  • CA20ET from Nissan S12, same as the CA18ET but larger


The Nissan CG series of small-bore engines are excellent 16-valve all-alloy designs, lighter even than the A12 engine. There is a heap of performance parts for the CG series. This conversion has been done in NZ for a 1200 race car so it is possible. A 1.4 liter version is available.

For details, see CG engine.

L-series Six-Cylinder

Very rare is the Nissan inline-6 L20, L24, L26 and L28 engines

Ron Folck's L26-powered (260Z engine) 1200 race car.
* See main article: L26

L-six requires major mods, chiefly engine setback and tunnel modifications.

Bakkie with L28

L28 in 1200 coupe

High-power Turbo Fours

The advantage of these engines are that they are fairly lightweight (being fours) and in stock form give more power than the A-series engines. But it does take considerable craftsmanship to fit one in including the intercooler.

How efficient are these engines?
This chart shows that the FJ, CA and SR Turbo engines are twice as efficient than most engines in the matter of power/weight ratio. I estimate a 300 hp CA18DET (282 pounds) would weigh just over half that of 300 hp GM V8 (500 pounds).

Of course, the easiest way to go fast is: less weight, more power. These turbo fours deliver.


See main article: CA-Series Engine Swaps


There is a lot of information in the main forum on all aspects of the CA18DET swap.



The SR20 can bolt-in without cutting the firewall, though it's easier with an originally automatic-equpped car (which has a bigger central tunnel).

See SR engine swap



The F20DET engine was basically a detuned race engine, a bit heavy but possibly Nissan's strongest ever engine. The stock engine can take massive boost and survive, while turning out incredible horsepower

See FJ engine swap

V6s and V8s?

Yes, V6s and V8s can be swapped into Datsun 1200s (and have been!), with increasing amounts of crafting and modification required. Your 1200 won't handle curvy roads too well with all that weight up front, but that's not the point of this, eh?


Nissan VG Engine Swap SOHC V6

Nissan VQ Engine Swap DOHC V6

GM 3800 Engine Swap (Buick 3.8 V6)
16825.jpg 17779.jpg 10857.jpg

South Africa GX Coupe with V6 stroker, M75 diff, Cressida gearbox, rollcage



Straight six (L6/inline six).

  • GM Holden Six

DAT186 - GM Holden 186 in Datsun 1000
5434.jpg 5392.jpg 5475.jpg 5476.jpg 5413.jpg 12471.jpg 12542.jpg 12426.jpg



See main article: V8

479.jpg Ford 302 V8 187.jpg

761.jpg Windsor 11609.jpg

98.jpg GM Chevrolet 'smallblock' V8 97.jpg

6695.jpg Ford 5-liter 1190.jpg

410.jpg Chrysler 392 Hemi V8 115.jpg

6695.jpg Ford 2672.jpg

5603.jpg Gen III 2673.jpg

10094.jpg 383 Chev

Challenge Engine Swaps

The following are not known to have been successfully completed.

More information on any of these subjects can be found in the Forums.

QR-Series Engine

See QR-Series Engine
  • QR25DE 2.5 liter Nissan/Infiniti engine. Pluses: 13% lighter than SR20DE, 20% lighter than KA24DE. 30mm shorter than SR20, so possibly fitting the 1200 very well. It also has twin, counterrotating balance shafts so it should be a nice smooth engine. The drive-by-wire throttle body should make for easy swap (no throttle linkage to worry about).

4754.jpg QR20DE and QR25DE

2834.jpg QR25DE Engine

Mazda B6 DOHC Head Swap

Mazda B6 DOHC head on A-engine. Head bolts on, but water and oil passages are different.

CR-Series Engine

Nissan CR engine is an all-alloy 16-valve engine -- the modern A-series, with same displacements and general engine dimensions. CR14DE is the most powerful.

See main article: CR Engine Swap

GA-Series Engine

The Nissan GA16 engine is similar to the A15, but distributor is in the back and RWD transmissions are avialable and Asia and Europe markets. The compelling part of this swap is 116 HP from variable cam timing. You could even carburete this engine and still use the VCT with an RPM-activated 12V relay.

See main article GA Engine Swap

HR16 Engine

HR16 replaced GA16, yet makes less HP.

HR16DE: 2009+ 112 HP
GA16DE: 1992+ 115 HP with wikipedia:N-VCT
QG18DE: 1999+ 114 HP (but with 130 lb ft torque vs 110 lb ft of GA16DE)
QG18DD: 1999+ 114 HP, 128 ft lb torque 1999-2004 Nissan Sunny

AY12 Engine

Nissan Mystery Motor

A12Y engine

RB Engine

Straight six motors may be swapped into a 1200 by using engine setback.

Nissan RB30 in B210

RB20 in B210

Electric Power

See main article: Electric

Non-Nissan Engines

NOTE to newbys: Beware of mentioning rotary-powered or Toyota 4A engine-powered 1200s. Some club members may get offended! But really, these are also excellent engines that fit in fairly well. Just don't tell anybody ;-)

GB Engine

Suzuki G-series B engine is a lightweight, high-output, twin-cam four cylinder. For example, the G13B from GTI Swift is lighter than A15, but 109 HP compare to 80HP for an A15.

See main article: Suzuki GB Engine Swap



Mitsubishi 4G6 "Sirius" engine. 4G63 (2 liter) as fitted to Starion.

Starion engine in 1200


Electric Motors

Tire-smokin' fast no-petrol Datsun 1200s. It's Electric

Discussion: Electric-engined 1200s.

778.jpg 8-inch DC Motor

Toyota Hemi

See main article: Toyota T Engine Swap

Toyota 2T
19191.jpg 18774.jpg

Toyota Twin-Cam

826.jpg Toyota 4A engine

Toyota JZ Six

Strait Six
1JZ 2.5 liter
2JZ 3.0 liter

See main article: JZ

Toyota M Six

mrwilson had this Turbocharged 7M-GTE 1992 Supra six-cylinder engine in his ute. More pics at mrjpwilson

th_Picture013.jpg th_DSC00045.jpg

It was for sale in 2010: Nissan 1400 turbo

Fiat Twin-Cam

A Fiat DOHC engine powers one of the fastest Datsun 1200s on the planet.

Mazda Piston Engine

See Mazda piston engine swap

747.jpg Mazda 2-liter DOHC piston engine

Mazda Wankel Engine

* Mazda rotary engine swap
* 13B engine swap

158.jpg Mazda 13B rotary engine

93.jpg Mazda 13B Turbo rotary engine


Audi 1.8T

Audi 1.8

I'm in Australia. Are there limits to what engine size I can use?

In Australia, engine swaps are regulated by government guidelines. What's the largest size engine you can swap into a 1200? It varies by state, but most limit engine size according to the weight of the car. Commonly for the 1200, a 2.0 liter naturally aspirated engine, or a 1.8 liter turbo engine is allowed (hence the popularity of the CA18DET swap). An engineer must certify the installation per old-car Design Rules, so check before starting!.

If you must have a street-legal V8-powered 1200, it is possible but very expensive to certify according to new-car Design Rules. So search the forums for more details.

Also See

* B210 Engine Swaps

Other Vehicles

A12, A14 and A15 have been used in boats and as industrial engines.

* Boats
* Carpet Cleaning Machine
* Nissan and TCM Forklift

Engine weights and specs


A1287 kg192 lbs
A1493 kg205 lbs
2ZZ-FE97 kg210 lbs
L18118 kg260 lbs
CA18ET118 kg260 lbs
QR25DE121 kg267 lbs
CA18DET128 kg282 lbs
E1138 kg304 lbs
SR20DE139 kg306 lbs
SR20DET149 kg328 lbs
FJ20ET166 kg366 lbs
Z20157 kg346 lbs
KA24DE167 kg368 lbs (estimated)
VG30166 kg360 lbs
VQ35 alloy engine142 kg313 lbs
VG30DETT277 kg510-610 lbs
Ford 2.8 V6-60138 kg305 lbs
Ford 3.8 V6-90159 kg351 lbs
Ford 3.0 SHO V6-60211 kg465 lbs
Ford 3.2 SHO V8-60177+ kg390+ lbs
Rover 3500 (215 cu. in.) V8144 kg318 lbs
Buick/Olds/Pontiac Alloy 3.5-liter (215 cu. in.) V8145 kg318 lbs
Ford 5.0204 kg450 lbs
Chevrolet Small Block V8250 kg550 lbs
Chevy Gen-III Alloy 6.0-litre (LS2)220 kg485 lbs
Chevy Gen-III Alloy 7-litre (LS7)208 kg458 lbs
Hemi 392337 kg745 lbs

Spec references:

NOTE: Engine weights are measured different ways (with oil, without, etc), so take this with a grain of salt. Even more useful comparo would be the engine/trans combo weight. From this chart it may seem that a certain engine will only weigh a few kilos more, but add the weight of the matching transmission and it may be quite a lot more than the other engine/trans combo.

The total weight will be way up because of heavier transmission, diff, brakes, etc.

1200 after Z24 swap + 190lb driver (2150 pounds)

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