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[Datsun 1200 encyclopedia]

Engine Swaps

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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 B110 engine compartment by design of Nissan factory experts. And it is the most reliable and fuel-efficient engine in stock condition.

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

Early A12 engine
803.jpgAlbum 803

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 POST A series 1/4 mile time.

A12 stock: 69 HP
A12 built: 80 HP $2500
A14 stock: 80 hp $900 good used engine
A12 turbo: 127 hp $1200 EFI Turbo A12

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.

A12  1970-1973 70mm stroke, 73mm bore early-mount type
A12  1974-1994 70mm stroke, 73mm bore late-mount type
A12A 1977-1982 70mm stroke, 75mm bore late-mount type with stronger conrods and larger diameter wrist pins

A14 engine with factory A12 twin carbs
776.jpgAlbum 776

1974-up engines (including A12s) 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 (modified mounts):
1779.jpgAlbum 1779

A14/A15 Installation

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
  • Can legally be swapped into B110/B120, without needing mod plating/certification in states in Australia with the +20% displacement limit (contact your local transport authority beforehand)(Note: Both engines use basically the same engine block, with different rotating assemblies to achieve the different displacements. Fitting the A15 crank/rods/pistons into the A14 block essentially makes it an A15, just with A14 engine numbers on it, giving you a legal 'A15' swap without needing certification ;-) )

A15 advantages

  • A15 has 7% more capacity than the A14, giving a power/torque 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/torque at lower speeds)
  • A14 and A15 stock bottom ends can both rev to 8,500 rpm] so there's no advantage there (see POST reving stock bottom ends). 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 small-block 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.

For A14s and A15s running 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 ratio is more efficient. To get this, you need longer rods to match a longer stroke. However, A14 and A15 use the same length rod, which puts the A15 at a disadvantage. Or does it? From previous discussion, an optimal rod-to-stroke ratio is good for about 1% power. But either way the A15 is 7% larger displacement across the entire RPM range. I'll trade a 1% peak power disadvantage for a 7% general power advantage any day of the week.

rod/stroke ratio
1.74  A12
1.73  A14
1.62  A15 (Max 9500 RPM)
1.482 A15 crank in A12 block

A "long rod" motor has a rod/stroke ratio of 1.7 to 1.8 for naturally aspirated designs. So the A12 and A14 are already there. But not the A15.

If class rules limit your engine CCs, then it may be worthwhile to have a long rod-stroke ratio 1500cc engine vs a regular A15 engine. This gives a small advantage, and that's what makes winners in the racing game.

1500 class
Rod     Stroke Bore CC    R/S ratio
130mm   73     80.5 1486  1.781 (long)
133mm   82     76   1488  1.622 (stock A15)
121.5mm 77     78.5 1491  1.577 (extra short)

As you can see in the chart above, using an A12 crank with custom 130mm rods will give you a long-rod motor. Of course it will require custom pistons to fit. For the 1500cc class you can use 80.5mm pistons with a sleeved out block. Compare to a stock A15 this long-rod version will not rev any higher (a stock A15 can do 9500 RPM) but the dwell time at TDC is slightly longer. So with the right camshaft timing the 1486 will make a bit more HP than the 1488 version.

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 at a very inexpensive price.

* Discussion: POST A Series? L Series? or CA?

Following are some popular engine swap choices.

L-series OHC fours

The Nissan L-series engine, as used in various Datsun/Nissan models e.g. L16, L18, L20B.

NOTE: Nissan put the L14 in the Japan-only Datsun PB110. The L20B is taller though so not as frequently used, but it will fit under the hood with careful location. A super-rare racing engine was the L-series twin-cam], fitted to 1200 racing cars.

L18 fitted into Datsun 1200: 130 hp
92.jpgAlbum 92 12844_4e47614321298.jpgPost 379706

LZ DOHC engine
95.jpgAlbum 95

For relatively low expense, the L20B can be bored/stroked up to a monstrous 2.4L. This can be used to thwart engine swap displacement limitations which put the larger Z/KA swaps out of reach

Factory-installed L-series engine in B110
10318.jpgAlbum 10318

Z-series engines

These crossflow-headed four cylinder engines are based on the L-series. All install into a 1200 more or less the same way as the L-series.

Z18ET 1.8 turbo from Bluebird
Z20 2.0 liter from S110 Silvia/200SX
Z22 2.2 liter from S110 "200SX"
Z24 2.4 liter from 720 truck, C22 Van

The nice thing about the Z18ET, is it's a factory turbo setup, legal to swap into a 1200 (with engineer's certificate/mod plate) in most Australian states. The downsides: How available is it? How available are rebuild/performance parts?

Z20 NAPS-Z engine
79.JPGAlbum 79

Turbocharged NAPS-Z engine
829.jpgAlbum 829

E-series OHC

See Main Article: E-series Engine Swap

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


A common swap in the USA 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 Navara/Hardbody pickups.

KA24E in Datsun 1200

The main downside is their weight — as heavy as an L-series engine (the KA24 is based on the L-series engines). 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 SR or CA may be better for high-dollar supercar buildups.

In Australia, this engine may exceed the displacement limitations for engine swaps into the B110/B120 in your state, so may not be able to be used on the road (check with your local transport authority).


CA engines fit in the 1200's engine compartment like they were meant to go there.

* CA18ET SOHC (not DOHC) turbo engine
* CA20ET from Nissan S12, same as the CA18ET but larger
* CA18DE. 16-valve DOHC 
* CA18DET. The legendary DOHC turbo engine

SOHC turbo
4173.jpgAlbum 4173

Many say the CA18DET is the very best engine for a Datsun 1200 swap. Excellent engine. High power potential.

The CA20 looks promising as it's a big 2.0 litre four similar to the A-series, but it has a POST poor reputation — as does the rest of the single cammed CA family.


The Nissan CG series of small-bore engines are excellent 16-valve all-alloy designs, lighter than even the A12 engine. There are 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.

Main: CG engine
* Nissan Micra/March
* Nissan Cube

L-series Six-Cylinder

Very rare is the Nissan inline-6 L20, L24, L26 and L28 engines being swapped into 1200s. There are other common Nissan engines which are lighter and make more power. L-six requires major mods, chiefly involving engine setback and tunnel modifications.

Source: most famously from the Z-cars, but also from Datsun Bluebird stretch 810 and 910.

27093.jpgAlbum 27093

Main: L26

Ron Folck's L26-powered (260Z engine) 1200 race car.
819.jpgAlbum 819

POST Bakkie with L28
29485.jpgAlbum 29485

L28 in 1200 coupe
174_55a0290946ad9.jpgPost 470331

High-power Turbo Fours

The advantage of these engines are that they are fairly lightweight (being four cylinder engines) and in stock form give much 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?
1284.jpgAlbum 1284
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. A 300 hp CA18DET (282 pounds) would weigh nearly 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.


Swapping a Nissan CA engine into a Datsun 1200 is perhaps the most common high-power swap. It provides abundant horsepower (up to 400 hp) in a small, lightweight package. It will fit into the 1200 without cutting the firewall or body.



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



The FJ20DET 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 thanks to its 16-valve head.


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?


The VQ is Nissan's incredibly powerful, smooth and snarl-sounding V6.

Nissan SOHC V6

Nissan DOHC V6

Main: 3800 The 3800 (Buick 3.8 V6 gen II) is GM's refined, durable and affordable V6

16825.jpg 10857.jpg

South Africa GX Coupe with V6 stroker, M75 diff, Cressida gearbox, rollcage
29486.jpgAlbum 29486

Ford Essex V6? (front-distributor engine)
13785.jpgAlbum 13785

Chevrolet 4.3 V6
25249.jpgAlbum 25249

Chevrolet 2.8 in B210 Coupe
9076.jpgAlbum 9076

GM 3100 Engine Swap (Chevrolet 60-degree V6)
12076.jpgAlbum 12076 12077.jpgAlbum 12077 12080.jpgAlbum 12080 12207.jpgAlbum 12207

Inline/straight 6

20020.jpgAlbum 20020

Main: DAT-186 GM Holden 186 in Datsun 1000

5434.jpgAlbum 5434

RB Engine

Straight-six RB motors may be swapped into a 1200 by using engine setback. Even so, the engine must come forward as far as possible, with the fan removed from the engine and a pusher fan placed in front of the radiator.

RB engine in Bakkie. Plenty of room for radiator & front mounted intercooler
14767.jpgAlbum 14767

RB engine in 510: see POST drive belt setup
29488.jpgAlbum 29488

Nissan RB30 in B210
2078_5290409cd32aa.jpgUpload click to view

RB20 in B210 - Built by Steve and Kev
12188.jpgAlbum 12188

Prep of B110
11436.jpgAlbum 11436

RB engine in Silvia#S15
16176.jpgAlbum 16176


Ford windsor, Chevrolet small block and LS, even the mighty Chrysler HEMI — all have been swapped into Datsun 1200s!

Main: V8


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

Pluses: 13% lighter than SR20DE, 20% lighter than KA24DE. 30mm shorter than SR20, so possibly fitting the 1200 very well. It also has twin, counter-rotating balance shafts, so it should be a nice smooth engine. The drive-by-wire throttle body would eliminate the need for a throttle cable/linkage setup, though may be a tricky/expensive luxury.

  • QR25DE 2.5 liter Nissan/Infiniti 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.

GA-Series Engine

The Nissan GA16 engine is somewhat similar to the A15 but with 45% more HP.

RWD transmissions are available from Asian and European markets. Though most (all?) have a distributor mounted at the transmission end of the cylinder head. A crank trigger setup could be used to avoid putting a hole in the firewall to fit it.

This engine is equipped with a simple variable cam timing (VCT) system which helps it produce 116HP. You could even convert it to use a carburetor or two, and using an ignition-only ECU, program it to power a relay to switch the VCT on/off at a certain rpm.

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, 130 lb ft torque (versus 110 lb ft for the GA16DE)
QG18DD: 1999+ 114 HP, 128 ft lb torque

AY12 Engine

Nissan Mystery Motor


Electric Power

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

Main: Electric

8-inch DC Motor
778.jpgAlbum 778

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 ;-)

Dodge V10

Dodge V10 is a Chrysler Magnum V8 with two added cylinders for total of ten cylinders

Main: V10


Ford 2.3

four-cylinder Ecoboost 310 hp factory stock anyone?

Ford_Pinto_engine#Lima_OHC_(LL) 2.3 litre with turbo or without turbo

up to 190 hp stock
* Ranger/B2300/Aerostar/Courier
* Thunderbird/Fairmount/LTD/Mustang/Capri
* Pinto/Bobcat

2.3 in Datsun 1200
11781.jpgAlbum 11781 4952.jpgAlbum 4952

Suzuki GB Engine

Suzuki G-series B engine is a lightweight, high-output, twin-cam four cylinder. The G13B from the GTI Swift is lighter than the A15, but makes 36.25% more HP:

  • G13B - 109HP
  • A15 - 80HP


Astron Hemi

The famous Chrysler Hemi 2.6 -- Mitsubishi Astron engine 1974-1997

4G5 Mitsubishi Astron engine in Datsun 1200 up to 2.6 liter


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

Starion engine in 1200
25887.jpgAlbum 25887 25888.jpgAlbum 25888

Toyota Diesel

29486.jpgAlbum 29486

Toyota Hemi

Toyota 2T in Datsun 1200

Toyota Twin-Cam

The famous hachi-roku engine

1.6 liter 4A engine
826.jpgAlbum 826

3S-GE non-turbo 2.0 liter DOHC 140-212 hp

3S-GTE Celica/MR2 turbo engine (stock 185-260 hp). Use a POST Holden Corona RWD bellhousing
300px-3SGTEengine.jpgWIKI go to Wikipedia 174_554bc7903e73d.jpgPost 467569 28203.jpgtrix

Toyota JZ Six

Straight Six

1JZ 2.5 liter
2JZ 3.0 liter
Main: JZ


Toyota M Six

POST mrwilson had this Turbocharged 7M-GTE 1992 Supra six-cylinder engine in his ute.

29483.jpgAlbum 29483 29484.jpgAlbum 29484

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.

POST 1400 fiat motor??

Rigoli's Sport Compact Icon Datsun 1200 ute
26491.jpgAlbum 26491

Mazda Piston Engine

Mazda 2-liter DOHC piston engine

Mazda Wankel Engine



Swedish 2 dr Sedan with a rear mounted Volvo Modular engine#B4204T5 200ps T5 engine by Rod Erlandsson
174_4d3b68e28febe.jpgPost 354322 174_5c4e447ed1151.jpgPost 490440


Audi 1.8T
3286.jpgAlbum 3286

Audi 1.8
17741.jpgAlbum 17741

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

In Australia, engine swaps are regulated by government guidelines.

So what's the largest size engine you can swap into a 1200 in Australia? As per the NCOP (National Code Of Practice), engine size is limited according to the tare weight of the car.

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 following the Australian Design Rules (ADR's), so check with your local authorities before starting!

Rough size limits using the NCOP guidelines:

  • 2.0 litre naturally aspirated piston engine


  • 1.8 litre forced induction (turbocharged and/or supercharged) piston engine


  • 1.0 litre (Mazda 10A) naturally aspirated rotary

If you REALLY must have a street-legal V8-powered 1200 (or other engine outside the limitations of your state), it is possible as an ICV (Individually Constructed Vehicle), but very expensive to certify, according to new-car Australia Design Rules.

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

17213.jpgAlbum 17213

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
KA24DE (estimated)167 kg368 lbs
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
GM BOP Alloy 3.5l (215 ci) 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 (2150 pounds) + 180lb driver = 2340 lbs (1061 kg)
39_4d8a66e0e9e05.jpgPost 360922

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