The Best Nissan Crate Engines for Your Next Project

Nissan has quite a lineup of engines. From runabout 4-cylinders to absolute powerhouses, the range is quite diverse, with names like RB26 and VR38 sitting on top.

Of Nissan’s most celebrated engineering efforts, a few tend to be more desirable than the rest. Of course, each engine is developed with a purpose and therefore caters to a different audience.

The same applies to crate engines. Whether it’s an LS V8 or a Hemi, your decision is often swayed by your preferences.

GM folks prefer GM, Mopar dudes love Mopar, and to a JDM fan, there’s nothing more sacrilegious than LS-swapping an S15.

So, if you’re in the market for a JDM crate engine for racing purposes, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best ones bearing the Nissan nameplate.

VR38DETT Crate Motor

VR38DETT crate motor

The VR38 is a biturbo or twin-turbo V6 powering the mighty R35 GT-R.

As for output, the engine makes upwards of 500 hp, with NISMO variants pushing past 700 hp. It’s quite the powerhouse and is no stranger to the tuning community.

Plenty of suppliers offer VR38 crate engines. AMS and HKS have complete VR38 stroker engines with displacement increased to 4.3L.

Magnus Motorsports has a similar offering in their roster as well. Boost Logic offers a 3.8L Stage 1 crate engine rated for up to 1,500 hp.

As you can tell, options are aplenty. But these VR38s aren’t cheap. Even though the crate engines come with top-of-the-line hardware, they can cost a small fortune.

HKS quotes $78,000 for the “VR43,” while the rest of the engines cost between $18,000 and $36,000.

RB26DETT Crate Engine

RB26DETT crate engine by HKS

The RB26DETT is nothing short of a masterstroke when it comes to sophistication. In stock form, the straight-6 puts out up to 316 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque.

Nissan intentionally over-engineered the RB26, thus leaving plenty of headroom for higher output levels.

Tomei sells a 2.8L crate engine with either the standard block or the N1. The kit is pretty comprehensive, with a 12-counterweight billet crank, lightweight H-beam connecting rods, NISMO bearings, and ARP studs.

HKS also supplies complete RB26 2.8L crate engines with a ton of bespoke equipment. Reinforced valve springs, titanium retainers, billet pistons, high-lift cams, the list goes on.

Tomei sells the standard short block for $15,000, with the N1 costing an extra $5,000. HKS, on the other hand, is pretty expensive, starting at $40,000.

Nissan VQ40DE Crate

Nissan VQ40DE crate motor

If hauling is what you’re after, along with excellent reliability and efficiency, Nissan’s VQ40DE is an engine worth considering.

Depending on the year and model, the 4.0L V6 makes anywhere from 261 hp to 275 hp with torque rated between 281 lb-ft and 288 lb-ft.

Although the stock numbers may seem underwhelming, the engine has decent tuning potential and can handle quite a bit of abuse.

You can source VQ40 crate engines from ATK, Fraser, and Tri-Star, among others. All engines are zero-mile rebuilt items with new internal gaskets and seals.

Prices for VQ40 crate engines range between $3,500 to $5,200, depending on the make. If that’s expensive, you can always shop for used items, of which there are plenty.

Nissan VK56 Crate Engine

Nissan VK56 block

The VK56 is an all-aluminum V8 with outputs ranging from 305 hp to 320 hp and 385-393 lb-ft.

The 5.6L naturally-aspirated engine is quite torquey, hence why you’ll find it in most Nissan utilitarians, like the Titan, for instance. Interestingly, the same engine, albeit with slight modifications, is used in Nissan’s LMP3 race cars!

As for crate engines, JASPER sells remanufactured VK56s, as does ATK, with prices starting from $4,500.

Hartley Engines is quite the expert in the VK56 space, with the company even launching Turn-Key Packages based on the VK56 platform.

The range kicks off from 600 hp street builds to 1,200-plus hp twin-turbo engines. Pricing for these custom VK56s is yet to be announced, though.

Nissan KA24E Crate Engine

KA24E crate engine

Nissan engineered the KA24E with a cast-iron cylinder block, cast steel connecting rods, and a half-counterweighted forged steel crankshaft.

Although the motor found its way into a 240SX, this Japanese 4-pot is better suited for torque-rich applications as seen in the D21 pickup.

Depending on the model, the KA24E is available in two states of tune — 134 hp and 140 hp.

You can, however, tune the motor quite extensively since the internals are pretty robust and can withstand some serious abuse.

ATK Engines sells a long block KA24E as a remanufactured item, compliant with California and Federal emissions.

Priced at a little over $3,000, the crate engine gets narrow intake ports and is shipped with the timing cover and oil pump pre-installed.

That said, it’s far from a turn-key drop-in and will require sourcing additional accessories.

Horses for Courses

The type of crate engine you pick will depend on your needs. For hauling and towing, a VK56, VQ40, or Z24 is better than, say, a high-revving RB26.

Also, budget is something to consider. Most of these engines cost upwards of $5,000, which is a lot.

If you prefer saving a bit of money, going the junkyard route and sourcing low-mileage engines would be advised against buying brand-new ones.

Hope you enjoyed reading the article. Which one would you pick? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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