The BDC Engine Wars – The RB

The rev limiter. 

Some drifters love it, some drifters hate it. One thing is for certain though, it definitely steers a lot of drivers’ engine choice for their steed. If you hate hitting the rev limiter, pick up a V8. If you don’t mind hitting the rev limiter when you need to, a JZ is your best option. If you absolutely love the limiter and want to batter it at all times during a run, accept no substitutes for an RB.

The RB is one of Nissan’s most long-lived engines. The family of inline-6s began production way back in 1985, and lasted all the way until 2004 when the last R34 GTR Nismo Z-Tune rolled out of the skunkworks’ doors. (just FYI, if you ever see an R34 Z-Tune in person, make sure you take pictures, because only 19 exist.)

The RB came in sizes from 2.0 litres to as high as 3.0, with the RB30 being found most commonly in Australian VL Holden Commodores, especially the police cruisers, with the designation BT1. But the most common engines in drifting are the RB25 and the RB26. The RB26s can be stroked out to 2.8 litres for those hankering for more displacement. Some guy named Duane McKeever has an RB28 in his car, apparently. (Seriously, if you want to see an RB withstand a solid minute of punishing abuse, have a look at Duane’s Superlap at Tullyroan). 

So, in a world where the consensus seems to be one of movement away from the RB in favour of the Toyota JZ, the drivers who have elected to use an RB are now in the minority. However, you will still find RBs powering the likes of Duane McKeever, William Hanna, Stephen Fitzgerald, Dylan Kehoe, JJ Stevens and Axel Hildebrand. They may be down, but they are most certainly not out. So what keeps people persevering with the RB?

Well, a huge motivating factor for some people is the nature of the engine. RBs are very revvy, and will withstand being revved all the way to 9k with the right supporting mods. As such, throttle response is great, and a well-built engine can be an extremely rewarding experience to drive. 

There is also the aspect of convenience. Some of the cars on the BDC grid were fitted with this engine from the factory. If there’s nothing wrong with it, why would you rip it out and deal with the expense of swapping in a new engine? The RB has just as strong of an aftermarket and is more than capable of holding its own against the might of the JZ. 

Additionally, there’s a purity aspect to it for some drivers. Some drivers believe Nissans should have Nissan engines, and the RB is considered the zenith of the Nissan engine line-up to a lot of people. 

But, one of the biggest reasons why people stick with the RB is quite simple. Noise.

The RB is one of the most incredible sounding engines when on the limiter, and there is nary a drifting fan out there who doesn’t find it entertaining to watch an RB-powered car driven in the “Irish” style – in a nutshell, pin the throttle to the bulkhead and smash the clutch to control the car.  

Axel Hildebrand’s savage S14 has an RB25 heart under the bonnet:

“Whilst purists might argue that you don’t need anything more than an SR20, we all know that the RB Engine is more powerful, more reliable and undoubtedly the best sounding engine made by Nissan. It’s a very easy engine to work on and the standard engine will hold 500bhp reliably with bolt on modifications. There are many companies now building RB’s with over 1000bhp so there really is no need to turn your Nissan into a Toyota or a Chevrolet to stay competitive in drifting. Use good quality oil and change it frequently and with a good tune, your RB will love you long time.” – Axel Hildebrand


Nobody can deny the RB’s status as a legendary engine in the drifting, and we personally hope that just for the sheer spectacle, they stay a while longer. So, are you an RB fan or does another powerplant get your love?

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