Darchitect's GA16DE to SR20VE

This has been moved to the Useful Information section in the hope that everybody may benefit regardless whether you drive an N14, N15 or N16. This is not a thread on how Nissan built it’s VVL equivalent, how to tune a VVL or even how it works as that would take forever to write up but more entirely on my experience on getting one working in an Almera. The time of writing was November 1st 2005, quite a few people have done this conversion since then, so a lot has changed and many of the stages I went through have been simplified over the years. It will take you 12 minutes to read and I promise it’ll be worth your while, if you want a more technical understanding please click on the links below.

It's July 2005, I was on the verge of getting a Civic Type R as a present for myself towards the eve of my 25th birthday and for a while I thought about it primarily on the grounds of value for money. I guess you could say I came to my crossroads; do I spend £17k on a Civic Type R, get a £3.5k Almera GTi (clean slate) and swap to the DET engine or make the most of what I’ve spent a hellavalot of £ on my existing GA16 5 door? Unfortunately money is of an objective and budget constraints had a lot on influencing my decision. 5 Months ago the offer I got for my 5 door made me cringe so it made me think like the rest of us, why let the investment go to waste? I decided to take a combination of the 2nd and 3rd road in the crossroad and two fingers to ever selling my ‘Mera.

I’ve noticed that some of you are considering the SR20DET swap so why spoil the party and do something so predictable, besides, somebody here has already done the (more cost effective) bolt-on turbo which in my eyes is no different than the Pulsar swap. Originally I was considering the VG30DETT swap from the 300ZX, the VQ35DE from the latter 350Z and even the RB26DETT from an R34. But after finding out the RB blocks were too tall, the VQ blocks were restrictively tunable and the VG blocks were laughable (to attempt that is); the only other option were the SR..VE blocks from the X-Trail, Primera and G20 Nissans. I’m still learning about these blocks as you’re reading this so I ain’t no expert on its capabilities but the general idea is that these series engines are Nissans answer to Hondas VTEC, Mitsubishis MIVEC and Toyota’s VVT. With a thoroughly scheduled plan this swap can be done from an SR20DE Almera GTi in 24 hours and up to 60 hours from a GA**DE Almera Non-GTi. Most of my time has been wasted waiting for parts and fiddling about, which is why it’s taken me 5 months!

I’m still undecided upon super/turbo charge routes at this point so the direction for now is to squeeze the most hp without the use of forced induction. So here we have it… the relatively unknown and unadvertised Nissan Ecologically Orientated Variable Valve Timing and Lift, 187whp and 38mpg on the motorway. Good luck if you ever find these engines in the U.K. as they’re unavailable to the UKDM and bloody hard to find anywhere as they don’t make them any more. As far as I know there are four versions of the VE;

• The SR16VE and the SR16VE N1 being from the Sunny Lucino VZ-R, Sunny GT, Pulsar VZ-R and Pulsar VZ-R N1 and Pulsar VZ-R N1 SSS respectively
• Whilst the SR20VE and SR20VET are from the Primera, Infiniti G20, Bluebird, Wingroad, Autobacs Garaiya and X-Trail SUV, and Trailrunner Concept Car.

I opted for the SR20VE as I couldn’t find an SR20VET (or at least one for sale anyway). At the time of planning I did my University thesis on the import/export trade (as at the time I was planning on setting up my own import/export company) so I already knew the complications, restrictions and processes of importing and exporting products, services and in this case, engines. Being based in the U.K. it was decided that I would purchase the engine within the vicinity of Europe, as it didn't require import tax and was (arguably) insurance friendly. It may not have been the cheapest place to purchase a VE engine but when you total up the costs of tax, freight and insurance blah, blah, blah… It works out cheaper in the long run. The most expensive I found were in Japan of which a single block came a little shy of £6k, with the cheapest being £600 from the U.S., now if you can imagine shipping an engine in the excess of around 120kg from America let alone Japan it would take forever and a stupid amount of money to receive.

It doesn't get cleaner than this.

Getting the Engine
In the end I purchased my SR20VE from a nice chap called Timo (japanmotors@kolumbus.fi) from Japan Moottorituonti Oy based in Finland. After waiting on the right € to £ ratio, a little hard bargaining, reassurance as well as politically correct translation you’d expect from a Jap speaking Engrish with a Finnish accent; I was able to haggle the VE engine to a little under £1k including, local (Finnish) taxes and delivery to a U.K. address. Using electronic bank transfer the money took a week to reach their accounts of which the engine took the following week to arrive on the doorstep. It was the most money I’ve ever sent to somebody I didn’t know and will probably never meet, but under the assurance of Big_Al who I’ve also hardly known and never met I guess you could say I was pretty crazy! Nevertheless, I guess I was lucky and it proves that the registered members on AOC are trustworthy.

Brief Intro
Skipping through the crap to the whole point of this thread, I hope to clear up the discrepancies, or shall I say truth behind what the Americans and British say against what actually works for our Almera. It will mostly help those of you who don’t run a GTi and at the same time give the rest of the GTi owners, an incite to how much easier it is to install this engine, without having to go through what I went and without the complications an SR20DET would entail (reliability and usability). The following is not the ideal way to get the most out of the VE but merely how to get the engine running on the barest essentials. Because this thread is going to be too long I’ll skip the process of taking a GA16DE (or any Almera engine) out of the car and concentrate on putting it back together with the SR20VE.

Starting with an empty engine bay...
Now is the opportunity for you track racers to remove the P/A/S pump + mechanism and A/C compressor if you want lighter car and less pulleys on the engine.

If you want to keep the A/C… although the pipes look identical they are very different between GA and SR models and don’t line up correctly. Following that, the whole system would need to be recharged anyway at the cost of £60/£65 depending where you are. To save hassle of leaving these accessories lying around, you could always hang them somewhere safely on the chassis along with the drive shafts and breaks whilst the DE block is being removed. Make sure you don’t risk damaging the pipelines and hoses! When Big_Al did his, I believe he jacked the ‘Mera up high in the air in order to lift the VE from the floor in to place; this is a very safe way of replacing an engine block however, my slammed ‘Mera is afraid of heights and I on the other hand am too lazy for that sort of effort. So I just jacked my ‘Mera high enough to remove the front wheels and took off the bonnet completely in order to lower the VE via an engine hoist.

The alternator’s different as well as most of the ancillaries including all the harnesses, heater hoses, belts, starter motor, steering pump mechanism, water pump, engine and inside wiring looms. Further down the bottom and working our way up, the whole down pipe is needed as well as the GTi header (manifold to head gasket would need changing), the driveshafts (you might as well take the breaks too as they’re attached between these and the) hubs, struts and engine mounts. The transmission is also completely different; the VE block comes with an unusable CVT (continuously variable transmission) flywheel so you’ll need the whole DE lot from the flywheel to the clutch assembly kit oh and the gearbox too! At the front, I noticed that even though both engines have dual radiator fans, the GTi one is unsurprisingly larger, unsure if it’s needed or not, we took it anyway. You won’t need the GTi intake manifold as the VE comes with one specially designed for the VVL already on the block, so no fussing about is needed there! However, from the throttle and beyond you’ll need the whole GTi induction kit.

Replace all fluids

I had to remove the engine a few unnecessary times in order to get sections of the VE and DE wiring loom in to place so the order of reconnecting the ancillaries may vary between your luck and whatever hoses/wires you accidentally break. We removed everything from the block minus the exhaust manifold, starter motor and transmission (gearbox) before lowering the engine in to the bay. Following this and I can’t remember the exact order, the following was then connected; shafts, mounts, brackets, DE throttle body, numerous bolts, radiator, fans, down pipe, hoses, power steering pump (if wanted), air con compressor (if wanted), clutch cable and various sections of the DE/VE harness and wiring looms including several sensors. I’m still using the original GA16DE OE back box with the GTi CAT and it’s very restrictive on top end power but remember that we’re talking about getting the VE working on the bare minimum.

The VVL Cams can be seen in green and purple

VE intake on DE throttle (notice the finish differences)

A lot of the problems came with the wiring and sensors, you have to strip down both the DE and VE wiring looms wire by wire and mix them together as well as modifying a lot of the connectors as some on one cable are rectangular with the corresponding ends being squares. Apart from the wiring diagrams sourced were written in Japanese the other headache was finding out that the wire colours don’t match.
One thing to remember is that this engine is from vehicles with automatic transmission so another less thing to worry about is the cruise control mechanism sensors. It is possible to get cruise control working on a manual car however, it’s more of a headache than you need and something you should leave till last unless you have time/money to burn. Most of the modifications/fabrications are on and around the VE intake as the brackets and cables don’t line up, with some of them at the wrong angles requiring some creative clamping and custom plumbing. For a start, the VE intake is shorter than the DE causing problems fouling the water lines, cold air intake, vacuum break lines and with the throttle cable being very long! You can use the DE distributor but it will need a little modifying to fit. Take note that not all the sensors are needed, with a far few connecting directly you’ll need to modify the rest and find that some are not required at all (e.g. cruise control plug socket or at least we couldn’t figure out what some were for lol! – But if the engine runs with none of these connected, what the heck?); luckily for us the cooling fans, generator, knock, starter and throttle position sensors connected fine. I can’t remember all of them as I ended up hiring an electrician to do what we couldn’t figure out, I mean I build computers as a third job, I know my limitations and this was way out of my league! From what I can remember we changed the crank sensor, intake MAF, air intake temperature sensor, oil pressure, engine temp, voltage (I think), O2 sensor and gearbox speed sensor.

Induction and Sensors

Distributor and VVL connections

I kinda cheated on the electronics side by using the original SR20DE ECU; when moving between the GA16 to the SR20 only Nissan can reprogram it to work with the alarm/immobilizer otherwise the immobilizer kicks in when you try to pull away in gear. This is debatable but I swapped over the internal wiring loom behind the dashboard including the antenna coil that surrounds the ignition in order overcome the immobiliser/alarm issue. Because the car wouldn't start first time round I thought that it must have been because I hadn't swapped the in-car harness. We also tried swapping the Key Transponder Chips (the little red blocks on the keys) and that didn't work. Lucky enough, Nissan didn't charge me for reprogramming the SR20DE ECU when 5 of their technicians couldn't figure out why it wouldn't start (That saves £15!). After a little hair pulling and a few beers later we discovered that we configured the distributor incorrectly, once reconfigured, “Hey Presto” we have a ROAR from the VE. Nissan don’t do customized ECU reprogramming which is surprising, but they can check for faults if any sensors aren't working properly. There is an option of using an SR20VE ECU (which some companies may ship with the engine) however; this wouldn't be much of a headache relief when it comes to getting it working on the internal circuits/electrics. The other problem is that the 20VE ECU comes with a default setting 5,500rpm and 112mph limit, which is the CVT ideal for an automatic transmission double-decker bus. An alternative option is to use the lower variant SR16VE ECU from the 1600cc equivalent which, comes with a higher rev limit but still a 112mph speed limit; use this ECU combined with a piggyback ECU or multi-switching controller to remove the speed limit. Mine didn’t come with any VE ECU and I was too tight to buy anything, so I used the otherwise GTi SR20DE ECU with no pre-installed solenoid control.

General Rules and The Law
Lastly some servicing was required for a new engine; the draining and refilling 3.2 litres of engine oil, the draining and refilling 3 litres of gearbox oil, the draining and refilling 4 litres of antifreeze, new brake pads, new oil filter and 2 exhaust catalyst gaskets. The legal side was pretty simple but I did come across one predicament mainly the problems of emissions. By law although you would require a new tax disc, you don’t have to reapply for a new MOT if it’s date is still valid, my MOT however, conveniently expired in the summer so I needed a new MOT. After failing a number of times the car eventually passed on the border line! The emissions were CO: 0.28% vol out from a limit of 0.30% vol at natural idle and 0.03% vol over 1.006 from a limit of 0.20% vol over 0.970-1.030 at fast idle! It may look far for some of you but this took 4 attempts reconfiguring the sensors and remember, it’s with the CAT replaced on an OE GA16DE centre section exhaust! Once out the way, you have to update section 7 of the V5C indicating a change of engine to the DVLA followed by the Insurance. In case some of you are wondering my insurance has gone up by 10% naturally; obviously this area will vary from person to person.
Goodness knows how much the total might have been as I was paying in cash chunk by chunk, but at the top of my head, including the engine, it’s within the reach of £3k to £4k.

The engine number can be found where the gearbox joins to the block

• Parts needed if swapping from any Almera GA;
A/C, Alternator, Belts, Clutch, Down pipe, Driveshafts, ECU, Flywheel, Gearbox, Header, Hubs, Induction, Key Transponder Chip (immobiliser system), MAF, Mounts, Radiator, Starter Motor, Steering Pump Mechanism, Struts, Water, Wiring Loom.

• Parts needed if swapping from an Almera GTi SR20DE;
You’ll need a new Manifold to Head Gasket – Preferably a VE one to compensate the VE’s circular exits. I used a DE one which will fit but again restrict the flow of gases.

• Parts advised for both GTi and Non-GTi
Back Box - The OE GA would be too restrictive.
Breaks - Whilst taking off the shafts, you might as well take the breaks attached to them as it saves having to dismantle the suspension twice.
SR16VE ECU - Higher Rev Limit unless you know how to reprogram the existing ECU to rid of the rpm and speed restrictors.
Fujitsubo Header – Once again, the DE exit is oval and the VE exit is circular and larger.
Multi-Switching System - A Greddy MSS will do to play around with the VVL activation unless you're using a VE ECU.
VE MAF – Is more optimal, but the DE will work.
VE Throttle Body – Is more optimal, but the DE will work.
VE Distributor – No gains to be had but you'll need to rewire a DE one to fit as the plugs are different

DE HotShot on VE exhaust port

Dyno print out before mapping was a stock 143bhp.

• Thank you,
My wife for letting me do this!
Manuel P., Richard and David from “Anton’s Body Shop” for helping build it.
Big_Al H. for answering Q&A
DBull for putting me off the SR20DET swap – I still think your install’s crazier.
Gary Y. for International Trade advice
Flamera Andy S. for answering Q&A
Justin McC. For write up
Kenny D. for answering Q&A and electrics
Leigh A L. Greddy MSS issues
Mark S. for all the DE components
Paul M R. for answering Q&A
Stevie_T_G for answering Q&A
Tech1_uk for answering Q&A
Timo from “Japan Moottorituonti Oy” for the engine block
Tracy WJ W. for answering Q&A and support!
And all the guys from the websites:

Sorry if I’ve forgotten anybody, I’ll update when I remember.

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Just chillin'
Looks like you took along time to write that up but it was worth reading. :) the engine in your avatar looks clean :)


AOC Trader
Thats spot on mate 3-4k tho, thats alot of money in all honesty....

Very good write up!


NeilSR said:
Thats spot on mate 3-4k tho, thats alot of money in all honesty....

Very good write up!
Great write up 3-4K doesnt seem that much especially if you were going to fork out 17k on a CTR which u would have been dissapointed at, This way there is more satisfaction. VVL kickin in at 2500 :eek: thats mental.
Good write up, mate!

3k-4k doesn't sound too bad... but then it is more than the car's worth :( Deffo a better idea than spending £17k on a CTR, I've never been fond of them...

I feel all inspired...

Gearbox ported and polished????

Surely activating the bigger lobes on the cams at 2500 rpm is pointless and will bog the car down?

Nice write up though!




would it be cheaper buy a 3 door with a ga14de and do a ve swap. or are you better off with the 3 door gti to do a ve swap with???


AOC Trader
Thats fine, but my point is why wud anyone spend 17k buying a ctr considering the skylines, 300zx's, supras etc out there on the market....

Maybe I shud have put a bit more in my post, lol



CTR's aint disapointin either lol, Supercharged there fkin monstrous


Spead 17k on the thing then super it. Talk about money to burn. ;)


Just chillin'
Geordie said:
Spead 17k on the thing then super it. Talk about money to burn. ;)
i think its up to personal i think that a Mera that has a engine swap would be better i mean. they do not know whats under ur hood at the end of the day so u can show little nuts up that think there good in the golf GTi when u have some thing better. apart from that i think the people who has type Rs. the Golf gti people would want to race you and etc like that depends on area too


Darren198712 said:
i. they do not know whats under ur hood at the end of the day so u can show little nuts up that think there good in the golf GTi when u have some thing better.
A GTI can take care of most Golf GTI`s mate ;)


Respect mate on a job well done ! :appl:
to go through all of that & come out of it at the other end is a job alot of people would find very hard to do !
yeah well done mate and i hope your happy with your new toy. if i were you though i'd higher the VVL activation a couple thousand rpm because it will bog down and your petrol bill will be shockin. top write up aswell :thumbs:


AOC Moderator
Darren198712 said:
i think its up to personal i think that a Mera that has a engine swap would be better i mean. they do not know whats under ur hood at the end of the day so u can show little nuts up that think there good in the golf GTi when u have some thing better. apart from that i think the people who has type Rs. the Golf gti people would want to race you and etc like that depends on area too
another candidate for the clear English award.........

FFS don't you people read your posts before hitting submit !?!?
im well impressed mate well done hope its working well and past what you expected awaiting pictures :)


Staff member
Well done mate!

CTR`s are diisapointing...............well they look dissapointed when i overtake `em on the track!


rowdy-GTi said:
Well done mate!

CTR`s are diisapointing...............well they look dissapointed when i overtake `em on the track!
thats bollox mate. my mates ctr is fast as fuck. 250bhp Racing suspention, rose jointed. roll cage. we done 160mph in it. obviously those ctr drivers were shit or your quite good, one of the two!! lol :D

Check this out!!


DaddyMera said:
thats bollox mate. my mates ctr is fast as fuck. 250bhp Racing suspention, rose jointed. roll cage. we done 160mph in it. obviously those ctr drivers were shit or your quite good, one of the two!! lol :D

Check this out!!
So quite heavily modded then :roll: I think you'll find Rowdy's on about most standard or mildly modded CTR's.
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