The Silvia Story
The history of one of the most iconic JDM machines. Where did it all begin?
What a story this is. A car that was produced in various shapes and sizes from 1964 - 2002. In its history the Silvia or S-chassis has competed in numerous motorsport competitions, starred in some of the biggest automotive films ever and created a street car culture based around modifying and drifting. We owe so much to this car. Lets have a look at where it all started.
Tokyo Motorshow, September 1964 - CSP311
A slither of white wall
Nissan unveiled their new sports coupé. The car was called the CSP311 (or the Datsun coupe 1600), a bit of a mouthful. This ground breaking machine had a 96HP 1.6L inline four at the front, mated to a 4 speed manual gearbox. The Nissan R series engine was fueled by twin SU carbs, advanced for their time. However the most surprising thing about this car was the weight, which was under a tonne at just 977 KG curb weight! This car was a real piece of craftsmanship. Ever panel was beaten and shaped by hand, a long and arduous process meaning that after just 554 were sold, Datsun (Nissan at the time) ceased production, meaning this is also a very rare beast.
Zama Plant, Kanagawa, Japan 1975 - S10
Not the best looking car if I'm honest
The Zama plant was the production base for all the all new and first mass produced S body, the S10. This was another front engined rear wheel drive sports car. Except this time the design illustrated this far more obviously. The S10 had a swooping sportback and the engine had grown into a 1.8L and even a 2.0L for the American market. The car was offered to customers in either a 3 speed automatic or 5 speed manual. Again the car was kept light at just 990 KG curb weight.
Japan 1979 - S110
Love the Silva decals.
In 1979 Nissan decided to revamp the S model again. This time the car looked far more modern, but not necessarily better. It was called the S110. This new car also came in variable body shapes, a first for the Silva range. The car was available in either a 2 door coupé or a 3 door hatchback. The new car also had a plethora of engine choices, from a 1.8L turbos to the famous 2.4L FJ24, an engine also used in WRC by Nissan (in the form of the 240RS), competing in the legendary Group B. An interesting point regarding engines around this car, is that it was originally intended to be powered by a rotary or wankle engine, but this proved to be un-reliable and so Nissan scrapped the idea. This new model of Nissan Silvia had also piled on a few pounds when compared to its predecessor. The car now had a curb weight of 1,105 KG.
Japan, August 1983 - S12
Not sure about those wheels...
Here we go. The start of the Silvia series as we know it today. 1983 marked the birth of the Nissan Silvia S12. This model was also sold in Hatchback and Coupe versions. A variety of engine choices were offered by Nissan. 1.8L turbo, 2.0L turbo and a 3.0L NA V6. These engines could be mounted to either a 4 speed auto gearbox or a 5 speed manual. The S12 followed the magic formula of front engined and RWD. In Japan, there was an exclusive model of this car available called the RS-X Turbo, this was of course released during the 80s turbo craze, a time where anything with the word turbo on it was just better. In 1986 this car was revise and effectively given a facelift model called the Mark II, how original...
The S12 also played a massive part in motorsport. After Group B was decimated because of the safety to drivers and the crowd, the aforementioned 240RS could no longer compete and so Nissan used the North American spec 200SX SE V6 and it competed from 1986-89. The 200SX achieved a first place in the 1988 Ivory coast rally and second place for two years running in the insane Safari Rally 1988 and Safari Rally 1989.
Japan, 1988 - S13
The car that needs no introduction. The S13. To many people the first truly accessible and tuning friendly sports car that had immense levels of reliability. It's favoured by drifters and enthusiasts alike. In 1988 it won Japan Car of the year award. In Japan it was known as the 180SX, 200SX in Europe and 240SX in America, because bigger is always better over there. There were 3 models, the coupe, the hatchback and very rare convertible. The coupe's fixed headlights carried over and were used on the S14, but we all love the pop up headlights of the hatchback. The convertible was offered at the beginning of production, bet never really sold that well because of the cost and price to make and then purchase, around 3.25 million yen in 1988.
The S13 was first produced with the latest S12 engine, the CA18DE and CA18DET, however an uprated intercooler was added for reliability and to give a slight power increase. However, in 1990 came the introduction of the legendary SR20 series, in the form of the SR20DE and SR20DET, T standing for Turbo of course. These engines were offered with either a 4 speed automatic box or a 5 speed manual. The S13 was also the first car to offer Nissan's multi-link rear suspension setup, giving the car far superior handling to its rivals.
Kanda, Japan 1993 - S14
The S14 is my personal favourite of the Silvia series. I think its the best looking in the Kouki variation. This car was all round more aggressive than the S13, it was both lower and wider. Handling was also improved due to an increase in track and wheelbase. It may come as a surprise but when this car was originally launched it ceased to succeed, in terms of sales, in export models, such as the American 240SX. It is actually in the last 10/15 years that this car has become a favourite to drifters and modifiers outside of Japan. "Aero" packages of this car were also available, including splitters and large rear spoilers. The car was offered with a naturally aspirated 2.0L SR20DE or a turbo model of this and also a 2.4L KA24DE.
What many people don't know is that Nissan produced a limited run 270R model. This featured a handful of goodies, such as, a vented hood, mounted intercooler, Nismo edge aero kit, heavy duty clutch, 2-way slip differential and loads of Nismo Badges. Oh ye, it also had a 270BHP bespoke engine designed by Nissan's motorsport department under the bonnet.
Japan 1998 - S15
Nothing some coil-overs cant fix
Here we are, the final hoorah in the Silvia lineup. The S15. The 1999 model was the interesting one. This new model boasted a 250BHP engine, thanks to a knew ball bearing turbo mounted to the SR20DET. The S15 sales improved over that of the S14, probably due to the modern sports car looks it had. The S15 was simplified to just the Spec-S and Spec-R models, both of which offered "Aero" kits, consisting off rear wings and side skirts. As before this car was also offered with a 4 speed auto and 5 speed manual However this time, Nissan also offered a 6 speed manual to customers. This car is also ridiculously popular with drifter and modifiers due to the amazing tolerances of the SR20's stock internals and gigantic aftermarket parts selection.
That's one queue I wouldn't mind joining.
That's all folks
There we have it. The S15 production ended in 2002, and with it, ended the era of the Silvia. Such a rich and pioneering history for just one model of car. Prices for these machines are some of the most reliable and dependable in the used car market, as prices continue to climb. Unfortunately, it also proves very difficult to find a stock model of any of these cars. Almost all of them have been fettled with and modified in some way. But, I don't care. I can't help but love everything about the Silvia. Thanks Nissan.