Nissan Silvia S15: a timeless drifting icon.

Nissan-Silvia-S15-a-timeless-drifting-icon-1 Automobile


In the world of drifting, where power, precision and style converge, few cars have left such an indelible mark as the Nissan Silvia S15. Although not often seen on American roads, the S15 has gained a burning popularity among motorsports enthusiasts, especially in the high-octane realm of Formula Drift. In this in-depth guide, we take a journey through the annals of S15 history, exploring its evolution, its remarkable features, and its enduring appeal.

The S15’s sleek and seductive design has become a timeless classic. Weighing less than a Honda S2000 and with a curb weight of less than 2,500 pounds, it’s a lightweight champion with visual appeal that has stood the test of time. Whether you’re a seasoned car enthusiast or just a connoisseur of fine automobiles, the Nissan Silvia S15 is a car that demands attention.

Heart of the beast: SR20DET.

The heart of the S15 is the legendary turbocharged SR20DET engine, which has earned acclaim in motorsports. Unlike its American counterparts, the S15 is equipped with this high-performance engine, setting it apart from the truck engines that were once installed in its bay. The SR20DET, produced from 1989 until the last S15 rolled off the assembly line in 2002, is considered the most reliable and powerful variant of the SR20.

For those familiar with the SR20, its tuning potential is well known. Extracting 400 hp from this engine is far from uncommon. Combine that with the S15’s ability to be weighted down to under 2,000 pounds, and you get a power-to-weight ratio that promises an exhilarating driving experience. It’s a chassis that seems to glide on rails, yet has the zippy disposition that drift enthusiasts love.

Versatility and personalization.

The Nissan Silvia S15 is more than just a pretty face with a powerful heart. It offers ample opportunities for customization, catering to a wide variety of automotive tastes and preferences. Whether your passion is extreme acceleration, conquering the drag strip, blistering time trial or drifting, the S15 is remarkably versatile in a variety of motorsports.

In fact, we at Drifted are partial to the S15, as two of our team members have chosen it as their favorite weapon. And while we adore this car, we don’t recommend risking a 20-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $250,000 by trying to smuggle it into the United States. Patience is a virtue, and the ban on importing these beauties will be lifted in 2024.

In this in-depth guide, we’ll leave no stone unturned as we dive into the rich history of the S15, beginning in 1964 and tracing its evolution to its current glory. Welcome to the ultimate guide to the Nissan S15.

Nissan Silvia History: Legendary History.

The Nissan Silvia story began in 1964 with an elaborate hand-built coupe that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show. Originally known as the Datsun 1500, it was based on the Fairlady convertible and later renamed the Silvia CSP311. This marked the birth of a legend. The car was powered by a 96-horsepower 1.6-liter Nissan R-series engine equipped with twin SU carburetors. However, production was limited: only 554 of these hand-built cars rolled off the assembly line between 1965 and 1968. Due to low sales and complex construction, the Silvia lasted until 1974, and its price was almost double that of other Nissan models.

Today, only 59 examples of the CSP311 are known to exist outside of Japan, making them truly rare.

Nissan Silvia S10 (1975-1979): Beginning of mass production.

The S10, introduced in 1975, was the first mass-produced Silvia. Built on the new S platform, this compact rear-wheel drive sports car was powered by a 1.8 liter L18 inline engine for the Japanese market. In North America, it was powered by a 2.0 liter L20B engine and was renamed the Datsun 200SX. It shared a common drivetrain with the legendary Datsun 510, but instead of independent suspension, the 510 had leaf springs in the rear.

Nissan Silvia S110 (1979-1983): A rotary dream.

The S110 was originally intended to be powered by a Nissan rotary engine, but technical problems led to a variety of engine options. The most popular among them was the turbocharged Z18ET engine designed for the Japanese market. In North America, the S110 was renamed Gazelle and had minor cosmetic differences. Various Japanese Nissan dealerships even produced their own variants of the Gazelle.

Nissan Silvia 240RS (1983-1985): Rallying glory.

Designed to compete in the World Rally Championship, the 240RS was powered by a 2.4-liter DOHC FJ24 engine. Nissan’s entry into rallying was successful: in 1983, the car finished second in the New Zealand Rally. This rally car with its characteristic boxy design has a unique charm that remains to this day.

Nissan Silvia S12 (1983-1989): A variety of engine options.

Available from 1983, the S12 Silvia was a coupe and hatchback and offered a variety of engine options. The S12 debuted the CA18 engine, while other variants were powered by V6 engines, which were also fitted to the 300ZX. The S12 was available in both coupe and hatchback body styles, with models such as the RS powered by the 2.0-liter DOHC FJ20E engine and the RS-X powered by its turbocharged FJ20ET counterpart. In 1987, Nissan discontinued the FJ engine, replacing it with the CA18DET, which had dual cams and a more powerful turbocharger. Different regions had their own variants, notably Japan produced versions of the Silvia and Gazelle. For the North American market, it was designated as the “200SX”.

Nissan Silvia S13 180SX/200SX/240SX (1989-1994): Drifting legend.

The S13, released in 1989, was a turning point in Silvia history. It won the Japanese Car of the Year award and was renamed the 200SX in Europe and the 240SX in the United States. While the Silvia featured fixed headlights, the 180SX hatchback was equipped with the beloved pop-up headlights.

The S13 model featured Nissan’s multi-link rear suspension, which improved handling. A HICAS steering system was installed on some models, and a viscous limited-slip differential was introduced. Engine options ranged from the CA18DE and CA18DET to.

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