The Silvia was first released in 1964, and it was a sleek, white masterpiece.
Nissan has had a long and strong history of producing some great cars. According to Nissan USA, it has had a great history of racing cars as well. But the Nissan Silvia is one of the lesser-known cars that they produced. It has been in some of the greatest motorsport competitions. Still, it has also been banned from being sold in the US. It has a long and under-spoken history, and it all starts with Nissan and its tendency to produce some of the best and most unique cars on the market.
Nissan is a Japanese car company that was founded by Yoshisuke Aikawa in 1928, and since then, Nissan has not stopped pushing the limits of car manufacturing. It was a company that dealt mainly with auto parts until Nissan made its huge splash in America with the Datsun. The Datsun was one of the very first Japanese mass-produced vehicles, and still had huge effects on American sedans and pickups that were imported in the ’50s. Since the beginning, Nissan has had a great track record of being a stellar car brand with excellent performance.
According to DriveTribe, the Silvia was first released in 1964, and it was a sleek, white masterpiece. Among its many grand features was a 4-speed manual gearbox that was very advanced for its time, and a stellar engine that purred. It also showcased amazing workers who would hand-shaped every panel. But it’s most amazing feature was its weight. For the first time, a car weighed in at less than a ton. It was 977 Kg and was a masterpiece with its handcrafted panels. As such a celebrated car, Silvia deserved to be shared with the world. But unfortunately, even with its stellar features, laws banned its distribution. The Silvia S15 is at most 16 years old and has never been sold in the US. This is because the United States has a few laws about foreign cars.
There’s no doubt that the S15 is one of the most visually stunning cars out there, and its looks have certainly stood the test of time. On top of that, it’s also lighter than a Honda S2000, and with a basic strip of some excess weight, less than 2,500lbs is easily achievable.
We’ll take a look at all of the variations later. Still, the cream-of-the-crop Spec-R features an uprated version of the S14’s turbocharged SR20DET engine, and thankfully, no truck engines have been planted in the engine bay this time around unlike its previous American siblings.
The obvious downside for our US readers is that there’s no road-legal US-based equivalent for you to carry out that imaginary USDM S15 240SX KA engine swap you’d been hoping for.
With the S15’s blacktop SR20DET eventually becoming the final variation to ever leave the factory after initially being produced from 1989 until the final S15 left the showroom in 2002, this would become the best and most reliable SR20 ever made.
Those of you that are familiar with SR20’s will know that they’re incredible engines for tuning and achieving 400hp out of them far from uncommon. Combine that with potentially being stripped down to under 2,000lbs, and I’m sure you’ll agree that makes for a pretty exciting power-to-weight ratio in a chassis that handles like it’s on rails.
Not only has it been graced with good looks, but in a typical trend for the Silvia family, it has a huge catalogue of potential upgrades sat on the shelves waiting to be transformed into your dream creation.
Thankfully, Nissan continued with the trusted rear-wheel-drive compact coupe formula for nineteen years after Toyota opted to head down a different route with the Toyota Celica.
Whether you’re looking to slam it and run huge camber as you scrape your way to the local meet, hit the drag strip, set a near-perfect time attack lap, or of course shred tires at the track, the S15 is incredibly versatile when it comes to just about every motorsport discipline.
Silvia S15’s in Motorsport
Most of you would have probably already witnessed the S15’s rise to fame in the Formula Drift series over the past few years, not only with James Deane entering the competition and taking the Championship in his first year alongside Piotr Wiecek in matching S15’s but also with fan-favourite Forrest Wang opting for the same model.
No-one’s been reppin’ the S15 scene quite like these guys lately. Check out this 2,000HP tandem thrash as they destroy Falken Tires in the Hoonigan parking lot!
It also had huge success within the D1GP series over the years, winning the Championship 7 times with 5 different drivers. Naoki Nakamura also now competes in a 2JZ-powered S15 for the 2019 D1GP season, where he’ll undoubtedly be giving it his all for the coveted top spot.
Both the S14 and S15 have won the GT300 class championship in 1997 and 2001 respectively. Suzuki also held the Tsukuba circuit lap time record for quite some time in his S15.
S15’s are popular in just about every form of motorsport imaginable, ever wondered what 500hp per cylinder looks like? Check out this utterly ridiculous (slightly modified) 2,000hp SR20DET ripping up the drag strip!
Spec-S vs Spec-R – What’s the Difference?
Much like the S13 and the S14, the S15 was also available with numerous different options available.
Many of you have been wondering what the difference is between the two main models, the Spec-S and the Spec-R.
The Spec-R was the most sought-after model in the S15 range, featuring either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed auto, the main difference between the JDM Spec-R and the Spec-S was the Spec-R’s 247bhp turbocharged SR20DET engine, where the Spec-S received the underwhelming 163bhp SR20DE.
The engine wasn’t the only substantial difference, and the Spec-R also has extensive chassis and suspension strengthening, including larger anti-roll bars and strut braces.
For braking, the Spec-S opted for 2-pots, where the Spec-R used the same 4-pot front brakes as the Z32 300ZX and also included a larger brake booster.
In the rear, a helical limited-slip differential was added to the Spec-R models. This made the Spec-R an incredible package as soon as it left the factory, undoubtedly acknowledging the S-Chassis drifting heritage.
The Spec-S, on the other hand, was given a viscous limited-slip differential.
In the Spec-S was a 5-speed manual transmission or the same 4-speed automatic found on the Spec-R. There was minimal chassis bracing, and it featured a smaller brake booster.
For the Australian market, the Spec-S featured the same helical differential, chassis bracing and 6-speed manual transmission as the Spec-R models.
As with many Nissan’s at the time, HICAS (High Capacity Active Steering) four-wheel-steering was available as an option, but you’ll struggle to make the most of it on an S15, and it’ll likely end up causing more issues than it will enjoy.
Spec-S have become increasingly popular over the years, mostly for use in motorsport. If you’re planning on doing an engine swap, alongside a huge array of additional handling and braking mods, you’ll probably be better off starting with a Spec-S rather than a Spec-R. This saves potentially crashing your expensive Spec-R and gives you a chunk of money to spend on upgrades.
However, if you’re looking to go for a simpler street build, and the SR20 tickles your fancy, the Spec-R is undoubtedly the more desirable model of the two.
Why Should The Nissan Silvia S15 Remain Banned In The United States?
The Nissan Silvia S15 is currently banned for road use in the United States. Good.
The official reason for the S15 being kept off of American roads is because of our 25-year import rule, which bans any car that 1) was not originally sold in the United States and 2) is less than 25 years old. The Nissan Silvia was never sold in the US (so it does not conform to our safety and emissions standards) and it is just 16 years old at its oldest. That’s why a guy who imported one recently faced a possible 20 years in prison with a $250,000 fine.
The unofficial reason for the S15 being kept from American drivers is safety. Safety from drifting terror.
Just think of what would happen if S15s were allowed in the United States. It would be madness.
People would be drifting everywhere, all the time and drifting down your street and drifting on their way to school and drifting into school buses and school children and that orphanage down the street run by blind nuns. The public highways would be overtaken by Drift Wars, where rival gangs of drivers would drift intensely and dangerously like in that Fast and the Furious movie only everywhere and all the time.
Thank you US government, for keeping us from this Driftpocalypse. May the S15 never be allowed in this great country.
As such a celebrated car, Silvia deserved to be shared with the world. But unfortunately, even with its stellar features, laws banned its distribution. The Silvia S15 is almost 16 years old and has never been sold in the US. This is because the United States has a few laws concerning foreign cars.
These laws are:
- Any car not originally sold in the United States is banned.
- Any foreign car less than 25 years old is banned.
The penalty for violating these laws is a potential 20-year sentence in prison. Pretty harsh, but all in the name of safety. Because these laws were put into place because for a while, foreign cars were being used to drift all around the country. At a certain point, it was becoming a safety hazard what with all the people getting caught up in it. So though the official reasons for banning the Silvia are the US laws on foreign cars, the unofficial reason this car is banned is because of potential safety risks.
You can go to jail for importing an S15
He got off generally light contrasted with that most extreme sentence and fine, in this case. As per court records, he confessed to a charge of sneaking illegal products into the US what’s more, and he was sentenced on Jan. 30 to 36 months probation and a fine of somewhat over $18,000.
His supplication got the other government charges — four checks of wire extortion — rejected. He was accused a year ago.
The Sun Herald daily paper reports Noble, 31, knew the right-hand drive Silvia did not meet Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency principles when he imported it; i.e., he knew it wasn’t of the lawful age to be brought here. That era of Silvia, the S15, was never conveyed to the US.
Be that as it may, the case goes somewhat more distant than only an aficionado needs to drive his fantasy auto, the law is to be cursed. The daily paper additionally says Noble made deceitful claims and wire moves trying to offer the auto to a man in South Carolina, regardless of government specialists letting him know not to. His non-injury car accident lawyer was not noted.
Why risk bringing it into the United States?
First, only the defendant (Kendall Noble) can say his reasons for bringing this particular vehicle into the country. But many car enthusiasts purchase the Nissan Silvia S15 because it has had great success in local drag racing (street classification), drifting competitions and street racing. In drifting, the car has won 7 D1 Grand Prix championships with five different drivers driving the S15 (Nobuteru Taniguchi:2001; Ryuji Miki:2004; Yasuyuki Kazama:2005; Masato Kawabata:2007; Youichi Imamura:2009,2010,2011)
There’s no doubt that the S15 is one of the best-looking cars out there, even in the present day. With a great powerplant and exceptional handling bundled into a small, lightweight chassis, some simple upgrades can make this a dream car to drive.
They can make practical daily drivers, although there is a seriously limited amount of rear legroom, especially with aftermarket seats. So if you had planned to make this your next family car, you might want to reconsider, depending on how long your kid’s legs are!
When you sit in an S15, particularly with an aftermarket seat, you’ll realize how the low-seating position is perfect for spirited driving or drifting, for that matter! It has incredibly precise and firm handling straight out of the factory, slip on some coil overs and you’ll be laughing.
With the ability to upgrade the SR20DET to up to 400hp reliably if you have some spare cash to spend, you can guarantee it’ll be the perfect combination.
Alternatively, should you want to carry out an engine swap, the cheaper Spec-S is undoubtedly going to be the better choice. Alternatively, if you’re after some high-revving drifting madness from an N/A engine, the Autech will certainly take the punishment well, also putting a huge grin on your face at the same time.
Although, you may need to put your plans on hold for a little while until the 25-year ban has been lifted on imports. In the meantime, why not grab yourself a 240SX and get practising with your skills? If that’s your plan, remember that most S14 and S15 parts are interchangeable, so it’ll be extremely handy when it comes to swapping over to your next build!
We have no idea what the prices will look like when the S15 finally comes to the US, but we’re pretty sure that whatever it is, it’ll be worthwhile. Make sure you get your hands on a future classic as soon as you can, we’ve all seen how the GTR’s have shot up in value!