After the success of of the new Datsun Fairlady sports car and the larger
Nissan Cedric sedan Nissan had grown in confidence enough to try their
hand at building a luxury sports coupe.
Nissan weren't the first Japanese car manufacturer to build
a luxury coupe, the Prince Motor Company had built the Prince Skyline Sport
coupe in 1961 and Hino were working on a coupe version of the Contessa
by the time Nissan first started work on the Silvia project. A Nissan in-house
designer called Kazuo Kimura started work designing the new coupe, and
while Nissan liked the general concept of the coupe they weren't happy
with it's styling. The decision was made to bring in some outside help
for the project.
Apart from it's beautiful styling, and the fact that it was the first ever
Japanese luxury coupe, the other remarkable thing about the Prince Skyline
Sport was that it was not designed by someone within Prince Motors, it
was in fact designed by the famed Italian stylist Michelotti. The Skyline
Sport was the first Japanese built car that could be described as being
truly beautiful, and even though the car sold only 500 in it's short production
run it made a big impact and suddenly every Japanese car maker was out
to hire a European master to design their new model. After his work at
Prince Michelotti then designed the new Hino Contessa sedan and coupe,
and then later designed the very pretty Daihatsu Compagno sedan and convertible.
By this stage Nissan had themselves employed none other than Pininfarina
to design the 410 series Bluebird and later the 130 series Nissan Cedric.
So it was no surprise that Nissan decided to call to Europe of some help
with the coupe project.
For the design of the Silvia, Nissan engaged the services of a German designer
by the name of Count Albrecht Graf Goertz, who moved to Japan to assist
their in-house designer Kazuo Kimura. Goertz was trained in Germany and
in the 1950s traveled to the United States where he worked for Studebaker,
designing the Studebaker Starliner. He then returned to Germany, where
he was employed by BMW. His work at BMW included the gorgeous 507 convertible.
He then moved to Porsche, where he was part of the design team working
on the 911.
Kimura's original design was an unhappy mix of design elements,
and even featured pop-up headlights, which would have been quite a novelty
in the mid-1960s. According to Goertz, the Japanese designers saw the design
process as being an amalgamation of separate ideas. Goertz instead designed
the new car as a single entity that included many of his trademark features
seen previously on cars like the BMW 507, such as a long bonnet line that
lunges forward of an open grille, large wheels and wheel arches and small,
delicate bumper bars. Goertz taught the designers the art of working on
clay models during the design phase, and the Silvia ended up being the
first Japanese car designed using a full scale clay mock-up.
The end product of the collaboration between Goertz and Kimura was christened
the Nissan Silvia, and given the designation CSP311. The Silvia was a truly
beautiful and unique car. It's angular lines and crisp panel folds were
definately more European than Japanese. It featured a long bonnet with
the cabin set well back, and had a very short boot section. The front of
the car had a very dramatic point, something rather similar to the later
Chevrolet Corvettes from the 1970s. Kimura's pop-up headlight idea was
dropped and instead the car had a quad headlight array set inside a recessed
section at the front that also housed the grille opening. The grille itself
was rather complex and was made up of eight slats of solid aluminium recessed
into three vertical bars. The bumpers were very slim, and the back was
actually two seperate half bumpers with a gap inbetween where the number
The European styling continued through to the interior as
well. The dashboard had a large flat top that opened up into an eye shaped
instrument panel in front of the driver. The dash itself was very reminesent
of those used by Ferrari. Under the dash there was a centre console which
went from under the dash down to the transmission tunnel and then back
along the tunnel between the seats. The interior was very comfortable and
quite luxuriously appointed for it's day.
Mechanically the car was a Datsun Fairlady. It's sleek new body sat in
a slightly modified SP310 Fairlady chassis. When the prototype was first
shown it has displayed as the Datsun 1500 Coupe, as it used the engine
and gearbox from the SP310. When the Silvia went into production in March
1965 it was fitted with the new 1595cc 96hp R series engine, which would
be used in the updated Fairlady SP311 in May of that year. It also become
the first Nissan to be fitted with disc brakes, which would also soon end
up on the Fairlady.
Nissan had taken to selling their cars under two different
brands, with the smaller and less expensive models being sold as Datsuns
and the larger and more expensive models being sold as Nissans. When the
Silvia went on sale it was close to double the cost of a Fairlady, so it
was definately going to be a Nissan and not a Datsun. The badges on the
side of the car said Nissan Silvia, and the one at the back said Silvia.
The round badge on the nose section said Nissan.
Nissan never expected to sell many of these expensive luxury coupes, and
because of that fact no presses were made to stamp out the panels, instead
the body of the car was completely hand made, with the panels being hand
beaten on a jig. The floor section of the Fairlady was utilised, but apart
from that the car was completely hand built. Initially the Silvia was available
in only one colour, a metallic green colour cryptically named Silvia Gold,
but much later in the production run it was available in white.
The Silvia ended up being sold only in Japan, Australia and
New Guinea. In all only 554 Silvias were ever built. Production ran from
March 1965 until September 1968.
|Silvia Highway Patrol
It is early 1965, you are in charge of the highway patrol in Japan,
and you have a problem. It is a problem that has never really existed before
in Japan. Up until recently motorists have been a very law abiding group
of people, speeding and other such driving offenses were almost unknown.
To be honest, speeding has been close to impossible in the cars that have
been built in Japan up until recently. The few people that could actually
afford to own a car have been driving cars such as the Datsun 210, the
Suzuki Suzulight and the
Mazda R-360, the fastest of these cars has a top speed of only 120kph,
but the majority have serious trouble just getting to 90kph. But by the
early 1960s things were changing, Japan has slowly recovered from the second
world war and in the process has embraced capitalism. Japan's economy is
growing at an amazing rate and the Japanese people are suddenly starting
to enjoy a new found affluence, and a great deal of their income is now
being spent on new cars. The Japanese car makers were quick to respond
and the first wave of Japanese performance cars has begun to emerge. Nissan
and Prince led the way with the Datsun Fairlady and the Prince Skyline
Sport, these were followed by the Honda S500 and S600 and the Toyota Sport
800. By early 1965 these cars are becoming a more common sight on the streets
of Tokyo and Yokahama, and their owners are not interested in slowly pottering
around town. These cars are being driven fast and the Datsun Bluebirds
the police have been using have little chance of keeping up with them.
You need a new highway patrol car to deal with this problem, what car do
you choose ? The car you want is the new Nissan Silvia.
Why select the Nissan Silvia as a highway patrol car ? Why
select one of the most expensive cars ever built in Japan, a car that costs
more than three times as much as the Datsun Bluebirds previously used ?
There are several reasons, but the single most important reason is speed.
At the time of it's introduction in early 1965 the Silvia was the fastest
Japanese production car ever built. It had the highest top speed and it
could cover the standing quarter mile two seconds faster than the Datsun
Fairlady and the Skyline Sport, and was significantly quicker than the
fastest cars Honda and Toyota were producing. It's handling was as good
as, and in most cases better than, anything else on the road. It was also
the only Japanese car at the time that had disc brakes, so it stopped pretty
Several modifications were carried out of the Silvia to
turn it into a highway patrol car. Externally, the car has the obligatory
big flashing light on the roof and also some extra lights mounted on top
of the front bumper bar. The radio antenna has been deleted and a police
radio antenna has been mounted on the roof. The car is also fitted with
large over-riders on the front and rear bumper bars, something the standard
Silvias never had. The other notable thing about the outside of the car,
apart from the rather unfortunate two tone paint work, is the emblem on
the side of the car. On the standard Silvia the emblem is mounted near
the bottom of the front guard, about 7-8 inches from the bottom, on the
highway patrol car the emblem is mounted very high, just under the crease
at the top of the guard. But the most interesting thing is that it is a
different emblem, instead of the standard "Nissan Silvia" emblem it has
an emblem made especially for the highway patrol car that says "Silvia
The Silvia highway patrol cars effectively enforced the
law on the streets of Japan's major cities for the next few years until
the second wave of Japanese performance cars hit the streets. Over the
next few years the Fairlady 2000, Prince Skyline GTB and Toyota 2000GT
came out and could comfortably outperform the Silvia. Also the new hot
sedans such as the Datsun Bluebird SSS and the Isuzu Bellett GT were starting
to match it's performance, and eventually the Silvias were replaced by
the Datsun Fairlady Z.
A Japanese sales brochure for the 1965 Nissan Silvia CSP311
A sales brochure for the 1965 Nissan Silvia CSP311
Nissan Silvia Specifications
Length - 3985mm
Width - 1508mm
Height - 1275mm
Wheelbase - 2280mm
Weight - 977kg
Top speed - 165kph
Transmission - 4 speed Floor
Model - R
OHV 4 Cylinder
Capacity - 1595cc
Bore & Stroke - 87x66mm
Power - 96hp@5000rpm
Torque - 103ft/lb@3600rpm
Compression - 9.0 : 1
Carburettors - twin single
throat side draught Hitachi 38HJB
Final Drive - 4.11 : 1