Nissan Silvia

1965 - CSP311 Series

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 plate sat.

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.

Nissan Silvia 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 well too.

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 Patrol".

  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.


Model Variations


Silvia CSP311

There was only one version of the Silvia that was available to the general public.


Silvia Patrol

A small number of specially modified Silvias were produced to be used as police highway patrol cars.


Fairlady SP311

The Silvia shares the mechanicals and a slightly modified chassis with the Fairlady 1600.

1965 Nissan Silvia Specifications

Length - 3985mm
Width - 1508mm
Height - 1275mm
Wheelbase - 2280mm
Weight - 977kg
Top speed - 165kph
Transmission - 4 speed Floor change

R Series Engine Specifications

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

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