As we reminisce we can often come up with multiple blunders of epic proportions that corporations have made throughout the years. Some made by soft drink companies, some by software companies, a few by cell phone manufacturers, but it seems the companies that like to screw up the most are car companies. Automotive history is filled stupid decisions that make petrol heads laugh, cry, but mostly end up doing a Captain Picard’esque palm to the face.
If any of you have watched the latest Top Gear special about the Worst Car in the World, the main argument was that there are car companies that should have known better.
Now the prologue to this feature isn’t to suggest that the car in question is in the “Worst Car” category, actually quite the opposite. We believe it’s one of the best cars made in the last 30 years, but we put a giant asterisk next to it for one simple reason. The Nissan Silvia S15 is a brilliant car. It looked AMAZING, handled beautifully, great chassis, nice interior, and a very capable and reliable engine. It comes from an era in Nissan’s history when they also made Skyline GT-R’s that were also f**king brilliant. Two cars that could have easily dominated the global markets in a time when gas was cheap, and no one cared about the existence of global warming (well sorta…).
But they made a decision to only make them with the steering wheel on the right side and limited to where they sell them to just a few countries, about a third of the entire World. This we believe was a crime, but luckily there are those who are passionate and have found ways in this day and age to right the wrongs of the past…
One of those people is…….let’s call him Joseph.
Joseph lives in a country in which traffic keeps to the right side of the road and all the cars are, well, you guessed it, Left Hand Drive.
So owning a rare car that has the steering wheel on the “wrong” side is a challenge. But none of the above stopped Joseph from buying and importing a beautiful Nissan Silvia Spec R Aero. Finding a rare specimen such as the Silvia Spec R wasn’t even the hard part, trying to keep it unharmed is.
So lots of kudos just for that to Joseph!
The S15 in question came with the latest version of the SR20DET engine with the very sought after black valve cover which produced 250hp and 26kgm of torque. It might not sound like much but the Silvia was relatively light by today’s standards weighing in at just 1250kg which equates to 5kg of weight per horsepower. Not at all a bad power to weight ratio especially when you consider that a EVO IX has the same and you don’t call that slow.
What helped the Silvia be such a good car was the following. Firstly it had a really good 6 speed transmission that fed the rear wheels and the factory limited slip differential made sure the power transfer to each side was how it should be. The chassis has a 51/49% front rear weight distribution which Nissan prefers as on hard acceleration it actually becomes a 50/50 affair to help get off the line and out of corners and is assisted by McPherson struts up front and a multilink system in the rear. This gives it a 0-100km/h time of 6.5sec which was pretty good when it came out. But a factory Honda S2000 does a slightly better time by almost half a second…
This made Joseph want more out of his car. Actually quite a bit more!
The first and most obvious solution would be to modify and tune the factory SR20DET which has become an easy task these days, but big turbo – small displacement engines can suffer from turbo lag and high RPM boost threshold.
Of course you can tackle turbo lag with various tricks and innovations but why not first start with an engine swap that can give you more displacement and more potential? The SR20DET is a gem of an engine but then you got that other gem that Nissan made called the RB26DETT sitting in the corner just smiling back at you saying “hey, try me out!” it makes you think. And you would get tempted as it’s become one of the most legendary engines that put a few V8′s to shame. Yeah, I would also go with that one… but Joseph wanted to 1up what most would do. So he found himself a RB26 but not the run of the mill one, but one that goes by the code name N1!
The N1 was built by Nismo to gain homologation for racing so it came with better designed channels for cooling and lubrication and the crankshaft was rebalanced to be smoother all the way to it’s upped redline (….and even higher!). It also has thicker and wider piston rings that can withstand increased loads and the camshafts are uprated for more power at the top and throughout the revs. It’s safe to say that this is perhaps one of the best engine swap options to tune your Nissan and it’s exactly what Joseph put under the hood of his Silvia.
The N1 engine comes with two small factory ball bearing turbos that are very responsive and spool almost instantly every time you step on the gas pedal. Now that sounds great but they tend to give up once you tune the engine to 370hp and beyond. Now 370hp ain’t too shabby but it’s a far cry from the 600+hp that was the goal for this Silvia. It doesn’t take a lot to reach that goal, but the aftermarket parts should be of good quality.
When gunning for more power from an RB26 the obvious is to swap out the twin turbo setup for one big turbo. That one big turbo is a Precision PT 6262 which is much loved and sought after by many. The response may have suffered just a little bit, but at a easy going 1.2bar of pressure it puts out the horsepower that was needed without breaking a sweat.
The obvious next step was to address the new cooling issues (More horsepower= more heat). The factory intercooler was swapped out for one by GReddy. A GReddy oil cooler, and a cooler for the limited slip differential was also installed. Even the Tial external wastegate is watercooled to cope with the increased heat in the engine bay.
The entire exhaust system from the header out is made by PMC and has a diameter of 80mm and provides a great sound. Just watch the video and it’ll be a testament to how great this car sounds. The last run is by far the best!
To withstand the increased power and torque a few changes needed to be made. A new twin plate carbon clutch was installed along with a new flywheel from Exedy. The factory transmission is reliable and can take the power but to be on the safe side it was swapped for one from a RWD Skyline (they got the nickname “Unbreakable”).
The axle is still a factory one but some modification had to be made to make it all fit.
The final modification to the transmission was to swap out the differential. The S15 Spec R’s come with a very reliable and tough Torsen differential but that’s been put on a shelf somewhere. Inside the transfer case is now a 2 way Cusco that gives us strong hints that this car was built for some serious street drifting!
The Achilles heel of the car when we tested it was the terrible shape the tires were in. The Avon ZZ3′s are known to be great tires but it appears that Joseph had worn them down and the new set he had ordered hadn’t arrived yet, so the times aren’t indicative of what it can actually do.
But the show must go on, and it was decided that perhaps a burnout before timing might help the situation but in the condition they were in, the 255 width couldn’t get much traction with 600+hp.
0-100km/h came at 5.92sec (almost the same as a factory S2000!) and the quarter mile was completed in 13.28sec with an exit speed of 191.2km/h. The traction was so bad and the spin so excessive that for 0-20km/h it needed 1.11sec, and 2.27sec to reach 40km/h from a standstill!
Once the car was rolling though, it preformed better than expected.
From 100-200km/h (speeds where wheel spinning is no longer an issue) it needed just 8.48sec, which is very similar to the 590Hp Acura NSX (740Hp with NOS) we featured which had comparable horsepower but benefits from being a midship setup, huge semi-slick tires in excellent condition, more displacement and a responsive supercharger helping it. Just imagine what punishment this Silvia will put out once it has fresh rubber…
Obviously there’s more to modding a car than just increasing horsepower. Without a suspension that can cope all your efforts will go mostly down the drain. So the standard suspension while good for a factory setup just isn’t up to snuff when you got 600Hp, so it was replaced with a set of Sustec PRO Seven coilovers from Tanabe.
The cherry on top is that it came with TEAS (Tanabe Electric Active Suspension) which allows Joseph to adjust ride comfort with just the touch of a button.
When you need just 14s to reach 200km/h from standstill, you need to make sure you have some serious stopping power. A big brake kit from NEX was selected with 6 pot calipers and discs with a 365mm diameter. Not only do they provide great stopping power but they look great behind the 18inch Ultralite ATEC-II wheels.
I’m pretty sure that when it came time to design the interior of the Silvia the designers knew that owners would swap out the vents in the middle of the dash and install gauges in their place.
It’s quite convenient to not have gauges there instead of on the A-pillar which was all the rage back in the day, but not helpful if you plan on going sideways. In this S15 we got three GReddy gauges filling in as vents.
Coming to a close, we would like to thank Joseph as we put him through hell to get this shoot done. It’s not that we intended it, but sometimes circumstances don’t allow a video & photo-shoot to run smoothly or take that long. Joseph was a true trooper and embraced what we put him through with a smile, so a big Thank You from us here at SpeedNation.tv!
Words: James Papademetriou
Photo: Antonis Christofis
Accel Distance results
Distance(m) Time(sec) @Speed(km/h)
0-18 2,69 47,8
0-200 9,29 144,03
0-400 13,28 191,2
TUNER: GTR Racing Tuning
MAKE & MODEL: Nissan Silvia S15 Spec R Aero
Code: RB26DETT (N1)
Bore & Stroke: 86×73.7mm
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Block: Factory RB26DETT (N1), Spool Imports oil pan
Cylinder Head: Factory RB26DETT (N1)
Camshafts: Factory RB26DETT (N1)
Turbo & Wastegate: Precision PT 6262 turbo, external wastegate Tial MV-R watercooled
Cooling: Radiator –intercooler-oil cooler kit and differential cooler by GReddy
ECU: HKS F CON PRO Gold version 3.3
Injectors: Siemens Top Feed 800cc/min
Coils: Splitfire coil packs
Intake manifold: JUN style single throttle body
Exhaust manifold: Header and full exhaust 80mm PMC
Gear box: Nissan Skyline RWD (RB25)
Clutch: Exedy Carbon Series twin plate, Exedy flywheel
Differential: Cusco 2 way LSD
Axle: Factory, modded
Shock absorbers: Tanabe Sustec PRO Seven with TEAS
Springs: Tanabe Sustec PRO Seven
Sway bars: Cusco
Strut bars: Cusco
Calipers: NEX 6 pot
Discs: NEX 365mm
Brake Fluid: Ferodo 5.1
Engine mounts: Nismo
Aerodynamics: Spec R Aero
Wheels: Ultralite ATEC-II 8.5×18 front, 9.5×18 rear
Tires: Avon ZZ3 225/40 front, 255/35 rear
Gauges: GReddy, APEXi AVC-R Black Edition