It’s hard for me to be impartial about the Nissan Silvia: my first car was a 1983 200SX five-speed. I thought it was the coolest car ever. Unfortunately, I totalled it the very first time I drove it without adult supervision. (The story of that mishap, and its aftermath, can be read here.) I still think the 200SX and its successors are pretty cool cars. Nissan stuck with the rear-wheel-drive compact coupe formula for a full nineteen years after Toyota compromised on the Celica.
Nissan’s reputation with the Silvia in America was marred by two unhappy decisions. The first was to saddle the S13 and S14 generations of the car with the truck engine from the Nissan Pathfinder instead of the superb turbocharged variant of the SR20DE engine from the Infiniti G20 and the Nissan SE-R. As a result, the “240SX” never really got full credit for sporting intentions in a world where the Celica offered a turbo and the Prelude offered a series of sublime, high-revving, short-stroke engines. The second decision was to keep the sleek S15 at home. The final Silvia, with its “blacktop” SR20DET, lives with the R34 Skyline GT-R in the imaginations of Pocky-chomping weeaboo basement-dwellers everywhere.
Sadly, your humble author is a bit of a Pocky-chomping weeaboo basement-dweller when it comes to home-market Japanese cars, so when I happened to see a tuned-up S15 during my recent trip to the Sepang International Circuit, I threw an authentically American temper tantrum until they let me drive the thing.
The Silvia was there to promote the new Champiro SX2 tire from GT Radial, which is an Indonesian-based tire company primarily known in the United States for inexpensive truck tires. In Southeast Asia, however, the company fields a full slate of products including the aforementioned Champiro SX2, which is best described as a cross between an Eagle F1 Asymmetric and a Michelin PS2 sold for half the price of either. The GT Radial folks had set up a pair of slaloms, one wet and one dry, and connected them with a wide-radius left-hander. It was on this little course that I’d be running the S15.