Wrong-hand drive: The 1990 Nissan Silvia S13
After a few minutes of driving around Kansas City’s historic West Bottoms, I got the hang of driving it. Shifts became (somewhat) natural, positioning the car in the lane came suspiciously easy, and the car just felt right. The turbo spooled up later in the RPM band ... but it was pretty dramatic when it did eventually spool up.
On a hot summer day in Kansas City, I experienced a JDM icon: a right-hand drive Nissan Silvia S13. The car I had for the afternoon was a 1990 coupe with about 61,000 kilometers on the clock (37,000 miles) owned by my friend Craig. After a few minutes of talking with Craig about the car, I got in the driver’s seat and everything I had prepared myself for had vanished. I didn’t want to be that guy who constantly says, “This is so weird!” but I was that guy and I couldn’t help it.
Powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline four cylinder (CA18DET), the Silvia was rated at 167 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque when it was new. The CA18DET was never offered in any cars in the U.S, although the non-turbocharged variant (CA18DE) came in the U.S spec Nissan Pulsar. Weighing in around 2700 lbs, the Silvia is a relatively light car, which with its lower power numbers helps it feel faster than it really is. After a few minutes of driving around Kansas City’s historic West Bottoms in this car, I got the hang of driving it. Shifts became (somewhat) natural, positioning the car in the lane came suspiciously easy, and the car just felt right. The turbo spooled up later in the RPM band than I had become used to in other vehicles, but it was pretty dramatic when it did eventually spool up. This car breaks necks all over town once everybody notices you’re driving on the “wrong” side of the car. Seriously, the amount of people gawking at this car outdoes the NSX I reviewed earlier this year by at least double. On the exterior, this Silvia is finished in Super Black and wears Nissan alloy wheels, which are believed to have come on the car from the factory. A factory color matched spoiler adds some definition to the profile of this Silvia. The fixed headlight front fascia is factory on this car since it is a real Silvia from Japan - although many domestic market 240SX’s are known to swap to this front end. There are little frills and aftermarket parts you can visually see on this time capsule Silvia.
On the interior, this Silvia has an aftermarket driver’s bucket seat made by Abaris, which holds you snug and is fairly comfortable. A factory heads-up display is tucked at the bottom of the driver’s side A-pillar. The rest of the interior is fairly untouched with the exception of a boost gauge and a short shift kit, which according to Craig, the owner, has greatly improved the shifter feel. The modifications to Craig’s Silvia are discreet and have made the car better than it left the factory without taking away the character of the car. That includes the short shift kit, stiffer aftermarket struts and springs and a period correct bucket seat. Overall, this car has a ton of character and it makes you feel nostalgic, even if you weren’t born when the car first came out. Myself being a sucker for classic Japanese sports cars, this S13 Silvia was quite the treat that did not disappoint. If this had been a left-hand drive vehicle, much of the character would be lost just in that alone. Right-hand drive changes the entire experience in a very good way. Now, the next logical step in nostalgic Japanese sports cars for me to review is the R32 GTR – any takers?
Nathan Christian lives in Lee's Summit, MO and enjoys daily driving his Laguna Blue Honda S2000. Check out his Instagram account (@speedenthusiasts) to view more of his work.