At the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964, Nissan Motor Co debuted a Fairlady-based hardtop called Datsun Coupe 1500, which would enter production in 1965 as the Nissan Silvia. This model line would be in production until 2002, and in between those 4 decades, it would be known by different model names all around the world, including North America’s Datsun/Nissan 200SX and 240SX lineups. The first generation Silvia ended production in 1968.
The second iteration of the Silvia, debuted in 1975, was the first generation of this model lineup sold in North America. This second generation S10 chassis model was also named Datsun 180SX and 200SX. At the time, Datsun was the North American brand equivalent of Japan’s Nissan.
The third generation S110 Silvia debuted in 1979, and in other markets outside of Japan, the model retained its Datsun 180SX/200SX names. In 1983, Nissan debuted a World Rally Championship (WRC) homologation special called the 240RS, which had been installed with extended fender flares and a rally suspension setup. This special model saw production for its entire 3-year career in WRC until 1985.
1984 saw the debut of the S12 series generation, which in North America, would be the first generation to be a non-Datsun model. (Nissan Motor Co decided it wise to merge the company into its universal Nissan branding). The North American equivalent would continue to retain its 200SX branding from its Datsun years. This model was available as a 2-door coupe or hatchback.
The fifth-generation Silvia, dubbed S13, debuted in Japan in May 1988. The initial power for the Silvia was the 1.8L CA18DE, throwing 135 horsepower. The Silvia was divided into three classes, or trim levels: J’s, Q’s, and K’s, mimicking the hierarchy of Jack, Queen, and King in playing cards. July 1988 saw the introduction of the rare convertible model, based on the top-tier K’s (“king”). In December 1988, the Silvia was named Japan Car of the Year, and a year later, a viscous limited-slip differential (LSD) was added to the Q’s lineup. February 1990 saw an addition of the “Diamond Selection” series to the Q’s and K’s. This luxury option added automatic AC, aluminum wheels, a Sony CD player, electric retractable door mirrors, rear spoilers, super-fine factory paint coat, and genuine leather seats. January 1991 saw the addition of the 2.0L SR20DE and SR20DET. The base SR20 pushed out 140 horsepower, while its turbocharged counterpart produced 205 horses. In 1992, a special model based on the Q’s debuted which added luxury amenities. The “Club Selection” was much like the earlier “Diamond Selection” in that it offered a console CD player and polished silver wheels.
While the Japanese domestic Silvia was fitted with 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter motive power, the North American 240SX gained a larger power-plant. From 1989 to 1990, the 240SX employed a 2.4L KA24E which produced 140 horsepower. 1991 saw a power boost to the upgraded KA24DE; this time producing 155 horsepower. This was also the year the 240SX received a slight cosmetic upgrade. In 1992, American Specialty Cars (ASC) of Detroit, Michigan, began to roll out convertible versions of the 240SX. The S13 generation Silvia ended production in Japan in October 1993, and the USDM 240SX ended production in model year 1994.
The S14 Silvia began Japanese production in 1993, with the North American 240SX following two years after. Engine options ranged from 2.0L naturally aspirated (SR20DE), 2.0L turbo (SR20DET), and the 2.4L KA24DE. In other words, the engine lineup hadn’t changed from the previous generation. The KA24DE was reserved for the 240SX model. This pre-facelift generation is colloquially referred to as “Zenki“.
1996 saw a cosmetic update to the Silvia, wherein the vehicle featured sharper front and rear ends and a leaner stance. This facelift is referred to as “S14a” or “Kouki“. This naming did nothing to change the vehicle identification number (VIN), as this model was in the same generation as the S14 Silvia that debuted in 1993. This manifested itself in the North American 240SX version not long after, in the 1997 model year. The S14 Silvia, overall, would see production through 1998. The North American “S-car” lineup would end production that year, with no successor.
The S15 generation debuted mainly in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in January 1999. This model had a rounder version of the S14 Kouki’s aggressive styling. While it was named Silvia in its home market, the Australian and New Zealand model was named 200SX. Engine options were limited to two 2.0-liter units: the naturally aspirated SR20DE (producing 160 – 165 hp for the Spec-S); and the turbocharged SR20DET (producing 225 – 250 hp for the Spec-R). October 1999 saw an addition of the “B-package” to the Spec-R, which put an emphasis on touring-car luxury, like the past Diamond Selection and Club Selection options. The B-package added blue suede seats and door trims, genuine leather gear shift knobs, and keyless entry.
Like what American Specialty Cars did with the 240SX in North America, Autech Japan customized the Silvia into a convertible called Varietta, which they debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1999. The Varietta launched into production in May 2000. This model was essentially a hardtop convertible version of the Spec-S, which was available with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.
An exhaust emissions regulation mandated in 2000 meant that the Silvia could not continue production for much longer. In Japan, vehicles with engines larger than 2000cc (2.0L) are more heavily taxed. The Silvia barely managed to brush the threshold, at 1998cc. Still, production of the Nissan Silvia ended in August 2002, leaving no successor in the lineup.