The Legendary History of the S15 AKA the Nissan Silvia

Andrew Koole
· 4 min read
The Nissan S15 has a storied past. Known for its role in Japan’s drifting culture, the seventh and last generation of the Nissan Silvia was banned from U.S. streets while drifting spiked in popularity thanks to the Fast & Furious movie franchise.
Many fans of the car speculate that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rejected the affordable sports car because of fears of a street racing apocalypse, but the reality is a lot less scandalous. 
Nissan hasn’t used the Silvia nameplate since 2002, but that hasn’t stopped fans from getting excited about any speck of news about the car’s return. Recent action in its segment has reignited the rumor mill. 
Nissan has a surprisingly rich racing history.

A short history of the S15 and Nissan Silva

Nissan debuted the first Silvia back in 1964. Originally marketed as the Datsun Coupe 1500, it was a small, hand-built sports car.
says production ended in 1968 and only 500 were made, none of which made it to the U.S. But that wasn’t the end of the “S” for Nissan.
James Pumphrey of
Donut Media
says that in 1976, Nissan had a problem. The company’s “affordable” sports car, the Datsun Z, was becoming bigger and more expensive every year. To solve the problem, they revived the Silvia with the S10. 
Badged as the 200SX for the American market, the S10 quickly found its place in motorsports and was even raced by movie star Paul Newman. 
Subsequent versions of the car, like the S15, continued in the same vein, competing and winning in rallies, touring car races, and (of course) drifting competitions.
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Why was the S15 banned by the NHTSA?

is in charge of making sure all the vehicles on American roads are safe for drivers, their passengers, and the other people around them. To do this, the organization requires automakers to follow a long list of standards for every model they want to sell here.
Sometimes, the cost of jumping through all of NHTSA’s hoops outweighs the perceived market for a car, and so manufacturers like Nissan don’t bother making the necessary modifications and sell the car to other countries instead. This is what happened to the S15.
Once a car is withheld from the U.S. market, the NHTSA bans it from American roads for 25 years. That means the Nissan S15 won’t be street legal here until 2024.

Will Nissan ever offer an S16?

MORE: Battle of the 2023 Nissan Z Trims: Sport vs Performance
Many in the drifting community see the S-Chassis as one of the best platforms in the sport. So it’s no surprise that they continue to hope that Nissan will revive the Silva nameplate. 
Apparently, their hope might not be in vain. While Nissan hasn’t released anything official, the recent revival of the affordable sports car segment via Honda, Toyota, and Subaru may have inspired the automaker to bring the “S” back to join its “Z” sibling within the next few years.
If you don’t want to wait on Nissan, many competing brands have great alternatives to the Silva. Toyota recently reintroduced the Supra to widespread critical acclaim. Subaru received similar praise for the more affordable BRZ, and Honda announced plans to revive the S200 in 2024.

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