The Silvia has been one of Nissan’s flagship models since the mid-1960s, so it has a long and prosperous legacy to support its current reputation as an icon of the industry.
Over the years its success has been bolstered by its popularity in the drifting community, both in Nissan’s native Japan and in other countries around the world.
But why is the Silvia such a good choice for drifting and what about the range has helped to sustain its prominence for so many decades?
One factor of drift cars which is consistent across all of the most commonly chosen models is that they are widely supported in the mainstream automotive market.
In the case of the Silvia and many of its rivals, such as Toyota Celica, the widespread availability of parts and spares means that upkeep is inexpensive. There’s no need to scour the internet for costly spares and aftermarket add-ons; both official and third party components are offered affordably and in significant volumes.
This ubiquity also helps lower the barrier of entry to the subculture of drifting. Almost anyone can snap up a second hand Silvia, then get to work to convert it into a dedicated corner conquering dream machine without breaking the bank.
Newcomers who need a guide to help them get started can read up with a drifting 101 guide to find out all they need to know about this internationally recognised pastime.
Solid Stock Setup
Even before any additional parts have been fitted to the Silvia, it has the advantage of being a fun vehicle to drive and drift in its basic state.
This is especially true of the S14 generation, which first touched down in 1993 and took the range forwards in a number of ways. A lower ride height, a wider footprint and a more planted wheelbase helped make it easier to handle and also raised its profile amongst enthusiasts.
All of this comes together to deliver a compelling behind-the-wheel experience that does not require any specialist knowledge or under-the-bonnet tinkering to put a smile on your face.
Of course people who get serious about drifting will want to take things further. But it is nice to know that the Silvia and its offshoots like the Nissan 200SX can provide a firm foundation for excitement on the road or the track.
Rear Wheel Drive
It might not be obvious to the uninitiated, but the one requirement that a car needs to be able to drift is rear wheel drive.
Sure, you can technically drifting in a front wheel drive car, but this is only achievable if you
deliberately install low-grip tyres at the rear so that the back end is liable to kick out in the corners.
Even four wheel drive pickup trucks can be drifted, but that doesn’t mean that they should be.
The Silvia is a rear wheel drive range, with improved suspension and exceptional distribution of weight across all four wheels, especially with the most recent S15 generation vehicles.
Of course older Silvia variants have also had a major impact on the world of drifting, so people looking for a capable performer which has a bit more retro charm might consider the S12 or the S13 worthy of some attention.
Once again the diversity of the range, as well as its extensive history, helps it to maintain relevance today.
Interestingly the traditional drifting trend for Japanese imports being preferred by fans is gradually changing.
Drifters from Nissan’s homeland are ordering in cars from America and Europe, which
shows that the ebb and flow of fashion can influence people just as much as the technical benefits of a particular model.
There’s only so much technical prowess that a car can bring to the table in order to win over the drifting community; in the end a lot of its success or failure will be determined by whether or not it looks cool.
The Silvia and its derivatives have street cred by the bucket load, thanks to a combination of their innate aesthetics and their appearances in pop culture. From anime classics like Initial D to Hollywood franchises like Fast & Furious, there are a large number of influential shows and movies that have featured this range in one form or another.
Aggressive styling has always been a calling card of the Silvia, while the increasing width of the bodywork and the opportunity to augment it with aftermarket kits has also been key to its enduring popularity.
Lots of cars can potentially be turned into drift machines, but the Silvia is one of the few that is so readily modifiable in a way that doesn’t suffer from a steep learning curve.
A lot of the mechanical elements are relatively straightforward, especially on earlier generations, while a wealth of third party components designed for drifting can be purchased affordably and installed with relative ease.
That is not to say that a complete novice can get to grips with tweaking a Silvia from day one. It is simply a case of recognizing the comparatively accessible nature of the platform. So for beginners and experts alike, the Silvia is understandably seen as the savvy drifter’s choice.