#BlogPost - the Three Autech Versions of the S15 Silvia
I would normally like to leave the best to last but this time it has to be placed at the start. The Autech Version S15, is the most common of the three Autech variations of the Silvia. While Autech are typically known for producing powerful variants of different Nissan cars, in this situation the Autech Version is not the fastest version of the S15, it is however the fastest naturally aspirated version. The Autech Version is based upon the Spec-S. It has a non-turbo SR20DE, with a few modifications cranking up the power to 200 metric horsepower (197 BHP / 147 KW). This power figure is exactly the same as the Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ, up to 13 years beforehand with the same sized engine, and it has a little more torque.
The language barrier prevents me from getting information straight from Nissan publications, but the difference in the engines so far as I’ve gathered is the addition of a free flowing exhaust using beautiful looking tubular headers, a more free flowing intake, higher compression ratio of 11.7:1 (versus the Spec-S’ 10.1), more aggressive camshafts and they’ve also painted the valve cover red for good measure (note: this is not a red-top SR20, it’s just painted red).
Beyond the differences in the engine, the Autech version also uses the same 6-speed transmission and helical geared differential featured in the turbocharged Spec-R. It also uses 5-stud wheels like the Spec-R and larger brakes and extra chassis bracing (most likely identical to the Spec-R’s however I have not been able to confirm this). Despite the absence of a turbo-charger, in my opinion the Autech Version S15 is closer to the Spec-R than it is to the Spec-S. The Autech version also features different seat trim with red stitching. With a redline of 7500RPM, the Autech Version redlines 300RPM higher than the Spec-R. It also features a lightened flywheel, a 4.083 final drive ratio (compared to the Spec-R’s 3.692 final drive ratio).
You might be wondering why this car has a place, given you could also have the more powerful turbo version for virtually the same price. This is true, however a naturally aspirated, slightly higher revving sports car has its appeals. With a lightweight flywheel, 4.083 final drive ratio and naturally aspirated engine, the Autech Version would feel like quite an agile car to drive.
These cars also have a very special place outside of Japan. Here in Australia, our car laws can be quite unusual compared to other parts of the world. Australia uses a graduated licensing system, where once you first get your license, you’re not without restrictions. For the first few years of your license, you hold what is called a probationary license - and have to display “P plates” on your car (hence the term “P-plater”). While it varies state to state, most new license holders in Australia are restricted on what vehicles they can drive - most turbo charged cars being illegal with a few exceptions. This makes the Spec-R out of reach to most new drivers. The Spec-S Silvia is not legal for import (as it doesn’t meet the criteria to be classed as an “enthusiast vehicle”) and the Australian-delivered S15 does not have a non-turbo version. Which leaves the Autech Version as their only hope. Interestingly, the naturally aspirated Autech Version ships with more power than the detuned turbocharged Australian-delivered S15.
The Varietta is a convertible version of the S15. It was based upon the Spec-S trim, and features the Spec-S’ unexciting N/A SR20DE (some state that the S15 Varietta has the same engine used in the “Autech Version” but this is not the case), the Spec S having 165 metric HP (162 BHP / 121 KW). Coupled with the fact that at 1330KG (for the manual) the Varietta weighs about another 100KG over the coupe versions, we can gather that the Varietta isn’t the fastest way to get about. To put the performance into perspective, the S15 Silvia Spec R has a power-to-weight ratio (as we would measure in Australia) of 148 KW/metric tonne, the Varietta has a power-to-weight ratio of 91 KW / metric tonne. This puts it only slightly (less that 10 KW/ tonne) ahead of a new 1.8L Toyota Corolla, and gives it a power-to-weight ratio only 61% of a stock turbocharged S15 Silvia. While I haven’t been able to find any 0-100 times for the Varietta (with the rarity comes a scarcity of information) but we can imagine that it would hardly compare to the Spec-R’s.
Also, while I can’t give you exact figures on how many were automatic compared to the manual, I can tell you that a good number of the examples I have seen for sale are automatic (probably more than half). In my opinion, the Varietta appealed to those who wanted a convertible but cared nothing for performance, which is reasonable to assume as it’s hard to fathom the Varietta having the same rigidity and great handling of the coupe. The original marketing material I have been able to find for the Varietta gave me the impression that it was mostly aimed to women looking for a fashionable car, given the prominence of women in the marketing material. The material I found not drawing any attention to the performance aspect of the car at all, just its aesthetic. It’s reasonable to assume this car was geared at competing with the MX-5 Roadster, being another trendy affordable convertible. A “hairdresser car” if you will, however the MX-5 did appeal to fashion and car enthusiasts alike with its fantastic handling.
While I will respect all concerned’s opinion on the Varietta, and while I wouldn’t call it a bad car in itself, compared to the other S15s its only appeal is a retractable roof and optional heated leather seats. In my opinion it was never slated to be an addition to the Silvia line up, but rather use the Silvia as a basis for another car with another purpose all together.
The Style A is a lesser known variety. Not many of them were sold, and looking at them I think I know why. Journalists have commented on the S15 styling having similar lines to the Ferrari 456 - some speculating it was a source of inspiration in the styling. This idea is only taken further with the existence of the Style A. The Style A featured external cosmetic styling and interior trim modelled on the Ferrari 456.
The Style A was available in both turbo and non-turbo varieties, we can assume the underpinning chassis was either a Spec-S or Spec-R, with differences between these models being beyond the power output - with things such as the stud-pattern (4/5 stud), brakes, differential, transmission and chassis bracing differing between the two. The marketing material I have found for the Style-A suggest to me it had no clear intended market, but rather was just an alternate styling package for the regular models.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m not beholding the beauty of the Style A myself. The closer styling cues borrowed from the 456 do not seem to apply well to the body of the S15 Silvia, which is why I believe this to be the least common of the Autech models of the S15. People will not be willing to pay extra for a car less good looking than its basis.
Desert road photo used in the cover image attributed to
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