We’ve spent a lot of time in the sixties and seventies lately, probably alienating some of our younger readers, so lets set the time machine a bit closer to home. Why did I pick this? Because I think its a pretty fine looking car, as well as being one of the last of its genre: affordable fun-to-drive, lightweight RWD coupes. Kind of ironic, that this vintage of the SX/Silvia was a looker, because most of its predecessors sure weren’t. Some things do improve with age.
The first Datsun Silvia appeared in 1964, as a coupe version of the Fairlady sports car. Built in very low quantities (554 total), the Silvia left a lasting impression, one that may have influenced our featured car. But I’m inclined to think there was another:
The Bitter SC coupe (1978-1989) perhaps? The time was right. Obviously, the Bitter didn’t even attempt to meet modern bumper standards, but nevertheless…
As much as the original Silvia started out on the right foot, and ended that way with some European influence in both of them, Datsun certainly could have used some of that for the first generation of 200SX/Silvia S10. It was that rather dark period, where Japanese and American styling went a bit bizarre.
I’m profoundly disappointed in not yet having found either a gen1 or gen2 200SX. It seems like just yesterday that these beauties were gracing our streets. The gen2 (S110, above) is utterly boring and forgettable, styling-wise, especially compared to the very handsome gen2 Celica coupe , but the gen1 is a real classic of its era, if you have a thing for Japanese eccentricities. I do, and I live in hope.
Let’s make sure we don’t overlook the fastback version of that generation. These cars were obviously chasing the popular Toyota Celica, and sold well enough. Like the Celica, they were based on Datsun’s RWD sedan platforms, and in Japan, as usual, a variety of exotic engines were available. We suffered with the usual detuned 1.8 and 2.0 L SOHC fours.
I did find this S12 version of the family, a 200SX, built from 1979 through 1983. And I had such a perfect fastback turbo version, really clapped out; but it was on the one file that somehow got lost in translation to my new computer. I’m still smarting about that one. It may also still be a forgettable car, but the record must be kept regardless. And lets not forget that this generation was available with the 3.0 V6 in 1987 and 1988 only.
The S13 generation appeared in 1989 and was built through 1994. It featured Nissan’s excellent multi-link independent suspension, which turned it into one of the better handling cars of the era. A combination of light weight (2700 lbs) and a well set-back engine resulted in excellent front-rear weight distribution. Its only shortcoming was a lack of serious beans: the US versions had 140 hp in 1989-1990 (SOHC KA24E engine), increasing to 155 hp for 1991-1994 (DOHC KA24DE engine). These were cars that called for a stick shift and the willingness to use it liberally.
This car is an automatic, which probably explains why its still in such good shape. The ease of modifying the Silvia for more performance makes them eminently suitable for drifting and other such activities, on the street and off. A full range of readily swapped Nissan engines, fours and V6s, as well as forced induction makes this a perfect platform for tail-happy motoring.
To each their own. I appreciate the 240SX in what it essentially started out to be: a coupe version of a sports car, and as such, this car is the equivalent of a coupe version of the…Miata. Same basic formula, a semi-usable back seat, and a handsome fixed roof.
I may be partial to the notchback coupe, but that’s no excuse to not show the hatchback version, which was undoubtedly the more popular with the crowd that makes them even less common now.
The S13 was replaced by the S14 in 1995, whose sales were a big disappointment. While the S13 sold 60-70k in the US during its best years, the S14 quickly withered a way to four digit numbers, and was pulled from the market in 1998. It wasn’t quite as handsome to me, and the Lexus 300/400SC was clearly the styling influence now. But soldiering on with the same basic four in an era of rapidly exploding horsepower numbers, as well as the general weakness of the sporty coupe market conspire to its early demise.
The 240Sx is gone, as well as the whole genre. Yes, the V6 Mustang and Camaro can eat these cars for a snack, but for some of us, it’s more than that. A car is also like wearing a suit, and some just don’t…suit, regardless of the label. The 240SX’ disappearance left a hole on the rack.