It's a shame how Nissan never offered the S15 Silvia in North America. Of course, the company had no way of predicting how popular the S-chassis would be years after production, but you can imagine how insane it would have been to have the S15 readily available here! Despite the absence of the last-gen S-chassis in the States, the S13 and S14 platforms exploded in popularity, especially after this little thing called drifting stormed the nation in the early the '00s. 240s were affordable and great entry-level vehicles to build for anyone who wanted to get into sliding. The fact that they shared many parts between the two platforms made the cars that much more favorable coupled with an abundance of aftermarket support. It became the Civic and Integra equivalent for Nissan-lovers. And one individual who embraced everything about the S-chassis is Tony Martin.
Tony has built quite a few S-chassis projects: 440hp righthand drive S13, two RPS13 hatchbacks, one 500hp race car, and finally two other S13s with SR20DET swaps. There may be one or two others that he has since forgotten about, but the holy grail of cars that he wanted was none other than the S15 Silvia. "When I first got into drifting in '05, I saw an S15 Silvia and instantly fell in love with it," Tony begins. "If you've seen Gone in 60 Seconds, the S15 Silvia basically became my Eleanor—the car I had to have."
"Wanting" doesn't always equate to "having" and as such, it took nine years for Tony to finally acquire his dream car. A friend of his had imported an S15, titled and registered it, but later ran out of funds to properly build it. Ever the opportunist, Tony leaped at the chance to take the car off of his hands. The timing could not have been better because he was looking for new ways to help promote his own tuning shop, Freedom Motorsportz. Finally having his dream S-chassis inspired him to create a new drift car for what he calls "professional fun-having" with hopes that it would bring more attention to his business.
Tony soon discovered just how difficult it was to own a vehicle that was never previously sold in States. Though there was an extensive list of products available for the SR20DET, finding replacement OEM components was anything but simple. Something as basic as a factory clutch master cylinder took more than six weeks to acquire. Anything that is hard to get doesn't come cheap, either, so it became Tony's mission to find a more cost-effective way to solve his quandaries. He continues, "It is definitely a test of patience. I expected parts to be a little bit more, in terms of price, but I had to become very resourceful in how I went about looking for OEM parts. I wanted it to be the best car I had ever owned, so I did everything I could to get whatever parts I needed."
The many years he spent tinkering with Nissan SR motors made the engine build a relatively easy task compared to the rest of the project. His Silvia already came with a low-mileage SR20DET, so it was the perfect starting point. Internally, the motor remains untouched but everything around it has seen upgrades in one form or another. The factory turbo and manifold are gone and in their place is a Garrett GTX3071 turbine mated to a custom manifold made in-house at Freedom Motorsportz. The intercooler piping, downpipe, and exhaust were also fabbed up by Tony and his crew. 740cc injectors pump plenty of fuel into the heart of the Silvia, and with the aid of a trusty A'PEXi Power FC, Mr. Martin was able to extract a little more than 400 whp.
When it comes to the exterior of the S15, it's almost hard to beat the sleek body lines of the Silvia. Even today, the car's sporty design looks more modern than 15 years old. But Tony really wanted to make a huge visual impact, so he looked toward the aftermarket. In '14, Kei Miura of TRA Kyoto released renderings of its Rocket Bunny widebody kit. As you can guess, it was everything Tony wanted. The aggressive stature and widened body panels were loud and suited what Tony had envisioned. Fitting the kit meant that he would have to cut sections of the original body panels out, but he didn't give it a second thought.
Being that he was going to chop up the body already, Tony and his staff also made the decision to tube the front wheelwells. The wheel arches were gusseted and reinforced before the entire shell was re-sprayed in the factory Nissan silver tone. The wider body meant that the car was required to run equally wide wheels. In drifting, getting maximum steering angle is key, so the tubbed wheelwells help to give his S15 that necessary clearance to maneuver around the track without rubbing the frame.
After falling in love with the S15, it took Tony nine years to acquire his Eleanor; however, once the car of his dreams was in his garage, it took 18 months to get the vehicle where it is today. He's taken it to a couple drift events at Lime Rock and Pocono Raceway and is still getting used to driving around the streets of Pennsylvania, being that the car is so aggressive with the widebody and low stance. But if this S15 has taught him anything, it's that patience is still a virtue. The last time we spoke to him, he mentioned that he's already in the works to swap a built Toyota 2JZ-GTE. We'd say that it was appropriate in this car's continued evolution. There is no better way to show the world what you can do than to make an already beastly build into a fighter.
Why a tubed front end?
Tony and the team at Freedom Motorsportz had to cut out the factory wheelwells to accommodate the width of the Rocket Bunny kit as well as the 18x11" wheels. This gave the S15 all the clearance it needed for more steering angle. Tubes and gussets were added to reinforce the front strut towers.