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1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

A genuine JDM Silvia, loaded to the brim with high-quality parts. And that's not even why we like it.

Luke Munnell
Apr 23, 2010
Photographer: Matthieu Lambert

We're gonna let you in on a little secret: The car spread out before you almost didn't make it as a feature vehicle in Import Tuner. Let's face it-mildly modified 240SXs are a dime a dozen these days; to most, an inexpensive beater car that can be built and driven for cheap, and all but thrown away when drifting practice goes wrong. They are the RWD Civic, with resale values so low you could total one by wearing out its clutch. That's why we love them, but feature cars have to be priceless in the positive sense. When Montreal-based photographer Matthieu Lambert originally sent us this lead-in shot of his friend's car in hopes that it would make the cut for "Longshots", we liked the photo, but the car looked like any other modified 240. Until a few key words in its spec sheet jumped out at us: ARC, Toda, Tomei, Blitz, Greddy, OS Giken, Origin Lab, RHD, Silvia, authentic, daily driven, built for drifting.

Impp_1006_02_o+1991_nissan_silvia+rear_view Photo 2/13   |   1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

OK, now we were impressed. Mildly. We called Matt for further details, and it wasn't until 15 minutes into our conversation that we had our deal-sealer. "The owner paid close to $15k just buying the car and importing it," he began. "He worked three jobs to pay for only the best parts, and put in eight-hour days building the whole thing himself for almost a year, just so he could drive it daily and drift it on the weekends."

"Why?" we asked. It's common to spend that much time and money on a dedicated show or race car, but a daily? Why not start with a domestic 240SX, throw some cheap parts on it and have fun driving it into the ground?

Impp_1006_05_o+1991_nissan_silvia+arc_filter Photo 3/13   |   1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

"Because the Silvia is his favorite car of all time," Matt replied, "and he believes there's something special-almost magical-about Silvias that 240SXs just don't have. He believes there's only one way to build them: the right way. And even if no one realizes all the work you put into it, he believes no one can truly enjoy a car unless it's perfect in their eyes."

Homeboy just earned his ink.

Think of all the wayward stragglers you've known to live out of their 240s and build them solely to drift on the weekends. Sure, they're usually some of the coolest people alive, but are also laid-back fringers who typically don't stress over details like hygiene, bill paying, or going to work on time (if at all). Especially those who regard the Silvia/240SX as the best car ever made. Ask their motivation in building a car, and chances are your answer will come uncertainly, broken by odd pauses and countless "likes" and "ums". Meeting Alen Andjelic, the owner/builder of this Silvia, came as a big shock to our preconceptions. He's 29, works tech support for a hip downtown Montreal-based upstart, confesses to being a workaholic, and although English is his second language, speaks it better than most home-bred Americans. Hearing him tell the story of how he came to own this Silvia-with the fluid, seamless pace with which he told it, complete with varied inflection, tone, and dialects for situations presented therein-was like listening to Cliff Notes on tape . . . but actually being interested in what was said.

"I remember when the 240SX first came out and my friend's dads got one," Alen begins. "I thought it was the coolest car I'd ever seen. I was 12 or 14 at the time, and he let my older brother drive us around the block. At that moment, I made it a goal in life to get one of my own." He continues, "I owned a few throughout the years, and the more I got into the show and race scenes, the more I learned of the car's lineage in Japan. I learned it was originally created as the Silvia or 180SX, and that the naturally aspirated American-spec 240SX was an afterthought. I learned of how their power, weight balance and suspension geometry made them highly sought after among drifters in Japan, and how that led to them being regarded as 'outlaw cars'. I learned that the first Sil-eighty conversions were done because fixed headlights were cheaper to replace on a 180SX that's constantly being wrecked in the mountains than retractable lights. The more I learned, the more I realized the only way to do justice to the car was by bringing over an authentic Silvia and building it with proven parts.

Impp_1006_09_o+relocated+battery Photo 7/13   |   1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

"Once I finished school, got a job and all that stuff, I finally had time and money to get a car," Alen continues. "I researched Canadian importing laws and discovered that it was completely legal to register an imported vehicle for street use, provided it was 15 years old or older (a law that has since been repealed). I learned enough Japanese to read online classified ads, found a Silvia for sale in Osaka for $4,500 that would clear the legal loophole by one month, hired an importing broker for another $4,000 to ship it into the country, paid about $1,000 in customs fees, another $2,500 to have it train-shipped from Vancouver to Toronto, then another $1,000 or so to have it flatbedded to my friend Stephane Dupuis' shop in Napierville, Quebec.

"The car was pretty heavily modified in Japan. It was slammed to the ground, had a Nismo differential and Ogura twin-plate racing clutch, HKS bolt-ons, SPG buckets, some aftermarket lights, a huge bosozoku-style exhaust tip, its bumpers and rear fenders were pretty beat-up, and looked like some seriously aggressive wheels had been on it-it had definitely seen some outlaw touge action in its day!" he brags, proudly. "The only legal stipulation I had to take care of to get it registered was to fit the car with all the DOT accessories it lacked compared to the 240SX. I had to find new rear seatbelts and stock front seats, DOT headlights, get new brakes, install a catalytic converter, raise its ride height, and repair some body damage the car had incurred over the years. And most of those parts had to be replaced with genuine Nissan parts made specifically for the Silvia, which took me forever to find."

Impp_1006_10_o+1991_nissan_silvia+engine_bay Photo 8/13   |   1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

His first two years with the car were spent piecing it back together for registration, then driving it on Montreal streets, daily. "I'll never forget taking it out for the first time," he laughs. "I got pulled over right away. There I was, sitting on the side of the road, balls in my throat, mentally going over all my paperwork, thinking, 'is it legal? I think it's legal. Please let it be legal!' The cop walked around the car a few times, stuck his head in the driver's window and said, 'What the hell is this thing?' I replied that it was a Silvia and was from Japan. He looked around some more and said, 'Cool! I just wanted to check it out,' and let me go. I was a little annoyed at first, but I thought it was cool that he was impressed with it."

Years of abuse on and off rough Canadian roads began to take their toll on the Silvia. "All the potholes around here killed my suspension," explains Alen. "Drag racing and parking lot drifting eventually caused the diff to let go, and the body work I did in a hurry years before was starting to show. My friend offered me a space in his body shop to work on the car, so for the next eight months I wrenched all day on the car, and then did eight-hour graveyard shifts at different jobs to fund it. I think I was averaging three to four hours of sleep a night." Alen and some friends removed every body panel from the chassis, pulled the SR, and stripped the interior. They straightened the Silvia's body and patched up the spots that needed it, fitted Origin Lab, GT Spec, D-Max and OEM Nissan replacement parts, installed a competition-legal six-point roll cage, mounted the battery in the rear, and painted it all in Mazda RX-8 red and Nissan 350Z black. They replaced the S13 SR20DET's T25 turbocharger with the S15's improved ball-bearing T28 unit, installed an ARC induction box, front-mount intercooler and piping, Koyo radiator, and all-new fuel delivery and engine management equipment. The ultra-burly Ogura clutch was replaced with a more user-friendly OS Giken twin-plate unit, a C's short-throw shifter was added, and the old, cracked transmission bushing was bumped for a Uras non-compliant variant. Toda Fightex coilovers were special-ordered and joined to Tein camber plates, tie rods and rod ends for fine-tuneability, and the Silvia's brakes were upgraded to Nissan Z32 OEM stopping stock, with EBC pads and a Cusco hand brake lock disabler. Inside, the newly-painted floor was covered in heat-resistant sound deadening material, while Project Mu brake pedals, a Nardi steering wheel, and a host of Defi meters were added to enhance driver feedback. Even the stock Silvia seat was tossed in favor of an OE ER34 GT-R replacement, for its increased lateral support.

Impp_1006_11_o+sparco_ns_06+wheels Photo 9/13   |   1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

After eight months of busted knuckles, drained bank accounts, paint fume inhalation, greasy clothes, and a serious caffeine addiction, Alen's Silvia was taken to Almasi Tuning, A.K.A. "the guys to see" in the Montreal tuning scene, where it laid down a respectable 279 whp and 313 lb-ft of torque. Not Earth-shattering by any stretch, but as Alen puts it, more than enough to induce brown trousers in a car as lightweight as his. "It's been to the track or an empty parking lot nearly every weekend since we finished it," he explains, "and it's putting out plenty of power for my needs, while still staying perfectly comfortable on the street."

Impp_1006_13_o+ARC+spark_plug_cover Photo 10/13   |   1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

For as much as Alen's dreamed, invested and sacrificed to have his Silvia built "the right way", it may come as a shock to learn of his future plans with it. "I was planning to do an S14 front-end conversion, before the economy tanked," he explains, "but now I'm thinking I might save the money and invest in an electric-motor conversion instead." Google "White Zombie Datsun" then come back. "I know of another Silvia in the states that's been converted to full-electric that runs 12s down the quarter," he says, playfully, "I want to build the first one to look good going sideways!"

Behind The Build

Name. Alen Andjelic

Age. 29

Hometown. Montreal, Canada

Occupation. tech support

Build time. Three years


Hobbies. partying; workaholic

Quote. "Oui!"

'91 Nissan Silvia
Output: 279 whp; 313 lb-ft of torque

Engine Redtop S13 SR20DET; Tomei Rocker Arm Stoppers; Nissan S15 ball-bearing turbocharger, Z32 MAFS; Taka oil, coolant plumbing; Deatschwerks 550cc injectors; ARC front-mount intercooler, piping, induction box, cooling panel, coilpack panel; Blitz Dual-Drive blow-off valve; Greddy charge pipe, oil temperature sensor; Turbosmart manual boost controller; Cusco oil catch can; Koyo dual-core aluminum radiator; electric fans; Touge Factory waterneck adapter; tuning by Almasi Tuning

Impp_1006_12_o+1991_nissan_silvia+front_view Photo 11/13   |   1991 Nissan Silvia - Driving The Dream

Drivetrain OS Giken twin-plate clutch, flywheel; C's short-throw shifter; Uras transmission bushing; Nismo 1.5-way limited-slip differential, shift knob; Redline gear oil Suspension Toda Racing Fightex coilovers; Tein camber plates, tie rods, rod ends; Cusco tension rods; Ichiba five-lug conversion

Wheels/Tires Sparco NS-06 wheels (18x8.5 +22 offset front, 18x9.5 +22mm offset rear); Falken Azenis tires (ST115 in 225/40-18 front, FK451 in 235/40-18 rear)

Brakes Nissan Z32 bra master cylinder, reservoir, rotors, four-piston calipers (front); EBC Green Stuff pads; Cusco handbrake lock disabler

Exterior Origin Lab front bumper; JDM Wangan wing; GT Spec front grille; D-Max S23 corner lights, S24 Kouki turn signals, S13 taillights; OEM Nissan projector headlights; Mazda RX-8 red paint; Nissan 350Z black paint

Interior Safety 21 six-point roll cage, harness bar; Willans three-point Clubman harnesses; Project Mu pedals; Thermotec heat and sound shielding; Nardi steering wheel, hub; Defi meters (oil pressure, water temperature, boost); Nissan ER34 GT-R front seats

Gratitude Samir Louhich, Mike Laszlo, George Haidar, Stephane Dupuis, Haig Kanajian, Matus Kompan

Fightex Coilovers Toda's Little Racing Secret
With quality suspension products from Tein, HKS, KW, Ohlins, Aragosta, Tokico, and others filling the wheel wells of most of our feature cars, it might come as a shock that Toda, known more for engine tuning than chassis dynamics, produces a line of their own-a very highly regarded, track-proven option, at that. Originally developed for competition use, Fightex coilovers can be found on many fast Gymkhana, GT and Formula 3 racers in Japan, and are offered to the public in five variations according to intended use. Assembly, adjustment and tuning (valving) of each damper is conducted by a master engineer in the company's Okayama, Japan, headquarters, and each is offered with a choice of spring rate (4-22 kg/mm) matching valving, and options like lower pillow-ball mounts, upper adjustable top hats, helper springs, urethane mounts, and more. All this quality won't come cheap, though-pricing of the street-friendly Type FS set like the one on Alen's S13 begins at around $2,800/set, with the N1-spec and master Gymkhana sets listing upwards of $4K with all the goodies.


Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
OS Giken USA
Torrance, CA 90504
EBC Brakes
Sylmar, CA 91342
Origin Labs
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Cusco USA
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Toda Racing
Irvine, CA 92618
Autoworx Canada
Saint Laurent, QC. H4S 1J2, CA
Almasi Tuning
Delson, Québec, CA
Torrance, CA 90503
By Luke Munnell
303 Articles



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