1965 CSP311 SILVIA COUPE
The world’s first glimpse of the Silvia came at the 1964 Tokyo motor show.
The original CSP311 Silvia was based on the existing Fairlady 1500 soft-top platform (whose basic design stems back to classic British sports cars). The attractive body of the Silvia can be largely credited to Dr. Albrecht Graf von Goertz – a German designer with previous experience at Porsche, BMW and Studebaker. Dr. von Goertz sculpted the Silvia to incorporate similar concepts seen in the BMW 507 – a long bonnet line, thin pillars and bumpers, and relatively large (14 inch) wheels. Dr. von Goertz was the first designer working in Japan to employ a full-scale clay model. And the CSP311 Silvia can be credited with some other ‘firsts’…
This was the first Japanese manufactured car to employ disc front brakes, which combined with the rear drums used in the Fairlady. The wishbone front suspension and leaf spring live axle rear suspension were a direct carry-over from the Fairlady, except with softer settings.
Under its stylish long bonnet, the CSP311 Silvia packed a new 1600cc ‘R’ engine. The R engine used a 3 bearing crankshaft, pushrods, 9.0:1 compression ratio, a lightweight pressed steel exhaust manifold, dual exhaust and twin 38mm Hitachi carburettors. Output was listed at a creditable 66kW at 6000 rpm. Note that a short time into the CSP311 Silvia’s build, the engine was revised with an alloy cylinder head and 5 bearing crankshaft (which hints that there were failures of the original 3 bearing unit). This 5 bearing 1600 was simultaneously employed in the Fairlady 1600. A 4-speed manual gearbox (boasting synchros on all forward gears) was installed into the CSP311 together with a shorter diff ratio than found in the Fairlady. This is said to improve acceleration to match the slightly lighter Fairlady. Both the CSP311 Silvia and Fairlady weigh less than 1000kg.
Amazingly, the 1965 Silvia used hand-beaten body panels and each vehicle was hand assembled. It is said that a very high quality exterior finish was achieved but quality is poor beneath the skin.
Nissan Motor Company’s decision to hand assemble the CSP311 Silvia leads us to believe the Silvia was never intended for high-volume production. And it’s just as well. The American market (which Nissan saw as a major target) regarded the CSP311 as too cramped and having a too small engine. Certainly, headroom was limited and engine capacity was modest compared to other vehicles available in America at the time.
The CSP311 was never officially sold in America but a small number were exported to Australia (where it was badged as the Nissan 1600 Coupe). The car was quite well greeted but with a price tag more expensive than a Lotus Elan, it was never going to be a hot-seller. Over 90 percent of CSP311 Silvias were sold in the Japanese home market – where they were even put to use as highway patrol cars…
Only about 550 examples of these personal coupes were built.