Design Study: Nissan Silvia CSP311 and S13

Looking at images of the Silvia recently, I was surprised that I had never noticed how many styling cues the 1988 S13 takes from the first Silvia, the 1965 CSP311. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that Americans think Nissan 240SX when they hear S13, and the 240SX encompassed both coupe and fastback body styles, all with flip-up headlights.ย  But in Japan, the Silvia’s only form is a coupe with fixed headlights. From there you can see the hood’s taper, roofline, and C-pillar treatment. Even the S13’s wheels look like an updated alloy of the CSP311’s wheel covers.

Whether Nissan intended this or not is unknown but we do know that the CSP311 Silvia was Nissan’s first attempt at a specialty car. That’s Japanese for a personal coupe based on another platform with an emphasis on style, yet does not share any lines with an existing sedan. And we know that after the tech-infused 80s styling of the S12, Nissan was looking to return the Silvia to its specialty car roots with a priority on a lightweight, airy chassis and bold design.

The S13 won a Good Design Award from MITI upon release and TV ads called it the “Art Force Silvia,” so Nissan was obviously shooting for some kind of recognition for styling. Maybe I’ve just been staring too long. Heck, I never noticed this before despite once owning a 240SX. What do JNCers think?

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8 Responses to Design Study: Nissan Silvia CSP311 and S13

  1. Tyler says:

    Yes, I definitely see it. Yo

    • Tyler says:

      WTF cut out.

      You’d be surprised how many cars do that. Notice they change enough so people don’t realize it’s quite retro. The line that comes from the rear pillar down around to the headlights on the original is gone on the S13. If it were there, the resemblance would be too obvious!

      • Tj says:

        The line is there if you look close enough.
        On the S13 it starts at the top of the tail light, continues down across the top of the front wheel arch and ends at the top corner of the headlight.

        It’s much more subtle but it follows a pretty similar line to the CSP311.

        I’d never noticed the similarity before this though. It’d be interesting to see more comparison shots.

        • Tyler says:

          No, I’m talking about the one that goes around the rear of the window and disappears at the leading edge of the hood. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Tj says:

    Whilst poking a little further into the history of this car I game across this website:

    it seems to be a Wikipedia cut n paste job but it elaborates a little more. But most interesting is the photo at the bottom of the page titled “design study of the S13”
    Theres no other info on its origin unfortunately, could it be an actual drawing from Nissan it just fan art?

    • Ben says:

      That’s a cool sketch and you know what? I’ve seen it before yet I still didn’t make the connection! Or maybe it just took a while to bubble up from the sub-conscious ๐Ÿ™‚

      I had forgotten all about it or I would have definitely used it in the post. Thanks!

    • Tyler says:

      The rendering techniques (apparently marker and pastel) hint that it could be an official design sketch. I don’t know many designers who would do a rendering with those cars, and in that style, for the fun of it. Reminds me of the Mk5 GTI rendering that shows every generation starting with 1978.

      If anyone finds the original, I’d very much appreciate a link! Such a great piece.

  3. Jim-bob says:

    If you really want to see a car that looks similar, look at a 1960’s Lancia Fulvia coupe. Not the Zagato but the standard one. They share more than a few lines and themes.

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