Work Experience: A USDM-Style S15

As much as it will pain our American readers to hear, there’s been a noticeable surge in the abundance of S15s in the UK in the last few years.

There was a time when Nissan’s S-chassis swansong was something of a rarity in tuning and drifting circles here in Blighty. Thinking back to the days when I was clumsily sliding an old S14 around an airfield, someone rolling up and drifting an S15 would be considered Billy Big Bucks.


Fast forward to 2017, and attend any JDM-flavoured show or drift event in the UK now and you’re sure to encounter at least a handful. I guess they’re more affordable now? Or maybe punters are braver with their money when it comes to choosing a drift platform?

Cosmetics aside, it’s not much different from an S14 underneath, so repairing and upgrading them is a fairly thrifty affair.


It’s a design that’s aged remarkably well too. The Silvia S15 still looks as fresh today as it did 15 years ago when the final models rolled off the production line. This is obviously aided by the huge aftermarket support available.


I have a theory about this: I think that cars only really start to age aesthetically when a replacement model is launched. For example, the 350Z looked up to date until the 370Z was unveiled, and each generation of MX-5 looks modern until the next one appears.

On the flip side, cars like the Honda S2000 and the S15 seem to have retained their looks – a newer and better-looking sibling simply never materialised.


The very low and very yellow example in front of you is owned by Driftworks employee Rich Starkey and, despite his employer’s speciality and reputation, it isn’t a drift car. This is Rich’s daily driver.


The car was originally purchased by Driftworks itself to act DW lead man Phil Morrison’s spare practice car, however shortly after purchasing it, he went and bought another S15 (the black one that you often see in Driftworks’ videos) so Rich snapped up the yellow peril.

At the time, the car was a naturally aspirated auto model with air suspension. A complete S14A was purchased and the more potent and involving engine and running gear from this was swapped across.


The engine has been lightly breathed on with a selection of off-the-shelf parts, including a full turbo-back exhaust, Cosworth metal head gasket, ARP head studs and Driftworks radiator and intercooler.


Rather than follow the oft-seen ‘drift style’ route UK S15s often travel down, and seeing as the import laws over the pond prevent such a thing from existing for a good few years to come, Rich wanted to create his interpretation of a USDM-style S15.

Once again, sorry America.


When it comes to acquiring parts, Rich’s position at Driftworks affords him some great contacts for importing rare bits. Focusing on the styling, he added a selection of Origin Lab parts, including a Stylish line front bumper and side skirts, front and rear fenders and a subtle roof spoiler.


The rear bumper is a Vertex item, and the boot lip spoiler is from 326Power.


The +40mm front fenders were customised by removing and smoothing over the vent, while the rear fenders are the bulky +50mm variety.


The stepped line in the fenders suits the shape of the S15 down to a tee, and this mishmash of parts from different styling catalogues all works very well together.


The car is currently used as a demo car not only for Driftworks, but also Work Wheels UK and Europe, so it’ll come as no surprise that Rich recently switched to a brand new set of Work Meister L1 3-piece wheels, measuring 18×9.5-inch -5 up front and a girthy 18×10.5-inch -33 in the rear.


Rather than opt for the usual polished dish, Rich chose a brushed finish. Not only does this make it easier to keep them clean, it also exaggerates the size of the barrels without the reflections from a polished lip playing tricks on your eyes.


This matte finish contrasts nicely with the white gloss centres and blingy gold bolts. Hidden away are a one-off set of prototype HSD 8-pot 356mm front brakes that never made it into production.

Helping these gigantic wheels fit under the S15’s pumped fenders is the sizeable negative camber Rich runs – around -6 degrees in the front and around negative -5 degrees in the rear, I’m told.


Achieving this ride height would’ve been relatively simple had Rich kept the air setup, however the S15 has since been converted to a traditional static coilover system. Again, pulling from Driftworks stock, HSD MonoPro coilovers are mated to +25mm extended lower control arms holding Geomaster 2 front knuckles, tension rods and tie rods. Driftworks offset rack spacers provide the extra steering reach to comply with the longer arms.


At the back Driftworks rear camber and toe arms provide enough scope for adjustment. A Kaaz 1.5-way LSD is tucked away out of sight, should the need for skids eventually take Rich’s fancy.

The cabin is still a work-in-progress, with a Personal Trophy wheel mated to a HKB boss and NRG 3.0 quick release. Rich’s choice of shifter is a Wearelikewise item, which resembles a painful torture device of some descript. I’ll let you use your own imagination.


For now, a set of Work pillows adorn the stock seats, although the car is soon to be used for a prototype set of extra low mount seat rails that are currently in development, so it won’t stay this way for too long.


Despite the peer pressure and almost constant goading from his work colleagues, Rich doesn’t have any immediate plans to take his S15 drifting. My best efforts to persuade him to do a burnout for the camera weren’t met with any success either.


Either way, one the streets of Birmingham the car certainly turns heads. It may not be your usual drift-spec S-chassis, but this is one unique S15 definitely worth taking a closer look around.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters
Facebook: Jordan Butters Photography



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How does USDM come into play in this build at all? Is this just putting in a buzz word?

Matthew Dockery

Yeah I'm a little confused about the USDM term... Maybe it's because I'm here in the US, and therefore can't see what my own area's style is.

I'd be hard set to see a USDM Japanese car theme though. Nearly all of the styles over here are derivative of JDM styling (boso style over fenders and huge camber). The closest thing I think I'd call USDM when referring to a Japanese car would be Hot Rod. Applying things like eccentric paint colors of the candy variety to a car and then tubbing it for some kind of straight line performance purpose. This typically is the opposite of flares, as the style wants to appear as stock as possible -- sometimes falling into he sleeper category.


The USDM scene inspired alot of the build, I didnt want to take the car down the usual "drift look" which the majority of S bodies go for in the UK. The build is still on going and lots planned for the offseason


Not trying to be rude but this thing actually does look like the usual "drift look".

Stretchy tires, over fender flairs, abusive use of decals on the window and some silly camber. There is nothing I can pick out in the photos that would tell me this has any USDM inspired into it. Funny thing about being inspired by USDM is that no drift-looking cars in the US are original ideas really. So to say one is USDM inspired is really saying you are just saying you are inspired by UK or JDM, lol.

The colour of the car looks great. But aside from that, there is nothing separating this from any other drifter/drifter look-a-like. There is also nothing that stands out saying "USDM inspired" either.


USDM inspired typically means a solid set of shoes, a drop, and clean paint. It shouldn't be a style exclusive to the US. That's just my opinion, because what people usually call USDM I usually just call clean, if tasteful, modification. Idk


It's missing the custom coloured engine bay, a full wire tuck/rywire harness, brake booster delete, clean and shaved engine bay.

This isn't close to usdm style. The only thing that's usdm style are the work meisters which look like re Barrelled Mugen 7 spoke rims.


I've never got the love for massive gearsticks - prefer stubby short shifts every time. Also think that the car (and most S15s) would look so much better with smaller wheel arches - in diameter i mean, not the bodykit.

Otherwise, love the car. Big fan of 15s, and the front end is one of the best looking Nissan have put on a car. Have never had the privilege of driving one in anger, but would dearly like to.


It's seriously a fantastic looking car.


Wouldn't now be the time for Nissan to release a relatively small FR vehicle into the lineup?


Now, why would Nissan do that when everyone and their mother has thrown shade at the BRZ/86?

Everybody wanted a lightweight, lower powered, RWD, and fun to drive car at a decent price and when one of those came out all of a sudden everybody didn't want one and needed only straight line power. Catch 22.

Besides that, Nissan doesn't like making cool cars anymore. They give you the GTR and that is about it. HAHA


I personally have never driven a gt86, but a lot of the problem i hear about power is the car is too heavy for the power/torque it has now even if it's lightweight, or the horsepower is fine the torque isn't high enough. It's still interesting that toyobaru flat out said no to adding any power were factory bolt-on's could have been a potential spare change maker/interest holder.


All of the classic AE86 enthusiasts that I know who have driven the GT86 have loved the handling, curiously.


They started with a Kirin can and a nitro rc motor so anything with 1 hp is fantastic; such a biased group. /s

I have driven a unmodified ae86, and can see why people love it so much. I also see why even small power gains make it more interesting (for example the carbon 86 from a bit ago).


I have driven a 2013 and a brand new BRZ and while there isn't much change they did change the gearing on the car which makes it feel much better. A lot of those people seem to claim it doesn't have enough power for the weight but what I see from it usually is that they are complaining because the car can't beat a mini van in a drag race.

Personally I would like to own one as I feel they are very well balanced in power, weight and handling. The only other option out there in the States is the new mx-5 or 124 spider. Those just aren't sport coupes. I never really felt that the brz was slow(based on my butt dyno) but I know it is. So most people I hear talking about power on those kind of make me feel as if they have never driven the car. So I take those words with a grain of salt. It's like when people make fun of an mx-5 and then they go drive one and realize they are a blast to drive.


I had expected the GT86 to spur such a movement on, but alas nothing. I fear that manufacturers are solely focused/distracted by the hot topic of EVs currently.


Exactly, and with that said, reviving an old model name (it's a tried and true method I guess) with new guts is really popular right now. A hybrid/EV coupe from nissan might actually be competitive. Just a thought.


The new Nissan SilEV?


That's very clever lol


S16 doesn't really roll off the tongue...I would buy one though. FR with maybe 250hp, hybrid/plug-in(if you want)


A hybrid with a manual transmission would do just fine as a new Silvia.


sarcasm? I actually think it would be awesome...a chance for a japanese car maker to rectify the CR-Z ( I haven't driven one I've just read about it)


Not sarcasm at all! Hybrid + manual is a great combination. Very rarely seen though, the first generation Honda Insight had one but I can't think of any others.


I am allllll for it :) just a car that does it all. Only thing would be weight there a way to mount the electric motors on the rear hubs?


I believe that's possible. Nissan has so much experience with sports cars anyway that I don't think it would be a problem to them to make it handle great.


Yeah i agree. Also those hub motors could regenerate batteries on decelleration i think. But the main points nissan would need to check might be: 1 fr layout 2 bulletproof engineering 3 250/270hp in the sweetspot and then 4 something that makes it eco/tech-friendly


The S-chassis designation was only ever an enthusiast thing, although I guess Toyota cottoned on with the GT86 name. I'd imagine that if Nissan did an S15 follow on it'd be called the Silvia. It's a big IF though.


I like that name...It would be a breath of fresh air hearing a name that actually sounds nice. unlike the Infiniti QX780 or MP4-12c or 720s


Nothing Usdm about that car


Only things needed to make this USDM inspired would be using functional camber and unstretched tires. I've never seen any US racing or street cars that used stretched tires ever... like EVER LOL. Not knocking the car it's just not USDM inspired.



I mean, I don't live in the US and I've seen LOADS of US show cars with stretched tyres and lots of camber. Maybe you're looking in the wrong places?


JDM inspired car shows reflect just that. JDM inspired cars that are in the US. Historically, Americans haven't ever used negative camber and stretched tires on anything. That came from the Japanese. We just have imitations here. In fact, most other American enthusiasts think those modifications are ridiculous.

Of course this isn't to take away from your coverage, great article and I appreciate it. Just hoping to shed some light that stretched tires and novelty camber setups are not USDM inspirations. Cheers Jordan, my intentions were not to offend so please understand.


Fair points. Maybe there's a discussion point here about what exactly each of us considers to be our own nation's styles. Referencing this story, it seems that some trends can now be classed as USDM, without having originated in the US -


Well, at least we get the totally awesome 700hp Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk! Yeah!! 'Murica!!
Whaddaya have to say about that?!

............... I just want an s15. Is that so much to ask for? :(


Seven more years and counting Louis…

MPistol HVBullets

.... oh these quick release fasteners!!! DIE!.........


I feel like a lot of these "thats not USDM with that camber and tire stretch" are just butthurt muscle car/ dragster guys. I can definitely see the USDM influence here. the term USDM does not only apply to styles that originated here, it also encompasses USDM interpretations or versions of JDM and EDM styles. Take a drift spec S-chassis from Japan and set it next to a drift spec S-chassis from America and 9 out of 10 times you can still kinda tell which one is from where by the styling of it.

Great article Jordan...! absolutely beautiful car, mad props to the guys at DW. I still watch that documentary they made like once a month haha.


Great pictures, and I like the overall look of the car, but why is he using zipties on the bumper holder? and why are they not trimmed flush? I am OCD about zipties and that just kills it for me. Rubber Orings would look way cleaner.


man I hate "scene" builds


I don't know what this means – care to elaborate?


Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but definitely isn't a duck.


Nope, still not there. Is there a plain English option?


Personally, what I have come to consider modern American modifying is a simple and clean look. Subtle, but aggressive. Something that reflects the original car, with only a few key customizations (i.e. wheels and a drop). This is only in my limited experience though. Nearly all modified cars I see are daily drivers up here in the north east.

Just trying to add an opinion on what some Americans may consider their nation's style to be.

Keaton Belliston

I don't know if your theory about a car's aging aesthetics is sound... Think about the fourth generation Subaru Legacy! It looks waaaaay more modern than the fifth (or even sixth) generation, purely because it was a great design!!


Wheels, low and overfenders build, why is this a feature car? i see a car like this in the streets once a week
like nice car, id love to own it, but feature worthy? nah


USDM style is really ProTouring style. It functions, in addition to clean (and functional)looks. No riveted flares, no camber, correct tire size, no gimmicks. If there are flares...its worked into the fenders as if its one piece. And panel gaps are minimal.


The Work sticker is stuck differently on every wheel. It bugs be


How does that shift knob make sense in any universe? I can only see ugly, annoying and dangerous....