Say Hi To Project Silvia. Now, What Should I Do With It?
Change Of Perspective

In 2019, I decided to save up a bunch of money and buy myself a nice big lens for motorsport duties, something on the edge of 400mm. I got quite far with my savings, but just ended up spending the money on a project car instead. Let me explain how…

My vision of a car builder is heavily romanticized, blurred by the glory of Akira Nakai, Magnus Walker and the like. But armed with only YouTube knowledge, I’m diving deep into the car-building world relatively inexperienced. On the other hand, my theoretical background is quite solid, apart from anything that has to do with electricity. I’m sure that the first few rusted-out bolts will drive me nuts, but I’m determined to succeed and aren’t scared of trying. Because people have to start somewhere, right?

I’ve seen how helpful the car community has been for others, so now it’s time to test the theory for myself.


So how did I get here? I’d been thinking about a project car, specifically one that I could turn into a weekend warrior, for a while. There were a couple of requisites though; it need to be of Japanese origin, of 1980s vintage, and not too rusty. Yes, the Eastern European climate isn’t all that kind to cars, so rust is something we just have to deal with here.


Some of you will know that I already own a Mazda Miata, and that the Japanese roadster is a great base for project car. So why wouldn’t I just build that up? It really just comes down to not wanting to mess with my daily driver; it’s been such a trustworthy friend for over three years now, and I really want it to stay that way.

The Search

From my observations, people have a habit of sticking to a certain brand of car once they’ve bought into it. Unsurprisingly then, my search for a project began with Mazda.

The first car that caught my eye was a 1986 Mazda 929 four-door which was up for sale with an asking price the equivalent of US$400. The Japanese sedan seemed like a good base for a serious stance car, but checking it out in person revealed a huge amount of work just to bring it back up to standard condition – more than I was willing to take on.

I wanted a rare car, but something quirky, and not overpriced for no good reason. Eventually, Facebook Marketplace turned up something of interest in all its ’80s pop-up headlight glory.


According to the highly-detailed listing which provided some comfort that the seller was trustworthy, the Euro-spec, left-hand drive 1988 Nissan Silvia S12 was one of only 10 ever imported into Estonia. I slept on the idea for one night and then contacted the owner, Peeter. It turned out that he’d owned another S12 in the past and had accumulated some parts that he was eager to give away with this car, so it sounded like a solid deal.

Before I could even think about bringing a project car home, there was one other thing I needed to sort out: space to store it. My Miata lives in a underground parking garage, not the sort of place I’d be able to do some serious work on a car. I needed to find a proper long-term space, and as luck would have it, an old friend of mine was renting out his granddad’s garage, complete with a whole lot of Soviet tools inside and some cool memorabilia too. It was perfect.

Now, after a few cleaning sessions and some junk removal, the garage feels much fresher.

First Date

I woke up on the frosty morning of February 29th, grabbed the Miata, fired up my navigation app, and found a bunch of podcasts to enjoy during the two-hour road trip.


Just a few kilometers from a city called Tartu, I met Peeter and laid eyes on the Silvia for the very first time. To be honest, this was the first-ever S12 road car I’d ever seen person; the only other was the bonkers Super Silhouette Group 5 race car.


My future purchase had some obvious rust hole issues in the right fender and the panel under the taillights, but elsewhere around the car it just seemed to be on the surface. A fresh rear panel was going with the car, along with spare doors, a rear bumper, a set of headlights that work, Mk1 taillights, and another hood with a massive ’80s-style scoop.


By contrast, the interior was in really good condition. I’m totally in love with the shade of blue on the dashboard, while the original three-spoke steering wheel complements the sporty seats perfectly.

The Silvia’s factory-fitted CA18ET SOHC turbo engine seems to be in good shape, but was missing a fuel pump. The fuel tank was also missing, but Peeter believed that I’d have no problem driving the car 200km back home if we found replacements for those things before I left. That felt like a bit of a hassle though, so I opted for a tow truck.


The drive to Tartu was dry, but on the way home we had a snowstorm to deal with. I kept the tow truck driver company and cruised behind him, taking a number of car-to-car photos along the way. Mainly though, I was staring at the Nissan and dreaming of the ways I can customize it.

Customize How?

I don’t have any specific plans for the way I’m going to build this car yet; my first actions will be tearing it down, reinstalling the fuel system, and working on the rust-damaged parts to eventually prepare it for a fresh paint job. I wish I could be flamboyant and make the build my own with combinations of color, art and personal touches, but realistically I think it’ll end up more safe and traditional. We’ll see, I guess…

There’s not a huge S12 community around the world, which adds a level of difficulty to this project, but I’m keeping calm and will just tackle problems one by one. Finding an OEM fuel tank isn’t going to be easy, but the S13 equivalent is very similar, so with a few custom mounts I should be able to use this option. Or I could just install a fuel cell. A fuel pump and new fuel lines are on order, and I’ve already picked up some general maintenance items, including oils and spark plugs etc.

The bodywork, and more specifically the fenders, still require some thought. I’m not a fan of over-fenders, but a reproduction wide-body kit of that used on the Silvia GP (Grand Prix) version of this car is something to consider since I have the scoop-equipped hood already.

I’d be more than happy with the original, clean ’80s body sat low over slightly wide wheels, though. I don’t think a wheel bigger than 16-inch will do anything for this Japanese design, so I’m joining the #smallwheelgang for this project.


Guys, I’ll need all the help I can get with this one. How would you build an S12 Silvia given the chance? What tips do you have for me? Perhaps you have some S12 parts or experience with this model? Don’t be shy, drop me a line. The comments section below is the dedicated spot for all your constructive thoughts.

Vladimir Ljadov
Instagram: wheelsbywovka



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VR38DETT. :p

Vladimir Ljadov

Probably an awesome choice if it would be mid-engined :p


Whispers: Make it.


The s12 is not substantially different from an s13. All the swaps that fit that chassis fit this one with the same ease. You need to make the tranny mount because it is different...other than that, sr, rb, vq all use the same mounts. Reach out of you want to know more. S13/s14 front suspension can be hybridized to let you run coilovers. You have an 88, so you can also swap in parts in the irs to run later diffs letting you use s13/14/15 internals. Wiring is similar for all as well. I personally was running a 97 ka-t in mine, only had to fab the tranny mount, intcooler piping, and exhaust. Ecu wiring was 3 wires plus 2 more too make the gauges work. I was running s13 pbm coils in the front with a mix of different arms.


Also the s12 community is larger than you think. Huge in austrailia and bigger than expected in the us. Very active fb groups with a forum that has archived most anything you could think of.

Vladimir Ljadov

Hey, thanks for encouraging words. Yeah, I've checked s12 forum that has loads of info on everything. You're saying it correctly, big in Australia and US, but not so much in Europe. Saw a few cars in France and the Netherlands - surely there are more elsewhere. I was surprised that a lot of S12 ended up in Ukraine, which could be an ideal place to source parts from if it wasn't for the border.

My thoughts are the same on the hybridized suspension!


I have no idea's for you but i'm very excited about the Result! ;p

Sebastian Motsch

Hello Vladimir,

first of all congratulation to finding a workspace. And thanks for finally revealing what you actually bought. Looks like I was far off with my guess of a pre-war Hot Rod. So your new friend is called Silvia. Nice! I like those, and they are not too expensive indeed. But parts availability is going to be a headache. Probably best to get a donor car for parts.

Concerning your idea to make it a weekend warrior: scrap the idea of finding a fuel tank and go for a proper fuel cell. Design-wise... let's wait and see what kind of ideas pop up. My idea, since you don't like riveted overfenders: integrated flares. There is a kit available from UNQshop for reasonable money: [Link in next commment, in case it gets filtered].

Good luck, mate! We hope to see a great build. I think most of us can relate to your approach "in a shed".

Best regards

Vladimir Ljadov

Hey Sebastian, I know about the flare GP kit. I'm not a fan of the M3 E30 style, but it's a possibility!

Sebastian Motsch

Looks like it was availably from Nissan dealers in Switzerland.


Brilliant little project mate, not S12 specific, but my advice in general would be try not to get too carried away, once you get the car running, try to have it no more than a few days work away from running again, otherwise things spiral out of control and you end up with what could be 'the ultimate' but instead ends up as an 'unfinished project' Good luck bro, will be awesome.


Wise words. Good luck and watch out, it will be tempting to get ahead of yourself. This is just my experience (multiple times), but I suspect, that if the fenders and the tail panel are that rotten, there's more rust hiding in places you can't see it. It's just a sad fact with old cars. If you can live with it, that's fine but with the knowledge I have today, I'd be very wary of a project that looks like this one. I know the joys of stripping down a car like this and finding more and more rust. In places where it gets difficult to replace steel, without going for a full blown sandblast and rotisserie build. Like I said, good luck and I hope I'm wrong but just as a precaution, inspect the car thoroughly once more. If it turns out to be a project of a century, then at least you could try to sell it before it lies in pieces on your garage floor. Been there and learned from it.

Vladimir Ljadov

I'm sure there will be some surprises underneath, but I'm keeping fingers crossed for nothing too serious. As you said, hopefully in places where steel is not hard to replace :)

Otherwise could become more of a driftcar if not just parts' car.

Vladimir Ljadov

That's a good advice mate!


I am looking forward to your build. I know nothing about the S12 to be honest. But whatever way you build it, I wish you well in your endeavor.

Tryon Lippincott

Restore it! Make it look really factory fresh and then swap a VG30DET, which as a factory option.

Vladimir Ljadov

Restoring is the right word!


Very cool car. CA18Det swap would be period correct, and look great in the engine bay. Techno Toy Tuning has a few choice suspension parts. Finish with a set of SSR Star Sharks or Techno Phantoms or something like that. Maybe a bit formulaic, but it got that way because it works so well!

Have fun!

Vladimir Ljadov

I like your thinking!


To keep it as the only silvia that came factory-fitted with a v6, I'd like to see a nice ITB VQ, s13 suspension, full interior, some nice 15's or 16's with an aggressive offset, the GP kit, and a nice paint job. Maybe a wangan wing to top it off.

Vladimir Ljadov

and I like your thinking too!

Carino Gustavo Federico Santiago-Romero

I have always been fond of this model, and congrats on your new money pit bruh. I would personally love to have a suspension and brake upgrade on this car first, then paint it gosling white. A set of 16'' or 15'' TSW Stealths paired wrapped in some Toyo's or Michelin's. Engine wise, I would probably go with a VQ, SR20VE or K20A...if Naturally Aspirated. Boosted choices would be SR20DET, 3SGTE, Supercharged VQ, or turbo K series. Personally, I would classify the above as a simple street car/shredder. The choice is yours mate, have fun with it and best of luck!

Vladimir Ljadov

money pit indeed! Impossible to be otherwise with a project ))

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Vlad, check out this site. You can actually play around with your ideas in 3D. Once you get the hang of the site, you can even do some wild styles.

Vladimir Ljadov

This site is awesome!!


If this is your first s12 try and get it running and get a feel for it (A temporary fuel tank can be almost anything). After that its a PROJECT so set up your space, Storage boxes and shelves are a must. But most important is to make the space a place you like. Rust is is a disaster or an opportunity try some mods and body work on those parts you plan to replace anyway. try and set things up on movable dollies if possible. Tools on hooks on the walls where you can see them. Try your best to not bury stuff and get cluttered (like me) it is no fun spending time looking for something. if you are starting out with welding maybe try old school brazing for sheet stuff. Farther down the road Its likely all the bushings will need to be replaced thats the point to decide if its a running project or take it all the way down to the shell. Anyway my point is if you have a good space its the work thats enjoyable. Dont get four/Five Project cars (like me)

Vladimir Ljadov

This is what I'm actually doing. Making a place feel nice is very important!


Love it dude! Like some others said, prepare properly for whatever it is you do in terms of your workspace if it's not already. Easy to get lost in a big job if you don't set yourself up for success. Beyond that, this is a great car to buy as a base for anything. I guess that doesn't help answer your question, though, does it? ;)

Daniel P Huneault

The best forum from those of us who have owned a S12! Welcome!!

Vladimir Ljadov

Yes, it's like a bible :)


The appeal to the chassis is all the inter operable parts. You could restomod it while keeping the 80s aesthetic where it counts. Those muscle cars built for modern road racing comes to mind, pro tourers I think.

Vladimir Ljadov

Keeping the aesthetic is the main task!


Put it back where it was, that thing is roached out. It will cost far too much money, and time to bring it back to life.

Vladimir Ljadov

I get you about the rust part, but the fun is in the process, you know


looks sick!!! S12 and older silvias have always been a bit of a curiosity for me, so im really glad that you picked this baby up!! my suggestion is lowering it a tad and slapping some SSR Longchamps on it, tucked neatly under the fenders while still being usable. after that the rest is up to you.

Kapitan Bismark

Ring your mate with the flatbed, load the Silvia on, return it and bring back that 5-series instead. Simple.

Vladimir Ljadov

that V8 beemer was sick, could end up on this site one day!




just have fun with it, use your less good parts to practice on and save the better ones for when you feel congident in yourself. you'll surprise yourself with what you learn

Vladimir Ljadov

Correct, practicing on that rusty fender ))


SR20VET (DET+VE Head) if you have access to those parts or a high-response SR20DET with something like a G25 turbo and matching S13/14 5-spd transmission. Tuned CA18's seem to never last (I own a stock one. A RB25DET Neo would be another cool swap but obviously add a lot of front-end weight.


Hey mate, nice purchase! The S12 design is really beautiful, the car seems to be in solid condition. Yea, seems. Well, maybe it will require a bit more work to remove all rust from body and chassis. But I hope, you can do it! ;) This Nissan is now yours. Just modify it how you want, do whatever you feel. Place a bit of your personality into this car. It also could cost few bucks more. I've bought an almost scraped 205 four years ago, put my own ideas into the car and now I enjoy every single mile driving it. I just want to say, despite the variety of engine choice, found yourself a one you would really like to ride. Do it with suspension too. This will also need a bit of study and experience. We are looking for next steps in your project! Good luck!

Vladimir Ljadov

Thanks for your good words!


Congratulations! Such a remarkable finding!

I believe we have a lot in common, eastern Europe couch petrolheads who once decided to learn and build with our own hands. I'm slowly learning and building (mostly workshop, not a project itself) for several years. I can share some very superficial tips.

* You can have a very hazy imagination on what you want to build from the beginning, it will change on the flight a lot of times, just keep direction.
* Each step twice more complicated than you think.
* If you believe that an operation is simple, it is going to be a headache.
* Don't ask then do. Do then ask for exact tips. Otherwise, people tip you to death. The problem that people have different experience and opinions that could be opposite to each other.
* Neve ever trust eastern European bodywork shops. They effectively can cause only tears and insomnia.
* 80% of the time in the garage is preparation. 80% of success is the right tool.

I'd build a drift-n-drive project from Silvia. If I'd have it, I'd try to keep it nice and on style, but able to make some fun.

Vladimir Ljadov

Спасибо, "Twice more complicated then I think" это хлороший совет!


This is so much better than looking at the news. I find keeping a notebook with lots of sketches and diagrams and doodles helps me focus on things and see little details and how they fit together, taking pics is great as things come apart but this is about analyzing and being creative you dont need to be an artist. Try to think in proportions as you sketch, Graph paper is good. Ive pinned up stuff on a wall when I had enough room. For me its a toss up between grinding and just sketching as my favorite shop time. Writing notes all over the sketches is ok. On the grinding welding stuff keep making brackets for shelves and benches and tool hooks etc, if it can be made of metal and your shop needs it make it. For structural welds I learned on excavators but a sledge hammer will do. Finally have you ever read the book ZEN and the ART of MOTORCYCLE MAINTINANCE, if not give it a try. OH on a side note I like old hand drafted VW Beetle wiring diagrams wish my diagrams were so nice.

Vladimir Ljadov

Notebook and sketches is my strategy as well!


Your approac to this project seems very sensible. I am on the verge of making my car a permanent project-car after i pulled the subframe to fix some rust, so learn from me and other people here and dont bite over too much at once. Keep it fun i think :)

Vladimir Ljadov



Hi again sorry just like the car a lot. With an arduino you could make the flip lights do a one eye wink when you walk in the shop. by the way does it hae a name?

Vladimir Ljadov

Name is something the car would get when it's finished ))


I've owned a few S12s in my day and they are hands-down my favorite 80s import "sports" car. I had one of the (relatively) rare VG30E S12s and was in the process of swapping in a bored out VG33E when the car was totaled by a drunk driver. One of the saddest days of my life.

Vladimir Ljadov

sad story bro!


Turn it into a Super Silhouette!

Vladimir Ljadov

On one hand, I love how the headlights were done on the silhouette car, but on the other, I will never go away from the pop ups!


True, the S12 is a special one. Are you planning on going down the rally route?

Vladimir Ljadov

no, more of a vintage JDM sports car without extra-wide fenders


I'd just replace all the worn bits. Reliability is the key if you want to actually enjoy it. Suspension and brakes would be my next priority. If possible a S13 hub conversion would be great. I don't know enough about the S12s but if it sports a CA18, I'd go down the path of swapping it for a SR20 down the track when looking for more power. It would keep the front relatively light in comparison to the V6 'recommendations'.

Vladimir Ljadov

I agree here, not planning a heavy V6..



Je suis de France et heureux de voir un projet s12 chez speedhunter.
J'en possède moi même une que j'ai mis à ma sauce mais pas de swap pour moi le ca18et est suffisant.
J'ai aussi certaines pièces si nécessaire.

Vladimir Ljadov


I was waiting for somebody in France. I know you have quite a few S12 there. I'll send you an email. Thanks!


I was picking out a new set of wheels and tires and got back to your project again. Enki Apace2 was my first thought but It just gets harder to run the rubber you want in smaller wheel sizes. So going to a 235 40 17 Adavan AD08R on OZ Sparco FF1 flow formed (function,value,Qualty) was next but that means reworking the flares so you can lower the car. The box flares are nice but I like the stock lines of the car so making some new stockish flares from Kevlar or polyurethane casting plastic would be my choice they could slot on in a groove and attach to short studs on the inside that way they can be replaced when they rub a bit to much. Also I like the accent line that runs the whole car length I would sharpen the radius with some epoxy body compound and make that line perfect it should draw the eye and allow more forgiveness elsewhere. Also if I could get the current engine running I would use it while i build something else its fun to be able to run redline all the time without guilt. I think Id try a medium fleck bug green/blue
and a solid dark blue Spiral graphic. I would add some built in air jacks so I could swap out the dampers in my coil overs, three sets of custom damping would be nice linear, digressive, And rough road rally. I could go on but Im going for a DRIVE


Turn it into a fun practice drift car, like Superdorifto put it is similar to the s13 sivila.


this is why SH has turned to shit, editors pushing their bunky projects instead of actually providing coverage.