Super Silhouettes: Flame-spitting Japanese touring cars from the future
I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: the 80s were awesome. Racing drivers were legendary figures that duelled fearlessly with each other, the rears of the flame-spewing monsters that they drove hanging out all the way. Bands like Motley Crüe and Metallica ruled the world. And in Japan, some heavy hitters were building a series of racing cars that Batman himself would be proud take for a blast around the track.
The Super Silhouette racers looked like nothing else of their time. Crazy angles, huge spoilers, wide everything and extensive collections of aerodynamic appendages made them look as if they’d just rolled off the set of Bladerunner. They raced as part of the Fuji Grand Championship Series between 1979 and 1983 and were built to the same FIA Group 5 standards that were running in Europe at the time.
The few regulations to which they had to adhere meant that as long as they had the same silhouette and block as their production counterparts, they were free to go nuts. And, as you can see, officials weren’t too strict on that silhouette rule! Such open regulations left engineers and designers free push things to the limit – 80s style, and resulted in the outlandish looks, crazy power and raucous sounds that made the Super Silhouettes so exciting and such a huge hit with the fans.
Nissan were the kings of the series, building legendary machines that inspired waves of Japanese car owners, particularly those associated with Japan’s ‘bosozoku’ movement, to mimic their way-out wide body kits, spoilers and wheels.
It’s easy to see why. Their early 910 Bluebird looks the part with an immense front skirt that flows around the sides, aerodynamic wings that run the length of its scooped bonnet and a rear spoiler as tall as the roof of the car. Its L20ZB motor was a workhorse that saw use in several of Nissan’s Super Silhouettes, including Silvias based on S110s and S12s, and the DR30 Skyline. The motor developed 570ps from its four cylinders, which was more than an equivalent Formula One car and plenty to push around the Bluebird’s slight 1000kg. H. Yanagida put all that power and aerodynamic wizardry to good use – driving the Bluebird to championships in 1980 and 1982 and winning three out of four rounds in the 1983 Fuji GC series.
You can’t talk about Nissan’s race cars without mentioning a Skyline, and the flame-belching DR30 driven by Masahiro Hasemi may be the most famous of all Super Silhouettes. It’s a little heavier than the Bluebird at 1005kg, but that makes it a little lighter than the 1050kg Silvias. The extra weight didn’t seem to slow it down and it won two races in its debut year, 1982, another five in 1983 and two in 1984. It wears the extra pounds well, looking awesome in its ridiculous rear spoiler and rear wheels.
Sadly, the end of 1983 also signalled the beginning of the end for the Super Silhouette series. By the close of 1984 the Super Silhouettes were gone, but who could forget them?
These days Nissan’s iconic Super Silhouettes enjoy a peaceful retirement in the Nissan Heritage Car Collection and are let out occasionally for special display races. And they don’t look or sound any less spectacular or outrageous today.
Images: Nissan Archive