OLE ORANGE BANG: TILL DEATH DO US PART

It saddens me everyday as I drive around Los Angeles, stuck in traffic surrounded by big metal things with four wheels. They are not cars, they are simply methods of transportation, also known as ‘mots.’

You don’t fall in love with a mot. You trade it in when it gets old, you smash it into things when you get bored. It’s a cookie cutter world and most people drive mots.

Speedhunters is about car culture and Ole Orange Bang is most definitely not a mot. It is a car, and it has become a living breathing part of my family. ‘Till death do us part.

On my wedding night instead of being ferried away in a fancy limousine, I drove my beautiful wife home in my 1970 SR20DET-powered Datsun 240z.

Since it had been sitting for a few weeks, I thought it was about time to take it out once again – not only so it could see the light of day, but also to do some much needed canyon carving.

Wedding burnouts really take a toll on the cleanliness of the car, so I wanted to make sure it looked its sunday best before I took it out for a stroll.

Nothing pains me more than seeing carbon fiber parts fade in the sun, so I always make sure to take extra care of my hood.

I am sure this is a familiar sight for you Speedhunters out there. It’s funny because my neighbors look at me weird and ask me why I don’t just take my car to a car wash. They just don’t understand because they drive mots.

Since my last post I haven’t done much to the car besides adding a new steering wheel. I really liked the wooden look of the stock wheel…

… but it was too large. That, and I’ve always wanted a premium steering wheel.

I left the Kazama shift knob alone because I actually really like the feel of it. It’s solid and quite heavy and as our fearless leader Rod Chong always says, one of the most important parts of the car are the surfaces that you touch when you’re using it.

Because I’m away from home for weeks at a time I end up having to jump start my car everytime I want to drive it. My wife took notice and bought me this trickle charger. You see why I married her?

I’ve made it a ritual now everytime I drive the thing. I have to unhook the battery charger…

… and I have to check all its fluids. As this is an old car, at one point or another everything has leaked.

The summers in Los Angeles get quite hot so I added some Red Line Water Wetter. I also figured I would put in some Fuel System Cleaner as the motor already has about 3000 miles on it now since it was built.

Just one last touch and I was ready to hit the road. This metal Speedhunters license plate surround will be available soon…

I’ve driven nice roads all over the world, but there is something special about a palm tree-lined road leading into the mountains.

With a full tank of fuel and the pre-flight check looking good, it was time to do some canyon carving.

I decided to hit up some local roads just a few miles away from my house. This road sign should actually read “Fun for the next 20 miles.”

The road is much less traveled as currently it does not go anywhere. You can check out the route (courtesy of Google Maps) here.

It’s located right next to the much more famous Glendora Mountain Road, also known as GMR.

On the way up you pass this beautiful recreation area. There are many places around here for camping and hiking, as well as one of the largest shooting ranges in the area, located in the mountains. This is America after all.

This area is also an off-road haven for the four wheelers and trail riders out there. You just have to pay a small fee.

Here are some of the trails that you can drive on. Just don’t get stuck.

It seemed like the ribbons of hot asphalt were never-ending on the lower portion of the road with many sweeping third and fourth gear turns. I always take it easy as there’s no way to tell what is going to be around the next bend.

As I was about to start climbing to around 7000 feet I left my AEM multi gauge on the water temperature setting just to keep an eye on it.

As I neared the top section of the road, the turns got tighter and tighter, which meant I was mostly using second and third gears.

In the winter time it actually does snow up here. It’s hard to believe you can walk on snow just a few miles outside of Los Angeles.

I’ve driven these roads before with snow banks lining the outside. It can be quite dangerous though, as they don’t use salt on them so black ice can form very quickly.

Since I’m covering events on the weekends the only time I get to take the Z-car out is during the week.

This road is practically empty with very little traffic during the weekdays. Sometimes I try riding my road bike up the same road, only to fail half way and turn back.

It was about 95 degrees fahrenheit down by my house, but up in the mountains it was a cool 65 degrees.

Many people come up here on the weekends to go fishing at Crystal Lake, and that’s pretty much the only traffic this road gets now.

This road used to connect to the other side of the mountain, but a few years back it rained very heavily and the road was damaged due to landslides.

Ever since then they closed the road to all traffic. It has created a sort of motoring heaven, as you don’t really have to worry about traffic.

Maybe in a couple of years they will fix this portion of the road, but until then I will continue to come here and enjoy the wonderful drive.

If you look over the cliff you can see the stretch of road leading up to the top.

The view from the top was breathtaking as always. You can see the smog in the distance creeping up the mountain, but the air quality was drastically cleaner up here.

Every now and then I could hear the note of a performance exhaust echoing off the face of the mountains, but it was quite rare.

As a tradition I always stop by the cafe located right next to the lake for a bite to eat.

They should probably just leave the needle on critical, as it always seems like Los Angeles is on fire in one part or another.

If you ever happen to drive this dream road make sure you spot by this little trading post – they make great tuna sandwiches. Everybody loves the tuna there.

My car is now 43 years old, much older that I am, but from the day I laid eyes on it I’ve taken good care of it. It has brought me so much joy and hopefully one day my children will be able to enjoy Ole Orange Bang…

What sort of dream roads do you guys drive your cars on?

 

Larry Chen

 

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

THE V8 MK1 ESCORT

“Everything new is old.” Heard that one before? Well it’s true. When people moan about putting BBS wheels on a Golf, because they want to see something ‘different’, you know what? Chances are somebody did your ‘different’ thing a long time ago. I’m sure in the future there will be two distinctly recognisable eras of car modification: pre and post internet.

Karl Fiara’s Mk1 Escort is a trip back in time for me; sat here in the glorious sun of the recent Players Classic Show at Goodwood it transports me back around 20 years. To when you had to be at one of the big season-opening shows to see what everybody had been building during the winter, where you could catch up with friends without knowing how many laps of the Nurburgring they’d done the month before,when the excitement was tangible in the air and cars like this Escort two-door were more commonplace and that can only be a good thing.

There was something familiar about the Ford when I first saw it the previous weekend at the Classic Ford Show at Santa Pod in the UK. It was parked on the Wheel-Whores.com stand as the guys had decided to award it best wheels of the show. A quick conversation saw them invite Karl down to Goodwood for the following weekend, where the Escort did a great job of attracting the crowds.

The Players crowd rightly enjoyed the old Ford. Walking around it and then talking to owner Karl Fiara it still felt achingly familiar, but it was still no small surprise to find that the Escort was built over 20 years ago. Which places it slap bang in the middle of my ‘golden era’ for car modification in the UK. It’s an age thing y’see: I’d just started driving and anything seemed possible, regulations were slacker than they are now, the police didn’t run your plates from half a mile away through a computer and there was less traffic on the road.

Sure the Escort isn’t immaculate. It has proper patina though; it’s a survivor, unlike a lot of its contemporaries. The early ’90s were a time when half decent cars that weren’t overly complicated were cheap enough to chop up without really caring. You had sleek, simple, cool and sometimes boxy shapes from the ’60s and ’70s that could be built in a home workshop on a budget without looking like some vintage renegade that was about to fall apart. Pastel shades were popular, grunge music and rebellion were in the air and change was happening after the all-consuming hunger of the ’80s had exploded at the end of the decade.

Like I said, it was pre-internet and you’d make a scene by building something to go to a show, and using it until the annual inspection test ran out. Cutting the roof off and welding a four foot gearstick on it, roof chops that left a windscreen the size of a letter box, home built chassis with the abundant Rover V8 slotted in because there were plenty of them in the scrapyards and they sounded good. Splatter painting it at home, the louder the better; it was about having fun. That’s what this Escort reminds me of.

The V8 first went in around ’86/87, with the Escort being stripped down shortly after and the full build taking place. So what you’re looking at now is a 1969 Escort bodyshell mounted over a home-built, ladder style box section chassis. It was all built up by Warren Cole, who amazingly was here at Players Classic too. Karl bought the Escort complete as you see it in the late ’90s, tucking it up in his garage shortly after, only getting it back out very recently as Warren lives fairly locally and it seemed like a good opportunity for a reunion (also as he’d thought previously the Escort was long gone).

But it’s obviously very much alive. Nowadays any Mk1 Escort two door shell is worth big money to the right buyer. So to see one like this is unique. I know of a handful of V8-engined examples but all of them retain a very ‘enthusiast’ orientated look to them. This thing? It stands alone for me. What Warren wanted was a fairly simple, very low cruiser that he could use anywhere, any time.

He used everyday, affordable, mechanical parts that combined in the right way to make something that grabs your attention. It wasn’t long after the era of everybody naming show cars, so you used to add small phrases here or there, much like a well-placed sticker these days. Like the hand painted “Kin LOW” on the handbrake cable carrier. Did we mention it was low? Well maybe not as much as you might think.

That’s the beauty of channeling the body over a new chassis: everything is tucked up out of harm’s way. Airbags were still a decade away from becoming vaguely affordable or practical so this was the best way of keeping everything safe.

The reason why it was on the Wheel-Whores.com stand is because of these Revolution RFX wheels. We all know hot rods and drag cars run big and little combos, but one of the stand out, gutsy choices of this build has to be the 9x16s out back…

… and the skinny 5.5x13in same style on the front. Revolution are a traditional UK-based wheel company and the RFX is probably one of their most memorable wheels; it’s a real late ’80s/early ’90s choice. You can often date a build by wheel choice and these are spot on; remember again most factory cars were riding around on 14s or 15s maximum at this time. Many smaller cars still ran 13s, so the big 16s on the back were literally that. BIG.

No inner wings mean clearance isn’t a problem and the rear end has been tubbed to cover the 245/50x16in tyres. The pastel paint spills over to all the components and suspension parts; again this bright colour coding was really indicative of the time. Looking back I can only really think this was because body-coloured bumpers had been around for five to ten years on mainstream manufacturers cars, so the modified scene started to emulate this and add a little more.

Although of course the Escort has retained its factory standard chrome bumpers and oblong headlights, rarer than the usual round items and showing it’s now desirable 1300GT origins.

The body is largely stock, save for some stretched front arches, but there are a few extra holes around the place. The most obvious is for the standard SU carbs to poke through the bonnet, as clearance was needed and let’s face it, those two inches or 50mm would have meant more space under the sills… not an option.

The other one is for the top-mounted windscreen wiper, which although looking a little messy to some eyes is a clever solution to a problem that would otherwise thwart a builder with less imagination. There’s just no room above the back of the engine for a traditional set-up, although Karl and Warren were discussing the cable-driven wipers of a Mini that could be used now…

Inside you’ll find a period RS steering wheel and behind that a standard set of Rover P6 gauges that talk to the engine and gearbox easily.

There are no top-mounted pedals like standard, because of course Warren made the chassis, which means the hidden master cylinders are now activated by these.

Another blast from the past are the Huntmaster bucket seats. Sure they’re no Takatas but again these are twenty-five years old and you felt like a proper race driver when you bolted a set of these in.

Here you can see them reflected in the polished door panel; again, simple and stylish, it all helps to keep the Escort of the period yet timeless all the same.

This is probably the best view to see just how dramatic the difference in wheel size is, which just adds to the toy car effect I hear people mention when they see the Escort.

The chrome window trim on a Mk1 Escort has always been one of my favourite styling cues; it neatly encapsulates the glass in a bubble, making a very ordinary shape kind of special. You can also see the almost body colour, swage pinstripe line. Another ’90s favourite was extra locks and security devices, because you could ‘lift’ a Mk1 Escort as easy as a toilet seat.

So how does a car built on a budget in a home garage twenty five years ago keep turning heads today? To tell the truth I’m not sure, it could be a case of being ‘simply clever’.

There are no wild graphics, it’s just very well observed. Both Warren and now Karl wanted a very low Escort, itself a very popular car, that could be used any time. Add some instantly recognisable wheels in a slightly outrageous choice of sizes, a burbling V8, pastel bodywork and you tick a lot of boxes.

I’m just glad Wheel Whores spotted it and convinced Karl to come along to Players Classic, so now you guys get to see the Escort after all these years.

And yes, I know I’m perhaps being overly sentimental towards the time this was built, because of course, every generation has its favourites. That’s how the march of time works, but this simple Escort proves to me that good things never go out of fashion and now a whole new audience can appreciate it and be inspired.

 

Bryn Musselwhite
Instagram: brynem
bryn@speedhunters.com

 

Karl Fiala’s 1969 1300GT Ford Escort V8

Engine
Chassis mounted, Rover 3.5ltr V8 on standard SU carbs

Driveline
Rover four speed manual gearbox, narrowed Ford Capri 3.09 baby Atlas axle

Suspension/Brakes
Rack and pinion steering with modified arms, Cortina Mk4 independent front suspension, shortened springs, narrowed cross member, Cortina Mk4 front discs, Jaguar rear coilovers located on L brackets,  panhard rod, Competition Engineering ladder bars with solid rod ends, standard Capri drums

Chassis
Custom-made box section with narrow front end and kicked up rear, body channeled around 6in

Wheels/Tyres
Revolution RFX 5.5×13 with 135/80×13 tyres (front), 9×16 with 245/50×16 tyres (rear)

Exterior
All steel 1969 Ford Mk1 Escort, removable front end, stretched front arches, reformed bulkhead, raised tunnel and floor, tubbed rear, Citroen roof mounted wiper unit, enlarged radiator aperture in front panel, DZUS bonnet clipped at front, additional door locks

Interior
Two Huntmaster bucket seats, Rover P6 instrument panel, handmade pedals, underfloor clutch/brake cylinders, bespoke fuel tank in boot, battery fitted NSR, right hand side hand brake lever using Morris Minor cables

 

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

THE WEKFEST LA SPOTLIGHT-O-RAMA

Now that I’ve given you guys a broad look at Wekfest LA 2013, it’s time to close out my coverage with a Spotlight-o-Rama featuring some of the most interesting cars from the show. The result of my hunt has brought a mix of clean street cars, mad stance machines and some cool engine swaps. Let’s begin with the RHD EG Civic pictured above.

With so many high quality Honda builds appearing at events like Wekfest, it can be hard find the cars that really stand out. But there was just something about this particular Civic that I really liked.

The car was in immaculate condition inside and out, and the right-hand-drive cockpit was set off with with a few cool details like a wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel. I also like the use of the factory seats rather than aftermarket buckets. How can you not like those cool 1990s seat patterns?

The wheels on the EG were also quite special: 16-inch Desmond Regamaster Evos that have been custom-widened into some very aggressive sizes.

All in all, this Civic is a perfect example of the extreme attention to detail you find on so many cars at Wekfest. It was certainly one of my favorite Hondas of the day.

We’ll be sticking with the Honda theme for the next car – a CE1 Accord Wagon from the City Stars Crew. I might be slightly biased because I used to own one of these things, but the I absolutely love the long-roof version of the Accord.

Before I continue on with the Spotlight, just a little piece of trivia on this generation of Accord Wagon. Did you know that even the Japanese market versions of these car were actually assembled in Ohio before being exported to Japan and labeled as the ‘US Wagon’?

Anyway, this particular wagon was really built as a perfect cruiser. A set of old school Volk Racing mesh wheels are a fine choice to go with the 1990s style – although the fitment and stance are something that’s a little more contemporary.

Inside, a simple leather interior was complemented by a few small bits like another wood Nardi wheel and a classic bubble shift knob with Crown Royal boot.

Good style, tons of room for passengers or parts hauling, and bulletproof Honda reliability – it’s not hard to see why the Accord Wagon makes such a good daily driver. I’d love to have another someday.

I know some of you guys have expressed concern over the lack of Toyota MR2s on Speedhunters, so when I saw this Nevada-based SW20 I knew it was the perfect chance to do something about that.

Then again, the car was cool enough on its own merits to warrant a spotlight. In my eye this example seemed to have the perfect balance of aesthetic and performance modifications.

It was also in fantastic cosmetic shape, as evidenced by this view of the cockpit.

As for wheels. the car was equipped with a set of staggered Work Emotion XD9s – a perfect match for the subtle body upgrades and hunkered-down stance.

There you have it – some much needed Speedhunters MR2 love. I suppose the fact that an awesome mid-engined turbo sports car is somewhat ‘overlooked’ really shows just how good Toyota was back in the ’90s.

Next up, we have a car that just might incite some colorful conversation in the comments section. In fact, it almost seems like that may have been the intention with this build.

And whether you love it or hate it, the BMW Z4 from the Low ‘N Slow Crew certainly stops people in its tracks. If there was a negative camber award at Wekfest, this car would have taken it home.

I do have to say that the sweeping body lines of the Z4 are actually a pretty good match for this sort of cartoonish ride height and wheel fitment.

Just look at the way the fenders literally sit on top of the Work Schwert SC2 wheels. Whoa.

Before you go nuts over the nonfunctional suspension setup remember that the car does have “Low ‘N Slow” written down the side of it after all.

Moving in another direction now, we have a car that was clearly built for a little more than just looking pretty on the grass. From a distance it looks like a nice clean example of a first generation RX-7…

… but then you look under the hood and see that the car is powered not by a rotary, but a Honda F20C from an S2000.

To be honest, I’d never really thought about how good of a combination the SA22C and a high revving VTEC powerplant would be. After seeing this car, it all makes sense.

Besides the requisite S2000 instrument cluster, I also really liked how the owner fitted a vintage Mugen steering wheel – just to further throw people off when they peek inside.

So yes, contrary to the beliefs of some commenters there were plenty of cars at Wekfest that were about more than just aesthetics.

Last but not least we have one of the coolest and most unique cars in the entire show. Actually, it’s not even a car but a first generation Honda Odyssey built by Fast Eddie’s Racing.

From certain angles the van looks like your typical cruiser, but the looks are really just scratching the surface of what this minivan is all about.

Sure, there are cool style details like a set of 1990s-era Racing Hart wheels, but you have to look at the engine bay to really see where the magic is.

Under the hood, you’ll find a Honda H22 swap – but not just any H22. This motor has a totally trick reverse head setup based on the Honda Accord touring cars of the 1990s. The front-facing individual throttle bodies really make for a strange response when peo0ple walk by.

So there you have it – a little sampling of the kind of machines found at Wekfest LA. Some were built to go fast, some were built raise eyebrows and some were built to do both.

 

Mike Garrett

 

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

DREAM DRIVE: THE KLAUSEN PASS

It all started with a phone call. Back in April when I was planning out a few Speedhunters Dream Drive stories, I called up my friend and regular Alpine pass expert Martin for ideas for the potential routes worth featuring. I remember him vaguely mentioning a petrolhead friend of his, Michael, who owns a Porsche 996 GT3 RS. With only 682 built, it is quite a rare car, so on the eve of one of the German public holidays a couple of weeks back, I rang him up and asked if he could arrange to meet me the next day.

I knew we were going to have an exciting day when the trip idea was green-flagged within a couple of hours, but as soon as I arrived at the meeting point next day on the outskirts of Zurich, there was a second car in the lot – a Mercedes Benz C63 AMG wagon. Both of the cars are owned by Michael. One is the daily driver, the other the track tool. I’ll let you take a guess at which one is which…

After a short brainstorming session, we decided to take a run up Klausen Pass which is a tight mountain road that cuts through some amazing scenery and sleepy villages. The route started from the town of Glarus and wound its way up and down the mountainside and ended the approximately 40 miles (64km) later in Altdorf. But there was little time for looking at maps – we had two cars and some challenging corners to carve.

Every now and then we would pass a tunnel when Michael would both drop a gear or two and let the engines sing.

The mix of a howling race bred flat six and a shouty V8 provided all the soundtrack I could have ever asked for. It was a perfect duet.

Warning bells were ringing in my head as we drove up the road. Snow in mid-May? That can’t be good…

… a point that was hammered home just a few minutes later. But, as we soon found out, due to fallen rock and snow being cleared from the road, the crest of the pass was closed to the public.

Although this wasn’t ideal, we had the cars for a few hours so we decided to head up the mountain and see just how far we could get until the road closed down completely.

Of course, given that the road was going to run out, we made the most of the often-technical winding ascent. As the Porsche gripped and darted through the hairpins with the C63 on its trail, I could constantly hear the tyres crying in agony.

Eventually the trees opened up and we were greeted by this jaw-dropping view. It suddenly felt like we were in a different country altogether.

This little village was peppered with cottages and huts, with the sky-kissing rocky cliffs providing a grand backdrop. This was mother nature at a scale I wasn’t used to.

About a mile later – and just as we were getting into the groove of the pass – we reached the roadblock where we were forced to turn around. I jumped out for one shot from the furthest point up the pass we had gotten to, overlooking the spectacular road we’d driven up.

Since our trip was cut short prematurely and there was no traffic at all, so we decided stop so that I could take a look at the cars in detail and soak up some of the atmosphere.

The GT3 RS came with two color options – red and blue – but only for the wheels and stripes along the side. This might not seem like much until you understand that it pays direct homage to the the legendary Carrera 2.7 RSs of the early ’70s.

The RS stands for Rennsport, or ‘racing’ in German. Race-bred technology can be seen everywhere on the car.

For example, the rear windows are made of polycarbonate, like that used in most race cars.

Lightness is a theme that is pervasive across the car. We’ve all heard how the GT3 RS features a badge sticker rather than enamel in order to save weight. That might seem live overkill, but for this race-ready road car a whole lot of small savings end make a big difference.

Inside, a big centre-mounted tachometer dominates the gauge cluster, with a redline at 8000rpm. The higher the red needle went, the better the car sounded.

These keyrings are often overused, but it seemed rightly-placed in the Porsche.

In comparison, the C63 comes with a healthy dose of practicality. Four hundred and eighty-plus PS, seats five and a big boot – what’s not to love about that sort of specification?

The chiseled fender flares give the car some menacing character. I drifted off for a while trying to pick one car over the other but even after quite a lot of heavy pondering, I still couldn’t decide. Would these two cars make a perfect two-car garage? I think so.

I swapped cars and jumped into GT3 RS. I say jumped, but in reality it was a fairly elaborate process getting in and putting the six-point harness on.

My time with the cars was running out and it was time to say goodbye to the C63. Following it through tunnels was just pure joy. The throaty V8 sound filled the hillsides.

Our trip came to a conclusion in the town of Linthal nestled in the valley. The unexpected end to our planned drive had me wanting for an experience of the full extent of the Klausen Pass. Which, of course, leaves me without a choice. I’ll be back. And soon.

 

Alok Paleri

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

KUSTOMS UNDER THE SUN

I’ve been to more car shows in the last year than at any other time in my life. Between debuting my own car and coming on board with Speedhunters, I’ve been fortunate to hit major shows nearly every month – a petrolhead’s dream come true. An unexpected benefit of this recent and rapid exposure has been the opportunity to compare some very different events. Let’s be honest, nothing sucks more than attending shows that all feel the same – especially when the same cars show up over and over… and over.

I was excited to attend the Cruisin’ Nationals in Santa Maria because it’s known for having a strong contingency of my favorite genre: the traditional kustom.

Walking in the gate, Larry and I immediately had our socks knocked off by all the shimmering pearl electrified by direct sunlight. We both just walked off and started shooting the sun-charged masterpieces in their natural habitat, regrouping every so often before making our way to another set of cars.

Many of the major rod shows are indoors, a tradition that dates back over 60 years. It gives builders the chance to put their best foot forward, with a perfectly-polished and detailed car sitting in a display to complement it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the prestige of a national indoor show as much as the next guy, but the Cruisin’ Nationals reminded me of what you miss while your brain is being numbed by artificial lighting.

With the natural light enhancing every voluptuous vintage curve, we could truly appreciate the finest kustoms and rods on the west coast.

’49-’51 Mercurys are by far the most legendary of all kustoms – it’s just the go-to bodystyle for customizing – so this earlier ’48 model with canted Buick lights was particularly refreshing.

Being a kustom-centric show I thought we would see tons of chopped and dropped Mercs, so I was surprised by the overwhelming number of slammed Chevys.

This one had plenty of intricate paintwork on the roof – a theme we would see a lot more of throughout the show.

Here’s another with the mild custom treatment – slammed, shaved and flaked – but not chopped.

Plus a nicely detailed original straight six. I hope this one gets finished.

Traditional doesn’t always have to mean dumped though. I’m sure some would argue that this stock height Ford roadster is more traditional than any of the bagged and candied kustoms being built today.

I took Gene Winfield’s metalworking class with a few guys who are now making their mark on the scene, like the owner/builder of this car, Bear Metal Kustoms’ Jason Pall.

Jason showed us the trick four banger he built with an NOS Cyclone racing head.

It seemed like the nicest cars were always clustered together. This row started with a bagged, subtly flamed Chevy…

… next to a traditionally-styled Merc…

… next to yet another Merc from Celebrity Customs

… bookended by John D’Agostino’s latest creation: Sophia.

We first saw Sophia at the Grand National Roadster Show, but it just wasn’t the same as seeing her out in the daylight. We’ve just confirmed a full feature shoot on this car for next month, so stay tuned!

I watched the matte painted ’57 Ranchero in the background as it was built on the HAMB. Between this car and Keith Weesner’s renderings, a ’57 Ranchero is now on my short list of must-have cars. It’s always cool to see a car like this in the flesh for the first time.

The Loco Banditos CC were lined up front-and-center by the stage.

We’ve been trying to tee up features for these cars since we met the guys at March Meet. In the meantime, look for a Spotlight on the ’60 wagon very soon.

There were surprisingly few under-construction vehicles at the show, but this bare metal Chevy deserved to showcase its fine metalwork.

Who would have thought white could look so bold?

This ’40 Merc looked like it fell off a page of Rodder’s Journal.

Wide white bias plies are as traditional as it gets. Some guys cheat (myself included) and run radials on a full fendered car, but obviously this owner wanted to go all-in with his traditional build.

It’s funny how such an extreme build can start to look tame in a sea of candy colored customs.

Here’s a nice slammed Pontiac, with matte paint glowing under the bright sun.

The switchbox for the air ride is the only tell-tale that this picture was taken in 2013 and not 50 years earlier.

White, chrome and color-matched carpet makes for a fresh interior.

Two doors are generally favored, but these sedans loaded with factory accessories looked absolutely perfect with nothing more than a slammed stance.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

This ’54 Chevy came down from Canada and had a slightly different vibe…

…with a tame but nicely appointed six banger…

… plus full trim and wires, creating an upscale, sophisticated feel.

Here’s another Chevy that I would put in the sophisticated camp. The owner really restrained things, resulting in a very clean build.

This little pickup was quite the opposite.

Loud and in your face.

Another little hot rod in a sea of kustoms, this time a Modified on narrow bias plies with open headers.

I hope he wears those goggles when he drives.

This pair of Chevrolets was a good demonstration of two different styles. The matte blue Tri-5 had a mean ’60s street race vibe, while the earlier shoebox Chevy was more of a SoCal lowrider custom.

I spotted a period metalflake Mooneyes steering wheel inside the Tri-5 too. You’ll see why I had my eye out for these soon enough.

Guys used to showed off their hydro pumps behind acrylic, now it’s air compressors.

As Larry and I finished lunch I realized there was a whole field behind us that we hadn’t even seen yet.

I instantly spotted the Kaiser from across the grass. I looked for the owner but he wasn’t around, so I threw my card on his seat. You just don’t see chopped Kaisers very often.

Nor do you ever see a chopped Nash Metropolitan!

While I was checking out these custom oddities, Larry had slipped away again. I found him shooting this amazing scene – a patina’d two-door Chevy sitting alone in front of a barn.

It was an interesting layout at back of the show.

It seemed like people just parked anywhere, resulting in some unexpected backdrops.

Larry was having his own private shooting session with the cars and barns.

I know he wouldn’t let an opportunity pass without pointing his lens and making some poster-worthy images.

Before long the rumble of engines got our attention.

I dragged Larry away from his impromptu photoshoot so we could see what was left in the back field. We spotted this LaSalle grille’d ’40 Caddy.

I was glad we walked the field before everyone left because we caught two really nice bullet birds.

The ’61-’63 Thunderbird is another car at the top of my must-have list.

The factory customs don’t need much to be show stoppers.

I’m pretty sure this Willy’s was the only gasser at the show.

Check out the diversity of styles in this shot. The ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are all here and each representing a unique traditional genre.

As the cars rolled out we got one last reminder of why we were here.

After months of attending high-zoot indoor shows…

…we finally got to see some show-stopping kustoms where they belonged, under the California sun.

MEET THE SEAT LEON CUP RACER

As you might know, Wörthersee is much more than just a gathering of the crazed folks from the European dub scene. The VW Audi Group itself plays a big part in the event and often uses it as the place to debut some of its most exciting new cars and concepts. Among the debuts this year was this new Leon Cup Racer from SEAT.

SEAT has made it very clear that the Leon Cup Racer is not a show car, but the first test car for development of their next generation racing program. Based on the five-door Leon model, the body of the Cup Racer has been designed for maximum aerodynamics and the track is a full 40cm wider than the street model.

SEAT is planning to build two versions of the Leon Club Racer – a normal model and then one designed for endurance racing. Both will be powered by turbocharged two liter four cylinder motors making 330ps, but the endurance version will replace the standard DSG transmission with a six-speed sequential gearbox and mechanical diff.

Naturally the Cup Racer will come with all the required safety equipment to get on track, including a high strength roll cage and a racing seat equipped with a HANS device. You also get a multi-function steering wheel and a TFT instrument display.

The car has been designed for use in popular racing series like the ETCC and VLN Endurance Cup. SEAT also says there is a strong possibility of a 1.6 liter model that can be used in the WTCC.

Prices for the Leon Cup Racer will start at €70,000 for the regular version and €95,000 for the endurance model. The plan is start getting the Cup Racers into the hands of customers in time for the 2014 season.

-Mike

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

440WHP 13B TURBO MAZDA COUPE

When it comes to rotary tuning, the exploits of two countries at the bottom of the world need little introduction. For as long as I can remember the Australasian region has been home to some of the fastest, loudest, wildest and most innovative rotary-powered vehicles on the face of the planet, and there are no signs of the infatuation slowing up any time soon.

It’s not hard to see the rotary’s appeal, though. There’s that hypnotic pulse for a starters, not to mention an ability to rev to catastrophic heights with an unparalleled smoothness. But it’s the seemingly limitless performance potential of these engines that leads many down the rotary route, and for good reason too. Small in cubic capacity they may be, but at the same time capable of incomprehensibly big things.

It’s a fact that Steve Ellicott – the owner of this 1970 Mazda 1300 Coupé – knows only too well. The Coupé is number seven or eight (who’s counting!) in a long line of modified rotary-powered street cars that have passed through the New Zealander’s hands. From the look on his face when it fires into life, I can guarantee you that it won’t be his last.

Although the 1300 didn’t leave the Hiroshima production line in 1970 with a twin rotor motor between its front struts like its performance sibling the R100 (aka Familia Rotary Coupé) did, under Steve’s ownership there was never any doubt that it would one day wind up beating to the sound of a rotary drum. And a big drum at that.

In a previous life (after being exported from Australia to New Zealand back in 1972) the 1300 was owned by a little old lady for close to 30 years. Steve’s owned the car for four years now, and although it wasn’t in the same factory condition shown here by a framed photograph that’s been handed down from past owners, it was a perfect blank canvas.

Somewhere along the line the car had parted ways with its original four-cylinder running gear and had its rear end cut up to make way for a four-link suspension arrangement and wheel tubs. It was half way to becoming something pretty cool, and although there was a lot of work left to get it back on the road Steve had a vision to complete it, and good bunch of friends willing to lend their skills for the cause.

Although the rear-end c-notching and tin work had been completed, Steve opted to redo some of the modifications: swapping custom mild steel bars for chrome-moly, and designing a suspension system around QA1 adjustable coilovers. Inside, a drag-spec half cage with a harness and driver door bar was also fitted.

With custom front suspension built around coilover Bilstein dampers and featuring ToyShop Engineering adjustable camber plates and RCAs, the Coupé has a meaningful stance, helped no end by some serious tucking at the rear. It took two sets of three-piece Work wheels to create the custom-width Equips, but I think the finished outcome was worth it.

Of course, fitting big wheels on a car of this size can throw up all sorts of issues if you’re after a low-slung appearance, but the 1300 pulls it off nicely, and all the while retaining plenty of suspension travel and a full 80mm of clearance beneath the chassis. Although the front end of the car stays true to its 1300 roots right down to the grille badge, the R100 tail light treatment is a nice touch, don’t you think?

But it’s under the hood where things have really got exciting…

Although there were many different rotary engine configuration roads he could have travelled, Steve found what he was looking for in a tough two-rotor package that’s home to around 500 wild ponies. I probably don’t need to tell you that that’s a lot of power for what is essentially a very little car, let alone one that’s predominantly used on the street.

At the heart of the package is a 13B engine built around FD3S RX-7 rotors and housings, bridge-ported series five FC3S RX-7 plates, and a cross-drilled eccentric shaft. For reliability’s sake, unbreakable apex seals, three-window bearings and a stud kit were also used.

Although the 13B was originally run with a smaller turbo and more boost pressure, the current set-up revolves around a custom manifold-mounted GT42 blower, GFB EX50 wastegate and a PAC Performance intercooler destined for an RX-3, but modified to fit the smaller front-end proportions of the 1300 Coupé. On the fuel side of the equation there’s a custom 65 litre drop tank, three litre surge tank, and a Carter lift pump and Bosch 044 pump supplying pump gas via braided lines to 12A Turbo primary injectors and 1600cc secondary injectors. Four Bosch coils light the fire.

Only 15psi was used for rotary specialist Green Brothers Racing to realise 440whp on the dyno via the Mazda’s MicroTech LT10S engine management system. But even at that mild setting there’s easy low-to-mid ten second strip potential waiting to be exploited here. To date, Steve’s only ever run the Mazda down the quarter on street rubber, and not surprisingly all that’s resulted in was an excessive amount of wheelspin and a 12.5 second slip.

Steve’s alright with the wheelspin part though, because what the car currently lacks in 60 foot times and trap speed, it more than makes up for in its ability to skin a pair of rear tyres with relative ease. In the Coupé only third and fourth gears are required for that particular pastime, and it’s not only the pavement that bears the scars of a good old fashioned burnout. You can see and hear it in action here.

The interior space has been the subject of a complete, almost industrial, makeover with safety devices that allow it to run to 9.00ET should Steve ever get serious on straight lining. After chewing through four Toyota W-series gearboxes – two in one weekend alone – the driveline now benefits from a bulletproof Toyota R154 five-speed mated to the engine via a series five FC3S RX-7 bell-housing and a PAC Performance sourced adapter plate. Rounding out the heavy duty driveline is a Tilton twin-plate clutch, a Toyota Hilux (Tacoma) rear end upgrade and big axles to boot.

Looking back into the cabin you can see that it’s strictly a two seat affair these days, with the wheel tubs taking over much of what was originally the 1300′s diminutive rear seat space.

Although rowdy, the Mazda seems a lot more tractable at city speed limits than I thought it might be, and when opportunity knocks it puts the power down to the ground rather well, all things considered. According to Steve, it’s only when the car really starts to generate some serious speed that its wheelbase – or lack of – starts to become a factor in the way that it hangs on to the road.

I guess it’s all part of the driving experience afforded by a 40-something-year-old chassis when you stuff it with seven times the output that it was originally designed for…

… but guys like Steve wouldn’t have it any other way though. For the sake of unique rotary-powered creations like this one, and the Australasian rotary scene as a whole, that’s a good thing.

 

Brad Lord
brad@speedhunters.com

 

1970 Mazda 1300 Coupe

Numbers
440hp at wheels

Engine
Mazda 13B, full-cut bridgeport, RX-7 S5 plates, RX-7 S6 rotors and housings, three-window bearings, unbreakable apex seals, cross-drilled eccentric shaft, lightened and balanced, stud kit, three-inch exhaust system, AdrenalinR mufflers, custom turbo manifold, Masterpower GT42 turbocharger, GFB EX50 50mm external wastegate, dual blow-off valves, modified PAC Performance intercooler, custom intercooler pipes, aluminium radiator, PAC Performance oil cooler, 4x Bosch coils, MSD leads, Bosch Motorsport 044 fuel pump, Carter lift pump, three-litre surge tank, custom 65-litre fuel tank, electric water pump, braided fuel lines, XRP fittings, RX-7 12A turbo primary injectors, 1600cc secondary injectors, MicroTech LT10s engine management system

Driveline
Toyota R154 five-speed gearbox, Tilton twin-plate clutch, 10lb flywheel, RX-7 S5 bell-housing, PAC Performance gearbox adapter, Toyota Hilux rear end

Suspension/Brakes
Custom Bilstein coilovers, ToyShop Engineering adjustable camber plates and RCAs (front), custom four-link rear, c-notched chassis, QA1 coilovers (rear), RX-7 S6 calipers, RX-7 S5 discs (front), Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 calipers/discs (rear), hydraulic e-brake, Wilwood pedal box

Wheels/Tyres
Work Equip 17×8.5-inch wheels, 185/35R17 tyres (front), Work Equip 17×9.5-inch wheels, 215/45R17 tyres (rear)

Exterior
Factory Mazda 1300 body work, Mazda R100 tailights, custom bare metal respray

Interior
NZDRA-spec half-cage, Racepro seats, RJS harness belts, Sportline steering wheel, custom dash and centre console, Auto Meter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite 160mph speedometer, 10,000rpm tachometer, boost pressure gauge, oil pressure gauge, water temperature gauge, voltage gauge, fuel level gauge

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

A 1500HP GT-R STREET CAR THAT RUNS 8S

Getting a 3700lb (1675kg) Nissan Skyline GT-R down the strip in eight and a half seconds flat on its very first outing since an intensive, yet short lead build, is not any way, shape or form an easy proposition. But behind the wheel of MGAWOT II, New Zealand-based but internationally-renowned Nissan RB-series engine builder Robbie Ward has just made it look effortless.

If you know anything about GT-R drag racing you’ll probably recognize Rob’s name. If not, you should recognize his company’s, because for the last decade that modest workshop in a small city at the center of New Zealand’s North Island has been turning out some of the quickest and fastest Nissan RB-engined street and drag cars on the planet – many of them for international customers. The Bayside Blue BNR34 – unofficially dubbed MGAWOT II – is arguably their greatest work yet. It’s certainly the most powerful Skyline to have ever emerged from the RIPS (aka Rotorua Import Pro Shop) lair.

I caught wind of the Skyline-based drag project earlier in the year, not long after RIPS blew everyone away with its original MGAWOT machine – the company’s own Nissan Stagea station wagon which ran a 9.0-second pass on its very first pass down the strip and high eights ever since. MGAWOT II promised that and more, and during the course of last weekend RIPS delivered on its word in more ways than one. Not only did it a turn an 8.64 ET and a new NZDRA national class record on its debut run off the trailer, but it backed it up with a succession of 8.60s, then an 8.57, and finally an 8.51 at 162.5mph for the IHRA drag national class record too.

For the sake of anyone wondering, MGAWOT is a play on megawatt, which in power terms equals 1000 kilowatts, or 1341 horsepower. Truth be known, MGAWOT II has a little more than that, and more impressively makes its power on off-the-pump E85 biofuel. Equally remarkable, just seven short weeks ago the GT-R was nothing more than a rolling body fitted with a roll cage and a parachute. It arrived that way from the UK, but now, a couple of days after its debut racing weekend, it’s locked up in a shipping container and on its way back.

It’s not the first Skyline that’s been sent halfway around the world for Rob and his team to work their magic on and it’s unlikely to be the last. When it comes to RB engines – custom-engineered RB30s to be precise – RIPS has an enviable reputation. But it didn’t come by chance. Rob isn’t the sort of guy to ever shy away from a challenge, and he certainly doesn’t do things by halves. Too much power is seemingly never enough for this guy, and if that custom humped vent on the hood doesn’t speak volumes in that regard, lifting it up certainly will.

Like all of RIPS’ high-power builds, MGAWOT II’s engine is RB30 based. In this instance though, it’s pushed out to 3.2 litres courtesy of a Nitto Performance Engineering stroker kit featuring a 4340 billet steel crankshaft, 4340 I-beam rods, and a set of JE/Nitto forged T6 2816 alloy pistons. Not only do the upgraded internals give the engine the strength it needs to handle high horsepower loads, but they also allow to it to rev more freely, and to a 10,000rpm-plus altitude.

Of course, to achieve those big numbers you need a cylinder head that’s equally up to task. RIPS’ close associate Kelford Cams got that job of delivering a race-prepped and fully-flowed head from a brand new RB26 casting. On the subject of flow just look at that beautiful hand made intake plenum that the compressed air blows through.

Then there’s the turbo: a Garrett GTX47-series compressor sitting on a custom-built tubular manifold and running a pair of Turbosmart PowerGate60 wastegates. To give you some reference for size, that heat-wrapped pipe running out the back measures five inches in diameter. Large? Yes. Scary? A little…

If the engine was methanol-fueled and not destined to be street driven, the package could have sufficed without the need for an intercooler, but seeing as it’s designed to run on E85 and will soon be put back on the road in the UK (yes, you read that right!), a custom-built water/air charge-cooling system has been employed.

The set up pumps ice cold water stored in a custom designed and fabricated 50-litre boot mounted tank, through hoses to the ARE intercooler behind the front bumper. According to Rob it’s working perfectly to keep the intake temperature in check. The 18-litre tank on the left-hand-side hold the fuel, with a trio of Bosch Motorsport 044 pumps feeding the supply to the engine through six 2500cc injectors.

That’s not the only fuel the engine feeds on, though.

RIPS has always been a big fan of N2O, and while the Nitrous Oxides Systems set-up has the ability to deliver multi-port shots in the future, it currently only operates a small fogger nozzle for a 75hp hit that’s primarily used to bring the engine up on boost.

Remember what I was saying about attention to detail? It’s evident wherever you look, right down to CNC engraving on most of the custom-made items. The Tali Lomu insignia came at the request of the car’s owner – a huge rugby supporter with an immense respect for one of the sport’s most revered players of all time. New Zealand All Black great Jonah Tali Lomu, himself the owner of a couple of fast GT-Rs, was well known for his ability to steamroll anyone who got in the way of his 6 foot 5 inch, 280lb frame, so it’s a fitting name for a car that’s been designed to mow down the competition on the 1320.

With a conservative 1500hp on offer the RB32 definitely has the credentials to get the job done, but what surprised me the most though is how civilized the overall package is. Off the trailer all it took was one twist of the key to fire the engine into life from cold start before settling at a raspy, but even idle. Maximum effect, but minimal fuss.

That mantra follows through to the driveline, where alongside reliability, ease-of-use and driveability are key design traits. Unlike previous builds where OS Giken OS88 six-speed sequential gearboxes have traditionally been RIPS’ transmission of choice, MGAWOT II benefits from a ProMod-style two-speed, manually-shifted automatic that’s been significantly modified to integrate with the GT-R’s four-wheel drive underpinnings. The idea behind the auto transmission, which was initially developed in the Stagea, was to remove driveline ‘shock’, where immense torque loads plus a hard launch can equal expensive breakages. In a complete turnaround from the accepted norm, this GT-R catapults off the line smoothly, and even more surprisingly with just 6psi of initial boost pressure.

Getting the car out of the hole and on its way to a eight-second slip is a simple proposition Rob tells me. Looking at the left side of steering wheel, the top button purges the nitrous system while the bottom one engages the transbrake. On the right-hand side the top button activates the Leash Electronics Bump Box, while the bottom button triggers the N2O.

To heat the rear tyres before a run, a manual torque split controller alters the drive from full four-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive and can be adjusted to anywhere between.

After the burnout, the lever with the blue button is pumped back and forth to reinstate pressure back into the system and four-wheel drive for the launch.

That Bump Box I mentioned a couple of pictures back is a useful device in a set-up like this. To trigger the second set of staging lights, a driver normally has to be off the gas pedal to inch forward and fire the beam, which only leaves a split second to rebuild boost in time for the lights to drop. With the Bump Box, a microprocessor in conjunction with the transbrake does all the work, allowing the car to ‘bump’ into stage without the engine having to come off boost.

On the subject of boost, this is the first time RIPS has employed a CO2 system in one of its cars. The technology, which utilizes air regulators, is perfect for this application where boost control is critical, and pressure needs to increase as the car makes it way down the strip.

That said though, with its current Link G4 Xtreme engine management system tune the big RB’ is only operating at around 85 percent of its ability according to Rob.

It doesn’t take a genius then to work out that this car has a lot more in it yet, and that’s before you even start thinking about removing weight, like its heavy electrics-equipped steel doors and factory dashboard from the equation. It’s also running old circuit-spec coilover suspension, and the list goes on… Seven second potential? Without a doubt.

In the meantime however – if its debut performance is anything to go by – the Skyline should be at the top of the game when it hits up the Street Class of Santa Pod’s Jap Drag Racing Series, which coincidentally just kicked off for the 2013 summer season at the same time MGAWOT II was being shaken down in a far away land.

Given New Zealand and the United Kingdom’s geographical divide, chances are I’ll never get to see this car run again, and that saddens the inner GT-R worshipper in me. At the same time though, I know for a fact that this won’t be the last fast Skyline from RIPS, and that said, I can’t wait to see what Robbie and his team cooks up next. MGAWOT III? Watch this space…

 

Brad Lord
brad@speedhunters.com

 

New Zealand Sport Compact Drag Racing on Speedhunters

Other Skyline stories on Speedhunters

 

Nissan Skyline GT-R BNR34 ‘MGAWOT II’

Numbers
1500hp; 0-400m: 8.51 @ 162.5mph

Engine
RIPS RB32 build, Nitto Performance Engineering 3.2-litre stroker kit, JE/Nitto forged pistons, 4340 billet steel I-beam rods, 4340 billet steel crankshaft, RB26 DOHC 24V cylinder head, Kelford Cams cylinder head race prep/flowing, Kelford Cams camshafts, custom tubular exhaust manifold, Garrett GTX47 turbocharger, two Turbosmart PowerGate60 60mm wastegates, five-inch exhaust, ARE air/water intercooler, custom boot-mounted ice box, 18L custom fuel cell, three Bosch Motorsport 044 fuel pumps, braided fuel lines, RIPS plenum, RIPS throttle body, RIPS adjustable fuel rail, Turbosmart adjustable fuel pressure regulator, 2500c injectors (E85), RIPS/Ross Performance dry sump system, NOS nitrous oxide system, ViPEC engine management system, CO2 boost control system

Driveline
RIPS modified ProMod 2-speed automatic transmission, adjustable torque split, transbrake, limited slip differentials (front/rear)

Suspension/Brakes
Tein adjustable coilovers front/rear, Nissan BNR32 GT-R calipers/rotors, parachute

Wheels/Tyres
15-inch Advan RG alloys, Mickey Thompson 26.0/10.0-15 (front/rear)

Exterior
NISMO front bumper, Do-Luck rear bumper, custom turbo vent

Interior
Full rollcage, Jamex drivers seat, harness seat belt, Sparco steering wheel, B&M Pro Bandit ratchet shifter, Leash Electronics Boost Leash boost controller

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

MEET THE MCLAREN F1 LM

What do you do when you meet your hero? Do you talk to them, say hello, shoot the breeze, or stay at a distance, just hoping to catch their eye for a subtle sign of recognition? What if it’s an inanimate object, like the McLaren F1? Then things can get really weird… especially if other people are present.

There are a number of cars that still stop me dead in my tracks, and this is one of them. Since its release, my love list has included the McLaren F1, in any and all of its guises. I might have lusted after the Countach, collected dozens of Matchbox Porsche 911s and had my brain overloaded by the Porsche 956 and Lancia LC2 Group C cars when I was a kid, but the F1 launched at the perfect time, hitting me squarely in the sensory overload portion of my brain just as driving was becoming a fundamental part of my life.

I’d rediscovered Le Mans specifically and sportscar racing in general (having repeatedly stayed at a hotel on the Hunaudières straight on family holidays through France as a child), but here was a car that was overtly, deliberately a road car first and a racer second. That seemed improbable: there are so many cars released ‘for the road’ which have been nothing more than to tick a homologation box for a racing programme, resulting in admittedly exotic but completely out-there cars which were barely fit for purpose. But the F1 was different. Even if I knew I’d likely never drive one, the F1 seemed somehow more… of the people. Less ostentatious than other supercars.

The idea of a favourite supercar is a subjective thing. With so few of us having the opportunity to actually drive one of these mythical machines, we have to base our opinions on what we see with our eyes, mostly through photographs, and perhaps in combination with what has been written by the lucky elite who have got behind the wheel (and subsequently pressed the starter and hit the throttle, I should add).

This doesn’t downplay our involvement with them though. Supercars are works of sculptural automotive art, after all, and not only can but should be appreciated aesthetically as much as from a driving standpoint.

Every so often you get the chance to see one up close. A motor show like Geneva perhaps, or a festival like Goodwood. You can then engage with the car on another level: appreciate the quality of both design and construction, and if you’re lucky add a second aural level when you hear the engine turn or even a third visceral level when you see and feel it move.

We’ve previously looked at a number of supercars from the 1970s, and you’ve discussed at length what makes a supercar in the comments of Mike’s post. I don’t think there can be any question that the McLaren F1 is a definitive supercar, up there in the annals of all-time greats. If the Countach made the ’70s its own and the F40 the ’80s, then perhaps the F1 can be said to be the supercar of the ’90s. The last of the true driver’s cars, an organic joining of eyes, hands and feet to engine, rubber and road.

I’d had two previous experiences with this particular car, but they were glances exchanged across a room compared to the amazing access we got for this shoot. Firstly I’d seen it during the launch of the MP4-12C back in 2010, gently rotating behind glass in its own protected enclosure. Let’s face it, I wasn’t the first to be smitten by XP1 LM’s ample charms: this is the car Lewis Hamilton lusted over since his first teenage visits to McLaren HQ, and the one promised to him if he delivered back-to-back F1 World Championships (much as I like Hamilton, I’m glad he didn’t win for the selfish reason of this shoot).

More recently, XP1 LM was brought out into the wild for the Geneva Motor Show, to provide a direct and overt emotional link between the new P1 and the original McLaren road car. It was a brave move, made braver by XP1 LM sitting in an angled cut-out of the McLaren stand, just waiting for a hapless VIP guest to fall into the loving embrace of its carbon bonnet (which several almost did). It survived both Geneva and the guests, and here it was, just for us.

Let’s back up a bit. An enjoyable part of this particular liaison was the build up to seeing the car in the stark environment of the McLaren Technology Centre itself. We’ve already visited the MTC before, back for the aforementioned 12C launch and look at the prototype production line, but this time the nature of our entrance was different.

The experience begun at the main gate, where Rod, Suzy and myself picked up specially coded entrance passes that would get us through the various barriers and to our designated entrance pod. With the yin/yang interlocking shape of the MTC and its lake, the normal guest entrance is via a curving path that follows the circle of the lake and delivers you to the main atrium entrance. But for our visit we’d be following the footsteps of McLaren employees, and taking one of the four external rear entrances for staff (and non-important visitors like us) that sat apart from the main building, connected by underground tunnels.

Parked up, the card swiped us through the first airlock, down the helical staircase and into the decompression corridor – for that’s exactly what this is. The fundamental concept behind these long and starkly lit passageways is for employees to divest themselves of the worries of the outside world and to immerse themselves in the day ahead.

The McLaren badge on their shirts has to mean something; pass through the imposing double doors and your focus has to be on the inside, not the outside. There are World Championships at stake, road car customers to satisfy, electronics industry clients to keep happy. For us, it just built the anticipation.

Though being children, we couldn’t help but gleefully pick up on the similarity between the signage and a certain popular computer game…

Especially with this lift awaiting us at the end.

The main atrium was awash with classic Marlboro-liveried McLarens and portraits of their famous drivers: Hunt, Lauda, Prost, Senna… But we had little time to take them in: the F1 we were interested in was downstairs, behind a door with this ominous sign…

The F1 LM was positioned in the same build hall that had seen the initial production of the 12C prototypes – and now housed the P1 line just the other side of a set of dividers, awaiting transfer to the new McLaren Production Centre across the way (more on that facility will be coming up tomorrow). This was XP1 LM, sitting patiently, waiting for us.

We were, naturally, quite excited.

Some even more than me in fact. We had joined the list of those who had sat in an F1. The day could have ended there and we’d have left happy.

This is a privilege, to be dismissed only by the arrogant and the cynical. Back to the art analogy, this is like seeing one of the rarest, most beautiful paintings, but being unmolested by crowds around you. A private gallery, where we had time to drink in all the beautiful detail from every angle as well as the overall timeless design.

XP1 LM was the first of five F1s made to celebrate McLaren’s victory – at the first time of trying – at the Le Mans 24 Hours, a race they weren’t even aiming to compete in. The story had started back in 1988, when McLaren chief Ron Dennis and design head Gordon Murray were sitting in the departure lounge of Milan’s Linate airport. An offhand discussion about designing a road car somehow snowballed into a project proper, and five years later the first F1 was unveiled to a stunned world in Monaco in May 1993.

The car had been hand-drawn rather than computer designed. A coupling of Colin Chapman-influenced light weight and focus on performance, with Murray’s design flair and cutting edge technology, the F1 might not have been designed to chase records but by god it got them anyway.

It had the highest power to weight ratio of any previous production car; the bespoke, 600hp, 6.1 litre BMW engine produced one of the highest specific outputs for a large capacity normally aspirated unit ever made; it made 150mph faster than most cars got to 60mph; the top speed was 240mph; the carbon-fibre tub was a first for a road car; active aerodynamics kept a constant centre of pressure…

Murray was quoted as saying: “It’s not a case of going one step beyond. This is an entirely new starting point for supercars.”

Just as with the recent 12C, the F1 was never planned as a racecar but inevitably ended up as such. Customer pressure led to the 1995 F1 GTR racer, a three-car assault on the BPR series, seven GTRs at that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and nine cars in total being built. Le Mans fell to the GTR, as did the BPR.

The F1 was now not just the greatest supercar of the decade but now the most successful British sports racing car.

So what to do now? That’s where the F1 LM arrived. Five limited edition roadcars were built, three painted in the papaya orange of company founder Bruce McLaren.

Where the GTR was effectively a slightly detuned road car for the track (though it delivered even more phenomenal performance thanks to its improved aero), the LM would be a barely detuned racing car for the road.

They used the same racing engine but with the FIA restrictors removed to boost power to 680hp – in a machine weighing just 1,062kgs. They were the fastest of any F1 to be made, whether race or road variant.

And what a sound it made, using a tuned quad-exhaust system that made a unique, raucous howl.

The body retained the full ground effect aero of the racecar: stick a livery on it and a decent pedaller inside, and this would likely out-race anything you cared to match it against, a GTR included.

18-inch Oz magnesium alloy wheels – wider than the standard car at 10.85 and 13 inches respectively – sat in each corner…

…with outboard Brembo ventilated disks (12 and 13-inch) hiding behind the spokes.

The carbon rear wing bore the words ‘GTR – 24 Heures Du Mans Winners 1995′ etched into the endplate.

Inside, the central driver’s seat was carbon fibre with material padding, and both passenger seats were moulded into the monocoque.

The centrally mounted driving position was a stroke of genius, providing optimum weight distribution and visibility. The driver really did take centre stage in every sense.

For your right hand, a stubby, purposeful lever for the six-speed gearbox.

For the left, the functional girder handbrake.

For your feet, these beautiful drilled pedals.

This is what it looked like from the other side of the pedal box at race speed.

The interior trim was minimalist: carbon and Alcantara, though the carbon was allowed an almost decadent lacquer coating.

But this was still a practical car – seriously! The latches in the door sills opened the bonnet (big enough for a helmet or small bag)…

…and the actually quite spacious side lockers that hid in the recesses of the flanks. A screwdriver secured in the aperture underneath the righthand passenger seat was there for opening the rear deck.

Ah yes, the passengers… There are a couple of caveats to the idea that this is a practical car that you drive to the local restaurant or golf club. Your friends will have to be pretty trim for a start, and definitely not have any back problems. It’s snug, to be polite. Standard belts keep passengers in place, as opposed to the five-point harness of the driver. Get the idea that the people wouldn’t ask for a lift twice?

Well, for all the talk of practicality this was still basically a racing car: each occupant had a set of headphones connected to the car’s radio system, which gives an indication of the interior noise. There had been a CD changer in the original road car; here, the music of choice would be the BMW V12.

The LMs are the most exclusive, expensive and sought after F1s. This one is not likely to leave McLaren – it means too much. In 1999, Le Mans driver Andy Wallace took the F1 LM to new records in acceleration, braking and what the human body can endure, going from zero to 100mph to zero in 11.5 seconds and just 852 feet.

Oh, and remember this was a car not designed to go fast. Murray: “It’s just a consequence of the other things it does.”

The shoot dragged on, as I kept finding excuses for just one more shot. Eventually, we really had to go. I’d met my hero, and it hadn’t disappointed. Much as I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t need to look back.

 

Jonathan Moore

 

<< Home

source: speedhunters

PROJECT 86: YOU GOTTA START SOMEWHERE… AGAIN

When I got the memo asking whether I could start putting together a project story for the site every month, I got pretty excited. Why? Because many years ago (at least six or seven at a guess) I took a chance on a rather sorry-looking ’83 AE86 hatch. The Toyota had been exported from Japan to New Zealand in the early ’90s and since then had changed hands multiple times and racked up hundreds of thousands of kilometers. Although I already had a couple more AE86s in my garage at the time (call me greedy!), they were both JDM import Levins GT-Vs, and I had always longed for a JDM pop-up headlight Trueno in GT Apex spec.

My original idea was to build an Initial D-style car – not so much an inch-perfect replica like the car that Mike showed us the other day – but simply a stock-bodied AE86 finished in panda paint scheme and sitting on a set of gunmetal Watanabe wheels. The classic AE86 combo, if you like.

Of course, there were plans for modifications too. I wasn’t interested in building a drift car, but more of a fun street car that was set up to go, turn and stop equally well. Right from the start I resigned myself to using as many Japan-sourced aftermarket parts as I could, and where possible encompassing trends from my favourite era of Japanese performance tuning: the early-to-mid ’90s.

I got a little way down the road with the project but then other stuff called, like paying a mortgage, and appeasing my long-suffering missus by remodeling our home. Turns out there’s only so long you can store your collection of 114.3mm old school wheels in the bath tub! But if I thought restoring a 30-year old was an expensive enough challenge, my 80-something-year-old house well and truly taught me otherwise!

Suffice to say, up until a couple a months ago when we finally pulled the covers back off the car, the Trueno had been sitting idle for a long time. But given that the car is exactly 30 years old this year, now is time to right that wrong and get the car finished and back on the road where it belongs. But before I delve into the work that’s been completed thus far, I thought it would be a good idea to show you exactly what I’m working with. As I’m sure you can tell from the pictures above, which were taken when I first picked up the car after purchasing it sight unseen, the exterior wasn’t in a very good way at all. In keeping with that, neither was any other aspect of the car…

Apparently the 86′s factory engine had been just rebuilt and only run for a few hours, but I’m not so sure. The condition of the 4A-GE didn’t really matter though as I had already planned on piecing together another one based on a latter AE92-spec small-port head/seven-rib block engine. I’ll have more on that build in an upcoming post.

It’s often said that less is more, but I really wish that the previous owner hadn’t done this to the interior. He told me that he was planning to rally the car (hence the rally ride height and tyres), and therefore set about stripping and binning the interior in preparation for a roll cage which never eventuated. The good news is, I’ve been able to find all the bits needed to get the front part of the interior back up to its oh-so-’80s burnt red and chocolate brown factory spec, including a pair of the correct door cards without aftermarket speakers holes hacked into them. Believe me, that’s not been easy!

While the car obviously never saw a proper rally stage, it was thrashed up and down a hedge-lined gravel driveway, which goes some way to explaining the multiple scuffs and scrapes that ran the length of the bodywork. As dirty as it looked though, once all the dust and mud was washed away, I was very pleased to find a rust-free boot cavity and no signs of any previous rear-enders. Surprisingly, it still had its original wheel jack intact too!

As I thought it might – or at least hoped it might – although the AE86 looked rough on the outside (and inside), beneath its dulled and oxidized red paint, dents and scratches seemed to be a pretty honest car with no previous real damage. That’s something that we were able to confirm later at the body shop, where digital tools were used to accurately check all of its underbody measurements. The perfect starting point for a restoration? Well, not quite, but for the money I paid it was definitely close enough for me to bite the bullet and get the project under way.

And so a gratuitous spending frenzy ensued. It started off innocently enough with a phone call to Toyota New Zealand to see what new parts were still available for the AE86 ex-Japan. Turns out there was quite a lot…

Of course, it all added up quite quickly and before I knew it I had spent more of my savings on new OE parts than I had on buying the car in the first place! But that’s okay though. When the project is finally finished I think it’ll be the little details, like brand new lights on every corner, that’ll really make the car.

Not everything I’ve purchased has been new though. I was pretty to happy to find this hard-to-find little device along the way too, and in New Zealand even. A’PEXi never made a Power FC specifically for the AE86′s 4A-GE, but its specialist offshoot AP Engineering did.

Body-wise, Toyota New Zealand was able to supply me with every bolt-on panel except the two front fenders. However, a couple months spent scouring Yahoo Auctions turned up a mint example for each side, which were fitted up to the body (along with the new hood, new doors and new rear hatch) to make sure everything lined up nicely. As you’ll be able to tell from this shot, outer rear three-quarter panels were also on Toyota’s inventory, so I made the call to have both outers replaced. I was happy I did too, because removing the outer fender revealed a bit of rust on the edge of the inner fender, which was able to be taken care of before the panel was welded back on, along with a new rear tail light panel too.

Immediately the car went from looking all beat up and bent like this…

… to this, courtesy of Auckland body shop Westside Panelbeaters.

Before any welding happened though, I decided to paint the inside of the fenders. Why? Because rather than try and piece back the original interior in the rear of the car, I’ve decided to keep this end stripped bare. In keeping with the ’90s Japanese street theme, a Safety 21 bolt-in roll bar – which I’m well aware holds no real safety merit –  will fill some of the void. It should look pretty clean in here once it’s all white and shiny.

Even though getting the bodywork back in shape wasn’t a cheap exercise, I definitely feel that it was money well spent. Japanese cars from the early ’80s aren’t renowned for their resistance to rust – at least where I live anyway – so knowing that there’ll be no horrible surprises in that department any time soon is good peace of mind.

So this is what I’m working with, or at least it was a month or so back. Although I think the Trueno will end up largely the way that I first envisaged it would, some of my ideas have changed along the way, and some details are still yet to be decided. So I’m kind of excited to see how it all pans out in the end. What would you do if you were in my shoes?

There’s a bit more primer to lay and some final prep work to be done before I drop out the front crossmember and suspension, and detach the entire rear end. Then it’ll be off into the booth. I know it’ll be a good feeling to finally have it back home and wearing a brand new coat of paint. But more on that next month!

 

Brad Lord

 

<< Home

source: speedhunters

STYLE MAKER: NAGANO KOUBOU

Ever since running across Nagano-san and his creations at past Nagoya Exciting Car Showdowns, I’ve been wanting to drop by his workshop in the outskirts of Kyoto for quite some time. It’s hard to put a finger on it all but Paint & Cutting Make Nagano Koubou has been extremely influential in creating the very unique Kansai drift flavor we have seen over the last few years on a lot of cars.

Nagano Koubou primarily deals with the aesthetics of a car, so the selection and preparation of body parts, the fitting and molding or modifying, and finally the painting of course. But for a one-manned body shop this little garage has churned out some pretty wild and recognizable cars…

…some of which happened to be parked outside when we stopped by. The Rose Bud Onevia…

…and the green S13 next to it are two dorisha that we are all very familiar with, built to not only showcase the unique style of Nagano-san…

…but to be used hard at local drift tracks like Meihan.  Sitting extremely low and sporting riveted on overfenders they both manage to exhibit a very 90′s inspired style spiced up with some modern stylistic touches.

Nagano-san lifted the hood open on the Onevia to give an idea of the amount of work that has gone into turning this into a very capable slider. But we won’t get into all of that quite yet, you will have to wait for a feature on the car to indulge in its rough yet purposeful drift set up. It’s the shop we are here to see now…

…so let’s continue on with our little tour. Outside the garage, which is located right at the bottom of a dead-end street, there are countless cars sitting there either waiting for a full make over or in to get a little bit of touch up work done. There are tons of used tires stacked up along with old and damaged bits of aero, all waiting to be picked up and disposed of.

As I head inside the actual workshop itself, it’s the details that I am drawn to like the old pictures on the walls of the old projects that Nagano-san worked on which include his old Civic kanjo racer, one of the most popular cars to race back years ago in this particular area of Kansai. Actually TRA Kyoto and Miura-san, another ex-kanjo racer, is only a five-minute drive from Nagano Koubou.

No self-respecting workshop would be without a sticker bombed fridge…

…or tool cabinet!

During our visit Nagano-san was in the process of prepping an aero kit for a customer’s Soarer…

…which would soon be receiving a bit of a make over.

A souped up Radio Flyer always comes in handy!

For any painter and creator of new styles his workbench is probably the most important are of his shop. This is where custom colors and finishes get mixed and devised…

…before being applied by hand with one of these little gadgets.

Nagano-san of course doesn’t limit himself to any particular style, in fact as of late – like a lot of shops in Japan – has begun embracing the more USDM influence that has been steadily flowing into Japan, from the whole stance movement to its various interpretations.

He actually had a customer’s imported Scion bB in for some work…

…serving as a good example of what other type of projects he is involved in.

But there is only so much one can take in from visiting a body shop like Paint & Cutting Make Nagano Koubou, as his creations would speak far louder than any behind the scenes look into his activity. So, to do just that…

…you can expect a feature on one of his latest projects, a Onevia that perfectly illustrates the continuous fusion of styles that is occurring right now in Japan.  So I leave you with a few desktops for now, but don’t forget to check back shortly for a detailed look at this very pink S13!

 

Paint & Cutting Make Nagano Koubou

Nagoya Exciting Car Showdown Coverage 2013

 

Dino Dalle Carbonare

 

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

THE PRANCING HORSE DESCENDS ON SUZUKA

You may remember that I featured a very special and unique Ferrari F40 around this time last year. I titled that feature ‘An afternoon with a legend‘ – a rather fitting choice of words I thought, considering my particular infatuation with Ferrari’s rawest ever street car. Today, at Suzuka circuit, I counted a total of 12 F40s, three 288 GT0s, three F50s, three Enzos and eight 599 GTOs…shall I keep going?

But this being Japan, and today’s event being the first day of the Ferrari Racing Days, such a mouthwatering turnout was to be expected.

Tomorrow will actually be the main day, but there was no way I was going to hit the sack without sharing some of the awesomeness I witnessed today. On top of these sort of views in the paddock…

… were views of practice and the first qualifying session of the Asia Pacific Challenge series.

This international mix of 458 Challenge drivers will be pitching their race cars against each other…

and a very special guest…

… who will starting from the very last place on the grid and attempting to work his way up towards P1. Any ideas who it might be?

Ferrari Japan has done an incredible job putting this event together.

No matter if you are a die-hard Cavallino enthusiast…

… or just there to enjoy the sights and sounds of some of Ferrari’s rarest limited edition creations.

These privately owned cars were neatly lined up in the paddock for everyone to see and enjoy…

… but Ferrari had also prepared a variety of display areas inside the pits, like this beautifully-lit selection.

Unfortunately Ferrari’s latest hypercar, LaFerrari, wasn’t present, but the official launch video was being projected onto a big screen in one of the pits.

Seeing that Ferrari’s history hadn’t been forgotten was a very welcome surprise. Cars like this 1957 250GT Tour De France…

… sat along side other greats, like the 1967 375GTB/4 Daytona.

Ferrari is attempting to create a stronger and more accessible bond with its fans, and allowing them to get up-close-and-personal with its current line up is a great way to show everyone first hand what Ferrari design and quality is all about. Its latest front engined V12 beast, the F12 Berlinetta, which represents the true essence of modern day Ferraris, was one of the cars that people could check out.

It was probably by mid-afternoon that the action on track intensified. In between the various Challenge practice sessions…

… Ferrari Japan’s own press fleet was used to give lucky fans a quick spin around Suzuka.

Customers that had signed up for the soukoukai session had a chance to drive their cars hard…

… but no matter how good of a driver you are, you should always remember to warm up your tires first. This 599 GTO ended up in the kitty litter in its out lap, understeering out from the “S” curves. Luckily no damage was done.

In a closed-off pit four FXXs were being prepped for their short outing on track tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear their unbridled V12 engines scream down the Suzuka straight at full noise!

The Challenge series continued to race right until 6pm tonight…

… the drivers attempting to string together a fast lap during the first qualifying session of the weekend. With the possibility of rain for tomorrow’s final qualifier, getting a good time today was a must.

Shooting at tracks up and down Japan almost on a weekly basis sort of tones down your enthusiasm for the cars you get to see. But today was very different. Seeing all these cars lined up…

… and then blasting around Suzuka really put a smile on my face. Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity. Which I why I am still up at 2am putting this post together…

… so I could share this first selection of images from the unique day with you. A day where I found a little slice of Italy right in the middle of Japan.

I’ll be back soon with more from Suzuka, but in the meantime make sure you download some of the desktops below.

 

Dino Dalle Carbonare

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

THE REAL LIFE INITIAL D ON DISPLAY

Before I close out the coverage of my visit to the Yokota Museum, I want to share a few photos of one the most interesting displays in the entire place. I’m gonna go ahead and guess that most of you guys are familiar with Initial D, the Japanese manga and anime series which is set primarily in Gunma Prefecture. While the characters and events in the racing-themed story are fictional, the locations are not.

It’s not just the mountain passes that are real either. The town where Takumi Fujiwara lives and the tofu shop his family runs are also based on actual locations. The store, originally called ‘Fujinoya Tofu Shop’ was located in the town of Shibukawa, just a short distance away from the Yokota Museum.

As Initial D grew in popularity many fans of the series would travel to Shibukawa to see the shop for themselves. It was even used as a set for the Chinese-made Initial D live action film released in 2005, with the exterior sign changed to match that of the store in the manga. Unfortunately, in 2006 the tofu shop closed down and not long after that the entire building was demolished as part of city construction project. It was the end of an era.

Or was it? It turns out the family preserved the original store front, and last year it was restored and put on display as part of an Initial D exhibit at the Yokota Museum. It was the perfect way to sustain the memory of the legendary little tofu shop, and to share some local Gunma lore with visitors to the museum.

It’s not just the facade that’s been restored, but some of the items that were actually used inside the shop.

Could these be the most famous tofu kitchen tools on the planet?

In addition to the items preserved from the shop, there’s other Initial D artifacts on display. Diecast AE86s, 4A-GE cam covers, comic books and more.

There’s even ‘Initial D Original Wine’, which can be purchased in the museum’s gift shop.

Of course the exhibit would not be complete without an AE86. This Trueno was built to authentically recreate the Fujiwara Tofu Shop delivery car – the real star of the Initial D series.

The car was restored by the AE86 specialists at Carland in Kyoto, and it has all the correct details of the Initial D car. Wheels, color, interior, etc.

Although I am a bit disappointed that I never got to see the Fujiwara Tofu Shop as it once stood, it’s fantastic that the Yokota Museum has this little slice of Japanese car culture on display for all to see.

Mike Garrett

 

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

A 900WHP DATSUN DRAG UTE

Big engines and big cars are kind of obvious huh? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good V8 and have owned more than a few. An Audi R8 with that V10 sat behind my head? All day, every day my friend. Yet if I’m honest I think my ego gets in the way sometimes. For years I craved big engined hot rods and large capacity BMWs, but often they were unsatisfying – aurally muscular but lacking in go. So when I see a diminutive truck like Brad McIlroy’s Datsun, I get a kick. It’s inoffensive, approachable yet devastatingly effective. Can you imagine covering the quarter mile in seven seconds in a handyman’s runaround? The deeper and wider I delve in to car culture I think it’s the unexpected that now attracts me. This Ute eats tarmac like a vacuum cleaner sucks up a piece string, and it cannot be ignored…

It always makes me smile when I talk to a drag racer like Brad McIlroy, because it’s usually the same story you hear. He never meant to go this fast – it kind of got out of hand. It’s like going out for a kick around with a football and ending up at the Superbowl, almost without realising exactly how you got there. Except this is all about going fast, really fast, and there’s something very pure and honest about that.

At Willowbank Raceway Brad is pitted alongside the Mazfix 6 that I featured last month. His Datsun ute runs on methanol and I’m sat right in the wash of the fumes as the guys fire it up. It’s a rookie error. As my eyes start to stream a little it strikes me that this kind of sums up drag racing itself – you do things that might hurt a little because the rewards are so temptingly close.

My reward for today is denied though. The rain that’s been looming starts to spatter the track by lunchtime, and I don’t get to see Brad and the Datsun run. As achingly annoying as it is for me, for a crew like Brad’s with days and months of dedication and hard work in this build it’s very frustrating, but all part of the process. Thankfully for me, fellow Speedhunter Brad Lord was stood exactly where I am now for the Brisbane Jamboree last September and got some shots of Brad and the truck in action.

So a couple of days later I find myself at the Mazfix workshop to take a closer look at the little truck. The basic facts? Small and powerful, the wheelbase is a factory-stock 90 inches and it has around 900hp at the rear wheels thanks to an extended port 20B rotary motor.

As ever, the real story is Brad’s though. The parts are laid out for us to see but I want to know why we’re not looking at a Ford or a V8 or even talking about train spotting? So it comes as a surprise when Brad tells me he got in to drag racing through a neighbour when he was a kid. Not the usual route, no parental input aside from ‘yeah you can go to the drags’, just a healthy interest that grew and grew.

For Brad it always had to be a Datsun Ute though, and the ute part I get. This is Australia and I swear they’d use one for a state funeral if the opportunity arose. They are such an integral part of the culture it was a natural choice. The design is a classic choice, beloved as much in South America and Africa as it is here, although the single headlight grille is relativly clean it’s got a hint of aggression to it when you look at how the centre tucks in at the top either side.

Brad was attracted to the clean look they have, which he’s kept with some simple debumpering but incredibly no aero aids at the front given the potential it has.

It’s a different story at the back though, the game is up. I personally like the detail where the cab joins the rear bed, it looks considered and not separated like so many others. According to Brad they’re a great base to start with, as you can do so much with them. Small and compact, they can be made fast with off-the-shelf conversion parts for not much money given great aftermarket support.

He also said something about them being cheap and keeping it road legal… Yeah, I didn’t believe that bit either, Brad.

Sure a few of the modifications could be true for a road car. But it’s gone way beyond that now.

Through heading to the track to get his straighline fix, Brad met up with a whole crew of guys. Drag racing the world-over has always shown me a healthy social scene, because when so much rides on so little time spent doing the actual racing, everything around it grows.

Buying a bare Datsun 1200 shell, Brad met ‘Jerry, Dan and all the boys’ as he calls them. These guys then guided, helped and pushed him through the build, with the original plan being for a 10-second legal street car with a 13B. So what happened? “Build it once, build it right,” states Brad.

Because like I said, Brad is the same as every other normal-on-the-surface-methanol-burning-drag-racer. They just want to go fast. Pure, unadulterated speed delivered in a kick-to-the-brain kind of way.

No prolonged endurance racing here. Explosive forces, combined with friction and propulsion, designed to get the job done as quick as is possible.

It’s a real pleasure taking a look around the truck as it all looks so methodical, which Brad puts down the experienced team and thinking four or five steps ahead in the build stage.

I love the Liberty shifter atop the Lenco transmission; it’s almost reason enough in itself to get a drag specific car. You can show me stripped down quickshifts or VW Motorsport shifters, but this bad boy will win every time.

Just as I saw on Mazfix’s six-second drag car last month, the Weld Racing rims have that gorgeous anodised and machined finish to them.

A skinny 4.5 inches up front…

… And an almost square 15×12 inches at the back.

Twin parachutes mean that stopping really isn’t a problem, which is good because since I was with Brad he’s set a new personal best of 7.79 seconds at 178mph. Talking to him you can hear it hasn’t quite sunk in. “It just felt good off the line, I listened and it went straight. Everything fell in to place.”

 

That time is well-deserved with Brad having raced the Ute for roughly two years now. Although there’s been a few mishaps along the way, hopefully the good times are here to stay.

Just stop for a second and imagine how that must feel? That’s a crazy-quick time for a vehicle of this size, surely? Well maybe not, but I for one love it that it’s even possible.

Maybe better times are yet to come, because Brad wants the Datsun to run reliable and consistent 7.30-second quarter mile times.

Ultimately though the Ute’s days might be numbered with Brad. Like all of us he just wants to go fast. Really fast. So a six-second, full chassis car like Mazfix’s 6 might well be on the cards. One thing is for sure, my eyes are being opened small car after small car by their potential.

I don’t how this is going to end up for Brad or I, but I need to shake it up a bit and smaller, harder, faster is the way forward.

 

Bryn Musselwhite
bryn@speedhunters.com

 

Brad McIlroy’s Rotary powered Datsun 1200 Ute

Numbers:
Max Power (current) – 900whp / potential for 1500bhp
Engine:
20B, extended port, dowelled and drilled, bolted through ports, Series 4 rotors/balanced and lightened & CNC machined, Garrett 55R turbo, MoTeC M84 with Racepak dash, M&W Pro Drag 6 ECU to control ignition x2 (one for trailing and one leading sparks), PWR 600x300mm radiator, one boost pipe straight to intake from turbo, 60mm blow-off valves plus wastegate in front of boost pipe 60mm Turbosmart, one 45mm wastegate on each exhaust outlet for turbo manifold (three in total), 12 x ID2000 injectors
Driveline:
Lenco ST1200 5-speed air-shifted transmission, Direct Clutch twin plate cltuch, full-floated rear end, Race Products fabricated 9-inch case, Race Products chromoly axle 35-spline shafts, Strange diff centre, 5.1:4 ratio
Suspension/Brakes:
Koni double adjustable rear shocks, ‘Mad Dat’ front strut conversion kit for 1200 Ute, Wilwood brakes all round, 4-pot callipers
Wheels/Tyres:
Weld Racing 15×4.5-inch front with 22×4.5-inch Mickey Thompson tyres, Weld Racing 15×12-inch rear with 31×13-inch Mickey Thompson tyres
Exterior:
All steel panels with carbon rear deck cover, de-bumpered, custom mix colour based on standard RX8 hue
Interior:
Kirkey alloy seat, Stroud Safety harness
Chassis
Three-quarter drag chassis (standard from firewall forward, tube back from this point)
Thanks
Dan from ProMods, Jerry for the extended guidance, Brad for the wiring, Archie and the boys from Mazfix, Justin from HPS

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

THE YOKOTA MUSEUM

Nestled in the hills of Japan’s scenic Gunma Prefecture lies a car museum unlike any other I’ve ever seen. Actually, to even call this place a “car museum” is to understate just what you’ll find here. A visit to the M. Yokota Museum is like taking a trip back to a different era, and the exquisite selection of vintage Japanese cars is only one part of the experience.

I’d seen snippets about the place online over the years, but on my most recent Japan trip I was determined to see the museum for myself. Those images of Yokota’s race car collection alone were enough to put it high on my 2013 winter to-do list.

So one morning my wife and I hopped on a train at Tokyo’s Ueno station and made our way out of the city and toward the countryside of Gunma.

After a two-hour train journey and a short bus ride from the Shibukawa station, we arrived at the destination. The building’s architecture was interesting to say the least.

It’s certainly not something you expect to see on the side of a road in rural Japan.

But enough about the outside. It’s what’s inside that counts, right? Being a Speedhunter, it was of course the collection of vintage cars that brought me here – but the The Yokota Museum is so much more.

In fact, the official name of the place is the “Ikaho Toy, Doll, and Classic Car Museum” and even that doesn’t properly sum up the fascinating and sometimes strange world that’s found inside.

More than anything, the museum pays homage to post-war Japanese culture – the automobiles, toys and dolls are the artifacts used to bring the past back to life.

The entire place is full of items that call back to Japan of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

From vintage movie posters…

…to photographic tributes to the country’s long line of pop singers and teen idols.

Along with so many other things that tell the story of Japan’s rise from post-war gloom to becoming the economic, technological, and cultural powerhouse it is today.

But how exactly did the Yokota Museum come to be? What’s the story behind this nostalgic wonderland in the hills of Gunma?

It’s all the work of Mr. Masahiro Yokota, a carpenter originally hailing from a poor working class background. After mastering his craft  he was able to have a very successful career as a house builder working during Japan’s massive economic boom of the 1980s.

And while he was able to achieve financial prosperity through his career, he never felt fully satisfied. The money was there, but he really wanted to do something that made people happy. After traveling the world and seeing how the economic landscape was shifting in the United States and Europe, he knew Japan’s bubble economy was going to burst.

So in 1994 Yokota-san decided to take a leap of faith. He left his building career behind and created this toy and doll museum.

During his years of tearing down old houses and building new ones, he started to amass a big collection of unwanted toys. He felt bad seeing them thrown away, and it was this collection that became the starting point for the museum. But more than just a display of old toys, he wanted the museum to speak of the era in which they were manufactured and used.

This was actually a bit of a risky proposition. At the time, there wasn’t a whole lot of nostalgia for the Showa period, so the idea of a “modern” museum with toys artifacts from the last couple of decades was unheard of.  Not to mention, Japan’s economic bubble had in fact collapsed, just as Yokota-san feared.

But it turns out there was a demand to travel back to this not-so-ancient period of Japanese history. Perhaps it was actually good timing. Maybe the tough economic times of the ’90s had people yearning to return to a simpler and more optimistic era?

Whatever the case, people from all over Japan were soon coming to Gunma to see Yokota-san’s new museum. He was soon on his way to paying off the massive bank loan he’d taken out to construct and run the museum. More importantly though, he had accomplished his goal of building something that put a smile on people’s faces.

Of course, for me it was automobiles the brought me here in the first place, but to be honest I found the toys and other bits of nostalgia just as interesting.

While I can appreciate an ancient temple or traditional Japanese garden as much anyone, it’s really Japan’s more recent contributions to history that led me to fall in love with the country. In that sense, the Yokota Museum is an absolutely fantastic place.

But what about the cars? Well, they actually enter the picture a bit later in the museum’s history. Yokota-san had always been a gearhead, and has owned hundreds of motorcycles. During the height of his business success he drove Ferraris, Porsches, and other high end import cars that were rampant on Tokyo’s streets during the boom years.

And while he loved these bikes and exotic imports, he’d never paid much attention to the automotive contributions in his own country.

But that all changed when he was in Yokohama one day and first laid eyes on the iconic Toyota 2000GT. He’d heard of the car as a young man, but it wasn’t until much later in life that he actually had the chance to see one in the flesh. It was love at first sight. A beautiful, timeless automobile designed and built in Japan.

His encounter with the 2000GT ignited a huge passion for Japanese kyusha, and soon his collection was growing to include a number of legendary domestic vehicles from the ’60s and ’70s.

Not only had he fallen in love with these vintage machines, but they served as perfect addition to the museum. A perfect complement to the assortment of Showa era nostalgia he’d already assembled.

So in 2004 the classic car section of the museum was officially opened with a group of 70 hand-picked and fully-restored vintage cars. Yokota-san had already found an enjoyable and rewarding way to share his passion for vintage for Japan with the public, and the process of collecting and restoring these cars made things that much better.

The cars in the collection have all been restored with painstaking authenticity. Everything from the original gauges to the period correct bias-ply tires have been accounted for.

While the majority of the cars in the museum are street models, a number of race cars feature in the mix, too.

There’s some mouth-watering machinery on display, but I’ll wait until the next post to dig into the cars in detail.

One thing that’s especially cool about the car displays is the way they’re accompanied by artifacts from the period they were built.

Sometimes it’s as simple as factory brochures and old model kits…

…or promotional items like this cool Toyota 2000GT-branded hand bag.

Some of the other displays are even more thorough – here’s a tire rack loaded up with vintage rubber for example.

And in another corner, a shelf packed with steering wheels, mirrors, hub caps, and many other cool old car parts.

Check out these S30 Fairlady Z coil springs from Race & Street Service Toyoshima. To quote the English motto written on the front of the box: “The most revolutionary advance since the invention of the suspension. It’s a power and balance experience. We have been producing inquiry suspension for new generation. Who could ask for anything more?”

Promotional models, diecast toys, old car magazines – it all makes for so much more than just a collection of old cars.

With the continued success of the museum over the years, the facility has expanded to include a teddy bear museum, as well as chocolate and wine museum…

…which includes this bartender of the future. Admission to all of the displays are part of the modest 1,050 yen (about $10) admission fee.

There’s even an outdoor area that includes a squirrel habitat. To use the old cliche, it’s fun for the whole family.

It also happens that the squirrel area sits directly across from Yokota-san’s Ferrari F40. A bit surreal, but it’s all part of the experience.

The Yokota Museum made me nostalgic for a time and place decades before and half a world away from my own youth – something I’d say speaks of its effectiveness.  Judging by the young and old faces I also saw enjoying the vintage atmosphere, it’s safe to say Masahiro Yokota’s dream has become a reality.

Next time I’ll return with a closer look at the machinery that calls the Yokota Museum home.

Mike Garrett

<< HOME

source: speedhunters

VANNING IS BACK

Vanning. It swept the USA during the 1970s in an explosion of side pipes, murals, and velvet interiors before it disappeared just as fast as it began. For a long time after, custom vans were looked at as embarrassing pieces of the past rather than nostalgic classics. That is changing though. During the last several years, more and more 1970s style custom vans have been popping up at events and at this year’s Mooneyes X-Mas Party there was a separate area dedicated specifically to vintage vans.

The result was not a small smattering of vans, but sizable display with around 30 examples present. For those that were around during the peak of vanning in the ’70s it was nostalgic trip, and for the younger crowd it was a fine look at a movement that was long buried in automotive history.

While I can’t speak for the entire country, it appears that Southern California is becoming a hotspot of the vanning revival. There are even a few clubs dedicated just to vintage vans.

It was a difficult to tell which of the vans were actually customized during the ’70s and which ones were modern recreations, but either way all of the period elements could be seen. This Dodge has covered all the basics, graphics, sidepipes, porthole windows, custom wheels, and a few spoilers for good measure.

This Chevy meanwhile is sporting an aggressive set of fender flares and a big front air dam to match. Looks like it’s ready for the IMSA circuit, doesn’t it?

As an example of  just how big the vanning craze got during the ’70s, Dodge actually released a factory custom version of its popular Tradesman Van known as the “Street Van”.

While they didn’t sell in huge numbers, the Street Van could be had with just about anything a van freak could want, including a plush interior, wide mag wheels, and wild graphics.

They were also identified by these awesome badges.

Having the right rear window design was crucial for your custom van. Some went with the classic porthole, while others went the diamond as seen on the Street Van.

The teardrop design was yet another popular choice along with the good old heart shape. These were the sort of tough decisions that vanners had to make back then.

Ask any vanner, any real vanner. They will all tell you the same thing. You can never have too many louvers…

The selection of vans also brought with them an array of vintage wheels to match. Some, like these finned jobs with Cooper Cobra tires looked like they’ve been mounted for quite some time.

The classic slotted mag wheel is another popular choice, not just on vans but for just about any car from the 1970s.

The same goes for the Cragar SS, which are usually fitted to vans in some very wide sizes both front and rear. This one also gets extra points for its Mickey Thompson Indy Profile tires.

The Keystone is another one of those cool old wheels that doesn’t pop up nearly as much it should.

For those looking to give their van a bit more of a Lowrider vibe, the Astro Supreme is another good choice.

This Chevy takes the Lowrider thing a bit further with wire wheels and a healthy amount of pinstriping.

Pinstriping is of course just the beginning when it comes to vans and paintjobs. At their wildest, they were less vehicles and more rolling canvases for elaborate murals. Are you the mysterious wizard type?

Or perhaps you are more into the flame-spitting dragon?

A proper custom van should also have its own name.

Only the best of the best could claim the elite” Vantasy” name. The same goes for the equally exclusive name, “Vantastic”.

You can sense the the increasing popularity of old vans when you see what they sell for these days. They are no Muscle Cars for sure, but sometimes it’s surprising to see how much early models like the Dodge A100 and Ford Econoline go for on Ebay or Craigslist.

I quite liked the look of this short wheelbase A100 with big and skinny Cragars. It’s simple by custom van standards, but very effective.

In most cases you can usually pick up on a few small differences between a modern build and survivor, but many of the vans like this Dodge look like they were came straight from the ’70s or early ’80s.

The National Street Van Association still exists, and based on their website they seem to be active as ever with a particularly strong presence in the UK.

Sometimes I’m highly disappointed that I didn’t get to experience the 1970s first hand…

Some of these custom vans grew to be quite large…

…in which case a double rear axle conversion is always a good choice. I’m not quite sure about the functional benefits, but it definitley makes for an unique look, and that’s what vanning was (is?) all about.

From the giant twin axle dodge to a tiny little Subaru mircovan. Vanning does not discriminate by size or place of birth!

In terms of both cars and fashion, it seems that everything eventually comes back into style. I can only see the vanning revival get bigger and bigger from here, so if you want an old van you better scoop it now before they hit Ferrari GTO price levels!

-Mike

 

 

<< HOME

source: speedhunters