Is it a show car? Is it a drift car? Either way, Thor Hein’s latest import is an impressive machine with an interesting history.
Those of you with an eye for detail will remember our feature on a deceptively quick, boost-snorting Honda S2000, which appeared way back in issue #108 of NZPC. The rear-wheel-drive convertible was a simply built but incredibly cool little car with a big single turbo slapped on the side of its F20C engine. Not long after we featured the Honda, however, its proud owner Thor Hein parted ways with the red S2K, but not before vowing that it wouldn’t be the last we’d hear of him. It turns out he was right.
We first feasted our eyes on this decidedly D1-styled 1999 Nissan Silvia S15 Spec R at the ’07 Auckland Auto Salon, where we ran into Thor putting the finishing wax touches on its stickered-up metallic blue paintwork. But this wasn’t a car that Thor had built. The Silvia had arrived from Japan a few days earlier and was only cleared through customs a day before the show, so Thor was understandably excited to see it.
The car was originally built by Japanese tuning shop Gloss Factory. Despite its showy looks and the fact that it now features a serious A/V install, the car was originally built to drift. Although many of the details have been lost in translation, from what Thor can figure out the Silvia was originally built for D1 Street Legal competition, rather than full-blown D1 Grand Prix, where cars are purpose-engineered for track-only use. It seems that the Gloss Factory machine (one of several Silvias owned by the company) competed in just a few events before being replaced with an S14 and relegated to show duties. Who knows the reasons why, but at least the car had escaped competition life without injury, and that fact made it an even better proposition for Thor.
Parked up for our shoot the Silvia looked stunning, so we can only imagine how good it would have appeared on the track, at the top of third gear with a few turns of opposite lock dialled in. It’s a look that has been brought together with a series of modifications that begin with scissor doors and a full body kit from Origin’s Stream Line series. The FRP kit has added a deep front bar, side skirts, a rear bumper spoiler, vented 20mm pumped front fenders and 50mm fatter-than-factory rear guards that have been seamlessly grafted on. A lot of Gloss Factory’s work is bodywork and paint based, so the guys didn’t need to look far when it came time to give it a squirt in the company’s corporate blue hue. An Origin Type-2 carbon fibre bonnet was next on the list, followed by an Origin carbon fibre GT Wing, Origin Roof Wing and trick Origin Luxury Mirrors with LED direction displays. With a pair of chrome-backed taillights thrown into the mix, all that was left was to get the sticker cutter cutting. And like many Japanese drift workshops, this was another service handled in-house at Gloss Factory.
With such an external appearance you could be forgiven for expecting big things under that lightweight bonnet. But things are actually a lot tamer. The factory-fitted SR20DET runs a standard-spec bottom end, with a pair of long duration Tomei cams up top providing some extra flow. A 1.2mm metal headgasket is fitted, as are a GReddy intercooler, HKS Power Flow filter and an extensive earthing kit. Perhaps the limiting factor of its performance is the factory-spec T28 turbocharger, which is held in place by an aftermarket exhaust manifold, running into an Origin 4-inch stainless exhaust. The whole setup is overseen by an A’PEXi Power-FC engine management system, which helped see the Silvia boost its way to 205kW at the rear wheels on the Auckland Auto Salon dyno. Not earth shattering performance, but respectable numbers for this solid Japanese-style ‘boost up’ tune.
For drift duty the driveline has been built to take the knocks and features a triple-plate NISMO clutch and a NISMO-geared 6-speed gearbox. Out the back there’s a two-way limited slip differential from the same maker.
As you’d expect, the suspension has had a bit of work, and is every bit as purposeful as it is pretty. The damper- and height-adjustable Tein coil-over shocks are wound down very low, although Thor tells us there’s still some downward adjustment in them. Aftermarket sway bars front and rear ensure that the car goes sideways with every enthusiastic squeeze of the throttle, while custom rose-jointed front arms keep the front end agile.
Those pumped front and rear guards almost hide how large the wheels really are. A special order in chrome, the 19-inch Ray’s Engineering Gram Lights 57s-Pro alloys measure 8.5 inches wide on the nose and a staunch 9.5 inches on the rear. Both ends are shod in sticky Toyo Proxes 235/35R19 rubber.
Inside, the Bride Brix driver’s seat, Nardi Torino steering wheel and spin-turn knob-equipped hand brake lever are all standard J-style drift fare. It’s what sits behind the front seats that’s a bit of a break from the norm. As part of the Silvia’s show guise, Gloss Factory had custom audio installer FREE Sound Section piece together an ICE system of substantial proportions. Constructed around a chrome-plated six-point bolt-in Cusco roll cage is a fibreglass enclosure that is more about visual impact than audio. There are a total of eight screens in the small cabin, with two in the sun visors, two on the parcel tray, a pair in each door and a massive monitor in the rear. The other one flips out of the JVC DVD head unit. Providing the audio to match is a pair of 12-inch FireStorm subs, a set of 6-inch speakers and a set of 6-inch components in the doors. However, the system was a bit of mismatch, and since our shoot the Tauranga Mad Soundz crew has replaced it all with some locally sourced gear.
There’s a lot to this car and, according to Thor, much more on the way; and the eventual plan is to turn the Silvia into a dedicated circuit machine. But rather than jumping in head first, Thor has wisely decided to learn the driving ropes by turning his hand to competitive go-karting. Once he’s confident of his ability behind the wheel he will take the S15 to the track and go from there. The ultimate goal is to ditch the SR20 engine and drop a tuned RB26 from a Skyline GT-R with a 500kW power target. Unless another car that’s too tempting to pass up comes along in the interim, we’re pretty sure he’ll get there, too. Watch this space.
1999 Nissan Silvia S15 Spec R – Specifications
Engine: Nissan SR20DET 2.0-litre DOHC 16V, Tomei camshafts, Tomei adjustable cam gears, 1.2mm metal head gasket, HKS Power Flow air filter, factory T28 turbocharger, stainless tubular exhaust manifold, GReddy intercooler, HKS blow-off valve, Origin exhaust system, alloy radiator, Trust/GREX oil cooler kit, A’PEXi Power-FC engine management system
Driveline: NISMO 6-speed gearbox, NISMO triple-plate clutch, NISMO Pro 2-way limited slip differential, Skyline GT-R rear subframe
Suspension: Fully adjustable Tein coil-over shocks/springs, custom front arms, aftermarket swaybars, R33 Skyline GT-R discs/callipers
Wheels/tyres: 19-inch Ray’s Engineering Gram Lights 57s-Pro alloys, Toyo Proxes 235/35R19 tyres
Exterior: Origin Stream Line wide body kit, scissor doors, Origin Type-2 carbon fibre bonnet, Origin carbon fibre GT Wing, Origin Roof Wing, Origin Luxury mirrors, chrome taillights, custom blue paint
Interior: Six-point roll cage, Bride Brix driver’s seat, Sparco harness seatbelt, Nardi Torino steering wheel, NISMO gear knob, JVC CD/Tuner headunit, JVC DVD player/monitor, 7x LCD screens, 6-inch component speakers, 6-inch 2-way speakers, Mac Audio amplifiers, 2x 12-inch FireStorm subwoofers
Performance: Dyno Power – 205kW (275hp) @ wheels
Thor Hein – Owner Profile
Occupation: Business owner
Previously Owned Cars: Turbocharged Honda S2000
Dream Car: This one with a 500kW RB26 engine in it
Length of Ownership: Four months
Thor Thanks: My wife for all the crap she puts up with, my creator who always makes the impossible possible, Aaron @ Wholesale Car Parts, Brendon @ Mad Soundz Tauranga
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Quinn Hamill
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