Ash Squires spends a lot of time sailing around the world on naval manoeuvres. But, his faithful old modified Toyota Soarer GT is always waiting for him back home. Lucky guy!
Boaty McBoatface is one of the great tragedies of 2016. If you’re not familiar with the story, the National Environment Research Council held a poll for the public to choose a name for a new research ship. But instead of being sensible and asking people to vote on a predefined list of names, they gave the public free rein. So obviously someone made up Boaty McBoatface and everyone voted for it. Why wouldn’t you? Of course, the grown-ups in charge vetoed the idea and the noble McBoatface name was sidelined to live on as a small submersible. Such is life.
All of this serves to prove, if nothing else, that lateral thinking is the key to happiness when it comes to matters aquatic. Just ask Ash Squires, the dude who’s cheerfully twirling the keys to this retro Toyota Soarer. Ash is a Royal Navy man, never more comfortable than when he’s wrestling porpoises and giving halibut a hard time (er, possibly), and this old-school ride is his riposte to the perceived drabness of modern motoring.
“It all began with a search for an S14a 200SX,” he explains, cheerfully splicing a mainbrace and lobbing an albatross at some landlubbers. “I wanted one to turn into a show car. But while I was searching online a Soarer popped up. As soon as I saw it, I was in love. What did present a hurdle, however, was that I was at sea on a nine-month deployment. After a few days of chewing over the details with the seller, Garage Sinister, I got my good old mate Aaron Palmer to go and have a test drive. I had a reply from him saying ‘Get this now! The amount of heads it was turning was unreal and it drove like a new modern car’.”
Decision made, then. With a ringing endorsement like that, he’d have been a fool to say no. After all, the second-generation Soarer GT came with a belter of an engine, a 24-valve 2.0-litre straight-six with a pair of turbos strapped to the side, a manual gearbox hanging off the back, and a bhp figure that began with a two. There is much to love here and it’s a bit of a looker too. So as soon as he could, Ash threw a message in a bottle to get a deposit transferred to buy the thing sight unseen. Because when you know, you know, right?
“I’d fallen in love with the Soarer, but I also kinda hated it too,” says Ash enigmatically. “I had things to do to the car running through my mind, as I wanted to break into the car scene with something special and something no one had ever seen before. It felt as if I was biting into a lemon regarding whether or not it had the potential.” Not all bad news, of course – biting lemons is an excellent way to stave off scurvy on those long sea voyages.
“A couple of weeks after putting the deposit down I flew from Cape Town back to the UK, and had my mates meet me at the airport and take me straight to Garage Sinister. Once we got there and I saw it in person, I was amazed by the beauty it held. Yeah, the paint job wasn’t the best, but with what I had planned I knew it didn’t matter. I drove it back to Portsmouth with the biggest smile on my face!”
We’ve all experienced that nervousness with buying new cars. The last-minute wobble when you’re suddenly paranoid about throwing all your hard-earned into a big stupid hole in the ground. It’s gratifying to find that the car in question is as good as you’d initially dared to dream. Reassuring.
“The JDM goodness of it all got me excited about my plans,” Ash grins, pausing to quickly dance a hornpipe and knock back a tot of rum. “The car was breaking necks everywhere I went, everyone was taking photos. I was only in the UK for 10 days before I needed to fly back, so I had to think quick and hard about what I could do to it before I went away.”
And who better to work on the car while he was off fulfilling his naval duties than Mission Motorsport? Ash dropped off the Soarer and charged them with the task of perfecting and painting the exterior while he was off hoisting Jolly Rogers and harpooning narwhals. They kept in regular communication, asking for approval on paint finishes, sending progress updates, and generally making him hop about like a kid a few days before Christmas, eager to get home and unwrap the thing.
“The day finally came when we docked in Portsmouth,” he recalls, casually brushing a seagull from his shoulder. “Off I shot with my good friends Megg Southwood and Josh Barnes to go and pick up the fresh-looking Z20. I was speechless. My heart was pounding with excitement at how the spray turned out. The main thing I’d planned for the car was complete and it was just the way I’d imagined it. So now I had to think about what to do next…”
Yep, that’ll probably sound familiar to most of you. These projects are never finished. There’s no time to rest on your laurels. As soon as you’ve ticked a box off the job list, it’s time to figure out what the next box represents.
The car had come with some super- bizarre SSR Speed Star MK-1s, which Ash is planning on treating to a refurb and some slick new hardware. The new bolts will be matched to the ones for the JUN wide- arches to give it a bit of consistency. The Soarer’s been wound down to an aggressive extent on a set of fully-adjustable Tein coilovers. Although this has added another job to the to-do list – running static around 1cm off the ground means that Ash has cheesegratered his exhaust. A little further lateral thinking required there. But it’s all part of the fun, eh?
And while he ponders these decisions, he’s got a staggeringly cool place to sit – just check out the barmy 1980s weirdness of the interior, with its Knight Rider digi-dash, huggy velour armchairs, and the stitched-by-your-nan lace throw over the rear bench. There’s no risk of cobwebs here either, as that eager straight- six has been teased and aroused with a few choice bolt-ons to ramp the power level up around the 250bhp mark. All of which will give Ash plenty to dream about as he bobs around on the North Atlantic, keeping a keen eye out for icebergs as he counts down the days till shore leave.
Some sailors have a girl in every port. Ash? He’s got his very own Cary McCarface. And with all that time away from home to make plans, you can be sure that it won’t be looking like this next time you see it.
OWNER: ASH SQUIRES
TECH SPEC: TOYOTA SOARER GT
JUN wide arch kit; Hiro aero kit; Nissan Hakosuka GT-R boot spoiler; JDM subway grab handle.
1G-GTE 2.0-litre 24v straight-six; twin-turbo; A’PEXi induction; Kakimoto turbo downpipe; Fujitsubo Giken exhaust system; Ultra ignition leads; estimated 250bhp.
15in SSR Speed Star MK-1 wheels; 195/50×15 Toyo Proxes T1-Rs; Tein fully adjustable coilovers; Cusco strut brace.
Digi dash; Blitz Illumi-Drive boost gauge; JDM in-car boost controller; MOMO Classic steering wheel; Razo pedals; JDM double-DIN satnav/media player; Sony front speakers; retro Pioneer TS-X15 rear shelf speakers; custom lace rear seat shroud.
Aaron Palmer for viewing and testing the car; Megg Southwood for taking me to get it; Garage Sinister for finding such a beaut; Mission Motorsport for the amazing custom paintjob; Simon Clare for helping me out; and friends and family who have helped me before and along the way to owning it.”
Word Dan Bevis Photos Chris Wallbank