When it came to shaking up the look of Baggsy’s Nissan GT-R drift weapon for 2021, he knew just what he needed: a fresh bodykit, and an epic new wrap…
Feature from Fast Car. Words: Dan Bevis. Photography: SHYAM.
“Give me Goodwood on a summer’s day, and you can keep the rest.” So said racing legend Roy Salvadori, and it’s a sentiment that’s resonated across the ages. The historic motor circuit transcended its functional roots as an RAF base to become one of the most celebrated racetracks in the post-war period; it closed in 1966, but the spirit of that mid-20th century era has been vividly rekindled by the Goodwood Revival and, more recently, the Members Meeting. And it’s among the verdant foliage of West Sussex that we find Steve Biagioni, better known as Baggsy, disturbing the peace at Goodwood’s other key event, the Festival of Speed, just up the road from the circuit at The Duke of Richmond’s country pile.
In 2021, more than ever before, we’ve needed this. The mind-warping weirdness of the last eighteen months or so hardly needs spelling out; confined to quarters and forbidden from mingling, Goodwood’s 2020 events were cancelled much like everything else on the show calendar. We were bereft, rudderless, adrift in a sea of uncertainty. So as these shows started to safely tiptoe back onto the calendar this year, there was an enthusiasm across the board to go big, make an impact, remind ourselves just what this is all about. And for Baggsy, that entailed bursting back onto the scene with a fresh new look for his brutal drift-hero R35 GT-R.
But let’s rewind a bit. Back to 2017, way before the days of lockdowns and firebreaks. Baggsy was a decade or so into his professional drifting career, having won the British Drift Championship in 2009 and enjoyed all manner of motorsport success since, and found himself with a unique focus for the direction of his next pro drift car. He needed to build a show-stopping machine to feature in Monster Energy’s Battle Drift 2, a video in which he’d go head-to-head with skidding kingpin Daigo Saito… and Saito’s got a drift-spec Lamborghini Murciélago. So whatever the next car was to be, it had to bring the noise to a pretty devastating extent.
Now, Baggsy’s got form with Nissans, so it made sense to start there. Having competed in an LS3-swapped S13 (a car in which he appeared in The Grand Tour, teaching Richard Hammond to drift), there was a formula to exploit. And while the purists gasped at the idea of tearing the venerable VR38 motor out of an R35 GT-R and replacing it with some Detroit iron, that’s exactly what he had his eye on. It actually made more sense than it might at first seem, as this is no ordinary LS swap. You’ll no doubt be familiar with the LS family of Chevrolet V8s, which have been around for a fair while in a great many configurations: the LS2, for example, was the 6.0-litre unit found in various Corvettes and the Cadillac CTS-V, the LS3 was a 6.2-litre version for Corvettes and Camaros as well as the Vauxhall VXR8… so what’s an LSX? Well, it’s a full-race engine that uses the basic LS V8 architecture and irons out all of the road-car tolerances. Based on the 427ci (7.0-litre) LS7 block, it has a meatier 7.4-litre displacement, forged pistons, lightweight rods, a lightened crank, and LSX-specific heads with hollow-stem valves and reworked ports. With boost forced in by a colossal Garrett snail, Baggsy’s staring down the barrel of 1,200bhp+ here, and all with impeccable reliability. It’s a monster, but a logical one.
This is a highly intelligent engine build; you can park your preconceptions about Chevy motors being dumb iron at the door, as this LSX features such clever highlights as drive-by-wire throttle, a custom rear-mounted radiator setup, highly developed cam profiles, super-clever fuelling, and an HP Electronik Powerbox power distribution module that replaces all of the traditional fuse and relay systems with solid-state parts. And the intelligent developments continue throughout the powertrain: Nissan’s AWD setup and DCT transmission has been junked in favour of a Quaife QBE69G sequential ’box, Winters IRS quick-change rear differential, and Pro-Level axles from The Driveshaft Shop. All the rough stuff needed to get twelve-hundred rampaging horses through those fat Accelera rears with maximum impact and minimum stress.
When it comes to the chassis, you can be damn sure that’s as cunning as a sly fox too. ST Suspension is a key technical partner, and their 3-way adjustable motorsport coilovers work with a full suite of hardware from Voodoo 13 at either end. Brakes? Yeah, they’re pretty phenomenal as well – lurking behind the front Rotiforms is a rugged set of Wilwood Superlite 6-pots, complemented by 4-pots out back. The front discs are bigger than a lot of cars’ actual wheels, and it’s all corralled by pukka motorsport kit inside and underneath. Baggsy has an OBP pedal box under his feet, a massive hydro handbrake handle towering beside him, and he can keep an eye on all the vital signs via an AEM CD-7 digital dash display as he’s strapped into his custom Cobra seat.
With such mighty specs, it was inevitable that the LSX Nissan GT-R would evolve from demo car to full-on motorsport competitor. And it’s within the very essence of evolution itself to keep honing, refining, developing and transmogrifying. That’s where Fleet Vehicle Solutions came in during the summer of 2021. With the Goodwood Festival of Speed approaching, and Baggsy’s slot firmly inked into the timetable for drift runs up the hill, our man was keen to shake up the aesthetics. After all, a lot of people attending the show would have seen the car before, and he wanted to give them something new. Something fresh. Something the likes of which they’d never seen.
Job one was to alter the fundamental profile of the car; he’d originally gone for a Liberty Walk kit in 2017 because, while the Rocket Bunny Pandem option was a very cool one, lots of people were doing it and the sharper Liberty Walk vibe gave him more of an edge. In 2021, that edge has evolved too, as the Japanese styling gods have released a V3 development of the kit: it’s got an altogether angrier aesthetic, the trailing edges of the arch extensions sporting aero flics and swoops, the back end squarer and more muscular, the nose more protruding and imposing. It’s totally altered the character of the car, and with this makeover achieved, there was a crucial finishing touch: the wrap.
In its previous guise, Baggsy’s Nissan GT-R was pretty aggressive – the blacked-out vibe artfully augmented with eye-popping Monster logos and assorted sponsor decals. What Fleet Vehicle Solutions have achieved with the new-for-2021 look is something altogether more cohesive, taking the ethos of the car to new extremes with a riot of yellow accents and pinstripes across the moody and menacing base. Expertly applied with high-end 3M materials, it’s the perfect finisher for a car whose very essence revolves around fusing form and function. The team put some serious hours into perfecting this wrap, working with those myriad angles and overcoming all the technical complexities and intricacies involved, and the results really speak for themselves. The LSX Nissan GT-R looks badass on an unparalleled scale, perhaps even more impactful than when it originally debuted, and the roars of the Festival of Speed crowds as Baggsy pirouetted up the hill were all the validation he needed. Give him Goodwood on a summer’s day, and he’ll fill it with tyre smoke.
Tech Spec: Baggsy’s Nissan GT-R
Chevrolet LSX 454 7.4-litre V8 – custom-built by Chris Jeanneret Racing and SB Motorsports, Garrett GTX4718R turbo, twin Turbosmart 44mm wastegates, custom stainless exhaust manifolds and collector, 5-inch front-exit exhaust outlet, custom cams, custom Forge Motorsports intercooler with Vibrant Performance 4-inch pipework, 102mm drive-by-wire throttle body, custom intake manifold, custom Canton wet sump, ASNU 1,500cc injectors, Radium Engineering/Fuel Safe 15-gallon fuel cell, 4x Walbro 450lph pumps, Radium multi-pump FPR, custom rear-mounted Forge Motorsports radiator, OBP oil, transmission, and power steering coolers, AEM Infinity 508 management
Quaife QBE69G sequential transmission, Competition Clutch 7.25-inch triple-disc clutch, Winters IRS quick-change rear diff, The Driveshaft Shop Pro-Level axles
ST Suspension 3-way adjustable motorsport coilovers, Voodoo 13 front angle kit, SB Motorsports-modified front subframe, Voodoo 13 rear camber, toe, and traction arms, Sikky Manufacturing rear subframe, air jacks
6-pot Wilwood Superlite calipers with 14-inch discs (f), 4-pot Wilwood Dynapro calipers with 12.6-inch discs (r)
10.5×20-inch Rotiform LHR wheels, Accelera PHI 2 tyres
Custom-stitched Cobra bucket seats, custom 10-point chromoly rollcage, custom carbon dash, OBP billet pedal box, OBP handbrake, AEM CD-7 digital dash display, HP Electronik Powerbox power distribution module, HP9642 switch panel
Custom 3M wrap by Fleet Livery Solutions, Liberty Walk V3 wide-body kit