Road car, show car or hardcore drifter? What about all of them? This Rocket Bunny Nissan R32 Skyline shows us it’s possible…
Production sports cars are designed to be good all rounders, which is the reason why most of us modify them – because they’re just not good enough at certain things. We’re happy to sacrifice the parts we don’t care so much about, to get far more of what we love.
The thing is though, once you go hardcore in your modifying (and let’s face it, many of us at least plan to) our cars may become awesome at one thing, but often pretty crap at everything else. This can apply to anything – a track car, a drag car, a show car or a drift car. Take your pick. When you go wild with your ride, most would agree it’s only going to do one of those things well.
One person who doesn’t agree with this, though, is Sam Moody, the owner of this awesome modified Nissan R32 Skyline. He’s managed to bridge the pretty massive gap between the show and drift car world, with the beast you see on these very pages.
There’s no doubt you’ve seen plenty of drift-style show cars over the years. In fact probably half the cars people call ‘drift’ cars are never drifted, as they don’t want to risk wrecking them. But this R32, while looking awesome and even sporting a wire-tucked engine bay (which would make you think it’s more show than go), is equally at home being driven at 110-percent on track. And it’s no stranger to shredding rubber, or even ending up in the tyre wall! The issue with having a showy-looking but hard-used drift car is, frankly, it’s almost impossible to keep looking nice. You can use a car pretty damn hard on the road and keep it in great shape, and even a track car can be kept pretty tidy. But drifting?
No matter how good you are, your car takes a hell of a beating. Even without any offs, if you’re driving as hard as you should, you’re bound to get scrapes and marks on the bodywork, either from getting close to the scenery or simply from bits of your tortured rear tyres flying off the rim.
Trying to keep a drift car’s bodywork in great condition is a full time job in its own right, but Sam is doing it well with this one. Although he’s no stranger to modified cars (having built a show quality S14a Nissan 200SX before this), Sam says this has been the biggest task he’s ever taken on. Not only did this Skyline start as a bare shell, but apart from the roll cage, he’s built the whole thing himself – he even mapped the Link ECU.
With all this building, fabrication, tuning, mapping, bodywork and so much more, you’d think Sam runs, or at least works at, a tuning company, right? Wrong! While Sam does work for Nissan, it’s not for Nismo. He’s a maintenance engineer at the factory that brings you the Note, the Leaf and the Juke.
The term gets used a lot, but this is a genuine built-not-bought home-build. And an incredibly impressive one at that. “I’ve basically funnelled my entire wage for the last three years into this car,” Sam laughs. “But I’ve still done almost all the work myself, to afford to make it how I wanted it!”
Sam has owned the R32 for around four years, having bought it as a bare shell. He spent the first 1.5-years of the project turning it into a GT-R-arched, RB25-powered, basic but fun drift car. And as soon as it was ready, he wasted no time hitting the track. “It wasn’t bad back then, and the track action was great for finding the teething problems that always happen with new builds. But it gave me loads of ideas about what the car could be like with a little work. So after a while it was locked away in the garage for another year, and when it came out it was like this,” says Sam.
Things were looking pretty good. Sam had himself an RB25-powered, widebody, R32 Skyline drift car, but done to a level that blurred the lines between drift and show – and even road going and full race car.
First up – the bodywork. While many of you may recognise the now legendary Rocket Bunny V2 arches, they don’t make these for an R32, and the arches and sideskirts are actually intended for an S13 200SX. So to make them fit over the wide R32 GT-R arches, took Sam a whole lot of time and effort cutting, sanding and fibre-glassing.
The rear ducktail spoiler is also intended for an S13, though this time the PS13 coupe version, and it’s all held on with countersunk rivnuts. In fact the rear GT-R arches are riveted on to the original rear quarters, then the Rocket Bunny arches on top of that!
To get the right paint, Sam really took things to extremes, taking around a year of research and testing, along with Adam at Autopaints Express, to find the perfect colour he wanted. The end result is this fantastic purple with plenty of pearl and metalflake, suiting the R32 perfectly.
No matter how good the paint and body is, no car looks right without the perfect set of wheels, and though you might not notice at first glance, this R32 is running two sets. On the front it has zero offset 9.5Å~17 Rota Kyushas. But the rear, while very similar looking, is rocking something even wilder – zero offset 17s once again, but massive 11.5-inch wide Work Equip Anhelos. As the car is around 220mm wider than standard (thanks to the double dose of wide arches front and rear), he also runs 50mm bolt-on spacers all round, to get car sitting perfectly.
OK, so the looks are fantastic. They cover the show car side of things nicely, and as you can see by reading the tech spec, we’ve only scratched the surface here. But this is a real drift car, and to turn those massive 275-wide rear tyres to smoke, there’s some serious engine mods too. The car was already packing the 2.5-litre RB25DET engine from the later R33 GTS-T, but the puny standard turbo is all out of puff by about 300bhp, and Sam wanted well over 100bhp more than that. So the little T3 was consigned to the dustbin and replaced with a much beefier Holset HY35. The HY35 is a popular turbo on drift cars as not only can it make serious power (around 600bhp at its limit), but it spools well for such a big turbo too – lag really isn’t what you want for drift use. As well as the turbo, upgraded inlet and exhaust manifolds were fitted, as was a custom exhaust, and a serious boot-mounted fuel system feeding 6x 850cc injectors.
Bolting on bits is all well and good, but without an ECU that can control it you’re going nowhere, and Sam chose the Link G4+. While the base map to get the car started was done by a pro, amazingly Sam chose to map it himself. “I spent a long time reading up on mapping and learning how to use the software, and then with my friend Nicky doing the driving, I tweaked the map myself on the road,” he says. Going by other cars of a similar spec and boost pressure, Sam estimates the car to be making around 450bhp along with serious torque from the boosted 2.5 litre.
So we’ve got looks and power, but what about handling? Well, this is a drift car, so this is well covered, but for anyone not used to drift cars, it can be surprising how in-depth suspension and steering modifications can be. Of course there are coilovers, but the front hubs have been replaced with Driftworks Geomaster ones, which not only help massively increase steering angle, but give ideal geometry on very low cars, eliminating the handling issues they usually suffer with.
Along with the hubs, almost every arm on the front and rear suspension has been either modified or replaced with adjustable items, for the ideal drift-handling setup, and even the steering arms and steering rack position have been modified to help Sam get this beast sliding in the most impressive way possible.
Is there any part of the car that Sam’s left alone? Well, not really – even the brakes have been replaced with beefier ones from the Nissan 300ZX. However, as Sam is keen to add conventional grip track days to the long list of uses for this car, he knows these will need upgrading for some more serious stoppers. Another item to add to his list of future mods, which already includes even more power, even wider wheels, and a big front splitter.
Be in no doubt – going hardcore with your car, while also keeping it usable is no easy task. But Sam’s massive effort, dedication and talent shows it’s possible. Built a cool car and now afraid to use it in case it gets ruined? No, don’t do that. Be like Sam. Cars are for being driven!