Serial Nissan modifier and professional drifter Toshiki Nagai wanted to build something different for the SEMA show. And that’s why we see him here rediscovering the joy of six with his Rocket Bunny PS13.
Feature first appeared in Fast Car magazine. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Jules
Show-ready drift cars are one of the most brilliantly confusing things on the modding scene. The whole point of drifting is to spend the entire time having an accident, skidding at zany angles and then j-u-u-u-ust catching it before something imperilling occurs, then flicking into another accident in the opposite direction, and so on and so on until either you score enough points to win the bout, or you succumb to the whims of fate and actually have the full-blown accident you sort of deserve. As such, cars built for this purpose are often function-over-form affairs: machines built to be hilariously agile, supremely chuckable, amusingly powerful, and ever-eager to atomise their rear tyres at will. What they aren’t, usually, are show queens. This is because they’re always covered in sticky black bits of rubber, and more often than not they’ve banged into a number of walls so the back bumper’s hanging off, and there’s tyre rash from tandem competitors who’ve tried their luck just a little too hard. What we’re looking at in broad terms is a wilful and celebratory disregard for purity. The antithesis to the concours scene, in which every bolt-head must be artfully aligned and every part must boast the correct serial number; with drifting, fit-for-purpose is key, and this taster-menu approach has spawned a glorious mongrel scene over the generations – cars with the wrong engines, mucked-about chassis specs, and fibreglass addenda stitched together with cable ties. Liveries change season-on-season, paint shades swap at whim, bodykit options flit back and forth as they get trashed running the wall… but what you’re seeing here, glinting beneath the Las Vegas lights in the dwindling embers of the SEMA show, is a hardcore drift weapon that’s also a pristine show-stopper. After all, you don’t get into SEMA if your car’s not appropriately pretty. So how has this confusing miracle been achieved? Well, it’s all down to its owner and creator, Toshiki Nagai. This guy is no ordinary tuner. He’s set his sights high, and nothing but the best is good enough.
“I just love S13s, they’re my favourite drift car,” he explains. “It doesn’t match the S14 or S15 in terms of body rigidity, but I like the S13 because it’s cool and sexy. At the moment I’ve got seven of them.” Can’t really argue with that, can you? And for those who may at this point be questioning the sanity of somebody who owns an entire fleet of drift-ready S-bodies and is perhaps concerned for his welfare, we should point out that Nagai-san is a fully-fledged D1 drift competitor. He’s also the driving force (quite literally) behind TN Service Kyoto, a garage whose name sends emotional ripples through car fans across Japan and beyond, so it makes sense that when he puts a car together, there’s no messing about. Show-and-go is the order of the day, and SEMA is the ideal platform to showcase how adept he and his team are at crafting world class performance machinery.
He’s certainly got the domestic-market chops to help him walk the walk, as Nagai-san has been hooning about in aspirational machinery from day one. “My first car was an FD3S Mazda RX-7, which I bought at the age of eighteen,” he says, immediately dissolving everyone in the Fast Car office into fizzing pools of jealousy as we recall the crap we were driving at that age. “After that I was driving 180SXs and Silvias for drifting, and Aristos and Soarers on the street, everything lowered on big wheels…” It’s a classic formula, something we can all relate to on a personal level, and a highly aspirational lifestyle to boot. So, fast-forwarding to the acquisition of this particular PS13, it was as much by reputation as desire that it found its way into the TN Service Kyoto fold. “Everyone knows I love an S13,” Nagai-san shrugs, “So if anyone’s got a good one for sale, I’m the one they call.” And sure enough, when he saw this car, he knew it’d make the perfect base for a top-flight SEMA build. Totally stock and completely solid, this seasoned veteran saw nothing but potential. It helped that this opportunity temporally collided with an ongoing badgering of TRA Kyoto’s Kei Miura; “I’d been pestering Miura-san for two years to create a Pandem kit for the PS13, and the dream finally came true,” he recalls, and that adds an extra layer of textural depth to this car’s brutal aesthetic. It’s not just a cool car wearing a boxfresh bodykit – the slick new lines were the result of many conversations between these two captains of automotive industry, so the finished product has an intensely personal connection.
It really is a magnificent piece of design too, isn’t it? Having seen so many types of car attended to by the Rocket Bunny team, we know what to expect from a Pandem kit: a flawless fit that neatly follows the factory lines, but massively exaggerates the arches to create a style that’s more in-keeping with an old-school Touring Car grid, accommodating fat rubber and working with updated aero to form something breath-taking. We just love the combination of the adjustable high-rise wing and the ducktail at the rear, and the almighty girth of the arches is sensational. It’s particularly cool that TN Service Kyoto opted to finish it in a two-tone colour scheme, as that’s always a winner, and it’s interesting to note that it’s been painstakingly painted on rather than wrapped.
The interior’s been treated to a full-blown assault from the spray gun too, and it’s painfully evident in here just how serious a drift machine this is: everything superfluous stripped out, countless gauges mounted in clever places, and a set of super-lightweight carbon fibre Pandem buckets. You’ll find all the necessary competition addenda, from harnesses and window nets to that serious-as-hell rollcage, and it’s evident from every inch that this machine has been primarily engineered to be used, and used hard. And yet it’s all so, so clean. A race car in lipstick, ready for a raucous night on the tiles.
There must be something pretty serious going on under the bonnet, then? Oh yes. Yes, there is… and it’s not what you’d expect to find in there either. The SR20 is long gone, having been ousted in favour of the wildcard Toyota 2JZ. This is a longitudinally-mounted 3.0-litre straight-six which usually wears twin turbos in its native environments, but in this instance it’s rocking a vast single Garrett T04 for maximum awesomeness. “I hold a D1GP professional drift licence, as well as a Formula D licence, so I swapped this engine in purely for its competition potential,” Nagai-san says. He’s playing his cards pretty close to his chest in terms of specs and power outputs, which is probably unsurprising as he’s unlikely to want to hand an advantage to his competitors. If you ask him what it pulls on the dyno, he’ll simply tell you “Safety belts,” with a wicked grin. But given that even on stock internals these engines can make Ferrari-shaming power figures, and a sodding great Garrett snail like this is good for a number beginning with a five (or possibly even a six), there’s unlikely to be any half-measures here. Everything about this car screams ‘maximum attack’.
“Obviously the engine helped it to stand out at SEMA too,” he continues. “It surprised a few people when I suggested fitting a 2JZ, but everybody co-operated and everybody respected my decision. This car was completed because of everyone’s help and goodwill, and I want to prove in the future that it is not only a show car, but also a proper drift car. When Gumball 3000 came to Japan, for example, a staff member came to my store to play and I ended up drifting with them in the passenger seat.”
And that’s just the start of things. Plans may have gone a bit Covid-shaped this year, as we’re seeing all over, but having wowed the crowds at SEMA, this car then went on to do the same at Tokyo Auto Salon, and you can be damn sure that it’s going to transition from static to action with devastating flair. So fear the show thing in Las Vegas – it’s out for blood and it’ll swallow your tyres whole.
Tech Spec: Rocket Bunny PS13
Rocket Bunny Pandem widebody kit, custom-painted livery, adjustable rear wing, blacked-out headlights, crystal taillights
Toyota 2JZ 3.0-litre straight-six, single Garrett T04 turbo, cone filter on custom pipe, Chase Bays power steering kit, Nagao Techno transmission
17-inch OZ Futura forged split-rims, 255/40 Toyo Proxes tyres, DMAX coilovers, GK Tech suspension arm package, GK Tech discs, pads and lines
Fully stripped, Pandem carbon-shelled bucket seats, Pandem harnesses, full rollcage, carbon dash, window nets, ZSS steering wheel, Defi rev counter, boost gauge and fuel pressure gauge in OE instrument binnacle, Defi gauges in central air vents, PLX MultiGauge