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TUNED NISSAN PS13: LUCKY 13

Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 27th October 2020

When Jake Saville started looking for a PS13, he didn’t expect to find himself buying what is arguably the most iconic and desirable JDM tuner example ever built. But here it is, hot to trot and rocking the UK show scene with his tuned Nissan PS13…

Feature taken from Fast Car. Words Dan Bevis Photos Dan Mullen

There’s something funny going on at McLaren. The company’s supercar model range is expanding beyond any sense of comprehensibility; look in the showroom today and you’ll find the all-new GT, the 600LT, 570S, 570GT, 540C, 720S, Senna, 675LT, the spaceship-like Speedtail, plus various Spyder variants and all sorts. This is niche stuff. Whereas Audi and Mercedes-Benz are working hard to create bizarre SUV niches by finding size-related gaps between their countless existing models, McLaren’s artisans are building loads of quite-similar supercars simply because they can. They can’t help themselves. This is because it’s a company not run by cynical accountants, but by petrolheads.

Check out the company car park, you’ll find it packed to bursting with Peugeot 205 GTIs, Lotus Elans, air-cooled Porsche 911s, proper sports cars. Our sister mag BMW Car recently featured a daily-driver owned by someone in McLaren’s design team. It was not a McLaren. It was a classic BMW 2002 Touring. And over in the paint shop we find Jake Saville, owner of this startling and unique PS13-era Nissan Silvia. He’s been a gearhead from day one, and given his skills it was inevitable that he’d gravitate professionally toward this British mecca of automotive dreams. And we just love that someone who spends their days surrounded by Sennas and F1 GTRs would have the keys to this super-obscure JDM tuner car in his pocket.

“I know it’s such a cliché to say it in Fast Car, but I’ve always been into cars from a very young age,” Jake assures us, immediately positioning himself among kindred spirits. “My dad had a few cool cars back in the day, which I’d imagine is where my enthusiasm comes from! I’ve had a fair few modified projects over the years – BMWs, Golf GTIs and R32s, Subarus, Evos, and now my second Silvia. I like to feel I’ve progressed with every car, getting better each time.”

That’s certainly an astonishing roll call of rides for someone who’s 25 years old, averaging more than one impressive build for every year he’s been legal to drive, and it’s fair to say that this latest acquisition represents the pinnacle of his automotive achievements thus far. Although for the sake of full disclosure, it’s worth pointing out that the original build happened in Japan – indeed, it’s the unusual story of this that drew Jake to the car in the first place: “I’ve always had a huge soft spot for Nissan Silvias, and after my S15 I knew I wanted another,” he explains. “This time I was after one in the shape of a PS13, and I just fell in love with this particular one the first time I saw it on Google Images; when it came around for sale I just had to have it! I’ve always likes PS13s in general but this one really is something special.”

It was Jake’s good buddy Muz at JapWestMods who put him onto the car; he’d imported Jake’s Vertex S15 back in 2018 and, knowing that the hunt was on for something fresh and interesting from Japan, had started to throw a few ideas around. And when this particular car was thrown into the mix, there was no way he’d be buying anything else. “I instantly recognised the PS13 and just knew I was going to try everything I could to negotiate and secure it for myself,” Jake grins. “When the car arrived (that was a good day!) it was exactly how I’d hoped it would be; in fact it was even better – love at first sight, for sure.”

So what makes this PS13 so special anyway? Well, it all comes down to the revered and iconic JDM tuners Spirit Rei, and their enthusiasm for building sensational demo cars to showcase their aftermarket wares. The Silvia was scratch-built by Spirit Rei and made its debut at the 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon, and it immediately became a sort of automotive celebrity – the superbly chosen mods, the crafty design ideas, the flawless execution, there was something about it that really spoke to people, which led to a huge amount of media coverage and the car’s assured position in the pantheon of all-time great tuner builds. Jake, with his extensive history of high-end builds and encyclopaedic knowledge of JDM minutiae, is the ideal curator for such an important piece of Japanese modding history. “The car is still in its original form from the day it was built,” he says, “and having only 48,000 miles on the clock from 1991 it’s still a very clean car – which is super-rare for a PS13! The paint colour is always a particular talking point; it’s a secret colour which is beautiful in the light and has lots of metallic flake in, it’s truly stunning.”

The depth of the build is equally inspiring. At first glance the body looks almost standard, such is the sympathy of the ‘Miyabi’ kit’s lines, but in fact the front wings are 40mm wider apiece, with the rears being 65mm broader – all tastefully smoothed in for a cleaner look, eschewing the on-trend keenness for overt bolt-ons. It’s not just all show and no go either – the straight-cam SR20 runs a T28 turbo, Blitz intercooler and a few other tricks, and what’s really exciting about the go-faster bits is the custom Exart exhaust: this hand-built twin setup really is a work of art, painstakingly crafted from 130 separate pieces, and the sound that bellows from those titanium tips is frankly biblical.

The way the car sits is also worthy of scrutiny, as peering through the spokes of those glorious WORK wheels reveals that it’s running static on 326Power coilovers. Aha, but there’s a twist, “It has a rare JDM Skipper hydraulic lift cup system,” Jake explains. “This is a similar setup to air cups, but instead is oil-fed; it can be driven on full-time, and offers up to 30mm in ride height increase.”

Cunning engineering solutions, undoubtedly, but the underlying principle of this build lies in the name of the bodykit, Miyabi – this translates as elegance or refinement, or even (in the right context) as ‘heart-breaker’. Which sums this PS13 up perfectly, does it not?

“I use the car as they did in Japan, solely for shows and meets,” Jake continues. “After all, that’s what is was built for, to wow people – it still gives me that effect every time I see it! I get overwhelmed by people’s reactions in person at shows and on social media, it’s a great feeling to hear that people love the car almost as much as me… Everywhere I go I get complimented on the car’s looks and how clean it is for an S-body, and although I haven’t built this car myself, I have a great sense of pride driving it knowing it was handcrafted in Japan by such a cool company. Indeed, Motohiro himself, who owns Spirit Rei, is such a sound guy – I still talk to him regularly about what he’s up to, and I received a message from him a few months back saying ‘Thank you for taking such good care of the PS13’, which was amazing. And I have done one thing to add a personal touch – a one-of one Spirit Rei/Nardi steering wheel which was bought for me as a birthday present by my girlfriend, and took a lot of hassle and negotiating to get made. It completes the car for me!”

You see, this isn’t just any old JDM demonstrator – for a lot of S-chassis enthusiasts, this is the PS13, the icon, the one to aspire to, and Jake’s very careful to preserve its history as well as rolling it out noisily to showcase its wares whenever possible. All the visual drama, backed up by impeccable grunt – it’s a very McLaren way to behave.

TECH SPEC: NISSAN PS13

Styling:
Spirit Rei ‘Miyabi’ bodykit, carbon fibre rear bumper with integrated diffuser, +40mm front wings, +65mm rear wings – blended and smoothed, Kamikaze custom carbon fibre side lips and front lip, swooped rear body sidelines, xenon PS13 glass ‘brick’ headlights

Tuning:
SR20DET (straight-cam), T28 S14A turbo, Blitz induction kit, Blitz intercooler, Nismo fuel pump, HKS EVC6 boost controller, GReddy turbo timer, custom Exart manifold, custom 130-piece Exart hand-made exhaust system with titanium tips, 5-speed SR20 gearbox with pleasure-drive 5th gear ratio, Kaaz 2-way LSD, R32 Skyline GT-R driveshafts, reinforced single-plate clutch

Chassis:
10x18in -16 (front) and 11.5x19in -43 (rear) WORK Meister M1R wheels, 225/40 (f) and 255/35 (r) tyres, R32 Skyline GT-R brakes all round, Cusco front and rear strut braces, 326Power coilovers – 32k front / 20k rear springs, JDM Skipper hydraulic lift cups system, extended front lower arms, Pilot tension rods, reinforced tie rods

Interior:
Bride VIOS seats, genuine Bride rear bench, Bride doorcards and glovebox, Bride floor mats, Takata harnesses, 5-point custom half-rollcage, one-off Spirit Rei x Nardi steering wheel

Thanks:
“Huge thanks to Muz at JapWestMods for sourcing and getting me this car from Japan. Thanks also to Lawrence at Nationwide Car Transport for helping me make the shows this year, to Spirit Rei for allowing me to now own this car, and to the Mrs for putting up with me and the headaches along the way!”