writer: Bruce Grove
photographer: Aaron Powell, Henry Z. DeKuyper
This year’s Tokyo Auto Salon took place between January 11th and the 13th. For the event, 33-year-old Michihiro Takatori decided that now was the time to chase his dream of being a drift racer. More specifically, to take part in this season’s Formula D series in the USA. Just one small hitch: He didn’t have a car.
That’s not completely true; he didn’t have the right car. He previously built an R34 Skyline that he competed in D1, but after consulting the Formula D rulebook, it became clear that the car couldn’t be made to comply. The entire suspension had been revamped with one-off components for the Japanese series. So he procured a new machine-an ’01 ER34 Nissan Skyline, and then went crazy.
Takatori’s particular brand of insanity must be contagious, because he talked Super Autobacs into building the car. Not just modifying-building. And here’s the really crazy part-it all had to be done in four weeks.
Some background: Super Autobacs is a service and installation business that started in Osaka, growing to over 500 outlets in Japan and is now expanding to other countries, including the U.S. The branch in Kyoto, where-either through luck or judgment-Takatori took his Skyline, employs several specialists for drift preparation.
And so it began. Every part was chosen carefully, regardless of pressure from sponsors. This had to be done with winning in mind-not politics or commerce. Starting at the nose, the front suspension apron comes from an ’02 Nissan Laurel with a C35 chassis, as the Skyline and the Laurel share a basic platform. The reason being that this item offers easier camber adjustability over the factory Skyline geometry and a much wider steering angle.
The front-mount intercooler, plumbing, oil cooler, radiator, fans, and radiator diversion panels all wear the Koyo logo, with radiator hoses from Samco. The turbocharger, manifold, wastegate, and boost controller are HKS items-Takatori eschews a blow-off valve. With just 28 days before packing the sunscreen for an appointment in Long Beach, Calif., it made sense to keep it simple, so after talking to engine specialists, Tomei was the most expedient move.
From the ECU down, it’s all motorsport-proven Tomei stuff. A RB26DETT out of the ER34’s big brother, the R34 GT-R, was swapped in and the 2.6L straight-six engine was bored out to 2.8L. The cams, cam gears, pistons, piston rings, crankshaft, oil pan, valves, valvesprings, retainers, air intake, intake manifold, and throttle body were all part of the Tomei plan and build; the only variations being an HKS turbo manifold and fuel rail, a Kakimoto exhaust system, Rev ignition, NGK spark plugs, and a Bosch fuel pump. With all the components spinning, bouncing, banging, and generally singing from the same hymn sheet, Takatori estimates output at 700 hp.
All that kinetic energy goes to a sequential manual transmission supplied by another pillar of the Japanese racing community: OS Giken. This apparatus is made especially for a GT-R, so it needs the all-wheel-drive transfer case in place for everything to connect up properly. Luckily, along with the GT-R’s RB26DETT motor, the all-wheel-drive transmission was changed over as well. But drifting doesn’t require all-wheel drive. Given the time constraints, making custom-length driveshafts and adapter plates wasn’t the way to go-modifying a GT-R transfer case was. The front driveshaft hub was removed and anything unnecessary, such as the oil line for the all-wheel-drive system, was plated off. A triple-plate clutch and a two-way limited-slip differential, also from OS Giken, complete the transmission mods.
Surprisingly, the brakes have been left stock, not that a standard braking system in a Skyline is all that shabby. High-performance racing anchors, however, are often fierce and a little give means less likelihood of a sudden, unwelcome wheel lock-up, which could be disastrous on the drift course. Also stock is the rear subframe; we’ll assume these guys know what they’re doing.
A custom chromoly rollcage, and new Aragosta adjustable coilovers-expensive, but pretty cool-front and rear work in tandem with the stock antiroll bars at each end. Ikeya Formula adjustable front control arms join a Nismo rear set. Hanging from them are a set of Work Meister S1 wheels-18×9.5 up front, 18×10 at the rear-wearing Toyo Proxes R1R tires.
Apart from a pair of Recaro front seats, custom switches, and gauges from Stack, the cabin has been stripped to the metal. The exterior, however, is another matter. Apache Racing side skirts and wide rear fenders adorn the car, along with a Top Secret carbon-fiber hood and an Origin GT rear wing. The front bumper is OEM, as is the rear, but the latter is augmented by Top Secret vortex generators. The lights are also OEM, high-intensity discharge (HID) items.
The doors and trunk are custom-made carbon-fiber parts and the whole vehicle is painted in DuPont’s WRX blue. The graphics were supplied and applied by Bros and the cherry blossom design, which is also seen on Takatori’s crash helmet, is an homage to the Team Super Autobacs Drift home town of Kyoto, renowned for its flowering in springtime.
Let’s hope Takatori doesn’t believe in omens. In four weeks the finished Skyline was handed over on the first of April-All Fools Day. So to get all this work done on time, Super Autobacs must have put everyone on this job, right? Not quite. One guy, Satoru Kawamura, was responsible for the lion’s share of this task including the fabrication, paint, and build; aided and abetted by Takatori himself, with coffee, cigarettes, and driving away the urge to sleep. Many parts were cannibalized from Takatori’s other Skyline.
Long Beach, Calif., early April: As is so often the way in motorsport, it’s a weekend of triumphs and disappointments. Takatori qualified first among the unseeded drivers, but finished the event in joint 12th Place. One race doesn’t make a season and if this much can be accomplished in four weeks, who knows what improvements Takatori may enjoy a couple of months down the line.
’01 ER34 Nissan Skyline
Output Estimated 700 hp
Engine RB26DETT engine; Tomei 2.8L stroker kit, ECU, cams, rods, pistons, piston rings, crankshaft, oil pan, valves, valvesprings, retainers, intake manifold, intake, throttle body, cam gears; Kakimoto exhaust; HKS manifold, T04Z turbo, wastegate, fuel rail; Koyo intercooler, intercooler piping, radiator, diversion panels, oil coolers, fans, power steering cooler; Samco radiator hoses; NGL sparkplugs; Bosch fuel pump
Drivetrain OS Giken sequential transmission, LSD, triple-plate clutch
Suspension Custom chromoly rollcage, Nissan Laurel front suspension apron; Aragosta coilovers; Ikeya Formula tie rods, upper control arms; Nismo lower control arms
Wheels/Tires Work Meister rims (18×9.5 front; 18×10 rear); Toyo R1R tires (225/40ZR-18 front; 265/35ZR-18 rear)
Brakes Project Mu brake pads, rotors, stainless steel braided lines
Exterior R34 front and rear bumper; Apache Racing wide rear fenders, side skirts, canards; Top Secret Vortex Generators, carbon-fiber hood; Origin GT rear wing; custom carbon doors, trunk; DuPont WRX blue paint
Interior Recaro seats; Willan’s harnesses; Stack gauges; custom switches
Gratitude Mad love for Super Autobacs, Toyo Tires, Koyo radiators, Tomei, OS Giken, Work wheels, Origin, Linear Seats, Top Secret, Lucky Strike Bass Fishing, Bros Vinyl Pro Shop, Apache Racing, Agency Japan, 888 Designs, JDM-Wheels.com, Courant LLC, and Victor Reyes
Behind The Build
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