– Words: Ryan Lewis. Photos: MJ Digital.
S-chassis Nissans built for grip racing are far from the norm – there’s probably one of them for every fifty Silvias out there drifting – but anyone chasing a fix of circuit-based motorsport action would be stupid not to put a Silvia on their list of possible platforms. Nissan’s most famous drift chariot is a properly formidable basis for quick lap times as well. What’s more, building a fast Silvia is hardly black magic, it’s a path well travelled and with the right people working on a project like this success is guaranteed. Luckily for Brad, the owner of this blue S14, the right people are working by his side every day of the week.
Brad comes from a lineage of suspension and steering experts. He works with his father and uncle at Heasman Steering in Sydney, a business which has been trading for over 60 years. “I have been coming in here whenever I could since I was about 6 years old. I have always been around all sorts of cars and always had a big interest in them,” says Brad. Since buying the S14 almost two years ago he has been steadily improving it, but it wasn’t always destined to be a dedicated track car.
Brad starts, “The car was was basically dead stock when I bought it except for a front mount and blow off valve, still had the standard exhaust, still running standard boost. Its condition was pretty good except for a cut out front bar so everyone could see the hectic intercooler. It was on the street for a while but I blew the engine at a Nissan Sports Car Club track day at Wakefield. It was all downhill from there.”
Faced with the option of fixing the motor as it was or turning the wick up a few notches, Brad chose a full rebuild. “The car was off the road for six months. Full engine rebuild, diff’ swap, RB25 gearbox etc. I got a weld-in half cage at the same time and fitted harnesses,” explains Brad.
IS Motor Racing handled the motor build. Brad chose to stick with the SR20′s standard displacement but all internals were upgraded with quality parts from Japan and Australia. Tomei, HKS, Trust, Koyo and Haltech all feature in the mod list. The final power figure is a stout 283rwkW with plenty of noise through the side exit exhaust.
On the street the Silvia was a little too red hot for the liking for the authorities. “I pulled it off the road due to way too much attention from the cops. I got defected for driving on semi-slicks, harnesses, half cage, etc. I never cleared it, the car got de-registered and I decided to go full track with it.”
The objective was simple, “To go around corners well. I used to have an AE86 that I did a bit of drifting in, but I always had more interest in speed and grip. I knew the potential of the S-chassis and I work at the perfect place to build a grip car.” Heasman have been instrumental in the success of the two SX Developments cars, of which Matt’s S14 holds the current S-chassis lap record at Wakefield Park. Having that experience to back him up Brad was confident the S14 would reach his goals.
“Because we have worked on so many S-chassis cars we had a very good idea of what the set up should be from the beginning. We weren’t just having a stab in the dark. One of our Bilstein engineers here also used to race his S14 so his knowledge of the ins and outs of the car are very helpful.” Anyone with experience in racing will know that not all wheel alignments are created equal. A proper suspension and steering setup that has been done right can cut seconds off your lap time, with no other modifications. That’s exactly what Heasman set out to achieve.
After committing to going full time with the S14′s track focus, the stripped out interior took on a hefty transformation. Brad tells us, “We have a very good fabricator here. That definitely helped, made the process a lot easier.” Brad’s new roll cage is a work of art, not to mention all the other custom bits and pieces like the sheet metal door trims that were made up from scratch.
For the purposes of weight reduction all windows are now Lexan, even the Racetech seat is made from carbon. There’s a Haltech GPS logger dash, Defilink digital display and push to start. It’s as racecar as it gets with a full re-wire to keep everything minimal and reliable.
The custom touches don’t stop inside, there are plenty more on the exterior. Brad’s front splitter is fitted on a sliding mount system. It’s easy to remove and install by one person. SX Developments came up with the idea to make it easy to switch between a street and track setup, the Heasman crew built their own for ease of loading and unloading the Silvia onto its trailer. Down the back you can’t miss the massive AeroMotions wing on 17-inch uprights!
Needing big rubber under the car, the Silvia’s factory guards were chopped up and bolt-on flares fitted. 18×10.5″ TE37 SLs with 295 section Hankook semi-slicks just wouldn’t fit at all four corners any other way. Behind them the Silvia boasts R34 GT-R Brembos up front with DBA 5000 rotors and APP pads. R33 Skyline calipers and standard rotors work with Bendix pads on the back. The handbrake has been removed completely.
Sadly for Brad and the team, the car’s only let down has come in an area that they didn’t look after themselves – the gearbox. “It’s cursed,” says Brad. “Four failures in four different areas due to a pathetic rebuild by a shop I won’t name. The most recent failure was our discovery of a spare shifter bush floating around inside the gearbox and the fact they had used the wrong gearstick, causing the shifter bushes to constantly fall off and break.” These issues will be a thing of the past soon enough.
You might expect that the Silvia’s pièce de résistance is its suspension, and you would be right. Bilstein Clubsport coilovers are as good as it gets for track use. Bilstein say there are 100 setting variations that can be experienced and manually selected with tangible differences. These coilovers have been fine tuned under real motorsport conditions. Heasman know the importance of quality suspension so these were the only choice.
The gorgeous colour of Brad’s Silvia is known as Ultrasonic Blue. Starting with a standard Lexus IS-F colour, a bit of extra pearl was added to get it looking this good. “It’s thanks to Basser at 2sus that the colour came out so perfectly,” says Brad.
Choosing a potential track car most would put an Evo or other AWD car ahead of a Silvia, but there are plenty of reasons why the S-chassis platform is a good choice. “I love the look, the feel, and how easy and simple Silvias are. They are relatively lightweight and there is just a huge abundance of aftermarket parts and knowledge available for them. They’re relatively cheap to modify too.” Ask any GT-R owner how they know that’s true! Not to mention the fact that Silvias are just plain good fun.
It is a challenge to get really quick lap times out of an older, RWD machine, but that is all part of the allure for Brad. “I think the main difference is low speed grip mid corner and getting the power down out of those low speed corners.” With just two shakedowns on the car so far, there is a lot for Brad to come to terms with. This fresh build will show its true colours soon enough.
“If there is a next time I would definitely buy a pre-built racecar and make changes to it instead,” says Brad. That might be better for the budget, but having something as beautifully built as this Silvia has to be done from scratch. “Eventually I would like to put more aero, a V8 and a Hollinger in it, but that will be when this engine gives up.”
Brad’s future plans involve a whole bunch of racing, and so they should. The car is lined up to compete in the New South Wales and the Victorian Supersprint series. It’ll be put through its paces against a field of competitive cars, but with some of the best suspension technology money can buy and over six decades of expertise behind it, we’re sure that this Silvia will show a few new dogs some old tricks.