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Secret Squirrel

Check out this wouldn't-know-if-you-looked-at-it Swift GTi turbo - it's a killer!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar and Paul Lawford

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Rewind to the early '90s for a moment. Those were the days when the Suzuki Swift GTi was the Mr Popularity of the hot fours scene. With its cute-as-a-button modern styling and revy 1.3 litre four ticking under the hood, it was a terrific pocket-sized ball of fun. And the aftermarket bolt-on suppliers loved 'em too, coz it became almost mandatory to have a bigger exhaust and a K&N air pod filter fitted. That - along with big wheels and a slammed ride height - were the usual mods.

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But while the GTi was widely considered quick, sorry folks, it wasn't. Even a family sized six - like the VN Commodore - would outgun it at any set of lights. Yeah, the Suzi was fun and quick-ish - though it was nothing serious.

But tell Kevin Annfield that his unassuming looking GTi is just another filter-and-exhaust mobile and you'll see a wry smile spread across his face. Yep, this fella's hiding more than a few cards up his sleeve! If he's feeling generous he might fill you in on the fact that this little 1989 beastie punches out over 135hp at the wheels. And that's when people step closer and show a little more interest!

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After trying the Swift hot-up usuals - plus a Suzisport chip and a ported and polished head - Kevin felt a bit let down by the resulting 78hp at the wheels. It was time to hit the G13B on the head with a turbocharger - the sledgehammer approach to more power! Kevin purchased a host of Suzisport gear including Vitara 1.6 litre pistons with standard rings (to lower the static compression ratio down to a turbo-friendly 8.5:1), a copper head gasket and he also opted for an O-ringed block, a 30 thou overbore and a cc'd head. Swept capacity has gone up slightly to 1338cc. The cams were left as they came, but the timing was adjusted by one tooth.

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Suzisport - who are popular for their Suzuki tuning - came to the party with a T25 Garrett turbo (with a conventional bearing), a medium sized air-to-air intercooler and their neat cast exhaust manifold. Exhaust pipework after the turbo includes a 2?-inch elbow, and a 2?-inch press bent system with a 2?-inch cat converter, muffler and a 2?-inch resonator. The Swift's little exhaust cutout in the rear bumper is filled by a huge 3-inch tip.

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Inside the engine bay, colour-coded mandrel intercooler plumbing fits in elegantly, and a prominent Turbosmart Type 2 blow-off valve also shows itself off next to the polished cam cover. One thing that isn't so easy to pick is the larger diameter Cultus throttle body. One area where Kevin is currently looking at making improvements is the air intake system - the current arrangement of the K&N pod filter sitting behind the radiator is viewed as a major source of hot air.

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The already chipped Suzuki management was never going to deliver the adjustment or fine-tuning that Kevin was chasing. Instead, he went for a Link EMS system that's re-programmed via a remote handset, which usually lives in the console. Going for aftermarket management also meant that the factory airflow meter could be replaced by a pose-no-restriction MAP sensor.

Fuelling is now looked after by a Malpassi rising rate pressure regulator, Cultus injectors (which are presently near their limit) and the standard pump.

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After assembly, the turbo engine was set to a mild 8 psi boost with the intention of running it in gently and maintaining added durability. And even at this modest boost level, the Suzuki engine screamed out an impressive 135 horsepower on a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno. And that was e-a-s-y. Boost has now risen to 9 psi (by adjusting the Link system) and there's been a noticeable hike in grunt. Kevin also comments that there's a definate kick at around 4000, and - being a G13B - it's got heaps of revs to wind out if need be.

Unfortunately - with such a massive increase in torque - the stock gearbox is pushed right to its boundaries. The combination of a 4-puck ceramic clutch and a 900kg pressure plate means there's no clutch slip - which isn't very kind to the 'box. Testament to this, Kevin has broken two gearboxes over the last 45,000 turbocharged kilometres. And for now, he makes do with a standard open-centre differential, but the temptation to buy a Suzuki LSD is immense - even at around $1000.

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The hot little Swifts already came factory-equipped with four-wheel-disc brakes, so Kevin didn't need to do much here. All he's done is make the swap to a set of DBA drilled and slotted discs and a brace of Metal King pads all 'round. Problem solvered. Like any good modified Swift, this one also rides a little closer to the terra-firma. One-and-a-half-inch lowered Pedders springs mated with Koni adjustables improve the car's looks and handling, while Kevin has also added an aftermarket strut brace to boot. Rolling stock (which required lipped guards) comprise a set of 15-inch PCW alloys, clad in 195/50 Dunlop Formula W10 rubbers - nice an' sticky they are. Coz, of course, any powerful front wheel drive needs good front tyres.

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It's just as well this car has tinted windows - or else you might spy the Autometer boost gauge on the steering column.... then Kevin's deceptive performance game would be all over. But as well as travelling fast, he also likes a bit of interior enhancement - as supplied by a Momo wheel and knob, drilled pedal, GReddy turbo timer in addition to the wonderful factory GTi pews. Stereo-wise, there's a Kenwood CD/tuner, Sansui 4-channel amplifier, 6-inch JBL front splits and two pounding Cerwin Vega subs. Take it from us, it's nice and comfy on-board - though nothing too over the top.

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Kevin's more than happy with his sleeper Swift. Especially when he considers that the whole car has cost him only $17,000 all up - including the purchase of the car. That's not bad considering the swag of mods and the monumental increase in performance he's got in return. And what of its performance you ask - after all, it does run only low boost. Well, Kevin says it's really great fun on the street and the car's run an official 14.5 second quarter mile at 159 km/h (albeit with stickier tyres). But just wait until he winds the boost up to 12 psi! With a little more boost and traction (from that ever-so-tempting LSD) this car will be a genuine ego-crusher. Brisbane WRX and HSV owners watch out!

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Oh, and be warned - he also made a passing mention of plonking this car's engine into the snout of a traction-blessed 4WD Cultus import!

Now look, Kevin, that's not playing nicely...


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