Let's Fli

A street-driven 1.8 litre Bluebird that can cut easy 11s at the track? No, it's not a joke - it's just a bit of light fun for Ben Heywood of Melbourne's Australian Turbo Sales.

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

It could only be a good thing being the son of Melbourne's ATS owner, Max Heywood. Twenty three year old Ben (aka "Bennie Boost") certainly is a monumental step ahead of most people when it comes to knowledge, resources and contacts needed to build up a fast turbocar - just take his Series 1 Nissan Bluebird TRX for example. It's an 11 second street car and, as Bensays, probably the fastest 1.8 litre 2WD in the country.

It was back in 1997 Ben was handed down the rego papers to the car (which his Dad had owned since new). Dad had already slipped a CD carby draw-through turbo set-up under the lid along with a 5-speed, and within about two months of Ben's ownership it was treated to a new lick of dark blue paint.

But a craving for even more power prompted Ben to jump to an engine conversion - namely a Nissan Z18 turbo. These SOHC, 8 valve, injected, twin plug turbo engines were one of Nissan's very first turbo engines of the early 80s and were simply built up from the same basic bottom end design as the faithful L series four - as fitted as standard to the Series 1 and 2 Bluebirds. That similarity made things easier for Ben, 'cos all he needed to do to mount the Japanese imported engine was to modify the sump, engine and gearbox mounts and have a 3 inch heavy duty tailshaft fabricated to suit.

Because the Z18 had a few years of running behind it, ATS broke the factory seals and revamped it to suit the anticipated stratospheric level of boost pressure. So in went a set of four VL Commodore turbo (RB30ET) pistons to drag the compression ratio down to around only 6.5:1. A 40 thou overbore job was required to give these pistons enough room, and the only other engine mod was to O-ring the block for durability.

Assembly was performed in-house with a copper head gasket also sandwiched in to improve reliability. For now, the engine's still got the standard cylinder head, but Ben's managed to get his hands on an ex-George Fury Bluebird racecar head - that'll be going on quick-smart, judging by Ben's enthusiasm!

To push this medium sized four door into the 11s, it stands to reason that the smallish standard turbocharger is long, long gone. In its place is a man-sized T3/T4 combo with a T04E front cover and Stage 3 Sierra Cosworth wheel, together with a beautifully made Turbonetics exhaust section - and it's a turbo capable of hyperventilating the engine with a stonking 35 psi of boost. Consuming a large portion of the engine bay, the big hybrid turbo looks like a giant tumour on the side of the Z18's head! Oh, and there's usually a K&N pod filter on it to keep it from eating any nasties.

Feeding gasses to this sucker is an ATS-fabricated tuned length exhaust manifold made from 1? inch high pressure pipe. This was a bit of a bugger to make though, as the left-hand strut tower is pretty close by, so it was an exercise in tight packaging. Teeing out from the exhaust turbine housing is a 32mm Turbonetics Deltagate that makes that characteristic flutter noise whenever it's time to reach for another ratio.

Also part of the sound show is a spectacular polished Turbonetics Godzilla blow-off valve, which Ben says certainly made the car much more responsive after gearchanges. Next in line is a cut-down Saab truck air-to-air intercooler that spans the almost across the entire front of the car. Of course, good intercooling is mandatory when the turbo is wound up to a killer 35 psi! The flood of intake air then storms through a VL Commodore throttle body, which is bolted to the standard plenum via an alloy adapter plate.

Reaching rearward from the turbocharger is a mandrel-bent 3 inch exhaust system with two hotdogs and a straight-through rear muffler to tame down the noise level. Other stuff around the place includes an oil breather catch can, a standard engine radiator and 2 and 2? inch coated intercooler pipes and polished front engine pulleys.

A local Australian company - EMS - gets a slice of the action by having their QI-4 fuel and ignition ECU wired in to keep the engine running at peak efficiency, but also within its limits.

A diet of Avgas gushes into the intake ports through four Mazda Series 5 13B turbo injectors connected to a custom rail. EFI fuel pressure is pushed up by a VL Turbo fuel pump (supplied by an in-boot Carter pick-up pump and surge tank) working with a Malpassi rising rate regulator.

The Z18's twin plug per cylinder ignition arrangement is retained with both plugs now firing simultaneously thanks to a Series 4 RX-7 dizzy and a VR V6 Commodore coil pack (of course, there're four of them though!). An alloy blanking plate covers what used to be the opening for the factory distributor.

Total horsepower = 340 hp (254kW) at the wheels on 35 psi boost!

The driveline begins with a heavily lightened flywheel, a Kevlar/brass button clutch (which can still be made to slip!) and a 260Z pressure plate that's been beefed up to 1800-2000lb clamping force. A Series 3 10-bolt Bluebird diff sits between the rear tyres after Ben got tired replacing three or four stockies that blew under the duress. As well as having stronger gears and axles, it's also had its centre welded to improve traction off the line. Underneath the body is a box section chassis running from near the floor under the back seat to the diff and then onto the rear of the car. ATS went to all this trouble because the rear end mounts near the back seat previously ripped clean out (apparently a weak spot in Bluebirds)...

At the front end, R31 GTS Skyline struts have found their way in and like the back end, have had their springs cut down by about 2 inches. And other than a set of replacement Konis at the rear, it's otherwise factory fare suspension. Ben's also a pretty game fella, having retained the standard - albeit four wheel - disc brakes... Three-forty horses at the wheels and standard brakes? Hmm.

When we photographed the car, it was getting around on its street FR17 Simmons and 215/40 Pirelli P700 tyres - but when Ben's deadly serious he swaps these for Mickey Thompson 14x8 sticky slicks. With the car shod with these, Ben's best time to date at the Calder drag strip is a 11.60 at 115.77 mph. That's on 35 psi boost,and with all of those 340 horses pulling as hard as they can.

Just wait until the racing head and manifold goes on - the standard manifold flows 123cfm, while the race version passes a much more substantial 200 cfm. Now that will make the ultimate grunter of a Z18!


ATS (Australian Turbo Sales)
+61 3 9335 1254

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