Some modified cars seem to miss out on that wow factor. Bolting a big turbo onto a Skyline is a sure-fire way to go fast, but it's the more unconventional and imaginative modified cars that attract kudos. But these kinds of vehicles require a brave person willing to venture w-a-y off the beaten track - just ask Dave, the owner of one of the world's fastest Suzuki Cappuccinos.
What possesses someone to go ballistic modifying 660cc of coffee cruiser, you ask? Well, as we have seen in the past, it's the irresistible addiction to 'unlikely' small car performance. "I was actually ready to buy a new Toyota Starlet when I spotted the 35,000 kilometre Cappuccino in a yard. Anyway, I ran up onto the footpath to check it out and after a test drive I bought it," says Dave.
"I was reluctant to modify the car before it ran out of its 3-year warranty, but I ended up making a couple of small changes before long," he says. These initial tweaks involved fitting a free-flow air filter and upping the boost pressure to a considerable 16 psi - the factory fuel-cut is at around 17 psi according to Dave. The stock rev limit, by the way, is at a sky-high 9800 rpm... These basic mods kept Dave content for the first two years of ownership but he couldn't resist going the next step before the warranty expired...
"I did a lot of research on the web before doing any other mods," says Dave. "I found a site on Japan's fastest Suzuki-powered Cappuccino but I thought it was nothing really special. I figured I could do better!" That was the trigger.
The next stage of modification saw Dave steered in a few wrong directions by industry 'experts' but things settled down with a 2 ½-inch custom mandrel exhaust and turbo manifold, a Mick's Metalcraft front-mount intercooler, Autronic SMC management, R33 Skyline GT-R injectors and a 'you-beaut' turbocharger. But that big turbo, in particular, was something of a disaster. "It needed more than 6000 revs to really come on boost and it wasn't practical," says Dave. And then there was the fact that the car made only 60kW at the wheels - just 11kW more than when it was running its basic filter and boost upgrade...
The final curtain fell for this mechanical configuration when Dave was doing a donut for a Serious Performance video. A damaged number 3 bearing, a broken rod, bent crank and further damage were the result of a major oil surge. It wasn't a pleasant sight.
Not one to let an engine failure damper his enthusiasm, Dave had the engine sent to Queensland for a full performance rebuild. This sees the little F6B three-pot stuffed with custom Cosworth forged pistons (providing a near-standard static compression ratio), shot-peened rods and a nitrided crankshaft. While it was apart, the DOHC, 12-valve alloy head was given a tidy-up, reground camshafts and custom adjustable cam sprockets. The head was O-ringed and fitted atop the block with a standard head gasket.
There have been no problems with the engine build, but Dave did have to put up with the fact that the assembly took a full year...
Mindful of the previous events, Dave had the sump fitted with extra baffles and had the oil pick-up relocated. A Trust oil cooler and filter relocation kit (which Dave says was the only off-the-shelf part available to suit the engine!) adds extra insurance. Sydney's Advan Performance Centre also intervened with a custom oil catch tank that's mounted in the right guard.
Built to withstand 30 psi of boost, there's some serious turbo hardware bolted to the side of this little Suzi. Dave isn't keen to push the mechanicals to their limit so he's content to run 25 psi of boost - for now. This comes from "an extensively modified" version of the previous turbo. The one-off in Australia GT25/T2 hybrid turbo boasts a ball bearing centre and is on boost by 3000 rpm. The 'charger is bolted to the same HPC'd custom exhaust manifold that was fabricated previously. Advan Performance Centre has recently fabricated the neat heat shield over the turbo and manifold and note the compact Odyssey battery, which is necessary to clear the turbo and dump pipe.
Charge-air is cooled by the existing Mick's Metalcraft intercooler and arrives at much larger than standard Nissan SR20DET throttle body. The intake plenum, meanwhile, has been fabricated by Advan Performance Centre and offers a much larger volume than the standard chamber.
Note that all of the pipes are HPC'd and an atmospherically venting Turbo XS blow-off valve is installed prior to the intercooler. Dave plans to swap to a recirculating blow-off valve to help keep noise down. The aftermarket pod air filter that's hidden behind the bumper (the only place it would fit!) is also responsible for some induction noise.
Keeping up with the fuel requirements of this hyper three-pot are the carried-over R33 GT-R injectors and Autronic SMC management. Advan Performance also came to the party with a surge tank mounted beneath the car, a VW Golf Turbo main pump and a Nissan S15 in-tank pump. The ignition arrangement has also been changed to a CDI arrangement since our photo shoot.
Now let's talk power numbers.
As mentioned, the car was making 60kW at the wheels previously and 49kW at the wheels with the initial intake and boost tweaks. And now? Well, after recently taking the plunge to run up to 25 psi of boost Dave has seen his mighty Suzi crack the 100kW at the wheels barrier. With everyday 98RON fuel in the tank this little bugger screams out 102kW ATW! And, yes, it still displaces only 660cc...
The rest of the Cappuccino's RWD driveline has coped very well. An upgrade clutch (namely, a custom button clutch with a heavy-duty pressure plate) was essential but there have been absolutely no breakages. The stock 5-speed 'box was, however, rebuilt with new first and second gear synchros (which Dave says were on the way out even before the new motor was ready to roll). In the search for traction, the factory differential has also been replaced. The open-centre diff was fine at the standard power level, but a Japanese-sourced LSD is now in service. "You still have to be very careful driving the car, especially in the wet," says Dave. "There's a lot of wheelspin when you're coming up on boost." Note that the LSD also runs a slightly shorter ratio than the factory unit.
The 700 kilograms of fun has been lowered about 1½-inches thanks to a set of K-Mac progressive rate springs teamed with KYB dampers. Chassis balance can also be tuned with the adjustable front and rear swaybars. "I've also got a front strut brace, but I'm not sure it'll fit with all the engine work done," says Dave.
Brakes are essentially standard. The front-end, however, boasts bolt-on DBA slotted and drilled discs (Cappuccinos run the same front brakes as the local Swift GTi, in case you didn't know).
The cabin of a Cappuccino isn't a place were you can fit a whole lotta aftermarket gear - a monster tacho would almost have to sit on the passenger's lap... Dave has, however, slipped in a Momo wheel and gear knob, a shift light (controlled by the Autronic unit), a Trust boost gauge on the A-pillar and Trust oil pressure and fuel pressure gauges mounted on a neat console bracket (which was made by Dave). You may notice the top-of-the-range factory trim spec - the upmarket woodgrain dash, leather door trims and 'leather look' seats are very rare in Australia. An Alpine CD/tuner wired to Rockford Fosgate door speakers also supersedes the Japanese audio system. "I must admit, though, I prefer to listen to the money under the bonnet than the sound system," says Dave.
Visually, a Suzuki Cappuccino doesn't need much attention - it's a guaranteed head turner even in factory form. Dave has made some effective tweaks, however, including a custom polished rollover bar. A SuzukiSport rollover bar is available off-the-shelf, but Dave's custom job looks beefier, is stronger and was completed for about half the price. Gotta be happy with that!
The cute little body rolls along on attractive 15-inch BSA 225 rims clad in Falken 195/45 rubbers. Dave did have a set of 17s fitted for the 2000 AutoSalon, but there was a slight problem - "the thing just wouldn't turn with the 17s".... With the 15s currently fitted we're told the car can perform a 3-point turn inside a double garage...
Not surprisingly, this little rocket has arrived near the end of its development. Some people are applying pressure to go for a nitrous kit, but Dave is (understandably) reluctant. To put things mildly, there's already ample performance for the little chassis to cope with. But how does the car compare to those inspirational Cappuccinos from Japan? Well, Dave says the quickest 900cc Suzuki engine'd Cappu in Japan runs to a top speed of 242.1 km/h; he's already beaten that with a calculated 250 km/h! This remarkable speed was achieved at 7000 in fifth gear with the taller factory diff ratio in use. That Japanese car also runs a 12.4-second quarter mile, but Dave hasn't yet had the chance to tackle the 400m thing. With traction permitting, you can bet it'll be right up there!
So has all the custom fabrication and all the headaches been worth it? Surely the answer is obvious!
Advan Performance Centre