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Growlin' GTi-R

A Nissan Pulsar GTi-R with a heap of effective bolt-ons.

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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Let's consider the Japanese market Nissan Pulsar (aka Sunny) GTi-R. With constant AWD, 162kW and hatchback chuckability we can't work out why there aren't more modified examples kicking around here in Australia. Julian X of Victoria often wonders the same.

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Motivated by the GTi-R's unquestionable tough looks and AWD traction, Julian purchased this black example in early 2002. "The performance of the standard car wasn't bad," says Julian, "but it didn't handle too well." It felt very nose-heavy whenever hustled through a tight corner.

Phew - it's just as well there's a bunch of aftermarket gear available to suit the King of Hot Hatches!

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Julian has addressed the GTi-R's handling issues by fitting quality Japanese dampers, lowered springs, Whiteline swaybars and by customising the wheel alignment. These mods combined to give a truly monumental on-road improvement. Oh, and the black aftermarket rims that you see were already fitted when the car was purchased.

But it would be a pity to have so much off-the-line grip and not have the grunt to make the most of it.

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The factory SR20DET (complete with quad throttles) is a flexible and brisk motor in un-tuned form but Julian's car proves that a few bolt-ons are ultra-effective. All of the go-fast work on the car has been performed by Melbourne's AVO (Advanced Vehicle Operations).

Let's start with the basics - exhaust flow has been maximised with the fitment of an AVO 3-inch mandrel system and intake airflow free'd with an AVO pod air filter. These two mods yielded an impressive top-end power gain along with a solid mid-range improvement (which comes largely from an unintended boost increase), but it's unlikely anyone would want to stop there. We've only just broken the ice...

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Next up for Julian's car was an AVO bar-and-plate front-mount air-to-air intercooler, which replaces the factory top-mount core. This adds a little bit of lag but the performance increase is well worth it - especially if you go for a big turbo and lots of boost...

The GTi-R T28 turbocharger is fine for near-stock power levels but you can't go past a big huffer for eye-widening top-end. Accordingly, AVO bolted on one of their off-the-shelf '400hp' Garrett roller-bearing turbochargers, which mates to the factory exhaust manifold. Controlling this big turbo is an AVO electronic system that has been set to deliver up to 1.2 Bar manifold pressure. An AVO aluminium can catches any blow-by oil.

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Big turbo hardware and plenty of boost pushes the factory GTi-R fuel system well beyond its limits. In order to keep up with the fuelling requirement, AVO whacked in a 600hp Bosch pump and a set of 550cc injectors and retuned everything using a PerfectPower SMT6 interceptor module. No need to fart about fitting an aftermarket stand-alone system.

So how much power are we lookin' at here?

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Well, damn-near twice the factory output, if you must know. Strapped down on AVO's DTS four-wheel chassis dyno, Julian's black beast has roared out an impressive 206kW at the treads. And, yes, that was achieved using everyday pump fuel (Optimax) and in 100 percent street tune.

Unfortunately, the GTi-R - like many constant AWD cars - isn't equipped with a particularly strong gearbox. Julian has fitted an Exedy heavy-duty clutch package which helped minimise driveline losses, but spelt extra stress for the fragile 'box. After one pretty major gearbox failure at the drags, Julian has switched to an upgrade full synchro gearset that seems to be managing fine. So far... And what's the best time the car has run, you ask? A 12.9-second quarter mile - with better yet to come.

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Cosmetically there's not much to give away the presence of nearly double the standard power output. The only outside mods are the aforementioned alloy wheels, the 3-inch exhaust outlet and a pair of Cibie spotlights that were a given by a friend. And, yes, that overt rear wing is factory fitment.

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Onboard, the standard GTi-R is a reasonably well-equipped little machine. Power windows and mirrors, comprehensive instrumentation and sports seats come courtesy of Nissan but Julian has decided to add an AVO boost gauge to the A-pillar, an A'PEXi rev/speed meter, a JVC head unit, front splits and quality JL rear speakers. A Nardi steering wheel, Nismo gear knob and Lonza pedals had already been bolted in when the car arrived in Julian's hands. It all makes for a purposeful but comfortable cabin.

The interior and body fit-out are indicative of Julian's application for his GTi-R - it's his weekend fun machine. With easy 12-second quarter mile performance, total traction and tweaked handling, there's little wonder he saves the driving experience as a weekend treat!

AVO (Advanced Vehicle Operations) +61 3 9584 4499

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