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GTi-R Addiction

The story of one man's addiction to modifying his Nissan Pulsar (Sunny) GTi-R...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

It seems these days there's a help group out there for every kind of affliction. If there was a group dedicated to reviving mad car enthusiasts, though, we know of at least one eligible member. Say hello to Luke Williams. "Hi. I'm Luke and, yes, I'm addicted to modifying cars..."

It's true. Luke just can't help himself when it comes to his beloved Nissan Pulsar (Sunny) GTi-R. And this story will give you the undeniable proof.

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Luke 'hit the hard stuff' (hard stuff being AWD turbo cars) back in January 2003 after he got hooked on a rear-wheel-drive Nissan 180SX. "I was into modifications at that stage," says Luke, 'but it wasn't as heavy." An exhaust, intake, boost and rims were what he got started on.

The move to the GTi-R has been one of Luke's biggest life decisions. Bought stock as a rock, Luke was quite impressed by the level of performance on tap - it went better than some of the Subaru WRXs owned by some of Luke's peers. But then the habit reared its ugly head...

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The first go-fast mods were a Blitz air filter and a 2 ½-inch turbo-back exhaust incorporating a high-flow cat converter and 5Zigen rear muffler. Luke explains, "I wouldn't mind changing to a 3-inch system but it's a costly exercise due the very tight clearances at the front of the car. I know that I definitely don't want to lose the air-conditioning."

Some added visual appeal was also stirred into the brew at this stage. The horrible factory alloys were ditched for a set of gold HR Racing 17s wearing Silverstone 205/40 rubbers, the external trims were colour coded and the windows were also given a sinister tint job.

The mods became a blur after this.

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The factory top-mount air-to-air intercooler was replaced by a nice HKS front-mount unit (measuring 600 x 300 x 75mm), a TurboSmart Type 3 blow-off valve was plumbed in with the new pipework and a TurboXS manual boost controller was installed (now replaced by a GReddy Profec B electronic controller). This combo satisfied Luke's craving for only so long and were followed by more hard-core components.

A UniChip interceptor was wired into the car in conjunction with the factory ECU while the fuel system was upgraded to include a Bosch Motorsport fuel pump, surge tank and a Malpassi rising rate fuel pressure regulator. The standard 444cc injectors remain in service. The ignition also scored new NKG Iridium spark plugs and Top Gun 8.8mm leads.

All mechanical work on the car was performed by G-Tech performance and Brian 'Portsy' from the GTi-R club.

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In this 'wasted' state, the GTi-R was pushing some impressive power - despite retaining the standard T28 turbocharger. On a four-wheel-drive Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno, the little 'Zilla cranked out 227kW at the treads. This was achieved with 1.3 Bar of boost and with a Optimax/C16 cocktail. It's enough to give this all-paw hatch G-Tech timed 12.4-second ETs; 12s were Luke's initial goal.

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Like many performance modification sufferers will tell you, a massive engine output can only mean trouble for the driveline. Thankfully, the GTi-R's driveline isn't as weak as other AWDs and all Luke has needed to do is fit a twin-plate ceramic clutch and get the 5-speed 'box rebuilt to standard specs - just a freshen up. Luke points out that he likes to enjoy the odd anti-social driving activity but he remains under control most of the time - an all-out thrash session could quite possibly lead to driveline issues. Note that those Silverstone tyres also are not as grippy as many other exotic rubber; this allows a small amount of wheelspin on hard launches, which takes away some stress on the clutch and 'box.

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The GTi-R has ample traction but it is not the most balanced handling vehicle of all time - it's a pretty major understeerer when pushed. Luke has improved front-end grip by fitting a Whiteline anti-lift kit along with a full set of 40mm lowered King springs to reduce roll. These two simple changes have improved the handling situation considerably.

Anyone addicted to speed will tell you brakes are no good - they only undo the effort put in by your tuned engine. So far, Luke hasn't given the brakes heaps of attention aside from a set of EBC Green Stuff pads and hi-temp fluid. At the time of writing, though, a whopper set of front brakes from a Ford BA XR8 were about to be crammed in for a massive increase in brake power. Nice stuff!

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One-eyed car freaks should probably be contained in a small room with padded walls but the cabin of Luke's GTi-R is much more comfy. The bulk of the standard GTi-R trim remains in place but the steering wheel has been replaced with a S14 200SX item (which is a straight swap), there's Sparco gear knob and pedals, white face dials for the standard instruments and a Blitz boost gauge and turbo timer. The factory GTi-R audio system is nothing flash so Luke has hauled it out in favour of a Kenwood CD/tuner, Kenwood amp and a 10-inch Cerwin Vega sub.

Having spent a lot of time and money, Luke recently decided to make a clean break and sell his adored GTi-R. Time to start over. But something tells us he didn't really want to sell it... "The car had the for sale stickers on it when you took the photographs, but I've taken them off now since I've switched to a T3 hybrid turbo," tells Luke...

Yep, it's a hard habit to crack.

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"If someone offers me the right money I might sell it, but I think I'll keep going with some more changes," says Luke. As mentioned, a 3-inch exhaust is on the cards but so are a set of 600cc injectors, a bigger fuel rail, programmable stand-alone management and an engine rebuild. The new goal? Elevens down the quarter mile.

Hmmm. We wonder if Luke is too far gone for his friends and family to help. "Hello and welcome to the club..."


Luke sends a big thanks to Brian 'Portsy' from the GTi-R club and Damian from G-Tech Performance.

G-Tech Performance +61 3 9355 7988

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