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First Love

Your first car always has a special place in your heart and head. But unlike most of us, Zoran hasn't written his off or otherwise trashed it - he's plugged away at it and lovingly building it into a show quality 203kW Nissan-powered tyre-fryer!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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Holden's lovable little Gemini is and - as far as I can tell - has always been a favourite amongst the young guys and girl's that've just scored their ticket to freedom - a driver's license. Their compact size, chuckable RWD chassis and "little Commodore" styling are a big set of pluses for young 'uns. Furthermore, nagging parents rarely frown upon their young son driving a Gemini and, above all, they're usually ripper bargains to boot.

Zoran Stojanouski bought this 1983 TG Gemini sedan about four years ago after he had just managed to worm his way through high school. Like most of us, the thrill of driving his first car was a pants-wetting experience and the G160 1.6 four felt like it had adequate urge. Inevitably though, after a while of thrashing around with a bunch of friends piled in the back, Zoran soon realised that the standard donk wasn't any kind of grunter. It was time to give his pride and joy a bit of a boost in its performance credentials.

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The first phase of development saw the stock motor hung with a Weber draw-through turbo system. Yeah, there wasn't a bad increase in power, but Zoran admits it was "a bit of a slap-up that eventually popped". So it then seemed like a good idea to consider a full-house engine conversion - namely a Piazza turbo or a Nissan FJ20DET. Although the Piazza conversion may have been the simpler option, Zoran liked the idea of a big Nissan 2 litre twin cam turbo - and the potential for the biggest number of horsepower.

After landing one of these 142kW (max) Japanese imports, he then got busy rebuilding it to better than new specs. Zoran packed the block with a set of HPC'd 7.0:1 Japanese forged pistons (very similar to Aries items) and gave the 16 valver head a tickle-tickle with a grinder. An assortment of aftermarket gaskets was used to re-assemble the motor, with the only exception being a factory head gasket - which is very durable. Next was to install the motor - a fairly large task, which needed a modified sump, a Fiat LHS engine mount and various other adaptations.

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But the engine mods that netted most of the swag of kilowatts at the wheels were all bolt-on goodies. Like a big intercooler and a custom JPC T3 turbocharger. Interestingly, Zoran had to get an adapter plate laser cut so he could put the factory exhaust manifold on upside down. Why? 'Cos there wouldn't have been enough room to fit the turbo otherwise. This big windmill draws through a K&N cone filter and pushes up to 17 psi boost pressure into a custom air-to-air intercooler measuring about 55x40x8cm. With this much boost pressure, there's also an oil catch can to salvage any boost-induced blow-by.

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And to help maintain all-important turbo speed during gear swaps, a polished Blitz blow-off valve has pride of place hanging off one of the intake pipes.The exhaust rush from the heavy breathing FJ is now blown through a full 3 inch off-the-turbo mandrel bent system with one cat converter, resonator and muffler (all of the straight-through variety). After reading about the effectiveness of the 42mm Turbonetics Racegate, one of those is also now part of the parcel as well.

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Melbourne is the home of the famous MoTeC company, so car enthusiasts and workshops about the place are only too aware of some of the brilliant management systems that are grown on their very own doorstep. The top-line version of the M4 system - the M4 Pro - was snapped up by Zoran and he wired it in himself to bring harmony between the engine's input sensors, injectors and ignition coil (a MAP sensor is also now used). The FJ20 is now blessed with four Bosch 363 hi-volume injectors suckling from a custom fuel rail, with fuel pushed all the way up there thanks to a Carter pre-pump, in-boot surge tank and Bosch Motorsport main pump. The other side of the engine management coin - the ignition - consists of a single Bosch coil, and standard plugs and leads. A booster might come later when Zoran ups the power level once more...

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Carefully tuned on JPC's Dyno Dynamics dyno, the fuel and ignition curves were programmed to deliver an impressive peak power out put of 203kW at the wheels while running 17 psi and Shell Optimax unleaded pump fuel. There's nothing quite like multiplying the car's original kilowatts by 100 times! (Well, near enough, anyway).

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Backing the big turbo'd multi-valve 2 litre is a stock FJ Nissan 5-speed that shared the same shipping container. With well-matched gears, good durability and bolt-up compatibility to the bellhousing, it was an easy decision to keep it in service. Sandwiched between this and the standard flywheel is a competition spec heavy-duty 2800lb pressure plate and a 5-puck Kevlar race clutch.

Reaching out back is a custom 3-inch tailshaft running a V8 rear uni and a 6 cylinder front 'un.

A monumental increase in diff strength was witnessed when McDonald Brothers made a big Ford 9 inch 3.7:1 LSD squeeze under the floorplan of the Gem. It was no easy task though, requiring quite a lot of suspension re-jigging and boxing the rear swing arms. At the end of the day, it's a driveline combination plenty strong enough to handle the big doughies we photo'd Zoran reeling off!

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The sub-1000kg mass of the Gemini is brought back down to sane speeds courtesy of a pair of Piazza front vented discs clamped by big 5 litre VR Commodore calipers. At the rear, the standard Gemini drums can be found - but like the fronts these wear Bendix Ultimate pads. This will change soon though, after Zoran cracked the front discs - so he's now looking down the path of 11 inch discs and 4 pot calipers, just to be sure. The ride height has been slashed by around 3 inches by simply cutting the rear springs and slipping in lowered front King springs. Combined with Monroe gas shockers, Zoran says this is just about as low as he'd want to go while still keeping the boys in blue off his tail. Another hard-hitting aspect of this car is how damn tasty it looks. Zoran has gone a class above most when he bolted up a set of high-impact 16 inch BBS rims and 205/45 Eagle F1 rubbers. With the car lowered to the ground and the deep new paint scheme, the wheels are set off perfectly.

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Of course, it wasn't that simple to make "the look". First of all, the original body had to have rust cut from the two front doors and the boot - plus the mandatory panel beating to remove the inevitable scars of 17 years use. With the panels looking good, Zoran applied a few layers of Subaru blue. But this colour soon changed unexpectedly, after a slight fender bender required more respraying. So it's now a custom blue/green mix that's not as much to Zoran's liking as the previous colour but, damn, we sure don't mind it!

Indoors is a fully re-trimmed Gemini interior with a Momo wheel, Clarion CD stereo system and an assortment of Autometer gauges, including the gotta-have 5 inch Monster tacho. You just can't beat it can you?

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All that's left for this awesome Gem are the aforementioned brakes, oh and there are also plans to get it maybe into the 10-11s quarter mile bracket. Mid 12s with bulk wheelspin just ain't enough it seems.....

Contact:

JPC (Johnson's Performance Centre)
+61 3 9465 2244

McDonald Brothers Racing
+61 3 9465 0000

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