This article was first published in 2003.
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
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
"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
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
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
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
So has all the custom fabrication and all the headaches been worth it? Surely
the answer is obvious!
Advan Performance Centre
+61 2 9647 1326