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Zoomin' Serena

A not-so-serene Serena!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • Japanese import Serena van
  • Was a diesel - now a SR20DET!
  • Trust turbo and external wastegate
  • Full body kit
  • Custom paint
  • What else can we say?!
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It takes somebody with a strong will to go ahead and modify a vehicle that nobody else would bother.

Troy Emerson of Brisbane’s Zoom Auto Imports is one such person.

When Troy set up his flourishing Japanese performance and import business about 18 months ago, he found himself thinking about a promo vehicle. Something to take to car shows and instil the name 'Zoom Auto Imports' into people’s heads. Well, this conflicted with the pressing need for a family hauler but Troy came up with a solution of the most unlikely variety.

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He bought a Japanese-spec Nissan Serena 2.0 diesel van, whacked on a body kit, painted it green, slammed it with pimp-style wheels and – wait for it! – converted to two litre turbo SR20DET power!

The Serena is the ideal recipient for an engine conversion. Take a look at the Serenas that were officially delivered to Australia between 1992 and 1995 and you’ll notice they run a naturally aspirated SR20 under the floor. About now you’ll start to see how the conversion makes sense. However, what makes it difficult is the stock Serena engine is configured like front-wheel-drive SRs, whereas most SR20DETs are rear-wheel-drive based.

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Not one to shy away from a challenge, Troy reached across his workshop floor and grabbed a fresh VVT SR20DET to fit into his van. Installation required relocating the engine cross member, modifying the bodywork to fit the crank angle sensor and extensively modifying the intake manifold to provide the necessary clearance. The intake manifold modification was performed by ARE.

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A 600hp Bosch Motorsport fuel pump with an ARE surge tank and half-inch lines provide the fuel flow demanded by the SR turbo.

Interestingly, the transmission is a Nissan RB20 auto which is mated to the original Serena diesel extension housing. A 3500 rpm stall converter keeps the SR running on-song.

If all this sounds like a lot of work in uncharted territory, it is! Thankfully, one of Troy’s business specialties is engine conversions.

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Standard SR20DET performance wasn’t enough for Troy who also went for a Trust exhaust manifold hung with a TD06 20G Trust turbo and 50mm Trust external wastegate. As you can see, the manifold is thoroughly heat wrapped.

Boost pressure reaches 18 psi and an ARE 800 x 400 x 120mm air-to-air intercooler keeps the charge-air chilled. A big HKS blow-off valve, oil breather catch can and an A’PEXi pod filter are also squeezed into the engine compartment.

The exhaust is nothing less than a 3½-incher by Gonzo – it uses a Kakimoto canon rear muffler and a 1 metre custom centre resonator. Troy says the long centre resy makes a huge difference – his Serena is easily within legal noise limits.

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The engine management system in this weird and wonderful creation is a fully programmable MicroTech LTX8 which controls fuel, ignition and boost. A set of 780cc injectors are aimed down the SR’s throat.

The RB auto transmission is controlled by a Japanese ShiftMaster module which, at the touch of a button, makes up-shifts up and down-shifts while the trans selector is left in Drive.

Out back is a locked 4.4:1 Serena diff; no doubt this helps Troy drop the mean burnouts that we witnessed!

In its current mechanical configuration, Troy’s Serena has run with the big boys on the rollers of ChipTorque’s Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno. How hoes 255hp at the wheels grab you?

It’s a fair way away from the stock Australian-spec Serena with around 130hp at the flywheel!

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The Nissan Serena is an orphan model in Australia so you’re forgiven for not noticing Troy’s body mods. A full aftermarket body kit comprising skirts, front and rear bars and a grille was prised from a Senera van in Japan (the donor vehicle was being wrecked – Troy didn’t just stumble across it in a carpark!). A ’98 Serena front-end and a smooth tailgate – with the number plate inset, badges and handle removed – further add to the interest. The tailgate is now opened via remote.

The eye-catching green paint was carefully sprayed by A1 Custom and is a custom mix based on a 1976 Holden colour. The windows are also tinted as dark as legal and Troy has invested in some signage to advertise his import business. We’ve gotta say, if you’re in the Brisbane area you should drop by and check out the stock.

Wheels are 18 inch Emitz Works wearing Falken 225/45 and 255/40 rubber. These fill the guards nicely thanks to lowered King front springs and reset rear springs. Pedders airbags are fitted to the rear, while Monroe struts are used up front.

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Braking this 7 seater run-away is an effective anchor upgrade from the Nissan parts bin. A pair of S13 discs and calipers can be found at the front, while – for now – the rear uses the standard drum set-up.

But, let’s face it, this machine is all about attracting attention and going fast in a straight line.

At its first drag strip outing Troy dropped more than a few jaws when his 1760kg van stalled up off the line and ran a 14.0 at 101 mph! Say “bye-bye” Mr WRX!

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Inside, the Troy’s Serena has all the carrying ability that is needed. At present, the interior is equipped with an AutoMeter monster tacho, boost and oil temperature gauges on the A-pillar, a Momo steering wheel and green painted trim highlights. At the time of our photo shoot, a PlayStation 2 and a set of LCD screen and headphones were going in.

Oh, and we should mention Troy’s latest plan; to run under 12 seconds down the quarter with a new engine that’s built with all the good bits to cope with 30 psi of boost!

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And there are a few other plans as well. Did we mention it’ll soon be wearing a wide-body kit, twist-up doors and 20 inch wheels?

At this rate it won’t be long until the name Zoom Auto Imports appears in the Guinness Book of Records under the heading “Crazy Stuff”...


Zoom Auto Imports
+61 7 3348 6939

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