When it comes to cars, Joel Robinson was always one of the more sensible out of all his mates. In his younger years, while his friends were pouring their cash into various skidders and quick cars, Joel held off. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, at a time when most of his mates had moved on from modifying cars, or their machines had been relegated to sitting in their driveways, not going, that he decided to go hard on his own machine. The machine in question was a stock-standard Nissan Silvia that Joel had owned for a long time, a facelift 1996 S14, to be exact.
“I got this car six years ago,” Joel says. “I was never meant to buy it, I was actually looking for a practical work vehicle and went to check out a Caldina GT-T wagon at a car yard. But my friends started convincing me to go rear-wheel-drive turbo, and there were two options at the yard, an R34 Skyline or this Silvia. At the time, Silvias seemed less common than Skylines, so I went with the S14.” The car, while standard mechanically, did come with some embarrassing chrome wheels and an old-school URAS body kit, and that is how things stayed for a long time — until some spectacular engine failures a couple of years ago forced Joel’s hand, and he began one of New Zealand’s most unique and cleanest Silvia builds.
“The first time the motor popped, I got it rebuilt, but something wasn’t right and it blew again, so that was when I decided get serious,” Joel tells us. “I did consider going to an RB motor, but in the end the SR20 is a great motor and it’s perfectly balanced for the S-chassis, so why change when you can still get heaps of power out of it?” This time Joel did things properly, and took his SR20 to Dinh at Spec 2 Developments, who carefully rebuilt it using only the best from CP, Tomei, HKS and ARP. To accompany the new motor, Joel originally opted for a Master Power turbo sitting on a tried and trusted Sinco manifold, but though the Master Power performed well, he has since made the move to a Honeywell (aka Garrett) GT3582R, which has proven an even better match for the super-strong SR20DET. Joel says, “The old turbo was good, but this new Honeywell is even better, it pulls so strong without being too laggy and makes plenty of power.” With the appropriate fuel, spark and exhaust upgrades, the new engine combo spun up 322 kilowatts at the rear wheels, controlled by an A’PEXi Power FC computer tuned by the ever-impressive Glenn Suckling at GDS Motorsports in Auckland.
Though the Silvia makes race-car-like numbers, Joel has always been about keeping his car fully comfortable, perfectly presented and on the street, which is especially important considering he has a partner and two young kids to take with him on cruises. “They all support the build and love it — every time we take the car out there’s usually a fight between the kids and their cousins for the best seats.” With that in mind, not only has the interior remained completely intact, it has been enhanced with a seriously good sound system — not exactly something you commonly see in Silvias these days. Built by Sound Around, the system uses mostly JVC Envy gear with Fusion amps and is clean, simple and extremely clear and loud. The question is, why exactly did Joel want to go so far with his sounds? He explains: “When I was a little kid, my mate’s dad had an R32 Skyline, which at the time was a dream car. It had a sub in the back, and ever since I’ve always wanted and had subs.” Enjoying the bass is a plus, for sure, but a good sound system also goes a long way in the show points stakes, something Joel has been pursuing for the last couple of seasons, despite the street-driven status of the car.
After originally fitting a set of Rota Grid wheels, Joel shot down to see Ray and the team at On Show Kustoms, who assisted in replacing the original URAS body kit with a much, much cooler Gentleman’s kit from SuperMade. The kit, which strikes a great balance between aggression and subtlety, was then given a respray with the rest of the car in satin black for that stealth bomber look, but it wasn’t to last. “The car was all done in satin black for the 2012–2013 summer season, but things went a bit wrong in March last year when I drove it down to Palmy for the 4&Rotary North Island Jamboree. I don’t really believe in trailering cars to shows, but on this trip there were heaps of roadworks, and by the time I got back to Auckland and tried to clean the car up, the limestone from all the work had eaten into the paint. If you looked on certain angles you could see all these weird patterns going down the body, so I took it back to On Show Kustoms to see if they could fix it up, but they had other ideas.” Far from simply touching up the satin black, Ray wanted to completely respray the car in something a little more showy and intense, and after much discussion and research, he and Joel settled upon a deep four-layer pearl with hints of black, blue, green and purple. The result, in our opinion, is so much better than the previous satin black, and it looks absolutely gorgeous from every angle — sometimes subtle and sometimes extreme. Now all that was needed was a new set of wheels to match the new high-class aesthetics.
“I research everything for a long time before I do it, and the wheels were no different,” Joel says. “I went to see James at 360 Link, who I had got my previous Rota wheels off, and told him I wanted something unique and different. We went through all the options — Work, Rotiform, Abstract — but in the end James suggested importing a set of custom BC Forged wheels for the concave look. I wasn’t really sold, especially when we talked about running a staggered set of 18x9s up front and 19x10s in the rear, but in the end I decided to trust him and we ordered the wheels in +5 offset.” After only three weeks the custom wheels arrived, but even after unboxing the huge rollers, he still wasn’t sold on them. He says: “I didn’t test fit them at all until we went down to Platinum wheels just before new year. I like the stock guard look, so I was a bit worried about how concave the rears were and whether they would fit, because I didn’t want to have to go widebody.” Nick and the team at Platinum fitted a set of Falken tyres (which allow more stretch, legally) and while the fronts sat inside the guards fine, the rears were going to need a bit of love to get right. The answer came in the form of a little camber, so all-adjustable arms were ordered and fitted to the rear, and the car was wound down on its new wheels. “It wasn’t until I saw the car sitting low on the new wheels that I liked them — they say the right set of wheels makes or breaks a car, and I think these definitely make my Silvia what it is. I love looking down the car and seeing how concave the wheels are.”
With the Silvia now looking inch-perfect, it was time to hit the show circuit, with the V 4&Rotary Nationals first up. “I loved the response the car got. It’s probably my favourite thing about building cars, you meet so many people and it’s cool to hear what they think.” He’s known for his extreme displays, especially at the 4&Rotary Jamboree featured in this issue in which the S14 was sitting on an actual fish pond, and Joel has picked up a bunch of awards for the Silvia, but that doesn’t mean it’ll now be relegated to full trailer-queen status. “Glenn [Suckling] does want me to swap to a SR20VE head for heaps more power, but even if that happens, this car will always be street driven. As long as the family still enjoys the car and the kids fight over who gets to go in it, I’ll keep working on it, and enjoying it whenever I want to head into town for the night, or go for a cruise to the beach.”
While it’s not exactly the work wagon he was supposed to get, nor is it the family-friendly hauler his parents say he should probably own, we’re fairly sure, six years on, that Joel’s pretty damn happy he let his mates talk him out of that Caldina, and into what would become one of the nicest street Silvias in the country!
Nissan Silvia (S14)
MODEL: Nissan SR20DET 2000cc four-cylinder
BLOCK: CP pistons, Tomei rods, HKS head gasket, ARP mains studs
HEAD: Tomei cams, Tomei adjustable cam gears, ARP head studs
INTAKE: Simota filter, four-inch intake pipe, custom front-mounted intercooler and piping
TURBO: Honeywell (Garrett) GT3582R
WASTEGATE: TiAL MVR 44mm
BOV: GReddy Type R
FUEL: Walbro in-tank pump, Bosch 044 external pump, Spec 2 surge tank, 850cc Sard injectors, Tomei fuel pressure regulator
IGNITION: Splitfire coils and ignition pack, platinum plugs
EXHAUST: Sinco manifold, Spec 2 custom front pipe, three-inch stainless system, twin four-inch XRacing tips
COOLING: Fenix alloy radiator, oil cooler kit
ECU: A’PEXi Power FC, GReddy boost controller
OTHER: Oil filter relocation kit, Spec 2 oil catch can, Spec 2 radiator overflow
GEARBOX: Factory five-speed
CLUTCH: Competition Clutch four-puck heavy duty
DIFF: Factory LSD
STRUTS: D2 coilovers
OTHER: Rear camber arms, rear traction arms, rear toe arms, strut brace
BRAKES: Factory calipers and rotors
WHEELS: (F) Custom 18x9-inch +5 BC Forged HB29, (R) custom 19x10-inch +5 BC Forged HB29
TYRES: (F) Falken ??? 215/40R18, (R) Falken ??? 235/35R19
PAINT: Four-stage pearl by On Show Kustoms
ENHANCEMENTS: Full SuperMade Gentleman bodykit, aftermarket headlights, aftermarket tail lights
SEATS: Bride Low Max
STEERING WHEEL: Momo Gotham
INSTRUMENTATION: Blitz boost gauge, Kouki volt, oil and boost guages
ICE: JVC KD-R90BT head unit, two Fusion D-class amps, Fusion four-channel amp, two 12-inch JVC Arsenal subs, JVC Arsenal six-inch front speakers, JVC Arsenal 6.5-inch rear speakers, custom boot install by Sound Around
POWER: 322 kilowatts (432hp) at the wheels boost???
Driver/owner: Joel Robinson
Build time: Two years
Length of ownership: Six years
Thanks: Huge thanks to my family: Mum, Dad, sister Emma and nephew Jayden, my partner Erica and kids Jaid and Ricky, Crystal and Andrew at Love It Low, Matt, Jono, Ray, Sheree, Brent, Neib, Nick at Onshow Kustoms, Terry, Stu and Tony at Sound Around, James at 360 Link, Dinh and Ben at Spec 2 Developments, Nick and the team at Platinum Wheels and any of the friends, family or businesses I’ve forgotten — thank you!
Words: Peter Kelly Photos: Adam Croy