If we were to ask our readers to name the perfect staple sedan — one that is a born platform for a drift build, or even just an inexpensive cruiser — what answer would you expect? It’s the Cefiros, the Chasers, the Skylines and the Laurels that all fit the brief. André Finney knew this well as a few years he ago secured himself a C33 Laurel, its inherent versatility and affordability making it a very attractive ride. Prior to this, André’s Mazda RX-3 was haemorrhaging cash and had to go.
This is not André’s first foray into the world of the Laurel though. A few years back, he and fianceé Kelly purchased a project C33, which they modified — and turbocharged — as a cruiser. However, that car became Kelly’s, and after it featured in our Daily Driver column (NZ Performance Car Issue No. 216), and André craved his own to modify. The hunt for the perfect staple sedan began.
Car sellers can offer both wonders and horrors in terms of such cars, but André was lucky enough to source the perfect example on Trade Me: a midnight purple C33 Laurel that absolutely fit his brief. The RB26DETT-powered C33 Laurel had been built in Japan then exported and was the right purchase, as André explains. “I bought the car as it was a solid starting base. I wanted to make one of the cleanest street Laurels in New Zealand.”
As André is passionate about Japanese car culture and the stringent standards applied to modification, he wanted it to remain fairly unchanged, but one thing was certain — it needed some flair, and it definitely required a Kiwi-looking stance.
While Kelly’s Laurel packed an RB25DET, André’s recent purchase housed a gnarly RB26 — and they’re worlds apart André told us. “The two motors are completely different. Even on paper, they’re meant to compare to the RB25DET Neo engine, but the boost response and overall power is completely different. Nissan definitely underrated these engines with their gentleman's agreement handshake.”
The benefit of purchasing a recently imported Japanese vehicle is the list of high quality bolt-ons that usually come with the package. Although the RB26 was internally stock, it came with 264-degree HKS cams, a ported and polished head, HKS hard piping kit, HKS air filters, and a GReddy Type R blow- off valve. André soon realized the RB26 was in desperate need of a tune to suit the fuel here in New Zealand, so it was handed over to Soichi Tate at ST Hitec so he could have a play with the A’PEXi Power FC. It was crystal clear the turbos weren’t factory as the RB26 kept screaming for more, and Soichi gave it what it needed — much more. Ending at 18psi, the Laurel was now worthy of a 300kW club sticker after producing a solid 303kW at the wheels. While it isn’t quite clear what turbos the Laurel runs, they appear to be one-off high-flow units — and they sure did make the numbers.
To back up the 300kW RB26, the Laurel has a RB25DET gearbox installed — renowned for being rock solid — an Exedy heavy-duty clutch kit, lightened flywheel, and a Nismo two-way LSD. Street and track ride height is adjustable thanks to a set of Tein coilovers, with camber, toe, and caster arms to correct the alignment. “The first set of wheels I put on the Laurel were Rays Victrix Pleasures, measuring 18x10-inch and 18x11-inch,” André explains. Opting for a more track-orientated appearance, André set out to find a more visually compatible wheel, finally deciding on the Lenso PDF.
“Originally I ordered a full set of 18x11-inch Lensos direct to Mag and Turbo, North Shore. I dummy- fitted the front wheels only to find they were an inch or two outside of the guards. We were thinking of running overfenders, but I decided I wanted to stay with a metal body, so we thought about cutting and flaring the factory guards.” André soon decided the Laurel wasn’t worth dissecting just to fit the 18x11s up front. A quick drive down to the Hamilton branch, and the 11-inch fronts were swapped with 9.5s (+15). To fit the 18x11s down the back, the rear toe arms and camber arms were adjusted, followed by some metal work courtesy of the good old Kiwi angle grinder. Incredibly, even with the 11-inch wide wheel and 245/40R18 Dunlop SP Sports, there’s absolutely no rub — impressive for factory-width guards.
Now complete, the staunch-looking Konnexion-kitted Laurel is used as a daily but also has an exciting social life out at the track or cruising with mates on the weekend. The RB package has proven to be extremely potent and reliable over the two years André has owned it and he’s contemplating what’s next for the Laurel.
Since he is a big supporter of large, high-mounted twin turbos, he tells us that more unfeasibly mental modifications are on the cards. Whatever he does though, it’ll surely be true to the perfect staple sedan he has lovingly maintained and modified.
To keep with the all-Japanese theme André sourced a couple of Bride Cugas to replace the factory couch-like Laurel seats. Once André lowers himself into the Bride seat the A’PEXi mechanical boost gauge keeps him informed, and the 330mm Nardi Classic steering wheel keeps him in total control, whether it be on the track, or the touge.
Team4UP. A team of chilled-out north Auckland guys and girls make up Team4UP, all who have a love for modifying Japanese cars. It looks like they’ve got a decent line up of cars already, so watch this space.
1992 Nissan Laurel (C33)
- Model: Nissan RB26DETT 2600cc six cylinder
- Block: Factory
- Head: HKS 264-degree cams, ported and polished
- Intake: HKS hard piping kit, HKS air filters
- Turbo: Upgraded factory turbos
- BOV: GReddy Type-R
- Fuel: Deatschwerks 255lph fuel pump, 440cc injectors
- Ignition: NGK plugs
- Exhaust: Three-inch turbo-back stainless steel exhaust
- Cooling: Koyo copper tank radiator, ARC oil cooler
- ECU: A’PEXi Power FC with hand controller
- Other: Blitz boost controller
- Gearbox: R33 GTS25T ‘big box’
- Clutch: Exedy heavy duty
- Flywheel: Lightened flywheel
- Diff: Nismo 2-way
- Struts: Tein Super Street adjustable coilovers
- Springs: Tein
- Brakes: (F) R32 four-pot calipers (R) R32 two-pot calipers
- Other: Adjustable camber, toe and caster arms
- Wheels: (F) 18x9.5-inch Lenso PDF (+15), (R) 18x11-inch Lenso PDF (+15)
- Tyres: (F) 225/40R18 Nitto NT05 (R) 245/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport MAXX
- Paints: Custom GT-R midnight purple
- Enhancements: Genuine Final Konnexion body kit, carbon side-splitters
- Other: Japanese rainbow bulbs, Japanese clear indicators
- Seats: Bride Cuga
- Steering Wheel: Nardi classic
- Instrumentation: A’PEXi boost, oil temperature, oil pressure, and water temperature gauges
- Power: 303kW (406hp) at the wheels on 18psi of boost
- Driver/owner: André Finney
- Age: 23
- Location: Auckland
- Build time: 2 years
- Length of ownership: 2 years
- Thanks: Team4UP, Mag and Turbo North Shore, Josh Folima, Rodney Autocentre, Josh Audridge, Danny Lawson
This article was originally published in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 225. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: