With the start of the 2015–’16 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship now only a few days away, new and rebuilt cars are dropping thick and fast. For Bruce Tannock's Rocket Bunny S13 — which is the longest-serving chassis in D1NZ, being the ex–Victor Chapman car from 2006, and then being campaigned by Bruce since 2011 — it was in need of some TLC. But as we all know, once you start you can't stop.  “So the ‘tidy up’ then escalated into pretty much a ground-up rebuild,’ explained Bruce.

The first job on the list was to tube frame the front end. Surprisingly, up until late last year, the car retained nearly 100 per cent of the factory sheet metal. But after clipping the wall at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park it was time to get functional. Adam Richards handled the fabrication, removing the bent sheet metal forward of the strut towers and replacing with a square-tube structure. He also fabricated a strut brace that ties back to the firewall, and fitted the new twin-scroll Fullrace.com stainless turbo manifold, and fabricated the down pipe and new exhaust. 

The engine itself has been a work in progress over the years — the current round of refinements resulting in a package that Bruce and tuner Dave, from D-Tech, are very happy with. The RB30 block has been fitted with a Nitto 3.2-litre stroker kit, ported and polished RB26 head, RB26 cams, GReddy adjustable cam gears, custom-trigger wheel assembly, Petterson dry-sump kit, and JHH Racing harmonic balance. Yip, that's a factory fan shroud housing the factory viscous fan — the team have struggled with keeping the cooling temps under control, and found nothing to be as effective in the space available. The new cooling system also includes an N1 water pump, HPI alloy radiator, Setrab oil cooler, and GReddy 100mm intercooler.  

One of the largest improvements to suit Bruce's drift-specific needs has been the swap to a Borg Warner 83/74 and twin 44mm TiAL wastegates as he explains: 

“From the previous Garrett GTX set-up, the aim was to get more torque and throttle response. It didn't disappoint, making full boost by 2900rpm, it gained 100kW by 3000rpm, and peaked at 835nm at 4300rpm. Dave at D-Tech Motorsport, who has always tuned the car, was very impressed with the turbo, and especially the response and torque it produced. With a peak figure of 530kW at 21psi running an E20 ethanol blend, we  didn't go chasing a big number, as the name of the game for us was the torque and drivability, and retaining as much reliability as possible with the new cooling. We always have the option of throwing more boost at it, and a higher mix of ethanol to chase 600kW-plus at a later date.”

The suspension retains the Tein Super Drift coilovers and Driftworks rear knuckles, as well as the TDP angle kit fitted before round five last season. Adam also fitted a Toyota MR2 electric power-steering pump, and shifted the rack forward 35mm to remove the need for rack spacers. Bruce is still coming to grips with the extra lock that the TDP allows, but the fact that he made his first D1NZ podium the weekend it was bolted in is saying something.

Inside, the cabin didn't escape the makeover either. A new set of carbon-backed Bride Japan Edition FIA seats and Takarta Harnesses ensure it's all up to the current D1NZ rules.

The interior sheet metal and roll cage have been resprayed in a lighter shade of grey to complement the new exterior war paint. Up until now the car was still wearing the Mag and Turbo blue from 2011, albeit hidden under the full wraps from the last few seasons.  

The biggest transformation has been the exterior. After five years of running the V1 Rocket Bunny kit, Bruce has sourced a V2 180SX kit from Japan, with the help of Soichi at ST Hitec. The whole car was stripped, prepped, and a new rear quarter and rear panel from Nissan was fitted, to repair the damage from Drift Shifters, before fitting the kit. 

Deciding on a colour is never an easy task, but the final colour — a dark engineering grey mixed with the Pixelsaurus-designed livery — is spot on if you ask me. 

Team-member Dave was behind the panel and paint work. Looking at the finish you could be forgiven for thinking this is a show car, not a pro-spec competition drift machine. 

Filling the now-50mm-wider guards are two-piece Work Meister S1s with what can only be described as ridiculous dish. 

“I ordered the largest negative offset available, while still retaining a 10.5-inch rim from Work Wheels,” stated Bruce. The fronts being 18x9-inch (0) and the rears 18x10.5-inch (-30). These are wrapped in Achilles 123 235/40 up front and 265/35 on the rear.

“We are pretty sure this is only the second S13 fitted with the Rocket Bunny 2.0 180SX kit in the world, behind their own sponsored car in Japan driven by Takatori,” explained Bruce. 

The new V2 guards are mixed with the V1 bumpers, front and rear — and the duck-tail spoiler. 

After fitting the RB30 block, the team struggled to fit it all under the bonnet, forcing them to space the rear up. The problem was only amplified with the new turbo position, meaning a custom bonnet was a must. The team at Keri-Composites produced this one-off custom piece. 

After the long off-season rebuild there are obviously a few people Bruce wants to thank for helping making it possible: Dave, Hayley, Jayden, JD, Adam, and sponsors Sarah, Bevan, and Chris from Achilles Radial NZ; Harvey and David from Work Wheels; Mark from Mobil 1; Autolink; and Dtech Motorsport.  

Now all that is left to do is to kick it in the guts and fry some Achilles 123s. Something Bruce will be doing by the time you read this. Dare I say it, this year's Demon Energy D1NZ grid is going to be one of the best-looking to date. 

Marcus Gibson

Marcus Gibson has spent his life getting a little grease under his fingernails growing up with a fascination for all things loud, fast, and low. Growing up during the boom of the import scene, the last ten years have seen him work for a few publications, as well as running his own website before taking up a role at NZ Performance Car in 2011. Marcus is as at home with a keyboard or camera in-hand as he is getting dirty in his workshop or at the track, championing that Kiwi DIY attitude.