Whether you’re a fan of the humble Nissan Navara or not, you’ve got to love what Zac Wilkinson’s created from his

There must be something in the water in rural South Auckland, as there seem to be more turbocharged LS1-powered vehicles there than anywhere else in the country. Fitter-welder Zac Wilkinson is the latest to be affected by the turbo LS1 bug, and it looks like he may have it worse than the rest of the locals.

Rather than having the set-up in a Commodore, Zac’s new engine combination is in a 1986 Nissan Navara ute, which he’s owned and played with for a couple of years now. When first purchased, the car was running a 308 with single turbo on a blow-through carb set-up. That ran well for a while and Zac refined the combination to get it making the power he expected.
The car had its first public outing at Powercruise in 2010 and surprised and impressed everyone with its performance. Everyone apart from Zac that was, he still craved more power.
The plan was to ditch the blow-through carb set-up and go with EFI instead, but before that could happen, the engine decided to spit its rods through the block, leaving an expensive and oily mess. While somewhat disappointed, this did give him the perfect opportunity not only to step up to EFI, but to an LS1, and a second turbo also.

The local lads, who have influenced him along the way, have a couple of 10-second–capable single-turbo LS1-powered Commodores, so were more than willing to give a hand along the way, or as Zac mentions, “Come and drink my beer while watching”.

A suitable donor engine was sourced from a VX SS Commodore and Mark Tunzelmann helped Zac fit it with Eagle H-beam rods, while Ross forged pistons and a bunch of ARP fasteners. 
With a goal of 1000hp, but wanting the combo to last longer than the previous set-up, ACL Race Series bearings were fitted, as was a double-row timing chain, billet under-driven front pulley and high-flow oil pump.

The heads were left stock in terms of valves and porting, but received a set of Harland Sharp roller rockers, Patriot Gold Series double valve springs, and Yella Terra push rods. A Comp Cams Siamese cam has been fitted and the stock LS1 coil packs look after the ignition side of things. 

As good as those components may be, it’s the twin Master Power T64 turbos that really make the power. Zac stitched up the steam-pipe manifolds himself and says, “The hardest part of the conversion was trying to figure out what the angriest-looking place was to mount the turbos, which, after a long discussion with a handful of half-pissed mates, was to go out the bonnet.” Sounds like a decent enough reason to us.

A pair of Tial external wastegates look after the boost pressure, which is sent through the massive front-mount intercooler before hitting the standard throttle body and intake manifold. 

To keep up with the combo’s thirst for fuel, a pair of Bosch 044 pumps and a Holley Blue lift pump have joined the fuel cell and two-litre surge tank, which were already fitted to the tray. An SX regulator and billet fuel rails with eight 80lb injectors take care of fuelling the fire. 
Luckily for Zac’s wallet the Turbo 400 transmission he’d previously had Chuck Mann fit with a full manual valve body, shift kit and 4000rpm stall converter could bolt straight to the new motor. From here power is sent through a custom two-piece driveshaft to a shortened nine-inch diff with 28 spline axles.

While the firewall was knocked back in the car when he purchased it, the tubbing of the rear end was all Zac’s own work. The previous owner had already fitted the later model D22 tray, which Zac soon chopped holes in to fit the 15x12-inch Weld Prostar wheels and 28x13.5 Mickey Thompson tyres.

The diff is mounted with a 4-link that uses D2 adjustable coilovers, while the stock torsion bars are still in place up front along with Monroe shocks, and, as you would hope, the brakes have been upgraded too.

The new combo was only started up for the first time just days before our photo shoot, and believe us when we say it will be a weapon once it’s tuned. The aim was for around 1000 flywheel horsepower, or anywhere over 700hp at the treads, and it looks like those figures are probably realistic. Keep your eyes open for it at events like Powercruise, where Zac will no doubt be frying the tyres all weekend long. Once he fits a roll cage to it, it may very well also become the fastest LS1-powered vehicle in the country down the quarter mile. 

I bet back when the ute rolled off the production line in 1986, no one ever expected that to happen. Pretty cool what a group of country boys can do in a shed in the back blocks of nowhere huh? 

1996 Nissan Navara

  • Engine: LS1, Eagle H-beam conrods, Ross forged pistons, ARP main studs and head studs, ACL Race Series bearings, billet double-row timing chain, billet under-driven front pulley, high-flow oil pump, standard crank, Comp Cams Siamese cam, Harland Sharp roller rockers, Patriot Gold Series double valve springs, Yella Terra push rods, stock heads, stock intake manifold, 2x Master Power T64 turbos, custom steam pipe manifolds, Jazz fuel cell, 2-litre surge tank, 2x Bosch 044 pumps, Holley Blue lift pump, SX fuel regulator, 8x 80lb injectors, billet fuel rails, standard LS1 ignition, 8mm leads, twin 3-inch mild steel drop pipes, twin Tial external wastegates, aluminium radiator, 16-inch electric slim line fan
  • Driveline: Turbo 400 transmission, full manual valve body, shift kitted, 4000rpm stall converter, Hughs flex plate, shortened 9-inch diff, 28 spline axles, custom 2-piece driveshaft
  • Suspension: Stock torsion bars, custom 4-link, Monroe front shocks, D2 coilover rear shocks, Nolathane bushes
  • Brakes: (f)Nissan 4-pot callipers, Toyota hubs and discs, (r) Ford drums
  • Wheels/Tyres: 15x4 and 15x12-inch Weld Prostar rims, 26x7.5 and 28x13.5 Mickey Thompson tyres 
  • Exterior: Nissan Terrano front guards, late model tray, flared rear guards
  • Chassis: Custom rear section, narrowed and notched
  • Interior: Racepro seats, B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges
  • Performance: Approx 700hp at the wheels

Todd Wylie

Todd Wylie has been involved with NZV8 magazine since before the first issue was printed, and has been the editor for the last eight years. Growing up in the heyday of the Jap-import scene, he's not adverse to Japanese vehicles, having worked for NZ Performance Car previously, as well as owning a few well-known examples. These days he cruises at a slower pace in a 1956 Cadillac Coupe and dreams of building a Model A tudor.