The staff at the NZ Performance Car office aren’t sure which is more iconic — the GT-R badge on the rear, the Bayside Blue paintwork, the instantly recognizable number plate [OCONOR], or the combination of all three. After all, would any of these characteristics be as iconic without the others?
The R34 GT-R cemented itself into the hall of import icons long before the Fast and Furious franchise rolled onto the big screen, but several appearances throughout the movie franchise — all of which included the recently passed Paul Walker, with the GT-R dominating whichever street race he found himself involved in — rocketed it to the top of the list. A cult classic and hero, the R34 will always be iconic, but paint it Bayside Blue and throw an ‘OCONOR’ plate at it, and you’ve got a Skyline which almost every car enthusiast in New Zealand knows about.
The Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R wasn’t where it all began for Kavish Latchman. Growing up modifying early-model Galant VR4s when he was at school gave him a passion for all-wheel drives with big power. Fast forward a few years and Kavish still owns a Galant VR4, with a 2.4-litre stroker kit and big turbo set-up. Progressing to more-modern technology was almost a certainty in the hunt for the ultimate all-wheel drive, and a V-Spec R33 GT-R parked in the driveway next to the VR4. For family duties he owns a Dodge SRT SUV, with a 6.4-litre Hemi pushing out 343kW. Each car has its purpose — the VR4 has the nostalgia factor locked down, and the R33 GT-R is immaculate and completely factory, beside a nice set of wheels. To build a monster of a road car, however, Kavish knew there would be no better platform than the R34.
Much like Brian O’Connor’s very first R34 in the prelude to the second movie, Kavish Latchman’s 2000 Skyline R34 GT-R certainly didn’t start out as it appears now. In fact it was so vastly different, you’d struggle to identify it as the same vehicle. Try factory red paint, with ‘Hellboy’ airbrushing covering most of each door and the bonnet. Thankfully Kavish saw this as an opportunity, as he told us. “When I bought it, the paint was no good. It had all sorts of airbrushing done to it, which wasn’t to my taste. Thankfully I had a friend who is a talented car painter.” Kavish had an image in mind for the GT-R, and there was no red or movie-character airbrushing in sight. What was envisioned, though, was a Bayside Blue hue, with custom three-piece Work Meister wheels — a clean street appearance that would demand respect.
Before the body was complete, Kavish knew that the Work Wheels he was after would have to come direct from Work in Japan. A set of custom three-piece 18x10-inch Work Meisters were ordered, made, and delivered within a three-month window: yes, overnight parts from Japan are a myth, at least in New Zealand. The new wheels were bolted up to the impressive golden-Brembo-wearing hubs, after being shod in ginormous 275/35R18 Nitto Invo tyres which should provide more than adequate street- and drag-racing traction. With the Meisters now bolted up, and the Nittos clawing their way around Auckland’s various enthusiast-attracting roads, Kavish was more than ready to begin the body restoration.
This wasn’t to be a simple closed-door respray, no, it’d be the full monty. The entire shell was stripped, along with the RB26DETT engine and associated auxiliary items. Renald, a good friend of Kavish’s, happens to be extremely handy behind the trigger of a paint gun, so was nominated to take care of the full-body respray — a task which Kavish would only hand to a trusted professional. The paint job that resulted would have you thinking Kavish had purchased a Bayside Blue model off the showroom floor — in fact, it’s better than the factory could ever have achieved.
Now Kavish had a car that looked like his ultimate Skyline R34 GT-R, but it wasn’t up there mechanically — and this R34 GT-R is now much more than a pretty face and a P-plate.
The initial 270kW (362hp) at the wheels would seem impressive in another performance import, and it’s by no means a power figure to laugh at. But it was just the first stepping stone for Kavish, as in no time at all he’d replaced the factory turbos with larger HKS units, and the internals were swapped completely for forged items with Nitto components.
Once E85 ethanol was added, power levels soon grew — astronomically. Using a low boost setting of 380kW (510hp) at the wheels and a high boost setting that hit 480kW (643hp), it was no slouch.
Kavish had his first crack at drag racing at the 2015 V 4&Rotary Nationals using the lower, 380kW setting, and logged a best time of 11.7 seconds. This set-up was brutal and responsive: it chewed diffs and gearboxes, and eventually the turbo seals gave up the ghost. Instead of rebuilding the costly, bulky, heat-producing twin turbos, a plan was hatched with John at NS-spec Motorsport to switch over to a much beefier E85 set-up, and make use of a large-frame single Holset HX50 twin-scroll turbo. Kavish still wanted response, as the GT-R will always be a street car, so the combination of ethanol and the twin-scroll turbo should ensure it performs in a similar fashion to the twins, while making even more power — technology, right?
The GT-R was strapped to the dyno a day before the NZ Performance Car photo shoot, with power capped at a mighty 520kW (697hp) at the wheels, as the HKS triple-plate clutch was on its last legs. With a new clutch and some more boost, closer to 600kW at the wheels will be possible, along with easy 10-second passes — until he’s kicked off the drag strip, that is.
Kavish is a family man, and this iconic street GT-R will be passed down to his pre-school-aged son, Kaydyn, when the time is right — no doubt he’ll carry on this iconic legacy.
This GT-R has been built with ultimate streetability in mind. You won’t find any aftermarket gauges, crazy gear knobs, or sticker-bombing — the cabin appears as factory: the aftermarket Bride seats were even removed in favour of the factory items. Kavish has proved that with a few key touches, a bulletproof motor package and an eye for detail, you don’t need an all-round-modified performance car to find yourself on the cover of NZ Performance Car.
2000 Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)
- Model: RB26DETT, 2600cc, six-cylinder
- Block: JE forged pistons, Eagle rods, Nitto oil pump, ACL race bearings. ARP main studs
- Head: Ported and polished by Hytech Engines, bronze valve guides, Kelford 272-degree cams, Kelford valve springs, titanium retainer kit, Nitto head gasket
- Intake: Four-inch intake pipe, K&N air filter
- Turbo: Holset HX50, custom twin-scroll manifold
- Wastegate: TiAL 46mm
- BOV: HKS
- Fuel: Twin Walbro in-tank fuel pumps, Teflon braided lines, Fuelab fuel filter, Tomei fuel pressure regulator, 2000cc Bosch fuel injectors
- Ignition: Splitfire coil packs
- Exhaust: Custom three-inch HKS exhaust system
- Cooling: Custom intercooler piping, aluminium radiator, electric fan
- ECU: Link G4+ plug and play
- Other: Link G4 dual boost controller, custom oil catch-can with braided lines, custom-modified coil pack cover, Nitto clear cam-gear cover
- Gearbox: Factory Getrag six-speed manual
- Clutch: HKS triple-plate
- Flywheel: Factory
- Diff: NS Spec custom front and rear diffs
- Struts: D2 coilovers
- Brakes: Factory Brembo calipers, slotted rotors
- Wheels: 18x10-inch (+18) Work Meister SP3
- Tyres: 275/35ZR18 Nitto Invo
- Paint: Resprayed in Bayside Blue by Renald, Gtechniq paint protection by The Gloss Master
- Enhancements: LED tail lights, tinted windows
- Seats: Factory
- Steering wheel: Factory
- Instrumentation: Factory
- Other: Launch-control button, Sony head unit, Soundstream components
- Power: 520kW (627hp) at the wheels on E85
- 0-400m: 11.7-seconds at 125mph/201kph (at 380kW)
- Driver/owner: Kavish Latchman
- Age: 26
- Location: Auckland
- Build time: One year
- Length of ownership: 2.5 years
- Thanks: My dad Kamal, my wife Sonam and my son Kaydyn, my brothers Riyaaz (BADZLR) and Ifraaz (RR8T3D), the guys at NS Spec Motorsport John and Popzla, Renald for painting the car, NZFC family
This article was originally published in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 229. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: