A car build never takes a linear path, and, as Dan Walsh found out with his once daily-driven C35, it can get out of hand real damn quick — but it’s almost always better off for it
For a fresh-faced teenager with a strong passion for all things automotive, the idea of spinning spanners and gripping a welding gun for a living probably sounds like the perfect way to fill your pockets with a few bucks — and, depending on who you ask, it is. But it usually comes with a catch or two that’ll have unforeseen side effects on your own build, and anyone in the industry will tell you that you’ll either wash the crud off your permanently stained hands and head home at the end of the day, only to avoid the garage at all costs because you can’t possibly face the idea of looking at the half-finished project you aren’t getting paid to work on, or you’ll drop the roller door at work bang on 4.31pm after the boss has buggered off for the day, and pedal the crap out of your bike all the way to your front door before burning the candle well into the early hours of the morning.
While some of us may know scenario A better than scenario B, it was years of pouring labour into other people’s cars that led Dan Walsh to undertaking, and seeing through, his own build. “I guess from working on other people’s cars for a living — like being in the background of building Darren [Kelly]’s R35 and working for DKM [Fabrication] for a number of years — you get so used to working with these high-quality parts, doing cages for customers, etc., and you sort of think to yourself, oh man, that would be a really cool part for my car, or I want to do that, too.”
“I’ve never really had the time to step back to reflect on what I’m doing, because I’m always working on it. Thankfully, it’s all come together how I’m happy with it, even if I never intended to come this far,” Dan says with a laugh
Those ideas were originally channelled towards his long-term build — a tube-frame-chassis R32 Skyline, which had long sat dormant. But focus slowly shifted after Dan scored himself a C35 Laurel, under the guise of using it as a simple runabout with the intention of making a few basic tweaks — who hasn’t told themselves that fabled white lie at one point or another?
Originally, under the bonnet lived a humble RB20DE heart mated to a less-than-thrilling four-speed auto. As time went on, the combo proved to be not so stout, and thoughts of converting it to a turbo power house flooded Dan’s every waking moment. Which probably explains why a lazy conversation with a few of the team at D1NZ headquarters saw him 100-per-cent convinced that an RB25DET should take over under-bonnet duties.
But sinking a standard 2.5-litre into the bay and calling it a day was never going to happen, especially for someone who daily handles cash-money parts that some of us can only dream of owning. Tim from TTT Auto Engineering convinced Dan that his best bang-for-buck would be to upgrade the turbo for a Garrett TA3410, and one of these now sits pride of place atop an exhaust manifold of Dan’s own creation — dubbed “noodle-spec” by Tim. Of course, this didn’t spell the end of sinking dollars and hours into the C35, and, as Dan puts it, “It became a cycle of, oh, I’ll just do this, then this, and this, blah blah, as it goes.” It now packs a front-facing plenum and VH45 throttle body combo on the intake side, while fuel is administered via Subaru STi 550cc injectors, and Yellow Jacket COP coils keep things lit. A Link G4+ Plug N Play now takes care of the madness to produce a healthy 343kW on 17.8psi.
The logical choice to back that kind of output would be an RB25DET ‘big box’, but at a steep $2500, or more in most cases, with no guarantee given that the one you’re looking at hasn’t been outright abused for 90 per cent of its life, Dan was reluctant to invest that. Instead, he picked up a cheap GT-R box and converted it to rear-wheel drive with an Exedy single-plate five-puck clutch and billet chromoly flywheel combo. A custom ADL single-piece GT-R driveshaft was also made to deliver drive down to the R33 viscous 4.11-ratio limited-slip differential (LSD) to make for a bulletproof package.
However things didn’t really get serious until an unfortunate encounter during a Monday-afternoon drive home. A car pulled a U-turn straight in front of Dan and mangled the front end of the C35. With the front goners and a tune already booked in, which Dan had endured a three-month wait for before the rogue U-turner struck, it was a make-or-break moment.
Instead of banishing it to the garage space next to his R32 and leaving it to rot, he got stuck in tube framing the front end and piecing it back together with fibreglass panels so that it could be rolled into GDS Automotive for Glenn to work his magic. And while Dan was busy bending pipe, with strict criteria to keep it all street legal, it only made sense to add an eight-point roll cage and delete the front airbags to get around frontal-impact laws.
When you change one thing, like a pedal box, it’s not just ‘slap it in and go’ — no, you have to make everything around it work too, and that can cause things to snowball out of control pretty quickly ...
How Dan recreated the nose was with a pair of BN Sports–style guards, a Street Element front bumper, and Origin Labo carbon canards, with BN Sports–style side skirts, Luxury Sports four-door over-fenders, and a URAS rear bumper. Those with a decent memory may even recall spotting this combo at the 2017 V 4&Rotary Nationals, albeit clad in a faux-rust wrap that stirred up a few choice comments from punters: “It wasn’t anywhere ready for nats — no motor or box fitted, nothing … you kind of set a date to have it done to push yourself, and I tend not to do stuff until the last week,” Dan says. “The car was multicoloured with different panels and that, so I said to my mate Scotty from Riot Signs ‘Let’s wrap it’, and he replied, ‘I’m not going to do it a plain colour’. We spitballed ideas and we decided to make it look like a rusty piece of shit just to annoy people for a laugh, but people actually liked it, and I thought, fu*k, you aren’t meant to like it!”
That wrap was never meant to stay though, and after the mechanicals were fitted more permanently, with a couple of extra trick pieces added for good measure — like the Nameless Performance hydraulic handbrake and Tilton floor-mount pedal box — it was over a few beers with mates that Dan sorted out the paintwork. “Aesthetically, it had the right stance — wheels, kit, nice and wide, but it was fu*king ugly with that wrap, man,” Dan recalls. “I joked, ‘You want to paint my car, bro? Let’s get it done before Chrome’, and he just said, ‘Yeah, sweet, bring it in’. I wanted to go red, but Eddie Hayman checked me and said ‘Red is the colour scheme of the year; why not go blue?’. I told my mate blue it is, and left him to it. The Xirallic colour is pretty awesome — that was until the price of the colour came in …” he says, laughing.
“It’s not a show car by any means … but I reckon it looks good for what it’s going to be used for” — which is a serious amount of seat time, on and off the track. “The car isn’t really a competitive platform, so I just want to hit the grass-roots drift days. But most important to me was keeping it road legal, to be able to go anywhere driving it and not let it sit in the garage wasting away after all that work,” Dan says. And we’re pleased that he did, as it would be a shame to have that much blood and sweat go into a car that doesn’t patrol Kiwi roads, and because he’s set the bar for what a bit of hard work can create.
Braking power comes by way of R32 GT-R four-pot and two-pot calipers with Endless pads, while a Tilton floor-mount pedal box is now found in the footwell to take over duties for the ‘oh shit’ pedal
Location: Tat norf
Occupation: Race-car fabricator
Build time: 1.5 years
Length of ownership: Two years
Thanks: Cliff Jones, for the epic paintwork; Dave, for showing up out of nowhere to spend a weekend sanding the car; Matt, for the full use of the shop at Custom Paint and Restorations in Silverdale; Tim from TTT Auto Engineering, for teaching me everything I know; Phil and Katie at Key West Bolt and Supply; Phill Mason; David Chung; Darren Mudford; Fraser; and Dylan ‘Dildo’; the biggest thank you to my amazing girlfriend Amy, and a thank you to everyone who I’ve missed
1995 Nissan Laurel (C35)
ENGINE: Nissan RB25DET, 2498cc, six-cylinder
INTAKE: Luxury Sports front-facing plenum, VH45 throttle body, custom intercooler piping, Fenix intercooler, pod filter
EXHAUST: Mild-steel 2.5-inch system, MagnaFlow muffler,
TURBO: Garrett TA3410, “noodle-spec” manifold
WASTEGATE: Turbosmart 50mm
FUEL: Subaru STi 550cc injectors, Walbro 500hp pump
IGNITION: Yellow Jacket COPs
ECU: Link G4+ Plug N Play
COOLING: Fenix R32 radiator, Davies Craig 16-inch fan
EXTRA: Link ECU-controlled boost controller, wiring-harness relocation, de-loomed engine bay
GEARBOX: Nissan BNR32 five-speed converted to rear-wheel drive
CLUTCH: Exedy five-puck
FLYWHEEL: Exedy billet chromoly
DIFF: Nissan R33 viscous LSD (4.11)
STRUTS: BC Gold coilovers (Nissan S15)
BRAKES: (F) R32 GT-R four-pot calipers, Endless pads; (R) R32 GT-R two-pot calipers, Endless pads, Nameless Performance hydraulic handbrake, Tilton floor-mount pedal box
EXTRA: GKTech and Hardrace control arms, eight-point roll cage, GKTech solid diff and subframe mounts, sway bars uninstalled, tube front radiator support and crash bar
WHEELS: (Street) (F) 18x9.5-inch (-15) Work Meister S1 3P, (R) 18x11-inch (-20) Work Meister S1 3P; (track) 18x10.5-inch (-30) Work Meister S1R
TYRES: “Nothing worth mentioning”
PAINT: DeBeer Xirallic Fiji Blue, sprayed by Cliff Jones
ENHANCEMENTS: BN Sports–style side skirts and guards, Street Element front bumper, Luxury Sports four-door over-fenders, URAS rear bumper, carbon-fibre N1 GT-R boot lip, Origin Labo carbon canards
SEATS: OMP WRC-R, Sabelt six-point harness
STEERING WHEEL: Sparco
INSTRUMENTATION: Haltech IQ3 street dash
EXTRA: Long shifter, Mr Gasket shift knob
TUNER: Glenn at GDS Automotive
FUEL: 98 octane
This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No. 250 — you can get your grubby mitts on a copy by clicking the cover below