The 2016 drag season began at Meremere last year with the Spring Nationals. Among the import cars in attendance was a little yellow Lancer, kicking off its 12th season on the fly. Jason Horn and his 1988 GSR Lancer have not missed a season since the early 2000s, back when the car was 4WD and dominating the Night Speed Drag Wars. As for most, those were the events that began it all for Jason and his little yellow Mitsi, which proved extremely competitive. The factory 4WD configuration was pushed to its absolute limits with a 9.54 at 232kph, which is a New Zealand record for the quickest factory-gearbox 4WD. Soon, an unquenchable thirst for quicker times took hold, street driving became a thing of the past, and he set a goal of running into the eights.
In 2011, the decision was made to swing the engine around in the ‘wrong’ direction and bolt a much stronger Turbo 350 trans onto the back. A tubular front cross member was put together, and the factory rear four-link set-up was retained with the addition of a ‘Japanese nine-inch’ — a Toyota Hilux diff with a billet full-spool; suspension-wise, it ran some basic King springs and KYBs from its street-driven days. But the motor package was anything but street, feeding in excess of 600kW to the 26.5-inch slicks.
Jason’s rear-wheel-drive (RWD) career had a bit of a rocky start when he put it into the wall at the 2012 nats, after only five runs, but the purely cosmetic damage was quickly sorted, and Jason was soon back on track. that eight-second goal was soon realized and worked down to the current PB of an 8.62 at 262kph, with a best 60-foot of 1.45, achieved over the next few seasons.
The Hilux diff runs a billet full-spool and Mark Williams axles. The housing has been braced and features a multitude of pick-up points for both the four-link and shocks, to ensure that there is plenty of room for adjustment
However, the suspension was limiting not only the performance of the car but the safety, too. “The more power we would dial in, the more unsafe it [would become] … it was basically like an out-of-control roller coaster,” Jason says. So, during the off season, the old internet was fired up and a bunch of parts was ordered from the US to build a proper adjustable four-link using double-adjustable Strange alloy shocks. Scott at Belair Mitsi Auto Wreckers then took charge fitting the new rear end. The plan had been to swap the front out to spindle-mount Strange stuff as well, but that will now have to wait until the next off season, as time just wasn’t on their side. Scott poured over 200 hours into fabrication on the rear, including mini-tubbing the back guards to accept 28x9-inch Mickey Ts, which are mounted on Max billet three-piece wheels.
With all the newfound grip, a few additional ponies needed to be put through the 4G63. Dick from Hytech Engines put together a plan. The current set-up with 45psi was pretty much maxing out the sealing ability of the steel head gasket, and, after looking around at what some of the world’s fastest were doing, the idea to use compression rings in the block and a copper head gasket was decided on, as it would allow boost pressures well in excess of 60psi. Dick started with a fresh 4G63 block, which was then machined to accept the rings, before stuffing it full of billet and forged hardware from the likes of Manley, Wiseco, and Eagle. The head from the old package, which Dick had ported and built a custom drivetrain for, was retained.
Backing the new four-banger this season is the same “dirty old Turbo 350” that Jason built back in 2012. “It’s taken a punishment. It’s basically a stock trans, which I manualized. Yeah, it has a few secrets in it, but it has a stock input shaft, stock gear train, and Auto Trans race convertor. It’s pretty billy-basic, really.”
One key to having the trans last so long has been the ice-box cooler system. Before each run, it’s filled with ice, and, after only one run, Jason tells us you could make a cup of tea with the water. That’s just one of the cool little engineering tricks you’ll find on the car. But that’s what happens after 12 seasons of development by Jason and his mates, not just a chequebook: this car was built with a few beers and help from some very good people.
Every season, Jason says he will take one off, but that 400-metre strip of black tarmac at Meremere just keeps calling him back, and we suspect that a season off is a long way away yet. Well, at least not until his new goal of joining the seven-second club is realized.
The 120-horsepower shot of Nitrous is used to get the Turbonetics 67-67 spooling on the line
With only one test day under his belt at the time of going to print, the new set-up is proving very promising. Frank Wigg has set up the rear end, and Jason describes it as so easy to drive that even the Ed. could do it (we won’t hold him to that). “It’s so easy to drive [that] it’s a completely different car to drive. Unless we bang a heap more power in, it’s going to be a bit boring to drive,” Jason says — something he assures us will happen this season.
Driver/owner: Jason Horn
Location: Takanini, Auckland
Occupation: Self-employed at GRP
Build time: 12 years ongoing
Length of ownership: 12 years
Thanks: Dick at Hytech Engines; Daniel at Turbo 777; Scott at Belair Mitsi Auto Wreckers; Adam, Frank, and all the Wigg Motorsport crew; Total Oils; Mighty Mufflers; my wife Jaime; Big Carl; Bob; Nugget
ENGINE: Mitsubishi 4G63, 2000cc, four-cylinder
BLOCK: Hytech Engines–built, Eagle billet crank, Manley forged pistons, forged Wiseco pistons, custom girdle for main bearing caps, main balance shaft deleted, hard-filled water galleries
HEAD: Hytech Engines ported head, Kelford 280-degree high-lift cams, stainless oversize valves, beehive valve springs, head studs, Tomei adjustable cam gears
INTAKE: Custom plenum, billet throttle body, water-to-air cooler
EXHAUST: Four-inch stainless dump pipe
TURBO: Billet Turbonetics 67-67
WASTEGATE: Turbosmart Hypergate 45
FUEL: Injector Dynamics ID2000 injectors, dual Bosch 044 pumps
IGNITION: Spark Tech Pro Drag capacitor-discharge, Spark Tech coil-on-plug
ECU: Link G4+ Storm
COOLING: Alloy half-size radiator, Davies Craig electric water pump (EWP), Davies Craig EWP controller, 305mm (12-inch) electric fan, AN fittings
GEARBOX: GRP-modified TH350, Hurst ratchet shifter, Auto Trans 7200rpm race convertor, ATI Performance Products trans brake, ice-box trans cooler
FLYWHEEL: Custom flexplate
DIFF: Modified Toyota Hilux housing, 3.9-ratio, billet full-spool, Mark Williams axles
STRUTS: (F) KYB shocks, (R) Strange alloy double-adjustable coilovers
BRAKES: Simpson parachute, (F) Legnum calipers and rotors, (R) Legnum calipers and rotors
EXTRA: Jegs four-link kit, chromoly rose joints throughout, McDonald Bros sprung wheelie bars
WHEELS: Max Racing three-piece, (F) 15x5-inch Performance Challenger, (R) 15x9-inch three-piece billet drag
TYRES: (F) 24x4.5-inch Mickey Thompson ET Drag, (R) 28x9-inch Mickey Thompson ET Drag
SEATS: Kirkey alloy
STEERING WHEEL: Momo
INSTRUMENTATION: Auto Meter tacho, oil-pressure, water-temp, Innovate air/fuel–ratio gauge
EXTRA: Funny car–style roll cage
PAINT: Custom yellow
ENHANCEMENTS: Drag wing, Lexan windows all round, headlight intake
Power: Not been on the dyno