From high-speed police chases at the hands of a thief to being slammed against the concrete walls of Meremere, Bryce’s Dragon Ball Z tribute 180SX-fronted S14 has lived one hell of a life
Breaking the mould to build something that screams ‘you’ can be a hard slog, as the scene is increasingly inundated with bigger and better examples. Thankfully, you don’t have to throw mass amounts of cash at the newest, trendy bits and spend half your life doing it — mix up some hard work, a simple idea, and a whole lot of nostalgia, and you could be on to a winning combination.
Like many of us, Bryce was all about street-sifting antics when he originally lived in Wellington. He purchased the S14 as a daily-driver, and no doubt it landed him in regular amounts of mischief. Nonetheless, what he hadn’t expected was the rather rude 5am wake-up call one morning when a joyrider decided he wanted in on such activities, and took off down the street in the Nissan. Awaking to the familiar sound of the diff chirping, Bryce jumped into his flattie’s Evo VIII, and the pair screamed off down the motorway for 40 minutes before the police managed to cut the ofender off in Lower Hutt. The car was recovered and the scum who took it were promptly chucked in the cells, which was the exact point at which Bryce told us things spiralled out of control. “I thought of selling it, [after having had] that feeling you get of someone else invading your car, but I decided, nope, I’m going to do the opposite and actually make a thing out of this,” he said. Cogs really began to turn, and he reminisced about his high-school days when a local example appeared on the scene sporting a carbon-fibre 180SX front in champagne gold.
But before any proper gnarly stuff happened, the car served multiple tours of thrashing at various North Island tracks before having an unfortunate bump and grind session with the concrete barriers at Meremere Dragway. That little encounter set the wheels in motion towards what the car has become.
Bryce told us, “It had to be different. I spoke with Julian from Animal Style in the States, and I always liked the outlandish style on his S14. So I thought I’d try to combine the two and have a super low, super aggressive S14 with a 180SX front.”
“I try to hide the photos of the car from when I first got it, because it was in pristine original condition, but it became a physical classroom for me, and has taught me so much over the years”
With the front, side, and rear still wearing the scars of the car’s latest outing, Bryce pulled the front apart and began measuring up the dimensions using steel 180 guards. This presented the first of a few bumps in the road — the S14 front extended too far to fit the shorter 180 examples. The solution was easy, lop the front off and tube-frame the sucker! Although, as he explained it, that was more of an inevitable than a last resort. From there, the conversion could be completed rather simply, making mounting tabs and support brackets to suit the Origin Labo pieces. One of the few components that required a custom piece was the bonnet, as the 180’s a fair-sight narrower than the S14 — around 15mm either side — but Bryce opted to get around this by running the standard size and offsetting the back, to create the illusion of space, which ended up working pretty well and will avoid the heartache of remaking it on the next meeting with a lead car’s door.
As for the still-punched-in rear quarters, Bryce hopped on the hammer to smooth them out before a set of Origin Labo widebody rear guards was fitted to match the party going on up front.
As the outside neared completion, Bryce began on the oily bits, which he wanted to pack a hefty punch as well. This involved turning the humble SR20DET into a forged-internals screamer. Luckily, a contact in Aussie came up with the goods — 9.0:1 CP pistons (86.5mm), 700hp Manley rods, ACL race bearings, a polished-and-balanced crank, and a Tomei 1.5-millimetre head gasket — at a price that couldn’t be turned down. The bottom end was built with the intention of messing with the heads once he got used to the extra power, courtesy of running a truckload of additional boost through the TD06.
Unfortunately, during the base-mapping stage of the dyno session, the number-four rod decided it was having none of it, and launched straight out the bottom — what caused the failure is still unknown. Understandably gutted, Bryce rid himself of the bad juju from the first engine the following day, offering what was left to Harley at Perry’s Auto Dismantlers in exchange for a non-turbo equivalent. Within a few days, thanks to several good lads and more than a couple of brews, the second engine was promptly turboed and chucked into the bay. “My lesson was an expensive one, but I was able to have the car running again because of the first build, learning how bits go together and giving it a go,” Bryce said. “You can only f*ck up so much, and 99 per cent of things can be fixed, so you might as well learn a bit along the way.”
Ticking yet another job off the list towards greatness, he knew that, before it was ready to come out of hiding, one last piece of the puzzle would be needed to set it alight. Tapping into the nostalgic feels of mid-’90s cartoon goodness, the concept was simple: Goku from Dragon Ball Z firing off a kamehameha down the side of the car. Right about the same time that it was being spitballed, the CL Auto Dream Wrap comp opened up, and Bryce threw his hat into the ring. Being picked to be in the final line-up was a surprise to him. He expected people to think it was silly, but he was paired up with the good sorts at Big Brown Industries, who took the concept straight from his brain and whipped it up into the digital design that damn near broke the internet. Although he didn’t win the comp, Jeremy at Big Brown couldn’t let the idea go, and reached out to Bryce to develop and apply it regardless. He continued to tweak the design, adding a Shenron feature to the bonnet and tying the kamehameha blast to the front conversion to create a seamless shift in body shape, not to mention our favourite feature that was snuck in, and the reason it was shot at night — the reflective nature of the livery that lights the entire car up from a mile away — anyone have a Frieza Saga feeling of déjà vu?
The wide Origin Labo kit is filled out by the 18x9.5-inch Weds Kranze Cerberus wheels up front, and the rather large 18x12-inch Rota GTR-Ds that are tucked under the rear guards
The interior takes things back to the old Japanese touge drifters with a rough-and-ready approach. Perhaps the most meaningful piece is the raggedy old Nardi steering wheel. It may appear in poor condition, and we won’t blame you for looking at it sideways, but it still remains as it was gifted to Bryce by Sakuma-san of Japanese tuning house Agent K — while visiting a handful of local workshops with close friend Sky Zhao, he noticed the worn-out wheel sitting neglected on top of an old oil barrel at Agent K. Sakuma-san asked if he liked Nardis, before explaining that it was used in his first drift car many years prior, and, after further yarns, Sakuma-san said he would like to gift it to Bryce. Humbled, Bryce offered to buy it instead, but the offer was declined — which is why it now sits in pride of place.
Keeping with the OG steez, the vitals are measured through a set of aeronautical-spec GReddy gauges, and the driver must navigate the sparkle gold eight-point to seat their arse into the Racetech seat. The cabin space is practical, nothing more and nothing less — it doesn’t focus on flashy components and 15-layer paint; it’s simply an office space with one job to accomplish — hitting full lock and pumping smoke, which Bryce tells us ain’t no thang after installing the C’s Garage 555 knuckles and extended lower-control arms, with the front chassis rails having been chopped and reinforced to support the chassis-dragging height that the car remains at full-time.
Now that it’s packing the super low, super aggressive style that he was always after, Bryce’s humble S14 is helping to set the bar for what a grassroots drift hack can and should look like. There is no doubt in the world that the kit will get smashed off and the car will earn its fair share of battle scars, but that doesn’t matter, as Bryce is sure to have one hell of a good time, and the car will look fly while doing it. We now also eagerly await the rest of his inner circle completing their matching Dragon Ball Z builds …
Occupation: Mechanic / Drift instructor
Build time: 1.5 years
Length of ownership: Six years
Thanks: Paul and Rod, from Hillside Automotive, for all the hard work and after-hours effort to get the car where it is today; Harley and Isaac, from Perry’s Automotive Dismantlers, for all the advice and hard work to find parts; Jeremy and Kim, from Big Brown Industries, for the passion and dedication they put into designing and installing the livery; a massive thanks to my partner Rosie, for being very, very understanding of the late nights and empty bank accounts; thank you to Kay Boon, Uncle Wani, Riki, Jason, Kyle, Reid, and Sky; cheers to Jaden for giving me the opportunity to put the car in the magazine; CL Auto for running the Dream Wrap competition that ultimately put me in contact with Big Brown; Mike from Lowcost Services for supporting me with his super-low load trailer; and to all the brudas that gave advice and helped me keep my sanity throughout the build
It may be too much for some, but the loud Dragon Ball Z livery is a mish-mash nod to both his childhood love of cartoons and the matching cars of Team Animal Style over in the States
ENGINE: Nissan SR20DE, 2000cc, four-cylinder
HEAD: Tomei 1.2mm head gasket, ARP head studs
INTAKE: Custom intercooler
EXHAUST: Sinco Customs top-mount exhaust manifold, 2.5-inch stainless-steel straight pipe, Hillside Automotive downpipe
TURBO: Scarles TD06 20G
WASTEGATE: Adjustable wastegate actuator
FUEL: DeatschWerks DW300 fuel pump, Sard 870cc fuel injectors
ECU: A’PEXi Power FC
COOLING: V-mount Fenix Performance S15 radiator, electric fans with shroud
EXTRA: Custom birds-nest wiring
GEARBOX: Nissan five-speed
CLUTCH: Exedy five-puck
DIFF: R200 limited-slip (4.3:1-ratio)
STRUTS: BC Gold coilovers; 8kg front springs, 6kg rear springs
BRAKES: (F) R33 GTS25T four-pot calipers, Brembo rotors, TRW pads; (R) standard calipers, Brembo rotors, TRW pads
EXTRA: C’s Garage 555 knuckles and extended lower-control arms, R33 GT-R rear sway bar, adjustable front camber and castor arms, adjustable rear toe and camber arms, eight-point roll cage by Luke Mayes and Sky Zhao
WHEELS: (F) 18x9.5-inch Weds Kranze Cerberus, (R) 18x12-inch Rota GTR-D
TYRES: (F) 215/35R18 Jinu, (R) 265/35R18 Hero
PAINT: Factory red, Dragon Ball Z (Goku) reflective livery designed and applied by Big Brown Industries
ENHANCEMENTS: Origin Labo Racing Line 180SX front bumper, Origin Labo 55mm 180SX front fenders, Origin Labo rear widebody guards, Origin Labo Style Line side skirts, Origin Labo Style Line rear bumper
EXTRA: Tube-frame front, mini-tubbed rear
STEERING WHEEL: Nardi
INSTRUMENTATION: GReddy oil-, water-, and exhaust-temperature gauges
EXTRA: Dildo shifter, custom switch panel
FUEL TYPE: Gull 98
TUNER: Wayne from Protune