Prolific modifier Vick Bhatti is back with his sweetest project yet — a bagged and wide-bodied 512kW GT-R, and don’t for a second think he will stop at the status quo!
Few in the game have been doing it as long as XRacing’s Vick Bhatti, a man we would describe as a lifer in the performance car scene. Vick’s the type of guy you’ll probably never catch driving anything standard, and the type of guy not afraid to venture well outside the square. In fact, he’s likely to smash down the walls of said square, then set them ablaze. As we have come to know, that’s just Vick, and he’s been this way stretching right back to his very first modified car. Whenever we catch wind that he’s building a new vehicle, before we’ve even talked to him, we know it will be thought-provoking; it will be a standout; and, best of all, it will be done in no time at all. Obviously, this is not a reputation he picked up last year; it’s been his formula since he started modifying cars, some 12-odd years ago.
Vick’s latest creation is no different, but, to understand how he got to cutting up an R35 GT-R, we first need to take a stroll down memory lane to the bright neons of the Auto Salon era — the era that spawned the man many know as ‘CONVIK’. The young Vick got his start in the scene by modifying his sister’s ’92 Honda Civic, as he recalls: “It was around the 2001/2002 Auto Salon. I was pretty much the first person to get chrome wheels in New Zealand. I can’t remember the exact model, but they were CSAs, and I paid, like, $6K for them. That may seem idiotic now, but that’s how it was back then. That car was the first one we did the interior and body kit on, all in my garage at home.”
From there, Vick moved through a quick succession of Silvias and Skylines, including one wild and much talked-about bozo S14, before his first NZPC feature car, his steel wide-body R34, on what used to be considered giant-spec Work wheels. This was also the first big build of Vick’s on which Grant from GT Refinishers was charged with the custom bodywork. It’s a relationship that continues today, and, if Vick’s driving it, you can be assured that GT Refinishers’ handiwork isn’t too far from sight. In an age of hard and fast bodykit installs, these two went in the opposite direction and built a succession of steel-fendered projects, his wide-bodied 350Z, bippu-style LS400, and candy-dipped R35-fronted G35, all of which wore those CONVIK plates.
But these aren’t the only cars to have passed through his hands. A long list of mild customs also kept Vick occupied, including his police-themed Maserati. One thing you will rarely catch him doing, though, is enjoying the fruits of his labour, as, generally, each build is parted out or sold as soon as it’s completed. “I pretty much do a car every year or so — that’s what my aim has been. It’s not that I get bored with them; I just like building cars — that’s what I like doing. I’m always try ing to do something that people here are still scared of doing. I’ve always done stuff that I find cool; it’s never been that issue of, ‘Oh what if it doesn’t look good’ — we will just do it,” he says.
The base for the custom airbrushing is a white pearl vinyl, which was airbrushed at GT, and the theme was later pushed even further with stencilling. Should — no, scratch that — when Vick decides to change it up, the entire theme is just one pull of the vinyl away from removal
When ideas for a new build began flying around, it had been over a year since the G35 had first rolled out. Some of the ideas never reached the impromptu planning sessions on GT’s driveway, while others got as far as parts starting to roll in the door — but none of them stuck. That was until one finally did: the concept of building New Zealand’s first Liberty Walk R35.
“I had seen so many online in Japan and the States … I loved how the kit looked and [had] always wanted to do one, but, at the same time, I wanted it to be different, and I’m pretty sure I got there,” Vick reflects. A timeline was set and the parts put on order, but Vick being Vick, he couldn’t wait five minutes before modifying the R35 in some shape or form. “It came with aftermarket wheels, but they were black so didn’t really stand out enough,” he says. “I found some 2012 GT-R wheels, which Grant coated in candy green teal along with colour coding the vents and wing plates for the Liberty Walk rear wing.” The car also received the base for its current look: the white pearl vinyl wrap.
This guise tide him over until three weeks before the V 4&Rotary Nationals, when the car was dropped into GT Refinishers ready to undergo its transformation. As with all of his previous builds, the key would be a rather large set of wheels, Vick-specced, even though they were an inch wider than LB Performance itself dared to run: “Although he [Grant] kept telling me [to] get the wheels to fit the kit … deep down he knew I wasn’t going to.” What arrived was a set of massive 20x11.5-inch (-30) and 20x12.5-inch (-80) concave and dished monsters from Ammo Wheels. They meant that the kit would need to be chopped and widened around an inch to suit, and the car would require other custom parts, such as new inner guards, to allow the oversized alloys to tuck deep when the body would hit the floor — something it does on a regular basis.
Thankfully, the air install was a little more straightforward. GT ordered a full GT-R AccuAir kit complete with air-spring coilovers, which are damper and seat-height adjustable. Messing with a modern supercar like a GT-R is something that takes a little bit of care and concern, and, by all accounts, mounting all the parts for the AccuAir kit took some head scratching but allowed the guys to explore the air-force theme with a custom boot install.
It’s a theme that Vick’s always dreamed of but never thought he had the car to pull it off on — until now. “The air-force idea has been with me from when I was a little kid in Pakistan, where we attended an air-force college. Growing up, I wanted to be a pilot, so it’s from back then, really. But you can’t do it to any old car, if you know what I mean; you gotta have the right car to suit the theme,” Vick says.
“The R35 was perfect — it’s fast, it looks aggressive, and you can replicate a jet-fighter kinda thing. The final touch to pulling the theme off was custom airbrushing by Ben, from GT, who laid paint over the vinyl and worked through the night to ensure the car not only looked right, but made it to the show halls in time for it to be unveiled.” Come awards time, Vick walked away with Best Wheels, Best Kit, Best Display, and Best Graphics. Not bad for a three-week build process. Although, saying it only took three weeks would really sell short the planning that went into making it all happen inside such a short window.
R35 engine bays are a challenge for anyone trying to modify them without ticking boxes in a catalogue. The custom lobster-back piping, stainless header tank, and washer bottle and reservoir are all one-off pieces
But Vick was far from finished. The engine bay was still stock, and though that’s a place Vick tends not to venture much in his builds, he didn’t damn well want it to remain stock: “I’m never really planning to go racing or track it, as I’m more into my show cars, so the stock 500hp [373kW] was fine. But I wanted it to look nice, so we started adding custom parts and it went from there.”
A larger front mount, full exhaust, bigger injectors, and custom lobster-backed piping all led to the car needing a retune, something that wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds. As Vick had avoided some sort of kit upgrade and instead gone with custom parts, it required a custom tune; not as easy as tweaking your average aftermarket ECU — this is, after all, a GT-R. The end result was 512kW (687hp) on 18.8psi, which is right at the limit of what the factory internals can safely take, and this is where it will probably stay for the foreseeable future. “Yeah, I’m not really planning on doing anything to the motor,” says Vick. “At nearly 700hp, it’s pointless already, as I can’t really use that on the road.”
What is most surprising about this project is how many kilometres Vick is putting on it — dare we say it, he is actually enjoying what he’s built for once, and you’re not likely to see a ‘for sale’ sign on that front window any time. But that does tend to raise the question — which he tells us is a daily occurrence — what next?
Naturally, we asked the king of custom about his plans. He replied, “I have set the bar pretty high with this one. I’m not selling it any time soon, and am not sure if I can top it, but, trust me, next year, it won’t be looking the same come the South Island Champs.” So we guess you’ll all have to watch this space …
Age: Sweet 16
Location: West Auckland
Occupation: Owner of XRacing
Build time: Ongoing
Length of ownership: 12 months
Thanks: I would like to thank God for making me what I am today, my mum and entire family — my wife, Michelle, and our kids, Roshni, Tareeq, Zara, and Ronaq; my brother, Sunny; Kris; Annie; and Hina — without their support, I can’t see myself being where I am today! I’d also like to thank Grant, Ben, and Wiz at GT Refinishers; Nan at the Bling Company / Ammo Wheels; Tommie and Nate Dog at Redline Signwriters; Falgoon Patel and all the Speedmagnet crew nationwide; Bevan Phat for all the pipework in the boot; Matthew and Heino at Autostance; Bernard Lim for all custom work; Patrick at Rapid Radio; Ian Clegg and the boys at ST Hitec; Jayden and Georgia at JG Media; and, last but not least, all our supporters/friends and families who have been supporting us over the years — thank you
ENGINE: VR38DETT, 3800cc, V6
INTAKE: Custom lobster-backed stainless piping, modified intake manifold, larger intercooler
EXHAUST: Dual three-inch downpipes, 3.5-inch Trust mid pipes, four-inch XRacing cat-back
TURBO: Factory twin
WASTEGATE: Factory internal
BOV: Dual HKS
FUEL: Increased-capacity fuel pumps, 1000cc injectors
ECU: Re-flashed factory
COOLING: Stainless increased-capacity header tank, Samco hose kit
EXTRA: Custom stainless washer bottle, custom stainless reservoir
GEARBOX: Factory six-speed
STRUTS: TWR fully adjustable air struts
BRAKES: (F) R35 Brembo six-pot calipers, R35 380mm two-piece rotors; (R) R35 Brembo four-pot calipers, R35 380mm two-piece rotors
EXTRA: AccuAir e-Level kit, AccuAir AU-4 valve block, AccuAir iLevel controller, custom brass hard lines, triple air tank set-up, custom e-Level mounts
WHEELS: (F) 20x11.5-inch (-30) Ammo Wheels forged, (R) 20x12.5-inch (-80) Ammo Wheels forged
TYRES: (F) 285/35R20 Pirelli P Zero, (R) 335/30R20 Pirelli P Zero
PAINT: Satin pearl vinyl, custom airbrushing
ENHANCEMENTS: Full Liberty Walk kit with widened front guards, fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) boaot with ducktail spoiler, smoked LED tail lights, smoked factory headlights, bronze tints, carbon front splitter, carbon rear diffuser
STEERING WHEEL: Factory
ICE: Custom boot install, dual 12-inch Rockford subs, airbrushed speakers, Rockford Fosgate speakers, Rockford Fosgate tweeters
POWER: 512kW (687hp)
FUEL: 98 octane
TUNER: ST Hitec
This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No. 247 — you can get your grubby mitts on a print copy by clicking on the cover below