Great things can happen when you take the right components from the right models and mix them all together in a four-door saloon. Just look at Dustin’s R34, if you need proof of that
Big car manufacturers pour millions of dollars and thousands of man hours into developing a new vehicle model. Each and every component goes through a lengthy process of design and development before it’s eventually produced, so the end results are surely the cream of the crop, right? Well, if you ask anyone who reads this magazine, then that answer will nine times out of 10 be no. Sadly, most of the cool factor is sucked from the model long before it hits the dealer’s lot. Even high-end luxury and performance cars more often than not succumb to the almighty board of directors looking to maximize profits.
The car modifier is someone who knows this all too well, because, let’s face it, 90 per cent of all builds start with the same task — removing countless factory components to replace them with something aftermarket. But what happens when you decide that not all factory components are bad and pulling differing OEM components together can result in an uncompromisingly cool yet practical 441kW hauler? That’s just the train of thought that Dustin Ng had when piecing together his R34.
“I was bored and wanted to build a cheap car. I had finished the Mirage and wanted to mount a 2JZ-GTE into something different, something with four doors. I went with an R34, because I didn’t like any of the Toyota chassis, and everything else had been done. At the time, R34s were overlooked and really cheap,” he said, and, “I wanted to use as many OEM parts as possible.” The plan was simple, or so he thought — convert the front end to GT-R; replicate GT-R rear flares; and throw in one of Toyota’s finest, the 2JZ-GTE, and whatever else he could pick up for the right price.
The engine itself was picked up from a local wrecker as a 250,00km junker. Dustin rebuilt it to factory specs, with the only aftermarket additions being ARP hardware and ACL bearings
But, as we all know, it’s never that easy. It’s a good thing that R34 four-doors were cheap at the time, as it has taken three of them to get to this point. Dustin gave up on the original shell after the rear widebody attempt came out nothing like he had imagined. As it was full of bog and just not right–looking, the hunt was on for another shell. What he found was a $500 crashed shitter, with a smashed-in front and side. Dustin didn’t want a repeat performance, and, having just moved to Auckland to chase the race-car-building dream, he knew exactly who to hand over the shell to for the widebody conversion — GT Refinishers. Around 120 hours went into the rear guards, as it was no straightforward widebody due to the size of wheel and ride height Dustin was after: a big proportion of the dog leg needed to be removed, and the door itself needed the inner skin raised and reworked.
Surprisingly, though, it was the bolt-on front end of the GT-R conversion that proved the most challenging to complete. “I started that mission six years ago when I bought the guards from one dude and then a couple of years later, the bumper showed up, and then a few years after that the bonnet showed up in Christchurch. I then had to buy a bunch of genuine parts from Nissan just to complete the conversion.”
But the mission didn’t end there. Finding a full set of lights was another headache, as Dustin explained: “I ended up buying an ex show car from Japan that was full of sounds. The entire body was airbrushed and had custom guards. I took all four lights out of it and then we on-sold it. The best thing was [that] the tail lights had been converted to LED — someone had spent a lot of time drilling out the tail lights to fit all the LEDs.”
Being a motorsport mechanic by trade sure comes in handy when building a project like this. Only the paint and panel was farmed out; everything else was handled in-house with the help of mates
When you have been collecting parts for a project over such a long period, as Dustin had, inevitably, a few good scores come up along the way. Dustin told us there were a few one-dollar-reserve scores — such as the complete GT-R rear end he purchased for a ridiculous bargain price, then, when he got it home and opened it up, he found it had a hidden gem: an OS Giken LSD. And then there are the first two of his R35 GT-R wheels, which he won the auction for, for only a few hundred dollars.
The Rays-produced magnesium 20-inch R35 wheels are a little bit special, and probably one of the better OEM wheel options out there, especially when put onto a different shell like the R34. Finding the other pair wasn’t as hard as you might think, as Mike from Prosport Auto, a friend of Dustin’s, had the full set of wheels and the brakes off the Endless R35 GT-R from NZPC Issue No. 234. Although finding the wheels was easy, getting a 20x10-inch wheel to fit up front was not. You see, the J-arm front suspension was never designed to run a 20x10-inch wheel, so no fewer than eight tyre options were trialled, before Dustin settled on the current 285/35. It’s a tight fit, but it works.
Although it’s been six years in the making, the real push came in the final 12 months, at the point of do or die for the project. Having just shifted to Auckland, Dustin began contemplating selling all he had amassed, until his then–wife to be stepped in and suggested he finish it for the wedding, which was 12 months away at the time. “I would be in the shed building the car, and she would be in the house sorting the wedding.” The months ticked by and, with the deadline fast approaching, favours were called in; a mate came up from Wellington to help wire in the Link ECU; and then the car was taken to Whanganui, Dustin’s hometown, where his boys all pitched in to get the project finished. That final weekend leading up to the wedding saw the R34 painted, put back together, and tuned. It made it to the wedding, and the original 18psi 400kW tune sure made for some big ol’ smoking wedding photos.
The LED tail lights were handmade for a show car in Japan. Unable to find a full set of lights for his car, Dustin purchased the show car purely for the lights and then on-sold the shell
That power figure was well above what was originally planned for the build, so the R154 five-speed was clearly on borrowed time. Before throwing in some more boost, Dustin decided to swap the five-speed for a Getrag six-speed. This opened up better options for the clutch too. Back on the dyno, the results, with 22psi of boost, were 441kW at the rear wheels and a power curve as linear as that of any V8. It’s more than enough for Dustin — after all, he does daily drive the thing. There is no high-low boost switch, either; it’s only his right foot doing any modulating. He can keep off boost to save gas, but, when the need or want arises, it has more than enough to scare him.
While Nissan purists might turn their noses up at the engine transplant, no one can argue that Dustin hasn’t achieved his original set of goals. It’s basically all OEM, bar the engine bolt-ons, and it makes killer power (reliably), has five seats, is super useable, and looks exactly how a four-door GT-R should. What more could you ask for in a daily-driver?
Occupation: Motorsport mechanic
Build time: Four years
Length of ownership: Six years
Thanks: My awesome wife who encouraged me to spend every night in the shed for a year while she organized our wedding, DNG Automotive, Jason at Slippers Refinishing, GT Refinishers, Cam Hall at Hall Tech, Cam Spooner at Ohakune Automotive, Neil Allport Motorsports, Mike at Prosport Auto, Matt Damon, MO Scott, Richie Claughton, Hillton Storage Ltd, Team Harold and Kuma, Dwight Scott, and everybody who helped in even the smallest way — it made a big project easy
1998 Nissan Skyline GT (hR34)
ENGINE: Toyota 2JZ-GTE, six-cylinder, 3000cc
BLOCK: Rebuilt factory, ARP fasteners, ACL bearings
HEAD: Custom cams
INTAKE: Three-piece Hypertune billet plenum, 80mm throttle body, custom intercooler piping
EXHAUST: 3.5-inch stainless exhaust system, single rear muffler
TURBO: Garrett GTX hybrid, Sinco Customs manifold
WASTEGATE: TiAL 60mm
FUEL: Dual Bosch 044 pumps, -8 braided return line, 1200cc injectors, Aeromotive fuel regulator
IGNITION: Superspark coils
ECU: Link G4+
COOLING: Fenix radiator, twin 14-inch fans
EXTRA: Link boost controller, fabricated power-steering reservoir and oil catch-can, seam-welded engine bay
GEARBOX: Getrag six-speed (V161)
CLUTCH: Exedy twin-plate
DIFF: Tomei LSD, GT-R housing, GT-R axles
STRUTS: Modified Tein Flex coilovers
BRAKES: (F) R35 Brembo six-pot calipers, R35 380mm two-piece rotors; (R) R35 Brembo four-pot calipers, R35 380mm two-piece rotors
EXTRA: Hardrace rear arms
WHEELS: 20x10-inch Rays R35 GT-R
TYRES: 285/35R20 Falken Azenis
PAINT: Mazda red
ENHANCEMENTS: GT Refinishers steel rear widebody, R34 GT-R front-end conversion, custom side skirts, custom rear lip, LED tail lights
SEATS: (F) Evo VII Recaro,
(R) Evo VII Recaro
STEERING WHEEL: Sparco
INSTRUMENTATION: Boost and coolant shadow gauges, wideband 02 sensor
FUEL TYPE: 98 octane
This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No. 236 — to get your grubby hands on a copy, click the cover below