Bored of having a mere 447kW on tap, Vinny decided to go all out and push his power figures well into the stratosphere with 911kW at all four
When the R35 GT-R was first released onto the market back in 2007/2008, little did anyone know that Nissan’s answer to the everyday supercar was about to continually rewrite everything we thought we knew about what you could expect from a true performance street car. In factory trim, they were formidable track-day weapons, yet, due to an extremely complex driveline, they remained driveable enough that the apex inept could take one out to pick up the groceries or road-trip the length of the country.
But the best was yet to come, as, over the next few years, second-hand units would start to appear on the market. Subsequently, the amount of aftermarket support exploded as companies came to grips with the new technology, unlocking the true potential of the platform. Take, for instance, Vinny Liao’s example. It’s pumping out in excess of 900kW — equating to over 1200hp — at the wheels, yet it’s lost none of its drivability, which is bonkers, as there was a time in the not-so-distant past when the only way that you’d have four-digit horsepower figures on the street would be if you had some big and ugly stuff hanging out of the bonnet, some serious cubes, race fuel, and a driveline meant only for the drag strip.
This is, of course, one of the big R35 drawcards for many, and part of the reason that long-time GT-R admirer Vinny decided to pull the trigger and import an R35 of his own around three years ago. The other reason he went with an R35 over, say, an R34 was the shape — in particular, the arse end, he tells us. Eventually, he settled on importing a black, super-low-kilometre (it had only 6000km on the clock) example from Japan through an Auckland dealer.
Early on, there was no intention to modify it whatsoever; it was simply his daily-driver. Well, that was until a few bolt-on mods and a retune gave Vinny a taste of what having 447kW under his foot was like. The flood gates had opened, and it was now time to have some real fun. Vinny found himself scrolling web pages looking for inspiration for his next round of modifications. “I was going to put airbags in and maybe slap on a Liberty Walk or Rocket Bunny kit, but I started to get tired of the power levels,” he remembers.
Becoming bored of 447kW (600hp), Vinny decided that stepping up to, say, 600kW (800hp), would be a waste of time: “If I was going to do this, I may as well go all out. There aren’t that many built R35s in New Zealand, and especially not making over 1000hp [746kW].” He wasn’t going to stop there either; a goal was set to build New Zealand’s fastest street-registered R35, a benchmarkthat was set last month by Jon at Spec Performance at 9.7 seconds, but, which, at the time, was held by ST Hi-tec’s Iain Clegg at 10.0 seconds.
Vinny went straight to the source, enlisting ST Hi-tec to handle the build, forging a plan to build a sister motor to the one found in Clegg’s R35, a 4.1 stroker backed by a full Dodson Performance driveline. The basis for the four-digit monster: a stock 95.5mm bore VR38 block with a 95.4mm billet Sonny Bryant stroker crank, which not only brings the motor close to square but also removes the risk associated with running a factory crank, which are known to snap when launching hard with four-digit power figures. Driving the crank is a set of CP pistons and Carrillo rods, along with ST’s own developed steel head gaskets, and ST and Dodson Performance bearings and hardware.
The driveline is nothing short of weapons grade, involving a Dodson Motorsport GR6 dogbox, with 12-pack Dodson clutch, Quaife LSDs, and a Syvecs Nissan 4WD controller. The controller has two main functions — one allowing the car to be switched into RWD for pre-stage burnouts, and the other a safeguard against the non-4WD limp mode, which R35s regularly suffer from when circuit racing
The heads are of ST’s highest spec, supporting the heavy-breathing intentions of the long block, with CNC porting achieving some serious flow figures in conjunction with the Kelford race cams, custom oversized valves, valve springs, and titanium retainers. Backing this is one of GReddy’s bad-arse RX35 intake manifolds and Speed by Design dual three-inch intakes. The twin Garrett 3582Rs remain low mount thanks to the ST custom manifolds and breathe through a Speed by Design exhaust. So the intake is about the only indication of the serious power output you’ll find when popping the bonnet.
A flex-fuel system, with an 2500hp main pump, allows either 98 octane or E85 to be used — given that Vinny’s hometown is yet to get E85 at the pump. On E85 and with 35psi dialled in, the 4.1 stroker churned out 1222hp (911kW) at all fours, and, on 98 with only 29psi, it churned out 1014hp (756kW). The secret to getting all these killer watts to the ground comes in the form of a Dodson Motorsport GR6 dogbox, with upgraded main shaft, a Dodson 12-pack clutch, a billet front diff cover, and a pair of Quaife limited-slip diffs (LSDs). It’s a very proven combo used in many record-holding R35s around the globe, including the world’s fastest. Vinny tells us that, on the street, it still drives like it’s factory, albeit with a stronger shift. But, as we all know, such hardware is all but wasted on mundane daily tasks, and the true potential of the combo will only become evident once the slicks are bolted on and the Christmas-tree lights flash green.
As to when this will happen, it looks like Vinny will have to wait till next season, and it’s likely that it will be a one-run-and-done situation, as the likelihood of a single-digit pass is high — without a cage, it will be game over until such time as the car is caged. This is a rule that maybe needs to be looked at, as factory GT-Rs are safer in factory trim than the cars these antique rules were made for. Perhaps some sort of supercar dispensation should be introduced here as it has overseas.
Should Vinny become bored with the 895kW, a turbo upgrade from the Garret 3582s to the 37s will net another 298kW without the need for any other upgrades
The R35 is the new age of racer, a new generation that allows its owner to have their cake and eat it too. Vinny is only just blowing out his candles, so time will tell just how quick he can push his GT-R next season while still creeping his local streets on any given Sunday.
ENGINE: Nissan VR41DETT
BLOCK: Nissan VR38DETT, Sonny Bryant 4100cc stroker kit, Sonny Bryant 4340 billet crank, Carillo rods, CP Pistons, ST Hi-tec / Dodson Motorsport race bearings
HEADS: CNC-ported, Kelford Cams 292/306-degree Ultimate Race Cams, custom oversized valves, Kelford valve springs, titanium retainers, steel head gaskets
INTAKE: Dual Extreme Turbo Systems intercoolers, three-inch Speed by Design intakes, K&N Filters
EXHAUST: Speed by Design four-inch stainless, dual three-inch Speed by Design dump pipes, Speed by Design four-inch mid pipe, five-inch burnt blue titanium tips
TURBO: Twin Garrett 3582R, ST Hi-tec custom manifolds
WASTEGATE: Twin 44mm TiAL
BOV: Twin Turbosmart
FUEL: Six Xspurt 1600cc injectors, six 1000cc Xspurt injectors, 1864kW Bugatti Veyron pump, dual DeatschWerks pumps, Zeitronix flex-fuel kit, Tomei fuel-pressure regulator
IGNITION: NGK spark plugs
ECU: Stock with EcuTek software, Syvecs Nissan 4WD controller
COOLING: ST Hi-tec water reservoir, ST Hi-tec custom piping, Dodson Motorsport oil cooler, Dodson Motorsport trans cooler
EXTRA: ST Hi-tec catch-can
GEARBOX: Dodson Motorsport six-speed GR6 with dog-tooth gear set and heavy-duty shaft
CLUTCH: Dodson Motorsport
12-pack, Dodson Motorsport heavy-duty front clutch
FLYWHEEL: Dodson Motorsport
DIFF: Billet front diff housing, Quaife front limited-slip, Quaife rear limited-slip
STRUTS: Bilstein shocks, H&R springs
BRAKES: (F) 390mm Endless E-Slit rotors, six-pot Brembo calipers, Pagid RSL pads; (R) 380mm Endless E-Slit rotors, four-pot Brembo calipers, Pagid RSL pads
OTHER: Whiteline front sway bar, Dodson Motorsport rear sway bar
WHEELS: (F) 20x10.5-inch, (R) 20x11.5-inch
TYRES: (F) 275/40R20 Nitto NT05, (R) 315/35R20 Nitto NT05
PAINT: Factory Obsidian black
ENHANCEMENTS: Rear carbon diffuser, EZ Lip side skirts, ceramic coating by The Gloss Master, tinted tail lights, smoked indicators
STEERING WHEEL: Factory
ICE: Factory Bose
POWER: 911kW (1222hp) / 756kW (1014hp)
BOOST: 34psi/29 psi
FUEL: E85 / 98 octane
TUNER: ST Hi-tec
DRIVER/OWNER: Vinny Liao
LOCATION: Palmerston North
OCCUPATION: Self Employed
BUILD TIME: Six months
LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: Three years
THANKS: Iain Clegg and his team at ST Hi-tec for doing all the engine, tuning, and performance work on the car; Dan and the crew at Mag and Turbo Palmerston North; Lance and his crew at Cooper Tyres Palmerston North; AJ Benton at The Gloss Master; Leighton at The Tint Guru; Stan Aldridge at Computer Signs; all my bros and family for their support through the build
This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue No 258 — click the cover below to get your hands on a copy