NZ Performance Car - - Contents -

There’s noth­ing bet­ter than meet­ing an en­thu­si­ast who has an ex­u­ber­ant for­ever-grow­ing pas­sion, and a garage full of iconic life-size toys built purely for black-top en­joy­ment — it’s an op­por­tu­nity that doesn’t come around of­ten. Nigel James, an en­thu­si­ast like no other, wouldn’t sim­ply be sat­is­fied with one tin-top toy, and cer­tainly doesn’t mind the sac­ri­fice in­volved in own­ing three petrolpow­ered near-clas­sic cruis­ers — the time, money, and blood­shed all made worth it by the friends made, and kilo­me­tres trav­elled. Mod­i­fy­ing cars came as a byprod­uct of be­ing, in Nigel’s own words, a “tech­no­log­i­cally in­quis­i­tive type”, a char­ac­ter­is­tic that from a young age — and much to his par­ents’ dis­may — saw him dis­man­tling toys, stereos, Match­box cars, or just about any­thing he could get his hands on. Some­times they even got put back to­gether — ev­ery last bolt, screw, and nut.

Fast for­ward a few years, and with a mod­i­fied im­port scene boom­ing around him Nigel’s Match­box cars sooned turned into life-size ex­am­ples. “My in­ter­est in cars be­gan the mo­ment I re­al­ized they were mod­i­fi­able. Mod­i­fy­ing cars has al­ways been, and will con­tinue to be, a fas­ci­nat­ing and sat­is­fy­ing pas­time.” Nigel con­tin­ued, “My first proper car build was a 1986 Honda Civic Si — a ZC twin-cam beast that ini­tially won me sev­eral SPL sound-off com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the 1999 4&Ro­tary Na­tion­als. The Civic went from a 62kW car, to a tur­bocharged, cus­tom­painted, cus­tom-kit­ted 173kW street mon­ster.” Things didn’t turn out well for the Civic when in 2004 it was writ­ten off com­pletely by an un­li­censed Ford Fal­con. This Civic was the first notch in Nigel’s tun­ing belt, and even helped spark the for­ma­tion of New Zealand’s largest Honda com­mu­nity, NZHon­ “It (the Civic) rep­re­sented the best of the late ’90s / early 2000s New Zealand car scene to me. But af­ter eight years of Honda own­er­ship, I de­cided to move onto big-bod­ied Toy­ota sedans.”

Af­ter build­ing what is most likely one of New Zealand’s first Boso­zoku-style Toy­ota Mark IIs, which fea­tured 10-inch wide wheels, a mod­i­fied 1G-GTE en­gine, and barbed ex­haust — a car fea­tured in is­sue no. 155 — Nigel pro­gressed onto a newer Toy­ota. “In 2009 I de­cided to take things to a new level and try my hand at a ‘new’ car, and new style. Big-body lux­ury sedans and VIP cars were really in­flu­enc­ing me, re­sult­ing in a pur­chase of a fac­tory man­ual non­turbo 1996 Toy­ota Chaser,” Nigel told us. At the time of pur­chase, the pick of the crop was definitely the Tourer V model, how­ever, with a pur­chase price of over $19,000 it was out of Nigel’s reach, so once again he

A sub­tle, but very ef­fec­tive aes­thetic mod­i­fi­ca­tion would have to be the trans­par­ent CJC de­cals on the JZX100 head­lights. It’s not un­til you get close up that you re­al­ize it’s much more than a sim­ple layer of vinyl

tin­kered to get his way — not that he was both­ered. He had a plan to bring the Chaser to a spec higher than that of a Tourer V, so a 2JZ-GTE en­gine was pur­chased, and in no time at all — with the help of sev­eral good friends, of course — the brakes, diff, sus­pen­sion, and en­gine were com­pleted, and Nigel had a Chaser to sur­pass any Tourer V. “Af­ter find­ing what I felt were the per­fect wheels for the car, the fi­nal touch for the body was the pur­chase of a gen­uine Rush kit from Ja­pan. It fits per­fectly, with no mod­i­fi­ca­tions nec­es­sary, and with a unique shade of paint it to­tally changed the look of the car.” In a typ­i­cal Nigel fash­ion, the Chaser ab­so­lutely had to be as low as pos­si­ble, yet still be drive­able on long jour­neys. Shane Cooper, a friend work­ing at Au­tolign at the time, re­built the Tein sus­pen­sion to the best of his abil­ity and to a spec that Nigel would be happy with. And in­deed, the re­sult­ing per­for­mance is one he is more that happy with.

Build­ing some­thing that strays from your roots can have strange side ef­fects, as Nigel found out near the com­ple­tion of the Chaser. He told us, “Own­ing the newer Toy­ota brought light on the change that came about in the late ’90s, with tech­nol­ogy get­ting in the way of pure me­chan­i­cal bliss. The Chaser was the start of the era of cars that were try­ing to be too smart for their own good.” With th­ese strain­ing side ef­fects tak­ing their toll, Nigel pre­scribed him­self some good ol’ fash­ion re­tail — well, ve­hic­u­lar re­tail — ther­apy by pur­chas­ing a 1980 Honda Ac­cord

As you can see, Nigel doesn’t ex­actly have all the room in the world to build his cars. Cars get pushed out, house­hold items get cleared, and Nigel sets to work build­ing his creations — no ex­cuses here

from Welling­ton, sight un­seen. The ’80s Ac­cord had ev­ery­thing Nigel wanted in an old-school sedan from the fac­tory, in­clud­ing ca­ble-ac­tu­ated cen­tral lock­ing, oil change and tyre-ro­ta­tion in­di­ca­tors on the dash (kilo­me­tre ac­ti­vated), flared guards, and ag­gres­sive twin head­lights. All it needed now was com­bi­na­tion as clas­sic as the Ac­cord it­self — Work Equip 02s, and low­ered sus­pen­sion. The car was orig­i­nally meant to be K20A swapped and raced, but Nigel deemed it too tidy too cut up and tin­ker with. “With those wheels on, the car was com­plete — with noth­ing left to do but care for it and enjoy it. The car is full of amaz­ing ad­di­tions, it’s al­most a won­der ex­plor­ing ev­ery­thing,” Nigel told us, be­fore re­veal­ing a build that has been al­most 20 years in the making. “Of course, across this whole jour­ney there was a mat­ter of un­fin­ished busi­ness from that first Civic build. I re­al­ized that not a sin­gle one of my sub­se­quent builds was as fun as that first crazy tur­bocharged an­i­mal. It had al­ways been in the back of mind — what if I got an­other one?”

More than a decade had passed since the orig­i­nal Civic was writ­ten off, and it seemed as though most of the ’80s Civics around the place had turned into, well, rusty piles of dust. “Af­ter what seemed like years of search­ing, all of a sud­den I found one, aban­doned in a pad­dock in the South Is­land, wait­ing for its sec­ond chance.” Five years of be­ing licked by cows, and 29 years of life, had truly taken a toll on the Civic, as Nigel found out when it was fi­nally de­liv­ered to his home in Auck­land. Af­ter com­ing to the re­al­iza­tion that an army would be needed to un­der­take such a restora­tion, he posted on Face­book that he had need of a team. Shortly af­ter, he had him­self a will­ing and able crew of re­cent friends, and some old ones — all also search­ing for the nos­tal­gic kicks cre­ated by such tin. “Peo­ple that hadn’t met each other be­fore all worked with a pas­sion­ate me­chan­i­cal har­mony, and with good hu­mour, to bring the rusty Civic back to life. This is the epit­ome of what I love about mod­i­fy­ing cars — the amaz­ing friend­ships and pas­sions it ig­nites in like-minded peo­ple around you. At one point I stood in the mid­dle of the ac­tion and just looked at all the work hap­pen­ing — from what were com­plete strangers hours ear­lier — and re­al­ized the pas­sion that car mod­i­fy­ing can bring.” Nigel con­tin­ued, “There may be many bad things about this scene, but if there ever was a beau­ti­ful thing, it was the scene that this de­crepit, rot­ting hulk of a boxy Ja­panese toaster oven had man­aged to bring to­gether.”

Nigel’s vi­sion for the Civic was based on a cre­ation pro­duced on Forza Hori­zon, an Xbox game. The easy-to-use plat­form was per­fect, and af­ter hun­dreds of hours of play­ing around, he had a fi­nal tem­plate which he was able to send to the

Al­though Nigel runs Mu­gen CF48s on the street, by far his favourite wheel is the Ad­van SA3R. He was look­ing for wheels to use while play­ing Forza, and man­aged to stum­ble across this beau­ti­ful ’80s/’90s com­bi­na­tion. An or­der was placed in Ja­pan, and a couple of months later Nigel had a set of 15x6.5-inch Ad­vans. Wrapped in 195/55R15 Ad­van A045 semi-slicks, it sure did hug the road on our test drive

sign­writ­ers. With the build plan set in stone, parts found their way to New Zealand from ev­ery cor­ner of the globe, in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Canada, and Amer­ica. “The idea was not to re­build the same car I had be­fore, as once again this is a new tat­too of where I am now, in­flu­enced by the Kanjo rac­ers of Ja­pan, and in need of a week­end war­rior,” Nigel told us. He will never forget the first time he saw his Forza cre­ation in the metal, rather than just on his TV screen.

As the Civic was kept quiet from fel­low CJC club mem­bers, he de­cided to de­but the re­built Honda at the an­nual CJC Jerk­fest — and as he drove it through the pits at Taupo, he sim­ply blew ev­ery­one’s minds. “Do the two Civics com­pare? In­cred­i­bly, de­spite be­ing ex­actly the same year and shape of car, the two couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent. It’s a fit­ting rep­re­sen­ta­tion of who I was back then, and who I am now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Nigel ex­plained.

There’s ab­so­lutely no doubt in our minds that Nigel will grace the pages of NZPC once again in fu­ture, with a petrol-pow­ered, bass-thump­ing snap­shot of where he is at that point in his life. We’ll see you then, Nigel!

A car for ev­ery oc­ca­sion — a week­end war­rior, a cruiser, and a daily driver, Nigel has it all with his unique col­lec­tion


GEAR­BOX: Fac­tory JZX Tourer V, five-speed CLUTCH: Exedy clutch FLY­WHEEL: Fac­tory DIFF: Cusco two-way LSD SEATS: Fac­tory STEER­ING WHEEL: OMP IN­STRU­MEN­TA­TION: Au­to­gauge tachome­ter, boost gauge, and oil pres­sure gauge ICE: 3.5-inch LCD tuner with in­te­grated rear cam­era, JBL GTO75 am­pli­fier, JBL GTO 6.5-inch coax­i­als in all doors, JBL BP12 band­pass tuned sub­woofer en­clo­sure, Su­perAu­to­bacs crys­tal shift knob with colour-change LED kit PAINT: Cus­tom av­o­cado olive, solid non-metal­lic EN­HANCE­MENTS: Rush Ja­pan JZX100 Chaser aero kit, Ori­gin Labo boot spoiler, JZX100 rear un­der-spoiler with low-mount stop light MODEL: Toy­ota 2JZ-GTE, 3000cc, six-cylin­der BLOCK: Fac­tory HEAD: Fac­tory IN­TAKE: HKS Pow­ermax in­take TURBO: Fac­tory BOV: HKS SSQV FUEL: Wal­bro fuel pump IG­NI­TION: Fac­tory EX­HAUST: Twin two-inch sec­on­daries from tur­bos, 3.5-inch ex­haust sys­tem, sin­gle muf­fler, twin three-inch stain­less steel tips COOL­ING: JZA80 Supra ra­di­a­tor, Ford 30-amp fans, low-temp thermo switch ECU: Blitz Ac­cess mod­i­fied ECU OTHER: A’PEXi SAFC-II, HKS EVC3 boost con­troller (con­trols sec­ondary turbo), Tur­boXS boost tap (con­trols pri­mary turbo), matt cham­pagne silk pow­der­coated rocker cov­ers and in­ter­cooler pip­ing, glass mat deep-cy­cle bat­tery STRUTS: Cus­tom valved Tein HE Wind­ing Mas­ter coilovers SPRINGS: Tein BRAKES: Four-pot calipers






SEATS: Sheep­skin seat cov­ers STEER­ING WHEEL: Fac­tory IN­STRU­MEN­TA­TION: Fac­tory with in-dash oil change / tyre ro­ta­tion /fil­ter ser­vice in­di­ca­tors ICE: Fac­tory Sanyo cas­sette player and footwell speak­ers OTHER: Fac­tory cig­a­rette ash trays with il­lu­mi­na­tion in all four doors, fac­tory quartz dig­i­tal ro­tary clock, fac­tory ca­ble-con­trolled cen­tral lock­ing STRUTS: (F) Fac­tory oil dampers short­ened and con­verted to gas in­serts (R) short­ened shocks SPRINGS: Com­pressed springs BRAKES: Fac­tory





GEAR­BOX: Fac­tory fivespeed (a big deal in 1980) CLUTCH: Fac­tory FLY­WHEEL: Fac­tory MODEL: Honda 1600cc, four cylin­der BLOCK: Fac­tory HEAD: Fac­tory FUEL: Fac­tory sin­gle-carb IG­NI­TION: Fac­tory EX­HAUST: Fac­tory COOL­ING: Fac­tory OTHER: Glass mat deep-cy­cle bat­tery

The most com­mon cause of pre­ma­ture turbo fail­ure with the ce­ramic tur­bos found on the se­quen­tial turbo 2JZ- GTE comes thanks to peo­ple not ac­tu­ally know­ing how the sys­tem works. When you in­stall a boost con­troller on this sys­tem, it in­creases the sec­ondary boost lev­els, not the pri­mary turbo. How the dam­age oc­curs is all down to the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in boost pres­sure be­tween the two tur­bos. If you have your boost con­troller set to 15psi, when the sec­ondary turbo kicks in it has to all of a sud­den go from fac­tory boost, so 9psi up to 15psi, putting ex­ces­sive load on the ce­ramic turbo fins. Nigel found a way around this by us­ing two boost con­trollers — the Tur­boXS unit con­trols the pri­mary turbo which is set to 11psi, and the HKS EVC3 boost con­troller man­ages the sec­ondary turbo which is set to 14psi. It may feel cool hav­ing that surge of boost, but it’s caus­ing se­ri­ous dam­age



SEATS: Re­caro SR3 driver seat, Takata four-point har­ness STEER­ING WHEEL: Grip Royal, quick­re­lease hub IN­STRU­MEN­TA­TION: Au­to­gauge elec­tronic oil-pres­sure gauge OTHER: Ched­das Auto/ Red Pep­per Rac­ing bil­let ma­chined and an­odized shift knob, All­star win­dow net

POWER: Ir­rel­e­vant Osaka JDM is the world leader in build­ing Kan­jospe­cific Civics, so Nigel knew from the be­gin­ning he would run one of its Evil Star wings. They com­pletely change the look of the car, and as the Osaka JDM web­site men­tions; “It’s just cool!”

EX­TE­RIOR PAINT: Fac­tory EN­HANCE­MENTS: Fac­tory flares, front lip, and mon­soons

SHOES WHEELS: 14x6.5-inch Work Equip 02 Com­pe­ti­tion one-piece wheels (+4) TYRES: 155/65R14 tyres

PAINT: Fac­tory EN­HANCE­MENTS: Osaka JDM Evil Star AT wing, Pur­ple­speed front lip, cus­tomde­signed JTCC in­spired liv­ery and graph­ics OTHER: 1200lm LED run­ning lights, LED strip high-stop light, GT300 style tinted head­lights POWER: N/A 0–400m: 18.7 sec­onds WHEELS: 18x9.5-inch CST Hy­per Zero-1 (+22) TYRES: 225/40R18 Jinyu




We’ve never met any­body who keeps a per­sonal build log as Nigel does. He has lit­er­ally hun­dreds of pho­tos from ev­ery stage of his long list of builds — even dat­ing back to the ’ 90s!

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