NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS: MAR­CUS GIB­SON PHO­TOS: JC PEPINO

When you think back a (fair) few years to your school days, you’ll re­call that when you saw an am­bu­lance at school, it was never good. It meant a play­ground stunt had gone wrong, there was blood flow­ing, and some­one’s par­ents were about to get that dreaded call from the prin­ci­pal to meet the ambo at the lo­cal doc­tor’s surgery.

But when stu­dents from WIZ MMF, an au­to­mo­tive train­ing cen­tre in the Fukushima Pre­fec­ture of Ja­pan, mixed the two to­gether, the out­come was more con­struc­tive than de­struc­tive — in the form of a wild cus­tom Nis­san Car­a­van like noth­ing you’ve seen be­fore.

Mind you, if you’ve heard of WIZ and some of its past projects, that will come as no sur­prise. Over the past 10 years, the school’s se­nior class has built some pretty im­pres­sive ma­chines for their fi­nal project, builds that have stunned crowds at Tokyo Auto Sa­lons. From hy­brid-pow­ered Dat­sun 1200s to roof-chopped electric VWs, a drag-spec Prius, and a wild MX-5 hot-rod road­ster — it’s fair to say that the school’s mar­ket­ing plan looks like a page ripped straight from a script of Mon­ster Garage. It’s one hell of a way to put a school on the map, and it must be ex­cit­ing to fi­nally reach your se­nior year and get to go nuts on a project.


For 2016, the grad­u­at­ing class of eight stu­dents picked a 1988 Car­a­van as their vic­tim. Why? We don’t know, but the re­sult sug­gests that this class sam­pled some mind-al­ter­ing sub­stances on con­cept day. Of all the projects to come out of the school thus far, the Car­a­van is by far the wack­i­est. It boasts a stretched wheel­base with a 10-inch roof chop and rocks a full­blown am­bu­lance theme — yeah, it’s fair to say prac­ti­cal­ity was never part of the de­sign brief. But look be­yond the car­toon­ish aes­thetic and you will un­cover a proper cus­tom build. The stu­dents at WIZ never muck around. Af­ter all, this is a show­case of their tal­ents. So long gone are any of the van’s com­mer­cial­grade un­der­pin­nings, as a cus­tom chas­sis and flat floor take their place.

The set-up is a hy­brid mix of that cus­tom chas­sis with S14 sub­frames front and rear, with S14 AirREX air struts mounted on tubu­lar sup­ports. The wheel tubs were left ex­posed front and rear to show off the sus­pen­sion and the tyres — per­haps this was the in­spi­ra­tion for the name ‘Dan­ger Am­bu­lance’.

Fur­ther liv­ing up to that name is the en­gine, an SR20DET also from an S14, which sits proudly ex­posed in the rear cabin, right where your head would be if you were strapped to the cus­tom gur­ney (wheeled stretcher). The lo­ca­tion of the en­gine al­lows max­i­mum headspace up front — though any­one even close to six feet tall need not ap­ply. The en­gine it­self re­mains in its fac­tory form and is backed by an auto — an in­di­ca­tion that this is not meant to go fast — though, look­ing at that driv­ing po­si­tion, that’s prob­a­bly a good thing.

The cop­per elec­tro­plat­ing that fea­tures on the en­gine is car­ried through to the ex­te­rior, with cop­per-coated bumpers. Sur­pris­ingly, the rest of the body re­mains stock, though the fact that the sub­frames were swapped did mean the wheel choice was a lot big­ger than would have been on the old com­mer­cial six-stud.

The crew called on Work Wheels, one of the school’s many sup­port­ers, with the sort of close re­la­tion­ship that makes projects like this pos­si­ble, and a set of cus­tom Work Seeker NXs was de­cided on. They have now been dis­con­tin­ued by Work, so the van will main­tain a real point of dif­fer­ence — not that it needed any help in this depart­ment.

The team of eight stu­dents and two teach­ers did an amaz­ing job when you con­sider the range of work dis­played by this project, which is most ev­i­dent in the in­te­rior. In the back, a faux work­bench serves as stor­age for the AirREX sys­tem, Jaz fuel cell, and dual bat­ter­ies. How­ever, the star of the show has to be the cus­tom gur­ney, com­plete with kart wheels and tyres.

It might not be the most prac­ti­cal ve­hi­cle ever built — but those re­ally wor­ried about the cus­tom scene in Ja­pan can surely breathe a sigh of re­lief that cars as wacky as this are be­ing built by the next gen­er­a­tion of car builders. Mind you, we guess that more than a few of you read­ing this will feel a lit­tle green eyed that these stu­dents get to build such amaz­ing stuff for school. Ex­change pro­gramme, any­one?

Like all the projects be­fore it, the Dan­ger Am­bu­lance bears the names of the class­mates who built it

We’re not sure if this is the type of ve­hi­cle you’d like to drive in the wet. The ex­posed wheel arches would make a hell of a mess of the cus­tom up­hol­stery

DRIV­E­LINE GEAR­BOX: Fac­tory auto DIFF: Fac­tory S14 lim­ited-slip SUP­PORT STRUTS: S14 AirREX BRAKES: Fac­tory S14 EX­TRA: S14 cross­mem­bers, re­lo­cated sus­pen­sion pickup points

SHOES WHEELS: (F) 18x8-inch (-4) Work Seeker NX, trans­par­ent grey pol­ished cen­tre and bronze lip; (R) 18x9.5-inch (+25) Work Seeker NX, trans­par­ent grey pol­ished cen­tre and bronze lip TYRES: (F) 215/40R18 Luc­cini Buono Sport, (R) 225/40R18 Luc­cini...

IN­TE­RIOR SEATS: Re­uphol­stered and re­shaped bucket seats STEER­ING WHEEL: Re­uphol­stered IN­STRU­MEN­TA­TION: Auto Gauge boost, wa­ter-temp, and oil-pres­sure gauges EX­TRA: Leather up­hol­stery, cus­tom gur­ney, push-but­ton start

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