NZ Performance Car - - Contents -


For more than a decade, Grant Walker has been on a mis­sion: a mis­sion to build cars that stand out from the crowd — stuff that oth­ers only dream of or do noth­ing more than talk about. His work­shop, GT Refin­ish­ers, is as­so­ci­ated with a long list of ma­chin­ery that has landed in these pages, in­clud­ing count­less cover cars.

It comes as no sur­prise that a man so im­mersed in build­ing cus­tomers’ cars has put his own dreams of cus­tom builds on hold. This is of­ten the case with tradies: the lawn­mower man has the long­est grass at home, the builder’s own home re­mains un­fin­ished, and the car painter al­ways has that long-term project gath­er­ing bog dust in the back cor­ner of the shop. But, in re­cent years, Grant has man­aged to find enough time to piece to­gether not one but four builds. There’s one for ev­ery oc­ca­sion; from trips to the mall with the kids to a slow creep along the wa­ter­front boule­vard, or, if he ever gets the time, a blast around the track on a Sun­day. And, as we found out, the man is far from fin­ished.

A side ef­fect of spend­ing your life ab­sorbed by cus­tom car cul­ture, as Grant has, for­ever seek­ing in­spi­ra­tion and for­ever try­ing to do some­thing new, is that you can’t help but form a list of builds that you’d like to play a hand in. As long as he gets to carry out the build, Grant doesn’t care if it’s his own or a cus­tomer’s car — which is lucky, be­cause his wish list is long and ex­tremely de­tailed. This is why you’ll cur­rently find four steeds in his garage, or, per­haps by the time this ar­ti­cle hits the shelves, one or two fewer, if those go off to new own­ers, free­ing up space for the next project on that list, which lurks some­where in­side his head.

“No car is a for­ever car; I just have cars that I want to build,” he says. “I don’t care if it’s mine or a cus­tomer’s, and once it’s done, I’ll never do an­other.” Take the 240Z of past ed­i­tor Peter Kelly: a 240 was al­ways on Grant’s list, and, now that he’s worked on one, it’s un­likely that he’ll ever build one of his own.

For Grant, it’s al­ways been about the styling, and he’ll openly ad­mit that driv­ing fast doesn’t in­ter­est him one bit, which is why the cur­rent quadru­plets have little fo­cus on speed. Sure, two have had en­gine trans­plants, but ob­tain­ing dyno crush­ing fig­ures was never his in­ten­tion.

“It’s al­ways been like that; you can’t legally drive fast on the road, so why bother? And I’m way too busy work­ing to take time off to race at a track,” he ex­plains. It’s been this way since he was a young punk rollerblader, cus­tomiz­ing his sec­ond car, a CRX; de­spring­ing nu­mer­ous Mercedes; or shoe­horn­ing sounds into any num­ber of Hon­das and Maz­das. But all that had to stop when he was build­ing up his busi­ness, and, for close to a decade, he went with­out a per­sonal build, un­til he found a few spare mo­ments, in be­tween work­ing 60- to 100-hour weeks, to get back into build­ing cars like his old Dat­sun 620 or that rear-wheel-drive Civic.

His cur­rent crop was kicked off with the Benz wagon and a trip to the 50th state, Hawaii, for its big­gest im­port event, known as ‘Spocom’. “Ev­ery­thing was bagged; I had never bagged any­thing, but wanted to give it a go on my wagon,” Grant says. “The day I got back, I fig­ured out what I’d need and or­dered ev­ery­thing.”

Like any semi-sane man, Grant never in­tended to build four cars at once. Even so, one by one, they filled up his garage space, and he was damn sure that he wasn’t go­ing to leave them stock. When Kei Miura from Rocket Bunny re­leased the Pan­dem kit for the E46 BMW, the want was real — and when Grant’s painter, Ben, needed a car af­ter his 86 blew up, it was all the ex­cuse needed to build one.

One might won­der why a man who makes cus­tom steel wide­bod­ies for bread wouldn’t just build his own kit. “I did my own on the Lexus, but the num­ber of hours that go into it is in­sane,” he says of his de­ci­sion. “To make a set of fend­ers, you’re look­ing at 100-plus hours. Look at that as an hourly rate and that’s $10K, when I can buy a kit and just bolt it on. I like the Pan­dem style, so I’d only end up mak­ing some­thing sim­i­lar, any­way. They de­sign theirs on a com­puter, and when you make some­thing by hand, you make it, stand back, and, if it’s shit, all that work is go­ing in the bin to start again from scratch.”

The key to mak­ing any Pan­dem kit — which fea­tures ra­diused guards — look good is plenty of low. But, this time, Grant was a con­vert to airbags, thus the Merc re­ceived an up­grade and the old sys­tem was fun­nelled into the E46. All log­i­cal, right? Fol­low­ing the same logic, the big-body candy-dipped Fuga came about. The Merc suf­fered a com­mon fault with its ig­ni­tion, and Grant needed a car un­til the parts ar­rived. “I wanted some­thing with some more power, so I searched Trade Me for three-litre-and-up sedans, and the Y51 popped up. I then Googled ‘bagged Y51’, as you do, and thought, yeah, these are cool,” he says.

A set of 20-inch Weds Sport Bazreias were sourced through Ya­hoo Ja­pan and a new set of outer lips would bring them up to a more re­spectable siz­ing and off­set. Over a pe­riod of seven months, parts were col­lected left, right, and cen­tre, and, once the wardrobe was stocked with each and ev­ery piece, right down to the air-line fit­tings, the build was car­ried out very quickly. Like the other two, the Fuga runs a con­verted coilover with an airbag re­plac­ing the coil, along with some of Grant’s sig­na­ture hard lines.

Hav­ing al­ways wanted a candy job of his own, a trip to the

20x10-inch Weds Sport Bazreias have been cus­tom built to per­fectly tuck un­der the fac­tory guards. Sourced from Ja­pan, Grant has re­built the 20s us­ing new lips to cor­rect the off­set and weak width

The House of Kolor Brandywine Kandy paint job saw seven lay­ers of candy laid over a gun­metal base coat, then six litres of clear as the ic­ing on the cake. Body up­grades have been kept sim­ple, with only a mo­tor­sport front bumper to speak of

SEMA Show ce­mented his idea of dip­ping those big curves in House of Kolor Brandywine. A base of gun­metal, seven lay­ers of candy, and six litres of clear later, and it’s the kind of job that has Grant scared to take the car out of the garage.

Also while at SEMA, re­port­edly af­ter an all-you-can-drink episode and more Bubba Gump shrimp than is safe for any one man to con­sume, the Civic popped up on Face­book as an un­fin­ished project back in New Zealand. It fea­tured an in­com­plete H22A con­ver­sion and the Pan­dem kit still in its wrap­pers. Hav­ing wanted to build a Pan­dem Civic since Kei Miura’s ren­ders sur­faced, and with no one in New Zealand hav­ing yet built one, Grant pulled the trig­ger on some­thing that he never thought he’d own: a track car, de­spite the fact that he never in­tended to track it. A flurry of ac­tiv­ity over the com­ing months saw both the Civic and the Fuga fin­ished and de­buted at the Na­tion­als.

With four com­pleted builds, three of which are daily-driv­ers, one would think that maybe a break would be in order, but, as we men­tioned ear­lier, none of these is a for­ever build. In fact, now that they are done, the bore­dom has set in, and Grant has found the muse for his next project: an­other build that no one in New Zealand has com­pleted. All we will say is that it’s Pan­dem, will be on air ride, and will look damn good stuck in that Auck­land morn­ing traf­fic.

But even that build will be swift and own­er­ship fleet­ing. “I re­ally want to own two Fer­raris, so I’ll just keep work­ing my way through cars till I get there,” he says. It’s an am­bi­tious goal, as you can bet that both will be chopped and dropped. But, in the mean­time, Grant will just have to make do with a heavy ro­ta­tion of fleet. There are worse morn­ing de­ci­sions to make than which airbagged daily to fire into life, right?

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