SIT DOWN, STAY HUMBLE
AN S14 THAT PERFECTLY MARRIES FORM AND FUNCTION
WITH MORE CREAM THAN HIS FAVOURITE JOHN PAN BAKERY DOUGHNUTS AND A SERIOUS AMOUNT OF MUSCLE THAT IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE RESULT OF A RUSSIAN OLYMPIC TRAINING PROGRAMME, CHRIS SAHOTA HAD ONE SIMPLE GOAL WITH THIS INCH-PERFECT S14, AND IT WASN’T TO IMPRESS ANYBODY BUT HIMSELF
There’s no denying that the growth of social media has changed the way that many play the car game. Builds that were only ever spotted outside of the shed on the rarest occasions to attend the biggest shows on the calendar are now bombarding your eyeballs on a daily basis. Information that was once unlocked through delivering the right 15-step secret handshake to a sketchy-looking dude at 3am in your local park can now be sourced through a few quick messages online. This change has brought about cars that are built well beyond what we would have even thought possible just a decade ago. But it has also become all too easy to get caught in the hype of the next big thing and build a car based on how many likes, comments, and online followers it can generate instead of the ways of old, when those killing the game were those who delivered the most innovative package on the scene or the fastest time through downtown.
So it’s refreshing to be in the presence of a car like Chris Sahota’s 96-spec Nissan S14, which, despite being presented at a level so damn high it would rip shreds off those bouncing around your news feed, was never about flexing on anybody but itself. Hell, you’ll even struggle to get the full story out of Chris. Humble to the core, he simply tells us that the car was built with one thought in mind — a thought that he admits controlled the outcome of every single decision made on each step of the journey: “How can I make this better than the last one?”
That ‘last one’ was a fairly run-of-the-mill S14 that would unexpectedly act as the catalyst for what he pedals today. You see, Chris was not afraid of putting in work behind the wheel, and it was at Pukekohe Park Raceway that an otherwise-insignificant meeting with the ripple strip spelled the car’s untimely end, seeing Chris spinning 360 degrees straight into the wall with enough pace behind him to write the chassis off for good.
But, as he says, “shit happens”, and he wasn’t going to let it be the end of this story; not by a long shot. Chris was determined to transfer the otherwise-unharmed turbo running gear into a fresh shell and virtually straight away went about finding a suitable replacement for the job. The chosen example wasn’t even test driven before exchanging cash for keys. And, before the oil could even warm on the drive home, Chris had started ripping out the running gear. Various components were switched between the old and the new car, while an order was placed at Parts Shop Max for the full catalogue of S14 underbody componentry to achieve
the eye-wateringly low ride height that he envisioned without compromising the car’s handling.
The interior was stripped bare, a half-cage installed, and the rolling body loaded onto the back of a tow truck to be sent off to GT Refinishers. Head honcho Grant hit the exterior with a fresh lick of the factory Super Black, while painter Ben gave the engine bay a House of Kolor candy-apple red–over–metalflake treatment. Ben was also given free rein over the rocker cover, choosing to hand paint it with pastel-coloured candy love hearts that would look at home on a soppy Valentine’s Day card. While Chris admits that he was a touch unsure about the call at first, he now reckons that it’s a good way to break up what would go on to become an otherwise super serious engine bay.
How serious? Far more than anyone hitting the Like button is likely to expect, and Chris blames this on that the initial paintwork laid down at GT, as he says this forced him to realize that sinking a near-on factory SR back into the fresh bay just wasn’t going to cut it. “When it came back, I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is way too nice. I can’t really put a factory engine back in here, I’ll have to build something’. It had to be better,” he says.
Although still based on the SR20DET from the old car, Chris was determined to leave nothing untouched inside or out, and ordered a gaggle of Tomei pieces from Japan — an order that would see a 2.2-litre stroker kit and the full SR20 valvetrain line-up land on his doorstep. It wouldn’t stick around long, with the block, head, and new goodies strapped to a pallet and sent off to the engine builders. There was one catch though: during his unrelenting research online
in the planning stages, Chris had come across a particular six-second SR22-powered drag car built by US-based shop Mazworx that caught his attention. This saw the address scrawled across the top of that pallet read “The SR20 Gods, 450 North Way, Sanford, Florida”. Yep, the madman really shipped his motor off to the States.
Specializing in SR-powered cars since the dawn of time, Manuel and the team at Mazworx took care of all the capacityincreasing machine work and added a bit of their own flavour into the mix while they were at it. Their blend consists of billet mains girdle, billet main caps with half-inch studs, and half-inch head studs to prevent the head from lifting under boost. The combination, as Chris tells us, is now pretty much the furthest you can push the SR platform before stepping up into the billet-block big leagues. Mazworx promises over 500kW at the wheels with the right turbo combination on this very package, which is beyond what Chris is looking to extract from it just yet, selecting a moderate Garrett GTX3071R hot side instead.
Chris tells us that one of the longest and most expensive parts of the build involved some of the smallest parts: AN fittings. Plumbing the fuel, oil, and coolant systems with Speedflow fittings took more than eight months, and saw costs rolling over the five-figure mark and sizes up to AN16 used!
But, with a plan that would see power upwards of 300kW on a fat and juicy power band, Chris knew that he didn’t want to be the guy breaking gearboxes left, right, and centre. To keep things going solid underneath, he sought out the best bang-for-buck box within the Nissan family, landing on a CD009 six-speed from a Z33 350Z. Ordered direct from Nissan USA, Mazworx was tasked with cutting the brand-new johnny in half and fitting up its new SR20-Z33 conversion bellhousing before shipping it back to our shores along with the completed 2.2.
For the first time in two-and-a-half years, the rolling body had its running gear fitted, and Chris wasted no time in getting it off to SMS Fabrication for Graeme to whip up the intercooler piping and exhaust — although, it would end up making a second trip back to SMS after Chris discovered that the previously fitted half-cage was well out of whack for his ideal seating position. Instead of making another halfcage, he came back to that same old thought: “How can I make this better than the last one?”
Making it better meant an eight-point going in, and, seeing as the boot would need some paintwork touched up anyway, he thought he’d take the opportunity to go the whole hog with a sunken fuel set-up. Adam at SMS cut the boot out and made a fuel-cell support frame with swaged floor cover that would also support the Aftermarket Industries surge tank, fuel pumps, and an Accusump. And, lastly, a grinder was taken to the rear guards to make way for a set of 50mm over-fenders. “This was so I could dial out all the excess camber that I had in the rear. Running the 18x10-inch (+0) Meister S1Rs with the factory metal guards meant more than 7-degrees negative camber,” Chris says.
True to his own nature, Chris didn’t want to go too wild on the exterior, favouring the factory body lines over a massive stepped-out widebody, so a simple package that would enhance the look was chosen. It’s partly why the car itself appears so humble — yeah, you can spot a few trick bits off the bat, but it doesn’t scream at you. And don’t think for a second that he’s scared of smashing fibreglass, either, as he’s already chewed through a handful of bumpers and side skirts — it’s just a replacement piece and a lick of paint to him, which is why you’ll see the car carving up North Island tracks and highways on the reg.
Chris does admit that the thought of stacking it again enters his mind on occasion, but reiterates that it was always meant to just be a better version of the previous car, so there was no way in hell that it wouldn’t get used just as hard, if not harder. Currently set to a safe 208kW tune to run the fresh motor in, the car will go back to E&H Motors for a proper tickle up that should see the car clock around 380kW, by the team’s calculations.
“I built this car with one intention: to be better in every possible way than the last one. With everything I did, I’d ask myself, ‘How can I make this better than the last one?’ Whether it be the engine bay, interior, boot, or underneath,” says Chris
And while it was never built to please the internet, it’s been racking and stacking the ’gram kid’s badge of honour since day dot, which comes as no surprise, considering the level that it’s been built to. But, at the end of it all, Chris pays little attention to what’s being said and done; he is simply stoked to have the car drivable after four-and-a-half years deep in the build — and still taking every opportunity possible to get behind the wheel, even if that means just idling away in the driveway for a couple of minutes after work, much to his neighbours’ dismay.
The head is a Mazworx-prepared Stage 2 SR20DET example crammed with Tomei oversized valves, springs, guides, and solid lifters, paired with a set of Poncam camshafts and tied down with Mazworx half-inch head studs