JATUPHON MANPATARAPONG’S NISSAN PULSAR GTIR
For all of its sought after attributes, you’d think Nissan’s short-lived, micro-sized Pulsar GTIR would carry much more fanfare even today, almost 30 years after its inception. Attributes that include a very capable turbocharged powerplant mated to an all-wheel-drive system all packed into a lightweight hatchback design. However, ask average import fanatics today about how they feel about the early ’90s dynamo and they’re liable to shrug their shoulders as they unapologetically file the Pulsar under the same segment that includes less-than-stellar performers like the Geo Metro of the same era.
For those in the know, the GTIR designation—produced specifically to meet World Rallycross requirements—was often referred to as the “Baby Godzilla.” In factory form, the 227hp SR20DET combined with the same ATTESA AWD system found under the chassis of its older sibling, the Skyline, packed a lethal punch. At just over 2,600 pounds, it had no problem outrunning vehicles with much higher price tags.
With less than 15,000 GTIR models ever produced way back in the Saved by the Bell era (the original one, not the college years crap; shoutout to Kelly), you won’t find very many of them in decent condition popping up via online auctions. If your residence is in Thailand, the chances of coming across Nissan’s forgotten hot hatch fall off significantly. That’s exactly what pushed Jatuphon Manpatarapong—we’ll refer to him as “Pop”—to search high and low until he found one for himself.
Initially, Pop intended to leave the car as is, relishing in all of the greatness that Nissan managed to pack into the threedoor hatch. That didn’t last very long once he started envisioning upgrades, a rebuild, and all of the additional power he could extract from the venerable SR20DET. Rather than bolting on parts here and there, Pop decided he was going make changes everywhere, all at once.
As the owner of Monster Fixed Garage in Thailand, access to parts isn’t typically an issue for Pop, but the shortage of available goods for the GTIR certainly was. In order to get the body looking exactly the way he wanted, Pop reached out to local aero firm 25/one to create some custom body pieces. The parts development included over-fenders, a hood with air duct, complete hatch replacement, and a set of side skirts. To add a little more bulk appeal, a set of WRC side mirrors was bolted on for good measure. Then, of course, there’s the 25/one front bumper, which carries obvious similarities to the R34 Skyline. It’s something Pop fully intended to incorporate for a much more aggressive look while further playing into the Baby Godzilla label. A complete color change inside and out took place, prior to a set of TE37V wheels in bronze wrapped in Advan A050 meats being bolted over the Project Mu brakes. The wider track isn’t just for appearance but is also intended to maximize performance, and to that end, TEIN coilovers replaced the aged factory springs.
Inside, once the paint job was complete, the rear portion of the interior was left out entirely, while up front, edirb seats were installed and the original door panels and dash top were replicated in carbon fiber to act as replacement pieces. A Cusco bolt-in ’cage was then installed, and all of the focus quickly turned toward the engine bay.
Leaving the SR in stock form would have been a tragedy, and fortunately Pop felt the same way, which lead to a complete teardown and rebuild of the iconic 2.0L. JUN sleeves stuffed with CP pistons and Eagle rods fortify the bottom end, while up top JUN 272° cams help move air through the ported head. Breathing heavily into the stock intake manifold that’s been cleverly cut in half and retrofit with a custom spacer to increase intake volume is an HKS GT3540 turbo mounted to a Greddy manifold. A front mount intercooler replaces the original top-mount setup that Nissan designed, and the ignition system is modernized thanks to a set of AEM pencil coils. Under the watchful eye of an HKS F-con system, the car currently makes 500 hp, and though more power is readily available, it won’t be added to the mix until the upcoming transmission upgrades Pop has planned are complete.
Though the Pulsar GTIR is beloved by many, it’s long forgotten by some—and we haven’t seen a heavily modified one in quite some time. The fact that this outstanding version hails from Thailand, a region quickly earning a well-deserved reputation for some very unique builds, is really no surprise.