JATUPHON MANPATARAPONG’S NIS­SAN PUL­SAR GTIR

Super Street - - Contents -

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.

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