SIT DOWN, STAY HUM­BLE

AN S14 THAT PER­FECTLY MAR­RIES FORM AND FUNC­TION

NZ Performance Car - - News - WORDS: JADEN MARTIN PHO­TOS: RICHARD OPIE

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

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