I've had the pleasure of covering several cars and events in Australia since I started at Super Street over five years ago, much thanks to one of our most dependable contributors, Alastair Ritchie. Whether it's drift, time attack, quarter-mile, or regular street builds, the New Zealand-based photographer has done his fair share of reporting for us and always keeps me abreast of what's happening in Australia's rich tuning scene. And while I can definitely appreciate his crisp photos and love sharing them with you all, I'm still 7,500 miles away, sitting in my office in California, pondering how the scene is in Australia. Does the fit and finish of their workmanship rival what we're accustomed to here in the States, as well as Japan? Well, last month, after a 15-hour flight to Sydney for Fitted Festival, my questions were answered with a resounding: yes! Australia has some of the most talented and hardcore enthusiasts I've met in the car world, and it was quite apparent on the days I visited with the Honda gurus at JDM Yard and the motorsport specialists at V-Sport.
I've never met or dealt with anyone at V-Sport prior, but they have been on my radar for a few years, most notably due to their Toyota 86 built for World Time Attack Challenge. I really didn't know what to expect when I arrived at their facility in West Sydney but was immediately taken aback by how accommodating shop manager John Healey and his staff were. I also couldn't believe how enormous the place was, much due to the fact that they not only specialize in vehicle and motorsport support, but they also serve as the distributor of GoPro, among other things in Australia. As I continued to make my way to their shop area, I was greeted by a random assortment of cars, some that needed more attention than others, such as a Skyline that's being rebuilt; however, there was also a '60s Mustang and Holden Commodore safety car on the lifts that just needed a quick tune-up. It just goes to show the scope of V-Sport's capabilities and expertise. Finally, though, I came face-to-face with the three most important cars I was there to see.
#1 Time Attack Toyota 86
V-Sport's Toyota 86 last saw battle at the '15 World Time Attack Challenge. Driven by Nicholas Bates and competing in the most stacked Open Class, the team finished 12th with a 1:34.5480 — nearly four seconds behind the fastest lap and over five seconds behind the '16 winner, set by an incredibly fast EVO 9. As you can tell from these photos, the car is very much torn apart and in the process of being revamped for this year's event after a two-year hiatus.
While I've seen my fair share of dedicated Time Attack machines from our neck of the woods, what I admired most about V-Sport's 86 was that the car could honestly double as a show car. The execution of everything from the custom carbon fiber work, rollcage, fit and finish of the paint and everything in between was top notch. It reminded me of some of the race/drift builds from Japan where they spend extra time and money to ensure their cars aren't just fast and powerful but able to be put on display on a showroom floor. John goes on to tell me that everything done to the 86 was finished in-house, minus the paint and tuning.
The list of upgrades and changes are as long as you can imagine. There's not much left of what's factory. The motor is currently out of the car—John wouldn't spill the beans on what's coming next, but he did mention the approximate 450whp it was running before from the built and turbocharged FA20. Other significant upgrades I fancied were the sequential gearbox, AP Racing pedal box and brakes, MoTeC dash, 18x11-inch Advan wheels, air jacks, and clever use of Varis and Rocket Bunny aero, which John also tells me will be updated for this year's race.
As one of the most impressive 86/BRZs I've ever seen in person, I look forward to what V-Sport can accomplish this year at World Time Attack Challenge. Perhaps one day we might be able to see him compete at our Super Lap Battle in California — it's only a 15,000-mile round trip, right?
#2 John Healey's Datsun 1600 Wagon
Parked not too far from V-Sport's 86 is shop manager John Healey's '71 Datsun 1600 wagon (we know it as the 510), and it couldn't be any further on the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to their time attack build. John has had the wagon for three years and it was never meant to go fast or even be this low for that matter. It's a big smooth cruiser with certain parts and styling cues that hint the owner is more than just your average car builder.
There isn't a whole lot done to the exterior except for the replacements for things like bumpers and door handles, plus the addition of JDM fender mirrors and grille, coats of Nissan GT-R grey paint, and 15-inch Work CR01 wheels. The suspension was a last-minute job according to John, but fits the theme of the build quite nice using Air Lift struts up front, a custom rear and Accuair management. It's tucking rim in the back, but it's not "crazy low" as John didn't want to cut the body or frame to make it any closer to the ground.
Under the hood (or bonnet as Aussie's call it) is a semi-shaved engine bay with Nissan's old four-cylinder L18. John's rebuilt the motor with forged pistons, ported the head, upgraded the cams, and added ITBs, as well as a coil-on-plug conversion. It all sounds like a nice build but it's for the sake of reliability and cruising purposes — the L-series still only makes 120 ponies.
Inside, much of the upholstery is a nice dark red leather re-trim which matches the R35 GT-R color combination — a small detail John was going for. There's also an SSS dash, Recaro fronts, and Nardi steering wheel.
Like I said, not an over-the-top, wild build, but the quality and execution is the cream of the crop and there's certain parts and themes used that definitely give off the impression John isn't just an old Datsun guy, but a well-seasoned enthusiast that values quality as much as performance.
#3 John Healey's Datsun 1200 Truck
Last but not least, tucked away under one of V-Sport's lifts was this interesting, work-in-progress, Datsun 1200 truck (we know it as the Sunny). It's a long bed version and we can already tell it's going to be a show stopper with the 09racing GT-R conversion that includes a new front-end, flares and dash (remember Dominic Le's Hakotora?) Other details include the Work wheels, S-chassis front suspension, modified steering rack, tubbed wheel wells, four-link rear, and built 400hp SR20DET engine. John tells us the car will be static, fun to drive, and with what we see so far, it wouldn't be any less than what I've come to expect from the V-Sport camp. Thanks for the tour, John!