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1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

The Rivalry Rages On, But These Cars' Privateer Owners Couldn't Care Less. They're After The Same Thing-Total Domination.

Luke Munnell
Oct 30, 2009
Photographer: Warren Shim-Quee

We've all heard the arguments. Fans of drag racing will shout that theirs was here first-that it's the quintessential form of racing: a no-bullshit, mano-a-mano power contest with the clock as the judge. Those of drifting, that drag racing is narrow-minded and boring; drifting is more creative, interesting, and has more character. We're not taking sides. It's all one big shit storm that we'd rather not get caught in, and after a close look at these two S15 Silvias, a baseless one. Love or hate what either car was built for, the quality, craftsmanship and capabilities of each are worth a kidney from any one of us. One car churns out 1,400 hp at 11K rpm, and blasts 7.2-second quarter-mile passes. The other has bested the likes of Yamanaka, Takatori, and Verdier in competition, and has prompted drivers of big-budget, V-8-powered drift machines to re-think the potency of the modified four-cylinder street car that just took them out.

Impp_0912_02_o+1999_nissan_s15+side_shot Photo 2/21   |   "Drifting is just a fad."

So, you can argue amongst yourselves, or take cues from what's presented here and begin achieving your own goals. Contrary to the popular adage, good things don't come to those who wait; they come to those who act. Take a lesson from two people for whom action is a way of life.

Impp_0912_01_o+1999_nissan_s15+side_view Photo 3/21   |   "Drag is dead."

Drift Boso S15
If Ross' S15 looks more like a street car than a professional drift car, that's the idea. "I learned to drift in RHD street cars," he explains. Ross Petty was raised in Okinawa, Japan. His childhood days were spent the same as any Okinawa youth: studying, playing sports, or diving for tako and meata fish in Okinawa's Zampa bay; and later, in his early teen years, the same as any Okinawa adolescent: surfing, wreaking havoc on the general citizenry, wrenching on cars with the older guys by day, and causing trouble with them by night. "None of us had money to pay people to fix our cars," Ross explains, "so everyone worked on their own." And with that came the instinctual urge for performance, felt by anyone who's ever discovered the benefits of turning a wrench.

Impp_0912_03_o+1999_nissan_s15+front_view Photo 4/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

Built Skylines and Supras ran the streets of Okinawa in Ross' younger years. Drag racing was popular, and also expensive, regimented and structured. Drifting, like other activities Ross and his crew occupied their time with, was the antithesis of those qualities. "It was just part of the culture I was into," he recalls, "like surfing or skating. We built our cars for fun and never took them too seriously." While the draggers pounded the streets at night, looking for a fight, Ross' crew congregated in the canyons or at the docks. Ask, and he'll talk at length about the Aja dock sessions: massive circuits defined by buildings, shipping containers and spectators' cars; over a hundred cars on hand at any given night; 20-car tandem drifts with no beginning or end-cars simply jumped in and out of line when they got the chance, or became new additions to the course when things went wrong. Guys would bring their girls, girls would bring their friends, and as Ross explains it, there was nothing structured or official about it-no judged competition, no rules. Drivers would push each other and their cars to be better, then kick back and become part of the crowd when they were done. "It was total freedom," explains Ross. A lot of what they were doing was illegal, but in contrast to street racing, "No one really cared," he says, "Nothing ever got out of hand. They were happy as long as we stayed out of everyone else's way."

Impp_0912_06_o+1999_nissan_s15+wheel_shot Photo 5/21   |   The Boso S15 rolls Work wheels-18x10-inch XSA-03Cs on the track, and 19x10s off. A'pexi N1 Evolution Drift Damper coilovers keep the beast aloft, but behind them, things get even more interesting. An S14 differential replaces the S15 unit, stuffed with custom-machined Skyline R33 gearing, an R33-spec Kaaz LSD and R33 GT-R axles. R33 rear brakes are also used, for their own drum-and-shoe setup for the hand brake that remains separate from the discs and calipers actuated by the brake pedal-great for hand-brake initiations, especially once fitted with high-friction Project Mu shoes.

It was in the midst of this underground lifestyle that Ross first met Michiya Kohoribata, owner of a salvage yard in Itoman, supplier to the underground Okinawa drift scene, and as Ross puts it, "the craziest, most underground, ghetto, JDM drift samurai alive!" When Ross was 15, Michiya taught him to drift FWD cars, to learn the importance of hand-brake technique and car control. Two years later, after Ross wrecked his friend's CRX, Michiya-san helped him build his first RWD car-a CA18-powered 180SX-that they took through the touges and to the docks at night. "When he's on-point, Michiya-san is one of the best drivers out there," Ross says bluntly, "but he's crazy reckless. He falls asleep behind the wheel all the time." He laughs, "I saw him fall asleep merging onto a freeway once."

Impp_0912_05_o+1999_nissan_s15+interior_shot Photo 6/21   |   If Ross' interior looks more like a street car's than a professional race car's, that's the idea. "I learned to drift in RHD street cars," he explains, "so we built this car to resemble the cars you'd see drifting the streets of Okinawa or Osaka." Safety requirements mandate a full rollcage, but this S15 sports one that fits flush against the factory door panels and roof liner. With doors closed, the only visible part of it is the dimple-die up front, added for structural rigidity. The stereo works, too-there's nothing wrong with bumping a little Israel Vibration in the grid, is there?

At 18, Ross decided to leave Okinawa for the tropical green of Hawaii, abuzz with killer surf, friendly "locs", and the Falken Tire-backed competitive drift series Drift Sessions. Ross's first Hawaii car was a comparatively underpowered USDM 240SX, but his miles in the Okinawa underground gave him experience the competition lacked. He won Drift Sessions seven times in a row. Victory led to a sponsorship with Falken, and after polishing his skills at local spots like Tantlus and Triangles, he won Signal Auto's Drift Challenge in '00, along with an opportunity to travel the mainland and represent his sponsors in the newly formed Formula Drift series.

Impp_0912_04_o+1999_nissan_s15+trunk_shot Photo 7/21   |   Just the basics in the trunk: a box for the Optima battery and "bash bar" reinforcement from the rollcage, designed to safeguard the chassis from collision-the brainchild of Dan Ruelas, lead fabricator and long-time friend of Ross, whose handiwork is behind nearly every cut and weld on the car. No need for a fuel cell-Ross' S15 uses a stock R34 GT-R in-tank fuel pump, which supplies plenty of fuel for his needs. That 1,400 hp drag car on the next page, however, might need something bigger.

Fast forward a few years and drifting had become a world-wide phenomenon. Japan's D1GP began hosting competitions in the U.S., alongside Formula D, NOPI Drift and other series, and drifters from all camps participated in exhibitions abroad during the off-season. It was during the World Drift Series' third event in China that Ross first crossed paths with Frank Siharath: tuner, fabricator and owner of Racetune in Hayward, CA. The two got to talking one night-over some Heinekens and Chivas-about rolling out a joint effort in SoCal. It was the light-up of Garage Boso, and their first order of business was the up-keep of Ross' 240SX competition car, which led to taking on other cars in the Falken stable, and later, those from A'pexi, Signal and the general public.

Impp_0912_07_o+1999_nissan_s15+ecu_shot Photo 8/21   |   Semi-hidden above the battery box is this little number: a police-issue strobe light controller, used by Ross to disorient his opponents during nighttime battle. "There's nothing in the rules that says we can't use it," Ross defends, "Plus, the fans love it!"

When Michiya-san made a surprise trip to the States in 2006 for D1GP Finals at Irwindale, Ross lent him his 240SX during a practice session, so the sensei could renew his competition license-a safe bet with any seasoned drifter, except for, maybe, Michiya-san. Ross' car was returned to him totaled, but with a promise of a better one to come. A year later, just as wishful thinking began to fade, a cargo container arrived at the Garage Boso facility in Gardena, CA, carrying a stripped-down, white, S15 Silvia, along with a note from Michiya-san: "Better luck this time!"

Drag Mazworx S15
A rural, southwestern Pennsylvania native, Pat Linn-owner of PRL Racing and this Mazworx-backed S15 Pro Mod-class dragger-got into the import scene about as far from it as anyone could. Whereas SoCal's Asian-American pop culture rightly gets the nod for sparking import enthusiasm's mainstream blow-up, to hardcore enthusiasts of every demographic, it was always about making cheap cars faster than expensive ones, small engines more powerful than big ones, and playing that underdog card for all it was worth. "When we first started making imports fast around here," explains Pat, "No one saw it coming." Before he knew it, he was hooked on the imports' unsuspecting power, and the respect-and coin-their element of surprise earned on the streets. He built, raced and sold several cars in his first few years, and soon found himself signing papers on his first Nissan 240SX. "I actually wanted to build it for drifting," he explains. "But once the SR swap and turbo upgrade were finished, I changed my mind."

Impp_0912_08_o+1999_nissan_s15+rear_view Photo 9/21   |   "Actual power numbers aren't known, since the car's maxed out every dyno it's been on.

Trends will come and go among the various sects of automotive enthusiasm, but straight-line acceleration will always be the most widely upheld statute for judging dominance, and the streets will always be the most easily accessible courtroom. Pat's S13 was stock bodied, primer-clad and street-driven, and he was covering his engine-building expenses by embarrassing Supras, blown V-8s and modified Ferraris on the streets. "Everyone raced me. No one was afraid of that car," he laughs, "It was too easy!" Working with Latrobe, PA-based Hybridynamics, Pat, Denis Howell and lead builder Jason Greenawalt tuned his S13 coupe to make 579 whp on stock internals-a record that Pat drove the car 1,200 miles to NOPI Nationals to set, and one that still stands to this day. "We hit 630 whp with it once, when its wastegate hose blew off on the dyno," Pat clarifies, "but I don't count that one."

Impp_0912_10_o+1999_nissan_s15+suspension_shot Photo 10/21   |   If this setup looks strange to street/drift car owners, it should. Strange Engineering is the name behind the brakes and drag launch suspension visible here. Drag suspensions allow a car to better hold traction, not break it-you'd never catch these coilovers on a drift car.

As the car's reputation caught on, the decision was eventually made to form PRL Racing, and to prep the car for NHRA Sport RWD and NOPI's NDRA Turbo Sport competition. The following year saw Jason pilot the S13 to consistent 9.3-second passes, regularly beating every opponent save for one, and earning a Wally in Indianapolis in 2007. The only remaining competitor: Orlando-based Mazworx front-man Mark Mazurowski and his 9.2-second S14. "Our cars were breaking parts every round," Pat explains, "and we were getting bored only battling each other." He transferred his S13 to PA drag racer Levi Stanley, and got started building a Pro-class car.

Impp_0912_09_o+1999_nissan_s15+rims_shot Photo 11/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

At the time, post-merger NHRA/NDRA judging criteria favored Pro Mod racers who ran with four-cylinder engines. And in Pat's eyes, the best four-cylinder, RWD car in recent production was the Nissan S15 Silvia-one he knew could compete with turbo-six platforms with the right build. Former foe Mark was also looking to get behind the build of a Pro-class car, and agreed that once Pat tracked down a platform, he would volunteer chassis fabrication and tuning. It gets better: "The only legal, registered S15 I found in the state was a yellow show car that Nitrous Express built and gave away at SEMA in 2006," Pat explains. It seems the thought of cutting up a sissy show car was just too good for the crew to pass up.

Impp_0912_12_o+1999_nissan_s15+bride_racing_seats Photo 12/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

In case you're thinking scrapping 90 percent of a show car to make a Pro-class dragger is a waste, don't. "The kid who won the car sold it almost immediately," explains Pat, "Everything on it was still brand new. We were able to part out what we didn't need and get most of our money back." It was like getting a legal, S15 chassis for free.

Impp_0912_14_o+1999_nissan_s15+center_dash_shot Photo 13/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

The conversion took six months, but testing and tuning took a bit longer. The crew did most of the tuning on-track-since they were maxing out their dyno-which meant dialing in the chassis had to come first; alignment problems at 180 mph aren't fun. Three months later, the car was running consistent 7.3-second passes and posting 185 mph trap speeds with room to grow. But then, the unthinkable: NOPI went bust, and the Pro Mod class-along with most of import drag racing-went with it.

Impp_0912_11_o+1999_nissan_s15+right_side_shot Photo 14/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

They say timing is everything, and to few disciplines is that more applicable than drag racing, in the business side of it arguably as much as at the line. Battle of the Imports still holds events, but fields only one Pro class, meaning the 3/4-chassis S15 would have to run against full tube-frame, carbon-fiber-bodied, turbo-six dragsters. The big, privateer-organized events of the Northeast have thus-far stayed in the Northeast, "and they're mostly for Sport FWD," Pat points out. Import Face-off and the newly formed NSCRA hold events regularly, but sub-$500 payouts don't justify the team putting thousands of dollars on the line with each pass. "These days, the car rarely leaves the shop," Pat laments. It's a shame, too, because data-logging from later test sessions shows it capable of 6.8-second passes with a few tweaks-faster than any other class competitor. It's a glimmer of hope Mark's put a lot of faith into, lately. The day after our photoshoot of the S15, Pat sold it to Mark.

Impp_0912_16_o+1999_nissan_s15+steering_wheel Photo 15/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

Behind The Build

'99 Nissan S15
Output 568 hp at 6,800 rpm; 420 lb-ft of torque at 6,200 rpm

Impp_0912_17_o+1999_nissan_s15+intake_shot Photo 16/21   |   A twin-scroll Garrett 3071R turbo replaces the stock S15 unit, and produces a fat, drift-friendly 568 whp and 420 lb-ft of torque to the S15's wheels. And those red silicone hose tabs on the end of every T-bolt clamp are a very important detail if you work on a car that's allowed only minutes for repairs. Your forearms will thank you.

Engine Crower Stage 2 camshafts, titanium connecting rods, pistons, piston rings, BC5209 crankshaft, valves, valve springs, titanium retainers; Pulsar GTi-R throttle body; Garrett 3071R turbocharger; Full Race manifold; A'pexi AVC-R boost controller, GT Spec exhaust w/Boso-modified downpipe, Power FC D-Jetro ECU; Denso fuel pump, 800cc/min injectors; HKS fuel rail; Sard fuel pressure regulator; Power Enterprise Ignition Amplifier; NGK Iridium spark plugs; Hose Techniques silicon hoses, T-bolt clamps; Baller titanium bolts; Griffin Thermal Products intercooler, dual-pass radiator, oil coolers (x2); Spal fans; Yashio Factory water pump pulley; Garage Boso water/air separator, power steering reservoir, oil/crank case breather system, oil pan, intercooler piping, 90mm head gasket, head studs

Impp_0912_25_o+1999_nissan_s15+engine_shot Photo 17/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

Drivetrain OS Giken twin-plate clutch, five-speed gear set, main shaft; R33 GT-R axles, differential gearing; Kaaz R200 two-way LSD

Suspension A'pexi N1 Evolution Drift Damper coilovers; control arms

Wheels/Tires Work XSA-03C wheels (18x10 front, 18x10 rear); Falken Azenis RT-615 tires (235/40-18 front, 275/30-18 rear)

Brakes R32 GT-R front rotors, calipers; R33 GT-R rear rotors/drums, calipers; Project Mu pads and hand-brake shoes

Exterior D-Max Type 1 body kit, LED taillights

Interior Custom DOM 1.5/.095-inch roll cage; Bride Zeta III driver's seat; Sparco steering wheel; A'pexi EL gauges and tachometer; JVC DVD/audio system; Yashio Factory shift knob; Flawless Rides carbon fiber pieces

Gratitude Garage Boso staff: Frank Siharath, Ross Petty, Dan Ruelas, Keigo Sato, Hamma, Richard Rabe, Bushman; Mario Lozano of TSR Fabrication; The McCully crew, uncle Jeremy Motes, Antonuts and everyone in Hawaii, Okinawa, S.F. Bay Area, and people all over the world down with the Boso lifestyle!

Impp_0912_26_o+1999_nissan_s15+right_side_shot Photo 18/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

Name.
Garage Boso

Location.
Gardena, Ca

Occupation.
Tuning shop, race prep specialists

Quote.
"We came to Formula D to make people shit their pants."

'99 Nissan S15
Output 1,400 hp at 11,000 rpm; 750 lb-ft of torque at 8,600 rpm

Impp_0912_18_o+1999_nissan_s15+front_shot Photo 19/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

Engine S13 SR20DET block, SR20VE cylinder head; CP 90mm 11:1 pistons, rings; Mazworx aluminum connecting rods, dry sump system, 90mm head gasket, 1/2-inch head studs, CNC cylinder-head porting, intake manifold, turbo manifold, downpipe and wastegate dump, fuel rail, tuning; Kelford cams; Darton sleeves; ATI race damper; Supertech Intake and incolnel exhaust valves, dual valve springs, titanium retainers; Tomei cam gears; Infiniti Q45 throttle body; Garrett GT4718R 1.39 A/R turbocharger, liquid-to-air intercooler core; Tial blow-off valve and 60mm wastegate; Honda CBR 1000 coil packs; NGK plugs; RC Engineering 160lb/hr injectors (x12); Motec M800 ECU, CDI ignition

Impp_0912_27_o+1999_nissan_s15+engine_shot Photo 20/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

Drivetrain G-Force 2000 sequential transmission; Strange axles, driveshaft, 9-inch rear end; Ram clutch

Suspension Strange Engineering drag launch suspension

Wheels/Tires American Racing wheels (15x3 front, 15x15 rear); Goodyear tires (23x5x15 Front Runners; 32x14.5x15 medium-comp slicks)

Brakes Strange Engineering brakes; Goodyear stainless braided brake lines

Exterior Pito Pimar one-piece fiberglass front end, doors; Dodge Viper green paint, applied by Buck's Autobody; Lexan glass replacement; Simpson parachute; Quartermax wheelie bars

Interior Quartermax carbon fiber wheel wells, transmission tunnel, seat; Mazworx tubework; Painless switchbox; Stroupe harness; Sparco steering wheel; Motec Sport display; Auto Meter shift light

Gratitude Mark Mazurowski and Mazworx, Jason Greenawalt, Pito Pimar, Buck's Autobody, SPC Motorsports, Denis and the Hybridynamics crew, Jonah, Eric, Fortune, Luke, and Carter

Impp_0912_28_o+1999_nissan_s15+neo_vvl_logo Photo 21/21   |   1999 Nissan Silvia S15 - Drift Vs Drag

Behind The Build
Head to the message boards at
www.importtuner.com to chat about this feature vehicle

Name.
PRL Racing

Location.
Orlando, Fl

Occupation.
Living life at just under seven seconds at a time.

Quote.
"I love beating expensive cars with cheap cars."

Sources

Hybrid Racing
Baton Rouge, LA 70809
225-932-9588
http://www.hybridracing.com
Brian Crower
El Cajon, CA 92020
619-749-9018
http://www.briancrower.com
Work Wheels
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
714-968-7040
http://www.workwheelsusa.com
Falken Tire
Fontana, CA 92335
800-723-2553
http://www.falkentire.com
A'PEXi
Orange, CA 92868
714-685-5700
http://www.apexi-usa.com
By Luke Munnell
298 Articles

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