While Nobuteru Taniguchi and team HKS dropped out of the whole D1-GP thing a couple of years back, they never actually halted the development of their drift machines. With Nob (No One Better) taking part with teammate and best friend Orido in many drift exhibitions there has always been a need to stay at the top, even with no incentive from actual competitions. Things changed, however, at the 2009 D1 round in Fuji, when team HKS and Nob returned to D1 after a two-year hiatus with the all-new IS220-Z you see here.
When HKS replaced the impressively successful D1 S15 Silvia at the end of 2004 with the Altezza most people were confused. At that time Nob was the king of drift, dominating almost every round and well in the lead of the championship. But HKS loves a challenge and decided to introduce the new car before the end of the season. The next seasons were tough as Nob struggled to get the most out of the Altezza. Other teams were coming up with more and more powerful cars, and the Altezza was feeling the pressure. When they decided to no longer participate in D1, HKS didn’t retire the car; instead, they continued to develop it. So for its comeback the IS got even more hard core, resembling more of a full-blown race car than your regular drift car. The scope of the exercise was to participate in a few rounds—Fuji and the Tokyo Drift event in Odaiba—and see how things go. The car seems to be performing better and better as Nob gets into the stride of things again. To bring you a detailed look at this impressive drift machine we headed down to the HKS main factory in Fujinomiya city, at the feet of Mt. Fuji.
For its comeback the IS got even more hard core, resembling more of a full-blown race car than your regular drift car.
As ever, the HKS premises are an awesome sight, laid out in six main factory buildings. Employees all wear the cream-colored HKS overalls and can be seen working hard, making everything from springs and dampers to exhaust systems. The workshop is jam-packed with all sorts of HKS demo cars—we even saw a new Mini Cooper and turbocharged Honda Fit wearing HKS badges. As we waited for the IS220-Z to be unloaded from the transporter we drooled over the black Nissan R35 GT-R demo car, which seems to be undergoing some kind of road testing. It isn’t long before the IS is ready to go, bursting into life with an almighty bark. The HKS sequential gearbox seems pretty smooth and easy to operate as Saito-san of HKS positions the car. The car’s exterior is somewhat sedate considering what is going on under its skin. The body sports a very slight widening of the front and rear arches thanks to a set of riveted over-fenders. Up front, the massive central air dam of the custom bumper sucks up air and directs it to the intercooler and then the radiator. Curiously, both side intakes have been closed off with some carbon-fiber plating (we will get into this later). The carbon hood is made by Varis and on top of the wide-fiber composite main shell is an FRP structure that has been added for additional strength. To help expel as much heat as possible, a square vented section has been created on top of the turbine, an area that gets very hot in competition. More carbon fiber is used in the form of front side canards and an under-spoiler for the front bumper, all helping generate front-end downforce when traveling at speed. To help shave off weight both the front and rear doors feature carbon-fiber construction, as well as having carbon inner cards. The rear bumper, as on the original 2004 car, is armed with some pretty big air outlets behind the rear fenders. These allow tire smoke to pour out of the bumper cleanly, creating a far smoother cloud of vaporized Yokohama rubber. On top of this, HKS added three carbon winglets on each of the rear corners of the car, which shoot the smoke further up into the air while also adding more rear downforce. Speaking of downforce, the massive rear wing is straight out of a Super GT car! The two centrally mounted stays are connected to the chassis via a small rear subframe so that the aerodynamic force is passed on directly where it’s needed. The carbon trunk lid is held in place by four quick-release clips, which once undone allow the whole section to be lifted and removed. The Altezza IS220-Z rides on gold Yokohama Advan RS 10-spoke wheels, 17 inches up front and 18 inches at the rear. Advan Neova AD-07 was the tire of choice, 235/40/17 on the smaller front wheels and 265/35/18 for the rears.
Creating a competitive drift car is no easy feat these days and taking a look around the IS220-Z reveals some mind-boggling attention to detail. The project began with the complete strip down of the car, all the way to the bare shell. The mechanics in charge of special projects at HKS spent countless hours preparing the chassis for the build. Beginning at the front of the car the factory wheel arches and strut towers were cut out and completely rebuilt. This allows for more clearance when the front wheels turn around their increased lock and pivot on the slightly more aggressive caster angle. On top of this, the top mounts of the dampers were repositioned and rebuilt by hand to allow for the best possible drift-oriented geometry. To guarantee optimal rigidity in this area the struts were boxed and plated, allowing for new and far stiffer mounting points for the front tower bar. All the front structure was then spot and seam welded. It was then onto the interior, where a lot of time was spent cutting and modifying to accommodate bespoke parts like the six-speed SR sequential transmission, which was adapted to fit the 3S-GTE. The whole transmission tunnel was cut out, rebuilt, and prepared for the custom linkage that had to be fabricated to allow Nob to actuate the shifter. The passenger-side foot well was cut out and modified to allow the downpipe and front section of the exhaust to sit slightly recessed into the floor. The area behind the front seats was completely sealed off and strengthened with more plating and joined by additional equipment like the relocated battery and air jacks. A very complex rollcage was fabricated and secured around the A-, B-, and C-pillars with even more plating. Work proceeded in the trunk area where the racing fuel cell sits. The fuel system has been neatly laid out and a top-feed filler for the tank put in place for easy fill-ups. This was required to clear the large rear spoiler and its stays, not to mention the additional frame inside the trunk. The intercooler spray tank, as well as the secondary oil catch tank, is both located on the driver side of the truck. The adjustment knobs for the air jack system are easily accessible even when the trunk lid is in place. Once all of this was taken care of, the shell was painted in metallic silver, ready for the next stage of work. Starting from scratch on a build like this means that a lot of custom wiring must be done, and a lot of unnecessary cables removed for a marginal weight benefit. All the electrical system therefore can be neatly organized and items like the fuse box smartly positioned for easy access. In the Altezza this has been positioned on the passenger side of the center console along with additional piping leading to the rear-mounted oil coolers and braking circuits. Gone is the stock dashboard, which was replaced with a custom carbon-fiber work of art complete with exposed rivets on its sides for that true raw look. On the driver side we find the custom main instrument console, which is fixed directly onto the steering column. This pivots upward to allow for easy entry and exit from the driver seat. A large backlit LCD display is at the center, and a handful of additional switch gear is coherently organized on each side of the Nardi steering wheel. Nob sits on lightweight carbon-Kevlar Bride seats and uses a Willans racing harness to strap himself down. The same seat and belt combo is found on the passenger side. Nob can select gears via the tall gear selector while a secondary lever allows him to have instant lock of the rear wheels thanks to the hydraulic side-brake circuit. The carbon center console is bursting with digital gadgets like the HKS EVC boost controller, knock amp meter, and circuit attack timer. A couple of HKS analog dials keep an eye on the all important oil pressure and temperature. A second LCD screen from Eclipse is used to display the HKS CAMP digital meters.
With most D1 cars pushing out well over 500-550 hp, HKS knew that they had to step the game up with the new build of the 3S-GTE powering the IS220-Z. Back in the day this engine was producing around 450-480 hp, but now it’s a healthier 560 hp. This has been accomplished through a more hard-core tune, which begins with a special HKS 2.2L stroker kit made up of 87mm forged pistons, H-section connecting rods, and a billet crankshaft (90mm stroke) pushes capacity to 2,150 cc. Thanks to the HKS metal gasket a high 9.5:1 compression ratio is created allowing the engine to be far more responsive. Vcam Pro camshafts along with a Valcon controller take care of optimizing the lower end torque as well as maximizing high-end power. Sitting on the custom HKS manifold is the externally gated HKS GT3037S turbine, which passes spent gasses to the custom straight exhaust system. Perfectly representing just how big HKS’ budget is for these kind of projects is the dry-carbon intake pipe, which curves under the custom intercooler piping to suck in air from deep inside the passenger corner of the bumper. A custom-built intercooler using an HKS S-type core has been positioned to receive optimal airflow from the bumper and send the compressed and cooled charge onto the stock Toyota intake plenum. Here it meets with the fuel sprayed into the cylinders by the 850cc/min injectors, which in turn are fed by the twin Bosh Motorsport fuel pumps in the trunk. Keeping the engine cool is a pair of oil coolers, which has been positioned under the car. This is done to avoid problems when the IS is involved in smaller impacts, saving the all-important coolers usually located on the corners of the bumper. This is why both side intakes on the bumper are sealed. A TRD radiator and air-separator tank takes care of engine cooling. As mentioned HKS has fitted their SR six-speed sequential transmission, usually used on S15 Silvias. This has been adapted to fit the 3S and is joined by an HKS GD Pro clutch and a TRD LSD.
On the suspension side of things HKS fitted specially setup and valved Hipermax D dampers and springs, which take advantage of the revised suspension geometry. Thicker antiroll bars are run front and back to keep the car nice and flat when drifting. Apart from extended steering knuckles the only other modification to the suspension links is a front lower arm spacer, which pushes the arm out further front to allow for more controlled steering. On the braking front Endless have been called into the project and supplied a set of six-pot front calipers and two-piece slotted front discs. At the rear, the stock non-ventilated disc remains along with the factory caliper but is joined by a second caliper for the side brake. This, as can be seen in the engine bay, has required the use of a second master cylinder. Endless Euro X pads are used at each corner.
It was great to see HKS and Nob taking an interest in D1-GP. We hope their interest develops further and can see them competing full time in the near future.
Back in the day this engine was producing around 450-480 hp, but now it’s a healthier 560 hp.
Behind the Build
Location. Shizuoka, Japan
High Performance Machines
Toyota Altezza RS200 (SXE10)
Engine 3S-GTE BEAMS engine; HKS 2.2L stroker kit, metal head gasket, Valcon + Vcam kit Pro camshafts, Valcon Pro valve timing controller, custom stainless steel exhaust manifold, GT3037S turbo, wastegate, custom downpipe, custom exhaust system, one-off carbon intake pipe, custom intercooler piping kit, custom intercooler using S-type core with intercooler spray system (tank in trunk), custom twin-core oil coolers under car with fans, and F-Con V Pro engine management; TRD radiator with air-separator tank; Custom carbon radiator shrouding; racing fuel cell custom fitted in trunk with one-off top feed filler; Bosh Motorsport racing fuel pumps; braided fuel lines
Drivetrain HKS GD clutch, six-speed SR sequential gearbox; TRD LSD
Suspension HKS Hipermax D custom setup adjustable dampers; custom-built and repositioned front and rear damper mounting points; front lower arm spacer; custom antiroll bars
Wheels/Tires Yokohama Advan RS 17x9 +22 (front), 18x9 +25 (rear), Yokohama Advan Neova AD-07 235/40/17 (front), 265/35/18 (rear)
Brakes Endless six-pot front calipers, two-piece slotted rotors, and Euro X pads; custom second rear e-brake setup; HKS F-706 brake fluid
Exterior Special one-off HKS D1 project body kit, custom carbon doors and panels; Varis carbon hood; custom LED rear lights; custom side mirrors; polycarbonate windows
Interior Completely stripped and spot-welded chassis; welded-in and braced rollcage plus additional stiffening; modified transmission tunnel and floor; air jack system; carbon dashboard; flip-up steering column for easy access; Eclipse LCD display for CAMP; HKS EVC5 boost controller; AFK knock amp; V-Cam controller; Circuit Attack Counter; DB-RS oil pressure and oil temperature gauges; Bride carbon-Kevlar racing bucket seats; Willans racing harnesses; Nardi steering wheel; custom levers for gearbox and side brake