First impressions count for a lot—be it when meeting people or for a company trying to make its mark in an already competitive market. Ben Sopra has managed to achieve a lot in the 10 or so months it has been active, establishing itself as probably the most aggressively expanding brand in Japan and taking this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon by storm with the creation you see here. The term wild doesn’t even begin to describe what the Ben Sopra body conversion does to an R35 GT-R, and if you think this is an exercise of form over function, think again.
Kazunori Ueda of Ben Sopra is a man of vision, driven by passion and a need to make a statement in the aftermarket-tuning world that he loves so much. Not wanting to settle in designing the usual small exterior upgrades that so many already offer for the GT-R, he stepped it up a notch and went, well, full out. He teamed up with a professional aerodynamicist with plenty of experience in Super GT and proceeded to put pen to paper, creating the unmistakable lines that form the Ben Sopra conversion. The idea was to give the R35 a boost in presence, the same a prohibitively expensive exotic would emanate, and the first step was a complete redesign of the front end. The introduction of a clamshell cowl for the hood and bumper section was going to be very complex to engineer, but it would be one of the selling points of the conversion, so no compromises were made. This called for a pair of billet mounts and hinges strong enough to hold up the entire weight of the front end when access to the engine is required. The whole section opens up in a two-stage motion, first slid off the two fender-mounted braces that hold the cowl securely in place when latched down, and then swung open. The GT-like recessed front fenders are there to flow air from under the car and the fenderwells efficiently over the profile of the GT-R, until it gets to the aggressively blistered rear end. The rear fenders are actually cut away where they meet with the redesigned rear bumper, sporting four molded-in canards on each side to help stabilize the car at speed. It’s all completed with what has to be the pièce de résistance, the rear GT spoiler, held in place with drilled metal wing stays that spout out from the center of the rear bumper. The Ben Sopra kit is all about the details, and if you look closely you will find an opening under each of the front fenders from where the side exit pipe or wastegate screamer pipes can be routed. The gaping front opening on the bumper is unobstructed, allowing the intercooler to enjoy a constant flow of cooling air. Suspension modifications followed next to allow for more precise handling capabilities as well as allowing the wheels to sit nice and flush with the fenders. This was achieved with the KW Clubsport coilovers, and a set of adjustable suspension arms from Top Secret. Ueda-san chose a set of 20x10 Enkei GTC01s mated to 15mm spacers at the front and massive 60mm hub extenders at the rear. The Enkeis are shod in the most expensive rubber currently available for the R35, Yokohama Advan A005 slicks in 280/710R20 sizes all round. These tires are only used for display purposes, because in reality this particular R35 is built to undertake the most unnatural of disciplines for a GT-R—drift.
It was nothing short of pure coincidence that when Ueda-san began searching for a donor car, Blitz quietly put their R35 development car up for sale. This was the same car that Ken Nomura would eventually drive in the D1 Grand Prix, the crazy GT-R that had been converted to rear-wheel drive and stripped of that formidable electronic brain that gives it its supercar-slaying abilities. Blitz decided to abandon the project, which had been progressing ever so slowly over the last three years. Ueda-san knew this would make the perfect base for his Ben Sopra demo car and snapped the car up immediately. Blitz’s chief mechanic Abe-san had executed a monumental job in transforming the R35 into a rear-wheel-drive drift car, getting rid of the transaxle BorgWarner dual clutch transmission and rebuilding the entire driveline around a Holinger six-speed mechanical sequential, an R34 GT-R rear end, and rear subframe.
It took years of work, but it wasn’t only the rear-wheel-drive transformation that Blitz did. The VR38DETT was stripped down and rebuilt with forged internals, which included CP pistons and Carillo H-section connecting rods. The heads were thoroughly ported and polished to get the best flow possible and equipped with JUN valvesprings and retainers as well as a set of high-lift and longer duration camshafts. With power levels in D1 getting a bit out of control in the last couple of years, Abe-san settled on a nice and even 1,000 hp, which would be supplied by the top-mounted Garrett GT3082R blowers, sitting on custom fabricated exhaust manifolds. The whole wiring loom of the R35 was thrown out and a Motec tediously custom wired—the only way to control the now very analogue R35. Audio, air conditioning, and even the funky LCD multifunction display were eliminated to shave off as much weight as possible, the only other addition being that third pedal sitting so strangely in the driver-side foot well. Before Ueda-san got his hand on the car Nomuken managed to at least have a go drifting the R35 that Blitz spent so many years reconstructing, but as the saying goes, it was just not meant to be. The car is now the Ben Sopra GT-R, and Nomuken continues to compete in D1 with his trusty old ER34 four-door Skyline. The R35 was never really set up so Ueda-san will have to do a lot of fine-tuning to get things working well. Plans for the car are still unsure, but we were told not to be surprised if we end up seeing it entered in some kind of drift competition in the future. You heard it here first!
One glance at the interior and you know you are looking at something very unique. The big shiny billet lever that sticks out of the I-pattern gate in the transmission tunnel hints that this is no ordinary R35. The superbly finished dry carbon panels that hide the big gaping holes where the audio, A/C, LCD screen, and other switch gear used to once live are of the highest quality. The stock meter panel has also been binned, replaced with a Racepack IQ3 data logger and LCD dash unit. Things are finished up with a pair of Bride bucket seats and a Nardi steering wheel, again both adding to the immense weight that has been stripped from the car, which is in the vicinity of 300 kg!
It’s great to see so much effort being poured into the R35 GT-R. It may have been out in Japan since late 2007 but only now are we seeing these kind of conversions emerge. And if you are wondering what Ben Sopra has planned next... well Ueda-san says we ain’t seen nothing yet!
Behind the Build
Designer of Lamborghini and GT-R aero kits
2009 Nissan R35 GT-R
Engine CP forged pistons; Carillo H-section connecting rods; JUN camshafts, valve retainers, and valvesprings; GT3082R top-mounted turbos; Ben Sopra exhaust; custom intercooler piping; Blitz intercooler; Fuelab high-pressure fuel pump; 1,000cc injectors;
Drivetrain Holinger sequential transmission; ORC triple-plate clutch and flywheel; R34 GT-R rearend; Nismo GT Pro two-way LSD
Engine Management Motec M800 ECU
Footwork/Chassis KW Clubsport adjustable suspension; Top Secret adjustable front top upper arms and adjustable pillow ball lower arms
Wheel/Tires 20x10.5 Enkei GTC01; 15mm spacers front, 60mm hub extenders rear; 280/710R20 Yokohama A005 slicks
Exterior Ben Sopra front bumper and bonnet cowl section, front lip spoiler, bonnet hinge conversion, front fenders, side skirts, rear over-fenders, rear bumper, wing stays, GT wing, and rear diffuser
Interior Bride race bucket seats and seat rails; Nardi steering wheel; Racepack IQ3 data logger and dash display on dry carbon dash panel; dry carbon center console and MFD delete; custom switch panel; dry carbon transmission tunnel trim; Holinger shift lever and knob; Blitz gauges; and SBC boost controller