There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. Or is there? As far as I know nobody has ever imposed any rules or guidelines when it comes to cars. Like works of art anyone is free to do whatever one sees fit with his own car. Last week’s feature on The Check Shop’s 997 GT3 RS 3.8 raised a few eyebrows, with some feeling that a set of street-wheels completely ruined such a focused modern-day performance car. Well this week I want to continue on that line of thought, not so much on the form vs. function debate but more on modified vs. authentic vintage car restorations.
That’s why I headed down to Nagoya for this particular feature, to meet up with Watanabe-san of Rocky Auto, probably one of the most recognized vintage car shops in Japan. Watanabe-san has developed a very distinct approach to restoring Japanese classics like the Skyline or the Fairlady Z; while he appreciates the unmolested and period correct look, at the same time he isn’t afraid to meddle with authenticity.
As he so simply puts it every time we talk about his cars, “I want to create cars that people want to drive” and by this he means drive them on a daily basis. This means make them “useable,” powerful but at the same time safe. It’s definitely an argument that’s hard to argue against, except by saying that it’s just not right. But right according to what? Who? Resto-modded cars have been all the rage for decades in the US, and what he is doing is precisely this…
…only done with a Japanese twist. The 1971 C10 Skyline 2-door hardtop he put together for this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon is probably one of the most talked about cars he has built, not because of power or carbon body panels like he has done in the past…
…but more because of the origin of the engine.
The Toyota 1U has become quite the popular engine to swap into small and light cars, we have seen them fitted to various generations of Corollas for example with awesome results. But into a Skyline? An Hakosuka of all cars?
Aside for the fact that this will probably make a lot of Nissan aficionados cringe, not to mention those that in no way or form accept any sort of fettling when it comes to classic cars, Watanabe-san has created something quite different. Call it controversial if you want, but that is precisely what he was shooting for.
The 1U has fits without any problems in the C10′s large engine bay, most of the engine fitted behind the front suspension mounting point, for optimal front to rear weight distribution. Prior to the swap itself the Hakosuka’s chassis was fully restored, strengthened in high-stress areas to make sure it could take the low-rpm torque of the 4L V8.
Aside from custom exhaust manifolds adapted to match the Rocky Auto stainless steel exhaust system, the 1U is stock, so good for 250 HP and 260 lb/ft of torque…and plenty of reliability.
The engine sits so low that the stock intake plenum has no problem clearing the inside of the C10′s stock hood.
The only other modification has been carried out to the intake, with a bespoke induction pipe connected onto the stock air flow meter unit and then onto a shielded cone filter. The 1U is mated to a Nissan R32 5-speed manual transmission which sends torque to the rear upgraded LSD.
The custom adjustable Rocky Auto suspension allows the car to sit considerably lower than stock, but still set at a comfortable ride height for the car’s new owner to be able to enjoy it on a daily basis. The front upper mounts are fitted with Cusco adjustable camber plates for added negative camber in the suspension’s geometry. Along with an hydraulically assisted rack and pinion steering the V8 Hakosuka boasts adjustable lower suspension arms and thicker anti roll bars, along with harder bushes all round to tighten up the steering and overall feel of the car.
The donor car isn’t the rare KPGC10 2000 GT-R, but an entry-level model that has been converted over to the GT-R look.
It’s all about the details like the “S” emblem on the C-pillar.
The rear is finished off with bolted-on overfenders to help contain the more aggressive offset of the wheel…
…while the rear sports the GT-R’s raked trunk lid spoiler.
Wheel of choice, like on many of Watanabe-san’s cars, are 15-inch Rays Engineering Volk Racing TE37V, finished off with a polished outer rim and silver spokes. Hankook V8 RS tires are used all around 195/50 up front and slightly wider 225/45 on the rears. Rocky Auto never leaves anything up to chance so after taking advantage of the 1U’s ample torque and awesome acceleration there are reliable brakes to lean on in case you need to shave speed off fast! Both the front and rear calipers are borrowed from an R32 Skyline and are more than up to the job of hauling this modernized classic from any speed.
The result is a very authentic GT-R replica, also painted in the same factory sand-grey color the original cars were offered in.
Every badge or piece of trim is authentic Nissan equipment…
…which is why in Japan GT-R replicas of this level of quality fetch good money.
It may not have the legendary S20 straight-six screaming away up front but it’s still is a vintage Skyline! Plus as Watanabe-san says, this is actually a lot more fun to drive than the all-original KPGC10, something you can believe has he owns about three of them, including a couple of Z432 that of course also came with the GT-R’s S20 2-liter.
I’m not one to be so fussy about cars of this nature. Unless it’s a true GT-R, which I would never dream of altering in any way but in the way it would have been done back in the early seventies, then I’m not really against this sort of resto-mod approach. In fact after Watanabe-san allowed me to take the Hakosuka out for a short drive I came away even more convinced, having enjoyed the explosive response of the Toyota V8 and the modern feel of the steering, suspension and gear change. The only thing that just felt wrong was the engine’s sound, the brain just refusing to compute hearing a V8 burble scream out of a Skyline’s exhaust!
The same recipe has been applied to the interior; you get the vintage feel – and smell – of the classic cabin, spiced up with comfortable and supportive…
…Recaro reclinable seats…
…and a Nardi steering wheel, which thanks to the power steering can be turned with one finger even at parking speeds.
The stock dashboard and instrumentation remains…
…like the speedometer…
….but the rpm gauge has been replaced with a more accurate AutoMeter unit, neatly enclosed in the stock binnacle.
But it doesn’t end there; like pretty much every single car in Japan…
…a latest generation navi system was almost obligatory, doubling up as the main control center for the CD and HDD audio system…
…and display for the digital TV tuner.
The modified center console houses the hard disc portion of the navigation system as well as the R32′s A/C control unit, one of Rocky Auto’s most popular retrofitted upgrades. There are also power windows, just in case you were wondering!
It may have been brought into the new millennium, but it’s still very much an old Skyline!
Rocky Auto continues to shock the motoring world every year with interesting new takes on their tried and proven approach to vintage car restoration. It’s just a different way of doing things, one that you either appreciate or you don’t.
The last say is down to each individual car enthusiast.
Engine: Toyota 1U engine swap, custom mounts, custom induction sustem, custom exhaust manifolds, Rocky Auto exhaust system, custom wiring
Transmission: R32 Skyline 5-speed transmission and clutch, LSD
Suspension: Rocky Auto adjustable dampers, Cusco camber plates, Rocky Auto lower arms, Rocky Auto sway bars, hydraulic rakc and pinion power steering (from R32)
Brakes: R32 Skyline brakes all round
Wheels & Tires: Volk Racing TE37V 15x8J front, 15x9J rear, Hankook Ventus V8 RS 195/50R15 (front), 225/40R15 (rear)
Exterior: 2000 GT-R replica kit
Interior: Recaro reclinable seats, Nardi steering wheel, AutoMeter rpm gauge, R32 A/C unit, power windows, custom center console, Panasonic navigation & audio system
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
Love this but why not a VQ35DE (plentiful, plenty of aftermarket back up) or VQ37VHR (current hi tech). Both engine have outputs of between 290~332hp and 270ib.ft of torque, which is a touch more than 1UZFE. You would also get the six speed box. I'm not saying old Nissans should have Nissan engines, but as the RB26 has been done why not an engine from the next skyline platform?
No gripes here about the swap...just a few editorial nitpicks. It's a 1UZ engine, not a "1U." The UZ series are V8's, the U series were all boxer engines. The Toyota Sports 800 used a 2U flat-twin, and the Toyota designates the new, Subaru built flat-four a 4U. Also, the quoted tire sizes are off. In the article, it states 225/45R15 in the rear, and in the specs section it states 225/40R15. The 40-series would be smaller in diameter than the 195/50R15 fronts, and the 45-series would match. The rears appear to be larger than the fronts. I'm going to guess that either 195/50R15 is incorrect, or the rears are 225/50R15.
I like it, I think it looks good, but I'm somewhat of a purist, I like to keep it in the family, with the exception of the rotary...
@Seanskee yeah you're right about the rotary, everything you put it in becomes pure perfection
This car is incredibly neat and very nice to look at, but it should not have a Toyota V8 in its engine bay, whether it is a neat as hell Rocky Auto conversion or not. Such a shame...
I love it! All-aluminum V8 mounted way back and low in a not-so-rare classic Skyline coupe. I want to see it roasting tires with that newfound power and torque!
I find it funny that the people sooking about it not being an RB or at least a Nissan engine variant are probably the same people that laugh and cheer when an RB or LS1 appear in an FD....whether you're a Mazda/rotor fanboy or a Datsun/RB fanboy, it hurts to see a nice car ruined by the wrong type of motor, so maybe don't laugh and cheer next time it happens to the make you're not so interested in!
I reckon the front seats should be in vinyl not cloth, and the polished stuff under the bonnet should be blacked out. Really nice though. I do like the notion of a V8 Hako :P
LouisSoon Well actually there is! Just wait until December to see what I mean! I quite vividly remember dropping the clutch at 4,000 rpm in this V8 Hako for the particular "video" I am talking about....:)
I feel that he should've kept the engine within the same family, so the VH45 or whatever it is. It's a well presented car, but just doesn't quite do it for me.
I would've preferred a carbed RB over anything except stock, though.
You know he has done the carbed RB already right? He is running our of things to try hahaha
speedhunters_dino yeah, on that beautiful Carbon 240Z? I love that car.
There was a ITBd project 370Z with a VK56 I believe, and it looked beautiful. It would've been my choice of engine.
But hey, he owns the car and has the money, and I'm a poor student.
speedhunters_dino *the 370Z was at MotorEx, I believe that you've got pictures of it somewhere.
I swear to god, every time I type something on this site I forget a part of it, and have to add it on later.
most likely the MCA Suspension 370z, it has caused quite a stir in the internet realmthough a vh45 would be a good choice
777 speedhunters_dino VH, that's the right code. Thanks for that. I just feel that it'd be better suited than a Toyota donk.
Yes in that S30 but also in a C110 Kenmeri as well as an Hakoska he is working on now
speedhunters_dino well I expect reports on the kenmeri and the other hako then! get to it, chop chop! :)
I'm not saying that V8's suck and blah blah turbo blah blah but I just don't like this. I want to hear a carbed vintage Japanese motor that revs to infinity in an older car like this. /rant
speedhunters_dino Nicholas Rodriguez Yes Dino! Yes a million times... This is just wrong man. (Still very neat work though...)
datsunsss speedhunters_dino Exactly awesome work and a very clean swap just not my taste.
MattAtDoyle I think it would fit in rather nicely. We don't get that engine out here but that's something I'm going to mention to Watanabe-san next time I see him LOL
Amazing build from Rocky Auto once again! Nothing crazy or over the top, but still an amazing chasis with a great reliable engine and all modernized up - brakes, suspencion, interior, everything. Definitely a breath of fresh air!
Amazing car! Regarding the engine, I really don't think the nine choice was bad. A reliable Japanese V8. Brilliant. Some of the sting is taken away by the fact it is not a genuine GTR. This is going to be a brilliant daily driver. Some great mod cons inside with modern brakes and suspension. I want this car badly.
The Big Yin I don't think anyone would ever touch a real GT-R in this way! The Nissan otakus would probably murder anyone that would try haha
LavarBowers It might sound expensive but if you consider it takes months of work to get the chassis restore, reinforced, prepped and painted...that's a lot of man hours. I've seen the work they do to stripped down chassis there, it's very meticulous. I guess that's where a lot of the price comes from
that engine fits like a glove!!
and whats that thing under the oil pressure dial? (http://cdn.speedhunters.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/AY0F2216.jpg)
uN_emperador Nikhil_P That's a Yupiteru Speed Cat radar detector and scanner. Pretty much one of the most handy things you could ever put in your car in Japan! I have a similar one integrated into the rearview mirror
Dope ride! Love the modern upgrades i.e. p/s, p/w, a/c. It's always cool to do something outside the box.... even though he did something different inside this Hakosuka. I would like to see the R35 engine dropped into one of these. Great coverage Dino!