The Speedhunters Car of the Year

Here it is: the Ben Sopra S13 380SX. Based on unique pageviews, this is the winner of our Feature Car of the year Award 2013. Surprised? We are. I know you’re thinking this is an obvious winner, right? R35 VQ motor, S-chassis base, iconic Japanese tuner and cutting edge bodykit, designed for 200mph plus top speed runs. When I put it like that, it’s a natural, right? Maybe but what’s amazed us is the sheer, relentless force with which this one feature keeps on being so popular and I’ll mention just how much later on.


In present company, this achievement is monumental and really makes an interesting case for us here in the Speedhunters cave. 2013 has been an incredible year for feature cars. I know everybody who takes a look back through their archives says that but more than most, we can justifiably say this has been a year like no other before it. I cannot think of another automotive outlet that covers vintage hot rods and F1, drift missiles, classic brutes, street cars and wild competition machines like we do. Just flicking through my personal archives brought up feature cars with outrageous power figures, incredible attention to detail and a ground-breaking approach.


So why did the Ben Sopra S13 eat the competition for breakfast and once fuelled up, stride so far ahead? The first thing you get to interact with are the looks; you recognise the popular base model but then the screw-on arches and purposeful rear wing sink in. Devoid of graphics, the shape is unfinished, which leaves you to fill in the blanks and let your imagination loose. BenSopra and TRA Kyoto are two big names that garner attention when mentioned, but they’ve created a look that’s faintly reminiscent of so many race cars, yet fresh at the same time. The fact it was shot by Dino and Sean on tarmac owned by Trust just adds to the recipe. Neither of the guys would say the photography was particularly amazing as it was bitterly cold and time was very much limited, but the bland background adds to the intent even more for me.


Inside it’s pure fun and function. This view is begging me to get in and abuse everything available. Sat on the other side of the world, Dino’s shot puts us in the position of power. Can we get in? Can we? What about now? A hint of iconic Bride seat material and the roll cage gets me giddy. Add the carbon dash top and the hi-tech AIM digital dash display and it all becomes so removed from the standard car you begin to realise just how far the build had travelled at this time. It’s all full of potential and dreams – anything is possible!


Or maybe this is the reason? The ground breaking VR38 V6 twin turbo conversion, straight out of an ex-Blitz R35 GT-R. That’s a world first and a frankly insane swap right there. Who would tear such a motor out of its home and stroke it to 4 litres? BenSopra that’s who. I think as a talking point, this will have pushed the story around the world on an hourly basis, because if you’d tried to track this article globally it would have taken an army with an airforce of private jets on standby. It hasn’t powered the S13 at Nardò yet, but hopefully one day we’ll find out if it’s capable of what the team think it is. And it’s not just me that thinks the turbos have arms with interlinking hands holding down the top of the engine? Right?


As to the scale of popularity that this story has that I alluded to… Currently the original, unaltered article that is somewhere nestled deep within our archives, over 1000 stories back from the front page is somehow managing to still grab attention. In the last month, nearly three thousand new people have read it. An incredible figure and just to give you another idea of the scale, it’s total viewing figures to date (which would be inaccurate within hours of this piece being written) are over double the number two car slot.

Here’s what Sean has to say about it.

“I had a pretty good idea before I saw the 380sx that it was going to be a very popular build, albeit a controversial one. When I first saw it pulling into the parking lot at GReddy atop the vehicle transporter that freezing morning in January I realized it was going to make the Internet explode. Only moments after it rolled off the truck I quickly posted a photo to the Speedhunters Instagram feed where mania ensued.”

Conclusion: that one moment in the Speedhunters 2013 year that things went crazy without us realising, which means we are as much a part of this wild ride as you are. Who knows what’s coming next? We can guess, plan and track but the potential? Limitless. Yes the story is nearly a year old, but look at the results and you’ll see content from far more recently shot features floating around the top ten. No, for me this is a stand-out example of right time, right place, right car, right team.

This is Speedhunting. Thank you Dino and thank you Sean.

The Ben Sopra 380SX produced by Dino Dalle Carbonare and Sean Klingelhoefer



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lets see how many people get upset with this haha


i just want to see her run...send it to the salt


... really?


epic lancia car #6 should be #1


small mistake in the first paragraph, it's a VR engine not a VQ ;)


Meh...Give me the 1JZ Caddy, 4-rotor GS300, or best yet, the Drift Hilux pleaase...


I guess...I was really pulling for the Lancia or the Drift Hilux, oh well.


It's page views... Not opinions.


Some dense people who can't read for shit. It's page views, not hopes, dreams or opinions...


FunctionFirstIt only got those views because it was called out by pretty much everyone as an over-hyped flop. So if that's what it takes to get car of the year, then it might as well be called the most controversial car of the year award.


What does Jake Laird have to say? lol


hmm if only they made it out to Nardo.
I'm guessing a whole lot of repeat viewers checking back to reply to each other's comments.


I don't think it's the discussion which fuelled the pageviews. We have had a few other 'negative' car features in 2013' none of which came even close to generating the type of pageviews. Why else would there be double the traffic on this story over that of the Lexus and the Ferrari?
If we used unique pageviews (cancelling out repeat visitors who were engaging in the discussion) instead of normal pageviews, the car will would have been the top feature car of the year by quite a wide margin.
My theory is that it was also the fact that this was a fresh take on an important enthusiast car: the S13, which also caused interest.
As an S13 build it was pretty fresh... Also remember, this was the international debit of a new Rocket Bunny kit, something which as customization trend which reached a tipping point this past year. We will see if the interest in the TRA Kyoto penned designs continues to rise for 2014!


The data doesn't fully account for this though... I just checked again. It you pull out the repeat views, the traffic on the story was still massive.


Easy to explain: #becauseitlookslikeanRCcar


Happy New Years!


RodChongI phrased my comment wrong. It was massively over-hyped and turned out to be a flop that left a huge negative comment thread in its wake.
I think you got it exactly right saying that it was a new take on the S13, one of the most unanimously well known and loved cars by readers of this site. It was also the first VR swap(or at least first internet famous) in the car, they made some pretty outrageous claims about it which seemed like they would've been legit considering they had Trust on board, and to top it off it was done by BenSopra and TRA Kyoto during the peak of their popularity. Of course it was going to generate traffic. That's why the end result was such a disappointment. 
Why you guys decided to pick the car of the year based on page views is beyond me. Especially when the car with the most traffic turned out to be the biggest let down of 2013. I know that it's not necessarily a huge deal that a website picked a car that I(as well as many others) don't like. It just sort of irks me knowing that there were some really great cars this year(that you guys did an excellent job of covering. I don't want to sound unappreciative or anything.) that really should've had a better shot than this for the title of car of the year. Personally I wouldn't have been able to choose a single best feature of the year, but this car sure as hell wouldn't have even been in the running.


Wow....a car I've never seen before got the first spot.....


Event of the year : In Japan.
Car of the year : In Japan.
 Japan is totally amazing and everyone knows that. I want still more Japan in Speedhunters ! Big thanks to Dino for making us dream throughout all the year ;)


What an insult to all who actually completed the build of a feature car AND used it as they intended. An engine swap, into an incomplete car with no serious aero, and nonsense suspension, of a not particularly brilliant OEM chassis. Then it no shows at Nardo. A fitting pair to the RC event.

Seeking Perfection

danjapan13 Right on! I would love to see more Japanese coverage even if that means that SH has to dispatch or a find another member to help Dino.

Seeking Perfection

@DaveO  Happy New Year. I disagree with your comment to the fullest. The majority of feature cars that you see posted in here are always evolving. Therefore, you cannot claim that they are fully completed or even functional. Was the Gatebil Volvo van with the LS motor ready to roll at the time it was featured? 

With regard to the Ben Sopra 380sx, have you ever seen a tuned VR38 engine swap in a chassis of this kind documented elsewhere in the world? I thought that this was first time such thing was implemented by a tuner. While this car might not be 'textbook perfection', it surely is radical and nothing less than impressive. Last but not least, I thought that this car had a Roberuta cup kit system which is mainly used for luxury cars and supercars.


We are planning to increase our spread of Japanese stories this year. Still working out the details there though...


RodChong Very good news ! Thanks.


Today is Janurary 1st.... Not April 1st


@DaveO Maybe the REAL link between the RC event and the Ben Sopra is "Give me a clean canvas and this it what I would do with it!" Happy 2014 to all :)


Car of the year, event of the year, must of have been a bad year!


This car is bare knuckle stunning! I had it as my screen saver and it offered me out every time I turned on!


danjapan13 RodChong Thanks guys. My clone will be ready soon :)


I see what you did there :)


the car culture is so opinionated now, what happened to just enjoying the shit?


Cant wait to see it at Nardo or time attack at Tsukuba..great choice!


Ehh, I still feel the 'LaSupra' was the most impressive car this year.
When it comes down to it, Ben Sopra is a much more well known name and, I'm sure, got a ton of I understand why.
So again, it's always down to a popularity contest...the bigger more well known names win 90% of the time. Similar to why you don't see many amazing indie/underground musicians/film makers winning grammy's/oscars.


I remember this feature and going back to it a few times... For sure surprised that this car got the most page-views though. I wish I could see more of the chassis and suspension work and ingenuity around that engine packaging.

Maybe you should do 1 post where the whole SH team votes on their favorite features and tally the votes up and you guys can give your opinion about why that car has significance to the team?


This car doesn't deserve it. What happened to the old voting system? Why is the new website not as good as the old one? WTF speedhunters.

Seeking Perfection

@blAH Car of the Year has to be the one that is unanimously the most interesting one (and as an extent popular in terms of pageviews). It is beyond my understanding why people prefer the old voting system when it is proven that is flawed. Back in 2012, were you satisfied that someone who I cannot even remember took the Builder of the Year award instead of Nigel who deserved it for actually building the UTE on his own? That is ludachris. On top of that, some of you suggest that the editors should choose the winner. Why? So you can tell them that everything is rigged as soon you see the results? And to those who claim that the LaSupra deserved the top spot... I still remember several of you complaining about the ride height, the minimum suspension travel or the stockish 2jz engine. Hilarious! No one is satisfied with anything nowdays. MUAHAHAHAHA!


...and this decision had nothing to do with the fact that Ben Sopra is an automotive partner and friend to the site.


For anyone else questioning this, check the Facebook likes these posts recieved. 2nd and 3rd place, the quad rotor GS300 and LW 458 each got around 3,800 likes. The 380sx got over 12,000. There are plenty of cars in the top 50 that I like more than this car, but there is no denying that the 380sx was very popular.


haha!! i remember this article, is there also a number to how many people were arguing in the comments section?!

turbo BEAMS ae86

@Brandon Anthony Create Peace

turbo BEAMS ae86

@DaveO hater.  think about what youve posted here.  "an engine swap"?  like its just no big deal?  LmAO


James1010 Yes, you can not deny how many times the top stories were shared.


@aclasschris All stat based on unique visitors.


@Seeking Perfection You understand my pain. haha.


wheatgod Hanma FunctionFirst Overhyped because the Internet made the car out to be the second coming of Jesus. A flop because it never even went to Nardo, and probably never will.

Don't get me wrong, it's a deeply impressive build. If the car was just built as a "look what we can do", it'd be great. A VR38-swapped 180SX is awesome. But the 400km/h goal was just never going to happen.


wheatgod Hanma FunctionFirst I should probably add: I 100% agree with the way the awards were done this year. Yes, arguably it favours big name and/or controversial cars, but it is entirely objective, unlike a voting system. 

That being said, how about a separate "People's Choice" award for 2014, just in addition to the main list?


Shame it wasnt the ETS ute or that crazy volvo wagon.The work in both of them is out of this world


@aclasschris let's toss the conspiracy theories out, they changed it from the poll based system we had previous years. The car was simply popular, it doesn't meet my tastes but I can see why it does for a world of other people.


How many engine swapped cars in SH2013? So why is this not Most Viewed Car??


i was hoping or the supra/lancia


The moon landing was a fake! Sorry. Had to once I saw conspiracy theories.


I remember that Volvo. It blew me away. Pure perfection.


speedhunters_dino danjapan13 RodChong yes! please cover more track events! i would also love a feature on ASM and an interview with Kanayama-san.


Ok so this is the car of the year.
Now put up a voting poll of all the nominees with a photo and see what happens.

Name it the "peoples choice award" or something.


wheatgod Hotcakes Hanma FunctionFirst It's relevant because the entire point of the car, the whole reason it was built, was to break 400km/h. But it never happened, and based on the car's aero and everything else, probably never will. THAT is why it is a flop, because it will never accomplish it's reason for being built. It's a cool car undoubtedly, but it's a show car and nothing more.

SH is hypebeast BS

Lame as fuck.

SH is hypebeast BS

This site has turned into bs advertising and hypebeast bs cars. The passion for cars is gone from this website.
A damn shame. Typical EA owned companies. Greedy money hungry mofos


impressive car, but I feel some thing else deserves this position.. even that  drift helux...


So.. SAD !?


Car of the year ≠ Best car of the year

It's pretty disturbing that so many readers are having such a hard time understanding this. Stats are not subjective. Iconic chassis, with insane mods, mega attitude. Not my personal car of the year, but definitely interesting.


If I were trying to win this is what I'd do :

turbo BEAMS ae86

DavidOwensbecause s13 has a huge following, most of who use internet, and this is the first VR38dett swap into a s13 that i've ever heard of.

I don't really think this is "an insult" to anyone, can u read the article?  it just got the most hits this year.   Also the car has over 1100hp, this isn't "just another s13".


I love how many idiots can't read and get all twisted up about which car "won", when it's not even a competition, it's a rundown of page views.

Seriously, if you're not going to read the articles, don't ever comment, Ever. As in shut your f**kin' mouths. If you can't take the time to read the articles you don't get to share your stupid opinion.




ra64freddy! Wasn't a choice...


RodChong Yeah, failed to read.


@DaveO - they didn't have enough time to fully test the chassis, But it did get used, ran and tested. Who knows, maybe this year? 

They also have a pair drift cars they're campaigning. 

Also, it wasn't vote-based, again, page views.


MatsKarlsson It was posted as one of the first feature cars of the year last January.


It makes perfect sense, the s13 is probably most common car among your readership, and you are pretty much the only source for all things TRA Kyoto. I wish I could browse your data.


As much as I like the build that won I wouldnt have picked it to win and I just cant get on board with using view counts to dictate a winner. Open up a Youtube vid and compare view counts to likes and dislikes. A view does not equate to liking something, nor does it do anything to measure how positively the viewer feels in comparison to something else he has viewed.


You're lame - if you hate the site then stop giving them more traffic. (and commenting on stuff you don't like)
I hoped the winner was going to be an unfinished crown wagon - I love that thing.


Matt Khoun it's 2014 now, we are done. Let's move forward.


AM81Haha! Maybe next year for the Crown Wagon??


Ah yes. I know it was decided by page views, which is ridiculous, but of all the incredible cars featured within the past year, this is what wins - an unfinished project built by someone with no clue about aerodynamics that failed to run in the competition it was never built in time for.


@Seeking PerfectionHow was the old one flawed? As for the rest of your comment none of that had anything to do with what I said soooo?


Not this again.


Well deserved title


@turbo BEAMS ae86 DavidOwens Thanks for asking, yes I can read.  Not saying "just another s13", also not saying "an engine swap like its no big deal".  But if your criteria is engine swapped 1000+HP there are a number of options among 2013 SH Feature Cars.


@Seeking Perfection I agree with your comment "the majority of feature cars that you see posted in here are always evolving".  Yes, indeed!  And the majority are compete in the sense that they can be used for what they were build - Not so the 380SX.  It was featured when it wasn't functional or complete, and then the whole "Nardo" thing disappeared, leaving many people wondering how serious the "intention" ever was.


wheatgod Hotcakes No, I've said this to you a million times before, I like Japanese cars MORE. I am not a domestic or Euro fanboy. I own a Japanese car. If this car were a Mustang or a Porsche, I would be saying the same things.

My problem is you. You are the one who can't take any criticism whatsoever of the magical JDM wizards who never do anything wrong ever. You are the one who calls anyone who doesn't agree with you "fanboys" or "haters". You are the one who only knows how to attack ad hominem, because your arguments don't have a leg to stand on. YOU are the fanboy.


wheatgod Feel free to point out how he is wrong. Looks pretty unfinished to me and I'm pretty sure those massive gaps (headlights, bumper etc) cause so much drag that anyone with eyes can tell that thing aint goin 400 not to mention the huge wing at the back. Then there's the dumb idea of making the car wider, wheels that aren't rated for the speed, and the lack of a decent cage... Yeah, car of the year stuff right there bro, cool story.


wheatgodHotcakesYou're like talking to a brick wall. What part of "I don't care where the car is from" and "I like Japanese cars more" and "if it were a Mustang or Porsche I'd say the same thing" don't you understand? I am not hating on Japanese cars. I'm saying I don't like THIS CAR.
I honestly couldn't give two shits where a car is built. If it's cool, I like it. Simple as that. Just today, I posted a comment saying I loved the Garage Mak S15, a Japanese car built in Japan, using almost all Japanese parts.
Half the people on this thread aren't "Japanese car haters". They're saying why they don't like this one particular fucking car. YOU are the epitome of a fanboy and hater.
In future, I think I'm just going to refrain from commenting on anything you say, because you clearly just like to argue for argument's sake. Either that, or you're a fool, and a stubborn one to boot.


wheatgod Look at this thing, my friend. Random holes in the front bumper, a hood that doesn't fit, wheels that stick out past the (already flared) fenders, a gigantic wing, and a diffuser all make it clear to me that this guy's aerodynamic research consisted of gluing on parts that he thought would make it look fast. Miura's a raging idiot and this car only cemented that fact. Seriously, if he had turned up to Nardo with this car, he would've been laughed all the way back to Japan.


Sigh, the Hemizon was a waaaaaay cooler machine than this car


Are there any videos of this car?
And why did it not run in Nardò? (I thought it was already shipped there)


At the beginning of the article, it says that this car has an "R35 VQ motor", but R35s are powered by the VR38....



There's always one....


Its an awesome car but not "car of the year" the engineered to slide space framed Hi Lux would have to be car/build of the year just because of the attention to detail and the fact it was done by one man in his own shed!

This is an awesome car, but i have to agree... it hasn't got much chance of getting to 400kmh looking like that!


There needs to be some sort of quantitative system for scoring cars based on a variety of areas (performance, visuals, quality of build, etc.) to be completed by all the Speedhunters editors and then used to rank the cars. Similar to how most car magazines conduct car comparisons.

You could then have discussions summarizing why editors ranked each car SUBJECTIVELY which would be far more interesting than talking about how "this car absolutely blew up and got so many shares". I don't give a shit about how 'viral' some car went, I want to know what people think about a car terms of how we usually determine how good a car is.


JmayhemInteresting, I get your point entirely however I counter that with the ability to assess a car subjectively on what we were presented with. Using this car as an example, it's unfinished at the time of shooting and not possible to drive, let alone in any sort of anger. If we start setting ourselves out as road testers, adding appraisal to our coverage then we'd better have the minerals to back it up. What I would say is that a long time ago I realised what I liked was one thing, what the viewer/reader liked could well be another. My soft and wallowing ride was another persons necessity. I could go on. 

I'm not shying away from discussion, however as has been witnessed in the comments surrounding this article. It very much splits opinions, so I see our role here as one of presentation. People come to SH from all works of life, experience and genre so we're different from a magazine than can assume a certain level of understanding with it's readers.

As to a quantitative system, we thought plain and simple page views would be the most egalitarian way of conducting this. It has very little to do with us after the initial presentation of the story, so we though people mind find it interesting to see how and what others interact with. Do you think after all the effort, time and expense we went to for subjects like Gatebil that we were ecstatic to see an RC event rank highest? Maybe not, however, we were intrigued and wanted to know more. Plus we're honest.


Jason HardyNot your car of the year maybe, Nigel's truck is massively impressive yes, but I would look elsewhere for my chose car of the year.


TyPetersenFor you, that's the key here. Page views determined the placing. So more people found this of interest :)


@DeanwheatgodThis is the only way of showing in pure terms of popularity (both good and bad) the stories which mattered most. One of my favourite pieces to produce all year fell way off the Top 50, in retrospect a voting campaign can be raised and then of course the results shifted. Take a look at previous years to see how people commented about voting and see why this worked in 2013. Will we do the same next year? Who knows :)


earmenauGood points well made :)


SH is hypebeast BSOuchy. If this was a straight up corporation presentation do you not think that it would be skewed towards the events of cars which said corporation has money and resource in? No? 

People found this build interesting and liked discussing it, if you feel differently. Good for you, show us what you like.


Sex on wheels


Haha is this a pop contest?

Look at those gaping holes in the front, the gigantic rear wing. This is in no way designed for top speed runs. It was designed to be wanked over.


dovvv your joking right? holes = cooling, and rear wing + front splitter = downforce. common seriously?


wheatgod Look it's pretty obvious you're gonna defend this and every other Japanese car on here to the detah (Fanboy) so arguing with you about it is pretty pointless. However, how do you think most car genuine car guys react to empty boasts about how fast a car is? "my car will do 400kph" sounds awesome but you gotta prove it before the respect comes. Hence the backlash when this car is hyped and yet looks so laughably far from being a top speed demon and never proves anything.


wheatgod Look it's pretty obvious you're gonna defend this and every other Japanese car on here to the detah (Fanboy) so arguing with you about it is pretty pointless. However, how do you think most car genuine car guys react to empty boasts about how fast a car is? "my car will do 400kph" sounds awesome but you gotta prove it before the respect comes. Hence the backlash when this car is hyped and yet looks so laughably far from being a top speed demon and never proves anything.


wheatgod Brett Allen Aerodynamics is pretty impartial last time I checked.  Don't need to know who built the car, cause the way air moves is the same for everyone.  What we cannot tell from the photos is if the builder had a clue and was just big mouthing for the gulible, or had no clue and actually believe his car was going to run big speeds.


wheatgod DavidOwens On what basis would your comment cross anyones mind?


look at the actual Speed Hunters article, and how it was pitched/sold/shaped -
you chose the word.
"I realized I was standing in
front of THE car of 2013"
"the one off BenSopra aero he
had created still needed some work. The front bumper needed to be bolted to the
splitter and the carbon fiber rear diffuser assembled and fitted to the car."
"the car that will go down in
history as the most extreme Japanese tuner projects ever created."
"Of course what makes this
car very special is that it combines a very fresh aero treatment…"
"In a few months this car
will be driven by Ueta around the famous Nardó high speed ring in the south of
Italy where it will be attempting to get as close as possible to the 400 km/h
mark (248.5 mph). The event is being organized by Option Magazine who has also
invited tuners like Phoenix’s Power and Top Secret to join with their fastest
R35 GT-Rs."