How To Kiwi:<br /> The 2015 4&Rotary Nationals
Like I Never Left

Walking into the show hall at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland last Friday evening, I realised that this would be my thirteenth year straight spent doing the exact same thing, on the same date in January. Passing through those doors, greeting many of the same people and relishing in that all-too-familiar smell of polish and tyre shine as hives of people swarm around their cars getting them show-ready.


Is that a depressing thing to realise? Thirteen years is a long time, after all, and some might wonder whether I’m stuck in an endless loop of adolescence. If I’d asked myself this question this time last year, I might have said that yes, it is a bit depressing. Twelve months ago, I felt like I needed more than what the New Zealand scene could offer. After living and breathing Kiwi car culture for so long, I wanted to be part of a much bigger, more globalised car community. It was, in truth, one of the reasons I originally left my long-standing position as editor of the country’s biggest automotive magazine, New Zealand Performance Carto travel.


Now, after being out of the country for much of the time between last year’s event and now, I’ve come to realise that the ‘V’ 4&Rotary Nationals always has, and probably always will be, something that’s important to me. Walking through the halls as people rushed around, I felt almost as though I’d never left.


This is, after all, the weekend that everyone in New Zealand’s import community works towards. And for that reason, I love it – it’s home.


While imports are of course the main focus, the show is no longer just for four cylinders and rotaries, but a mix of everything cool, with its own dedicated lowrider hall…


And an American V8 hall, which displayed some super-interesting cars like this beautifully restored 427ci Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt.


My globetrotting has allowed me to look at the Nationals from an outsiders perspective. I’ve now seen how the rest of the world does it first-hand, and while everywhere is different, and all scenes have their own good points and bad points, I felt invigorated to come back to New Zealand with a better appreciation for how things are done down here. With that in mind, let me tell you how to Kiwi.


First, like Cody Martin, the owner of this nearly-finished 13B turbo powered Mazda 323 wagon, you need to make sure your engine bay game is on point.


Even if the rest of your car is pretty average, the Kiwi way says it’s not a real car until you’ve put some serious time and money into the engine bay. It’s not enough to just make power, it’s got to look good doing it too. Very rarely will you see an top-notch car and pop the hood to find it’s a real mess in there. If you do manage to find something like that, generally the owner will be very apologetic and insist that the motor is about to be pulled, the panels smoothed, loom hidden and every surface highly polished.


This is definitely one of my favourite things about the New Zealand scene, especially after checking out so many shows overseas, and finding that engine bay presentation seems less important, notably in Japan.


Maybe it’s just because I grew up here, but a perfect bay is one of the biggest make it or break it factors of a car build for me. Even racecars, like this C83A third-generation Mitsubishi Mirage drag car, tend to be fairly well presented under their lightweight, vented bonnets.


While there were plenty of nice engine bays on display from the four, six and eight cylinders, it was predictably the Mazda rotary crowd that far outshone the rest. Which brings us to part two for any self-respecting Kiwi car enthusiast and perhaps something we’re more well-known for overseas…

Build A Rotary

If you want to be a true Kiwi car enthusiast, you need to own a Mazda rotary-powered vehicle at least once in your life. The pulse of a bridge-ported 12A or 13B is almost as much a part of our national soundtrack as the sound of a tui bird or comedian Billy T. James’ laugh.


Genuine RXs, like Tim Johnson’s beautiful RX-2 sedan (winner of both the Best RX-2 and Overall RX Master trophies, among others), and Brett Dyson’s perfect blood-red RX-3 coupe above, command big money here, and they are extremely well looked after by those that can afford them.


One of the best things about New Zealand rotaries is that virtually none of these machines, despite their increasingly rare and sought-after status, are babied or swaddled up in cotton wool. They are nearly all driven hard, either on the street or the racetrack – most commonly about a quarter-mile long. This has always been the way, and it’s resulted in some of the fastest and most brutal rotary builds in the world.


Check out Aaron Keach’s tubbed and faux-patina’d 808 street/race sedan for example, which is powered by a monster 20B triple rotor set up, pulled from between the struts of his previous FC3S RX-7 street build.


Until recently, if you have an old RX street car, you pretty much have to have a set of big Australian Simmons three-piece wheels, which, if I’m to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of. They’re great wheels, but for my tastes they’re just too big on these small cars.


So it’s great to see cars like Eddie Hayman’s quick 13B turbo RX-3 sedan running smaller diameter 15×8-inch wheels. I hope the trend will continue next year.


Traditionally, of all the early Mazda RX models, the Series 1-3 (SA22) RX-7 has been the cheapest to buy, but that is now changing and consequently, there’s some seriously nice builds coming out of the woodworks. From circuit racers like Nigel Lucas’s absolutely pristine example…


To a much more showy street feel. This incredibly clean S1 is conforming to the quite recent trend of fitting ‘retro’ wheels like these 17-inch ROH ZSs. When I say retro, I don’t mean in the world-wide sense, but retro within the local scene… In New Zealand these were the wheels to have around 20 years ago, and up until very recently they were worth absolutely nothing to buy. Now a decent set of survivors will cost you good money.


With the early 7s now selling for big dollars, the trickle down effect is impacting the traditionally cheaper Mazdas. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, rotaries were the cars of choice for kids hell-bent on causing trouble, popping tyres and blowing motors in equal measure. They were almost considered throwaway items back then, and it’s amazing to see the whole thing come full circle. These days, many enthusiasts can’t afford the entry price of a genuine RX, so while non-rotary Mazdas like the 323 have always been converted to Wankel power, over the last few years these builds have gone from being rough and ready streeters to having huge amounts of money and time poured into them. Whether built for the street and show like Jamie Walden’s 13B bridge-ported two-door above…


Or street and race, like Shane Holland’s quick 13B turbo-powered example.


I’m in love with the PWR water-to-air intercooler setup on this car.


Mazda body doesn’t do it for you? No worries, a true Kiwi car enthusiast will throw a rotary at anything. We accept all form of Wankel powered machines and you’ll find plenty of converted KE70 Toyota Corollas or Mitsubishi Lancer EXs floating around amongst some of the more obscure conversions – Minis, Civics, WRXs to name a few. Note the use of vintage ROH rims again, this time the classic Reflex model.

Embrace All The Cars

Although the likes of Mad Mike might have you thinking otherwise, being a Kiwi enthusiast doesn’t mean you have to drive a rotary. The scene here is brimming with every type of car you can imagine, thanks to somewhat relaxed import laws.


As pretty much the antithesis of the rotary community, New Zealand also enjoys a strong Honda following, with plenty of cool street cars, like Nigel Nettar’s retro AT Civic build.


And plenty of racecars, thanks to national series like the Honda Cup and SS2000.


After an influx of Japanese VIP cars were imported back in the early 2000s by one particular car yard, the scene failed to really take off, as all those cars – many of them top JDM show machines of their day – were bought up by people that just thought they looked cool with no real understanding of what they had, and promptly wrecked. But now there’s some really nice, high quality cars being built in-country, especially from the guys displaying cars on the Moonlight stand.


One of the more unique cars in the crew is Alpha Sokolov’s Mazda Infini MS9 on 18×9.5/10.5-inch Lorinser RSK2s. This model, also known as a Sentia or 929, doesn’t get much love from enthusiasts here or overseas, so Alpha’s had to custom-make pretty much anything he needs, which means it’s out of action regularly… Lucky he also owns the slammed blue Crown in the shot above, then.


While we are well-versed in our Australian Holdens and Fords, the Aussie-style Commodore build is a fairly new thing here – big power, big wheels and immaculate bodywork reign. Shyam Patel’s tubbed VL took away a pile of awards and is powered by a turbocharged LS2 good for 670hp.


While this example runs a hard-tuned Nissan RB30 turbo – a factory option for these cars back in the day, and an extremely popular platform over in Australia.


Early Mitsubishis played a huge part in the growth of the scene, and it’s cars like this tidy Lancer Evo III RS on Compomotive MO 1563s that helped turn the scene into what it is today. I couldn’t count the amount of early Evos I’ve written about in my career working for magazines.


But, before the Evo, there were these. When I first became interested in cars as a teenager, the E39A Galant VR-4 was the king of the streets. Mitsubishi’s 2.0-litre turbo 4WD rally machine was most certainly the weapon of choice in the street race scene; they could be easily modified for huge power, they could fit all the bros in the back and they put up with far more 7,000rpm launches than their contemporaries and bitter rivals like the Subaru Legacy RS and Mazda Familia GT-X. This particular example seems to have fallen out of a time machine from 2001 and is period-correct in its modifications down to the 17-inch Enkei Tarmac wheels and Ohlsen Developments sticker. These two Mitsubishis used to be one of the most common cars you would have seen at a Nationals show a decade ago, but now these were some of the only examples on display.

Get Weird

Due to our isolation down the bottom of the world, we’ve traditionally been a resourceful bunch, and there’s even a household name for it: Kiwi ingenuity. It’s no surprise then that this culture breeds a lot of strange and unique cars, full of interesting mishmashes of engines and body parts. I couldn’t decide whether I liked this WRX-faced S14 Silvia, but I have to admit that the conversion was pulled off nicely.


The guys behind the build, OnShow Kustoms, also had a Z33-fronted S14, a ‘strawberry face’ RPS13…


And a Version 9 faced (GD8) Version 6 (GC8) Subaru WRX STI Type R Coupe. Thoughts?


Whilst on the subject of STI Type R Coupes, check out Charles O’Malley’s wide-body, rear-drive, Nissan SR20DET-swapped example. I’ve seen this run a few times, and it looks like huge amounts of fun.


At first glance, you might not take much notice of this Civic sedan, built by the guys at GT Refinishers in their spare time. Take a closer look though, and it too is powered by a Nissan SR20DET, backed up by a complete S13 rear end and suspension, and an S15 steering column. I love cars like this – it’s not meant to be some amazing big show-stopper, simply a fun little toy for picking up parts from the local supplier in.


I think I might have to convince the guys at GT Refinishers – who also helped build the 20B patina’d 808 sedan I showed you earlier and this interesting R35-front steel wide-body G35 coupe from Vik Bhatti at XRacing, among many others on show – to lend me the keys to the Civic, as I can only imagine how weird it must feel to drive!


This Mini from Honda-specialists JTune runs a Honda K24A engine and an AWD driveline setup – it must absolutely fly!


Although the Subaru Legacy RS is a fairly common car in New Zealand, and this one still runs a flat-four boxer, I still consider it a strange car, purely because it’s making around 670hp at the wheels. These cars aren’t usually modified beyond lowering and a set of wheels – maybe an exhaust and a blow-off valve if you’re lucky – so to see the EJ25’s extensive specification list, monster intake plenum and big BorgWarner EFR8374 turbo was a treat.


How about an NA6 MX-5 running a 1.2-litre 12A rotary and a massive 6/71 blower? Probably not the most efficient way to make power, but who cares!


Writing this story, I’ve now gotten to the point where I’ve realised I’m very close to rambling, so in the interests of everyone’s sanity, I need to call it there, because I could go on for ever about all the cool cars we have here in New Zealand. This year’s ‘V’ 4&Rotary Nationals has given me a new appreciation for my home scene, and I’m just glad I can share it with the rest of the world on Speedhunters. Those in attendance might have noticed that I’ve skipped a few crucial cars, but don’t fear – I’m going to be doing some Spotlight stories on my favourite machines over the next couple of weeks.


Until then, check out some shots of all the interesting cars and amazing engine bays I couldn’t fit into the main story below!

Peter Kelly
Instagram: speedhunters_pedey

Cutting Room Floor


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No engine bay shot of that 6-71 Miata?!


Everything is so clean and shiny!


Great write up,i love to see how oather countries modify there cars.
Even a mk2 escort more door there. Today is a good day LOL...


Good to see an increase of cleanly built cars in the country, hopefully it beats out the rough as guts, "fulleh sick skid hack brah" look that so many people seem to still have. It's also good to see an increase of the use of genuine parts and wheels, I hope it continues.


love the common template for the FC track cars


I want to see a full article on that last wagon, that thing looks insane!!!!!


V9 front GC looks fantastic to me, but I may have a bit of a bias towards it...


The GC front end on the S13 looks really good but the 350Z front end doesn't look great at all.

I love the facelift GD front-end on the GC even though the scoop, aero and wheels aren't my taste, the first gen imprezas had a smoothness to them that I like... what can I say, I own a GF!




You need to spotlight all of those cars. For serial, all of them.

Also, another How-To-Kiwi trait: Contrasting colors. There are a few examples of cars that use complimenting colors, but it seems like the engine bays have at least one contrasting color used to add some pop.


That sentia... I've only seen 2 others in this site since 2009...

I own one as well and suffer the lack of aftermarket/OEM support.
Good cars, bums me out they aren't popular.


That C's Garage S15 is out of this world


Oh how I tried to check out 323SOM but that pink Maxima/Cefiro thingee just keep tearing my eyes away. It was like looking at a horrendous car crash - I just couldn't look away. Big ups to that guy/gal for bringing it though. I think . . .


the wrx face swap fooled me hard!


in the bonus images: it must have been since the early 2000's since i've seen a car with lights underneath in real life haha


Brilliant article!!
Are you going to do some coverage of the drag strip rotary action? :)




Makes me want to try my hand at rotaries even more.
On another note, I want to know more about the AWD Mini. Feature please!?


milkplus YES PLEASE!


James_Turbo Absolutely, expect coverage of the drags very soon!


jdmRob It took me a little while too, and I was standing right there. Do you think it works, looks wise?


milkplus Way ahead of you ;). Shaun Judd's car is amazing, and we're just waiting for the few final touches before we meet up with him for a full shoot.


TylerHorne What you can see in that photo is pretty much all you can see from closer up, too. It's all blower, and then somewhere underneath it all is a couple of rotor housings and plates. It's great, Haha.


AJ Prime You sure about that AJ?


Pick up the keys to the civic when ever pedey


Awesome photos


The only motors we  have in NZ are the SR20DET, 12a, 4k and the odd nascar V8


Aaron ayala1320 About ten years ago WSR had one with a 13B turbo conversion!


NikkSquidBonnett Aaron ayala1320 I remember that, brappin round the nak


I had a 323 bugeye wagon a few years ago here in Australia. No one here knew or cared about them, so it's great to see the full out built ones over in NZ!


StreetStatik NikkSquidBonnett Aaron ayala1320 I remember this ripping around the dirt track next to Meremere at Nationals one year. I wonder where this car is now?


What are the wheels on that SR20 Civic?


JoshuaWhitcombe Too many cheapies and reps still when looking at wheels. And it's funny, kiwi's give aussies crap for overusing Simmons(mainly on rotors) but they're the most common wheel on rotors in this feature.


I typically love kiwi cars, the way they do them is super cool......but a 6/71 on a 12A, that's actually laughable.


Spaghetti JoshuaWhitcombe For sure man, but there has been a slow increase in the amount of genuine wheels, which is good to see, but definitely agree that there is still too many reps and cheapies on cars over here.


I think you're stuck in an endless loop of adolescence...Hahah

I really enjoyed this article, makes me want to experience one of these rotary powered, candy painted polished machines firsthand!

I am now more aware of your guy's style compared to the U.S. , you sure love your striped tires :b


Gc8/s14 conversion.......kudos for being different.


Spaghetti We had a chat to the owner at the show and asked him 'Why?' His response was 'Why not?' Haha. Seemed like a nice dude.


Peter_Kelly jdmRob  NOPE!


The organisation was pretty poor I felt, as part of Moonlight NZ, I rolled up Friday with the others to find that our 10 spots (paid for) had been condensed to like 8.25 meaning the exposure for the 18 crowns and 16 GS/Aristo  was pathetic. Typical 4nr but stilla good day


needs more Toyota....


Was the white R34 GTR on TE37's the same one that was stolen then recovered about this time last year?


That blue RX2 is just pure automotive perfection!
Bloody love it, the body shape (personally I reckon the 4-door Capella shape is one of the best proportioned ever), the colour, the wheel choice, the way it sits over those wheel, all topped off with a rotary engine.


Would love to see a full feature of that silver FC in the second picture down. The bonus photos of it look awesome.


BT180 Peter_Kelly jdmRob Its infinitely better than a PFL s14


The 28th picture in the bonus pictures. The engine with a blue valve cover. What engine and what car?


meal stub 4G63, Some Mits


StreetStatik If you only get to have 4, those are a pretty good 4 to have.


Red car, black wheels, no wing, right side fender shot...Mazda (Eunos) JC Cosmo 20b, right?


Spaghetti Because its what we do here. If there's a rotary and a 6/71 sitting in the shed, you find a way to make them work. The roots blower on the Wankel rotary has been done here since the 90's. There's a Version 6 WRX wagon here with a RWD 2JZ conversion. He did it "just because".


kphillips9936 That thing must haul some serious ass! Jacky Tse and the lads at JTune are renowned for making some seriously fast K-series powered cars


I had to do a double take at the red RX3, as it looks identical to the RX3 I did some bodywork on about a year ago. And its awesome to see JRCOZY still looking immaculate even after doing a few hard seasons of racing and some street driving. Good to see he nailed the 10's a few weeks back too


gah missed my toyota V12 supra :(


gah missed my toyota V12 supra :(


"up until recently these cost nothing... now a set will cost good money" sounds like the volkswagon wheel scene a set of real deal porsche fuchs or a set of original wide five spokes not the fake made in china crap cost a premium 900-2500 a set


Peter_Kelly StreetStatik NikkSquidBonnett Aaron ayala1320
pretty sure WSR one got burnt out a while ago, wheels got sold few years back too.. 
actually there was a few 13b converted 929s in nz...aswell as 1jz on air.
Aaron, sentia is mine... and yes there is simply nothing available and there is nothing in Japan either. follow me on IG alpha_the_imposter, building a custom bodykit for it aswell


eejjkk  Correct Cosmo. As for engine... could be 13B or 20B or being NZ anything really.


KrisMoffatt Spaghetti  We are currently building at work a 20B 8/71 rx3 sedan. Doesnt care if it makes 100hp. The owner just wants it to break necks and be different. Step away from the normal 13B turbo conversion.

This looks pretty amazing. Thought it was another car but it's not so I'm keen to see more


So refreshing seeing  an import car show with no brz/86 coverage. 

I think if you mixed the Scandinavian car culture and the Australian car culture you would get something close to the nz scene. 

God I love being a New Zealander.


scibO KrisMoffatt Spaghetti Nice, I don't think that's been done before either. Not with a 20b and an 8/71 anyway....hope it comes out good


GregFentonHNHS I wouldn't want to live anywhere else to be honest


Rx-3 coupes are rad


Please post photo below? :))


I love you Mad Mike.


Please more image and information about that two Mitsubishi.


Speedhunters is going to get me sacked! Nice motors in NZ. Please do a spotlight on that Mini


the way the rx2 was presented was perfect. Id never seen a car lifted with a large mirror underneath to show effortlessly the underside of the car, which was as beautiful as the car itself


Jagdroach A full feature's in the works. Stay tuned!


Wow Peter! could you have taken and POSTED any more pictures!!! I had to leave and come back to this twice. It is the triple feature :)


eejjkk meal stub I initially thought it was a 4G9x engine. LOL! Thanks for the info.


JustinOdijk look up mikes V12 project on facebook, youll find it, heaps of pics there


TimRuddell nope, thats another car your thinking of, i know the owner :)


StreetStatik nah theres also my Toyota V12 thats in my supra...


@alpha Peter_Kelly StreetStatik NikkSquidBonnett Aaron ayala1320 haha you just made my evening, I actually have the  929 badged version not the sentia. Beautiful car by the way.


JustinOdijk enjoy


NZ HK this was there Supra with a toyota V12


Such fantastic diversity, lots of quality builds and plenty of unique, interesting builds.  I'd be happy to see a write up every one of those cars.  Very impressive.


Thanks i will!


Couple of mint mazda gtae's there too very very rare.


Modified VL Commodores (VL turbo or Calais) havent been a thing in Australia for a while - I havent seen one in years and the only VLs I do see tend to be semi-well looked after V8s or RB30E.

I used to own a VL many years ago, and they are a good drag car but not much else.


the car was great, I would love to sit on them, I love them
signature |


OfficialWCP All I see on you tube is VL after VL. Calais, Berlina, BT1, they're all there getting caned down the quarter. There's a handful of good ones near me including BOSDOG, a patina'd Berlina that has just had its 30ET swapped for an LS1 turbo, and a blue Berlina 30ET/TH350 that runs 10s all day long.


JustinOdijk look up on facebook, mikes v12 project, thats where all my thoughts and pictures and lulz go ;)


Pick up the keys to the civic when ever pedey


some dope dope cars featured, im kicking myself for not going. Just liked the 4 and rotary promotions "official" page on facebook so I don't miss out next year.


Good to see Holdens featured as an aussie muscle car fan I want to one day restore a valiant charger, black plates and built in NZ by Todds and get it featured on speedhunters lol.. dreams are for free. One day the speedhunters shall know how great a car the charger is!


Prayers answered = Photo of a cosmo :)


Thank you for sharing information. it is new and useful to me


This is a great article. It gave me a lot of useful information. thank you very much


Interesting Post! I really had a great time here.


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