Humble Beginnings: Street-Snaking A31
Taking Cinderella To The Ball

With this position of photographer, author and general automotive maniac, I consider it one of life’s absolute privileges to gain access to a staggering variety of machines that clutter this crowded little sphere we know and love as automotive culture. Matching this is the range of personalities involved with the creation of said machines, enabling a look into the sort of mindsets required to see visions turned into reality.


Regardless of the varying nature of vehicles or personalities, as I’ve been steadily picking my way through a range of New Zealand’s vehicular creations, I’ve been struck by one constant underlying theme: humble beginnings.


Be it a model of car that started life as a particularly pedestrian consumer item, a haggard wreck or an unfinished project with a bargain-bin price tag just begging to be transformed into something special, it’s clear that we Kiwis are inherently proud of a classic ‘rags to riches’ build.


This brings us to Hamish MacDonald, visualiser and creator of what is quite likely one of the most complete and coherent interpretations of an A31 Nissan Cefiro chassis ever created in this country of breathtaking scenery and unspoiled pure air.


So, humble beginnings you say? When conceived by Nissan’s engineers in the late 1980s, the organically-styled Cefiro sedan was quite likely never intended for pursuits any more glamourous than hauling a hapless salaryman from home to daily grind, or – as many were employed when imported into New Zealand – picking up a group of moderately intoxicated 20-somethings late on a Saturday night and ferrying them home, for a fare of course!


Thankfully, for car enthusiasts with a slightly more sideways bent, Nissan in their infinite wisdom saw fit to create the A31 using a similar platform to the S13 Silvia and R32 Skyline. Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, once the sideways bug began to infect the local import car community, the Cefiro quickly attained a cult status by virtue of it being an affordable, easily-modified platform one could employ for all matters of tyre slaying.


So popular in fact, that during the early days of the D1NZ National Drifting Championship the comparatively long wheelbase Cefiro’s became a stable, competitive choice. Notable local drivers Justin Rood, Jairus Wharerau and Curt Whittaker all took to the track in A31s, shredding tyres in front of scores of aspiring Drift Kings and of course, winning.


The Cefiro had become Nissan’s Cinderella. In those formative years of New Zealand drifting she was being taken to the ball at various tracks nationwide, and those glass slippers… well, she’d elected to wear whatever old, circular size 17-inch wheels she could find and left them all over the ballroom floors in the form of thick black lines.


Roughly eight years ago, influenced by the drift fraternity and with a desire to create a RWD Nissan chassis capable of being driven hard at any opportunity, Hamish embarked on a search for a suitable starting point. The Silvia S14 was initially in his crosshairs, however the cramped interior dimensions of the smaller coupe eventually gave way to the endearing volume of the four-door Cefiro chassis. Soon after, Hamish was the proud custodian of a lightly modified A31, packing some quality gear but not without its share of issues to contend with.


That car – let’s call it Cefiro #1 – packed a 230kW-at-the-wheels RB20DET force-fed by a Garrett GT3037 turbocharger and controlled by a Link ECU. Perched on GP Sports coilover suspension and rolling on period-style 17-inch Work wheels, it was a simple and effective street setup. The issues? Without going into too much detail, the culmination of #1’s faults resulted in every car fanatic’s worst nightmare – fire. Shortly after embarking on the maiden journey, the Cefiro burnt to the ground, leaving Hamish without an A31 and pondering what move to make next.

Cefiro #2

With an empty shed, a mind bristling with ideas and a tenacious desire to continue the road to Nissan nirvana, Hamish made the call to recreate the Cefiro of  his dreams, embracing yet again one of the seemingly unspoken principles of Kiwi car creation: price tag. Through a friend, and New Zealand drifting stalwart Jock Bennett, Hamish took delivery of an A31 rolling chassis for a meagre 200 dollars merely a week after watching the previous car burn.


With Cefiro #2 securely within the confines of his shed, the tough, street-legal Cefiro build began in earnest. But wanting a powerplant capable of producing hearty power output with minimal internal modifications led Hamish to making a choice somewhat different to the average build.


Eschewing the predictable and arguably logical choice of a boosted RB engine, Hamish elected instead to endow the Cefiro’s engine bay with an inline six of a different tone: Toyota’s venerable 2JZ-GTE.


The capabilities of the 3.0-litre Toyota six have been documented time and time again, with power levels north of 600kW (805hp) being regularly achieved on stock internals. Hamish’s ‘the factory knows best’ attitude and a reluctance to endure the development and teething troubles associated with a built engine meant the 2JZ fit the bill perfectly for the A31.


Keeping the stock long block meant an extensive menu of bolt-on performance parts were added to bolster the 2JZ’s factory 206kW output. Naturally, a large turbocharger in the form of a glistening Masterpower T61 takes pride of place among the deloomed gunmetal gloss of the Cefiro’s engine compartment, sitting proud atop a custom fabricated steam-pipe manifold.


Boost is kept in check with the use of a TiAL MV-R 44mm wastegate, while bespoke parts feature again in the form of custom intercooler piping snaking its way among the bay. Coated in muted tones of satin black they provide an understated, functional aesthetic to the spotless engine bay. Peeking out from behind a modified cambelt cover are a pair of HKS cam gears enabling fine tuning of cam timing.


In true Kiwi shed build form, Hamish created a one-of-a-kind inlet plenum, which inhales air through an 80mm throttle body via a large front-mount intercooler to ensure inlet air temperatures and the risk of detonation is kept to acceptable levels.


As anyone who has attempted to wedge an engine into a chassis it was never intended to reside in, challenges were required to be overcome – in this instance compounded by the fact the inlet and exhaust reside on opposite sides of the 2JZ than on the RB found in the Cefiro from factory. The 3-inch stainless exhaust from the dump-pipe back required an oval cross section to squeeze down the driver’s side of the chassis in order to maintain adequate ground clearance, while on the passenger side Hamish enacted a necessary shift of the fuel lines by creating custom hard lines to feed the 1000cc Bosch injectors lined up in a row along a Sard fuel rail.


As a result of the careful choice of parts and a quality tune managed by a Link G4 ECU, the 2JZ pushes a hearty 380kW (510hp) at 6500rpm to the rear treads on a responsive 16psi of boost pressure. In the real world it’s enough to reduce a perfectly good pair of tyres to dust with little more than a whiff of throttle.


OZ Racing adjustable platform struts on all four corners keep the tyres glued to the tarmac, while the chassis is graced with quality components. C’s Garage provided a set of their 555 Knuckles and associated extended LCAs; tie rods and a modified subframe moving the steering rack forward and maintaining functional geometry. Come alignment time, the usual assortment of adjustable castor, toe and camber components allow the behaviour of the Cefiro to be tweaked to Hamish’s liking.

Supermodel, Oh Yeah!

While the factory-issue appearance of the A31 is not one many would lump into the ‘beautiful’ category, careful choice of exterior and suspension components has meant the mundane has been reconstructed as the sublime with a distinctively Japanese appearance. The Origin Labo Stylish Line bodykit matched with obligatory Origin Labo canards brings the exterior bang up to date while somehow maintaining a look reminiscent of Japan’s street drift heroes.


D-Max vented front guards, roof spoiler and a Destroy Composites carbon fibre bonnet compliment the arrow-straight bodywork – once again a project undertaken by Hamish himself in the shed. Deep gloss black paint flows over the curves of all-steel flared rear arches containing quite likely the ultimate in period wheels to bolt on this ’80s child sedan.


To me, the Work VS-XF has always been one of those wheels that strikes the ideal balance between VIP class and circuit aggression – a trait that has been used to maximum effect against the moody black hue. Measuring 18×8.5 inches in the front and 18×9.5 inches out back, and finished in a stunning bright chrome, the Works really, well, work with the overall theme, while adding a stronger sense of authenticity to the overall appearance.


Not merely content with a strong engine, chassis and exterior package, the enduring attention to detail is evident inside the Cefiro.


Taking centre stage among the interior (and yes, a Nissan interior of this vintage is once again a less than inspiring place to be in stock form!) is the swathes of Bride Gradation fabric draped across the front fixed-back seats, retrimmed rear bench and even replacing the factory fabric on front and rear doors.


In favour of a pseudo-race car atmosphere, the carpet has been binned, sound deadening removed and the floors impeccably finished in a gunmetal tone, contrasting subtly with the exterior darkness. Keeping filthy footwear from detracting from the toils put into the interior coatings are custom-fabbed dimple died stainless floor ‘mats’, complete with matching sill trims.


Carefully selected accessories complete the interior – a classically-styled Grip Royal steering wheel in black points the Cefiro at the next apex, while GKTech provided the gearknob connected to a Toyota R154 5-speed gearbox and handbrake lever, complete with spin turn knob, to complete the tactile in-car experience.


Taking stock of the end product, it’s clear that in his interpretation of a cult classic street build Hamish has strived to create a well-rounded, cohesive build. From the outset, he explains this was always the intention, from the moments the blueprints were laid and the appropriate research was undertaken in order to elevate the build to the level reached.


And like so many builds I’m continually stumbling across as I scour our little islands in the Pacific in the pursuit of innovative material to showcase, it’s come from humble beginnings. A proper rags to riches tale, engineered in a shed with the resources at hand and above all, built to be driven like it ought to be. The ‘Limit Bash’ moniker displayed on the license plates are a dead giveaway of the judicious application of the right foot applied regularly to the once mundane, humble Cefiro.

Richard Opie
Instagram: snoozinrichy

Photos by Peter Kelly
Instagram: speedhunters_pedey

Cutting Room Floor


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serene clean ride


Wasn"t prepeared  for the stripped out interior not my kinda car but i do like it.


Very unique, I dig from top to bottom.


Absolutely perfect! Gorgeous!!!!


"Wanna know how I know you're ___?"


I really appreciate the time and effort to do such a perfect post.

I would love it even more if it was painted in Top Secret Gold.

Please keep em coming.


This things strikes the perfect balance between beauty and beast


Each individual component is not my taste yet all put together this car is somehow awesome and I can't stop pouring over the pictures. 

The red and blue fittings though... they're making me OCD. I feel like I've been trolled.


I absolutely love this car. Perfect execution of an amazing style!


I may only be 12 years old but I can understand most of the car related words (such as a Toyota 2JZ-GTE) i would like too know how much boost it runs. Not my type of car but it still looks absolutely awesome


What a mint Cefiro, you see a few around but hardly any that are anywhere near this level, well done.


It says 16psi in the article.


Love the car! It's always surprised me when I see VS-XFs; they look so much like rims you'd normally see on an American protouring car, and yet they're Japanese.


nice cef and nice location, reminds me of hugo's 85 mountain shoot from a couple years back.
not enough cefiro's over here in aus, only 2 I've seen here have been used for drifting.... not taxis...


Nice Cefiro. I always thought of them as a cool car. I also love the styling of the A32, but Nissan gone and effe'd it up by making it FWD - In my opinion.

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

Yes it seems that the Cefiro has become a forgotten gem in Australias car culture, being drift or otherwise. Its good to see a ceffy thats not overdone like some of the Japanese ones but is aggressive enough to say 'Try it, I dare you'
Great post and pics guys!!


So the old school Cefiro can be summed up as the more readily available Silvia S12? Our family car was once a Cefiro, but a 96 model which was FWD I'm sure. They went FWD in the early 90s? Anyways not my kind of car because I'd always gun for a Silvia or Skyline BUT there's a lot of money and effort put into this ride. His car is very clean too and well-done, show quality but I am placing good money on him driving it hard.

And NZ is not a clean and green country, that is a myth. We burn a ton of non-renewable energy resources and concepts such as 'organic', 'sustainability', and 'clean energy' are foreign to us. We're just the kings of rugby.


Really nice build. But after all that it's still a 4-door... mehh.


John Key NZ not sure I'd lump it in S12 category - these share architecture with the S13/R32... as for the clean air bit, just doing the Tourism New Zealand spiel :P But yeah, Hamish does drive the A31 hard!


Brentonmartian I think so too, it's got it's own style for sure.


Chri5 Duncan the point exactly! 4 doors are rad!


Dill Pickle and possibly even predated the pro-touring thing? They've been around a while now.


milkplus thats an awesomely refreshing affirmation, glad you dig it.


meal stub I have to say I think you'd be the first person I know of that likes the A32! Not that that's any kind of knock on your tastes of course - I wonder if the A32 would be popular if they had kept it RWD?


AL RASHEED Top Secret Gold - would definitely make it a little less classy, but it could work. I probably wouldn't run the Work VS-KFs if it was that colour though, maybe go with something a little more race.


Chri5 Duncan But, but but... That's what makes it so good?


Rear seats are brilliant!


Is it bad that  I think one of the coolest parts of this build is the matching spare in the trunk?


So refreshing to see a Cef that isn't all about mismatching panels, rusty 3 inch straight pipes that poke out another foot from the bumper and old cans of bourbon strewn about the place. Great shots.


Michael Atwell I think it's great people have an eye for the finer details.


TimRuddell sometimes I think it's just nice to see one with a front bumper on it. But yeah, Hamishes car is definitely a cut above.


you sir have great taste in styling, this is mine



you are absolutely right but a bright color will show more of body lines and 

It makes the carbon hood, trunk and front lip stand out, but hay that's just me.

I appreciate your reply though and trust me this post is a HIT.



you are absolutely right but a bright color will show more of body lines and 

It makes the carbon hood, trunk and front lip stand out, but hay that's just me.

I appreciate your reply though and trust me this post is a HIT.


Peter_Kelly meal stub LOL! Yeah. I think A32's look good when tastefully modded (exterior). I'v seen one pulling off the VIP setup quite well. It's shape reminds me of UCF10, JZX100, and the like. I've never seen those cars personally, so I really don't know how A32's compare in size, but I think the overall shape is similar. Just give it an inline-6 or filp the V6 90 degrees and I think drift guys will like it. :D


John Key NZ I've always seen it as an S13 sedan.


cefiro never die


SnoozinRichy Ah I see.. meh I just live in (south) central Auckland, when bad things happen in my area, it's South Auckland in the media, but when it's good, it's Central! I live surrounded by factories and such, so am used to the smoke and the lack of greenery. No worries with selling our country as clean and green, as NZ does rely on agriculture and if a short drive out of Auckland will get you to the clean and green. Our roads are pretty sweet too by international standards, so yeah we are clean and green! And mean!




this car is beautiful!




the car was very good 
really really like to see the car that shiny new car fits like made ​​for walking trailsthe car was very good" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> and very fast" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> mix of colors" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> from which to" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> make want pobud see hatnya" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> kecepatanya" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> was very nice ," rel="dofollow" target="_blank">  suitable for a "" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> sharp bend or not sharp I guess motorists like this is" very skilled in the speed I hope I can membilinya someday will whether there are new cars are better I" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> 'll wait for it , with a stylish car classic" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> style I" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> also like" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> to see would be whether there is a" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> car that is as fast and forius like in the " movie , the car very good car designed a way apparently hopefully there will be new cars more good and the price is quite pantastis then chances are I can membilinya the same as you have at this time

bissonauth asheev

hi am looking for a front windscreen of nissan cefiro A31,am in Mauritius