At its core, the very embodiment of drifting is expression. It’s a style sport. Creativity, innovation and interpretation is encouraged, and boundaries are merely a loose guideline. Right?
It’s strange then that amongst the two distinct factions of the sport – let’s call them the purists and the professionals – drifting could be perceived to be contradictory to those core values. Purist voices reach a fever pitch whenever a drift weapon with an engine swap (cough, LS, cough) and excessive fender gap gain spotlight. For these guys, the approach is a non-negotiable tribute to the mother country of the sport.
At the competitive end, the ‘how to’ ethos is just as prescriptive. Big lock kits, generous suspension travel and distinctly non-pure powertrain swaps litter the top-tier grids globally. The pressure to perform homogenises the style and engineering, to a degree.
So when a pro-level drift car pitches caution to the wind in the name of putting on a show and throwing the engine-swap game a curve-ball, further investigation is warranted. Meet Jaron Olivecrona, one of D1NZ’s many personable characters, and his freshly minted V12. Oh, that engine, it’s got an S14 Silvia attached to it too.
While that sparkling lump of alloy featuring a rank of 12 trumpets is new, Jaron, nor the Nissan itself are fresh to destroying rear tyres.
It’s a motorsport obsession that begins with Olivecrona senior, Jaron’s father Kester. Kester’s a bit of a local legend in the club motorsport scene around the area, having an extensive history in both racing – including a rapid FD3S Mazda RX-7 – and motorsport fabrication. And while these attributes would later prove invaluable as the S14 build progressed, the hereditary love for all things four-wheeled and fast steered a 12-year-old Jaron towards the tarmac.
Focusing on picking off apexes while keeping the tires glued to the blacktop at the wheel of a KP Starlet didn’t last all that long however. Drifting was just emerging from its infancy in New Zealand, and amongst the smoke and screaming wastegates Jaron decided sliding was the future. Bring on the Silvia life.
The SR20DET didn’t last long either, replaced for D1NZ competition with a high-compression RB26DETT. The RB retained a 2.6-litre capacity, and of course that signature RB26 roar.
With circa 670kW (911hp) of tractable, responsive power to call on, it was no slouch, but after three or four seasons of the gruff straight-six, thinking caps turned to “doing something different.” Yeah, it sounds clichéd, but think back to those values intrinsic to the sport. Something flamboyant. Something completely at odds with everything else on the D1NZ grid, yet rooted in the very semantics of drifting.
Doubling down on the number of cylinders was the antidote. But even having had the opportunity to pursue 12 of the Prancing Horse’s finest, it wasn’t going to be a highly-strung, difficult-to-maintain example out of Europe. Things were going to stay loosely Japanese beneath the carbon hood, with 12-cylinders arranged in an all-alloy, 60-degree vee displacing 5.0-litres.
The Toyota 1GZ-FE provided the ideal base. Duly sourced, the tape measure claimed it’d fit in the S14 engine bay like it was made for it.
The big hurdle? The 1GZ-FE, for all intents and purposes, is a taxi engine designed for smooth, effortless low-RPM diplomacy in its native Toyota Century. The answer? A local race engine developer with considerable expertise in transforming the mundane into the epic.Right Time, Right Place, Right Engine
What’s great about being woven into the local motorsport community fabric is the contacts. Team Olivecrona needed an engine builder with experience, ambition, innovation and above all a willingness to try something a little left field. Enter Nelson Hartley, of Hartley Engines & Motorsport.
The Hartley name might as well be a metaphor for total motorsport immersion. Nelson’s father Bryan (himself a racer) founded the race-focused workshop, but also kick-started the motorsport careers of both his sons. Nelson found himself racing full-time soon after leaving school, running single-seaters and speedway before settling back to focus on creating solutions for the performance hungry.
The younger of the Hartley brothers, Brendan? Well, he became a factory Porsche driver, winning the WEC as well as Le Mans. Oh, and he’s just lined up for his first full Formula 1 season behind the wheel of a Toro Rosso STR13. Like I mentioned, the Hartleys and motorsport go together a bit like Forrest and Jenny. Or peas and… yeah, you know how it goes.
Anyway, I digress. Jaron’s requirement for a bit of extra pep from the lazy old 1GZ coincided with Nelson’s desire to develop an engine aimed at low volume production; think along the lines of boutique, small scale supercar customers. Jaron’s requirement presented the ideal opportunity, as well as a readymade proving ground in the shape of Kiwi drift competition.
The Hartley Motorsport process begins with a thorough reverse engineering exercise. Regardless of the base engine – “they’re all simply an air pump,” Nelson explains – every component is carefully analysed, CAD modelled, and assessed to determine where performance can be optimised.
In standard form, Nelson admits the Toyota V12 isn’t all that great from a performance perspective. While the compact nature and light weight is a positive, the cylinder heads as well as the cam arrangement present a distinct challenge. But this is why we’re blessed with CAD techniques, able to design and simulate theory before putting it into practice or sacrificing an expensive lump of billet.
Of course, it goes without saying that the top end of the V12 now features a heavily reworked, CNC-ported cylinder head. ‘Reworked’ is something of an understatement, with no component beneath the billet cam covers remaining factory. The valves, cams, lifters and cam gears are entirely custom, designed from scratch and engineered by Hartley. No, he’s not about to divulge all the vitals, but freely admits the 5.0-litre, 12-cylinder “air pump” is capable of shifting considerably more atmosphere into the suck, squeeze, bang, blow process.
While the top end of any engine is where the gains are realised, the custom work doesn’t end there. The crank remains standard Toyota fare for the time being – almost a byproduct of the engine’s proof-of-concept status – but the reciprocating bits are all bespoke to the engine. In fact, where the long block is concerned, the only other Toyota components are the bare block and head castings. Dry sump lubrication keeps the expensive bits where they should be, inside the block.
There’s really no better way to top off a brutal naturally aspirated build than with a set of individual throttle bodies. On the 1GZ, 12 billet alloy examples – again custom Hartley parts from base to trumpet – sit atop curved inlet runners. Never mind the throttle response afforded by a butterfly per cylinder. They just look so damn gorgeous.
The intake symmetry is echoed by the headers, the twisting mild-steel pipes an engineering feat conducted by Kester back in the garage at home. With diameter and pipe lengths to Hartley’s spec, there’s something like a month’s worth of after-hours time invested. Spent gases are directed into a stainless exhaust exiting with a trademark bark from the megaphone tip.
The net result is a creation named the Hartley V12. It’s not intended as a slight on the Toyota design, more a signifier of the development and engineering undertaken in the confines of the small Hartley workshop, screaming its intent with a note closer to 1970s Formula One car as opposed to a modern GT3 machine. The tone is guttural and throaty, but above all it’s unique.
Tuned via a Link Thunder ECU on their own engine dyno, Nelson emphasised the area under the curve is exactly where it needs to be for the intended purpose. A huge torque band, rev limit approaching 10,000rpm, responsive under foot. The sum of these is more than enough to bake a pair of sticky 265s and overcook them at any prod of the throttle, at any point in the rev range you care to name. Mission accomplished.It’s A Jungle Out There
It turns out that there’s more locally developed bits on the S14 too. So local, much of it was created in-house among the four walls of the Olivecrona family garage. By garage, I mean garage. We’re not talking a mega-buck workshop here, just a simple tin-clad shed where Kester and Jaron spin spanners, maintaining and developing new ideas.
Much of the composite work on the Silvia is a product of Kester’s good old fashioned Kiwi ‘can do’ attitude. The sharp-eyed among you have probably already identified the front bar as being an Origin Labo piece, but the remainder of the Silvia’s outfit is custom tailored.
The rear section is particularly interesting. Crafted from fibreglass, it’s a one-piece clamshell that begins at one B-pillar and arches around to the opposite. Deep vents moulded into the flanks scoop in fresh air and spit it out as tyre smoke via the floor-less rear and and portholes. Jaron reports it’s relatively effective at keeping the cabin clear of smoke, handy when knocking on the door of an adversary mid-chase.
There’s custom fibreglass side skirts and a bespoke carbon bonnet. It’s all covered in a vibrant livery from the pen of Andrew Stewart, the brains behind AWS Graphics and another Kiwi talent making a mark on the motorsport world with liveries adorning drift and race cars across the globe.
Integral to the rainforest theme is the addition of the huia bird graphic. For the unaware, the huia is native to New Zealand, deemed extinct circa early 20th century. It’s of particular significance to the Olivecrona clan, with Jaron’s grandfather Carl officially recorded as the last to sight the rare bird in 1947. A key reminder of the family equation in the Olivecrona operation.
It all hangs off home-built tubular front and rear ends, again fabricated by Kester’s hands. Naturally, it makes any repairs simpler when the inevitable hit is taken in the heat of competition.
A touch of VIP flair is brought to the party by big Weds Kranze Bazreia wheels in 18-inch, with Tri-Ace semi slicks providing forward motion despite the Hartley engine’s attempts to vaporise them.
Inside, an Olivecrona-sculpted carbon fibre dash replaces the staid grey plastic item. It’s race car simple. A Link data-logger dash unit takes stage front and centre offering all the vitals, visible behind a suede OMP wheel.
Banging gears is as simple as reaching for the load cell-equipped shifter of a TTi 5-speed sequential ‘box, in close proximity to the mandatory hydraulic handbrake lever. It’s all within comfortable reach of the Racetech seats – the constant of these two brands again being Kiwi designed and engineered.
Taking stock, that’s the crux of the story here. Yeah, it’s a Silvia with a V12 in it, merely the tip of the iceberg. The Olivecrona team have arguably taken the creative spirit of drifting, successfully assimilating it with the S14’s latest V12 incarnation.
Unspoken rules have simultaneously been cast aside and rigidly adhered to, the result being a machine they’re understandably proud of. It’s a showcase of the engineering prowess from a small town in middle of a country at the bottom of the earth, and one that’s currently being beaten on ruthlessly as the D1NZ season reaches its zenith in a couple of weeks.
The only thing left now? Sit back, crank the speakers up and indulge in the aural experience of the Hartley V12 being given a bootful by Jaron during shakedown; the clip above courtesy of Matla Media, another of the Olivecrona team’s dedicated partners.