If you haven’t had a chance to check out my recent story on NATS, the Japanese automotive college that never fails to surprise with its Tokyo Auto Salon show cars, you should probably go and do that before you look at this one. Done? Great, let’s get started…
You need to think fast. You’ve just spent the majority of your three years at NATS learning both theory and practical skills for your automotive customization major. It’s now July and you have just been assigned your graduation project – building a car over the next six months for TAS in January. You have a cash budget of 100万 (roughly US$10,000) excluding any sponsorship deals you can make, and your end product needs to be road legal. What do you do?
Faced with this challenge, the graduating class turned to the Fast and Furious (Wild Speed for the Japanese audience) franchise for inspiration.
Let’s start with their ‘Supra’…The A90 Project
The A90 was easily the most hyped performance car of 2019, and following on from the SEMA Show Supras in November, everyone knew the halls of the Makuhari Messe would be filled with them come TAS time.
Any A90 on display at Japan’s biggest tuning car show was going to attract a lot of attention, so the NATS students assigned to this build got to work finding a suitable base car. Because you didn’t think they’d start with a real A90, did you?
Care to guess what this began life as? Here’s a hint – it is from the Toyota family…
If you guessed Lexus SC 430, you’re correct.
There are obviously some key ingredients required in order to, visually, turn a UZZ40 into a (convertible) A90, and the build team was lucky enough to be gifted a number of parts from sponsors, including headlights, taillights, and bumpers. Rocket Bunny also played a integral part in this project by supplying one of their A90 wide-body kits.
But parts can only get you so far; the real work came with the countless hours of fabrication and bodywork required to bring the illusion to life.
Take the Pandem fenders for example. The SC 430 has a wheelbase of 2,620mm, whereas the Supras is 150mm shorter at 2,470mm. To make Miura-san’s FRP work here, the students had to cut and extend the fenders so they would line up.
Of course, none of this would look right if the rest of the students’ metalwork wasn’t flawlessly executed. The original fenders, doors, hood, and trunk all required some metalwork to pull off the transformation.
The BMW-sourced engine in the A90 Supra is a sticking point for many, but in keeping with their Fast and Furious theme, the build crew on this car were never going to fit anything other than a 2JZ. They found this one in a Toyota Aristo V300, and then proceeded to modify it in a number of ways, the most obvious being that big single Trust/GReddy T78 turbo.
As a side note, when I shot this car the students were in the middle of tidying things up ahead of the car’s shaken inspection, hence why the engine bay looks a little messy.
The build runs an air suspension setup, which when aired out over the Kuhl Racing 19×10.5-inch (front) and 19×12.5-inch (rear) Verz Krone wheels gives it a positively slammed stance.
It really does look and sound the part, which I guess is why so many people believe that it did in fact start life as a new A90 Supra.The GT-R Project
Although it didn’t shock TAS-goers as much as the A90 creation did, NATS’ Nissan R35 GT-R-inspired droptop project is still impressive. And this one too required countless hours of fabrication to pull off the look.
Buying an actual GT-R and chopping the roof off was well beyond the 100万 budget extended to the students, so they picked up something a little more affordable as a base. Guesses as to what that was?
Anyone who went with a Z33 Nissan Fairlady Z is correct. With genuine GT-R headlights, taillights, and fenders to start with, a lot of the work went into fabricating the extra width to accomodate them.
Like the Supra, there was a wheelbase difference to take into account here (R35 = 2,649mm, Z33 = 2,780mm), so not only did the students have to modify the base metalwork, but also resize the Top Secret front bumper and Trust/GReddy over-fenders to suit.
Like the Supra, the GT-R lookalike runs Kuhl Racing wheels, this time with 20×10.5-inch (front) and 20×12.5-inch (rear) fitment, and also air suspension. Time constraints meant that the engine and driveline in this one remained stock Z33 fare.
Both cars might not be absolutely perfect when its comes to bodywork fitment and refinement, but as tools for students put their practical skills to test on, and then showcase them to hundreds of thousands of people at Tokyo Auto Salon, they’re perfect in my eyes.
NATS’ next graduating class might have their work cut out for them, but as previous TAS events have shown us, the students of Nihon Automotive College are never ones to shy away from a challenge.