Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice to enjoy a change of pace. That’s probably not the opening line you would want to read on Speedhunters, but let me explain…
I don’t know where you live, but in most places these days it’s getting more and more difficult to truly be able to enjoy a car outside of a track environment. It’s not just the ever-increasing number of road users fighting for the same amount of space that there’s always been, but the increasing sophistication levels of modern speed-detecting equipment.
Whether it’s average speed cameras or new laser guns, our road policing units have been armed with (which can detect you from over a half-mile away), some of the joy in stretching a car’s legs has been replaced with a certain amount of anxiety due to being in a constant state of hyper vigilance.
It probably doesn’t help that most modern performance cars are probably a bit too powerful for their own good, either. When a new hatchback can outrun a ’90s supercar, maybe it’s time we rethink things. That’s a discussion for another day, though…
Maybe these things haven’t reached where you live just yet, but they probably will. Enjoy your cars, responsibly, while you can.
While this will almost certainly come as a shock to some, there are ways to enjoy cars other than flat-out, maximum attack driving.
Alan Dufficy’s 1993 Datsun Sunny Long Body had 69hp when it left the factory. Nissan’s humble 1.2-litre A12 might not produce the sort of power figures we’ve come to expect around these parts, but it is reliable. The latter is a quality I don’t think we celebrate often enough.
After having spent the better part of a decade living in the United States, Alan and his wife planned their return to Ireland, part of which involved starting an auto body business. For that, Alan would need a promotional vehicle and workhorse.
Inspired by America’s love for the pickup truck, Alan’s search ultimately turned to Japan for a clean Sunny.
Purchasing a car sight unseen over the internet brings a certain amount of risk with it, but what turned up in Ireland was an immaculate example of a stock Sunny Long Body (B122). So clean in fact, that Alan had reservations about cutting the body to fit the 09 Racing Japan flares. “They’re known for rust but only one rear corner had ever been painted, and the rest was original,” he told me.
As you can see though, Alan’s reservations were short lived.
Alan briefly considered a Hakotora conversion, but aside from preferring the original round-light front, replacing the original steel front fenders for fibreglass ones was a step too far. A Mazda rotary engine swap was also once on the cards, but having lived with the truck for this long, Alan’s grown fond of the small capacity A12 and all of the adventures that it’s taken him on without missing a beat.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a show queen – it’s driven and used regularly as intended. In fact, Alan and his wife took a slight detour on a cross-country road trip just to accommodate this shoot.
There’s distinct shakotan vibes from the Sunny; the external front-mount oil cooler, flares, ride height and wheels all bring authenticity to the build.
The wheels are almost certainly the most important part of the puzzle, and for these Alan turned to Pine Engineering in New Zealand to re-barrel a set of Keystone Target Racing TR02s with more aggressive widths and offsets. The fronts now measure 14×8.5-inch -17 with 195/45R14 tyres, while the rears run wider at 14×9.5-inch -27 with 225/40s.
Ride height is controlled via Air Lift Performance’s pressure-based 3P management, nestled neatly under the rear bed with a 5-litre air tank.
Alan was also keen to point out that the Bprojects Japan roll centre adjusters are a vital part of running a Sunny truck low. “Small part, big difference,” he said.
The engine bay has been stripped as much as possible with the air conditioning being removed and the battery being relocated behind the passenger seat. The air filter is from a Volkswagen Beetle, which has been modified to fit the factory carburettor. A custom exhaust from BS Exhaust was shortened due to the rear axle and bag setup.
The interior is simple but tasteful. 09 Racing Japan seats with TAKATA Racing harnesses have been added, while the wooden Momo shift knob that came with the truck from Japan was retained. The Air Lift Performance controller is mounted neatly under the dash.
It’s a simple vehicle, which I can’t help but have total admiration for. Alan obviously had decisions to make along the way, and while I don’t think it would have been bad if he had chosen the rotary and Hakotora route, I really think that this is the best possible version he could have created.
There’s something very easy going about it, which matches both the truck’s usage and Alan’s friendly demeanour.
Ultimately, it’s for any owner to decide their project’s fate and for us to learn to appreciate and understand the path chosen. I love a rowdy build as much as the next person, but it’s nice sometimes not to have to talk about horsepower figures and lap times, particularly in a non-competitive environment. If anything, taking it slow on occasion helps you to enjoy the speed even more.
That change of pace is so often overlooked. When I think back to some of my favourite driving memories, they rarely involve being flat-out, but rather cruising somewhere with friends.
You don’t need 600hp to enjoy driving; sometimes 69hp will do just fine.