Time can have big effects on a project car. On one hand, a build that takes too long to complete runs the risk of its owner losing interest. On the other hand, if seen through to completion, a long-term build can turn out far better than what was first imagined.
In the case of Stephan Fouche’s Nissan 1400 bakkie (truck), it’s definitely the latter.
Stephan, from Mad Dog Racing in Pretoria, South Africa began building the Nissan around 12 years ago. His original idea was to re-power the compact pickup with a twin-turbo Chevy LS and go drag racing, and he got as far as test-fitting the engine and cutting out the load bin in order to accomodate a 4-link suspension setup. But then Stephan ran into a snag – someone made off with a number of important parts earmarked for the conversion.
This setback coincided with a whole lot more customer work coming through the shop, and as a result, the truck was parked up in its partially-completed state.
It wasn’t until years later, while hitting up Facebook Marketplace to see what Honda K24 engines were available locally for a Morris he had acquired from his cousin, that Stephan unwittingly breathed some new life into his old project. His ‘Honda’ search had turned up a crashed 2007 CBR1000RR Repsol sportbike, importantly with its powertrain intact.
In Stephan’s mind, fitting the bike’s engine and sequential gearbox in the Morris sounded like a cooler idea than a K-swap, so he pulled the trigger on the CBR purchase and got straight to work. However, this is where the story takes another turn.
While preparing to dummy-fit the Honda motor in the Morris, Stephan realised that the build was going to be far more of a challenge than he initially thought it would. Basically, the British car needed a huge amount of work just to bring it back to road-going condition, and that was before he even started thinking about all the missing parts he’d need to track down, like glass.
At the same time, Stephan started thinking about his semi-abandoned Nissan, and how building it up into a dedicated drag machine would essentially strip it back to nothing. It was too good for that.
The solution was obvious: twin-turbo V8 in the Morris for drag duty; CBR engine in the 1400 bakkie for the street.
Jumping straight into it, the engine bay is something else. Not only does the 1,000cc CBR motor look surprisingly right at home slotted between the front strut towers of the Nissan, but the fit and finish is absolutely faultless. Every redundant hole was filled and smoothed and all the wires have been tucked. The engine itself has been further enhanced from its stock 172hp/115Nm/11,250rpm specification with the addition of a custom 3D-printed air box complete with ram tubes and Jeep SRT8 injectors on a secondary fuel rail. On the exhaust side, a stainless steel manifold and fender-exit pipe was custom built, and it sounds awesome.
The whole setup is controlled by a South African Powermods engine management system, complete with flat-shift and launch control functions. Sending power to the truck’s rear wheels is the sportbike’s 6-speed sequential gearbox, to which Stephan has added an electric reverse gear.
With the load bin already cut out for the planned 4-link, Stephan decided to step things up a notch with a custom ladder bar setup (with Panhard rod), some beautiful pipework and in-board dampers. The rear end is built around a M68 Nissan 1400 diff with a M70 3.08 ratio. One neat feature is the CBR’s front disc brakes repurposed for the rear of the Nissan.
The front suspension benefits from the adjustability of coilovers and an intricate stainless steel strut brace.
As a bodywork professional, Stephan did all the work himself, including laying down the custom-mixed paint. I’m not the biggest fan of bright colours on cars, but damn, the orange does look good here.
Other upgrades to the exterior include a full set of overfenders (in satin black for contrast), carbon fibre bonnet, front chin spoiler, custom LED headlights and 15-inch Porsche-style wheels.
The Datsun’s cabin might be small, but that didn’t stop Stephan getting in there and finishing it to as high a standard as the rest of the build. It’s a mix of original of new; the factory dashboard brought into modern times with carbon fibre inserts and the CBR’s instrument cluster, complete with 13,000rpm redline. You’ll also find leather-trimmed sports seats, an OMP steering wheel, custom shifter and a hydraulic handbrake lever.
Projects like this one, where lots of custom fabrication, out-of-the-box thinking and constant problem-solving is involved, aren’t easy, but Stephan has done a really great job of his. The Honda-powered Nissan also puts a huge smile on his face when he drives it, which says a lot given that Stephan is a seasoned Sprint Car racer, and is constantly around and behind the wheels of very fast cars, including his rear-wheel drive Escort XR3 drag car.
It’s not surprising though, given that Stephan and the other half of Mad Dog Racing, owner Quintin Fourie, build some seriously cool race and road cars. You might be familiar with an E92 M3 truck that made waves on the internet a few years ago, but their next project is a real monster.
Yes, that is indeed a VW Amarok swapped with an SRT8 6.4L V8 running twin turbos. It’s almost finished, so you can be sure I’ll be back to feature it as soon as it’s done.