As time goes on, the restomod specialist shops like Singer, Alfaholics, Eagle E-Types and Redux continue to raise the bar when it comes to reimagining classics, and that is a very good thing.
As you’d expect though, these bespoke builds come with huge price tags, which mean only a very few get to enjoy them from the driver’s seat. It also means that many owners will ultimately treat their restomods like investments, and not use them. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see the fun the in that. What I can see the fun in, is ‘Bob’ Tanabe‘s Nissan Silvia S15, which I’m calling a restotune.
Built out of D Language Racing Service in Saitama, Tanabe-san’s Silvia is angry enough to be thrashed on the track yet refined enough to be driven to a fancy restaurant on Friday night. It’s the full spa treatment, head to toe tailoring – the complete package. It’s a tuner car elevated just enough to make people stand back and say ‘ooh, that’s a bit special’.
The S15 has real presence on the street thanks to its Vertex Edge body kit paired with a G Corporation rear wing. But it’s the custom gold paint which makes the car appear much bigger than it actually is, and undoubtably gives it an air of elegance.
With 19×10-inch ESR LP2-Duo wheels shod in 275/30R19 tyres at all four corners, the Silvia’s proportions can seem a little caricature-like from some angles, but nevertheless, this is one of the best-looking S15s I have ever seen.
But it’s not just about the looks. As a Spec S, the S15 came from the factory with a naturally aspirated SR20DE. That was never going to cut it for Tanabe-san, but instead of taking the easy route and swapping in a turbo SR20DET, he’s retrofitted a 1JZ-GTE VVTi from a JZX100 Toyota Mark ll. Internally the Toyota engine is stock, as is the turbo, but Tanabe-san has fitted a modified GP Sports exhaust system with a Sard Racing sports cat, an HPI intercooler and oil cooler, Ignition Projects (IP) Power Coils, and a Link engine management system. Backing it up is Toyota’s venerable R154 5-speed manual gearbox.
I didn’t go for a ride along this time around, but I can imagine the car feels firm yet compliant thanks to a full suite of Nismo bushings and A/M/S Type-PD coilover suspension. GP Sports 380mm brakes (8-pot front, 6-pot rear) provide plenty of stopping power.
The exterior has new aggression, the engine bay has new a level of performance, but it’s the interior where I think the biggest improvement has been made.
Japanese enthusiast cars from the ’90s and 2000s were never renowned for their interiors, with the exception perhaps being the Honda NSX. Most cars from the era were clad in cheap plastic, and even if they were designed well, they fell short in the manufacturing process. You paid for performance, not plush.
To give his S15’s cabin a more luxurious feel, Tanabe-san had Replus Upholstery complete a full custom-trim makeover, which has elevated it to a new level. Importantly though, it still maintains a ‘tuner’ feel with Bride seats and Defi gauges.
Is this the new gold standard for Japanese tuner cars? Because by comparison, stock Japanese performance cars of a certain vintage just feel ‘cheap’, regardless of how much cash has been fed under the hood or thrown at the bodywork. Purists may say keep it original, but if given the choice I think we’d all like a little Alcantara under our fingertips.
I hope the way Tanabe-san has approached this build serves as some sort of inspiration for those of you with project cars. It certainly has for me.