NEIL'S WIDEBODY 180SX// JANUARY FEATURE

Photos by: Khang Nguyen | Words by: Ian Lee

As far as barn restorations go, this is pretty much up there with the best of them. A completely gutted, un-finished, un-rolling shell of a 180sx. A literal ghost in a shell waiting to be revived. It takes a lot of commitment to pick up a project like this, many a times people often get an initial kick of inertia and enthusiasm to start these long journeys only to burn out of funds or patience. But for brothers Neil and Dave at Primal Garage who specialise in paint, panel work and everything mechanical in-between, the 180sx barn find was a perfect car in their eyes to showcase their skills amassed over the years in running a workshop.

Nothing quite compares to the feeling of wanting to outdo someone more than that of sibling rivalry between brothers. For Neil and David back in 2001, it was who had the fastest car. After his brother got hands on a turbo Mtisubishi Cordia, Neil was on the hunt for something quicker. Travelling to Canberra of all places to find his first JDM car, Neil got close to buying a Silvia but the dealer had other plans last minute and made the sale to someone else. Determined to not leave Canberra in the same car he came in, Neil frantically booked test drives with different dealers, trying Skyline’s, 180’s and anything turbo he could get his hands on. Eventually Neil found a black 1990 CA18 180SX with some mild mods and thought, this is it. A deal was struck and for the next 10 years, this was Neil’s project car, drift car and the genesis of Primal Garage.

After a crash at the track bent the shell of the 180, the car was towed back to the workshop where after 6 months sitting there, it faded into the decor and surroundings. Realising the car was beyond salvaging, an off chance presented itself to Neil when a friend offered a straight 180sx shell. The shell itself was as bare as it gets and for the first few visits to his friend’s shed, Neil spent time putting in the right parts to at least get the car in a rolling state. Once it was able to roll, the car was hauled back to the Primal Garage workshop to undergo an overhaul to make it the car you see today.

Project 180sx 2.0 came at the perfect time as Neil had already committed to a road trip to Tasmania in 4 weeks however up until then, he had no car to drive. Incredibly, even in that 4 week time frame, Neil and his brother were able to transform the car from its sorry state and into more or less what you see in the pictures today – widebody paint and all. Immediately after getting the car, the G Corporation Flash widebody panels were ordered in from Japan which crossed off a big item on the to do list (even this arriving in 4 weeks is an achievement in itself!). Salvaging what they could from Neil’s first 180, the rest of the parts were ordered in to make the car at least driveable by the end of the 4 weeks.

Neil was in charge of all the mechanical work, engine build and paint prep for the car while his brother took care of all the metal fabrication and final paint work. The two brothers slaved to meet the deadline and through sheer will and determination, at the end of four weeks a presentable and driveable car came out of the garage and ready to take on the open roads.

Going over the car (as it sits today) you can really appreciate the fabrication work that’s been put in. Neil says that despite owning the car for almost 7 years, the car itself has not changed dramatically from that initial 4 week build which is impressive given the pace in which the car scene changes. Starting with the body, this saw some later enhancements including a genuine Hotroad body kit, Origin Labos bonnet and Dmax roof wing. Reading this list out does seem like a lot of extra panels to add onto the car but through careful selection and pairing with a great final colour, the 180 doesn’t come across as over done at all. During street duties the car rides on a set of silver SSR SP3’s (18×9.5 +3 18×10.5 – 3) which give the car some great stance whilst doing justice to the widen guards. A very purposeful selection of suspension parts from Cusco, Whiteline, Ikeya and some in-house Primal Garage parts have been installed to address the car’s regular drifting requirements.

David’s workmanship as a fabricator really gets put on display the moment you look into the engine bay. In here, you’ll find a tubbed, shaved and tucked canvas that looks more show car spec than drift car but like the rest of the car are all purposeful in nature. For example the tubbed guards grant significant improvements in space to allow tighter wheel positions while drifting. The wide array of custom cooler piping, oil coolers, catch cans and exhaust piping look great against the dark engine bay and help showcase David’s craftsmanship as a fabricator.

Initially running a GT2871r and making around 330hp, the engine has undergone a number of iterations due to unforeseen engine failures over the years – 2 to be exact, but I’m sure Neil isn’t counting. The current setup hosts a high mount Greddy TD06 high mount turbo which has been paired to a fully built SR20. ARP, Aries and Eagle bottom end components were used to help improve reliability and through a previous experience, a stronger 1.1mm Cosworth head gasket was sourced to prevent any repeat heartache. Headwork includes Tomei cams, Supertech valve stems, S13 adjustable cam gears and a fuel setup leveraging a Mazworks billet rail and Bosch 1000cc injectors. With the new setup, the car easily makes 400hp and 457nm of torque on 17psi which Neil says is plenty enough for the track and street.

Like the engine bay, the interior of the car does not immediately scream track car as you’d be hard pressed to find striking differences between this and some of the purely street driven modified cars we’ve shared on this page. The car is not stripped out as you’d expect for a drift car with most of the stock 180sx interior being retained and tweaked. Bride Vios and Euro seats have been installed with the suede material of the seats being used as a reference point for other interior parts such as the glovebox, door cards and centre console. Apexi and AEM have been fitted conveniently for the driver to keep close eyes on the engine vitals. This included creation of a custom dash to house some of the gauges and an Autometer C2 tachometer. Lastly to finish off the interior, a roll cage has also been installed in the car because you know, safety first.

To me, Neil’s car is a perfect blend of form and function. The styling and attention to detail in the aesthetics of the car are up there with some of the best street builds but it takes a brave person to then be willing to put a car like this sideways on a track at over 100km/h. Fortunately Neil didn’t compromise at all with the selection of functional parts needed to make the car safe but also enjoyable on the track. Despite the various setbacks that the car has had over the years of ownership, Neil says he’s extremely grateful and lucky to have his brother’s support and skills at every setback. Still not sure who owns the faster car but with a track day just passed, I guess we’ll have to wait for the score card.

NEIL'S WIDEBODY 180SX // JANUARY FEATURE

As far as barn restorations go, this is pretty much up there with the best of them. A completely gutted, un-finished, un-rolling shell of a 180sx. A literal ghost in a shell waiting to be revived. It takes a lot of commitment to pick up a project like this, many a times people often get an initial kick of inertia and enthusiasm to start these long journeys only to burn out of funds or patience. But for brothers Neil and Dave at Primal Garage who specialise in paint, panel work and everything mechanical in-between, the 180sx barn find was a perfect car in their eyes to showcase their skills amassed over the years in running a workshop.

Nothing quite compares to the feeling of wanting to outdo someone more than that of sibling rivalry between brothers. For Neil and David back in 2001, it was who had the fastest car. After his brother got hands on a turbo Mtisubishi Cordia, Neil was on the hunt for something quicker. Travelling to Canberra of all places to find his first JDM car, Neil got close to buying a Silvia but the dealer had other plans last minute and made the sale to someone else.

Determined to not leave Canberra in the same car he came in, Neil frantically booked test drives with different dealers, trying Skyline’s, 180’s and anything turbo he could get his hands on. Eventually Neil found a black 1990 CA18 180SX with some mild mods and thought, this is it. A deal was struck and for the next 10 years, this was Neil’s project car, drift car and the genesis of Primal Garage.

After a crash at the track bent the shell of the 180, the car was towed back to the workshop where after 6 months sitting there, it faded into the decor and surroundings. Realising the car was beyond salvaging, an off chance presented itself to Neil when a friend offered a straight 180sx shell. The shell itself was as bare as it gets and for the first few visits to his friend’s shed, Neil spent time putting in the right parts to at least get the car in a rolling state. Once it was able to roll, the car was hauled back to the Primal Garage workshop to undergo an overhaul to make it the car you see today.

Project 180sx 2.0 came at the perfect time as Neil had already committed to a road trip to Tasmania in 4 weeks however up until then, he had no car to drive. Incredibly, even in that 4 week time frame, Neil and his brother were able to transform the car from its sorry state and into more or less what you see in the pictures today – widebody paint and all. Immediately after getting the car, the G Corporation Flash widebody panels were ordered in from Japan which crossed off a big item on the to do list (even this arriving in 4 weeks is an achievement in itself!). Salvaging what they could from Neil’s first 180, the rest of the parts were ordered in to make the car at least driveable by the end of the 4 weeks.

Neil was in charge of all the mechanical work, engine build and paint prep for the car while his brother took care of all the metal fabrication and final paint work. The two brothers slaved to meet the deadline and through sheer will and determination, at the end of four weeks a presentable and driveable car came out of the garage and ready to take on the open roads.

Going over the car (as it sits today) you can really appreciate the fabrication work that’s been put in. Neil says that despite owning the car for almost 7 years, the car itself has not changed dramatically from that initial 4 week build which is impressive given the pace in which the car scene changes.

Starting with the body, this saw some later enhancements including a genuine Hotroad body kit, Origin Labos bonnet and Dmax roof wing. Reading this list out does seem like a lot of extra panels to add onto the car but through careful selection and pairing with a great final colour, the 180 doesn’t come across as over done at all. During street duties the car rides on a set of silver SSR SP3’s (18×9.5 +3 18×10.5 – 3) which give the car some great stance whilst doing justice to the widen guards.

A very purposeful selection of suspension parts from Cusco, Whiteline, Ikeya and some in-house Primal Garage parts have been installed to address the car’s regular drifting requirements.

David’s workmanship as a fabricator really gets put on display the moment you look into the engine bay. In here, you’ll find a tubbed, shaved and tucked canvas that looks more show car spec than drift car but like the rest of the car are all purposeful in nature.

For example the tubbed guards grant significant improvements in space to allow tighter wheel positions while drifting. The wide array of custom cooler piping, oil coolers, catch cans and exhaust piping look great against the dark engine bay and help showcase David’s craftsmanship as a fabricator.

Initially running a GT2871r and making around 330hp, the engine has undergone a number of iterations due to unforeseen engine failures over the years – 2 to be exact, but I’m sure Neil isn’t counting. The current setup hosts a high mount Greddy TD06 high mount turbo which has been paired to a fully built SR20. ARP, Aries and Eagle bottom end components were used to help improve reliability and through a previous experience, a stronger 1.1mm Cosworth head gasket was sourced to prevent any repeat heartache.

Headwork includes Tomei cams, Supertech valve stems, S13 adjustable cam gears and a fuel setup leveraging a Mazworks billet rail and Bosch 1000cc injectors. With the new setup, the car easily makes 400hp and 457nm of torque on 17psi which Neil says is plenty enough for the track and street.

Like the engine bay, the interior of the car does not immediately scream track car as you’d be hard pressed to find striking differences between this and some of the purely street driven modified cars we’ve shared on this page. The car is not stripped out as you’d expect for a drift car with most of the stock 180sx interior being retained and tweaked. Bride Vios and Euro seats have been installed with the suede material of the seats being used as a reference point for other interior parts such as the glovebox, door cards and centre console.

Apexi and AEM have been fitted conveniently for the driver to keep close eyes on the engine vitals. This included creation of a custom dash to house some of the gauges and an Autometer C2 tachometer. Lastly to finish off the interior, a roll cage has also been installed in the car because you know, safety first.

To me, Neil’s car is a perfect blend of form and function. The styling and attention to detail in the aesthetics of the car are up there with some of the best street builds but it takes a brave person to then be willing to put a car like this sideways on a track at over 100km/h. Fortunately Neil didn’t compromise at all with the selection of functional parts needed to make the car safe but also enjoyable on the track.

Despite the various setbacks that the car has had over the years of ownership, Neil says he’s extremely grateful and lucky to have his brother’s support and skills at every setback. Still not sure who owns the faster car but with a track day just passed, I guess we’ll have to wait for the score card.