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K-Powered: Party In The Front, Party In The Back – Speedhunters



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Following the driveline back, an S13 rear subframe has been narrowed to work with the Datsun’s minuscule track width. A KAAZ 2-way LSD provides drive to the rear wheels while R33 GT-R callipers greatly improve their braking.

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At the front, S13 HSD coilovers and top-mounts are mounted to the hubs, connected to the custom subframe with a mix of both custom and Hardrace arms. Every arm is, of course, adjustable. Front braking is courtesy of a pair of Wildwood Dynalite callipers that have been smoothed and re-branded with Nissan stickers. It’s details like this all over the truck that really tie the build together.

The steering setup is a hybrid of three systems. At the base is the original Datsun steering box. The steering column itself is from a Mazda MX-5 in order to use the column-mounted control switches. And for usability, Tom has implemented a Vauxhall Corsa electric power steering motor, hidden behind the dashboard to make driving a little easier on the arms.

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Back at the rear, it only takes half a second to realise how much custom work has gone into the little truck. Tom has gone to the effort to design and hand-fabricate a bespoke pushrod suspension setup using AVO coilovers. Custom spring rates have been specified front and rear due to the new weight balance.

The engineering mindset even goes as far as to make the rear cage a stressed member of the rear suspension, providing bracing and stiffening for the S13 rear subframe.

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When it comes to the wheels, Tom settled on the cheapest set of classic 8-spoke style wheels he could get his hands on. “I just couldn’t justify spending £2,000 on 14-inch wheels,” he laughed. Tom is the type of guy who would rather spend more on tyres, and seeing the way he drives, I’m guessing he goes through them quite quickly. Currently, there’s a set of Toyo Proxes R888R semi-slicks fitted up.

What the Datsun does have is a set of bespoke forged carbon centre caps as decoration. In a catch-22, if Tom had dropped £2K on wheels, he might not have ended up with the carbon accents the truck has. And when I say ‘carbon accents’, I mean the many bespoke forged carbon pieces around the build.

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Whilst I will mention the ‘smooth option’ CarbonSignal Hakosuka front end conversion (whereas the truck Tom originally saw had the vented option), it’s the custom carbon fibre that needs describing. It all stemmed from the wing mirrors, which are genuine Skyline items. Instead of having them sand-blasted and painted black, Tom thought he may as well try to stand out. One kilogram of forged carbon fibre sheet and several litres of epoxy later, not only were the mirror caps forged carbon, but so too was the front lip, wheel arches, wheel covers and several trims around the interior. The front lip was only made as a precaution in case the first plastic one ever took a real beating, and clearly the carbon obsession has escalated.

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The vivid yellow paintwork was originally going to be Datsun Safari Gold Metallic. ‘Safari Gold’ may as well have been named ‘Swamp Brown’ though, as it was far too dark for Tom’s vision. The paint you see is therefore a custom mix, both vibrant and warm in tone. Meanwhile the livery is the result of a lot of Googling, with Tom choosing the ideas he liked best and turning them all into one simple design that wouldn’t be too difficult to remove down the line.

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Even the interior has a little trinket with a nice story behind it. Ignore the pedal box with custom routed fluid bottles and the AiM dash that’s hooked up to the K24 Frank via Hondata software. The Nardi steering wheel, custom shift knob and Sparco seats/Takata Racing harness combo are inconsequential to Tom, too.

A small model of ‘Pickle Rick’ from Rick & Morty sits proudly on the centre console. Why, you may ask? “When I had an MX-5, my then-girlfriend bought me a small K-9 model from Doctor Who, and I kept it in the car to make her happy.”

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“She was more sad about me selling that car than I was, so she got me the Pickle Rick statue to keep until the Datsun was finished. I promised her it would go inside once it’s done.” Seeing as the pair are now engaged, Tom must have made the right choice.

It’s details like this that make the Datsun such a fantastic little truck. Whilst it’s all well and good having this much work and effort go into the Datsun, as well as all the incredible parts, they’re only as good as the fun that is had along the way.

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A design engineer by trade, Tom taught himself how to fabricate as he went. His only previous experience in welding was from his first car – an old VW Beetle – and his experience in fibreglass from the previously mentioned MX-5. Even then, throw in small touches like the false passenger floor to hide all the wiring, or the self-made 3D-printed heater pipes to avoid the washer bottle placement and you have one hell of a build with some amazing details.

Add to that Tom just being an all round joker and nice guy, who was more than happy to make a trip out with two hours’ notice. A trip to an unfamiliar city no less, ending up in the sketchy part of town after we got kicked out of the nice clean car park that I’d originally organised.

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The most shocking aspect of the build though, is that the day after I shot it, the Datsun was sold. I knew it was coming, hence the rush to shoot the truck, but I never really asked why until a few weeks after.

“Life’s too short and there are too many cars I want to build,” says Tom. “I haven’t won the lottery, so you have to keep selling to fund them. I liken the build to ‘Stockholm syndrome’, because there are times it was absolutely hell, but I escaped. I had a load of fun taking it to shows and that kind of thing; I smashed it down B-roads and had a blast – it was a really good car. It had a great reception from everyone. It was just time to let it go and build something else daft.”

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I think without that attitude, the Datsun may never have been built in the first place, so I’m not going to disagree at all. I’m just grateful I got to shoot the awesome little thing and had a blast doing so.

Apparently, Tom’s next project will involve a PS13, another K-engine and a BMW gearbox, so I’ll be sure to keep tabs on that.

Mario Christou
Instagram: mcwpn

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