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Floating on air: Steve Kerr’s bagged S15

19 December 2016


New Zealand is spoiled when it comes to next-level Silvia builds, and we’ve found another instant-hit example — say your prayers children, cos it only gets gnarlier from this point on

We won’t start this out like we do many articles, because, let’s be real for a second, everyone already knows the story of falling in love with a mate’s <insert car model here>, followed by ownership of several more, before managing to build something that gets your Instagram fans’ juices flowing. We’ll save you the trouble and skip ahead to the point where Steve ventured into a warehouse while hunting down his third Nissan Silvia S15, a search that ended when he became the proud owner of what you see on these pages — although, back then, it was covered in dust, sitting on standard suspension, and in a terrible state crying out for someone to love her once again. 

The car would also be tasked with daily-driving duties — including the regular commute to uni and touge sessions on the weekend — but Steve didn’t let the fear of car-park dings and gutter rash steer him clear of his end goal, which was to create something wild. 

He kicked things off in the aesthetics department with a full restoration of the existing Wise Square GT bodykit that had been affixed before purchase but was not in the greatest state. However, it still failed to meet the bar for wildness, so Steve sent the car off to the hammer handlers at RS Lane to work their magic, with strict instructions to make it look as if the kit was on the car when it rolled off the factory floor. What resulted is extremely well blended, a rarely seen example of a correctly fitted bodykit — yes, they do exist here, you just have to look hard sometimes! Later, he added the C-West front bumper, custom canards, and a modified RX-7 rear diffuser. The Big Country Labs wing took much more convincing over a few beers, and the end result is a rear end wider than Kim K’s.

Prewarning for all static kings and Silvia purists: look away now, for the following may prove too brutal. After peeping at other cars set to attend the 2016 V 4&Rotary Nationals back in January, Steve went into semi-panic mode and made a decision that has changed the entire course of the car forever — he decided to fit the Ksport Airtech Deluxe Air Suspension System. Now, don’t go thinking the work required kicked off well in advance of the show; no, that would have been too easy. The final decision was made exactly one week before the car was meant to be shipped from Wellington to Auckland. What’s most impressive is that Steve managed to install the full system, set it up, and have it ready in time to be shipped, all in the garage at home — with much-deserved credit to friend Matt for a solid amount of help. As you can probably see, the kit now allows the car to lay frame at the flick of a switch and the ride height to be changed to suit road conditions. While a lot of people are put off by the thought of anything on air, and this often generates a lot of ‘concern’, Steve assures us that the system is far better to drive on than even he thought it would be before he installed it.

He had expected to lose a fair amount of cornering ability and be left with a bit of a sloppy experience, but was surprised to find that was simply not the case. “Everyone said, ‘What the hell are you doing airbags on a Silvia for?’,” he admitted to us, “but, once you have driven one with airbags in it, you understand why. The car feels like [you’re] driving on coilovers in terms of handling, while being extremely comfortable.” 

It must be said that Steve hadn’t rushed out and bought the airbag kit that week before the nationals; if he had, he would certainly not have made it. The airbags had been sourced from the States three months earlier, after he’d taken an interest in what was going on there and the integration of high-quality airbags into their styling — with a number of Evos, 240SXs, and an array of other Japanese codes bagged out on a regular basis. But he’d left the final decision to the eleventh hour, as he was worried that it was the wrong direction for the build. He ummed and ahhed about it, until a ride in a friend’s Evo X on Ksport bags — the car that had sparked his interest in airbags in the first place — led him to seal the deal. Since the installation, Steve hasn’t had one regret about the decision, and said that he will do it all again with the next one.
Traditionally, when a car’s exterior makes such a staunch statement, its owners pour cash into the drivetrain to get it to match. 

But, although this set-up is home to a Nismo two-way diff, D2 eight- and six-pot calipers, and a back catalogue of Ikeya Formula and Ultra Racing suspension components, what you see in the hole currently is a completely untouched SR20DET engine mated to an S14 five-speed box. Ripped from one of Steve’s previous cars after it was engaged in an unfortunate power-pole meeting late one night, the drivetrain — along with the interior — was dropped into its new home after the rolling body was rescued from the aforementioned warehouse. Steve has chosen to leave the SR alone for now, but said he eventually intends to chuck in an RB26DETT to increase the cylinder and power count, and at the time of writing, has just purchased the new powerhouse. Once that arrives, we can guarantee that this is one car that will float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and look stunning while doing it.

MAKE AND MODEL: 1999 Nissan Silvia (S15)
ENGINE: Nissan SR20DET, 1998cc, four-cylinder
BLOCK: Factory
HEAD: Factory
INTAKE: 50mm throttle body, GReddy intake manifold
EXHAUST: Custom 2.5-inch to three-inch stainless system, HKS Silent Power muffler, custom low-mount turbo manifold
TURBO: Garrett T28
FUEL: DeatschWerks DW300 fuel pump, Tomei fuel-pressure regulator, 
IGNITION: Splitfire coil packs
ECU: Factory
COOLING: Fenix Performance intercooler kit, Fenix Performance oil cooler, Fenix Performance radiator
EXTRA: TurboSmart Boost controller, mild engine-bay deloom, carbon radiator cooling slam panel
GEARBOX: Nissan five-speed (S14)
CLUTCH: Custom five-puck
DIFF: Nismo two-way

STRUTS: Ksport Airtech Deluxe Air Suspension System
BRAKES: (F) D2 eight-pot calipers, 330mm two-piece slotted rotors, (R) D2 four-pot calipers, 330mm two-piece slotted rotors
EXTRA: Ikeya Formula rear camber arms, Ikeya Formula rear toe rods, Ikeya Formula pillow-type tension rods, Ultra Racing front fender braces, Ultra Racing 29mm front sway bar, Ultra Racing 29mm rear sway bar, Ultra Racing front strut brace, Ultra Racing six-point side lower bar, Ultra Racing room bar, carbon rear strut brace
WHEELS: (F) 18×9-inch (+15) Work GS2, (R) 18×10-inch (-4) Work GS2
TYRES: (F) 215/40R18 Bridgestone RE002, (R) 235/40R18 Bridgestone RE002
PAINT: Phantom grey pearl by RS Lane Ltd
ENHANCEMENTS: Wise Square GT Type A widebody, carbon-fibre bonnet, 20mm front guards, side skirts, 50mm rear guards, and rear bumper, C-West front bumper, Custom Bodyworks front diffuser, side lips and canards, AeroCatch locking bonnet pins, custom rear diffuser, Big Country Labs wing, HID 8000k headlight kit

SEATS: Replica Bride
INSTRUMENTATION: HKS oil temp, oil pressure, voltage, and boost gauges
AUDIO: Pioneer head unit, Sony three-way coaxial speakers
EXTRA: Momo Nero shift knob, Momo handbrake, Momo leather handbrake boot, Momo R3000 pedals, carpeted boot with air tank

POWER: 206kW on 15psi at the wheels

Driver/owner: Steve Kerr
Age: 19
Location: Lower Hutt
Occupation: Student
Build time: 1.5 years
Length of ownership: Two years

Thanks: There are so many people to thank, some have come and gone. To all my friends, thanks heaps — you guys have given me the support and inspiration to keep going! Falgs for getting me so involved in the car scene, Hayden for the hours involved in recarpeting my boot, Matt for those late nights involved in getting the air suspension in, Kunnie, Matt, George, Josh, Stanley, Aaron, Kurtis, Tom, James, Jakob, Team Speedmagnet, Division One and the Dysfunctional crew, you have all helped out heaps! Jayson at Auto Dispatch for getting her to and from shows safely, the boys at Sign Foundry, Ben at Custom Body Shop, my parents for letting me take over the garage, my girlfriend Kelly for her patience and all her support, the Mega team for all the support, and the rest of the folks in the Wellington car scene for everything they have done for me.