Kiyonori Imai is a really interesting guy. Known in professional drift circles as not only the boss of Bee-R in Machida and team manager for Tezuka san in D1 but also for the mind blowing creations he comes up with year in, year out. The craziest machine of them all might well be the one you’re looking at in this 7Tune exclusive…
The very minute I laid eyes on it, I knew it was a car that I absolutely had to feature. Created over the course of three years and completed in January 2014, the Nissan 180SX has undergone massive amounts of transformative work, culminating in a finished product that is doing the rounds for the Drift Muscle championship this year.
Yes, you read that right. This is a 180SX and not an R35 GT-R. Imai san is a bit of a mad scientist when it comes to the machines he creates and he loves a good joke like the rest of us. He takes great delight in the expletives that invariably fall from the mouths of awestruck fans the moment they lay eyes on this little weapon, giggling like a school boy the entire time.
I will admit that I was muttering a few choice adjectives of my own as I took it all in. The low slung RPS13 chassis just drips with question marks, bristles with intent and is coated in a hue that is a signature hallmark of Bee-R.
And then, you pull the door handle and the door swings upward. Scissor doors look great on some cars, horrible on others and opinions are divided on whether they suit anything at all but on the “B80R”, they really do work as a visual treat and serve as more proof that Imai san likes to troll the tuner community at large!
Mechanically, there are loads of interesting details to take in, the chassis being one of the most impressive.
It was stripped back to metal, spot and seam welded and endowed with a comprehensive and rigidity enhancing multi-point roll cage. The real surprise was where strengthening was added to areas the eye won’t normally see. This includes bracing through the engine bay on either side of the fire wall that extends through to the cabin and also underneath on either side of the chassis rails.
Needless to say, the B80R is stiffer than a double shot of Louis XIII straight up with no chaser. I believe all good builds, indeed the best ones, start from the ground up at chassis level, so it’s always nice to see a builder beginning from that point, instead of just adding parts and pieces to a car, which is, as it is so often the case, dictated by budgets and social appeal.
As if scissor doors and R35 bodywork on an RPS13 chassis wasn’t crazy enough, we then go and pop the double hinged bonnet, with the lid rising vertically from the front…
Underneath, we are confronted with up to 500hp of Toyota’s finest. Imai san has indeed unlocked “l33t” level status among expert level trolls. And the 2JZ looks right at home in the engine bay, with the obvious massaging of the firewall necessary to get the top mount turbo’d straight six to fit.
Imai has taken a slightly conservative approach to power output given that reliability is key for the series and informed me that, in the drift world, a standard Getrag 6 speed is good for a reliable 500hp. I have heard of these boxes being able to take 1000hp but how long can they take that before making like a grenade?
Officially, the 2JZ donk makes a lazy 455hp @ 5600rpm and 48kg’s of torque @ 5400rpm. It easily makes this power thanks to a few light modifications including Tomei camshafts, Trust front mount intercooler, HKS fuel rail, a GCG GTX35-82R top mount turbo and Adaptronic engine management. Inside the bell-housing for the Getrag, Imai has installed an ORC triple plate clutch to transfer the abuse to the Nismo two-way mechanical differential.
Braking duties are taken care of with standard Nissan calipers front and rear but have been added to with Endless brake pads. Housing these is a set of beautiful gunmetal grey Enkei RS05RR wheels measuring 18×10.5J on all corners.
These gems were then wrapped in Goodyear RS-Sport rubber measuring 255/35/18 on the front and 265/35/18 at the rear. The B80R has a great turning circle thanks to the addition of DriftWorks suspension hubs and knuckles but one really interesting modification was the use of Kei-Office dampers mated to GP Sports springs, effectively giving the B80R a much shorter stroke.
If we dive inside the car, we are presented with an almost NASCAR like interior, the metal panels that make up the dash being a visual indication. This custom setup has been filled with some of Defi’s finest and is dominated by the main tachometer and speedometer gauges.
In the center panel there is a Defi link unit along with a Greddy boost controller and a number of custom switches that handle basic functions for the lights and wipers.
The Nissan has a real “race-car” aura to it and is a lot lighter than stock thanks to the deletion of virtually all interior plastics and other materials. The Bride Low Max semi bucket and HPI harnesses keep Imai strapped in while one of the only real visual clues to the cars origin comes in the form of the standard 180SX seat for the passenger.
Besides the seat, the only other clues would be the roof line and chassis plate!
I think the R35 bodywork really suits this car well and has been expertly applied on all sides. It’s basically a complete set of parts including the front and rear assemblies as well as the fenders, sidesteps and doors. R35 doors possess a different profile to the 180SX and if you look closely, you can see where the R35 door ends and the 180SX door continues on.
36 long months after beginning the project, Bee-R’s B80R is now turning all wheels in anger for the Drift Muscle championship and it sits right at home among the other challengers not only in a visual aspect but also in a mechanical one.
Over the course of the shoot at Bee-R, I felt myself becoming more and more enamored with this 180SX, poring over every little detail and adding them to the weight of my final thoughts. I can’t even imagine what Imai san is going to come up with next but I know it’s going to be nothing short of amazing.
I am also certain it’s going to be a car that will shock those who see it since that is the nature of the builder himself. He will smile broadly as your brain tries to process what your eyes are feeding it.
We all live in a world where cars are becoming more and more like appliances we switch on and switch off, so I don’t say this lightly when I suggest that Imai san and Bee-R represent the purest of pure approaches to tuning and motor sport. And with that, I’m off to crack open a beer and toast to Bee-R’s future successes and endeavors.
What would our world be like without mad scientists like Kiyonori Imai adding R35 bodywork, a 2JZ engine and scissor doors to a 180SX chassis? Pretty damn boring if you ask me!
Words and Photos – Adam Zillin
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