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What a superb car!

By Sudhir Matai

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This article was first published in February 2001.
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What a superb car! Take one South African Mazda 323 ute - yes a ute! - and swap in a 2-litre DOHC engine from the big brother 626. Bolt it to a 6-speed trans (yes, and it is still front wheel drive) and then add a turbo and intercooler. Throw in some NOS and stand well back...

Pick-ups (USA), utes (Australia) or bakkies (South Africa) - call them what you want - have never been as big elsewhere as in the US as far as tuning or styling is concerned. The States even having special forms of drag and track racing for their 'workhorses'! And it also seems as though the size of delivery vehicle is directly proportional to the area of the country in which it is to be used. In the US you see anything up to V10 pick-ups doing duty, while Australia has its fair share of V6 and V8 utes. Unfortunately, here in South Africa, we have to make do with bakkies with motors as small as 1.4-litres and able to carry only a measly half metric ton.

But not all of our utes are slow...

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Enter 31-year-old Logan Naiker, who after a brief spell with a nitrous-sniffing BMW M3, realized that he was indeed a speed junkie and that the M3 just was not fast enough to keep his habit fuelled. So to satisfy his addiction to speed, Logan, being a business man without the requisite technical and mechanical expertise, enlisted local tuning guru and nitrous specialist Sybrand (Sybie) Coetzee to build for him a devastatingly fast and quick road machine. The starting point for this exercise was, you guessed it, a ute from the Mazda stable. The little front wheel drive 323-based Rustler was bought in 1997 and Sybie quickly began the rebuild that would be required to attain the kind of speeds Logan was hoping to achieve. So out went the stock engine and gearbox and in went a 2-litre 16-valve unit from a bigger brother in the Mazda range - the 626 sedan. In stock form this powerplant makes a realistic 67kW at the front wheels, but that figure was of no relevance to Sybie as he knew the potential of the unit.

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First order of business was to drop the compression ratio in anticipation of the turbo, and this was achieved using aftermarket forged connecting rods from Carillo, which brought the CR down to 8:1. The standard pistons were retained and have as yet not let the motor down. Next step was to fabricate a tubular turbo exhaust manifold, this was done in-house by Sybie himself. Used was 38mm steam pipe, which is extremely tolerant to the high exhaust temperature and resistant to cracking. Connected to the custom manifold is another Sybie special consisting of a mix of Garrett bits. A hybrid turbocharger, it uses pieces from a T3 and T4, with this lot protected from over boosting by an Audi external wastegate on the exhaust side, and saved from compressor surge on decel with an HKS sequential blow-off valve on the inlet side. The pressurized gases make their way through a grill-mounted intercooler and then on to a standard inlet manifold.

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As we all know, all that extra air is useless without some more fuel to set it off, and these all-important fuelling duties are handled by an Australian-sourced [McGee? - Ed] Air Mass unit, that uses an air sensor to pick up vital info such as boost pressure, air-speed, etc. Sybie swears by this system, as it is fairly easy simple to set-up and does not require a lap-top computer and days on the dyno, and uses it on all his personal vehicles. The cherry on top (of the inlet that is) is the NOS fogger nozzle plumbed into the inlet manifold - it's worth an additional 100hp.

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This combination has been dyno'ed to the tune of 406 galloping horses (that's 303kW if you don't speak ole west) and that's without the nitrous! If you find that a little hard to gulp down, then just take a gander at the little vehicle's achievements to date. A 12.4 second quarter mile pass at 210 km/h, a 252 and 270 km/h over eight hundred and one thousand metres respectively! I'll bet that power output is starting to look a lot more believable now. As you'd expect, this was not achieved on pump fuel, but rather 102 octane race fuel that helps to inhibit knock at the 1.65 Bar (24 psi) of boost used on competition outings. To get all this power and accompanying torque to the pavement, an Opel TS 6-speed gearbox was hooked up to the motor via a custom adaptor plate, and this feeds the power out to special sideshafts. Even with all this power on tap, the ute is no savage beast and is used regularly by both Logan and his wife as daily transport.

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Logan wasn't silly enough to trust the standard suspension and braking equipment to keep him safe in this little rocket and had a set of custom springs (coils up front and leafs in the rear) made up, as none of the performance suspension specialists provide for this model. And just to keep things in the family, a full all-disc brake set-up was installed and is more than capable of slowing down the ute due to its relatively low mass. The suspension is nicely rounded (no pun intended) off by a set off Viper multi-spoke alloys wrapped in Bridgestone 205/40/17 rubber.

If would-be challengers in their 930 Porsches think that Logan is quite the comic with his personalized license plate, they soon find out that this little missile does indeed have what it takes to back up such an audacious gesture.

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