We all went a bit loopy when lockdown kicked in. Life became about nothing but TV and crisps, all the days blurring into one. But not for Jake Hughes – he spent the mid-2020 lockdown building this awesome bagged S14a.
Feature first appeared in Fast Car magazine. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Mark Loony
If you take a straw poll around the Fast Car office to see what everyone’s opinions are of the borderline-retro boyband Blue, you’ll get some mixed responses. Midge loves them, obviously, because their brand of radio-friendly motherloving beats feeds into his nature as a sparkly little pop tart. Glenda has a surprising fondness for them too, having once spotted Antony Costa in a branch of Costa Coffee; the coincidence seemed like a glitch in the Matrix, and now he reckons Blue are just a pan-dimensional troupe of buccaneers masquerading as a slightly shit boyband. Jules isn’t really bothered either way, as long as they don’t interrupt the snooker. Initial G hasn’t paid much attention to the hit parade for a while, all these young whippersnappers making a racket. And me? Well, sorry, but I’ll have no truck with that sort of nonsense. It’s not so much the cheesiness of the lyrics or the cliched production that puts me off, but the fact that ‘All Rise’ presents a thoroughly illogical image of how courtrooms work. They haven’t even done the most basic research. And worse than that, their claim to “have the city on lockdown” in ‘Fly By II’ may have sounded cool back in 2002, but it’s a slap in the face for all of us in 2020. The very idea that they were cruising around in a lowrider with the system up and the top down, while the rest of us were confined to quarters and working our way through the deepest recesses of Netflix – well, frankly, that’s a total dick move.
Not everyone, however, was watching ‘The Last Dance’ and baking banana bread throughout lockdown. A small percentage of people managed to drag their arses away from the sofa to achieve something useful; some even made it as far as the garage, and that’s precisely where you would have found Jake Hughes throughout the early peak of the pandemic. A government-mandated decree to bolt the front door and hide away from other organisms of all types was just the push he needed to crack out the spanners and build the Nissan S14a of his dreams.
This is all really a natural progression for Jake, as he’s been keen on taking cool cars and making them cooler for a fair few years now. “I first started modifying cars around 2014,” he explains, which was round about the time Blue were revelling in the success of their fourth studio album ‘Roulette’ (which, we have to admit, we’ve literally never listened to – because, FFS, why would you?). “My first car was a Honda Civic EG; I grew up loving Hondas as all my friends had them. They were all into the track look while I was the only one who really wanted to stance one! Then as the years went on and I bought more Hondas, I got myself an EK VTi that had been in a crash and was repaired without going through insurance – so I had no idea about the damage that had been repaired. Me and my mate Ryan Davies tried our best to get the front wheels to be equal, but it didn’t play ball at all…”
With all of this garage-based swashbuckling, Jake couldn’t help finding his eye wandering over to the corner where Ryan’s Nissan S14 was sitting. “I’d wanted one of those for so long, and I said to him that if I couldn’t get the EK fixed up, I was going to sell it and find an S14a,” Jake recalls. “After driving his one, and being a passenger in it so many times, I knew the time was finally right to find one for myself.”
All of this was inevitable really. Once the seed of the idea has been planted, there’s no way it’s not going to happen. It’s the same feeling you get if you’re sitting on the sofa watching telly and start idly wondering about having a Jaffa Cake, or if you’re on a road trip and begin questioning whether you might need to stop for a wee: basically, if there’s any doubt, there is no doubt. So the EK was ousted and Jake started searching in earnest for just the right S14a to make his dreams come true.
“I put a post on Facebook asking if anyone was selling one, and that ultimately led to me finding this one with a bloke called Connor in Blackwood, Wales,” he explains. “The car looked like it had been sitting for a while; it was in okay condition, I wouldn’t say it was brilliant. There were rust holes covered up with metal plates that had been cut out and bonded on over the holes in the wheel arches… it had Rota wheels and an exhaust, and a bodykit of unknown brand, but otherwise it was pretty stock.”
The condition wasn’t too much of a concern, though. Having wanted one of these cars for so long, and with a vision in his head of building a white one with wide WORK wheels, this was simply the first step towards the masterplan of success. It was an S14a that he could buy, that was enough. So, with ruthless efficiency, Jake dragged it home and started tearing it to bits, ready to slice out all of that rust and build it up as the badass brawler he’d always imagined.
“The car’s had many looks over the last two years of owning it,” he says. “It didn’t take long to start the stance look after I crashed it into a kerb, that was when the changes really began to happen! I took the car to my mate Axel Richardson and he cut all the rot out and replaced it, as he’s a been building S14s for many years. He also tubbed it so I could fit 18s without mega amounts of camber.”
To achieve the correct wheel results, Jake acquired a set of tired WORK Equips from JDMDistro and busied himself rejuvenating them. They were in fairly ruined condition, so he spent days and days on end sanding them down, before building them back up with new lips sourced from Rimscarnated. While all this was going on, Jake was patiently waiting for all his new body bits to arrive from Origin Lab, stacking up a nice little pile of parts ready to give the Nissan the aesthetic makeover it deserved.
“I slowly started to build the car up in my unit with my mate Owen Caines, who painted and helped me with all the panels,” he says. “The bodykit is a DMax Type 3, which has been custom-made to fit the car to get it spot-on, as fibreglass ain’t the best to work with! The bonnet, overfenders and front arches are from Origin, and I also have a JDM kouki grille and a custom jack bar made by me and my friend.”
The aesthetics really are on-point, it’s true testament to how the lockdown blues can be chased away by having a manual task to despatch, and it’s equally important to note that this car isn’t just about looking pretty. The freshly rebuilt SR20 is now packing a fireball 320bhp or thereabouts, kept in check by an R33 Skyline brake conversion at either end, and those radical lows you’re witnessing are brought to you courtesy of a full Air Lift Performance suspension setup. Jake’s vision of a white bagged S14a on wide WORKs has been comprehensively achieved, and it was well worth missing out on ‘Tiger King’ for.
“The hardest part of it all was building this car through lockdown,” he assures us. “That, and getting all the fibreglass to fit right. I went through five sets of Origin arches to get the best ones!”
And now that the lockdown restrictions have eased a little and it’s possible to take the finished product out and about, Jake’s sublime hand-crafted creation is certainly turning heads. “People can’t believe that I daily the S14, they say it’s too nice,” he laughs. “But I don’t believe in building a car not to drive it – and I really do love driving it.”
The central part of all this is that it was achieved in circumstances way beyond anyone’s control, but Jake refused to just sit back and let 2020 pass him by. Out there in the garage, usually with just the radio for company, he’s created something to be truly proud of; something positive out of such a negative year.
He probably wasn’t listening to Blue though.
Tech Spec: Bagged S14A
DMax Type 3 Aero bodykit, Origin bonnet, Origin overfenders and front wings, JDM kouki grille, custom jack bar
SR20DET 2.0-litre turbo – freshly rebuilt, stainless exhaust system, front-mount intercooler, Tomei radiator, torque damper, stock SR20 transmission
10.5×18-inch (front) and 12.5×18-inch (rear) WORK Equip 05 wheels (custom-built by owner), 225/35 (f) and 275/35 (r) tyres, Air Lift Performance suspension, front strut brace, R33 Skyline front and rear brakes
BRIDE Low Max seats, full interior retrim in BRIDE fabric to match, Grip Royal steering wheel, Nismo gearknob, AEM gauges (boost, AFR, oil temp)