Sean Barrett had always dreamt of owning a tuned Nissan Silvia S14a. That dream came true in 2010, and he’s been feverishly reinventing it ever since…
Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Well Chuffed Media.
Some of us flit from car to car like bees pollinating spring blooms; an MX-5 here, a 328i there, maybe an EP3 and then onto a Focus RS, our magpie eyes endlessly getting caught by the next shiny thing to peep up over the horizon. But for Sean Barrett, it was always crystal-clear which car he’d end up with; since the age of 13, when he used to see a Nissan S14a street-parked near his house for years, it was written in the stars that he’d have one someday. And in 2010, the dream came true – the car you see here today, and the fact that he’s kept it for this long just goes to show how keen and trustworthy those early instincts were.
“I’ve loved cars since I was too young to own them,” he explains. “My first car at 17 was a Corsa B that I ended up rebuilding and fitting a C20XE to – it was great fun but struggled dynamically and was a bit overwhelmed by the engine.”
It’s not every teenager who goes balls-to-the-wall with their first car like that, and Sean was clearly establishing a pattern there: “I’m also into old BMWs, and I’m currently restoring my 1987 635CSi that I’ve owned for nine years,” he continues. “And I’ve recently bought a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S for daily driving duties, which it excels at. It’s really opened my eyes to how modifying cars isn’t the only way to make them fast – this thing is ballistic out of the box, but also comfortable enough for its purpose. It’s great in the rain too, which is apt for English weather.”
A man of broad tastes then, with a passion for quality engineering and fast-road hijinks. And with the Nissan Silvia S14a being such an established and revered tuner car, it was always inevitable that he’d be upgrading one or two things. But if Sean knew back in 2010 quite how advanced this Nissan would be in 2022, he may well have been surprised. This is, you see, a comprehensive reimagining.
The car had been gently breathed upon before it came into Sean’s possession, but not to any seismic extent: a set of Rota GTRs, a boost controller, a Blitz exhaust… it was running somewhere in the region of 230bhp, and at that time it felt to Sean like the fastest car in the world. (Although to be fair, a lot of that energy is probably attributable to the surfeit of adrenaline caused by finally driving the car he’d dreamed about for all these years.) Having found this promising example advertised with the SXOC, all it took was a test drive to reassure him that he’d been right to lust after this car for so long. The man couldn’t open his wallet fast enough.
“I’ve never really stopped building the car over all the years I’ve had it,” Sean grins. “I fitted a decat pipe two days after I picked it up and it’s just evolved ever since. There was a cream interior when I bought it which was totally awful, but that was gone within a few months. The big change came in 2013 when I fitted a load of new engine parts and got the car to Greg at Protuner, where it made 380bhp and 400lb.ft. It’s been running strong at this level for 25,000 miles since!”
The engine spec on this tuned Nissan Silvia S14a is impressive, the SR20’s stock turbo having been binned in favour of a Garrett GT2871R, working hand in hand with a GReddy Spec R intercooler and a massively uprated fuelling system. The combination of Apex Performance decat and Blitz Nur Spec R exhaust makes for a hellacious soundtrack, and all the ones-and-zeroes are knocked into shape by an A’PEXi Power FC ECU. The setup makes great power, but the overarching aim was reliability. It’s been built strong for dependable grunt.
“In 2016 I blew the gearbox for the third time, and decided I needed to upgrade,” says Sean. “As I was installing the Z32 300ZX gearbox I realised the chassis needed attention, which started me off on a two-year chassis rebuild and restoration in my single garage! Frustrating at times, but so rewarding once it was all complete, knowing that my car isn’t fizzing away anymore. At the end of that rebuild I fitted the Driftworks/Stanceparts air cup kit to my coilovers which made the car so much more usable, meaning every route didn’t need to be pre-planned for speed bumps and inclines, and ultimately allowing me to take the car on far more road trips.”
The amount of effort and fastidiousness that’s gone into ensuring that this Nissan is as usable as it is fun is quite remarkable, and the extensive future-proofing efforts have laid a strong base for performance upgrades. The chassis positively bristles with uprated parts – just check out how many times the name ‘Apex Performance’ appears in the spec list – and it’s a matter of justified pride for Sean that this is a properly personal project.
“I’ve done 99% of the work on the car myself and with my mates on our driveways,” he says. “It’s such a great social thing to drop a set of coilovers on or wrestle a new exhaust manifold into place!” Indeed, it’s the social element that’s really fuelling this passion these days, with the S14a slotting effortlessly into Sean’s lifestyle. “I use the car as often as I can, whether to go over my best mate Jay’s, who’s got a Silvia S14a too, to work on or clean them, or take it to Caffeine & Machine to soak in the atmosphere. It’s taken a lot of work to build a car that’s this aggressive looking but still driveable on the British roads. The ride height in these photos is how I drive it all the time, and it’s tuned to the millimetre to be as low as possible without hitting the tarmac. I love taking it to the shows, and I’m looking forward to that getting back to normal; I took it to the 100% Tuning show in Rotterdam a few years back which was a 1,200-mile round-trip, and the car performed faultlessly. I’ve also taken it to France for the Le Mans 24hr five times over my ownership, again with no issues.”
It’s the mark of a car that’s been built right, that it can be so dependable as well as so aggressive. So naturally Sean’s planning on changing everything and seeing what happens – he’s been building up a forged SR20DET with a GTX3071 turbo and lots of trick bits for the tuned Nissan Silvia S14a; as he points out, 380bhp is ‘probably enough’, but an extra 100bhp or so couldn’t do any harm, could it? Such is the cyclical wheel of modification. He has no intention of moving this car on, it’s with him for the long haul. And you just know that the next evolution will be even more thoroughly researched, beautifully engineered, and perfectly executed.
Tech Spec: Tuned Nissan Silvia S14a
SR20DET, Garrett GT2871R 0.64A/R turbo, Apex Performance 3″ decat, Apex Performance air filter heat-shield, Apex Performance Z32 AFM-to-turbo stainless intake pipe, A’PEXi Power FC ECU with hand commander, Blitz Nur Spec R cat-back exhaust system, custom map by Greg Gush at Protuner, carbon fibre cooling panel, Deatschwerks 740cc injectors, GK Tech fan, GK Tech coolant neck spacer, Gizzmo IBC V3 boost controller, GReddy 10-row oil cooler, GReddy Spec R intercooler, HKS Super Powerflow air filter, HKS adjustable wastegate actuator, Horsham Developments recirculating dump valve, Japspeed twin super-low downpipe, Koyorad N-Flow radiator, Nissan Z32 MAF, Powerflex exhaust mounts, Tomei Poncams 256deg in/ex, Tomei rocker arm stopper kit, Tomei Expreme manifold, Tomei Expreme turbo elbow, Vibratechnics engine mounts, hard-wired Walbro 255 fuel pump, 380.5bhp, 403lb.ft
Z32 (VG) gearbox, Hardrace gearbox mount, ACT heavy-duty paddle clutch, Apex Performance lightweight flywheel, Mazworks VG-to-SR conversion kit, Mazworks one-piece propshaft, Z1 Motorsports short-throw shifter, Pagid slave cylinder, S15 helical differential, Energy Suspension diff bushes
Apex Performance Gen2 Coilovers, Apex Performance subframe polybushes, Apex Performance front castor arms, Apex Performance rear traction arms, Apex Performance rear camber arms, Apex Performance rear toe arms, Apex Performance front and rear strut braces, Apex Performance roll centre correction ball-joints, Apex Performance anti-bump-steer track rod ends, Apex Performance ARB drop-links, Godspeed ARBs, Japspeed adjustable rear lower arms (with roll centre correction), Japspeed rear boot brace, full underbody restoration – coated with POR15 4-step, Energy Suspension rear hub bushes, Energy Suspension front lower control arm bushes, Driftworks 4-corner air cup kit
K-Sport 8-pot monobloc front calipers with 356mm discs and EBC Yellow Stuff pads, Z32 rear brake setup (fully rebuilt) with EBC Yellow Stuff pads, ABS delete, braided brake lines, BMC stopper
9.5×18” ET3 (front) and 12×18 ET-8 (rear) Veilside Andrew Racing V wheels, 225/40 (f) and 265/35 (r) Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 tyres
Driftworks Imola Pro bucket seats, TRS Magnum 3” 4-point harnesses, OMP Corsica 350mm leather steering wheel, OMP boss, D1 Spec snap-off boss, Defi BF boost gauge, oil pressure gauge, oil temp gauge, water temp gauge and fuel pressure gauge, Defi Link controller, Tomei gearknob
Chargespeed +25mm vented front wings, SRB power +50mm Type 2 overfenders, Seibon Type DV carbon fibre bonnet, custom GT wing, custom front splitter, custom rear strakes, custom sidesteps, Carbon Mods splitter tie rods, G.R.A.M.S diffuser, bumper canards, Ings+ D1 Spec sideskirts, EP Racing VTX rear bumper, Origin-style front bumper, blacked-out headlights with 5K HID kit, custom DRL indicators
“Thanks to my best mate Jay Pescaglini for building most of it with me and being the only other person who understands why wheel fitment to 0.5mm is important; my wife Lisa for being super supportive of my passion for cars and agreeing to come in the S14a on a road trip around France and Belgium which was amazing; and George at High Calibre Detailing for getting the paint work amazing on the car.”