Litchfield GT-R: The Best – Or Nothing

- March 18, 2015 - 3

Yeah, we know it’s the strap line of a well-known German car company, but it also happen to apply rather well to this latest Litchfield customer build too. We catch with the Gloucestershire uber-tuners as they unveil their latest 1200bhp meisterwerk.

Varis GT-R (5)

As anyone who has ever speed-dated will know; there’s a real truth in the phrase, ‘like attracts like’. Although the old adage of ‘opposites attract’ may work for the odd random pairing, for most people, in nearly all situations, they tend to gravitate towards others that think and act the way that they do – and nowhere is this maxim more true than in the world of tuning. Don’t believe me? Then can you imagine a discerning, anally retentive detail freak leaving their pride and joy with a specialist that displays none of those qualities? No, me neither.

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As the diametric opposite of that example, Litchfield sits very happily at the top table of global tuners, not only for its trademark Subaru and GT-R conversions, but also for its sterling work on some of the nicest –and rarest- supercars to be housed in Europe. Building a reputations like this doesn’t come easy, and in Litchfield’s case, it has taken founder Iain and his wife Jenny, along with a dedicated technical team, over 15 years to garner and retain their exclusive clientele, mainly by a refusal to ever entertain the average, creating conversions and vehicles that have pushed far beyond the parameters ever imagined by the vehicle’s original creators.

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This single mindedness and dogged pursuit of perfection hasn’t just bought them accolades and trophies (which it has by the way… lots) But, more importantly, it has endeared them to customers of a certain persuasion. Those that wish to build the very best machine commercially available – where price comes a solid fourth after quality, execution and efficacy. This stunning white GT-R, owned by a gentleman who would rather stay anonymous for the time being, is the perfect exemplum of the case in point.

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“This client was very typical of many of our customers,” smiles Iain. “He came to us with a very clear remit of creating a car with big power that still retained all of its GT creature comforts and functionality. Many of our customers refuse to compromise with their builds. They want a stunningly quick car, but not at the expense of the driving experience. It’s not easy to achieve, but with careful preparation, and the choice of the right components, it’s something we’ve become somewhat adept at delivering.”

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The car had already been specified with the Varis body mods – which we will revisit later on – but what truly makes this car is remarkable is the drivetrain. Beneath that perfectly formed carbon fibre bonnet are some 1200 rampaging horses. Angry when they’re wanted, and docile and traffic-friendly when they’re not. But just how do you make a GT-R engine do that?

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The answer come by mentioning that really, there isn’t an awful lot of GT-R engine left in this car. Sure, the architecture is still the same, but almost every key component has been re-imagined and re-engineered in some way. Let’s start with the displacement; this one almost joins the muscle car ranks with a hefty 4.6 litre displacement. Running under the evidently titled VR46 nomenclature, this is a long way from what the factory had in mind. The conversions starts with a fresh VR38 block of course, but then Litchfield’s engineers completely refashion both oil and waterways before the block is completely restrengthened. This work is done by Capricorn – yes the very same engineering concern that consults to many major manufacturers and blue-chip race teams – right up to the very highest level – and was instrumental in much of the pre-production testing of the factory GT-R over at the Nurburgring. Once the block has had its F1-level massage, it heads back to the Litchfield workshops for line boring.

Varis GT-R (12)

The next stage in this incredible engine is the intake system. The standard plenums may be fine for the standard engine, but on this car, they simply wouldn’t be able to match the aerobic capacity of the engine. Litchfield’s clever and somewhat surgical solution is to open up the standard parts before completely reworking their internals to deliver greater flow. Once flawlessly fused back together – and then tastefully finished in a ‘factory fresh’ crackle finish, you’d never know that the Litchfield team has been at work.

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“Material and component choice is crucial on an engine of this spec,” Iain continues. “We believe that a high-horsepower motor can be made to be almost as reliable as a factory unit, as long as it’s built with carefully selected upgrades.” Proving his point are the beautifully finished Inconel manifolds, flawlessly Zircotec coated to minimise heat transfer. It’s not just what’s fitted of course, but how it’s tested. All of these parts have undergone the kind of flow testing usually only reserved for the rarefied air of the F1 paddock. It’s typical of Litchfield’s approach to every engineering problem. “When we’re testing, we always strive to use the best solution commercially available,” Iain intones seriously. “Naturally, it’s usually in the sphere of F1, but luckily we have a few friends there that look after us, so it means we can put all of our components through those very same processes. It’s not cheap, but it does give incredibly effective results.”

Varis GT-R (10)

Another example of this ‘trickle-down’ thinking comes in the form of the gasket material. Rather than the usual laser-cut steel, or stamped alternative, the gasket material that Litchfield uses on these engines features a gas-type seal which expands when heated, giving and impervious sealing surface between the block and the head. Overkill? Possibly, but when you remember that this car has a greater power output than most racecars, it’s not surprising to see that level of technology at play.

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From an engineering perspective, everything on this car has been tailored. The turbos for example; starting with the highly desirable Garrett GT30R units, even these were re-worked with TiAL housings and a brace or 76mm custom compressor wheels. Litchfield’s own custom intercooler, allied to a Forge transmission cooler take care of controlling excess heat with a great degree of success. Litchfield also massively over-engineered the fuelling system too, including the comically named ‘Battleship’ fuel pump conversion, which provides more then enough super unleaded from tank to injectors. When you stop to examine the numbers, you can see why it’s all needed though; 1,200hp is available from a boost of 1.7bar (25psi) and at only 7,200rpm. That’s the ‘11’ setting however, so there’s also a mere 918hp available at 1.1bar (16psi) in case you want to sit back and take things easy on the run into work… Either way, that’s going to sup some gas along the way!

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Coping with all of this is a gearbox and transmission package that sees almost every component being uprated. Inside the Nissan GR6 dual-clutch transmission a Dodson Motorsport 6-speed gear set (standard gearing with overdrive 6th) powers through a Dodson Motorsport clutch pack, with standard final drive. The front diff is a Litchfield/Quaife item, while the centre unit also receives a sizeable makeover to keep it all hanging together.

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Despite its hard-won reputation for GT-R engine-building, many forget that Litchfield has also been pushing the boundaries of suspension development too, working with the original creators of the Nissan’s chassis components in order to produce something that not only integrated with the factory damper control systems, but offered a great degree more body control in the process. The resultant solution, engineered at factory level with both BILSTEIN and Eibach has become the tuning-scene benchmark for this car now, with literally hundreds of cars having been upgraded to benefit from it. Needless to say, this car has the whole kit. This level of engineering does reveal much about the Litchfield modus operandi. If you can’t find the part you need for your conversion in the aftermarket – simply go to the appropriate OEM supplier and develop it further yourself. A great example of how Litchfield innovates, rather than imitates, to keep pushing its packages forward.

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Although best engineering practise only ever really one true course, when it comes to aesthetics, Litchfield is keen to let customers choose their own path of perfection. In this instance, the gentleman concerned clearly went heavy on the mouse clicks whilst browsing the Varis website – with the end result looking all the better for it. The front bumper, lip and side skirts all look fantastic, and are perfectly augmented by the 2015-spec OEM rear lights and AMS carbon fibre roof, which picks up a couple of light-and-shade styling cues from the original panels. Tying these new parts together well are the 20-inch ADV.1 wheels, which balance a clearly more aggressive appearance, but without looking like overkill. A tough trick to pull off, but one that works well here. Behind these rims sit a suitably-uprated brace of 400mm Alcon brakes, allied to Litchfield’s own bespoke ducts to direct as much cold air their way as possible – useful when you’re trying to slow this heavyweight 1650kg machine from significant three-figure speeds.

Although the chassis CV might very well scream ‘racecar’, when it comes to the interior, it’s all very civilised, with a clear hat-tip to the owner’s desire to create a truly versatile GT machine. A factory steering wheel sits front and centre of the pilot, leaving all of its party tricks in place, but with the added bonus of an Alcantara covering for better purchase. Notice also how the gear paddle selectors are extended for easier reach during those track-day wheel twirling moments, too.

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As for the rest of it, it’s the full-weight (and therefore full comfort and refinement) factory interior still in situ, complete with all of the original sound deadening and top-flight Bose stereo to make for cosseting progress. Sitting in this thing at speed is eerie; it’s almost too civilised. You simply don’t expect this much power and weight to make such unflustered progress on a tight back road. It is truly a masterpiece cocktail of parts and performance; ticking every single box in one car.

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I’ve driven and written about a lot of Litchfield GT-R conversions now. Each and every one is very different, reflecting the nature and personality of its owner, and their tastes and desires. What is a common on all of these cars however is how each one very much is greater than the some of its parts. Read the box out spec sheet, and you can’t help to be impressed; these cars are built with literally the best of everything. What that ‘Top Trumps’ list can’t tell you however is just how well each part works together. It is ultimately this level of engineering homogeneity that makes this car so good, because although every line of that spec sheet screams ‘animal’, the reality is anything but. Sure, this is a car that can almost jump the space-time continuum and rearrange crucial body parts in the process, but day-to-day, it still retains the credentials that make the GT-R such a capable showroom machine. Creating a conversion like this is never easy – or cheap, for that matter – but when the resulting car looks and drives as well as this, then you realise that as long as there are enthusiasts looking to acquire the very best vehicle available – and talented teams like Litchfield to help them to achieve it, then the future of the Nissan tuning scene looks very healthy indeed.

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Litchfield Motors LM1000 Nissan R35 GT-R

Words: Paul Cowland
Photos: Chris Wallbank

Max Power: 1200hp @ 7,200rpm (1.7bar)
Max Torque: 850lb/ft @ 3,800rpm (1.5bar)
Peak Boost: 1.8bar (26.5psi)
Weight: 1,650kg
Launch RPM: 3,600rpm
Shift RPM: 7,600rpm
Redline: 7,900rpm
Fuel: Shell V-Power 99RON

Engine mods:
VR46 4.6L Litchfield Red Top engine
oil and water path modification
complete block machining with replacement liners
liners Niksil coated
block work by Capricorn (UK)
line bored in-house at Litchfield
Litchfield/Capricorn pistons with custom crown design
Litchfield/Arrow connecting rods
super-finished/balanced custom crank
Litchfield Sport camshafts
Litchfield custom springs with larger valves
custom head gasket
standard Nissan head studs
ARP main studs
Litchfield large intake manifold
Litchfield air intake kit
ASNU 1,100cc injectors
Litchfield ‘Battleship’ fuel pump conversion
Syvecs Motorsport S8 ECU
Nissan standard ignition system
NGK Racing plugs
Litchfield Inconel manifold with Zircotec coating
Litchfield 102mm exhaust system
46mm external dump valves
Forge Motorsport blow-off valves
Litchfield large race core intercooler
Litchfield blue-printed oil pump & oil cooler
standard fuel cell, Garrett GT30R based turbos
76mm custom compressor wheels
TiAL turbine housings
Akrapovič carbon tail pipe trims

Nissan GR6 dual-clutch transmission
Dodson Motorsport 6-speed gear set (standard gearing with overdrive 6th)
Dodson Motorsport clutch pack
standard final drive
Litchfield/Quaife front diff
Litchfield modified centre diff
standard Nissan rear LSD
Forge Motorsport transmission cooler
standard driveshafts

Chassis Mods (suspension/brakes/tyres etc):
Litchfield/Bilstein dampers
Litchfield/Eibach springs
Litchfield custom anti-roll bar
Alcon Superkit CNC brake calipers
Alcon 400mm rotors (fronts)
Pagid pads
Alcon brake lines
Litchfield brake cooling ducts
ADV.1 20-inch wheels
Michelin Pilot Cup2 tyres

Exterior mods:
Varis Front bumper, lip & grille, carbon fibre GT bonnet
Varis side skirts
AMS carbon roof
carbon boot lid
Aeromotive Active rear spoiler
MY2015 GT-R rear lenses

Interior mods:
Quick-release Litchfield Alcantara steering wheel with longer custom gear selectors
Toucan digital display

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1 Comment

  • […] air suspension, they decided to go for a functional coilover set up that was based on an idea by Litchfield, a tuner in the UK. The purpose is to keep the R-mode on the R35 functioning. So the plan is to use […]

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