The R35 seems to be experiencing a bit of an identity crisis in tuning circles at the moment. Most of the builds gracing magazine covers these days fall into one of two distinct camps. By some margin, the majority are out-and-out performance machines, with four figure power outputs and lightweight carbon fibre body panels, built to grip and go as fast as humanly possible. Then there are the more looks-orientated builds like the Liberty Walk GT-R and our own recent feature car from Hayato, that are content to live with the ‘standard’ (but still eye-watering) performance and focus more on standout visuals. Much rarer than either of these are the noteworthy builds that successfully blend the two extremes, chasing higher levels of performance without surrendering wholesale to the ‘function over form’ ethos.
Enter Alex Robinson, whose Top Secret kitted and Litchfield tuned GT-R ticks all the boxes and still retains the everyday GT credentials at the heart of GT-R philosophy. Originally purchased as a stock MY09 car, Alex was content to drive it around in standard trim for a few months before the lure of a little extra power became too much to resist. The company he chose to oversee the first round of mods were Litchfield, a British based tuning company who made their name in the early part of the millenium importing and tuning JDM Imprezas. With the dawn of the new GT-R, Litchfield quickly established a strong reputation for providing quality upgrades for the R35, and Alex’s car soon left their premises with a very healthy and usable 620bhp.
But as we hear so often from GT-R owners, the desire for even more power soon took hold once again. Alex returned to Litchfield once again, but this time specified a holistic approach to the build which would prioritise not only ludicrous power, but reliability, driveability and aesthetics to match the headline power figures. A balance between instant response and outright power were essential, so Litchfield recommended their in-house 3.8 litre ‘Sport’ engine to fulfill Alex’s needs. The culmination of Litchfield’s GT-R tuning know-how, the Sport engine comprises a set of forged pistons from F1 supplier Capricorn, mated to Litchfield spec forged conrods from Arrow Precison that are manufactured with special oil grooves for improving oil supply to the pistons and bearings. These are sat in a blueprinted block that features smoothed and enlarged oil and waterways, and everything is screwed together with beefier main studs from ARP.
The short engine was then dynamically balanced to ensure smoothness and reliability at its new 8,500rpm peak, before being mated to a pair of LM900 turbochargers and an additional six injectors to keep the engine properly fed with fuel via Syvecs engine management. Once safely back in the GT-R’s engine bay, this Sport engine made 816bhp @ 1.5 bar at the wheels using pump fuel. That equates to a solid 900bhp at the flywheel – not headline grabbing in GT-R terms, but the combination of power and response in this professional package will leave many more powerful R35’s desperately trying to climb on boost while it catapults Alex down the road. More than that, he also has the option of running on Ethanol and raising the boost to 1.6 bar on track, in which case this setup equates to nearly 975 bhp!
The menacing exterior comes courtesy of a full Top Secret bodykit, wrapped in a unique matte bronze vinyl to cover the original Titanium Grey hue. It’s a subtle kit by GT-R standards, but the vented carbon fibre hood and aggressive front diffuser invite you to look a little closer and realise that this car is far from OEM stock. The setup on Alex’s R35 also includes the G-Effect front bumper with additional brake and intercooler ducting, carbon fibre side and rear diffuser spats, and a new rear diffuser.
The 20” rolling stock was sourced from a US based company called Cor. They’re a rare sight on JDM machinery, more often seen gracing modified EUDM muscle cars like BMW’s, Audis and Mercedes-Benz. Still, it’s hard to argue with the end result, and the deep-dish profile and two-tone colouring look fantastic wrapped in paper thin Michelin Supersport tyres.
Lurking behind those slender spokes are four sets of larger AP Racing grooved brake discs mated to the original OEM Brembo callipers with Pagid pads – a testament to the awesome stopping power that Nissan provides out of the box. Everything is bolted to the chassis via Litchfield’s bespoke suspension kit which consists of custom spec Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs, giving a 40% stiffer ride at the front, and 12% at the rear to help quell understeer and improve body control. Crucially, this setup allows Alex to keep the standard driver-controlled EDC functionality that is normally lost when upgrading suspension – so he still has the option of tweaking the chassis and handling settings on the fly.
The whole build took around 6 months to complete, which is very swift indeed for such a comprehensive makeover, and a testament to the skill and dedication of those involved. However, owing to work abroad, Alex doesn’t get nearly as much time to drive this monster as much as he would like, and so his fantastic creation is now up for sale via the Litchfield website. Luckily, he’s in no rush to sell, and is already accumulating new parts to try out in case he has a change of heart. At the time of writing there was talk of fitting a higher compression engine with new Borg Warner EFR turbos, switching the engine management duties over to Ecutek, as well as fitting carbon-ceramic discs from a Corvette and deciding on a new vinyl wrap colour. Life is full of difficult decisions!
Photo credit: Chris Wallbank