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Trophy hauler: one of New Zealand’s OG minitrucks back in the game

6 July 2016


One of New Zealand’s original minitrucks is back, and it’s packing some serious punch with a 270kW 4G63 that is dripping in chrome

The year was 2005 — the New Zealand mini trucking scene was just starting to gain some traction, shops specializing in air-ride suspension were popping up everywhere, and trucks were being built all over the country. One of the first to have its chassis touching down on terra firma was a 1989 Mazda B2000 owned by a young man by the name of DJ. The truck had been a two-year project, and the end result was, at the time, considered one of the best trucks in New Zealand. It was bagged and featured a full custom interior, custom bodywork, and a wild blue paint job.

DJ’s rendition even made it into the pages of our Street Style NZ Performance Car special edition. Little did we know it then, but that same truck would roll back into the studio some 12 years later, DJ having long since sold it to John Powar. Little remains of that original build; the only thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that it’s still one of the country’s best minitrucks. 

The funny thing about that second rebuild is that, when John purchased the truck, he considered it a finished vehicle and had no plans for the ground-up rebuild. “I saw it as a finished vehicle, but those plans changed once we began swapping out the slower air-bag kit for bigger lines and bigger valves. Once we stripped it, we ended up changing the whole set-up; we installed new valves and new bags, and we replaced the still–leaf-sprung rear end with a triangulated four-link,” explained John. The truck would also finally get certed, a process would see the rear end be completely re-engineered. 

It was in this guise that John put plenty of miles on it for the next few years. Then, one night, while having a few drinks in the shed at home, some new ideas popped up. “We were drinking in my shed,” John said, “and my brother’s VR-4 engine was sitting in the corner. We started thinking about it, and by that next day, we had ripped out the B2000 factory four-cylinder engine and had the 4G63 sitting in there. We had an L200 at home and took the gearbox from that and mocked it all up and made mounts, all in one weekend. The engine was pretty much free for me, as my brother had sold his VR-4 and bought an Evo I; it just needed a rebuild.”

Getting the motor in was the easy part, though. It was then a matter of making it work.
Parts like the water pipes and intake and exhaust manifolds all had to be custom built to suit their new RWD home. It would be eight months of trial fitting, researching, and fabricating before the engine would finally be able to breathe fire. Once everything was in the bay and deemed workable, it was all stripped and chrome plated — a smart move to avoid having to modify anything a second time. The engine itself was then sent to John’s local performance shop, E&H Motors, which fully forged the block using Wiseco pistons, shot-peened factory rods, and the usual ACL and ARP products. 

With a Link G4 Storm wired in, it was then onto the dyno at E&H, where it spun the rollers to the tune of 270kW (362hp) on 20psi — a whole 210kW more than the previous factory combination. But this would begin to take its toll, and the broken gearboxes began to pile up in the corner of the shed where the VR motor had once sat. After the fourth one blew, John decided it was time to upgrade: “I was looking on Trade Me, and a guy was selling a custom-made W58 conversion with custom bellhousing, all setup and ready to go. I had a custom sprung-centre single-plate made up so that I would still be able to drive it every day.” However, this new combination would also prove not quite strong enough, and it, too, has been rebuilt once already. But, since its rebuild, things have been holding together — just.

The B2000’s rework didn’t stop there. From the outset, the plan had been for a clean-looking truck inside and out, so the interior was stripped bare, ditching the Racepro head restraint seats and custom flame door cards, and in their place went re-trimmed factory seats and door cards. The dash also got re-trimmed after a serious amount of shaving off all the grilles, etc. This also saw John rework the tray bed, hiding all the air kit that had once been on display and also re-trimming it in matching vinyl. It’s fair to say that this is now a workhorse of a different kind, and the only hauling that bed will be doing in future is of trophies. 

The final part of the build was a respray. Back when the truck was in DJ’s hands, plenty of custom work had taken place, including shaving the tray completely and adding a custom light bar for the stop light. It was holding up great, but the baby blue just wasn’t John’s flavour, so the truck was rubbed back and resprayed in a Porsche blue with a little added silver pearl. John debuted the reworked truck at the 2014 V 4&Rotary Nationals, walking away with Best Minitruck and Best Interior, something he repeated at the 2016 Nationals after missing the 2015 Nationals.

It’s cool to see that one of the original minitrucks has not got laid to waste as so many others have; instead, this truck is a survivor. With John thinking about letting it go and moving onto to a new project, the mind boggles at what the next custodian of this B2000 might do. Will we see it return to these pages in another 12 years completely reworked? Only time will tell. 

Mazda B2000


  • Engine: Mitsubishi 4G63, 2000cc, four-cylinder 
  • Block: Wiseco pistons, shot-peened VR4 rods, ARP main and rod bolts, ACL race bearings, deleted balance shaft
  • Head: Ported head, multilayered steel head gasket, adjustable cam gears
  • Intake: Custom intake manifold, 65mm throttle body, 600x300x76mm intercooler
  • Exhaust: 2.5-inch straight-through 
  • Turbo: Garrett GT2876R, custom high-mount manifold, turbo beanie
  • Wastegate: TiAL 38mm
  • BOV: TiAL 50mm
  • Fuel: 680cc Precision injectors, Sard fuel-pressure regulator, 500hp Walbro pump
  • Ignition: 10.5mm Eliminator Series 2 leads
  • ECU: G4 Link Storm
  • Cooling: Alloy water pipes, alloy radiator, 10 row oil cooler, dual 10-inch fan
  • Extra: Custom sump, de-loomed engine bay, oil and radiator catch-cans


  • Gearbox: Toyota W58 five-speed, custom bellhousing
  • Clutch: Custom single-plate
  • Flywheel: Lightened 
  • Diff: Factory


  • Struts: Slam Specialties RE-6 air bags
  • Brakes: Factory
  • Extra: Half-inch SMC VXD brass valves, half-inch air lines, 10-gallon air tank, Viair 380c compressor, triangulated four-link, dual needle Viair gauges, adjustable pressure switch


  • Wheels: 18×8-inch Advanti Typhoon 
  • Tyres: 215/50R18 Nankang NS-II


  • Paint: Custom Porsche blue with silver pearl
  • Enhancements: Shaved door handles, shaved locks, shaved tailgate, custom fuel filler, LED tail-light strip, Hilux 4WD bumper, chrome grille, custom inner guards, relocated battery, custom tray bed with custom vinyl  


  • Seats: Re-trimmed front and rear
  • Steering wheel: Momo
  • Instrumentation: Viair dual needle gauges
  • ICE: Clarion DVD head unit, Kicker QS60.2 six-inch speakers, 1000W amp, Kicker 200W amp, dual Kicker 10-inch subs, Kicker wiring kit
  • Extra: Shaved and re-trimmed dash, custom centre console, custom door cards with recessed door handles, piston door locks, re-trimmed hood lining, new carpet, push-button start, Dynamat 
  • Power: 270kW (362hp) @ 20psi at the rear wheels  

Driver profile

  • Driver/Owner: John Powar
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Pukekohe
  • Occupation: Motorhome builder
  • Build time Six years
  • Length of ownership: 10 years 
  • Thanks: E&H Motors, Matt at The Drop Shop, Perry Griffin at Audio and Upholstery, Wired Electrical, Pellow Bros, Counties Mufflers, Simon Leaity, Kelvin Van De Weserlo, Vishnu Powar, AJ Hendry, Jamie Reddish at Pro Custom Installs, Mag and Turbo Manukau, Wallace Heron, my neighbour Red, and everyone else that helped along the way 

This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 233. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: