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The infamous ‘SWAGER’ C33 Laurel

17 October 2019



They say that all publicity is good publicity, but regardless of whether you vibe on the kind of publicity that it has drummed up, the ‘SWAGER’ RB30DET-powered Laurel is one hell of a tyre-slayer that looks even better than it lights up


Disclaimer: We aren’t here to f**k around, so let’s hit the nail on the head before we get into this yarn. You’ll all recognize this car for the same reason. It may not be for the right reason, but we aren’t trying to spark any debate here and will simply point out that, at one time or another, almost all of you will have engaged in similar indiscretions. So let’s allow this feature to stand on the merits of the car itself, as it should be. Fair? Good.

Discovering boost for the first time is a surreal experience. Like the story of misspent adolescence engaging in acts that your parents would probably have belted you for, we all remember our first time. Whether it came by way of the super kind, from the heart of a snail, or even a chemical mix, chucking boost at cylinder chambers and getting thrown back into your seat for it will never fail to thrill. Hell, even those that are boosted simply for the sake of manufacturers being able to slap huge ‘turbo’ decals up the side, despite them never really being that fast, still managed to feel fun. So, once you’ve had a taste of the good life, is it really fair to go back to the mundanity of naturally aspirated power permanently? We think not, and, no matter how hard you try, we all know that you’ll be back for more, eventually.


For Tramayne, the owner of this ’89-spec Nissan Laurel Medalist (C33), known by the moniker ‘SWAGER’, it was a two-hit combo experience that would act as the catalyst to sending him down a long road of turbo-powered street-sharks before winding up right back where it all started.

“Real early on, my cousin Reuben used to have all the baddest cars in the ’Naki when I was down there — he pretty much got me into cars. I remember going down the road in a four-door R32 he had on Cybers, just rubbing all the way down the road thinking, man, this is bad. Nothing’s changed really!” recalls Tramayne.

“Since then, I swapped a heap of cars. I’d get bored and swap a Skyline for a Merc or something for cruising, then want something to drift in, so swap that for a Silvia. Every-two-weeks type thing, but I would just end up losing out on it,” he explains. “But that meant I was introduced to my first turbo car, an RB20DET-powered C33 Laurel. I loved the shape of it and how they drove compared to everything else I had owned. And even though that got written off when I was still a silly 18-year-old, when I sold my RB-powered S14 Silvia and was deciding on what would come next, it’s all I could think of and the reason why I bought what would eventually become ‘SWAGER’.”

To date, it’s Tramayne’s longest-owned car, totalling five years, and, in an effort to not lose interest and swap it like he would have in the past, he’s opted to change up the exterior anytime he gets bored. This explains why it has seen six variations and two motor packages! “I said then and there I wouldn’t swap it and only buy good gear so it wouldn’t break all the time. That way you don’t lose out, eh?” says Tramayne.

While the chosen Laurel arrived packing an RB25DET that already had a generic T3T4 huffer, 550cc injectors, and a front-facing plenum, Tramayne tells us that it was all pretty rubbish stuff, and it struggled to make just shy of the 260kW mark. It would survive in this form for a handful of track days before water started to leak from underneath the intake, rendering it good for nothing more than a boat anchor. It was the excuse that he had been looking for to enact a rebuild, one that saw James Wildon from JT Performance tasked with bolting together one of his basic RB30DET packages using the existing 2.5-litre head mated to an RB30E block. It’s a simple-yet-effective piece of kit, making use of oversized OEM pistons with resized and shot-peened OEM rods, fresh bearings, a crank collar, ARP fasteners, and a modified sump. The head itself remains unopened, strapped to the block with ARP fasteners for good measure, and the VCT has been blocked off.

But it’s the Holset HX40 and Bespoke Fab stainless-steel twin-scroll manifold with twin Turbosmart Ultra-Gate 38s that help the three-litre crank out an impressive 396kW at the rears — all this on just 20psi and running E85. James also pieced together the fuel set-up found in the boot — something that has become a bit of a trademark for JT Performance — comprising twin Bosch 044 main pumps pulling from a 5.5-litre surge tank that is fed by a Walbro in-tank lift pump. Much like the motor itself, it’s a simple-yet-effective system, an ethos that can be found throughout the car: good gear that doesn’t overcomplicate and therefore present a higher risk of breaking. After all, if you were to learn anything about Tramayne from this article, it’s that he loves seat time. Any excuse to turn the key in the ignition is seized and well used.

While the motor was out of the chassis, Tramayne also took up his boss’s offer to have a six-point cage fitted alongside the Racetech and NZKW harnesses to ensure that the new-found power didn’t write him off on the first outing. That same thought process was applied when fitting the four-pot and two-pot Nissan calipers. And to stop the car fighting what is the otherwise-unnatural phenomenon of sustained oversteer, the steering was treated with Parts Shop Max gear, seeing drop knuckles and a variety of arms chucked in to increase the lock.

It was around this time that the car was painted a clean white and started to get recognized. It would go on to have an Itasha wrap applied in the same guise — its most infamous look — before being painted a black and gold mix; get covered in another Itasha wrap; be returned back to the plain black and gold; and now wears fresh paintwork thanks to Blake Harpur of Cany Customs. Known for his wild paintwork, including his own harlequin S15 from NZPC Issue No. 232, and numerous feature cars since, the colour was actually Blake’s call, as Tramayne explains that he wasn’t able to choose. The chosen colour to cover that Final Konnexion kit and body work is Red Blue Flop from the Gutbier VIP Range, and it was laid down by Blake himself with help of collaborator Mike Martin.

Even with fresh paintwork, Tramayne isn’t precious with the car whatsoever, and it doesn’t take much convincing for him to pop a set for the photo shoot. A smile is firmly etched on his face the entire time while blowing a chunk out of the driver’s side rear flare and punching in the rear quarter, followed by a quip of: “It would have just happened at the track anyway, eh, bro? May as well make it worthwhile, right!?”

The only thing left to do now is to upgrade the RB25DET gear-swapper to a dogbox, as he tells us that the unit currently in there is number four, having destroyed three already. But, as we all know, a build never really stops, and there is already mention of opening up the head to chuck cams in. Regardless of the direction it may go in, one thing is certain, you’ll be seeing a lot more of SWAGER in future, because, when you’ve spent the last five years on-and-off making the vision in your head a reality, there’s no way that you’re not going to make good use of it — especially if you’re someone like Tramayne, who is still very much in love with that first taste of the boosted life and living out youthful dreams of that first example.

Driver Profile
AGE: 28
LOCATION: South Auckland
BUILD TIME: Never finished

THANKS: I’d like to thank my number-one supporter, Michelle (‘MZSWAG’), for all the help and money she has given me towards my car along the way — love you babe, you’re the best!; my mum, Tania ­— ‘Bossfloss’ — who buys me tyres for track days when I’m broke — love you mum! — the homie himself, Blake Harpur (Cany Customs), and Mike Martin for doing such an amazing paint job for me — SWAGs wouldn’t be what she is without you homies, much love; Anton at North Canterbury Window Tinting; my boss, Scotty (A & W Autospares) you’re the man; James Wildon at JT Performance, for all the help and knowledge he’s given me with my car; Bernard Lim at Bespoke Fab; Mark Callan, for sponsoring me my gearbox; Jonny at Tyre Crew; Jai from Team Spirit; lastly, I want to thank all my family, friends, and homies who have helped out along the way, getting parts and supporting me at track days — you know who you are

RB30DET, 3000cc, straight-six turbo
BLOCK: RB30E; 0.50 oversized pistons, resized and shot-peened OEM rods, ARP rod bolts, NDC main bearings, NDC big-end bearings, Reimax billet oil-pump gears, crank collar, extended and baffled sump
HEAD: RB25DET, ARP head studs, VCT block-off
NTAKE: GReddy-style front-facing plenum, GT-R intercooler
EXHAUST: Custom four-inch-into-three-inch stainless-steel system
TURBO: Holset HX40, custom stainless-steel twin-scroll manifold
WASTEGATE: Twin Turbosmart Ultra-Gate 38
FUEL: Bosch 1000cc injectors, twin-feed Aeroflow fuel rail, Turbosmart FPR 1200 fuel-pressure regulator, Walbro in-tank lift pump, 5.5-litre surge tank, twin Bosch 044 main pumps
IGNITION: Splitfire coils
ECU: Haltech Elite 750
COOLING: Fenix radiator, Fenix oil cooler
EXTRA: Custom alloy oil catch-can, relocated dry-cell battery

GEARBOX: Rebuilt RB25DET five-speed
CLUTCH: Xtreme Clutch twin-plate
DIFF: GT-R 6×1 LSD (4.1:1)
EXTRA: Custom one-piece driveshaft

STRUTS: BC Gold coilovers
BRAKES: (F) Nissan four-pot calipers, 296mm slotted rotors; (R) twin Nissan two-pot calipers, 267mm rotors; Parts Shop Max hydraulic handbrake
EXTRA: Parts Shop Max drop knuckles, Parts Shop Max lower control arms, Parts Shop Max caster arms, Whiteline rear sway bar, six-point roll cage

(F) 18×9.5-inch (+2) Work VS-KF, (R) 18×10.5-inch (+2) Work VS-KF
TYRES: (F) 215/40R18 Nankang, (R) 225/40R18 Hifiy

PAINT: Resprayed in Gutbier VIP Range Red Blue Flop by Blake Harpur and Mike Martin
ENHANCEMENTS: Final Konnexion bodykit, custom low-mount boot spoiler, custom roof spoiler, custom clear-corner and headlight lenses, chrome window tints


SEATS: Racetech, NZKW harnesses
INSTRUMENTATION: Haltech IQ3 Street digital dash

POWER: 396kW
BOOST: 20psi
TUNER: James at JT Performance