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Mean Green Battle Machine: Joe Curphey’s

14 April 2020



Bright green and ready for battle — Joseph Curphey’s Japan slider–style Silvia is ready to shred!

I was planning on feeling out the car, getting everything up to temperature, and then coming back in for a bolt check. I thought I’d give it a small clutch kick and see how it felt in a drift. Immediately, I was hooked and ended up drifting the whole session,” Joseph Curphey recalls of his first shakedown. 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, we need to take a step back — right back to the beginning, way before the existence of this bright green S15 sprawled out on your coffee table or workshop bench.

As it will have been for many of you, Joe’s first-ever performance car was the easily obtained Nissan Silvia S14. Although we won’t mention how long ago that was now, that S14 was an incredibly special one, and Joe owned it for several years before dropping in one of the greatest-sounding engines of all time: Toyota’s 2.5-litre, in-line-six 1JZ. In the end, the S14 was sold on, but Joe’s passion for drifting, driving, and modifying flourished and finally led to the building of a street-spec Toyota JZX110 drift car. 

After daily-driving the JZX for some time and attending a few club-level skidpan days, Joe found himself at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park attending a D-Club Pink Style drift event hosted by a few close friends. An incredibly rad time was had, but, for Joe, something wasn’t quite right. Although set up fairly well, the JZX110 platform wasn’t quite giving Joe the experience that he was after. His S-chassis roots were calling. 

Fast forward a few moons, and Joe found himself trackside at one of New Zealand’s most popular grass-roots drift events: Spring Matsuri. With the JZX110 out of action, Adam Hedges threw Joe the keys to the C’s shop car. 

“After Adam let me drive the C’s Garage S13 shop car in Taupo, I fell in love with how the car was so well set up — especially compared to my JZX110,” Joe explains. 

It was at this moment that the towel was thrown in on the JZX110 build and it was pushed into the garage, destined for cruising duties. 

“I decided to start looking for a straight rust-free S13 shell. After looking for several months and getting more and more impatient about finding one, I decided to get a newer, less tired chassis: the S15.”

The hunt began, and within a few months a fairly stock red Silvia popped up. Besides OZ Racing coilovers, some GT-R wheels, and some basic engine upgrades, this S15 was exactly what Joe was after. After looking over the car for 15 minutes, Joe did the deal — without even taking it for a test drive. 

“Within half an hour or so of my ownership, the interior was already being pulled out, along with all the wiring and sound deadening. The car then went off to SMS Fabrication, where we stripped it to a 100-per-cent bare shell. From there, Adam Hedges started to work his magic,” recalls Joe. 

The S15 was clearanced for extra lock; the tunnel was bashed and smoothed to make way for the new gearbox; and the rear quarters were cut, welded, and smoothed to accommodate the bigger tyres and suspension travel for which Joe and the team were aiming. The front end, from the firewall forward, was then seam-welded for added rigidity, and a TIG-welded eight-point roll cage added. 

With Joe’s final vision locked in, the Origin widebody kit that he’d stashed away was trimmed and cut into shape, followed closely by the D-MAX Type 3 bodykit. 

“With the help of a few friends, the interior of the car was painted in Toyota silver by Vince at Vinceparts — it was the same colour as my JZX110. The car was then taken to Accident Repairs in Glen Innes, where Tim painted the car Porsche Green before it was taken back to SMS Fabrication to be assembled for the final time,” Joe told us. 

With the suspension, chassis, and exterior complete, it was time for a motor worthy of the time and effort that had gone into this build. Joe managed to hunt down a forged SR20 engine for a steal. CP pistons, Eagle rods, and ARP fastening ensured that a decent amount of abuse could be thrown at it. Helping cylinder-head flow is a pair of Tomei Poncams and HKS cam gears. And sitting mid-mounted on a custom C’s Garage manifold is arguably one of the best mid-power turbos for the SR20 engine: the Garrett GTX3071R — chosen for its ability to make decent top-end and mid-range power, without sacrificing response. 

“After the car was fully assembled, I made the trek down to Wellington, where Geoff from NZ Wiring and Performance wired in the Link Monsoon ECU, AiM MXS Strada dash, and MoTeC PDM [power distribution module]. None of the factory wiring remains, other than that in the doors,” Joe says. “Once it was all wired up, it was pushed across the workshop to where Chris at Prestige Tuning & Motorsport tuned it. The car churned out 366kW and 623Nm of torque before the clutch started slipping, when we called it a day.” 

After getting the car back from Wellington, Joe took it to C’s Garage HQ, where the final touches were completed. The kit was trimmed to make sure that there was clearance with the extra lock, and several checks were made, ensuring that Joe’s first drift day in the car was a success. Then, just like that, it was slide time. Joe booked the first day possible at Hamptons. 

“Immediately, I was hooked! I ended up drifting the whole session. After coming back in and walking around with a stupid grin on my face, it was time to go back out again. After four sessions in the car that day, I was getting more and more comfortable, but then it was time to call it a day,” Joe tells us excitedly. “The car is unreal, and everything I wanted from this platform. It reminds me of my S14 in a way, too.” 

Having been so unfulfilled drifting the JZX platform, Joe would seem to have got his groove back. And it’s unlikely to wane anytime soon, surrounded as he is by a talented group of mates willing to go that extra mile to see his dreams materialize. This S15 is something all involved can be proud of. 

Whether you build it, buy it, or both, keep hunting for the car that best fits your groove — never stop hunting for it. Because, when you have it, all those late nights, long weekends, and busted knuckles will have been worth it! 

Joe Curphey 
Age: 28
Location: Auckland
Occupation: Assistant manager
Build time: Seven months
Length of ownership: Seven months

Thanks: Mum and Dad; Graeme and Adam at SMS Fabrication; Chris at Prestige Tuning & Motorsport; Geoff at NZ Wiring and Performance; all the boys at NST Performance Parts; Doug at NZ Performance; Reuben at D-Club; Ash at Hero Prints; Remy at Little Labourers; Joel at C’s Garage; Jesse at; Tarran; Elliot; and Tim at Accident Repairs

ENGINE: SR20DET, 2000cc, four-cylinder
BLOCK: ARP main bolts, forged CP pistons, Eagle connecting rods, ACL big-end and main bearings
HEAD: Tomei Poncams, HKS cam gears, Supertech valve-stem seals, BC valve springs and retainers, HKS head gasket
INTAKE: Custom 600x280x100mm intercooler and piping, K&N pod filter
TURBO: Garrett GTX3071R Gen I (0.63AR turbine housing)
WASTEGATE: Turbosmart Gen-V 45mm Hyper-Gate
FUEL: Injector Dynamics 1725cc injectors, DeatschWerks DW400 in-tank fuel pump, Turbosmart FPR1200 fuel pressure regulator (FPR)
IGNITION: Nissan GT-R (R35) coil packs
ELECTRICAL: Link G4+ Monsoon, MoTeC PDM, loom by NZ Wiring and Performance
COOLING: GReddy TW-R radiator, Tomei oil block, Trust remote oil-filter relocation, Trust 16-row oil cooler
EXTRA: SMS Fabrication custom oil catch-can, C’s Garage engine mounts

GEARBOX: Z32 five-speed, SMS Fabrication adaptor plate
CLUTCH: Exedy heavy-duty
FLYWHEEL: Xtreme lightened chromoly, ARP bolts
DIFF: Cusco two-way limited-slip (4.6)

STRUTS: Stance XR-1 D1 Naoki-spec coilovers
BRAKES: (F) GReddy six-piston radial-mount calipers,  324mm GReddy two-piece rotors, GReddy pads; (R) S15 calipers, Project Mu drift pads, Rav-4 larger diameter rear rotors
EXTRA: B Knuckle steering knuckles, extended 25mm lower arms, Cusco castor arms, Cusc o camber arms, Cusco tension arms, Cusco traction arms, Elwood Parts subframe bushes, reinforced rear knuckles, reinforced rear subframe, relocated front steering rack, SMS Fabrication six-point roll cage, engine-bay seams stitch-welded (from firewall forward), SMS Fabrication front and rear bash bars 

WHEELS: (F) Rays TE37 17×9.5-inch (+12), (R) Rays TE37 18×9.5-inch (+12)
TYRES: (F) 235/40/17 Falken Azenis RT615K, (R) 265/35/R18 Hifly radial 

PAINT: Porsche Green by Tim at Accident Repairs
ENHANCEMENTS: Genuine D-MAX Type 3 bodykit, genuine D-MAX roof and boot wings, Origin 50mm wide over-fenders front and rear, Car Modify Wonder vented bonnet

SEATS: Bride Zeta III, Bride seat rail, Cusco four-point harness
STEERING WHEEL: Nardi leather Deep Corn
INSTRUMENTATION: AiM MXS Strada 1.2 race dash, MoTeC 15-way keypad

POWER: 366kW
TORQUE: 623Nm 
BOOST: 24.9psi 
FUEL: E85 
TUNER: Chris at Prestige Tuning & Motorsport