Team C’s Garage and D*Club execute a five-car build plan ahead of the Animal Style GP
The name C’s Garage has been synonymous with drifting not only here in New Zealand but around the world for the past decade. Brothers Adam and Joel Hedges, along with a small clique of friends, have been at the forefront of local drifting, injecting style and excitement through their car builds, and demonstrating driving techniques inspired by what they have witnessed first-hand driving at tracks like Meihan Sportsland in Japan.
We’ve seen the boys evolve, from running 18s and big BN kits that kiss the pavement and blow up the Internet, to their comp-style cars on the cover of NZPC issue 205, to running a successful drift shop engineering parts sold all over the world. They tried the grassroots thing, and they tried the competitive side of the sport before becoming somewhat disillusioned with that and reverting to doing it simply for fun. Throughout all of that one thing has remained constant and that’s the driving — it’s always been about driving as fast, aggressively, and excitingly as possible.
Then around two years ago, they got a little lost with the direction they were taking.
Joel recalls, “We were kind of lost at the time with set-ups and what to do next with our cars and driving.”
Teaming up with a few close friends to form D*Club, they spawned the idea of creating an event and bringing one of their favourite drivers down to New Zealand: Naoki Nakamura, a man widely regarded as one of the best drifters on the planet. Little did they know at the time that the decision would be the genesis for change, and alter the course of all their current and future car builds.
Reuben’s ‘98 Type X 180SX
A ’98 Type X, the 180SX was originally built by Adam for a customer before passing through a few hands eventually to end up in Reuben’s possession. After drifting the stock engine combination, the quest for more power led to an identical engine set-up as found in Graeme’s and the shop car
In prep for Jason’s arrival, all-new Origin Labo plastics found their way onto the shell, including 55mm guards, Origin Labo Aggressive Aero, Origin wing, and Origin carbon bonnet. The wrap was designed by Hero Prints, playing homage to Reuben’s love of hot rods and street machines — hence the flames
“One thing with me is that I don’t get attached to a car. I look at this as a tool for drifting. I look at it as being the thing that is getting me better at driving. These cars have a purpose, so why treat it like it’s anything else but a tool, because if you do, you just won’t drive it as hard. I let everyone drive it — Adam’s driven it, Joel’s driven it, Ash’s driven it, and a handful of friends, so why wouldn’t I let Jason drive it?”
Ahead of the event the boys pieced together what is known as the C’s Shop car for Naoki to drive while here.
“Pink Style GP was the first time we’d experienced driving a car like this,” Joel tells us. “Naoki wanted to use his suspension, his knuckles, his set-up, his tyres. So we kind of built a car we thought he’d like, and he gave us tips along the way. Then, after the event, we all got to drive it and thought, ‘This is it; this is the best thing we have ever driven’. After that we changed all our cars to follow that same recipe.”
The recipe was not too far from what their cars were previously. The 280kW SR20 engine packages remained untouched — and that is something we will cover later. What did change was the suspension and set-ups. In went Stance coilovers of Naoki’s own spec along with his signature front knuckles known as the B knuckle. These have less Ackermann than C’s 555 knuckles of old, which keeps the wheels more parallel while at full lock, retaining a bigger contact patch and allowing you to get on the gas earlier. They don’t offer stupid amounts of angle but, as team member Graeme Smyth explains, that’s not needed.
“When you flick in doing solo runs and you’re trying to do cool shit [backward entries] you’re just dragging the front end along anyway. Having big angle is more suited for competition driving where you can go slow and just crank on the angle.”
Graeme’s ‘91 Silvia (S13)
Built up from a bare shell two years ago, Graeme’s S13 is the youngest of the three C’s team cars, replacing his old S15. Graeme’s a fabricator by trade, and his build is meticulous
Graeme and Adam are responsible for any fabrication, and their manifolds can be found on all the cars. Sitting atop Graeme’s is a Garrett GTX3071, which is more focused on low-down power than all out kW but did make 325kW before boost was pulled back down to 16psi, resulting in the team standard 280kW
The intercooler was built using a high-quality 600×300 core and a set of custom-fabricated end tanks
Before we get too deep, we should perhaps explain the type of driving the boys are trying to master. It’s an aggressive style, personified by their entries at Hampton Downs Club Circuit, which sees a warp-speed entry throwing the car backwards into the turn only millimeters off the concrete wall, all in a cloud of smoke. It’s like threading a needle at 150kph mere millimeters from the car in front and the car behind. To achieve this you need a ton of grip, which is achieved with 265 semi-slicks and a rather simple suspension set-up, which might surprise those of you with a tendency to over engineer. Stock rear knuckles have been gusseted for strength, a selection of adjustible Cusco arms and stock lower arms complete with rubber bushes can be found under most of the team cars. The rear subframes have been swapped for S14 items and tilted forward, which, coupled with the Naoki specc’d Stance coilovers, gives a ton of rear squat.
“The grip to power ratio is pretty good — it just works. If everyone is in pretty much identical or similar cars with the same tyre you have a lot of fun, because you’re not trying to chase someone that is just driving away from you,” explains Graeme.
Drifting a car this gripped up requires tons of throttle and full commitment.
“The cars are kind of outdriving us now; you can do basically anything you want to with it, but you have to be committed and drive as hard as you can. It makes it hard to tandem. The guy in front has an open track and can really nail his line, but, because the car is so gripped up, any correction he makes, you can’t just grab some handbrake and then get back on the gas; because you are on the edge of gripping up the entire time, you have to stay on the gas. But when everyone is driving good, on song, and nailing it, it’s awesome because everyone is going so fast,” Joel tells us.
Joel’s ‘91 Onevia (S13)
“The engine is the original unopened SR20 out of Adam’s old purple 180SX, which he started drifting in 2007. It came out of that, went into his S14, and did one season of D1NZ. When he went VE, it came out and went into my car. It’s been drifted for 13 years. We’ve done one head gasket in 13 years”
Like the rest, the Onevia runs Stance coilovers, B knuckles, and stock lower arms. The rear end features an S14 subframe that has been tilted forward, with stock knuckles and standard sway bars
You’ll notice that only the driver’s side rear window runs red vinyl; the passenger side was left clear so the drivers can see where they are going during those wild backward entries
With so much grip dialled in it might come as a surprise to learn that these cars don’t kill tyres — well, they do kill tyres but not after only two laps. Graeme tells us they can make four to eight tyres last an entire day. It might seem crazy but 280kW is all these guys are after. The combination in the shop car, Reuben’s 180SX, and Graeme’s S13 is all basically the same. All feature stock unopened S14 bottom ends, 256 cams, Kelford valve springs, steel head gaskets, C’s exhaust manifolds, Garrett GTX3071 turbos, 1050cc injectors, and a good dose of E85. The only difference in these three set-ups is that Reuben has HKS Step One cams as opposed to the Tomei Poncams found in the other two.
“If you overlay the three dyno graphs they are all pretty much identical,” explains Reuben.
Adam’s S14 is the odd one out. Pop the silver carbon Origin Labo bonnet and you’re greeted with things like NOS solenoids and a BorgWarner EFR70670 boost maker. The engine is a built two-litre (stock crank and bore), while on top is an SR20VE cylinder head with Supertech oversized valves, springs, and retainers, and stock P11 Primera cams. The inlet is a Hypertune unit complete with throttle body. It’s a combination more than capable of exceeding 400kW — or, as Graeme puts it; “It’s drag car sh*t” — with Chris Wall extracting a max of 450kW, although its currently run at 355kW. It’s the engine package used during Adam’s last D1NZ campaign, built to take on the V8s and big sixes.
Pop the bonnet on younger brother Joel’s S13 and you’ll find the polar opposite, a much more traditional Japanese SR20 set-up: an SR20 that’s done 13 years’ hard driving between the two brothers and is still going strong. The turbo is a GReddy TD06 20G, the ECU a Power FC, making 270kW — although with slightly less torque than the other three two-litres due to the fact it’s running 98 pump and not E85, which allows you to dial more timing in. Joel does have a package that matches the rest of the team; he is just waiting for the old engine to let go — although, after 13 years of it taking abuse and only throwing one head gasket, that could take a while.
Adam’s ‘96 Silvia (S14)
A hangover from their D1NZ days, Adam’s S14 features a monster SR build with a VE head. The intake is custom built with a Hypertune throttle body, while the hot side features its own exhaust manifold and a BorgWarner EFR70670
TE37s have long been Adam’s wheel of choice. They measure 17×9 inches (+15) up front and 18×9.5 inches on the rear. Both ends run Goodride Sport RS semi-slicks — 245s up front and 265s on the rear
Adam is a man of many talents; the signature yellow and red fade paint jobs are his handiwork, as are the custom rocker covers you’ll note on each of the cars
All the cars feature mirrored drivelines consisting of 350Z axles modified to bolt to the R200 diffs with 2-way LSDs and 4.6-ratio crown wheels and pinions. All but the S14 run Z32 gearboxes, with Adam’s running a Jerico dog box instead. Having a matching parts list is something that comes in handy as spares can be shared amongst the team — not that they have too many mechanical issues. Running 280kW is not exactly earth-shattering power, but this is part of the point: any time you have to spend spinning spanners is time out of the driving seat, and the key to mastering this fast-paced, aggressive driving style is seat time. On account of this, the boys drive together on a regular basis, attending as many Drift Force days as life commitments allow. In the two years since Pink Style, that shop car has been anything but dormant with Adam pedalling it more than his own S14.
However, it was time to hand the keys to another international driver, someone the team has long admired. Enter Julian Jacobs and Jason Bostrom from Animal Style, a drift team formed in the US in 2009. These boys share the same passion for aggressive driving as C’s, and as a result their style and car builds somewhat reflect the progression we’ve seen with the C’s car, to the point at which their US-based cars mirror the recipe followed here. With an event date booked, the boys went into overtime prepping the cars ready for Animal Style to touch down.
As Joel explained to NZPC, “I know the feeling of travelling halfway around the world and then driving a car that isn’t up to scratch. So we wanted them to land and have everything be perfect. We didn’t want them to break, either.”
C’s Garage Shop Car ‘89 Silvia S13
Mechanically, the shop car didn’t change in preparation for Julian to drive it; it’s essentially identical to his S13 back in the US, although he brought with him his own seat bracket and steering wheel spacers, which see him sitting right back in the rear. The dude is literally a giant
American legend D-Magic took care of the shop car’s new livery as he handles all of Julian’s cars. He was given no brief and surprisingly he came up with a large C’s logo on the side, just as Ash had for the team cars. The bonnet is our favourite part of his design
While the set-up mimics that of his own S13, Julian did say the shop car felt better to drive. This was due to the extra-low torque and a touch more top end gained by running a slightly larger turbo, and E85. Watching him pedal it, you be forgiven for thinking he was driving his own machine
Everything mechanical was checked and checked again, spares of almost everything that could and would break were stockpiled, and new Origin Labo fenders and aero painted for all. A booth was set up in the Hedges’ parents’ tractor shed and three full days, from 7am till dark, saw everything repainted in their signature red and yellow.
Then came what Joel describes as the biggest job of all: the new liveries. Hero Prints handled the three C’s cars and Reuben’s 180SX, which Jason was to drive, while Michael from D-Magic, the man behind all Animal Style liveries designed the shop car, which Julian would drive.
“I went over to the workshop each night for a week and we just tried things out,” explains Ash from Hero Prints. “It’s got a base tribal that flips from red up front to yellow out back. On top of that it has a purple tribal flames. Joel wanted loads of fire. The idea is the front stuff pushes into the C’s ball and then it’s spat out the back.”
When it came to his 180SX, Reuben again worked with Ash from Hero Prints, calling on his roots as a piner for all things hot rod and street machine.
“I’ve always liked flames,” he said. “We did the reverse flames because it’s never been done. It’s not about the car going fast backwards, it’s just about being different. For me the Jap stuff is rad — don’t get me wrong — but it’s just different variants on the same thing. I wanted to have a flame battle across the car. The red and black is a tribute to Animal Style and Jason’s car back in the States, and the blue is a throwback to how the car was before.” The design process was then followed by another gruelling week of late nights applying it all. Big Brown, who wrapped both event cars, printed more than 100 metres of vinyl and it took a team of up to 15 helpers to get everything completed on all five cars and ready for Animal Style’s arrival.
The resulting rebuilds are the most wild renditions of these ever-evolving Silvias yet. They really do look as exciting sitting still as they do hitting turn one at 150kph. In a sea of over-engineered, massive-power-drift builds, it’s good to see a group of guys showing that following a simple recipe can result in cars capable of some of the most exciting driving we’ve witnessed in years.
How did the boys from Animal Style go? Jump to page 30 to see, but watching Julian jump in the shop car and, without so much as a warm-up lap, throw it in backwards as if it was his own S13 was proof this recipe works.