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Cruise Mode – 3UZ-powered Altezza Gita

3 July 2024

When you’re done with Altezza sedans, what’s next? The Altezza wagon platform never looked so damn good!

Photos: Deven Solanki

NZPC: Hey Brendan, for those who don’t know you, can you give us a bit of a rundown on your automotive history here in New Zealand?

Most people know me as Niteparts, a company I started over 20 years ago designing and fabricating adaption solutions at night (hence the name) while contracting to several motorsport workshops during the day and driving in D1NZ and other drift events from ’03–’09. More recently I have been fabricating and tuning full-time as Niteparts while also working as Head Judge and Tech Manager for D1NZ for the last 10 years. I also have judged and worked overseas at events like WTAC, FormulaD Japan and HiTec Drift Series, among others.

So why an Altezza as a base platform for a V8 conversion and why a wagon?

The Altezza platform is such a well balanced and rewarding chassis from Toyota. There’re plenty of parts support and the ability to bolt in larger gearbox/diff/axles with ease. After owning and building plenty of Altezzas, I wanted to build one focusing on handling rather than power. Why a wagon? Because they are practical, a bit different and fugly — I thought it would be funny.

As it’s not a 1UZ, can you tell us why you went with the engine you did?

It was simply the engine that came up at the time, a VVTI 1UZ would have been similar but the 3UZ ECU can be tuned and my mate Kelvin at Cartune has a really great reflash for these.

What custom work was involved in getting the engine to fit in the hole?

The 3UZ actually just bolts in, however I flipped the mounts to set it back a further 50mm, which required a lot of extra massaging to fit. This base was critical for handling, and meant things like radiator/fans and gearbox etc just used OEM mounts. It was a late series engine so I did swap and mod a 1UZ sump. I calculated and fabricated some 4-2-1 headers and 2.75-inch exhaust to optimise torque and power for the factory engine.

We’ve noticed that the brakes are far from the factory-fitted ones. What are they and what was involved in getting those in there?

I had been working on a new brake kit for JZX and Altezza using Porsche/AUDI/VW Brembo calipers. They are six-piston front and four-piston rear, cheap and easy to obtain and combined with 360/355mm rotors. It even uses the factory Altezza master cylinder, brake hoses, and handbrake! This was a great test vehicle and these Niteparts billet adaptor kits will be out for retail as we speak. The braking ability is absolutely next level!

It sits damn low! What considerations were taken when you chose your shock and spring set-up?

Haha — I actually think it’s kinda high! Altezzas can look awesome

scraping the ground but I guess I’m old now. This wagon needed to handle

and for that I wanted to maximise shock travel and to retain good suspension

geometry. It needed to be usable as a daily driver but handle track

duties. Racelign did a great job on the valving.

 

Can you explain to us exactly what it’s like to drive a set-up like this?

Probably the most fun streetcar I’ve built. The balance is spot on. It

turns in far better than a JZ Altezza, has brilliant handling combined

with usable power meaning you can actually drive the car harder. I love

JZs but they often just paint 11s down the road.

What’s your favourite part of the car?

Its versatility. It’s quiet and drives like stock when you want to,

returning 13km/L. It will lay down a ripper skid if you need, then you

can take it to the track and hammer it lap after lap — all with aircon and a

stereo.

 

Anything else you want to do to it? 

Nope, this build was complete for me. By the time this NZPC hits the

shelves I have actually sold it on to a good customer of mine — he loves

it as much as I did.

 

Thanks for talking with us mate!

Year/make/model: 2001 Toyota Altezza Gita

Engine: 3UZFE, reflashed ECU, Niteparts headers, Niteparts exhaust

Driveline: R150/R154 hybrid, Niteparts CNC lightweight flywheel, JZX100 eight-inch diff, JZX100 turbo axles, TRD two-way LSD

Interior: Factory Alcantara, Bride driver’s seat

Exterior: Factory 

Wheels/tyres: 18×9-inch CST Hypers, 235/40R18 Bridgestone RE003

Suspension/brakes: Koni coilovers, Racelign custom valving, custom 14kg and 10kg springs, Cusco arms and braces, Porsche/AUDI/VW Brembo calipers (six-piston front and four-piston rear), 360mm front discs, 350mm rear discs

Power: Approx 238kW

Fuel type: 98 octane 


Name: Brendan Dunker

Age: 44

Location: Auckland

Occupation: Owner of Niteparts

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This article originally appeared in New Zealand Performance Car issue 305