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Super Shakotan: James Mangin’s Rocket Bunny S15

29 June 2024



A Japanese style in its purest form — James Mangin’s S15 is an uncompromising modern Shakotan, as authentic as it would have been if Kei Miura himself had spun the spanners

This is a caption about a rocket bunny


Kei Miura and his Rocket Bunny brand are legends in the scene — his kits were once hard to get outside of Japan, but, slowly and surely, they have begun popping up for sale all over the world, some genuine, and many, well, not so much. Make a few rapid-fire clicks of your mouse; jam in your credit-card details; and, a few weeks later, some rather large boxes of cool will show up at your doorstep.

Now there is nothing wrong with this type of transaction; it’s becoming the norm in our industry, and it truly has opened up doors to parts we otherwise would never see on our shores. But regardless of how convenient this method is — the fact is that   Kei Miura is an artisan, a craftsman, not a faceless corporation copying someone’s design and marketing it to the world. This is why Manawatu local James Mangin boarded a flight to Japan and carried out a traditional Japanese business deal over dinner. You see, James, like many others, had fallen in love with some of Miura-san’s teaser renders of a pending kit: you know, the ones that blow up the internet any time they are released. In James’ case, it was the S15. He already had the perfect victim sitting in the shed — a non-turbo auto S15 basket case ready to be transformed. But first he needed to get to Japan — and who better to have as a travel guide than NZPC’s own Aaron Mai, a good mate of his?



The look was inspired by some of the older Shakotan cars rocking the traditional Advan livery. The blue was taken from that infamous 180SX from Bad Quality



“James asked me when I was next heading to Japan,” Aaron said. “I often get asked this question, and few ever follow through, but a few months later he asked again when [we would be] …booking flights: ‘I’m ready to go, and I want to buy a kit while we are there. I really want to go shake Miura-san’s hand and do a business deal’.”

A few phone calls were made, and a workshop tour to 6666 Customs was organized. The boys boarded a plane and off to Japan they went for a few weeks of intensive car-culture and retail therapy — the kind we condone. While at 6666, Aaron got to work shooting some NZPC features then let Miura-san know that they would like to buy a kit while there. Over dinner, James handed over a big roll of cash, and then they walked downstairs into the shop, and put a kit aside for him. “It was one of those pinch-yourself moments. He was such a rad guy, and they were just so welcoming. We went out cruising in his RX-7,” James recalled.



Although it was a whirlwind trip, the boys also got down to Hiroshima to hang with Bad Quality — it was this group of guys and their radical build style that had a profound influence on James and his own S15: “It was awesome to hang out with the Bad Quality boys and [see] … how they drive their cars so slammed and rowdy — just out doing it with their mates. They really don’t care if they break them — they’ll just fix it, that’s what I love. It was awesome to witness; it was like that here back in the day, but you just don’t get to see that any more.”

It was through one of the group’s members that James sourced the other big-ticket item he wanted to buy — his Work Meister M1s. Takashi Mine — yip, the owner of the super-slammed S13 from our drift special — had a mate at Work Wheels and was willing to call in a favour for the Kiwis. A few phone conversations ensued, and soon James and Aaron found themselves lugging four rather large Work Wheels boxes through the streets of Tokyo in an attempt to find the post office. The mega-dish Meister M1s were air freighted back to Palmy and actually beat the boys home — if you have ever had to deal with local customs, you will agree that’s a miracle.



The kit was soon to follow, which meant that the build itself could commence, but there was one small problem — James’ shed is a very narrow single garage, within which you can’t even open the S15’s doors properly. It was time to call in a favour: “I started the build at Cole’s place. He helped me out massively in the start — pulling out the engine and doing all the cooling mods. We did all the big stuff that I needed room for, like cutting the body ready for the kit, and then, once that was done, I towed it back to mine and finished it off there. It was alright; you just have to get it done, ya know?”



Built by a mate, Cody Hamilton, the HPC top-mount manifold, along with the Kinugawa TD06 20G, bring on full boost just under 4000rpm. We can’t wait to see the dyno results once the 2.4 is slotted into the hole



And get it done they did. Out came all the non-turbo DNA from the shell, along with that auto, and in went an SR20 with Spec-R internals. All the auxiliaries were then built by the boys, including both manifolds. The current SR is actually just a test mule — an engine to dial in the car, test all the modified and built components work the way they should, and then the real deal fun will begin. “We are currently putting together an SR24 with VVTi head, BC stroker crank, Carrillo rods, CP pistons, etc. We will be looking at around 400kW as a baseline. I will be putting it together with the help of Daryl Turk from EFI and Turbo. I have always loved Silvias and the SRs. I just love making the power that others are making from six-cylinders, from a four-cylinder, and having that power-to-weight and weight balance,” James explained.



But this is, after all, a street car, and the current and very responsive 284kW is nothing to be sneezed at — especially when you consider the S15’s ride height and the country roads that it’s driven on. Yes, that’s right: as you see it in these photos is how James intends to enjoy it; there are no air bags around here — just wound down coilovers. It’s pure shakotan on the streets of Palmerston North. Sure, it’s probably not sensible, as it “scrapes absolutely everywhere”, but what may surprise you is how well the car drives at this height, as it’s actually the height the kit was designed for. There is absolutely no rubbing on the tyres, and, believe it or not, it gets full lock, no sweat. It’s something that James is stoked about, but he freely admits that the ride height is a little ridiculous: “Yeah, it’s a bit of a pain, it scrapes everywhere — but that’s just what it’s about — just deal with it and fix it.” There is that Japanese influence coming back in again.



We certainly agree with James’ way of thinking — those renders he fell in love with looked as cool as they did because of the complete package, including the ride height. Once you start giving in to the voice of practicality and reason, you give up some cool — this car certainly doesn’t do that. What does set this shakotan apart from its Japanese influencers is the attention to detail in the places like the engine bay. Barely a wire can be seen, and every component has been either detailed or custom built. This extends to the interior, with a complete overhaul to suit the purpose — race car enough to handle the track work James is planning but with enough creature comforts to not ruin the road enjoyment. That all means a half cage, race seats, harness, and Kevlar door cards — mixed in with carpet, a factory dash, and a custom centre console.


On the road, the bark of the SR fights with the sound of the road scraping, but it’s just part of the commitment to having the car looking correct — if he lifted it, some of that impact would be lost



The end result is something that James and all his boys should be proud of. It’s shakotan perfection — not watered down and with a very good touch of Kiwi. Sure, what he did was probably one of the more extreme ways to go about purchasing wheels and a bodykit, but, to meet those responsible for producing them — to see the streets that influence them, experience their scene first hand, and live and breathe it for a few weeks, is certainly a lot cooler than wondering if the parts you’ve just traded your credit-card number for are going to show up and look and fit anything like they do in the pictures. And then, being able to touch, ride in, and experience some of the many cars that influenced his tastes has made for a much wilder S15 than even James ever imagined he would build. We guess that you could think of this car as a stamp in his passport — a scraping, revving, and rowdy reminder of that trip to the birthplace of shakotan.


Driver/owner: James (Jimmy) Mangin

Thanks: Josh Mangin, Cole Robinson, Danny Hamilton, Aaron Mai, Nicole Farrier, Miura-San, Takashi Mine, Gian Moretti, Elliot Wilkes, Darryl Turk at EFi and Turbo, Neil Sinclair, Lance Streeter, anyone else who shared a whiskey at any time of the build



1999 Nissan Silvia (S15)

ENGINE: Nissan SR20DET, four cylinder, 2000cc
BLOCK: Spec R factory internals
HEAD: Spec R VVTi head, rocker stoppers
INTAKE: Fabricated plenum, 70mm throttle body, 12-inch K&N filter, tube and fin intercooler
EXHAUST: HPC custom top-mount manifold, three-inch straight-through exhaust, rear exit wastegate screamer
TURBO: Kinagawa TD06 20G, anti-surge housing
WASTEGATE: TiAL 38mm water cooled
FUEL: Walbro 550hp intank pump, custom surge tank, Carter lift pump, Aeromotive FRP, Aeromotive fuel filter, Seimens 660cc injectors, Aeromotive -6 braided lines
ECU: Link G4 Storm
COOLING: Modified alloy radiator, custom swirl pot, Davies Craig EWP, thermostat delete, 10-row oil cooler
EXTRA: Deloomed, relocated fuse box, custom oil catch can, custom overflow bottle, remote oil filter, Cusco engine mounts, Gilmer belt drive, Taarks PS bracket

GEARBOX: Factory Spec R six-speed
CLUTCH: Nismo copper mix
FLYWHEEL: Nismo chromoly
DIFF: Nissan R200 LSD

STRUTS: BC gold coilovers
BRAKES: (F) Skyline four-pot calipers, G-Tech braided lines (R) Factory
EXTRA: G-Tech V3 camber arms, G-Tech V3 castor arms, G-Tech V3 toe arms, Hardrace traction arms

WHEELS: (F) 18×9.5-inch (-22) Work Meister M1 (R) 18×11-inch (-38) Work Meister M1
TYRES: (F) 245/35R18 Kumho, (R) 265/35R18 Yokohama

PAINT: Custom royal blue by Designer paints, Toyota white sprayed by Danny Hamilton
ENHANCEMENTS: Advan-inspired livery, full genuine Rocket Bunny kit, full geniune rocket Bunny aero, modified tail lights

SEATS: (F) Racetech 1000, Takata four-point harness
STEERING WHEEL: Grip Royal — Royal Jack
INSTRUMENTATION: Auto Meter Sport Comp boost and oil temp, Auto Meter Pro Comp oil pressure and water temp
EXTRA: Garage Zeal half cage with harness bar, Kevlar door skins, custom door puller, extensive rewire throughout

POWER: 284kW at the rear wheels
BOOST: 19psi
FUEL: BP 98 octane


This article originally appeared in NZ Performance Car issue no. 241.