Words & Photos by Henry Phull
Standing out in the car scene is a challenging prospect these days, especially if you don’t want to follow the typical trend of ‘Air Ride and Rotiforms’ that so many seem to opt for. First glance at Jamie Carter’s 1988 Nissan Laurel 2.4SGX and it’s clear that he is not one to follow trends… You won’t find his car at any mainstream shows, as he simply does not care what others think. Let’s get things straight, there’s nothing glamorous to see here. Rough around the edges with surface rust and scuff marks scattered around the bodywork, this Laurel is definitely no show queen. There’s much more to it than looking pretty. Jamie built the car for himself to enjoy, and that’s what matters. It’s just a bonus that it happens to look so badass.
Jamie first picked up the C32 Laurel as a completely standard example. Naturally, the first job was to chop the springs and get it on the floor as quickly as possible. Consequently the car looked amazing, although soon after, Jamie realised it was time to take the car to the next level and do it properly.
To improve the handling, Jamie installed S13 hubs which allowed him to fit HSD adjustable coilovers for a healthy drop, which ride surprisingly well for such a heavy saloon car.
Wheels are always a difficult choice for a rare, retro vehicle. Jamie didn’t want to spend a silly amount of money, and as a result opted for 16×10 Diamond Racing steels, refurbed in a gunmetal grey – which go extremely well with the Laurel’s two-tone colour scheme. These are paired to slightly stretched 225/40 tyres all round.
It’s not until you notice the custom 2.5″ stainless exhaust and hear it start up, that you realise there is something more to this car. That’s because for Jamie, stance isn’t enough.
The idea was to keep the original retro looks… but turn it into a complete animal.
After much pondering and peer pressure, an engine swap was on the cards. Jamie set himself a budget, and the search was on… A few weeks later he ended up purchasing a complete written-off Skyline R33 GTST, which, if you are a Jap fan, you’ll know these carry the RB25DET motor. A prime candidate for Jamie’s build.
It was no simple task, with the swap taking a good few months to complete. Being a mechanic by trade, Jamie luckily had access to a workshop and took on the build himself with a couple of like-minded mates whenever there was a free evening or weekend, bar a couple of issues such as the critical wiring which required special expertise from engineer and friend Giles.
Modifications to allow for the swap include a modified subframe from the Skyline donor car, custom driveshafts and prop, in addition to the RB manual gearbox. A new front mounted intercooler was installed along with a new inlet to get the most out of the RB25 lump.
Although it’s not yet seen a rolling road, Jamie estimates the Laurel is now putting out around 300bhp. This extra power means the original Laurel brakes would not cut it, so they were scrapped accordingly in place for uprated 300ZX front brakes.
As with most mechanic’s cars, the Laurel will always be an ongoing project. With so much time spent working on other people’s cars, there’ll always be something that needs finishing on his own pride and joy.
As a result, the interior is dirty, and there are missing panels all over the place, but really, who cares? In my opinion he should keep the car like this. It’s the rawness that makes it what it is. The car was built to be abused – there’s no point in hiding it. You’ll notice Jamie did however opt for a Nardi steering wheel, always a tasteful upgrade whatever the car.
There’s something truly special about 80s Japanese cars, character.. which is what modern cars unfortunately seem to be missing most of the time.
The attention the Laurel gets whilst crawling through traffic just proves what looker it really is. While most people tend to ask what the hell it is, they are always affectionate over it. It truly is a thing of beauty.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jamie built this car as a big “f**k you” to the current Volkswagen scene. Opting for 80s Jap (something we don’t see enough of in the UK!), along with big power, and absolutely no worry or care about the condition of the car or what trouble it might land him in. Burnouts aplenty and sessions at his local drifting track – the car sees plenty of action. It’s the definition of ‘retro cool’, fun, and intimidating, mixed into one. It’s a pleasure to see it out on the road, not giving a shit.