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Kinokuni SR20DET Jimny

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The best part about cruising the halls of Tokyo Auto Salon are discovering the builds you wouldn’t normally expect to blow your mind away. Take this custom Suzuki Jimny as a prime example. Before TAS I didn’t even know what a Jimny was, mostly because the vehicle was never sold in the U.S.—but in other parts of the world, it seems this -off-road mini SUV is really popular. Now, it’s not the mini-SUV that caught my attention—it was the SR20DET shoved in its engine bay.

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After staring and wondering for a few moments, one of this Jimny’s builders walked up to my friend speaking fluent Japanese, which surprised my friend more than it did me. I discovered that Shane Bingham (along with business partner, Ewan Paterson) had crafted this crazy project on behalf of Kinokuni to help promote his own venture, Stacked, Inc. The back half of the car revealed a custom frame, a testament to the quality of fabrication that went into it. I knew right then I had to shoot it.

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Both Shane and Ewan are ex-pats by way of Australia and New Zealand (respectively), both living and working out of Izumiotsu City, a port area of Osaka, just south of Namba before you get to Kansai Airport. The day-to-day involves dismantling cars for parts or prepping full cars for export to other countries, so the older Skylines, S-chassis and other odds and ends tend to be the more requested items. But the Jimny is where it’s at…

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A few facts to help set this scene: as Shane says, the Kinokuni Jimny “has a 10% shorter wheelbase than a Nissan Silvia, is about 40% lighter than a Nissan Silvia/30% lighter than a factory Jimny, 250mm lower than its original ride height and has (at least) 500% more power than what an original Jimny puts out.” It’s taken the Stacked boys the better part of the last two years to help bring it up to its current state, which they say, “is almost there.”

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The idea behind the Jimny is simple: to build a pipe frame demo car that could be taken to events and put on display in the showroom, to help show the various types of fittings and other accessories that Kinokuni supplies. Before the Jimny, the original concept was a buggy-styled car that used an AE86 Corolla suspension and the same S15 engine, but was designed strictly for display use. When Kinokuni decided it was time to build another car that could be also used for testing and marketing (in addition to displaying product), Shane and Ewan suggested the Jimny after much brainstorming. Kinokuni would have a production-based car with a separate chassis so the body could be removed easily to showcase product like its predecessor did.

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Limiting Kinokuni’s choices to predominantly trucks and off-road platforms, the new demo car’s body size had to be equal to the previous version so it could be displayed at the same events and showroom. Japan has a variety of 660cc Kei car racing classes, so the Jimny’s dimensions fit perfectly (pun intended), and was similar to the previous demo car’s size—coincidentally, there’s a massive Jimny following in Kei car culture, making it the perfect platform to build upon.

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Shane and Ewan had their work cut out for them and faced a handful of challenges along the way, saying “Since the donor vehicle is aimed at the mini off-road/SUV market, we had to look at the difference in ride height, width/length, bulky appearance, upgrading to a motor that’s more than three times its capacity, building an entirely new suspension layout, finding the correct seating position, a removable body…oh, and the budget.” But these areas sparked creativity, and in turn made the project exciting although stressful. “Given our budget, we couldn’t have fabricated a better suspension, engine and driveline package,” Shane explains, “It serves every purpose we built it for.”

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As I write this story, Shane will have taken the Kinokuni Jimny to Suzuka Twin Circuit for its first shakedown passes. At TAS, a certain Nobuteru Taniguchi already caught first dibs on taking it out for a few drift sessions. I’ve only seen it do a couple burnouts but I can say that the fully-functioning Jimny is shaping up to be the proper demo it was designed for.

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2005 Suzuki Jimny

Owner Kinokuni

Hometown Wakayama-ken, Osaka, Japan

Builders Shane Bingham and Ewan Paterson, Stacked, Inc. (Izumiotsu City, Osaka, Japan)

Engine Nissan S15 Silvia S20DET; Power Enterprise 1820 turbo; GReddy camshafts, valve springs and head gasket; plumbing by PW Fab; Setrab intercooler and oil cooler

Drivetrain Nissan S15 Silvia transmission; 4.3-ratio limited-slip differential

Engine Management NIStune ECU

Suspension & Chassis Stacked, Inc./PW Fab one-off pipe frame utilizing Jimny base; Nissan S13 Silvia suspension with custom arms

Wheels Volk Racing 17x9 (+22) TE37

Exterior SKP full vinyl wrap and livery

Interior Nardi steering wheel; AutoMeter gauges

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