1983 Toyota Levin – Fluoro Fury – 156
Take one part Toyota Levin, one part Honda S2000, three parts fluoro and stir vigorously.
Jonathan 'Jock’ Bennett has a crystal clear memory of what made him want to drift. “It was Victor Chapman, flying around the Pukekohe sweeper. His speed and car control blew me away.” That was 2005, and Jonathan’s dream to compete at a similar level was just that a dream. But four years on, he’s one of the up and coming stars of the New Zealand drift scene.
Jonathan’s drifting career began in mid-2006 when he got his hands on a manual, non-turbo R32 Nissan Skyline. It was cheap ($400) and the perfect beginner base at which to throw an RB20DET and some second hand coil-over suspension.
“I attended drift days at Pukekohe when I could afford them, and did a handful of days in it,” Jonathan recalls. “But then I found a Toyota Levin and everything changed.”
The clincher was that the AE85 was being sold with a Honda S2000 F20C engine and gearbox combo. Prior to the Skyline, Jonathan was an H-badge man through and through and knew exactly what a good combination the lightweight Toyota and one of Honda’s most revered performance engines would make.
“The owner had planned to install [the F20C] into the car and use it for a Targa vehicle,” Jonathan says. “I quickly snapped up the combination and sent the Skyline packing.”
The car was completed and Jonathan headed to the track. Even then, only sibling rivalry pushed him to compete seriously. “Back then I still didn’t have any intention of properly competing until I came up against my brother Aaron, who was. I found that I could keep up with his Nissan Silvia S13 on the track, so at that point figured I might give competitions a go. I caged the car and got it up to standard and it’s since snowballed from there.”
Jonathan made his competitive debut at Round 1 of the 2008 NZ Drift Series. The transition from practice to competition wasn’t easy. “It was a pretty hard day, to be honest,” Jonathan admits. “It was only my second day in the car since it had been brought up to spec and I was really nervous.”
It didn’t take him long to dial the setup in, though, and by his second event he had lifted his game, and made a few small adjustments to tyre size and suspension settings. The result was impressive: Jonathan qualified in third spot.
While the Levin now dubbed REVLMT was quick, the F20C’s naturally aspirated power curve was an issue. Because of the engine’s wide-open throttle requirements, Jonathan found the car easy to qualify and run the lead battle pass but difficult when it came to the chase, due to the F20C’s inability to slow down mid-drift and then fry the tyres again on cue.
After only three rounds in its factory N/A form, a remedy was sought and forced induction thrown at the setup.
Getting it to that turbo spec wasn’t too difficult. “The F20C is built super-strong from the factory so we didn’t need to touch it internally,” Jonathan explains. “I just took the car to Sinco Customs in Hamilton to get a turbo manifold, downpipe and intercooler piping fabricated. Then we fitted some bigger injectors and had the Link re-tuned to suit.”
The gains were instantaneous, helping Jonathan secure a fourth-place finish at the Levin’s next event, NZ Drift 2008’s Round 4. Further decent results followed and the setup remained reliable for some time.
Prior to NZ Drift 2009’s Round 2, Jonathan made some major changes to the Levin. Firstly, he cleaned up the interior, removing the beat-up factory dash and replacing it with a carbon fibre item from Mike Shaw Fibreglass. Under the bonnet, the original turbo was upgraded to a larger Garrett GT3076R, and 260kW at the wheels was coaxed from the setup at a screaming 9000rpm. But the exterior benefitted most of all. A fresh D-Max bodykit, J Blood 40mm widebody rear guards and Mike Shaw Fibreglass widebody front guards, fibreglass doors, boot and hatch were all added into the mix. The Levin was then sent to Mad Mike at CRE8GRAFX. Renowned for producing some of the sharpest drift vinyl graphics packages around, Mike was given free rein, with Jonathan specifying only that he wanted fluoro on the car. What he got back was pretty mind-blowing. The icing on the package came in the form of DTM Drift 17-inch rims with a little bit of Ken Block-like fluoro enhancement. The Levin looked and drove the part.
Then, at Round 2 of the NZ Drift Series, it all went bad.
Firstly, the turbo was destroyed after a small piece of thread tape blocked the oil feed. Mind you, that was the least of his worries Jonathan had walls to worry about, especially the one he clattered into around the outside of the Pukekohe sweeper.
Undeterred, Jonathan set about fixing the exterior damage and rebuilding the turbo. But his problems were nowhere near over. Just a month after the car was repaired, Jonathan was dealt another cruel blow, this time at D1NZ’s final round at Port Nikau in Whangarei. Tagging the plastic barriers on the outside of the track, the Levin was spun into a very solid metal pole. The damage was bad.
“If it hadn’t been for the roll cage through to the front strut towers, the car would have been a throwaway,” says Jonathan. “The front right quarter was crumpled up to the front strut tower, the floor was bashed up and my legs were pushed up.”
The car was a mess, but at least Jonathan was okay. “If I didn’t have that bar going forward, I could have been pretty badly hurt,” he says, “which is why I believe it pays to make sure you have a car that’s built properly and safely before even thinking about competing.”
The Levin wasn’t in great shape, but Jonathan’s hometown of Matamata is the location of one of the top panelbeaters in the business Matamata Panelworks. It took all of two days for the boys to get the bent-out-of-shape Levin ready to roll again.
Jonathan’s already looking to the future. “I want to put a lot more work into the chassis with seam welding, and take more weight out of the car. That’s why I already have a new shell that I am hoping to complete at some stage next year,” he says. “Everything will be bigger and better!”
1983 Toyota Levin SR – Specifications
Engine: Honda F20C (S2000) 2.0-litre DOHC 16V inline-four, factory internals, HKS Super Power Flow air filter, Garrett GT3076R ballbearing turbocharger, Sinco Customs equal-length steam tube exhaust manifold, Tial 44mm external wastegate, Sinco Customs intercooler piping, 500x200x76mm intercooler, Walbro 500hp in-tank fuel pump, Denso 600cc injectors, custom fuel lines, 2.5-inch exhaust, modified DC2 Integra alloy radiator, Setrab 19-row oil cooler, Mocal remote oil filter setup, 2x 12-inch electric fans, Link Plus G3 engine management system, custom Bennett Motorsport engine loom, custom engine/gearbox mounts, modified engine crossmember
Driveline: Honda S2000 6-speed gearbox, S2000 flywheel, S2000 clutch plate, custom 2700lb pressure plate, modified transmission tunnel, custom clutch master cylinder, Toyota Liteace E-series live axle, locked differential, 4.1:1 or 4.55:1 final drive, custom AE85/Isuzu Bighorn/S2000 driveshaft
Suspension: Front — Avo MCNSport inserts, custom coil-overs, 8kg BC springs, BC adjustable camber plate, adjustable tension rods, 24mm Whiteline adjustable swaybar, custom S13 lower arms, S13 front hubs, PBM Max steering angle knuckle kit, 25mm spacers, Rear — Avo MCNSport coil-overs, 5kg Avo MCNSport springs, adjustable rose-joined 4-link, Bennett Motorsport traction brackets, 18mm adjustable swaybar, T3 panhard rod, reinforced upper shock mounts
Brakes: Front — Silvia S13 rotors/callipers, Mintex pads, Rear — AE86 rotors/callipers, Hawk HP+ pads
Wheels/Tyres: Front — 17×9-inch DTM Drift alloys, 205/40R17 Bridgestone Adrenalin RE001 tyres, Rear — 17×10-inch DTM Drift alloys, 215/45R17 Bridgestone MY01 tyres
Exterior: D-Max front bumper, rear bumper, sideskirts, J Blood 40mm widebody rear guards, Mike Shaw fibreglass front guards, doors, hatch, white re-spray, custom graphics
Interior: Sparco-style front seats, ERG 4-point harnesses, suede deep-dish steering wheel, Auto Meter water temp gauge, oil pressure light, Link digital display, Bennett Motorsport wiring/switchboard, Mike Shaw fibreglass carbon fibre dash, 9-point MSNZ-approved roll-cage, fire extinguisher
Performance: Dyno Power — 260kW @ wheels (9000rpm on 7psi boost)
Jonathan ‘Jock’ Bennett – Driver Profile
Occupation: Dairy farmer
Build time: Never ends
Length of ownership: 2 years
Jonathan thanks: Mike Shaw Fibreglass — 07 850 5882, SpeedFactor — www.speedfactor.co.nz, Alltech Diesel & Turbocharger — www.turbo.co.nz, DTM Wheels — www.dtm.co.nz, Bridgestone — www.bridgestone.co.nz, Bennett Motorsport — 027 334 6478, NAC Insurance — www.nac.co.nz, CRE8GRAFX — www.madmike.co.nz, Matamata Panelworks —
www.panelworks.co.nz, Sinco Customs — www.sincocustoms.co.nz, Aaron, my crew and Lin Chen for the dyno tuning
Words: Gray Lynskey Photos: Dan Wakelin
This article is from NZ Performance Car issue 157. Click here to check it out.