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Each car has its own personality and much of that is apparent in the way it presents itself. One can say that a car is simply that. An inanimate object that is void of personality and if anything, is just an extension of ourselves as we express our interests, tastes, and aspirations through them. This is very true; however, if one does look or listen closely, one can indeed pick up on just what the car is beyond a collection of metal, plastic, and glass. And indeed, it is this that makes cars come unto their own. To add, there is the interplay between the owner of the car and the car itself that truly brings out the best in both and it is this trait that propels the two in such a manner that it is nearly impossible to not notice and admire.
As our newest addition to our Featured Car list, Mark van der Velden and his Grand Prix are very much an example of how a car and driver can propel the other to beyond that of just "owning" a car. After spending a week getting to know the Grand Prix and seeing all that Mark has in store for her, the two are indeed a powerhouse waiting to happen. We here at S12Silvia.com have long since had our eye on Mark and his Grand Prix but have been waiting for some time to see how things would turn out for the two and just what direction they would be going. With several world renowned tracks already driven, an icon in Europe, and the inspiration of many globally.
It is indeed our privilege to have the opportunity to add Mark and his Grand Prix to the list. We are excited to share what Mark has already prepared for us and the many things yet to come. With so much in the works already, be on the lookout for some great features about one of the finest examples of an S12 Grand Prix that still exist.
Photography credit goes to Jano Buitenhuis. Thanks heaps mate for the pics and looking forward to seeing you again next year.
Continuing our coverage of Mark van der Velden and his Grand Prix S12, part two covers his experience at the Nordschleife, or as many may know it as the Nurburgring. There is much to say for those who are local to such a legendary track and the experiences gleamed from it are unforgettable. Mark was eager to share his knowledge and content about the Nordschleife with the rest of us knowing that his opportunity is one that many crave and hopes that from sharing his experience, we all may know a little bit better of what it would be like to drive on the fabled track.
Sunday the 29th of May I went for the first time to the Nordschleife this year. I have been there last year and the year before to do some laps in my first car, a Nissan sunny with a 1.6 carburetor (GA16DS). The other guys from the Dutch Nissan club had a wax and polish meeting, I decided to go my own way. Do that what I like the most, driving the Nordschleife. For the ones that donít know what the Nordschleife is, Google it. Itís one of the most daring tracks around the world and often called the Nurburgring. Many of you will know it by the Nurburgring. The Nurburgring is the combination of the Northloop (translated Nordschleife and which is a 20.81 km or 12.93 miles) and the Grand Prix race track which is like 4.5 km so much smaller.When I drive there on the Touristenfahrten (Tourist rides) it is most of the time just the Northloop. The little appendix is the Grand Prix racetrack. Sometimes included in the Touristenfahrten, mostly closed.
Back to the 29th of May. I couldnít sleep well that night before. I was planning to get up around 6 in the morning but was awake at 5. I decided to get some sleep but got out of bed at approximately 5.30. Got a little nervous I guess. First time to take the S12 Grand Prix on the track and it would be my first RWD car on track. I checked the car properly the day before and got it prepped. I decided not to put in the 4-point cam locks. Just drive the car totally stock for the first time to see how it handled.
I live about 2 hours drive from the Nordschleife. Iím from the south of the Netherlands; the Nordschleife is in the Western part of Germany. Got to my car and was at the Nordschleife around 8.30. I quickly bought a 15 round card to get my first lap. Decided to film my first round, although it is not allowed to film on the Nordschleife. Took it easy to see how the track was en to get used to the car. Checked the car afterwards for any leaks and did my second lap.
It was warm that day, really warm. Of course, I didnít think off putting on shorts so it was really hot. As said, totally stock car so no 4points to hold you in place, neither there were bucket seats, just the standard seats that donít give any support what so ever. I had to keep myself straightened in the car by using the steering wheel, putting my knee to the door card where the window wiper is located etc. You get the idea, total hell in the Green Hell. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it to the fullest. I did a total of 11 laps that morning. Did you know that Jacky Stewart nicknamed the track in this manner back in the day?
And with help from Mark, we have been able to secure a digital copy of BMWís and Sport Autosí guide on how to drive the famed Nordschleife.
As stated, I owned a sunny N14 before and I have driven that one also on the Nordschleife. Last year I did 24 and 4 in 2009 with it. It had some suspension upgrades (strut bars, sway bar rear, lowering springs, better brakes etc). So I was really wondering how the stock S12 would behave on the Nordschleife. And I got to say it handled far better than expected. It was so much fun to drive. The RWD, the power of the car comparing with my 1.6 engine from the sunny. It was so much fun to drive. I really had the time of my life Sunday. Compared to my sunny this is by far the driverís car. It was totally at home on the track, I really gave it a beating but the car didnít blink.
I owned the sunny for 3 years. After I stripped my N14, I was asking myself what do I want next. Did I want to pay road tax for a track day car, which I only drive 6 months a year? No so I wanted something road tax-free. RWD would be great so I started talking with a guy on the Dutch Nissan club. A buddy of him owns also a S12 Grand Prix but with a JDM import FJ20ET engine. He suggested me to search for a Grand Prix version, mostly found in Germany but still rare enough.
Reason of buying the S12 Grand Prix
I was looking for a weekend and track day car that is not seen too much in the Netherlands. There are other reasons for buying this S12 and they are the following. In the Netherlands, cars that have been registered before 1-1-1987 pay no road tax. I only have to pay insurance, which is also very cheap. I have it insured all risk for a very low price with a tax report. However, this is not the only reason I bought this car.
I really love this car, I could have easily bought a S13 or RHD S14a for the same money or less but this one is a rare car. Especially in the Netherlands where not many S12s were sold. When I drive, the car I see people staring at the car like WTF is that? Also, I get thumbs up when Iím cruising the car. Very cool.
Future plans with the Grand Prix
What are the plans with this car? On short term not much. I have replaced some parts that needed to be replaced, changed many fluids. At first, I wanted to strip the car totally and have a cage welded in. But I love the stock interior.
The short-term plans are to drive it on track and road. Take it to the Nordschleife and off course to the Japanese Auto Extravaganza in the UK. I went there the last 2 years and am planning to go there this year again.
Well so far for the plans. Turns out that the nasty coolant leak due to a coolant hose snapping has done more damage than expected. Due to this I had to have the engine rebuild, but it wasnít ready in time for the Japanese Auto Extravaganza in the UK. On top off that, the head of the engine has not been proper rebuild so has to be done again nor do a FJ20ET swap. Those will be the winter plans. If the car is running again and there are funds left then I plan to buy some BC racing coils and do the S13 conversion front with S13 brakes. I have already bought ES polyurethane bushes, S13 hubs and S13 calipers.
I also need some bucket seats but I want them to fit in the time apparel of the car so maybe have them refurbished or something. In addition, I want to add some stiffness to the car in the form of sway bars and strut bars.
Maybe this is all going to be long-term, depending on funds. My brother went to the San Francisco for three months and after that, Iím going there to do a road trip for a month. Funds may be short by that time so if the BC racing coils have to wait? No problem the car is not leaving me anyway so I got the time by my side.
Next year I want to take the car on track days to other tracks. Belgium circuits Spa Francorchamps and Zolder and probably also a Dutch track called Zandvoort. I guess that is all for now. Enjoy the photos and videos (below).
Greetings from the Netherlands and hope to see some of the US S12 guys at Irwindale Speedway way next month.
See ya - Mark van der Velden
Pictures go credit to: Jorg Jakowski, Ring-bilder.de Photographer: JŲrg Jakowski, Ringbilder.de Photographer: Christian Wolf, Carphotos.nl Photographer: Martijn Huiskes, Member of SXOC.nl Photographer: Paul Krauth (Anu on SXOC.nl), Member of SXOC.com Photographer: Jim_S13 on SXOC.com, and Roy Zweers
As contemporary and local to our fellow S12 member Nils, the one who started our Driverís Blog series, we knew immediately that Mark would be one of those guys. Kind, knowledgeable, understanding, helpful, and the all-around great guy you would want to meet. Having talked with him for some time, we were quite anxious to feature him and after much effort on his part, Mark has assembled several pictures of his car and written a bit about both himself and his experiences for us. Just reading his story and browsing the pictures he had for us proved to us that there is not much better but an individual who truly values his vehicle.
Hey guys, my name is Mark, 28 years old and hail from the Netherlands. My first was a í91 Nissan Sunny N14, which had a GA16DS. I drove that car for three years and enjoyed it to its fullest. While owning, I drove on the Nordschleife in Germany several times and even took it to the big Japanese Festival in the UK in both 2009 and 2010. After some time I began to want something faster and preferably RWD. After much effort I was able to obtain my Grand Prix S12 (FJ20E powered) after quite a trip.
I had owned my Sunny for three years and as mentioned loved it. After the years of building it and driving it on the track, I began to strip my N14 and sought to move on. I then found myself thinking about what I wanted next. Did I want to pay road tax for a track car that I only was able to drive six months out of the year? I knew I wanted to avoid paying road tax so I knew it had to be pre-1987. I also preferred a RWD car so I began talking to a fellow Nissan enthusiast of the Dutch Nissan club. It happened that a friend of him owned a Grand Prix S12 with a swapped JDM FJ20ET. He suggested that a Grand Prix S12 would be my best choice and advised me to look in Germany for a Grand Prix S12. Despite being available in Germany, even the Grand Prix S12 is a rare commodity there.
There were several reasons for my purchasing of the S12. In the Netherlands, cars that have been registered before January 1 1987 are not applicable to pay road taxes. I only have to pay car insurance (full insurance), which is quite cheap. In addition, I bought the S12 knowing its rarity as a Grand Prix, driving on a track, and for going to meets with the local Dutch Nissan club.
I really love the Grand Prix S12. I could have easily bought an S13 or a RHD S14 for the same amount or possibly less but the Grand Prix S12 is much more of a rare chassis. This is especially true in the Netherlands where there are not many S12s were sold. When I drive the Grand Prix, I constantly see people stare in confusion and many times, I get the thumbs up when cruising. I love getting recognition and helping to prove that the S12 is as great of a car as the S13 or S14.
With so much capability of the Grand Prix platform, the options are great. So many things I could do but for the short-term, not much. I have replaced some parts that required it and changed many of the fluids. As recent, I am looking to open the engine up and assess its current condition. At first, I wanted to strip the car in its entirety and have a cage welded in but I have fallen in love with the stock interior so for now refrain from doing so.
I currently plan to drive my Grand Prix on both the road and the track. I plan to continue to take it to the Nordschleife and to the Japanese Auto Extravaganza in the UK. I attended it in the past two years and am planning to go there again marking it, my third visit. This winter I plan to buy some BC racing coils, do an S13 front suspension conversion with appropriate S13 brakes. I have currently been preparing my winter progress as I have bought ES polyurethane bushes, S13 hugs, and S13 calipers.
I also need to acquire a set of bucket seats but that is not as easy a task as it may seem. I wish to have a set of bucket seats that fit the interior of the car even if it is Ďdatedí to the 80′s. If it becomes quite difficult to obtain a set bucket seats that fit my taste, I may have a set reupholstered to make them more fitting. Regarding the chassis itself, I want to add some stiffness to the car by way of both sway bars and strut bars. All this may be long-term depending on my funds. My brother is going to San Francisco and shortly after I will be following on a road trip along the west coast of the US. Yes, my funds may be short by that time so if the BC racing coils have to wait then wait they will. I have no problem with that for the car is not leaving me any time soon.
At this time in addition to assessing the motorís health, I am looking to upgrade to an FJ20ET exhaust manifold for my future turbo plans. I plan to run low boost at that time but who knows what happens after that. Most assuredly, it will be fun. Next year I want to take the car to other tracks participating at track days such as the Belgium circuits Spa Francorchamps and Zolder in addition to a Dutch track, Zandvoort.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Part Two of Markís blog. It covers his experiences on the Nordschleife in both the Sunny and his Grand Prix S12 along with some downloadable content about the Nordschleife.
Pictures go credit to: Jorg Jakowski, Ring-bilder.de Photographer: JŲrg Jakowski, Ringbilder.de Photographer: Christian Wolf, Carphotos.nl Photographer: Martijn Huiskes, Member of SXOC.nl Photographer: Paul Krauth (Anu on SXOC.nl), Member of SXOC.com Photographer: Jim_S13 on SXOC.com, and Roy Zweers for the use of his pictures from his photoshoot.