The Fastest Nissan GT-R: The Hulk Blasts to 218.1 MPHThe Fastest Nissan GT-R: The Hulk Blasts to 218.1 MPH
Published: Apr 12, 2012
Words by Ya'acov Zalel
CarBuzz talks to Kevan Kemp of Severn Valley Motorsport.
During a yearlong development and build process, Kevan Kemp of Severn Valley Motorsport built one of the most powerful machines on earth and named it the 'Hulk'.
March 17, 2012 will be remembered in the years to come by Kevan Kemp and his loyal staff at SevernValley Motorsport (SVM). On that historic day an R35 GT-R, prepared by SVM and driven by Stevie G., became the fastest R35 on earth, setting a top speed of 218.1 mph. Unfortunately for Kemp and his crew, the record, which was set on a wet piece of tarmac on a runway of RAF Marham in Norfolk, UK, stood for just three days before it was beaten by 15 mph by a competitor from across the pond. However, Kemp is determined to regain the record later this year. In the next few weeks the 'Hulk', the nickname for the record-breaking R35, will get a few improvements, including bigger turbo chargers that will enable it to get as close as possible to the 250 mph barrier. "It would have been nice to hold the record for longer," Kevan Kemp told CarBuzz. "However it was not to be, but we are determined to regain it."
«To get as close as possible to the 250 mph barrier»
The record was broken in difficult circumstances on a rainy day and almost by coincidence, during a MLR 30-to-130 event. It was the culmination of more than a 12 month development period that resulted in the Hulk, a 1200hp monster painted in luminous green.
"When the weather was very wet and we weren't able to put our speed down to the track, we decided to do a half pedal very gentle buildup," Kemp told me. "When we did it we did 214 mph and we suddenly realized that we were almost breaking the world record here. Then we did 217 mph." And then, to make sure that no digital error will annul the record, Stevie G. set the record at 218.1 mph, an improvement of a bit over 1 mph over the previous record.
More than 13 months earlier, on February 7, 2011 Kevan Kemp, known also as Kev@SVM, started a thread in a forum of the British GT-R. For the next 13 months he documented the development and build of the Hulk, up to and after the record run. In total, as of last week, there were 1,445 posts by Kev@SVM and thousands more by followers and a total of a little less than 1.1 million entries registered. There is no doubt that Kev@SVM is as good in communication as he is in R35s tuning. "Communication is the key to any successful relationship [and] that is the reason why SVM always remains constantly in touch with our customers," wrote Kemp in of his threads.
«Drag, Track etc...»
On one of the thread's first few pages people raised the question of the project's relevance. "Apart from a technical showcase and advertising what was the car built for?" asked 'Jakester' on February 8, 2011. "Drag, Track etc... Surely if Drag is its aim (and I think 8 sec 1/4's have been bandied about), isn't the wing pretty pointless?". "This to us is meant to be the ultimate expression of a tuning company," answered Kev@SVM the same day.
"We have certain protocols in place that would allow us with little or no effort to pitch this car in various categories and disciplines from 1/4 mile to top speed, circuit use to show car or just to use on the road." And when I asked him the same question the answer was: "I am doing it because it is good for the business. Since I did the European title we had a lot more work coming in. We regularly fetch cars from Europe now. And to be honest it is good business practice."
At the heart of the Hulk, specifically its front-end, lies a 4.2-liter V6 engine that is made of a strengthened and an improved original block and engine head in order to withstand the huge loads that enhanced engine would produce. "Obviously when the block started to crack and split because of the amount of power that we were doing, we put internal studs inside the block to strengthen and stop them twisting," Kemp explains. "We've put a lot more bolts around the crank carrier. Basically the crank is trying to jump out of that aluminum framework that it has got. We put in extra engine mountings so the load is spread.
"We don't go out and advertise everything that we are doing because it is our own development. You going to get one company saying they have done this, you have to do what your own engineering skills come up with. Each company, whether it is a camshaft designer or bigger valve or whatever, they decide [what] to do. We all got slight differences and we can't copy one company because they have done a certain goal. I have always believed do your own development and [even if] it would be easier to copy a bigger company."
The rest of the engine's components are either locally produced, such as at SVM, or procured from specialist manufacturers that make special pistons, con rods, turbo and cooling systems and engine management systems. When the car is fully completed not many of its original components can be found on the car. "OEM parts [that are left] are 10 percent," says Kemp. "A lot of it is carbon but the main structure is still an R35; but the running gear, although it's derived from OEM virtually all the components from cooler, to engine, gearbox, clutches, differentials, crown wheels, pinions as well as viscous [differential]; drive shafts have been changed. A lot of it is to anticipate what you going to get problems with and trying engineer round certain issues. We use companies all over the world; the majority is UK based."
Among the engine components one finds in a SVM HULK Spec forged blueprinted block, Greddy cranckshaft, longer Carillo connecting rods, a Ferrea valve package, and Tomei 280 Profile cams.
There's also the induction system with its GTX GT35 Garrett turbo chargers with ball bearing core assemblies and V Band Fitment, Tial 44mm external waste gates V band fitment, Custom 80mm down pipes, large Greddy Throttle Housing, Greddy modified manifolds, a KN high-flow air filter system with ram pipes and 90 mm intakes.
The car's fuel system is particularly powerful in order to supply all of the needed liquids for the combustion in a short space of time. The six speed manual gearbox, which sends power to all four wheels, is supplied by Albins. It's a four-wheel drive system can be switched to rear-wheel drive mode only in order to warm the tires before a burnout. That is of course just the start of long list of all the specific pieces of equipment installed on the car. Needless to say, the total bill costs a fortune.
On March 17, 2012 at 1:33PM, Kev@SVM reported to his followers: "Arrived at RAF Marham this morning, unfortunately due to the heavens opening on us we couldn't flex the HULKS muscles to its full potential. Result achieved 214.6mph / 31 PSI / 7100 RPM… Role on the next event". But the next round turned out to take place later the same day. At 4:15 PM a new post was added to the thread: "Flex'd the HULKS Muscles a bit and triumph'd Result 217.97mph. Thanks to all. KK"
And at 9:05 PM another post, the last of the great day: "Just got back home what a day, Chuffed to bits Thanks for your kind support. Hulky Fastest GTR in the world... sound's good. KK"
That was the consummation of 36 years of hard work for Kevan Kemp, which started when he left school and joined Ironbridge Motor Works, a garage that was established in 1915. In 1985 SevernValley Motorsport was founded and both companies worked from the same premises in Ironbridge, with the latter taking on routine car maintenance jobs while SVM specialized in the tuning scene.
At that time Kemp and his staff drove Nissan 'Z' Cars and soon earned the nickname of the 'Z' Shed. In his clinic he carried out the infamous Samurai Conversion, consisting of a 6-branch Janspeed Manifold, Triple Weber/Dellorto carbs and high lift cam. Kemp's own 240Z took on quite a radical and original conversion: a bright yellow 240Z which had the roof chopped off and turned into a convertible using a Triumph TR7 soft top, a Ferrari 308- (think Magnum P.I.) style door conversion and a Rover V8 running a twin turbo conversion. It must have been one of the most bizarre cars one could ever find.
In 1986 Kemp began his involvement with Ford cars as he and SVM became established names in the British Ford racing scene. His knowledge of turbo systems and his ability to develop them grew further as he won many national awards and his cars' stories were published in magazines and were presented in various shows all over the country. "SVM became a worldwide known name in the tuning industry especially where Fast Fords were regarded," Kemp wrote on the thread. But then, by the middle of the last decade when the new Nissan GT-R was announced, Kemp made another U-turn and went back to his old love. At that time SVM had departed from its old facilities with Ironbridge Motor Works and moved a mile or two down the road into Madeley, the Black County.
At SVM, Kemp upgraded GT-Rs from 600R to 1200R. His cars have become UK and Euro record holders for the last three years, and now at least, he also has the GT-R world record at 218.1 mph. And yet he is still not close enough to his target speed of 250 mph.
The GT-R's R35 model was launched at the end of 2007 and arrived at the UK over then a year later and since then Kemp has to play a catch up to his American competitors. "There is always a bit or rivalry there," Kemp says. "The UK started 12 months behind the US because our cars were not delivered to us. We always play catch up. We never copied anyone. All is our own take on the subject. It is coming from a background of 30 year tuning turbos experience and ironically my expertise of tuning was in Nissans or Datsuns with the carburetor conversions cars. My turbo charge tuning was evolved over 30 years I was always been interested in turbo cars. So when Nissan come up with a 500hp it is a nice platform to work from. It is has been two years of hard work. A lot of testing that is coming together."
«We never copied anyone»
Nowadays SevernValley Motorsport is specializing in R35 tuning as well as general garage business. 14 people are employed at SVM and in the next few weeks the company is scheduled to deliver to customers five R35s prepared for drag racing. SVM also prepared an R35 for the UK Time Attack championship, a competition in which cars are measured against the watch on a race track. SVM also has a European presence. "We had a guy in Romania that did a whole season of drag runs and he holds the Romanian record," Kemp says. "We had a Portuguese guy who got the Portuguese record very recently. They are all into the 9s [for a quarter]. But they are normally competing with our old 3.8 OEM derived turbos, very modi-spec.
"When we got good results with those and we got success with European and UK records we thought the Hulk is a natural development and if those smaller cars can be good we were pretty confident that our main car will do very well." And well it really did.
On March 18, the day after the world record was broken, Kev@SVM answered one of his well-wishers: "Malc, Thanks for the appreciation on the top speed runs, doing 200mph+ with the conditions and the surface that we all had to contend with was not easy, 204.5 for me and 218mph in the HULK are both remarkable times considering the weather. As you said, with traction we were all really struggling in 2nd (forget second), 3rd and 4th and EVERY TIME I went to do a 30-130 and put my foot down starting from 3RD all the wheels lit up and started pushing the car sidewards, the car seems to get confused with the transfer of the power to the front wheels bearing in mind that it's not so much losing traction but there literally is not traction and the rev's shoot from 3.5k to red line instantly!!!"
Kemp and his people are now recuperating, meaning they're taking care of their customers. But they're also thinking about a new record. "When you start with these records they don't really mean a lot until you actually compete and get involved then the realization that you are doing pretty well, then the competitiveness comes out and all of a sudden you want to break world records," Kemp says and elaborates on how he is going to do it. "When it did 218 mph it did 7150 rpm. The turbo charger size that we used is probably right up to seven and a half thousand rpm; so we now putting some larger Garrett turbos on it, Garrett GTX35-82s. Those also will be tweaked to our own little configuration; they are not off the shelf turbos. They are a little bit tweaked to what we want them to do. And we hope to move the power band up. We know we have got the gearing. We are pretty comfortable that our target would be around 240 mph."
Another area for improvement is the car's aerodynamics. "We going to get help from people that specialize in aerodynamics to make slight tweaks on the car to make it as stable as possible," Kemp explains. "We run it with the wing off and with the wing on, at half tilt. It's a collective UK effort."
«That's about $1,468 for every mph»
And before we end the interview Kemp also has a warning to his US rivals for the R35 top speed world record. "The US will hear more about us. At the moment we [were] almost brushed away because who are we? What are we? But we are quite competitive guys. We are definitely going to be out there."
However, if someone were to be interested in purchasing the Hulk, Kemp won't say 'no'. The asking price? From what we've heard, it will be starting at $320,000. That's about $1,468 for every mph. It's unquestionably worth every penny.