Each different full moon, a enjoyable challenge automobile comes round seemingly out of nowhere and merely wins the hearts of the web.
I’m considering Rusty Slammington, I’m considering Riley Stair’s Firebird, I’m considering even the Hoonicorn. These are all vehicles of various calibres, constructed for various functions and totally different events, but are related by a deep, intricate ardour and enthusiasm between the builds themselves and us, the neighborhood that will get to look at, get pleasure from and share within the joys of them.
Vehicles like these are larger than the web itself and as a rule don’t require any introduction. Simply by taking a look at a few of these pictures already, you possibly can most likely hazard a guess as to why at this time’s protagonist matches this invoice completely.
Expensive readers, for those who’ve not met earlier than, I’d prefer to introduce you to Kevin. A van, constructed by the beautiful gents behind the Nightride YouTube channel.
You be a part of us on the day earlier than Next Level Drift‘s essential 2023 occasion (story coming quickly). I’m operating on three hours of sleep as I needed to catch a 6:00am flight from the UK to Poland. However the temper within the air is chipper with pleasure because the boys crack on loading the trailers up with their drift vehicles forward of what is about to be a really busy weekend. They’ve left me to my very own gadgets, with Kevin neatly cleaned and tucked away within the nook of their unit.
There’s a lot to unpack right here, so let me simply dive into some blunt fundamentals: Kevin is a sixth-generation Daihatsu Hijet, initially bought by Nightride in 2019. Again then, the van was inexperienced in color and comparatively unique, utilized by the earlier proprietor as a searching automobile. It’s humorous to image that seeing because it’s not designed for the speeds of excessive pursuits, however it’s acquired loads of house for a number of pheasants within the again.
Or at the very least it used to have loads of house.
Kevin‘s essential caretakers, Sam and Marek, initially purchased the van with intentions to make use of it irregularly for easy motoring enjoyable. “Sometimes I’d take it to the retailers, however it didn’t get used an excessive amount of,” says Marek. With a background in media work specializing in low, enjoyable drifting vehicles, the boys began to tinker with the van. At first, they wrapped it crimson and lowered it just a little.
Subsequent got here the wheels, the place a set of slim, period-correct SSR MK-IIs had been chosen. From right here, the plans slowly grew. Having an enormous affiliation with Mazda MX-5s, the boys got here up with an thought.
“The unique plan was to place a 1.6L Miata [MX-5] engine in Kevin,” says Marek. “We even purchased an engine for Kevin, which at present lives below this workbench. As you possibly can inform, it by no means got here to be. We measured it up and shortly realised that the size of the engine and gearbox was principally longer than Kevin. So, these plans went out the window.”
A yr of Kevin possession got here and went earlier than one other plan got here to gentle.
“We simply wished Kevin to work so, hey, we determined to place a bike engine in it,” Marek explains. “A whole lot of hundreds of thousands of individuals have already carried out it; it’s a properly documented, widespread swap. It will match completely below the entrance seats the place the unique engine was, and it was going to be a straightforward job. Perhaps a month’s price of labor we thought.”
I have a look at Marek with a barely kinked eyebrow, and ask how the concept progressed into what now we have right here at this time. Because it seems, it got here considerably out of the blue throughout a night get-together. “I mentioned to the boys ‘hear, we have to purchase a bike anyway, what’s the purpose of taking that engine out?’”
And identical to that, Kevin‘s most up-to-date iteration began coming to life. It will have been actual simple for the boys to take this concept and execute it sloppily, however they figured in the event that they had been to do that bike thought for actual, they’d give it a correct go.
They sourced a Yamaha Fazer 600 to be the principle energy plant… or extra precisely, the principle engine room for the plucky little Daihatsu, and went to work.
The principle transformation to show Kevin into what you see at this time came about within the final yr. The wrap got here off, and the unique inexperienced paint was changed with a beautiful lick of gloss crimson. Touches had been accomplished across the van to complete it off, such because the smoothed rear taillights, black pin stripes and rear wing, which is a direct match from a third-gen Honda Civic hatchback. The Yamaha Fazer destined to be Kevin‘s new coronary heart was initially white, in order that additionally turned crimson to match the remainder of the van.
Kevin‘s cabin wasn’t left alone both. Two metallic buckets had been fitted, serving to to overexaggerate the home-built, skunkworks nature of the challenge. The steering wheel was changed with a crimson Grip Royale merchandise, and the passenger window obtained a crimson Sparco security web. Sam’s favorite a part of the challenge is the roll cage, which he fabricated, fitted and painted himself.
My private favorite a part of the within needs to be the crimson ground mat operating all through the entire van. Customized-built by a great pal of the crew, its flamed design may be seen in every single place, from the entrance badge to just a little prolonged carpet on the dashboard.
“What’s this?” I level at a lever popping out of the roof. “Oh, that’s the ‘Australian handbrake’,” jokes Marek whereas yanking on it.
Because the van was basically being caricatured, the SSR wheels wanted fattening as much as full the picture. To make them match, bolt-on arches had been fitted. Dare I say it, they swimsuit the construct very properly, and are a neat nod to Japanese efficiency vehicles of Kevin‘s period.
So, the bike. That is the challenge’s actual murals. Fabricated to suit immediately into the van’s mattress, it’s been left comparatively intact. The objective was to actually have the entire bike within the van powering its rear wheels, and that’s exactly what the boys have achieved. The entrance wheel nonetheless stands proud between the entrance seats, with the engine, handlebars and operating gear all nonetheless hooked up to the bike.
A community of prolonged cables had been linked up so the Daihatsu’s throttle pedal controls the bike engine, which is mated to the bike’s sequential gearbox managed by a great quaint gearstick aligned in parallel to the ‘Australian handbrake’. The rear wheel of the bike has been changed by a chain-driven fastened beam immediately related to Kevin‘s rear wheels.
Suspension is, err… restricted. The boys have instructed me that sorting some kind of rear suspension is on the playing cards for the following part of the challenge, however for now “the rear suspension is precisely like a go-kart.”
“And that’s most likely one of the simplest ways to explain the way it drives. It drives identical to a go-kart,” says Marek.
Sure, Kevin does transfer. The entrance is on a little bit of a Frankenstein suspension setup, utilising a pair of outdated airbags from “an outdated truck” hooked as much as a TATechnix compressor, and powered by Air Lift Performance administration neatly managed through the van’s key fob distant.
The boys kindly invited me to sit down inside and begin Kevin up. It’s not the biggest of cabins, and a tough one to get out and in of, however it’s filled with character. That stunning manifold operating out the again is purposeful, making a novel, fast-revving bike whizz paired with a deeper, car-like tone.
Completed simply in time for Ultrace 2023, the Nightride boys managed to deliver Kevin out for his first outing with the rear bike plumbed up and dealing. When the van made it to the High 16 of the present, the gang was chanting “Kevin, Kevin” in unison, within the hope he would get the primary prize.
After the awards had been handed out, Kevin and the opposite High 16 vehicles made their option to the drift monitor for a fast photoshoot. A crowd of individuals rushed to the barrier to get a greater glimpse of the van on the transfer, with the sound from its exhaust echoing off the carpark’s partitions.
This plucky little van has transcended being simply one other automobile, and even simply one other challenge. It’s extra like a rockstar beginning their world tour, or an athlete getting into their prime. For an inanimate object, it has a particular, energetic and charmful aura completely surrounding it. Marek and Sam have given the little Hijet life and the flexibility to entertain and make individuals smile. Now if that’s not one thing price writing about, I don’t know what’s.