As a 6-foot-tall white guy in Japan, we're used to getting curious looks. But now little children are chasing us down the street, while mothers with children in strollers turn to stare. Maybe it's the idea of a 2009 Nissan GT-R Wagon that has even old men with canes staring at us as we drive through the streets of Nagoya, Japan.
The idea of an all-wheel-drive, 480-horsepower Nissan GT-R
in the shape of a station wagon just moves things a little off-center, and that's what Kids Heart had in mind. This tuning shop with a name that reflects the typically Japanese enthusiasm for foreign phrases (sometimes cleverly understood, but sometimes not) had been looking for a project different from the high-performance drift cars it builds for competition.
Since Nissan doesn't build its own 2009 Nissan GT-R Wagon ? and why would it, as there's no prize for setting a lap record at the N?rburgring Nordschleife with a car that's carrying a picnic basket in the back ? Kids Heart decided to build its own. So if you are at the N?rburgring and have a picnic basket, you'll be set.
What Is This, Really?
is a well-known tuning shop in Japan created by Tezuka Tsuyoshi
, a driver in the D1 Grand Prix. It has experience with strange specialty cars modified with far more care than the usual tuner car. And so its gaze fell on the Nissan M35 Stagea, a high-performance wagon that competes in Japan against the Subaru Legacy wagon
Though the Stagea once was a platform from Prince, the same orphaned brand within Nissan that created the first Skyline GT-R, it's become another car derived from the V35 platform that lies beneath so many cars at Nissan these days.
This project begins with the current M35 Stagea, which is much like the Infiniti G37 sedan
, only with a wagon-style body. It's meant to compete against the Subaru Legacy wagon here in Japan. This means it's a pretty capable car out of the box, and there are loads of aftermarket parts available, plus engine swaps are possible, too. An all-wheel-drive powertrain is part of the mix as well.
And so the tuners at Kids Heart took a look at the M35 Stagea and decided that they could almost see a GT-R trying to jump out of its skin.
Building the Ultimate Wagon
Unfortunately the task of making a GT-R R35 out of all this turned out to be not so easy, not the least because the GT-R is so much wider.
So to achieve the right look for the Stagea, a great deal of new bodywork had to be fabricated, and the standard of workmanship had to be very high in order to achieve factory-caliber symmetry. For example, the M35's body had to be extended over 6 inches at points just to match up with the GT-R's front-end profile. In the rear, the 20-inch Works wheels with Goodyear LS2000 tires had to be installed with spacers to suit the wider stance that was required. Close attention was paid to ensure that the lines from the GT-R's front end blended smoothly with the rest of the car.
All the hard work seems to have paid off. The look is about as close to a factory-built GT-R wagon as one could imagine. Everyone who seemed to glance at this car took a double-take, thinking it was from the factory.
Want One of Your Own?
The Nissan M35 Stagea is pretty affordable at about the equivalent of $19,000, but it will take another $10,000 to get the GT-R bodywork conversion. Since a Nissan GT-R in Japan costs about four times this altogether, the bottom line is pretty attractive.
Of course, then you have to start adding the engine and suspension bits if you want to back up the GT-R looks with some serious performance. For example, Kids Heart could have built this off the all-wheel-drive M35 Stagea, which comes with a turbocharged, 276-hp 2.5-liter VQ25DET V6. But because the people at Kids Heart are truly wild at heart, they've stuck with the rear-wheel-drive Stagea and look forward to replacing its prosaic Nissan VQ35 V6 with a turbocharged RB26DETT inline-6 from the previous-generation GT-R R34
, making this car eminently driftable.
Kids Heart will make one of these GT-R franken-wagons exactly to your specifications as long as you've got the money. As Kids Heart CEO Masakazu Takayama explains, "Cars are used for transportation from Point A to Point B, but they can also be our toys. When you play with toys as an adult, then you have a Kids Heart."