In what feels like an eternity ago I contacted Brendan Underwood after reading an article on "How to buy Godzilla" in SPEED magazine (RIP). The article featured Brendan’s immaculate R32 GT-R V-Spec. I hunted him down and asked him a billion and one questions about R32 GT-R's, bought some parts from him and over time we became mates over MSN. Silbeer, his latest project, started in 2004 and has won Auto Salon show awards, a feature in UK Banzai magazine and cover car of Fast Fours magazine.
Justin Fox: I’m pretty sure I remember reading an article in SPEED magazine and your GT-R was featured in it.
Brendan Underwood: Yep. Had my almost showroom condition R32 GT-R V-spec in there. I miss that car.
JF: That's the one. That was an inspiration to me, big time. What happened to the car?
BU: I was way overstretched financially on it so we had to sell it. It went to a good home in Melbourne where the owner did a few more choice Nismo branded modifications I believe.
JF: I do remember you buying another R32 GT-R not too long after. I remember it had ridiculous offset. Maybe the first GT-R I had ever seen in Australia (on SAU at least) to go so wide.
BU: When I sold it I had a nice Black Silvia lined up. I sourced it through C-Red where I purchased the V-spec. At the time we had a Camry wagon as well, great car, V6 with 17" rims to boot, somehow I got this crazy idea to sell the Camry and buy the Maroon R32 GT-R. It was a good price, but soon after getting it the bottom end let loose. When we opened it up, it had definitely been whipped bad.
My wife used the Black Silvia as her daily, and I borrowed my Dad's 180B SSS while we rebuilt the GT-R engine.
JF: Care to share what happened to this maroon GT-R?
BU: To cut a long story short, after rebuilding the engine a second time (!), sorting out the suspension with a Whiteline kit and dropping some killer-b's (Brembo's) into the mix, the day I finished getting it tuned was it's last day on earth. Being a little overzealous at the time I mounted a kerb and went under the low bow of a tree completely squashing the passenger side of the turret. RIP GT-R.
JF: that must have been painful, especially after all that work.
BU: It was. I was lucky my wife didn't castrate me. I think she saw it coming at some point. After that incident I really had to take a relook on my driving habits.
JF: So how long was it between the incident and the Silbeer project?
BU: About a month! I was already eyeing up the possibility of a Silvia build, because I really enjoyed the chuck-ability of my black one.
JF: Charles from Auto Salon would definitely classify you as being one of those dying breed of modifiers. With Silbeer you've gone all out but you never did that with the other cars. You also seemed to have time on your hands, from 2004-2009, that’s a long build! How do you explain the motivation behind a build such as Silbeer?
BU: Yes August 2004 to about November 2007. I'd probably have to blame myself being really anal-retentive. Everything needed to be just right, the usual drift treatment wasn't going to cut it for me, so I went the 'factory special' route, something Nismo or Autech might have done. I knew from the get go it needed to be clean and simple.
I think also at the time, I'd just got Foxtel and was watching a lot of Chip Foose and his Overhaulin show which had a big impact on how to do it right.
JF: I know, through our many online conversations over the years, that you’re a busy man. You’ve got how many kids now? You’ve changed jobs a couple of times too. I even read somewhere that your wife was driving the GT-R with the kids in the back! How have you managed to make this all work?
BU: Yep, I now have 3 kids and my wife is very understanding (I suppose that's an understatement). There was bribery involved at a couple of points in the build. Diamond rings, other assorted jewellery items.
JF: You also have a relationship with C-Red, what’s the situation there?
BU: Well I bought 3 cars off of them. Jeff Ash was the owner at the time and we have become very close friends. We collaborate on ideas all the time. I was also C-Red’s in-house designer, refreshing the C-Red brand and doing the website among other things in exchange for C-Red’s help on the build where necessary.
JF: I've not met Jeff but have had chats with him online, and seen pics of him in Japan at Tokyo Auto Salon many years ago. He's way into JDM culture. Did he perhaps influence you as well or were you already a JDM nut?
BU: For sure there was definitely some influence from Jeff, we have similar tastes, less is more.
JF: Amen to that. Any parting words Brendan? Silbeer: Where to from here?
BU: After a great day at the track up at Barbagallo, coming down into the final corner at 190km/h, the clutch went to the floor. Something had let go (it felt like the pivot release point, a weak point in the SR gearbox). Silbeer was trucked back to the workshop. If you read my blog earlier this year, a head replacement had been on the cards for sometime due to tuning problems on an over serviced head. The engine and gearbox are now out of the car.
As the head is going to be off I'm going to refresh the bottom end too. Currently I'm only running stock Z32 (VG30) pistons, so I'm almost at the decision to go for some forged pistons and have the bottom end blueprinted and race-prepped again, maybe some slightly higher compression pistons too to try and get back some of the renowned SR20 low-end torque.
When I popped the hood after the clutch broke, there was also an even coating of oil over the drivers side of the engine bay, we think the oil filter sandwich block seal may have failed, so I'll be putting on of Tomei's sandwich blocks on that bolts to the side of the block, rather than using the centre threaded bolt.
While on the track that day, temps on the short track were manageable, but on the long track where you're at WOT about 80% of the track the temps were getting a little hot. Even with the big radiator and oil cooler. This could be a number of things, but I'll start by fitting up a standard engine undertray as that could have an affect on the cooling system.
Once we've redone the engine it's really time to get it out there again. I've been a little slack on track time since completing it mainly due to the problems with tuning and the fact I couldn't wring its neck properly without it crapping out on each gear change. Looking forward to this next version for sure. Sillbeer v1.5?!