Happy Death: Team Yukai Sendo

Team SSHHH, Team Cream, Team Sparkle, Team PRIVATE, Drift Army, Riverside, are all household names in the New Zealand automotive scene. Predominantly filled with Japanese cars, these teams, clubs, crews or however you want to label them, have been producing exceptionally high levels of entertainment to New Zealand onlookers for years, be it door banging drifting antics to creating some of the craziest custom builds this side of the globe.


In 2009, a mechanic named Matt Tasker, with a dream of becoming a race car driver, had been helping out friends with their cars at circuit, rally, and drifting events for many years. He wanted to pursue his own dream for once. Matt gathered a couple of friends round for a quiet drink to discuss future plans. They wanted an idea, a brand, a name that had meaning to somewhat officialise themselves under, like the household names above, where they and their mates could talk smack, hang out, build race cars, and drive what they built.


With an interest in all things Japanese and a small Japanese background, the name would revolve around that. This is when Team Yukai Sendo was brought into existence. The name translates from Japanese into English as Team Happy Death (Sendo is loosely translated as death, fight to the death, or last man standing depending on the used Kanji).


Team Yukai Sendo currently have a few members, some of which have project cars that are many years in the making, hiding away in their sheds. The two members we have here today are the co-founder, Matt, and member, Steve Norris. Matt originally had an Evo 5, but upon travelling to Japan, he sold up. When his time in Japan teaching English had come to an end, he and his wife were looking around for something interesting in New Zealand to drive when he returned. The S13 you see here is the result of that. Situated in Cambridge, already manual, and only $3,000; as Matt said, what a bargain!


Steve has only recently purchased his 180SX last year in October, so while his ownership hasn’t been nearly as long as Matt’s, he still has had his fair share of interesting cars. Previously he’d been driving a green R32 4-door skyline around the track. This wasn’t road registered so the track was the only place it could legally be driven. With a change of direction, Steve decided to sell the R32 and buy something he could eventually do both in; drive on the streets and take to the track. In Manukau, found in a little car yard, Steve picked it up and rescued it from its cookie cutter spec drift style fate.


I’ve known Matt for a few years now, where our, dear I say it friendship, began most likely at a Meremere or Track 3 Taupo day. After a sent friend request was accepted, I began to take an interest in what he was doing with his S13. Back in 2014, I remember seeing him and his car at a Fenix Radiators open day in Auckland. He was handing out pamphlets for his workshop. At that point, I didn’t know he ran a workshop. Turns out it had only just opened. I didn’t have a reliable mechanic at that point in time, so I decided to use one of the free inspection pamphlets that he was handing out a few weeks later on my S14 that I had at the time.


It’s not super close to my area, but a 30-minute drive for a good, reliable mechanic who wouldn’t rip you off is worth it in my books. YSM Workshop has been around for a couple of years now, and although Matt is mainly doing services, repairs, and warrants of fitness, he hopes that he can turn it into more of a modification workshop in the not too distant future. The name YSM comes from the team that was made back in 2009, Yukai Sendo Motorsport, which soon after changed to Team Yukai Sendo which remains true today.


The other member present today, Steve, I’ve known of for a while through other friends and the interwebs. However, I’ve only just met him recently in the real world. He works at an international freight forwarding company as an operations manager. The 180SX is a work in progress and looked very cookie cutter spec when purchased from the Manukau car yard. The idea of this car for Steve is to drift it when he can and enjoy it as much as possible. It’s not really about perfection at Team Yukai Sendo, it’s more about driving the car and putting it to use as much as possible.


Both cars have been tastefully modified mostly at YSM Workshop by Matt and Steve. While Matt’s is modified with drifting in mind, however, he’s kept it rather mild and tame so he can have fun drifting with the lads, while not destroying engine after engine. Steve has gone the route of fewer modifications, but with an interest in keeping it easy to drive on the road, while being able to perform on the track.


Sitting inside Steve’s engine bay is a Red Top SR20DET, with the basics upgraded. It has a Z32 air flow metre, 700cc injectors, a T28 turbo, Tial wastegate and A Fenix radiator and intercooler combination. All of this works together with an Alien Probe road tune, pushing 200kw of SR fury. That’s 270hp for anyone in America, making about 70 or so more hp from the factory; a not so crazy, but still enough to have fun in, set-up. According to Steve, the wiring in the engine is a bit of a wild case and may need to be rewired some day in the future.


Matt’s S13 engine started life off as a non-turbo CA. Of course, that wasn’t much power to play with, so he decided to rebuild another CA engine, a turbo one this time. Still running standard internals, the car makes the additional ponies from the bolt on accessories. Along with the new engine, the car boasts 450cc VR4 injectors, RB air flow metre, Tial wastegate with 1/bar spring, CA16DE intake cam, and another Fenix radiator, intercooler, and electric fan combination. It also has a GReddy Type RZ BOV, Apexi pod filter, a GTiR T28 turbo and a remapped standard ECU by Andy at X-Tune. Matt has aimed for a responsive set-up that will be reliable and won’t break. It’s currently pushing 190kw at the wheels – 90kw more than the engine makes from the factory.


On the inside, Matt’s installed a must have Nardi deep dish steering wheel, along with a Bride Low Max driver’s seat and an R32 GTR passenger’s seat. The car still has most of its interior apart from the rear seats. So it still looks seemingly like a street car, but is most definitely more than that. Keeping with the team’s theme of having fun with mates, Matt’s chucked a ‘keep drifting fun’ sticker right over the speedo cluster. That’s what this team’s spirit is about, keeping it fun.


The interior of Steve’s 180SX is rather stock and intact with 180SX Type X seats, an HKS gear knob and an HKS boost gauge. The other thing that all modified cars seem to have, is an aftermarket steering wheel. Here we can see Steve’s gone with a Grip Royal steering wheel.


Having drifting in mind for both of these cars, each of them run welded in half cages. In New Zealand, these are legal for road registered cars. And with the aim being to keep them on the road, it was obviously the way to go for Matt and Steve. The last thing you want on the track is body roll, and although these are nowhere near as sturdy as a fully blown roll cage, they are still better than nothing. Half cages also protect passengers and drivers during unforeseen accidents on the track. So while Team Yukai Sendo is all about fun, being safe is also important!


Both cars are running some good fitment. Matt’s green S13 sits on some nice looking Work Emotion XD9s. They look aggressive in 9.5 inches, and are wrapped in some Nitto NT555 tyres. Steve’s gone down the path of sticking to factory wheels, picking some R33 GTR wheels up from the 180SX’s brother. They are a little less wide at 9 inches but are still just as big at 17 inches around. Keeping in mind how Steve wants to utilise this car, a set of Nankang NS2R tyres have been wrapped around the period correct factory wheels.


Two top blokes and two top cars right here. I’d been wanting to shoot these cars for a while, so when one weekend came free, we took the opportunity. These cars you see here put smiles on people’s faces. They are about being enjoyed and doing it in a friendly environment. I know these cars aren’t showroom condition, but that’s not the point. It’s about using what you have; you’ll never be happy with what you’ve got if you always want more. While these cars aren’t finished, there are still more things to do, I can tell you that I didn’t see a face with a frown that day.

If you’ve read any of my other articles, you may have learnt that I’m rather fond of teams. They promote teamwork, honesty, loyalty, commitment, a family environment, and lots of fun. Modifying automobiles by your self is okay, but it’s not really that entertaining. However, when you’ve got a mate or two over and a beer in your hand, that’s when the fun happens. You can also show your mates what you’ve been doing. When you’ve got no one to show things to and enjoy it with, you may think, what’s the point? That’s why I love teams – if you can’t find a team to join, make your own. Create your own culture with your mates, what have you got to lose?

Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable | Proofer: Chadd Davis

© Ambition Works 2015

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