The pursuit of speed : 1999 AE111 Sprinter GT
NFS= Need for Speed? Think again.
This simpleton attired witty fellow is a lunatic in disguise of an esteemed university faculty member. The humble profession will not spare him the bashings he will be receiving today, mostly because he is a good friend. Smirking, and always ready with a riposte, Nafees Imtiaj Ahmed is a fanatical car enthusiast. Moreover, his obsession for speed coupled with the uncanny resemblance between Need For Speed and his first name earned him the NFS initials during school years; which the cheeky bugger actually flaunts as his official signature.
I could go on about his precision driving skills and how he raves havoc for rikshawalas, puttering CNGwalas and drivers who think they are smarter than him on the roads. But he is also endowed with a monstrous appetite for food unmatched by many. In addition, Nafees never uses an alarm to wake up. Especially when he wants to wake up in the wee hours of the day for some morning runs. No, not to burn off the food he gobbled the previous night.
A shrill sound of high revving motor rings up the Dhaka streets as Nafees blazes through, shifting at peak redlines at every gear until there is no more. His 1999 AE111 Sprinter GT is tuned to perfection, but he reckons 'perfection' is subjective and there is always room for improvement. His devotion to the last generation 4A-GE 20V motor that came with his AE111 is unparallel.
Is it a stock Sprinter GT? XD
Well, the interior is in perfect factory form, albeit the TRD GT86 gear knob and a cluster of A-pillar mounted gauges to display the essentials. The car still retains the factory midnight blue coat after all these years. The exhaust system is almost stock, only de-cat with an end-box. The drive train is still a 4A-GE 20V with a C160 transaxle, exactly what the firewall label indicates. Given the rise in popularity of recent swaps to more powerful plants (3S-GTE or 2ZZ-GE), Nafees is pretty complacent with his 20V.
There is a very good reason for his smugness. His is feared to be the Godzilla of 4A-GE powered cars amongst the tuning crowd in Dhaka. He has also had dramatic, yet favorable experiences running with cars with higher figures on paper such as Honda Type Rs and Mitsu Evos. When asked, Nafees mocks it is the pursuit of perfection that makes man and his machine to excel together.
Is lighter faster?
The obsession to be lightweight earned Nafees a reputation that he drives his Sprinter GT without undergarments. All just to save a few extra ounces. Fables will linger on. In reality though, Nafees got rid of the full mechanical luxury package- air conditioning and power steering. That is two less motors to turn for the crank. Additionally, light weight aluminum pulleys on the right side are matched to a lightweight flywheel on the right to create harmonious rotational mass freedom. Relatively unnecessary dead weight items such as interior carpets, trunk padding and spare wheel are all dumped into his other Sprinter, a family run 1.8L 7A-FE CNG powered AE100 to give it a boost in GT-esteem. After all, it boasts a 4A-GE 20V auto-box and a Celica 3S-G endbox.
The easier you breathe the easier your fart.
Erm. Don't know about that, but in motor anatomy, cold air coupled with free flowing exhaust system, proper fuel supply and an increased ignition to spur up the motor will attain you a responsive car. Nafees resorted to this for some additional grunt from the highly tuned factory N/A 4A-G. He made an induction box out of the OEM filter box attached to a Simota cone filter and runs NGK iridium plugs paired with NGK Power Cables to sync the ignition without a drop keeping the fuel system untouched. But he tweaked around the cooling system for optimum performance besides installing a 12 channel triple core oil cooler to keep the engine oil at a healthy check. The latter was much required especially after some work was done to tenaciously further increase the engine compression, out of which, one happens to be an easy TRD 0.8mm head gasket unit replacement. The 'rest' of the motor work remains in Nafees's sneer, although, contrary to the tuning world rumors, he does admit it to be no longer in factory standard form. Hmm. More suspense. To cool off some mystery, Nafees derides "Not too much of anything! See, I'm still running my stock 4A-GE engine management system. So I certainly don't have 'enough' crazy stuff that the factory ECU doesn't support."
"You can do whatever you want to do with the car at mental speeds."
This particular AE111 Sprinter GT is a purpose built machine- it rides well, it handles better. Nafees's eccentricity in terms of handling is evident when you peek under the car: the full underbody is flat and shiny like a track car. He is perhaps the pioneer in Bangladesh in getting this tested and implemented. Using thin yet brawny SS sheets, he created underbody airflow trickery to aid the car's increased down force at high speeds. The flat underbody is seamlessly integrated to the front and rear TRD diffusers and OEM side skirts of the car. Cornering, swerving and braking have never been so effortless. Vortex generators are relatively mythological, but a carbon fiber unit has found a fitting rationale in Nafees's car, making it all the more aerodynamic.
A set of Apex lowering springs with KYB shock absorbers and regularly replaced sway bars/ arms bushings guarantee a stable ride. Even the tire setup of his car talks function- 205s in the front with 195 sticky Yokohama S-Drives in the rear. Why? Because racecar. And racecars require paramount grip to work all the horses from the motor. Everything about the brakes is factory spec- as a result the pads wear off fast. But it's a relief to know Nafees buys these more often than he does diaper shopping for his toddler. When asked why he does not consider a rotor upgrade, he jokes he has already achieved the performance of one by merely shaving off 30+KGs from the nose (aircon and power steering assembly).
We motor heads like it when cars go fast. We like the thrill and feel of acceleration. Unfortunately, this Sprinter GT does not have all that- no rattling of dashboard, no mechanical shudders and very minimum interior noise albeit the deadening high pitch high RPM exhaust note. It lacks the feel of rush or speed a modified/ project car has; probably because of the original GT platform and the level of precise tuning Nafees has shouldered over the years. To grasp the concept of speed and acceleration, you have to rely on the tacho. You notice both the RPM and speed dials climb up simultaneously at lightning speed as Nafees floors the throttle, quick shifting to the next gear at precise 8,300 RPMs. Besides his fidgety driving nature that will intimidate any new passenger, there is no drama from his dear GT vehicle- the car shoots to top speed as effortlessly as it does from naught to 100KPH, spitting fire at every fuel cutting up shifts. Even when the road nears an end and you are terrified at the ungodly possibility of high speed brake failure, a composed Nafees holds the throttle on to the last second, until he jams the brake, ABS screeching, clutch kicking and rev matching to an eargasm of naturally aspirated aural symphony.
Future plans with the lone blue crusader?
"None, apparently. Thrash it, maintain it and tune it; with passion". After all, it is the only one of its kind around. Nafees is ecstatic his toddler daughter loves it when his Sprinter GT revs and speeds away.
Story: Mahbub Hussain
Photos: Tasdid H Chowdhury