Ruben’s Story – this is what it is all about

27th March 2018 — by Dave Cox


This is what it is all about

I’ve been with Fueltopia for around 5 years now and I can safely say that this is feature is the sole reason I do this. It has all the markings of a good story, travel, cool cars, great locations and meeting inspiring people. It sure will be a hard one to top. Sometimes the owner’s story steals the spotlight from the car. That is definitely the case with Reuben Dover. My favourite person from Gatebil.

Now I am going to preface this blog with an apology, I am going to jump around a lot. I will inevitably miss some information but there is a lot to cover here.

A bit of back story first, this July will be my fourth year attending Gatebil at Rudskogen and my 3rd year shooting with Gatebil Magazine a long side bringing content to Fueltopia. The event is riddled with cool builds and perfect light all within walking distance of the picturesque race circuit. Finding Reuben’s Laurel was like stepping on an inspiration land mine. Why? Was it the location? The light? The car? Nah – well I mean, yeah they were all great but it was the man himself that blew me away.

A guy from Waterford City in Ireland had spent what can only be described as the bare minimum amount of time getting his car ready for this event with the help of his family and friends. All in the pursuit of realising a dream.

In 2013 whilst standing on the pit wall of Rudskogen, inspiration slapped him hard around the face. Or more accurately the turbulent air from Frederic Aasbø’s car initiating. The seed was planted, the bug had bitten, it was time to do more than spectate.

Fast forward to July 2016, Reuben is in Japan, soaking in the JDM goodness, brimming his inspiration cup when he comes across a Nissan C33 Laurel. What was an original RB25DE non-turbo with an automatic had been converted locally to a RB25DET with a manual gear box. Being such a good price, he bought it with the intention of selling it when he got back Ireland.

Well that didn’t happen.

this was everything

The car is now registered and is Reuben’s daily (lucky git) which he drives to and from his job as a bus mechanic. It’s April 2017 now and whilst drinking beers with his mate Teejay, they decide to build their cars to take to Gatebil. A daunting prospect, with cars regularly topping out well 1,000bhp, the 250bhp Laurel would have some stiff competition. Did it stop him? Did it f*ck!

Nothing motivates you more than a deadline, once the 5,000km road trip had been planned out, they had 2 months before they had to be on the road to get to the event in time. I am sure Reuben won’t mind me saying this but he isn’t a man of wealth, he had to put everything he had into this build. Finishing work and being in the garage from 1700 to 0500 before going back to work at 0800, he did this every day to make his dream become a reality. He poured every cent he had, every spare Euro was spent making this happen. If something broke, he would fix it, there was no budget for spares or repairs. THIS WAS EVERYTHING.

The looming deadline helped focus him, the closer it got to July, the harder he worked. Even when he ran out of money, his friends helped it happen. Savings had to be made, the side skirts are made from guttering, cut to fit. The Advan livery had been designed by Neil (JuiceBox) and Reuben themselves!  They even laid it onto the car whilst the last of the mechanical gremlins were dealt with. I should mention that they had not designed one before nor had they ever put one onto a car. 3 hours before they had to have the car loaded up, they had finished. Celebratory doughnuts completed it was time to stand back and take a breath.

I wasn’t there for this but I like to think they all stood back, covered in grease and grime and just stood their in silence. Maybe looking to each other with tyre sized bags under their eyes and smiled. I can only imagine the relief and excitement of actually finishing and getting to pursue your dream.

gatebil is my test day

Hundreds of kilometers driven, running on nothing but adrenaline they arrived into Rudskogen, they’d made it. With no drifting scheduled for Reuben over the next two days, it was time to relax with a hard earned beer.

Friday morning came around, nerves building alongside excitement, Reuben is sat in the pit queue waiting for his time. One final thought crosses his mind. “I haven’t tested the car, I haven’t done a drift day in 3 years!” “GATEBIL IS MY TEST DAY”. No pressure then Reuben.

“The last time I drive the car in the street… I had 250hp…. Now the car was almost 500hp. I was excited and nervous. But after only 2 laps I settled in. Drifting in 5 and 6 car trains all day. Melting tyres off. The car felt amazing to drive. It did not let me down. IT WAS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. I was so happy.. I was proud. Together with all my Irish and Scandinavian friends we had a great time that night.”

it was all worth it

Reuben must of been still pumped up with adrenaline when I met him. I have never seen someone so ecstatic about having their car featured before. By this point I didn’t know any of the story I had just told you. I didn’t know him or anything about him. To me, it was just another cool car to feature for the magazine. This extract from the Norwegian article makes me smile.

“After a hard day drifting I met Dave in pitlane under the Wurth sign. Black and red & Black and red. Standing there remembering the time in 2013 when Gatebil blew my mind…. Now I was standing here in 2017 after an amazing day drifting. In a car I love so much…. In my favourite place in the world. AMAZING. Wow wow. All the nights with no sleep. No money in my pocket. The stress. Everything. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT. I DID IT.”

You see, when I feature cars I tend to be so involved in what is going on with the car, where shall I place it, should I light it? What location should I use? What lens? All these things are constantly running around my head that I don’t often get a chance to sit down and listen to the owner’s story. That is normally done through emails or messenger after the shoot. Sad really, maybe I am just bad at my job.

For me seeing Reuben’s enthusiasm, his passion and listening to how much all this meant to him made this shoot all the more special for me. I feel proud, honoured and happy to have done this for him. To help put that little cherry on top of his dream. I didn’t do much, all I did was take some photos but for him I helped cement memories that he built with his friends. To me that is truly something to be proud of.


The rest of the weekend was spent doing Gatebil things, drifting door to door with Aasbø, entering the world powerslide competition whilst his friends drank beer in the afternoon sun. I am envious of Reuben’s achievements but also inspired to just put the work in and get it done. Well done man!


Car – 1992 Nissan laurel
Engine – Rb25det unopened engine. Standard internals and head gasket
Walbro 255l fuel pump
Sard 550cc injectors
TRUST AIRNIX air filter
HKS front mount intercooler
Apexi power fc engine ECU
Garrett GT3071r turbo.
Garrett 0.82 turbine housing modified for wastegate
TIAL MVR 46MM wastegate
Full custom exhaust wit 2 silencers (to get the car down
to gatebil noise regulations.) This exhaust was built just
for gatebil noise regs
NISMO Engine and gearbox mounts
Custom intercooler piping kit
Greddy alluminium radiator
DRIFTWORKs geomaster inner tie rods.
URAS non-offset rack spacers.
Solid steering bush
Driftworks rear camber arms
SiOlid.rear subframe bushes
PROJECT MU r32gtr front discs
Project mu ns400 rear pads
Project mu d1 spec rear inner shoes ( I don’t run
hydraulic handbrake)
HEL front and rear braided brake lines
Rear seats removed.
Cusco roll cage
Greddy oil temp. Water.temp. boost and oil pressure
Trust gearknob
Kenwood cd and mini disc player
Kenwood door speakers
Self designed advan livery.
Sideskirts are 2 pieces of drain gutter
Rolled arches all round.
Okuto FRP front lip
SSR mesh 16x8j +12 fronts
Ssr mesh 16x8j +0 rear
Tyres – Advan ad08r 205 50 16

Words & Pictures – Dave Cox (ShootingDave)


Veterans of the Car World

10th October 2017 — by Phil McCusker


“You’re in the desert… why would the car need wind-shield wipers?

Imagine spending the week, looking at impressive builds in the worlds biggest car show, SEMA. Sounds like a dream…. Right?

No. Las Vegas has been the hub of one of the largest Automotive events for several years, the show itself has been going for a lot longer than I have been around, but there are some guys that have been tinkering with cars, for as long as the SEMA show has been around, and probably before.

We were looking for something else, less crazy than the builds we spotted at SEMA…

Cue a 3 Hour drive via the Mojave Desert, to Lake Havasu City, AZ

Next to a Man Made lake in Arizona, stands 43 Square Miles of desert town, steeped in Military history after being founded as an Army Air Corps camp back in the 1950’s so it makes sense that we stumbled upon a Veterans Car meet.

I have always been a fan of the car culture in America, the builds are often insane and I have always had a soft spot for american muscle.

This green ’63 Thunderbird was no exception, the fine attention to every detail was obvious that this car had been built with a lot of love over the last few years, for a car that was over 50 Years Old, it was in better condition than most show cars that I have seen in the UK.

Small Details, when in the Desert, you don’t need everything. The minimal yearly rainfall, means that you can get away with not having wipers, not that I can imagine the torque heavy V8 that breathes life into the Green machine would be fun to drive in the Rain!

This Richard Petty inspired Plymouth Belvedere was a throwback to the ’66 & ’67 NASCAR Grand National Season, was it a genuine Petty Car? I Sadly don’t have the answer for that, perhaps it is, going by the Trophies that were found near the car.

“Fast Toys, aren’t just for the Boys”

I found an amazing atmosphere in Lake Havasu, everybody had the time for everyone else, there was no, I’m better than you Chevy Guys, you Ford Guys, nothing, the feeling of a passion bringing people together in one place was overwhelming, for some of them, this wasn’t the first time they had met, with many having served tours around the world, from Vietnam all the way to some of the most recent campaigns.

As I walked around, having video called some people back home in the UK, scanning the array of metal that surrounded me, I found myself looking for smaller details, oddities and just general cool things

I then spotted something that looked a bit out of place.

When I first cast my eye over towards this Chevy Nova, I noticed a POW MIA Ribbon on the back, nothing unusual to find in the United States, they are very proud as a Nation when it comes to their Military, but as I looked closer I found that there was not one, but two Hummingbirds, one hidden below the Ribbon, signifying the sacrifice that someone has made, for their Country, that they were so proud of, that they felt the need to defend it at the ultimate cost.

This was an unusual sight, but a prime example of the dedication to the cars here, this was a C6 Generation Corvette, but the rear end took a moment, it has a ’63 Stingray rear end, which you would almost take for granted the amount of work that would go into this, the paint, the general thought process to come up with the idea in the first place is just beyond what I could dream up.

I will return one day to Lake Havasu City, hopefully with some cold hard cash and head for the Docks in a piece of American Car history.

Words & Pictures – Phil McCusker


A Modern Classic

1st May 2017 — by Dave Cox


Big power, aggressive aero and lots of noise are just three out of a long list of attributes that excite us about cars. However, would you want to live with that all the time?

I won’t lie, they excite me too but there are times, sat on the motorway that I am happy my Saab is as quiet and refined as it is. It doesn’t have the power or the drama of modified cars but it is a welcome sight after a long day photographing. That being said, we are not here to talk about my car, we are looking a Russ’ BMW e46 M3 – a car which bridges the gap between being pulse quickening and refined. With the help from Jason at Gtech Tuning and Tokyo Concepts we can explore their take on a modern classic.

Russ has had his fair share of weekend warriors and toys which have all been fun, if a little hard to live with day to day. But if what if you want to retain that element of fun but also use the car regularly? Something with stiffer suspension and a satisfying power delivery, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more suitable than a BMW.

Most will be forgive for thinking that this is just another e46 CSL on BBS LM’s as you approach but this car has far more to offer and it is all in the small details. A culmination of which lift this M3 from standard to unique.

Take the paint for instance, Imola Red, a good choice for an M3 right? Wrong. Look closer and you will see that there is actually gold flake in the paint which reveals itself under sunlight. Russ was keen on keeping the original paint until Jason turned up with a sample panel and  convinced him otherwise. I can understand this too, if you had told me gold flake on red paint I wouldn’t have gone for it either however when you see it, it just adds the little extra depth to the finish.


Purpose Built Barrel Hunter

28th February 2017 — by Dave Cox


At the time of writing, we are just days away from the beginning of the 2017 Fueltopia Barrel Sprint season. Test & Registration day has been and gone and we take this brief gap to bring you a close look at Mike Newland’s new purpose built barrel sprint s13.

This is not Mike’s first rodeo either previously he had a purpose built S14. A car that Mike has competed in for the last 4 years and spent tireless hours and effort developing. Sadly the S14 met it’s demise at Coventry MotorFest when it made a firm introduction with a concrete pillar underneath the ring roads. When life deals you such a poor hand it can be hard to get back on your feet.

Motorsport is high risk, leaving many grass roots racers with two options, All or Nothing. The impact the S14 had sustained was too much, the chassis was completely folded underneath the car meaning that it would sadly be beyond repair. For someone who had invested all they had into a sport they love the result was pretty crushing. Thankfully that was the extent of the damage, pretty much everything could be salvaged.

An S13 was sourced and Mark Young at Japs Motorsport set to work sand blasting the fresh shell before seam welding and inserting a full cage in preparation for transplanted parts. The decision to go for an S13 instead of an S14 was to step away from the norm on the field. Rear wheel drive class in Barrel Sprint is pretty much dominated by MX5’s and S14’s so Mike felt the need to provide a different body to keep things interesting.

Mark took a staggering 7 days to complete the transformation from a bare shell. I will let that sink in for a little bit. In an era where builds are getting turned around for shows in ever decreasing times, this is incredible. Not to mention that this isn’t a show car, this is a purpose built race car and it is fully functional! I have struggled to make decisions in 7 days, let alone build and complete a car.

The exterior also got a refresh thanks to Sussex Wrap Studio which closely mimics the colours scheme of the S14 as well keeping in line with the team colours.

After all the work was completed, the car was unveiled at the Wembley Qualifier for GRiD last year. Where unfortunately due to a lack of testing due to time constraints the car was fighting with him and not behaving herself. Due to this Mike came in 3rd place missing his spot at GRiD. Disappointing for Mike but still very impressive for anyone else.

The eagle eyed amongst you would have noticed that the lines of this S13 are slightly off, that is because the rear glass hatch has been removed and replaced with fibreglass flat bed. This was done to primarily reduce weight and lower the centre of gravity keeping the car light and nimble or “Smimble” as Mike affectionately calls it (Small and Nimble).

The obsessive weight loss spreads further than just the rear hatch, the bonnet is single skin fibre glass too,

The interior of the car is a spartan yet functional place to sit. A flocked dash obscured only by an OMP steering wheel houses minimal switch gear whilst a hydro setup help get the car round the barrels. Whilst a Corbeau seat helps keep the driver in place.  An Android dash allows Mike to customise what he monitors, keeping only the essential information on display.

As mentioned before, many of the components were transplanted over to the new chassis. Gold wrapping around the intake pipes help keep engine temperatures down. Mike is however developing a new expansion system to help lower intake temperatures and keep them constant which will mean he can go more aggressive on the map. Given that the car is already making 385bhp on a Nispro tune, it will be pretty lively.

Frustrated with his performance at the Qualifier, Mike sent the car to Walton Smith at Nispro to get the car’s alignment dialled in. This proved a wise choice as during the next FBS round, he beat his personal best time and then went on to finish 2nd in the championship.

I keep teasing Mike about the reverse rake of the car saying “just lower the front by a foot and you’ll be fine!” But I am told this is to help with balance and turn in. Seeing as I am at very best a spirited driver, I shall shut up and stop poking fun. (Will I f*ck)

The car is littered with small considered details, I’m particularly fond of the KODE rivets that secure the over fenders and duck tail spoiler . There are other touches too, like the JDM painted spokes. All of this is colour coordinated to tie in the with wrap this car has.

“The test day was an eye opener, After changing the suspension and the cars setup in the off season, it felt totally different. But not in a good way, I couldn’t get to grips with the changes and was struggling to go at my normal pace. After lots of messing around and tweaking I got it set perfect and produced some very nice runs. New front tyres needed due to the increased rear grip since last year due to Nispro’s awesome new setup.”

It is clear that Mike has spent the last 4 years honing his skills and working out what kind of setup he wants from the car. Finishing 3rd in 2015, 2nd in 2016 it only makes sense that he is setting his sights on 1st for this season.

After watching him most of the day and getting really up close and personal, I have little reason to doubt that he will be in strong contention for the win. I wish him the best luck for the season ahead. If you fancy going down and seeing him in action for yourself then you can get tickets from here: Fueltopia Barrel Sprint

Words & Pictures; Dave Cox (SHOOTINGDAVE)


JAPS Motorsport
EBC Brakes
Adolescent Dogs
Advanced Lubricant Solutions
Dodo Juice
Just Jap
Infamous Creations
Sussex Wrap Studio


Owen Developements Turbo
EBC brakes all round
Seam welded chassis & Roll cage
Custom Corbeau bucket seat 5 point harnesses
Driftworks CS2 Coilovers
Custom cooling and intake setup by JAPS Motorsport
1 piece prop shaft
Wisefab rear setup
Geomaster front setup


The Abarth 124 Rally

25th January 2017 — by Dave Cox


There is something about Rally Cars that seems get under people’s skin. Perhaps it is the heritage and romance or just the raw pace and sounds. There is no denying, they have a broad appeal.


As I alluded to in our coverage of Autosport International I came across a special little car that stopped me in my tracks. Now I know there will be some of you expecting me to go on and talk about an aired out, wide body Ferrari or a gold Bugatti but I’m not. What I am talking about is a 1,8 litre Italian sports car built in Japan. But this car is really, rather special.


You see, it has been some 40 years since the original Abarth 124 Spider last competed in the 1976 Monte Carlo Rally and now it is back, dedicated to those who share the same challenge and racing values. This version is based on the Abarth 124 road car, the more aggressive version of Fiat’s 124. The Rally version has replaced the standard 1.4 turbo engine and replaced it with a 1.8 direct injection turbo engine. This adds a nice boost in power from 178bhp to 296bhp at 6500rpm!


Now we’re talking! Couple that to a quick 6-speed sequential gearbox and this red and yellow bar of soap is going to get lively real quick! Weight is biased towards the rear and it has quick steering and a mechanical limited slip-differential. So when it gets sideways, and it will, you can keep it there. Other changes have been to the exterior too, gone is the soft top and in is the new composite hard top to help keep the centre of gravity low.


I also really appreciate the styling tribute to the original Abarth 124. The colour scheme look as good now as it did back the, the yellow over fenders, the rally lights it is all lovingly recreated in memory of the original. It is this subtle detailing that really shows how much love there is for this sport. I adore this car, I really wish I could have seen it at the Monte Carlo Rally that happened this January.


What was your car of the show?

Words and Pictures: Dave Cox (ShootingDave)