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MOTORING: SUBLIME – 2001 Nissan 200SX S15

Story Elias Velis. Photography Michael Marsellos

Mark Tarabay's truly "sublime" Nissan 200SX just may be one of the most significant cars in tuner scene… ever!
The haters may be green with envy but the true believers recognise it as a modern classic.

The Tarabay brothers know how to build award-winning show cars. Roni was responsible for the LUSHES Series VI RX-7 that was crowned God of Auto Salon in 2006. And in 2010, his twin brother Mark replicated the feat by creating one of the most significant cars in the modern tuner scene: the truly SUBLIME 200SX.

Even though Roni's been there every step of the way, Mark explains that it was yet another Tarabay who fuelled the fire to sculpt automotive art: "My love of cars probably started when my eldest brother Michael was modifying back in the early '90s. I was just helping him work on cars at night and that's how it caught on."

When asked about the respective build processes of SUBLIME and LUSHES, Mark was emphatic: "Two different cars, two different levels. LUSHES took a year to build and we thought that was a massive issue. We always believed that my car would take a year to build as well. A lot of people told me 'you're dreaming if you think your car's going to be ready in a year.'"

Building LUSHES and exhibiting it at car shows was an invaluable lesson for the siblings, learning exactly to what level they had to take their creations to actually compete with the big boys of the Street Machine and Hot Rod scenes.

It was driving back home from Melbourne that the Tarabay twins came up with the concept of an inspired 200SX, complete with a 20B rotary engine. "From then on we thought, 'alright, we're going to mini-tub it, put a ¾ chassis, suicide doors…", Mark explained, "We made sure this hadn't been done before."

At most automotive events where SUBLIME is displayed, people look at the car's exterior — the paint is Roni's handiwork — and are suitably impressed. However, it's when they are confronted with what's under the bonnet that jaws hit the floor. The last thing they expect to seen in there is a rotary engine, and when folks ask why, Mark simply answers 'why not?' "Why would I want to put a 2J or RB or do things to the SR20?" he asked, "You have to take things to another level. You can't do things that have been done a hundred times before."

Quizzed about where he drew his main inspiration from, without hesitation Mark references Darryl McBeth's OVAKIL Magna: "Darryl created something that was just mind-blowing. He did something that no one would even think of doing and that's what you have to do these days when you're building a car," said Mark, "I spoke to Darryl a lot during the build of my car and he helped me out in a lot of ways."

The SUBLIME build spanned approximately three years, which was separate to the 12 months the Tarabay twins spent in planning the concept and execution. For instance, they devised to cut the whole floor out, drop in the motor, gearbox, diff, plus the entire suspension set-up, and then fabricate everything around that. By doing so, Mark and Roni sidestepped many potential issues along the way.

One of the more challenging tasks during the creation of SUBLIME was finding skilled tradespeople who weren't daunted by the magnitude of the process.

"When we explained what we were building, a lot of people weren't confident in working on the car and building it to the level we wanted. Most people out there who've ever built a car to a very high level get let down a lot," Mark said, "But the people that ended up doing it did an excellent job on the car and were a great help."

Mark emphasised that when building a car, though it's crucial to stick to your original plans, "You can only plan so much and you have to allow for things to go wrong. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. There's no point having a dummy spit over a car."

And how did he deal with the pressure when it all got a bit too much? "I learned how to play golf! When it got tough I just went out and had a hit. Of course, family and friends were a massive help."

When SUBLIME debuted at MotorEx 2010, it's fair to assume that most show-goers didn't know what to expect, not realising the extent to which the car was modified. Mark agrees that on the surface it looks like a 200SX with a slick candy paint job, leather re-trim and big wheels. The rims are Budnik and were imported from the United States. Each 22x12.5-inch billet rear wheel is in fact two wheels joined to make an extra-wide one.

It's when you begin to take a closer look — a glance under the bonnet, a peek at the interior, a glimpse under the car — that you realise there's more than meets the eye.

Being judged one of the top four Hi-Tech Tuners in the last 10 years at MotorEx 2010 was a highlight in SUBLIME's short but illustrious career so far. "I reckon MotorEx is an awesome show, opening up a new category called Street Elite, so the quality of the street cars was amazing. Plus, bringing back all the past champs to compete, which you probably won't see ever again," said Mark, "The crowds were massive and I think MotorEx is only going to get bigger and better every year."

Being awarded a spot in Top 20 at Summernats 2011 was proof that Mark's Nissan was truly accepted in the greater custom car community, too: "The crowd response at Summernats was amazing. And for a Jap car to not get bagged out is quite unique down there. I got a lot of respect."

Mark is particularly proud of scooping the Top Engineered award:"The engineering — ¾ chassis, 20B rotary, the whole rear-end — is where we put a lot of work into the car, so to get rewarded for that it always good."

In addition, Mark says winning the dyno trophy at Auto Salon was particularly satisfying. "There were rumours that the car didn't start, that it was a dummy motor. So, just to put it on the dyno and pump out 700hp, on a run-in tune with very low boost, is so rewarding. That just shut the rumours up straight away," he said, "I hate online forums. I can't stand them - too many people talking shit. I reckon forums actually kill the scene."

"The more shows I went to, the more respect I got, which made people realise it was actually something unique and very high quality," Mark said, "It's what the scene needs - something different. We're happy with what we've built."

"Each scene is different: different crowds, different people. I think more people need to talk, instead of just bitching about the scene, bitching about other people; we all have a common interest. I think the guys who have been on the scene longest should talk more to the guys that are new, to say 'if you ever want to take the next step this is what you need to do'. It's about nurturing the new guys coming through. They're the future, so it's about helping them out. As long as the younger blokes around there are being taught, are getting helped by the older guys, it's just going to make it bigger."



Mark Tarabay


20B rotary engine (Mazda Cosmo); D-series block; Garret GT47 turbo; Turbosmart blow-off valve, wastegate and fuel regulator; custom dual 4-inch exhaust system


Supra R154 five-speed gearbox; custom 9-inch diff with four-link rear; custom tailshaft


Tein coil-overs (front); Strange coil-overs with 175-pound springs (rear); Detroit locker diff; 32-spline billet axles


V8 Supercar Alcon brakes (six-piston fronts, four-piston rears)


Budnik wheels (20x8.5-inch front, 22x12.5-inch rear)

Paint & Body

Custom House of Kolor Limetime candy paint; custom rear bar and side skirts; shaved, smoothed and seam-welded body; suicide doors and boot; rear guards pumped and lipped; ¾ chassis; flat undercarriage, re-fabricated engine bay


Full custom leather interior; custom Pioneer sound system; Evo 9 front seats; Dakota digital gauges


All my sponsors (House of Kolor, Meguiar's, Turbosmart, GCG Turbos, Pioneer, Pate and Vernooy); JP Engines and Fabrication; Jon Blanch at Microtech Australia for doing an awesome job building and tuning the motor; my brother Roni for the paintjob and bodywork; a good mate of ours Bob for all the electrical work; my wife for being patient; a lot of friends and family for being patient and doing the little things; Matt for the interior; Customworks for the suicide doors and boot, Ultimate Shine, Ultimate windscreens, my brother Michael Tarabay and Beau Yates

VIDEO: SUBLIME – 2001 Nissan 200SX S15


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