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Snake in the Grass

More like snake on its ass! Nathan Powney‘s given his snakeskin covered Saxo the kiss of life and it’s now more deadly than ever.

Saxo on hydraulics
Moments later, Nathan lost his left foot

When this car broke cover back in 2006, the mix of Jap-style front bumper, hydraulic suspension, 20in wheels, suicide doors and totally one-off Kawasaki Green and snakeskin exterior certainly got tongues wagging. Even other Saxo owners were getting their pants in a twist about it, arguing on forums about whether it was ‘original’ or not. One thing is for sure… it made a bigger impact than turning up to your school prom in a helicopter with a porn model on your arm.

Snakeskin Saxo VTR
Mr.Alloy had been properly tucked up

The original owner, Dboy, was part of the X2C crew who would trip all over the UK going to shows in their wild creations, two of which featured on Max Power covers (Mark Smith’s 206 with 350Z Veilside arches and Alex Wood’s bright green S2000). With Xquisite often called in to do their bodywork and D:Class on interior duty, the X2C lot had some seriously impressive rides. And they knew how to have a bit of fun.

Snakeskin Saxo VTR
We don't always shoot cars on grass... but when we do we make Dan lay in the mud to get them!

But around that time the scene was certainly changing, and this particular Saxo could well be one of the last outposts of that particular Max Power era, where ‘better’ meant ‘bigger, lower, most unique’ and the mods cost significantly more than the cars. Plenty of modifiers had grown up with this ethos and, while they’d had more than their fair share of fun, they may have been getting fed up with fibreglass cracking, wheels so big they couldn’t drive how they wanted and installs so heavy that performance was sapped. The clean VW look, drift cars, track cars and performance builds were becoming more prominent. And slowly, cars like this Saxo moved onto new owners and then quietly disappeared like Dan in a pub when it's his round.

Snakeskin Saxo VTR
If this Saxo was in Star Wars it would be called Han Soo Low

Nathan Powney had been on a similar journey with his own Nova that he's owned since he was a teenager. Big Jap-style bumpers had come and gone and now it’s very much in the ‘stance’ world with more standard bodystyling sat nicely on big rims and air suspension. But something within him must clearly love a bit of insanity as he couldn’t resist buying a certain sorry-for-itself snakeskin covered Saxo when it popped up.

Fortunately, Nathan’s a bit handy and not afraid to get stuck in. He also makes Columbo, Marple and Clouseau look like a bunch of amateurs when it comes to detective work. With an incomplete car and many of the unique parts missing, he somehow managed to track down former owners and find out about a storage container, abandoned for eight years, that may or may not have some of those parts in it. A deal was made with the storage operators for the contents and surely enough he hit the jackpot. Sort of.

Snakeskin Saxo VTR
Lower than a snake's belly etc etc

The original wheels were there… but painted black with flat tyres and missing centre-caps. The front and rear bumper were there… but they’d snapped in half as they’d been used as a storage shelf for a cupboard of all things! The interior doorcards and panels for the install were there… but that’s a jigsaw puzzle many of us would baulk at.

Nathan didn’t baulk, as you can see from these pictures. Whether it was scavenging bits of vinyl to fit over repairs, getting the nitrous bottle back in the dash, making sure those four inverted 12in subs were pumping or that the suicide doors latched properly and didn’t fly open on the move…again...he’s put the graft in over the last two years to restore a car he had as a poster on his bedroom wall. It's a seriously impressive rebuild!

“There’s still things to sort. Like the nitrous that purges out just at the back of the bonnet, but nobody wants to go near re-filling the nitrous bottle because it’s been painted!”

Ok, so there are still a few headaches to come, but the main thing for Nathan to do now is get the car out there and enjoy the reaction. And so far, fifteen years on from its debut, he’s been pleasantly surprised.

“I was expecting quite a lot of negative hate if I’m honest, but most of the people have been really nice… I’ve even had offers from people to buy it off me,” says the Herefordshire Maxer.

Having seen people admire the vehicle at Modified Nationals and The Reunion Show this year we totally believe him. And perhaps that speaks volumes about where the scene is now.

snakeskin saxo with suicide doors
The Saxoneus Maximus snake lures it's prey with an inviting display of its doors

It’s not a flawless car - a car wrapped in vinyl never is going to be compared to perfectly sprayed layers of paint. It’s not a really a performance car. But if you want that then just pay your £350 per month lease fee for a Golf R and away you go. What this Saxo is though, it’s a spot of colour and creativity in a sea of over-engineered greyness. It’s a car that can turn up to a show and make people stop and actually look at it, in detail – have you even noticed where the fuel filler cap is? It’s a car that has love, graft and energy poured into it. It has the ability to put a smile on the faces of others.

But the reaction it’s getting now perhaps tells its own story. The ever-evolving circle of modifying was turning when this first came out and a car covered in snakeskin vinyl was, to some, a step too far. And the evolution continued until, in more recent times, a ‘modified car’ was as little as a remap. But I'd take this Saxo over that any time now.

The re-emergence of show cars from over a decade ago is probably reawakening this insanity in many of us old Maxers – as well as many who weren’t here for it first time around. It’s prodding a finger in our sides trying to stir that rebellious streak, of having fun with your car, doing stuff just for the hell of it and pushing boundaries. Of not being one of the sheep in dull, economic cars armed with a dash cam to grass on anyone daring to enjoy driving. This Saxo may still be at the extreme end of the modifying scale, but whether you love it or hate it we should be grateful that Nathan's skill and hard work is reminding us of just how much fun it can be sticking two fingers up to conformity.

Check out the video below to see more of this car and hear about it in Nathan's own words.


NAME: Nathan Powney

AGE: 35

JOB: Technical Manager

Sounds like a fancy job?

Umm, does it?

So what technical things do you manage?

Fuel storage solutions

So, do you know, was there really a

fuel shortage in the UK recently?

No, just media hype because of a late


Never trust the media... oh!


ENGINE: 1600cc VTR 8 Valve • Green Cotton Induction Kit • Powerflow 3in stainless exhaust system with twin 4in tips

TRANSMISSION: Standard five-speed VTR with LUK clutch

SUSPENSION: Rayvern Hydraulics

BRAKES: Standard VTR

WHEELS + TYRES: 9x20in American 928 alloys refinished in hyper chrome powder coating • 205/35/20 Nankang AS-1 tyres • 15mm Direnza spacers front and rear • Extended Allen wheel bolts

EXTERIOR: Suicide Doors • D-Class Snakeskin exterior full retrim • Veilside front bumper and side skirts shortened to fit • Custom built rear bumper • Smoked rear lights • Neon ground kit • Modified and extended bonnet • Smooth boot • Fuel cap relocated behind driver’s seat • Door moulds smoothed in • Wide arch extensions • Single wiper conversion • Custom built mirrors

INTERIOR: Nos bottle in dash for purge kit • Dakota Dials dash in centre of dash • Custom dash rebuild to reposition components • Cobra bucket seats • Isotta steering wheel • Custom built boot install • Hydro rams mounted in boot • Smoothed door cards • Full Kawasaki and snakeskin interior retrim on everything

ICE: Kenwood DDX4019 double din DVD head unit DDX4019 • 20k Vibe Black Death sub amp • Vibe 4k Black Death speaker amp • 4x Ground Zero 12in GZHW 30SPL subwoofers • 4x 6.5in Ground Zero Door Speakers • 8x Ground Zero Tweeters • Independent batteries for audio and hydros

PERFORMANCE: Max Power -Estimated 10bhp • 0-60mph @ 9.1 Seconds • weight 1000kgs

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