DSR-002 – Fully restored original Proton Satria R3, plus the amazing story of the bespoke factory project

You may have already seen the work of Dream Street Restoration (DSR), a restoration firm founded by rally driver and former Proton R3 team member Suriya Sankaran and his son, Dharveen Suria. DSR specialises in rebirthing C99 chassis-based Proton models such as the Proton Wira 1.8 EXi, Satria GTi, Putra and Satria R3. Following on from the firm’s restoration of the Satria GTi, it is the R3 version we now look at.

The first complete restoration to have emerged from DSR is a 2000 Proton Satria GTi, coded DSR-001-C99 after the car’s thorough refresh, and now comes the second restoration coded DSR-002-C99 for a limited-edition model that seen a run of just 150 units ever – the Proton Satria R3.

As with the first DSR rebuild of the Satria GTi, our colleague Farid from the paultan.org BM team once again had the privilege of sampling a lovingly rebuilt Malaysian hot hatch – more on the drive in a moment – and also got to explore the finer details of what makes the Satria R3, an R3 product, thanks to Suriya’s close working relationship with other Proton R3 team members.

Dream Street Restoration has also completed a refresh of a 2000 Proton Satria GTi – full story here

The Satria R3 may have been seen as a Satria GTi that has been given additional performance upgrades and styling tweaks, though according to Suriya, the restoration process for the Satria R3 is far more challenging because under the skin is actually a bespoke model that sports plenty of mechanical components which aren’t interchangeable between the GTi and the R3.

Compared to the Satria GTi DSR-001 example that was received for restoration in a forlorn state, the basis for this R3 project starts from a sparingly used and well-kept example. That said, the current owner of this Satria R3 bought the car having already been repainted in a different colour, a perforated front bumper, shorn of its original R3 carbon-fibre rear spoiler, and the original suspension had been swapped for a fully adjustable set.

This example here was sent in for a manner of restoration that is surely in line with DSR’s goals, that is to make it as good as, if not better than its factory-original state. Like other true restoration processes, DSR’s begins with a full dismantling of components inside and out for cleaning, treatment and repainting.

DSR-002 – Fully restored original Proton Satria R3, plus the amazing story of the bespoke factory project

You may have heard tales of the Satria R3 using the entry-level 1.3L variant as a starting point instead of the Satria GTi. Here, though is the truth about the foundations of the Satria R3 as relayed to us by former Proton R3 product development executive Faisal Asri.

The Satria R3 project began when the automaker’s R3 division was led by Tengku Djan Ley as division head of Proton Motorsport, while the Satria R3 project itself was spearheaded by Proton Motorsport head of special projects division, Adian Yein Khalid who now graces these pages as chief of the Malaysia Speed Festival (MSF).

Back to the car. The bones of the limited-run hatchback are from neither the base Satria 1.3L nor the Satria GTi, and instead originates right from the beginning of its own manufacturing process at the main Proton factory. The Satria R3 bodyshell is assembled with twice as many structural welds; for example, if the distance between weld points on a given section of the Satria GTi bodyshell is 100 mm, the corresponding weld points on the Satria R3 bodyshell are 50 mm apart.

This makes the Satria R3 bodyshell far more rigid than that of the Satria GTi, which in turn offers even better handling by providing a stiffer foundation for the suspension to work from. In other words, one could bolt on parts to a regular Satria variant to look like an R3, but it will never be the same through and through.

Once the Satria R3 bodyshell is put together, it remains at the main factory for spray-painting with a special colour named Incognito Black. Fun fact about the colour’s name: In 1995, BMW released an advertisement for the E36-generation M3 featuring two cars, one in yellow and the other in black, against a black background. This was captioned “The new M3, in yellow or incognito,” which later on inspired the Incognito Black name for the Satria R3’s colour.

The 1.8 litre 4G93P naturally aspirated engine was installed into the Satria R3 also at the main factory, albeit without the sound insulation and ABS system present on the Satria GTi. This somewhat takes after the concept adopted for the Honda Civic EK9 Type R, which is to reduce as much weight as possible while offering the driver a higher braking threshold without ABS intervention for attaining the best possible lap times on a circuit.

DSR-002 – Fully restored original Proton Satria R3, plus the amazing story of the bespoke factory project

At this point, the car emerges from the main factory wearing 14-inch steel wheels, and the cabin is given basic trim from the Satria 1.3L, such as its seats and base-level urethane steering wheel. After this, the Satria R3 base car is taken from the production line at the main factory, and sent to the R3 facility for completion.

When the R3 division was requesting approval for the creation of this limited edition car, head of Proton at the time Tan Sri Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Arif approved in on the condition that the R3 is produced not merely as a tuned Satria GTi, but as a different model entirely. The interior, for instance, features details which are similar to those from the GTi, but are actually different.

The plastic trim for the dashboard and the gear lever surround on the Satria GTi is finished in silver, along with cupholders which remain black on its exterior. The same parts on the Satria R3 are given a dark titanium finish, while the trio of foot pedals, while resembling those on the GTi, no longer have the GTi logos here in the R3 to further distinguish the two variants.

All basic parts that were installed at the main Proton factory were then removed at the R3 facilty. Here, they were replaced with more unique components such as Recaro SR4 front bucket seats, and the rear seats upholstered to mimic the red and black trim of the front bucket seats.

The base Satria variant urethane steering wheel is swapped for a Momo Tuner steering wheel, fitted on a 20 mm R3 steering boss kit, while the gear lever is topped with a carbon-fibre knob. R3 carpets are fitted, along with red seat belts and red door card trim.

The lightweighting approach continues with the use of manually-adjusted side mirrors, instead of the electrically adjustable units on the Satria GTi. In fact, the carpet set for the R3 is thinner than those on regular Satrias for the same aim of weight reduction; overall, the Satria R3 tips the scales just under the one-tonne mark at 995 kg.

On its exterior, the R3 bodykit starts with the front bumper over-fenders, side skirts and rear bumper which are the same as those on the Satria GTi, while headlamps and tail lamps are smoked items. Beyond the Incognito Black paintwork, the R3 is further distinguished by red stripes, a carbon-fibre spoiler, and R3 rims by Advanti measuring 16 x 7 inches shod with 205/45R16 Yokohama Advan Neova AD07 tyres from the factory.

In the case of this particular car, DSR-002, its interior has managed the passage of time relatively unscathed, and the DSR restoration has treated it to a selection of DSR-branded goods such as carpets, alloy pedals and gear knob. All these follow the shapes and designs of the original R3 items, albeit here with DSR logos. In fact, the DSR products are made by the same manufacturer which supplied the original parts for the R3 in its day.

DSR has also fitted this car with the front bumper spoiler that is an original R3 optional part, while the ‘bloodstripe’ R3 decals have been reproduced by Motorsport Playground, the same outfit that currently does the exterior graphics for the R3 race cars.

The original Advanti R3 rims have also been procured and restored for fitment on this car, complete with recreating the centre caps with the original R3 logo as on the original factory cars. The original Advan Neova AD07 tyres are no longer in production either, and the car here wears the more modern AD08R.

Unfortunately the original carbon-fibre rear spoiler on the DSR-restored Satria R3 has gone missing and has had to be replaced by new unit from a different maker. Owners who wish to obtain a replacement unit can get in touch with DSR, the firm said.

Another fun fact: the original carbon-fibre spoiler for the Satria R3 was made by Composites Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM), a DRB-Hicom subsidiary which also makes composite components for aircraft such as athe Airbus A320, A350, A380, A400 and several others. Beyond the spoiler, CTRM also made the carbon-fibre cam valley cover for the 4G93P engine in the Satria R3.

This powerplant is essentially the same as that in the Satria GTi, one that is electronically managed by a Siemens EMS 400 control unit. R3 has given it some tweaking for this ‘Stage 1’ state of tune to arrive at outputs of 140 hp and 148 Nm of torque, thanks to an adjustable cam pulley and an exhaust system without catalytic converters. Exhaust gases exit through a single outlet with an R3 logo, and this is said to be inspired by that of the first-generation Lotus Elise.

Transmission also essentially features the same gearbox as that in the Satria GTi, though its fifth-gear ratio has been shortened from 0.756 to 0.777. This reduces its top speed from 210 km/h to 205 km/h, though this becomes more useful at a track such as the Sepang International Circuit, where the car will be more responsive in its top gear and still attain its top speed on the two longest straights.

The engine on this particular car, DSR-002, actually did not require a full overhaul as its accrued mileage was still low, and most of its components were still in very good condition when taken apart. Nonetheless, DSR does so anyway as the Satria R3 is given the firm’s signature blueprinting process.

Here, the process involves a rebalancing of the engine’s crankshaft, while every internal component in the engine is reassembled with an even closer watch than during mass production, and the finest tolerances are employed here.

DSR-002 – Fully restored original Proton Satria R3, plus the amazing story of the bespoke factory project

As with the DSR-001 that came before, Suriya gave Farid a chance to sample the DSR-002 Satria R3. In addition to the distinct intake sound, the DSR-002 Satria R3 brings the added dimension of exhaust sound from its aforementioned catless system.

Granted, a naturally aspirated engine such as this could never offer the low-end torque that is the domain of modern turbocharged engines, said Farid, but the trade-off is the joy of operating a rev-happy engine without forced induction. The sound and responses from the engine goads the driver on to make full use of its rev range, our paultan.org BM writer notes.

The blueprinting lavished upon the engine shines in operation, where the 1.8 litre unit proves to be refined, smooth and stable. Even when driving at low speeds in a high gear, there was no vibation to be felt from the engine, save for the lack of thrust as the engine spins below the bulk of its powerband. Magical, says Farid.

DSR-002 – Fully restored original Proton Satria R3, plus the amazing story of the bespoke factory project

The handling of the Satria R3 is also distinctly different from its GTi sibling, says Farid, and this is thanks to the R3 division’s magic touch. The damper stoke lengths of the two cars are identical, but if the GTi dampers are used as replacements for the R3’s original items, the R3 would ride too high.

This is because the setup is bespoke to the R3, which rides around 10-15 mm lower than the Satria GTi, and this isn’t merely from different springs. Relocated spring bases enable the R3 to have the same suspension travel as the GTi even though the R3 rides closer to the road for a lower centre of gravity – a clever design. The suspension has also been calibrated for use with the factory-specified Advan Neovas, and if a different make of tyre is used, the Satria R3’s drive dynamics will surely be different, says Farid.

Suspension tuning for the Satria R3 was done by Tengku Djan himself, with extensive testing carried out. He wanted the car to have not just raw cornering speed in a given section of road, but rather to have a suspension setup that did not deflect from the driver’s prescribed line when on uneven surfaces. This gives the Satria R3 the ability to carry speed not just on track, but also on normal roads.

As a result of these goals, not only have the R3 dampers used a different structure to those on the GTi, but also its internal valving, spring specification, larger-diameter front anti-roll bar and its rubber bushes are different from the GTi’s, and therefore not interchangeable for the R3.

DSR-002 – Fully restored original Proton Satria R3, plus the amazing story of the bespoke factory project

The suspension’s bespoke nature is a factor in most R3 owners choosing to switch to aftermarket full adjustable units; the original suspension components can no longer be purchased. How then, does DSR bring its restoration of the Satria R3 as close as possible to its factory chassis specifications? Enter Fawster Motorsport, a homegrown suspension outfit owned by Proton R3 alum Faidzil Alang, who developed the original suspension for the Satria R3.

DSR tasked the suspension setup entirely with Fawster Motorsport, in order to faithfully recreate the strctures and calibration of the original Satria R3 suspension. When at the wheel of the DSR-002 Satria R3, Farid was amazed by its grip through high-speed corners, and resistance to being deflected off-line on uneven road surfaces – just as Tengku Djan had originally prescribed for the Satria R3 from the factory.

At the original time of sampling, Farid was informed that the car’s suspension setup had yet to be finalised by Faidzil; Suriya afterwards told Farid at time of writing that the setup has been completed. Because the setup had not been completed at the time of this car’s photography, the original R3 strut bars in front and at the back had not been rematched yet.

Braking components for the Satria R3 were upgraded in factory form, with EBC drilled and sloted brake discs paired with Mintex M1144 high-performance brake pads.

This particular R3 also comes with an R3-specific owner’s manual supplement, and Farid has also had the chance to briefly peruse its contents. Here’s a little nugget to stir the enthusiasts – the manual reminds owners to ensure the Advan Neova tyres are sufficiently warmed up before taking a corner at speed.

Still with us at this point of this very substantial piece, dear readers? Great, but wait, there’s more! The story of the DSR-002 Satria R3 restoration project is still being penned, said DSR, as when the Proton Satria R3 was originally launched in 2004, the R3 division had actually offered Stage 2 and Stage 3 upgrades for interested owners.

When the owners caught wind of these upgrades, requests were put in with DSR for these upgrade packages to be carried out. These upgrades will be applied to the blueprinted engine of this DSR-rebuilt Satria R3 once it has surpassed the 1,000 km break-in mark. Interested to know what goes into these upper-stage upgrades? Stay tuned as we explore them when they become available.

This article has been translated from the original story written by our BM counterpart.

2004 Proton Satria R3 official images