The time has come to unveil Team Japspeed’s new build for the 2015 season – we’re proud to introduce you to our VH45 powered Nissan Z34 370Z!
With the competition drift scene advancing at an astounding rate it’s all too easy to fall into a trap of constantly playing catch up. Our trio of S15s and Subaru have been hugely competitive over the years (with the RBS15 winning this year’s BDC at the hands of Shane O’Sullivan) but we decided that the time was right to build a new flagship car for the 2015 season. The V8 S15 was retired towards the end of this season with Shane Lynch finishing off the year’s remaining events in our 2JZ Lexus while we put the wheels in motion for the car that he would be driving next year.
Rewind a few months and we picked up the perfect base for our new build: an extremely low mileage Z34 370Z in Gun Metallic.
Being a fairly well-quipped car from factory it came loaded with some pretty sweet luxuries…
…but of course these were all to be removed.
We did, however, make a point that we would retain the standard dash, gauge pods, centre console and shifter surround. This might be an out-and-out race car build but, with drift cars having originally been road cars modified for the track, we thought that retaining a sizeable portion of the original interior would be a nice touch in an otherwise stripped-out car.
Nothing was spared from the tear down, with the 370 quickly being reduced to a bare shell.
Shane popped in during the strip-down phase to test the potential seating position with one of our Corbeau kevlar bucket seats.
Obviously we took a few minutes to test fit our engine of choice (the forged VH45 removed from our V8 S15) along with the associated Quaife QBE69G sequential ‘box. Everything seemed to fit fine – in fact the shifter poked up through the OEM shifter hole perfectly, meaning we can retain the factory gearstick surround and thankfully negating the need to cut into the transmission tunnel.
With the engine position having been approved we set about making up a pair of engine mounts to hold everything in place.
Once we were satisfied that the shell was ready to go it was transported to be thermally cleaned, rinsed, derusted, coated and baked to remove moisture at the locally based Ribble Technology. With this completed it was time to get serious with one of the most critical aspects of any competition car build: the roll cage. Having had numerous brainstorming sessions with regards what form we wanted the cage to take, the car was taken down the road to Shaun Woods at SW Motorsports.
Shaun’s standard of work is second to none and it was no surprise to see a number of other BDC builds being caged up in his workshop ready for the season ahead.
The roll cage has been designed with space in mind to improve the comfort of the driver whilst in the cockpit in full race wear. To achieve this the roof was cut off in order to tuck the cage high up in the skin of the chassis. By doing this we have achieved an extra 50mm of head room for the driver allowing space for the helmet to move around while drifitng without colliding with the cage. Bumping your head on a roll cage (even with a helmet on) is never pleasant! The roof will still be covered by a one piece skin but of course we’ll be able to remove this when the sun’s out.
One feature we were keen to incorporate was Nascar-style double door bars for maximum protection in the event of a side impact. With the original doors having been gutted the bars sit out as far as physically possible from the shell of the car, resting right up against the outer door skin.
We’ve installed sill bars running the length of the cockpit along the floor for added protection from impacts that might occur beneath the door bars so as to stop the sills folding in towards the driver. The entire roll cage has been secured to the chassis legs at four points on both sides of the car – this has been done to ensure maximum rigidity into the chassis.
Due to the high level of torque being transmitted into the chassis from the V8 we needed to stiffen the front strut tops to prevent them from distorting. To do this the cage has been fabricated with triangulated braces from the cage, through the bulkhead and tied to the front strut tops.
The boot floor and rear seat bench areas have also been braced extensively – this is one seriously rigid shell. The original boot floor was cut out and subsequently replaced with a flat floor for the rear mounted radiator setup. The radiator is one of our Japspeed Mk4 JZA80 Supra items and the mounting brackets were designed in-house.
To keep the weight distribution in order the fuel setup will be installed where the rear seat bench once sat, with plans in place for a firewall to be constructed to keep Shane safe.
Underneath the makeshift boot floor you can also see the original subframe that we have modified to accept our tried and tested Skyline GTR diff setup that we have used on all of our S15s in the past. The subframe will be secured by custom aluminium risers that we’ve designed in-house – more pictures of these later.
All this talk of roll cages and we almost forgot one key feature – air jacks! We’ve had these sat in our workshop for as long as we can remember, having never got round to installing them on any of our previous builds. With the opportunity to use them having presented itself we got them fitted up and ready to go, although the challenge of squeezing a suitable on-board supply of air still remains.
With the shell having been returned from SW Motorsports and the engine, gearbox, rear subframe and radiator having been test fitted, we cracked on with reinforcing the shell further. With the shell loaded onto the spit Ant set about seam welding the body in the pursuit of optimum rigidity.
Another area that we needed to address was the sump as the original didn’t clear the subframe sufficiently and left us with an engine sitting around 20mm higher than we wanted. After taking a few measurements we decided on what we wanted and left Matt to work his magic in SolidWorks.
Fast forward a few hours and this was the end result – a high capacity baffled sump laser cut from 3mm steel.
Putting the engine and drivetrain aside for a second and another important area to address was the suspension setup that we would be using. While in America there a few options available for the Z34, here in the UK aftermarket suspension components for the 370Z are extremely thin on the ground. Enter Robbie and Steven from the highly acclaimed TDP of Ireland.
With our shell on the ramp Robbie and Steven set up their highly complex 3D modelling arm to measure the space within the Z34’s wheel well to try and determine how much room there was to work with our chosen wheel and tyre size. The video below shows some of the process that the TDP guys went through to get the measurements they required.
Robbie took the measurements back to Ireland with him so he could set to work on developing a complete front steering package for the car, similar to the highly competitive kits that they have produced for other Nissans in the past.
With the necessary dimensions taken it was now time for us to move on to the next stage of shell preparation – to get it electrostatically primered! The car was taken back to Ribble Technology to ensure that every last nook and cranny was primered and ready for paint – with the shell having already undergone such an extensive preparation procedure we thought it best we go the full hog and not cut any corners at this important stage.
With the car back from being primered we couldn’t help but take a few minutes to stand back and admire the shell in its current state as it sat on the spit.
Test fitting the dash and other surrounding pieces of trim was the next step and this was a stage of the build we really wanted to get right. Race cars with custom dashboards, bespoke panels and switches and cut offs everywhere certainly look cool, but there’s something extra special about a track focused car that still retains the original dash and trim fittings.
With the Quaife shifter fitting perfectly through the original hole in the shell it was no problem to line up the centre console and leather gear gaitor to the rest of the dash. The original cupholder also remains, which we’re sure Shane will make good use of with a can or two of Monster.
Moving back to the dash and, as much as we wanted to retain the factory sat nav as a novelty item, it was removed in favour of the digi dash display which was mounted on custom brackets.
The dial pods are a trademark feature of 350Zs and 370Zs and we didn’t want to remove these if we didn’t have to. With the central rev counter gauge remaining, we carefully removed the fuel gauge and speedo and retro-fitted the Quaife gear selector LCD display and the touchscreen Toucan unit that will be used to control ECU settings on the fly.
We were chuffed with the end result and definitely feel that these few touches of luxury will add to the car’s charm. The aim is to retain as many of the factory switch and button holes as possible, albeit with different functions to what they were originally intended. The factory Engine Start button will still be in use too!
Up next was seam sealing which meant the removal of the interior and the shell being loaded back onto the spit.
With the seam sealing completed we moved onto undersealing the underside of the shell to help protect it from the inevitable track debris and gravel it will be exposed to.
And with that done it was finally time for one of the most important stages – paint! We went with a nice silver for the interior and the underside – nothing too bright and in-your-face but not too dark so as to hide some of the finer qualities of the fabrication.
With the paint dry it was time to start the dry fit and push on with getting the car assembled. Stay tuned for Part 3 of the build next week but for now here’s a quick sneak peek of what we’ve been up to!
We’ve been flat out in the workshop over the last few weeks as we soldier on with our 370Z build. With the Autosport International show just a few weeks away we’ve got a lot to do to get the car built and looking presentable before it’s unveiled on the Maxxis Tyres stand at the show in January. With the work on the shell now complete it was time for us to turn our attention to the suspension, transmission and exterior.
Having spent so much time and effort preparing the shell for its intended purpose we couldn’t wait to throw some panels on and get our first taste of how the car was going to look once completed.
In comparison to our S15s and Scooby, the 370 is one big car! This thing is seriously wide and we’ve no doubt its presence on track will be effortless.
Moving back onto the important bits and we turned our attention back to the rear subframe. There was not a chance we were going to keep the standard rubber bushes so we drew up solid aluminium replacements for the subframe and diff and had them machined locally.
The rear diff bushes don’t feature an upper collar so as to raise the subframe 15mm and press it right up against the underside of the car. This will help to keep the roll centre and suspension arm angles in check when we slam the car.
The solid diff bushes will serve to stop the diff twisting under the immense torque that it will be subjected to and will ensure no slop gets in the way of transferring all that power through the rear driveshafts.
Before fitting it back onto the car, we of course had to treat the subframe and other underbody components to a lick of silver paint. This included the diff backplate, diff output flanges and various underbody braces.
While under the car we set about laying the foundations for the fuel setup and this is where we got to play with a seriously cool bit of kit. The ASNU Twin Screw Fuel Pump is brand new to the market and offers the performance of two Bosch 044 inline pumps within one small unit that is capable of around 600LPH. Mounted under the drivers seat, we also fitted it and the rest of the system with dry break fittings should we need to remove it or replace a filter in a hurry at an event.
In the boot we also started laying the foundations for keeping the gear box and power steering setups cool with a pair of our ten-row coolers. These will be fed by braided hoses throughout and have been hidden from view with a neat boot install that will create a high pressure system to help keep temperatures down. To aid cooling further, we have also added a small electric fan in front of each cooler to help to encourage air flow.
While the essence of the 370Z build is pure function, there are a few areas where we’ve spent a little extra time and effort to nail the finer details. Our custom front slam panel is one such item, having been water cut from 10mm aluminium.
The Team Japspeed logo is the icing on the cake on what is one of the most prominent features of the car.
It goes without saying that suspension and steering lock setups play a pivotal role when it comes to a drift car build and, as we have touched upon in our previous posts, there isn’t much available off the shelf for 370Zs. TDP visited us earlier on in the build process to take measurements of the 370’s inner arches and plot the suspension mounting points. After a few weeks of hard work back in their native Ireland they returned to our workshop with the first prototypes of their new 370Z Angle Kit.
Replacing both the front upper and lower arms along with the uprights and steering arms the prototype kit is a work of engineering art. CNC machined from billet aluminium the execution is flawless and the build quality second-to-none.
While we didn’t have any coilovers fitted to the car at the time, the steering angles on offer are astounding with approximately 65 degrees available at this early stage. While that will probably change once the car is on the floor and setup properly, the end result is certainly promising.
TDP will be making a few changes to the kits to optimise them further but so far so good!
With the Autosport International show deadline looming ever closer we had to pull out all the stops to get the car to a presentable state prior to it being unveiled on the Maxxis Tyres stand!
One of the first areas to address was the door cards, or rather the lack of them. With the NASCAR style door bars almost resting on the outer door skin when closed, the available space was minimal.
After a few measurements and a bit of experimenting we came up with a pair of one-piece door cards that both looked the part and left adequate space for the door bars.
While the car was in the bare state that it was in we also made a start on laying the new copper brake lines to and from the master cylinder.
There’s no shying away from the fact that, in standard form, the 370Z is a heavy car. As a result, we’ve done our best to trim off as much excess fat as possible during the build process. The windows were another area where we could easily remove some weight by replacing them with polycarbonate items which were supplied by our friends at Plastics4Performance.
Continuing the weight saving theme was this beautiful carbon fibre bonnet and bootlid combination from our friends at Seibon. The fit and finish were both impeccable and we knew the natural carbon look would sit great against our chosen colour for the 370.
The bootlid was then also fitted with a polycarbonate rear windscreen to continue that weight saving theme, although in this case the screen is split to direct cooling onto the rear mounted radiator.
A critically important area of the build that we were yet to cover was what coilovers we were going to run. As we have previously stated, 370Z’s aren’t the most highly supported cars by the aftermarket and finding coilovers that met our strict criteria was proving to be extremely difficult.
Enter AST: a specialist performance suspension company based in the Netherlands. With all of their products designed and manufactured in-house, they were the perfect guys to go to with our specific requirements.
Featuring three-way adjustment (single speed compression control and high and low speed rebound control) and external reservoirs they offer a lot more adjustment than the majority of coilovers used in the drift scene, features that will no doubt prove invaluable when dialling in the car to suit the tricky track conditions we see all so often in the UK.
With the suspension and bodywork starting to take shape it was time to address another key area: the wiring loom. We could have all the fancy parts in the world but they wouldn’t mean a thing if the electronics controlling them won’t talk to each other and, due to some of the complex features we wanted to include (along with the Syvecs ECU) we employed the services of the guys at HCI Systems.
HCI contacted us early on during the build process and came to visit our workshop to assess our needs for the car. They suggested the use of their HCI Powerbox, a unique piece of kit that sees use in many performance cars (including all production Pagani Zondas along with an array of race teams running Ferraris, Porsches and Audis) that does away with the need for any fuses or relays in the car. This has been located below the false floor where the rear seat bench once sat.
Another piece of technology we wanted to include on the car was HCI’s membrane panel, a one piece solution that replaces clumsy and complicated switch panels. This links directly to the Powerbox, greatly reducing the amount of wiring required.
After a few weeks of drawing up wiring diagrams and figuring out how best to tie in the loom with the Toucan touchscreen display and OEM clocks, HCI were back to install their handiwork into the 370.
With the loom installed and the bodywork prepped it was time to load up the car and take it for paint.
The car returned from the bodyshop a few days after we’d trailered it there looking absolutely fantastic – we’d chosen a subtle and classy shade of gun metal grey with which to form the backdrop for the vinyl that will soon adorn the car.
We couldn’t waste too much time gawping at it though, so quickly cracked on with the rebuild to have it looking like a functioning car again.
In went the lights along with the windscreen and the Seibon tailgate was re-fitted along with the polycarbonate rear windscreen.
We took care as well to ensure the little OEM details remained, such as the fancy door handles and Z badges.
We were really starting to like the way the car was taking shape but felt that the sides were looking a little bare in comparison to the aggressive front and rear ends.
Enter a pair of Amuse side skirts, a great addition to beef up the car’s side profile. However, we still felt that they were lacking somewhat so installed a pair of universal lips to be bolted underneath. These were left unpainted as the black finish gives a great contrast to the gun metal grey of the car.
Moving away from cosmetics and it was back to the mechanics. Dual caliper brake setups have become extremely popular in competition drifting in recent years, with some companies offering off-the-shelf dual caliper solutions for more common cars.
As we’ve touched on before, the 370Z is a far from popular car and we had no option but to design our own dual calliper setup. The beauty of a dual calliper setup is that it separates the footbrake from the hydraulic handbrake, allowing independent use of both without them affecting one another.
Our in-house CAD engineer Matt set about designing a custom bracket to mount both calipers to the hub. The calipers in question were standard Z34 rear items, of which we purchased an additional pair to make up the full setup.
With the bracket fitted to the hub carrier we got the disc back on and the calipers mounted up.
With the need for the fuel tank to sit in the rear seat bench we contacted AH Fabrications to make us up a bespoke item to suit the car. We’ve used AH in the past for the fuel tank that we installed in the V8 S15 during last year’s rebuild and, having been mightily impressed with their work last time round, it was a no-brainer to get in touch with them once again.
The downside of locating the tank where we had chosen was that it’d be incredibly difficult to top up in a hurry at an event. Enter an ATL Fast Fuel Coupling – a fitting that would allow us to fuel up the 370 from the outside without having to clamber inside to reach the tank.
We decided to mount the Coupling in the space where the drivers side rear quarter glass once belonged – we’ll be making up a proper mounting panel for it in the near future.
Another area of the exterior that we felt was lacking was at the rear end and, having weighed up a number of options, we ordered an Aerojacket Rear wing.
Mounting it to the Seibon boot required some tentative drilling so as to not damage the stunning carbon but, after a few tense minutes, we were ready to bolt the wing down.
With both the aesthetics and mechanicals starting to come together and the Autosport International deadline looming ever closer the end was in sight but we also had a number of other important areas to address before the 370’s unveiling – stay tuned for more build updates!