Ed note: While the event is long over, the Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge winner has yet to be announced (don't worry, the results are coming next month). That doesn't mean we can't fill you in on how our car did during the testing, so we asked our car's owner, Cheston Chiu, to help tell the story from his eyes of how his car did from beginning to end. We'd like to thank all of the companies who were involved and all of the readers who voted on Castrol Syntec's Top Car Challenge website for Super Street; your votes meant the world to us although they didn't go towards any actual points in the contest (although they should have).
I was pretty excited to get picked for Team Super Street. You know-- I didn't want to be "That Guy" who was always picked last for dodge ball teams in PE because he sucked at playing or something like that. (NO- I'm not recollecting from childhood past memories; I am pretty good at dodging balls at my face thank you. [snicker]). I've been an avid reader for many years, and to be associated with a magazine that only features kick-ass cars, it was very fulfilling to get the email from JDM Wong telling me I was the chosen one to rep the mag at the Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge. Now it was up to my car not to failboat and end up last, or else the curtain of shame would drape over us like a bad matte-black vinyl sticker job.
The Best News Would Have Been No News To get the Z prepped for the event, TechnoSquare Inc, the shop that is responsible for building/tuning/prepping my Z, decided to run a complete diagnosis on the car. I had a big list of what I wanted to tweak on the Z: larger turbo piping, build a flat under tray, get new air filters, relocate the battery and hard mount a rear towstrap "just-in-case." But first, we had to make sure everything else on the car was OK before we proceeded. We went over everything possible: suspension travel, bolt torque numbers, fuel pressure/flow rate and engine health. When it came time to do the leakdown test, we got some not-so-favorable results from some of the cylinders.
Turned out, some of the pistons from the leaky cylinders had a little bit of heat scoring on the edges and some pit marks that looked like it was caused by detonation. Crap. It was only 6 weeks away from the competition and I had a slightly sick VQ. The remedy for this would be new pistons and the required gaskets. In hindsight, I should have done the diagnosis of the engine sooner, but eh, that's life. Since I wanted to get the best stuff for this inevitable rebuild, I went with all Cosworth parts: low comp pistons & rings, H-shape connecting rods, main bearings, and head gasket. Howard Watanabe, President of TechnoSquare and my engine builder, did his best to get everything assembled on time. The longest lead times were sending the parts sent out for WPC coating and getting the engine balanced once everything was installed. Once the engine was back in, Richey Watanabe, VP of Techno Square and the lead fabricator, went to work on the list of things that needed his fab skills, the hardest being to redo all the turbo piping. Richey wanted to increase the diameters of all the pipes so that the turbos could breathe better and get better response out of the car. Essentially, the Power Enterprise TT kit I had was now a complete 1-off kit. All the inlet and charge pipes were redone (amazingly they fit, if you've ever seen the engine bay of a Z33, you'd know what I'm talking about), including the intake adapters in which we put on a pair of new K&N air filters to replace the smaller ones that came with the kit. All of the fab work was completed basically four days before the event. And I had yet to crank over the engine.
I was freaking out about this point. We had yet to break-in the engine, and I still needed to retune the car for the new parts and align/corner balance. I didn't have time to drive to Vegas and back to break-in the engine, so we did the next best thing: we threw it on the dyno for three hours while varying the RPMs (you should have seen the dirty looks we go from the neighbors!). Tadashi Nagata, the ECU tuner at Techno Square, plugged in his laptop and went to work. We refueled with 105 octane race gas and Tadashi started reflashing the stock ECU to accommodate for the new boost levels and gas. As we were tuning the car, drops of oil started to come out from underneath the car. I took a closer look and my oil cooler adapter had cracked! It was a cast metal piece with a built-in thermostat that cracked at the seam. A quick rummage through the spare parts in the shop yielded a billet aluminum one originally made for a 370Z that would fit, so we machined the opening more for better oil flow and stuck it on and went back to tuning. A few hours later, we had our tune that we'd go to the competition on, and based on the dyno numbers at Techno Square, I got much higher numbers than I previously did there with the old engine setup. I was somewhat confident now that I'd be able to at least make it to the K&N facility on time.
The next afternoon, I went to see Tom at Lucent Motors in West LA to get corner balanced and aligned. This shop typically only does Porsche, Ferrari and higher-end cars, so I felt a little intimidated by bringing my Nissan over, (after hours), but Chris Marion from KW Suspensions highly recommended them to me once. Tom had the Z on his neat-o laser alignment rack, he got me dialed-in and balanced. But he found two issues with the car: 1) the lower front control arm bushing was shot, and the front shock that it was mounted to was sagging and 2) the Cusco A-arms I had wasn't giving me enough negative camber that I wanted to run. I wanted -3.5 and it was only giving me -2.5. Tom suggested that I get solid bushing if I could and modify the A-Arms to see if I could get more camber. By this time, it was nearly midnight and I only had two days before the start of the event.
Well, bright and early next morning I went straight back to Torrance and met up with Howard. Luckily, he had a set of spare solid bushings for the lower control arm (it's like magic!) and we pressed out the old bushings with little problem. As for the A-Arms, with the redesign of the Cusco arms, all you need to do is cut out about 3 or 4mm of material and you can get the upper joint to go inwards more so that you can get more negative camber. We matched both sides and off I went back to Lucent to get the final camber and toe settings completed. As soon as I got home from that, it was sticker time, and I spent the next five-and-a-half hours putting on my super bling-bling holographic & chrome stickers on the car. Those things are worth at least 50hp or more, aren't they?
We're sure they are, but in order for you to find out if they are worth it or not, you're gonna have to tune in next month where we finally announce the winner of the Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge and give you the final wrap-up behind our 350Z. See you then!