Ask any guy what got him into cars and nine out of 10 will say his dad. Guaranteed, there's a gene swimming through your DNA right now that makes your palms sweaty at the sight of some slick piece of sheetmetal. Halfway between lust and terror lies a burning pull behind your ribs, roaring to life when the car finally catches on a hard launch and you get pressed into the seat. Lodged there by something primal, something passed down, it's what drives the automotive passion and makes normal guys do things like build twin-turbo beasts out of their daily drivers.
Derek Smit knows all about the gearhead gene. Growing up, his old man did everything from drag race down dirt farm roads in South Dakota to own Ferraris; automotive obsession was something Derek couldn't escape even if he wanted to. When his father died in 2001, he left his son a few coins for college and other things. Derek couldn't think of a better way to honor his memory than to build a ride that would've made his dad proud.
Unable to resist the sheer sexiness of Nissan's 350Z, he purchased a '04 Track Edition in 2005 without even taking it for a spin. With less than 2,000 miles on the clock and a previous owner who had an irrational fear of rain, the car was still factory perfect. He had the 350 for a day before ordering a full GReddy Evo 2 TT exhaust.
With the car breathing freely through dual 70mm stainless pipes, Derek's horizons opened up to a new world of modifying mayhem. This student at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, took a baby step into forced induction with a Turbonetics kit sporting a single Garrett 60-1 unit. He dialed the boost up to about 9 pounds and bled 389 ponies out at the rear wheels. While the stock internals took the beating with little complaint, it wasn't long before he wanted more.
An avid follower of the "go big or go home" philosophy, he decided that nothing less than a fully built twin-turbo setup would suffice. Unwilling to charge half-blind into some insane build, Derek researched his options. Careful scrutiny landed him with a built short-block from Forged Performance out of Atlanta.
Specializing in 350Zs and G35s, Sharif Abdelbaset and his team of minions cranked out an unstoppable VQ35. Using the company's specially designed Arias Extreme Duty pistons coupled to Pauter forged rods, Sharif's kids bored the block .020 over, helping to drop the Z's compression to 9:1 in preparation for serious boost.
Forged Performance used Cosworth bearings on both the main and the rods, cinching everything down with ARP studs. The finished product was a Forged Performance S2 block. After the Georgian crew placed their finishing touches on the new bottom end, Bobby Young and Matt Drouin at CIN Motorsports back in Charlotte took on the task of wrapping up the Z's new beating heart.
Young and Drouin plopped the Z's stock, refreshed heads down onto HKS gaskets, torquing the ARP studs down and turning their attention onto the car's turbo system. The UNC Charlotte student wanted a smoother power delivery than the Turbonetics single setup offered. For Derek, more power, plus better delivery equaled a GReddy twin 18G kit. Fed by an AAM aluminum oil pan spacer and return lines, the dual blowers were the last piece of his power puzzle. Between Sharif's beast block, GReddy's serious twisters and CINs master installation, the Z was going to have no problems meeting the his driveability and power demands.
The guys at CIN bolted the blowers in, complete with GReddy's RS blow-off valve to prevent any unwanted grenade action. AAM 3-inch downpipes were installed to dispense exhaust gasses after the turbos have had their fun.
While this Z breathes through essentially stock heads, CIN tackled intake restriction by swapping the stock plenum with a Crawford piece. Nissan's engineers sloped the Z's plenum to clear the stock strut tower brace-something Crawford claims restricts airflow to the front cylinders. Their aftermarket plenum sits considerably higher in the front, taking care of the problem. That extra height meant the removal of the 350's stock strut tower brace, but without serious track flogging its presence isn't missed.
With Derek's Z ready to rock, the CIN crew turned their attention to feeding the beast. A CJ Motorsports Stage 2 fuel system feeds RC 650cc injectors via a Walbro 255lph pump. The CJ kit reroutes the Z's fuel lines far away from any superheated exhaust pieces, helping to make sure the car breathes fire instead of catching it.
A Haltech Platinum EMS and GReddy turbo timer setup were used to coordinate the mechanical mayhem underhood. Dialed in at 12 psi for daily trips across Charlotte and 15.5 psi for when he's hit with a case of the Mondays, the Z cranks out 477 horses and 541 at the wheels, respectively (tested on DynoJet after motor broken in). Not bad for a pump-gas commuter.
Sucking down and spitting out 12 psi of boost on a daily basis does two things very well. First, you get acquainted with the local law enforcement in a hurry. Second, you generate heat. While CIN couldn't do much for the first issue, they handled the second with the massive GReddy intercooler that came with the kit and an ARC radiator cooling plate. The titanium piece directs air through the stock radiator to keep the car's blood pressure in check while it's ripping across town.
With the miracle mill in place, CIN focused on the rest of the car, installing an RPS six-puck clutch and Cyn-R-G flywheel to handle the extra ponies. With close to 550 of them on tap, stopping became a priority. Young and Druin solved that problem with a set of AP Racing two-piece drilled and slotted rotors in the front and one-piece drilled and slotted in the rear. All four are clamped by Mintex Xtreme HP pads pushed by G-Stop stainless lines.
With Charlotte's roadways paved in a combination of concrete blocks and crudely hewn boulders, a ber-stiff suspension wasn't on the top of Derek's wish list. Being a Track Edition, the Z was already a performance thoroughbred, so a set of Eibach Pro Kit springs, Hotchkis adjustable sway bars and Intense Motorsports rear camber arms fleshed out this ride's modest suspension upgrades.
While he won't outright deny any aspirations for show car glory, for now Derek's interior and exterior modifications remain mostly performance driven. Inside the cockpit, a Sparco Ring tiller and a set of Defi gauges round out the changes to the Z's otherwise stock appearance.
Outside, the car still sports its Pike's Peak Pearl paint set off with 19x9.5 front and 19x10.5 rear Workmeister gloss-black rollers. Wrapped in BFGoodrich KDW's, the Work Workmeister wheels are joined by a select few other tasteful changes, including an APR carbon-fiber splitter and blacked-out '07 headlights.
The finished product is one of the baddest 350Z's in North Carolina. It may not be the most powerful, the most outrageous or the fastest thing on street tires, but it is a daily driven 541whp hell-raiser.
"It's very streetable," Derek says. "I have no problem going out and beating on it at night and knowing it'll start right up in the morning when I have to get to work."
Dad would be proud.
2004 Nissan 350Z
Power Output: 541 WHP & 535 LB-FT Of Torque
Forged Performance S2 ShorT-Block .020 overbore
Arias Extreme Duty Pistons
Pauter Forged Rods
ARP Head Studs
ARP Main Studs
Cusco Oil Catch Can
Twin GReddy 18G Turbos
GReddy Blow-Off Valve
AAM Oil Return Line
AAM Oil Pan Spacer
70mm GReddy Evo 2 TT exhaust
AAM 3-inCH Downpipes
AAM Wastegate Dumps
CJ Motorsports Stage 2 Fuel System
Walbro Fuel Pump
RC 650cc Injectors
ARC Radiator Cooling Plate
Haltech Platinum EMS
GReddy Turbo Timer
NGK 1 Step Colder Plugs
RPS SIX-Puck Clutch
CYN-R G Flywheel
Eibach Pro Springs
Hotchkis Adjustable Sway BarS
Intense Motorsports Rear Camber Arms
Front: AP Racing Two-piece Slotted and Drilled Rotors
Rear: AP Racing One-piece Slotted and Drilled Rotors
Goodridge G-Stop Stainless Brake LinesMintex Extreme HP Pads
Sparco Ring Wheel with Splash Hub
Forged Performance CNC Shift Nob
Defi Link Control
Defi BF Imperial Boost Gauge
Defi BF Imperial Oil Pressure Gauge
Innovate Wideband A/F Ratio Gauge
HKS EVC Six Boost Controller
Blacked-out '07 Headlights
APR Carbon-Fiber Splitter
Wheels & Tires
Front: 19x9.5 Work Workmeister Gloss Black S1 255/35/19 BFGoodrich KDW
Rear: 19x10.5 Work Workmeister Gloss Black S1 295/25/19 BFGoodrich KDW