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Twin-Turbo 2003 Nissan 350Z Goes From Show to Race Car

From show queen to time attack hero

Aaron Bonk
Jan 15, 2016
Photographer: Ginash George

They say that you can show a race car and that you can't race a show car, except Larry Kenney has already demonstrated just how wrong they really are.

Mr. Kenney handed over the down payment for a '03 Nissan 350Z with intentions that had everything to do with locking up the e-brake and sliding around a drift course. At the time, he didn't want anything to do with misting his Z33 down with quick detailer inside convention center halls, hoping to appease a band of dudes with clipboards and checklists. But then his first car payment arrived... "My plans were to build a car that I could drift," he promises, "but I quickly came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be drifting a car that I was making payments on."

03 nissan 350z track edition c west side skirt Photo 2/11   |   The wild aero of this Z33 is what really makes it stand out among the rest-and it's all tested on the track and functional!

Inspiration by way of drifting and even Japanese circuit racing ultimately gave way to what Kenney says was his Z becoming a staple among the Chicago-based car show collective. Trophies soon piled up; not ones based of driving merits, but those earned because of what Kenney had subjected the Track Edition Z to-a show car. The car had still yet to live out its track fantasies despite undergoing five distinct versions-all mostly cosmetic.

Today, in the midst of what Kenney says is Version 5.5, the Z car remains covered in aero from C-West with step-lipped Work wheels slipped beneath that give a nod to the sort of one-off treatment that gets a car show judge's attention. We also can't ignore the Kognition Design rear wing built to Kenney's specifications and the SS Worx over-fenders that have been massaged to fit with perfection and resemble something more off-the-shelf than universal parts.

03 nissan 350z track edition c west front bumper Photo 6/11   |   03 Nissan 350Z Track Edition C West Front Bumper

Drifting initially enticed Kenney; however with time, grassroots time attack racing has peaked his interest, which is where much of version five-and-a-half's cues are derived from. "The grassroots spirit of a build and seeing how it works, and then tweaking or redoing things as needed is right up my alley with my experience as a fabricator and industrial designer," he says before talking about the front and side splitters and rear diffuser he drew up and fashioned himself.

03 nissan 350z track edition vq35de engine Photo 7/11   |   Built VQ35DE has a GReddy twin-turbo setup to boost power around 600 hp.

Now, Kenney says the whole idea is to generate maximum grip in lieu of car show points. That's because he has also been subjecting his Z to the road course for the last three years. "The whole car was designed around maximum grip, using large contact patches and high downforce," he says. You know, the sort of stuff that racetracks and racers appreciate. "It makes for a wild ride on the track. Even with street tires, the amount of grip is staggering."

03 nissan 350z track edition project x rear diffuser Photo 8/11   |   03 Nissan 350Z Track Edition Project X Rear Diffuser

Build, test, tweak, and redo. That's the philosophy Kenney applies to every change he's made to the car, from the custom wing mounts, to the 11"-wide wheels at all four corners, to the reworked power steering system that allows them to work up front. It's all been very much methodically planned out, and when that hasn't worked out, things are redone so that it does.

03 nissan 350z track edition work vs xx wheel Photo 9/11   |   Hard to believe, but this Z wears 315-series tires all around.

Reincarnating an award-winning appearance of what a show car is into something the track could make proper use of wasn't too hard. That's mostly because Kenney sought the same sort of high-end, capable parts for his Z that'd both impress show gawkers and do their jobs on the track alike. Underneath the hood, the factory V-6 has been strengthened with Eagle rods and moderately bored-over Wiseco pistons before being fitted with a GReddy 18G twin-turbo system that's been updated with a custom intercooler, HKS injectors, and a TiAL wastegate at each bank. According to Kenney: "Fortunately, I've always gone with the 'functional plus' mentality with car building, and I already had a very solid base to build a track car off of."

He does admit to making a handful of changes in the name of function, like the show car-obligatory tucked wiring harness that's proved to make on-track diagnostics less than practical.

03 nissan 350z track edition ss worx over fenders Photo 10/11   |   03 Nissan 350Z Track Edition Ss Worx Over Fenders

In '16, Kenney still tells us that he plans to show his Z from time to time; however, the car will continue to make track appearances and use all of its 600 hp it has to offer. The same build philosophy that got the car to where it is now will carry on, too, he reassures: "I'll just continue to tweak and improve the aero as well as make some serious weight savings." They say that you can show a race car and that you can't race a show car, but in Larry Kenney's case, people just don't know what the hell they're talking about.

03 nissan 350z track edition recaro svg seats Photo 11/11   |   03 Nissan 350Z Track Edition Recaro Svg Seats
By Aaron Bonk
375 Articles
Twin-Turbo 2003 Nissan 350Z Goes From Show to Race Car
Tuning Menu
Owner: Larry Kenney
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Occupation: ???
Engine: Eagle connecting rods; .020"-over Wiseco pistons; ARP main and head studs; Rev-Up oil pump conversion; Cometic head gaskets; GReddy 18G twin-turbo system; CJ Motorsports intercooler, intake plenum, power steering relocation kit, oil cooler, fuel return system and rails; SVR Tech wastegate relocation kit; dual TiAL F38 wastegates, dual Q blow-off valves; tensioner pulley delete; A/C delete; HKS 1000 cc/min. fuel injectors; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; DeatschWerks DW300 fuel pump; Project X power steering cooler, 3" exhaust, coilpack covers; Mishimoto radiator, hoses, thermostat, cooling fans, cooling fan shroud, coolant overflow reservoir; Blitz radiator cap; Mishimoto oil catch can; Momentum Performance solid engine mounts; 3" downpipes; Nismo oil cap; ZToyZ power steering reservoir cap; custom wiring harness tuck
Drivetrain: ACT six-puck clutch; Fidanza aluminum flywheel; Nissan 3.3 gear set; Quaife limited-slip differential; Whiteline differential bushings
Engine Management: HKS F-CON V Pro Ver.2, knock map; Hallman Evolution RX boost controller; Osirus UpRev software; tuned by Project X (Eli Baldwin)
Footwork & Chassis: Stance Pro Comp 2 coilovers; SPC Performance front A-arms, rear camber arms, rear toe arms; Hotchkis sway bars
Brakes: Performance Friction big brakes
Wheels & Tires: 18x11" Work VS-XX wheels; 315/30R18 Falken Azenis RT615K tires; Muteki lug nuts
Exterior: C-West front bumper, side skirts, canards; INGS +1 hood; Kognition Design GT rear spoiler; Project X rear spoiler mounts, front and side splitters, and rear diffuser; SS Worx over-fenders; Seibon rear hatch; '06+ headlight and taillight conversions; Provinyl vinyl wrap
Interior: Recaro SVG seats; Corbeau seat rails; Sparco six-point harnesses; Broke Dick Racing four-point roll bar; MOMO steering wheel; Works Bell hub adapter; Tommy Kaira Hebi Bebi shift knob; ZToyZ shift bezel; Auto Meter boost gauge
Thanks You: my daughter Jada who I love doing race car stuff with; my wife, A'ndrea, for putting up with my shenanigans and never having a garage to keep her car in; Jimmy Yu from GPS Tracktime for having the best track days; the whole Chicago scene for inspiring and supporting me; Eli, Jeff, and Chris from Project X for always having my back; CJ Motorsports; Falken Tire; Stance Suspension

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