Gene Siepka doesn't need to be reminded of any of this, though. His affinity for the model predates his fetching his own by a Nissan Maxima with the typical barrage of entry-level bolt-ons. "The Z was really my first serious car that I'd modded," he wants you to know, "but I got into the scene with the Maxima." The story isn't one you haven't heard and starts with a head unit install, followed by time-sucking on the forums, and culminates into sticking things like lowering springs and an exhaust onto a car that, by most accounts, ought to be left alone.
Siepka will be the first to tell you that, while in high school in the early '90s, he wasn't all that interested in cars, and yet, Nissan's twin-turbo 300ZX still spoke to him. It'd take that Maxima, his going to a ChicagoZ Club meet, and the introduction of the 370Z for everything that that iconic Z32 had to say to him to properly influence him, however.
All of which led to Siepka soon finding himself withdrawn from the Maxima and keeper to a just-introduced '09 370Z. Two years later, Siepka's Z was underscored with the requisite bolt-ons, along with Advan RS-D rims and a GTM supercharger system that, today, is good for 404 hp. But it wasn't until after the blower had been installed that things got interesting. Siepka's initial arrangement of having what was supposed to be a simple Z without going overboard all of a sudden seemed about as likely as a Maxima being a cool car to modify. Fat chance!
That's mostly because of the reworked exterior by way of Varis Arising II aero (the first in the U.S.), an Esprit GT wing, and a factory black surface that's been covered up with a high dose of cherry red paint. "I love black cars," he says about the red. But those bold (and expensive) lines of that Varis kit, according to Siepka, they'll get lost in anything less than a color like red.
That revising the car's color led to problems won't surprise you. That it wasn't the body shop's fault will. "Once the color was picked," Siepka says, "I realized that the [special-ordered], bright-red Project Mu brakes really clashed [with] the cherry red exterior I'd chosen." The hack in you doesn't see a problem that a can of Krylon can't fix but Siepka's no hack, which means those calipers had to be disassembled, painted, and rebuilt again. Try ordering a Project Mu caliper rebuild kit on short notice and without spending a whole lot of money that you hadn't planned on and let us know how that works out for you.
Things could've continued to get worse. They didn't. And that's mostly because of the sort of businesses Siepka and his wife, Christine—who did much of the work themselves—aligned themselves with. Shamefully fitting Chinese knock-off bits you won't find here, and when help was needed, Chicago's best were called upon, like Fizz Autosports and Touge Factory, which lent their expertise for everything that went beyond what the Siepkas were capable of.
The pros got the nod less than you think, though. The twosome managed most of the mechanical upgrades themselves, including everything responsible for that 404 hp as well as the Air Lift Performance suspension system that overrules the coil-over-shock setup that Nissan says the car ought to have. In '10, when the first of the Z's mods—a Tanabe exhaust—was bolted into place, Siepka would've been the first to tell you that he was no Z-car expert. Today, he knows more about the car than most, including its heritage, which he's gone on to soak up—all five decades worth of it.
"Things happen." That's all Siepka has to say about the build that he says was never really supposed to escalate to the level that it has and, by his own admission, isn't finished. None of that means that this Z doesn't get used, though. "It's a hard-driven street car," he wants you to know, that's traveled from its Midwest origin to the East Coast and back again on scores of occasions and, if Siepka has his way, will deliver him on a Pacific Coast road trip followed by some much-anticipated track time.
Post-Maxima and seven years into the Z and Siepka and his wife, he says, are now officially car people—Z aficionados, more specifically, by almost any measure. Christine's '78 280Z that's amassed its own bit of exposure's made sure of that and is, in part, what's led to the Siepkas also being known as "the Z couple."
"One day I'd love to move up to the [car's] big brother, the GT-R," Siepka says, "but I don't see myself growing tired of the Z anytime soon. It still gives me a smile every time I sit in the driver's seat." A half-century's worth of Japanese heritage rolled up into 3,200 pounds' worth of rear-wheel-drive engineering is pretty good at doing that.
The Z Couple
This isn't the first time we've heard the Siepka name. The two were featured in an Import Tuner '13 issue. Here you'll see Gene's first rendition of his 370Z, along with Christine's awesome 280Z featuring Work CR01s, Stance suspension, custom flares, and more!