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2009 Nissan 370Z - Z Car Legacy

Nissan spent five decades perfecting the car. Gene Siepka made it better.

Aaron Bonk
Jun 21, 2016
Photographer: Ginash George

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.

2009 nissan 370z esprit gt wing Photo 2/16   |   2009 Nissan 370Z Esprit Gt Wing

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All of which led to Siepka soon finding himself withdrawn from the Maxima and keeper to a just-introduced '09 370Z.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!

2009 nissan 370z work emotion cr 2p wheel Photo 6/16   |   20" Work wheels and Project Mu brakes, only the best parts for this Z34!

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.

2009 nissan 370z vq37 engine Photo 7/16   |   Smoother and linear 400+ hp by way of Nissan's 3.7L V-6 and a GTM supercharger kit.

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.

2009 nissan 370z varis arising ii body kit Photo 11/16   |   A Varis Arising II kit was installed before the Z was painted Cherry red. The end result? Cherry!

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.

2009 nissan 370z varis arising ii bodykit Photo 12/16   |   2009 Nissan 370Z Varis Arising Ii Bodykit

"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.

2009 nissan 370z nardi challenge steering wheel Photo 13/16   |   2009 Nissan 370Z Nardi Challenge Steering Wheel

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."

2009 nissan 370z vq37 engine Photo 14/16   |   2009 Nissan 370Z Vq37 Engine

"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.

2009 nissan 370z varis arising ii front bumper Photo 15/16   |   2009 Nissan 370Z Varis Arising Ii Front Bumper

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!

2009 nissan 370z bride vorga seats Photo 16/16   |   The laundry list of JDM goodies continues into the interior with Bride Vorga seats.
By Aaron Bonk
355 Articles
2009 Nissan 370Z - Z Car Legacy
Tuning Menu
Owner: Gene Siepka
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Unix/Linux Server Admin
Power: 404 hp; 343 lb-ft of torque
Engine: GTM supercharger system and front-mount intercooler; Fast Intentions resonated test pipes; PowerHouse Amuse R1 Titan Extra STTI exhaust system and R1 front pipe; Setrab supercharger and engine oil coolers; Motul thermostatic oil adapter plate; custom radiator cooling plate; ARC radiator cap; OEM carbon-fiber engine cover; OEM carbon-fiber battery and brake compartment covers; custom hood prop dampers
Footwork & Chassis: Air Lift Performance air suspension system, AutoPilot V2 digital air management; dual Viair 380C air compressors; four-gallon tank with dual water traps; SPL Parts adjustable front upper control arms; SPC rear camber arms and rear toe bolts; Tanabe front and rear antisway bars, custom chassis under-brace
Brakes: Project Mu six-piston front calipers, four-piston rear calipers, and SCR-PRO rotors; GT Motoring steel-braided Lines
Wheels & Tires: 20x9.5" +6 front, 20x10.5" -12 rear Work Emotion CR 2P wheels; 225/35R20 front, 255/35R20 rear Yokohama S.drive tires; Project Kics Neo Chrome lug nuts
Exterior: Cherry Red with Blue Pearl paint; Varis Arising II body kit; Esprit carbon-fiber GT wing; 2015 Nismo black headlights; 2013 Nissan fog lights; Craft Square TCA-F mirrors; JDM Nissan rear foglight
Interior: Bride Vorga seats and RO seat rails; Takata Drift II four-point harnesses; custom brace bar with harness attachments; Nardi Challenge steering wheel; Works Bell short steering wheel hub; Works Bell Rapfix quick-release adapter; Tommy Kaira Hebi Bebi shift knob; HKS Camp2 engine monitoring system and boost and oil pressure sensors; Kenwood DNX7160 headunit; JL Audio HD900/5 amp and XR650-CSi components; Stereo Integrity BM mkIV 12 shallow subwoofer; custom rear hatch floor with integrated subwoofer box
Thanks You: Ming and Benny at Fizz Autosports; Dave and Mike at Togue Factory; Ben and the crew at Bulletproof Automotive; my crew Four Star Society; Ginash George

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