I already know what some of you are going to say the moment you find out what's under the hood of this '72 240Z built by Kyle Kuhnhausen. You're tired of seeing LS swaps, and you've been more than vocal about it via social media, but if you stay on board for this little spotlight story and really take into account what went in to this build, I'm pretty sure you'll put your disdain for domestic power aside—at least for a few minutes—and appreciate just how good this really is.
Displayed in the CCW booth, this Z has so much fabrication and detail applied to it's 40-plus-year-old chassis that it's absolutely impossible to take it all in during SEMA, especially with the crowd that all but mobbed Kyle during the week to get more info on his creation. Mild-mannered and very friendly, Kyle fielded questions one by one and never broke from his helpful, polite demeanor. Who could blame them, anyway? It's not often people run across a build with this much thought and customization that all serve a purpose and never stray from functionality.
A wild livery is expected at SEMA but in this case, the BRE-esque colors are almost overshadowed by sharp, angular aero pieces that change the look of the front, rear and flanks of the Z-car. The front portion of the custom 5052 aluminum side splitters feature diffusers right where the custom exhaust—a complex system that crosses the engine left bank to the right exhaust, and vice versa - exits. All four corners see traditional-style flares that help squeeze plenty of meat under the fenders and around the CCW rollers.
Up front, the splitter and the filler piece just under the headlights are separated by quite a bit of real estate. Within that section you'll find multiple routes for fresh air to be directed toward the radiator, oil cooler, intake, front brake rotors, and even fresh cabin air through a series of ducts that pass through the unibody. Every twist and turn is as efficient as it is cleverly laid out and from the outside, you'd never know subway-like tunnels that pass through various parts of the front end. Not to be outdone, the rear portion of the side splitters also play a role in telling air what to do—sending it to the rear rotors. See what I mean about being functional?
In the rear, the all-custom affair continues with the rear bumper long gone, its mounting points cut off entirely and plenty of hours of metal work to get it just right. A rear diffuser and upturned rear wing finish up the hindquarters.
The cabin on this car could really be a story in and of itself. Crack open either door and you're greeted by dimple-die heaven, joined by a very unique hexagonal design pattern on the doors that's mirrored by the floor of the cargo area. Plop down in the Sparco bucket and the driver-centric layout unabashedly shows off all of the bells and whistles with a multitude of buttons, switches and metering.
Even the simple stuff—like the S2000 push-start button that sits atop a billet aluminum bezel, the sum of which rests on a hand-built console; brake bias control at arm's length; a stereo sitting in the center; even the glove box, which most would delete altogether—is fully functional, but you guessed it, is anything but average. A custom fabricated panel attaches to the dash magnetically and features a spring-loaded cut out in the center for the owner to push his finger though and remove. The floors are covered in dimple-die panels that help the driver get foot positioning right and help the passenger brace themselves.
Ok, here we go. Yes, the power plant is in fact an LS1 from a 2004 GTO. It's the same style of engine you've seen in everything in the last 5 years with no signs of slowing. Stop shaking your head for a minute and think about this. The engine is incredibly stout, proven to be reliable, fits perfectly in the Z's chest cavity, and best of all, it makes almost 400 wheel horsepower with just a few bolt-ons, which is way more than enough for a car that probably tips the scales way, way below 3,000 lbs.
Now obviously Kyle had no intentions of dropping the engine and calling it a day, and just like the rest of the car, the bay has custom ... everything. From the cage that passes through the firewall and to the front shock towers, to the additional gusseting, adjustable shock tower bar that allows suspension tuning, coated headers, and the list just keeps going. I did my best to capture at least some of the highlights of this build but there's so much more to see in person
The crowds that surrounded this S30 throughout the week are proof that this car made a huge impact at SEMA 2018. And, if that's not enough, it also earned a Gran Turismo award for Best Asian Import. Not a bad visit to Las Vegas for Kyle Kuhnhausen.