Kevin Espiritu, owner of this 2008 Nissan 350Z Nismo, is a heck of a guy. He's inspiring, intense even, in his love for motorsports and the Nissan brand overall. Our conversation about this car started with a simple question, "how did you get here?" For the next hour, I learned most everything there is to know about his build and the countless people with whom he credits helping him get to this point. I'm not even sure we made it to my second question! He was so thorough, so ready to share his journey and process, that he laid it all out on the table for me to comb through and bring to you. It's a ten year journey, from being the first manual transmission car he's ever driven, to his first NASA driving event, all the way to winning shows and running killer times at some amazing tracks around the country.
We should start with a few facts about the Nismo version of the 350z. They're pretty rare in the grand scheme of things, with only 1,613 being produced in the 2007-2008 U.S. production run. The differences between them, and the standard 350z, are notable. First, the chassis for these cars are actually pulled from the line before assembly and sent to Japanese tuning company Autech for unique chassis reinforcement and stitch welding. Once put back together at Nissan, the Nismo version receives completely different suspension components co-designed with Nismo and Yamaha, as well as upgraded 330mm and 320mm Brembo brakes. To help it stand out further from the standard model, the exterior design was based closely on the Nismo Super GT championship car.
The modifications to Kevin's 350z are countless and ever-changing. You see, as much as he holds the original design of the Nismo 350z in such high regard, he's quick to point out its weak points. If anyone should be able to do that, it's Kevin. He's racked up more track miles on this car than many people do in a lifetime. Kevin is using every experience, both positive and negative, to craft this car into his perfect track weapon.
When it comes to suspension, there's one item we need to address right away, this car is still running its factory-appointed Nismo struts/springs! That's right, Kevin finds the balance and performance of the factory equipped parts to be far superior to many aftermarket parts out there. Rest assured, he plans to upgrade in the future, since he has his eye on some real racecar bits from MCS to take him to the next level. There are plenty of suspension modifications on this car beyond the dampers to look at here, starting with a set of SPL solid control arm and diff bushings, as well as a Hotchkis front sway bar.
Kevin's Z also still sports its factory equipped Brembo brake calipers, although everything else has been updated. The 350 has 2-piece floating rotors from Z1 motorsports and its pads are a combination of Carbotech XP12 fronts and G-Loc R9 rears. There's a master cylinder brace from Z1 as well as Goodridge braided stainless lines to help firm everything up. This car has been through enough track days that Kevin has found the limit of some very high-quality brake fluids. Currently, he's running Castrol SRF and has yet to reach its boiling point.
Power is provided by the factory equipped VQ35HR and a host of Z1 Motorsports parts. Kevin has a close relationship with Z1 and has been sourcing parts through them for nearly the entire time he's had the car. The infamous VQ shriek belts out through a set of Z1 race headers and a full Tomei Expreme Ti exhaust, including test pipes. In case you're wondering, yes, it's loud and yes, he absolutely loves it! The Z is also equipped with a set of Z1 dual cold air intakes wrapped in gold reflective DEI heat tape, as well as a Z1/Setrab 34 row oil cooler. Calling the shots is Uprev software tuned by, you guessed it, Jon Parham of Z1 motorsports.
Kevin explains that as he went along the journey of improving his car, he found that the drivetrain is one of the key weak points when using these cars on the track. One of the first major upgrades was to ditch the internal clutch slave cylinder with a ZSpeed CMAK CSC delete kit. With that taken care of, he upgraded the clutch to an OS Giken STR2C, which he claims to be surprisingly easy to use on the street and sublime for track use. It only gets fancier as you go along, as he's swapped in a Nismo GT Pro LSD in the back as well as a 3.9 final drive and 370z axles, hubs, and bearings. Kevin is quick to note that the change to this diff from the original LSD was the biggest improvement he's made to this car so far.
Exterior is all business. He's added a super sturdy PowerStream front splitter as well as Matchless Crowd Racing canards and tow hooks to the factory Nismo V3 aero kit. Kevin conducted a little weight loss program on the Z with a set of paint matched Fly1 full carbon fenders and a carbon hood by Matchless. There is also a set of Craftsquare carbon mirrors, which probably helped save a few more pounds, but also, they just look plain cool, and there's nothing wrong with adding a little flair to your racecar, right? Current rolling stock is a square set of Volk TE37SL in 18x10.5 et22 square fitment; wrapped in 285/35 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.
One thing that hit me right away when looking at the interior pics of Kevin's Z is that shifter. Coolerworx isn't really a household name in the U.S., but they might become just that once people catch on to the quality and functionality of these shifters.
Other key points of the interior include a Nismo 380RS accelerator pedal, a set of Defi gauges to monitor the engine vitals, and an OMP Velocita Superlegerro steering wheel. Up until recently, Kevin had kept the stock Nismo seats in the 350. But, after getting tossed around a bit too much on faster tracks like Road Atlanta, he opted to swap in a set of Recaro SPG's
If you've ever owned a special car like this, you'll understand why Kevin is so crazy about it. He's gone as far as helping create a registry of Nismo 350s, so that everyone can be documented. He regularly attends every Z event he can get to and his love of the Z chassis and Nismo has brought him all kinds of friends, both near and far. Just a quick peek at his long list of shout outs tells the story of someone who is helping to build a community around these cars and a passion that is unavoidably contagious.
Car:2008 Nissan 350Z Nismo
Owner: Kevin Espiritu
Engine Z1 Motorsports cold-air dual intakes w/DEI heat wrap, race headers, silicone radiator and power steering hoses; Setrab 34-row oil cooler; Koyorad V-Core radiator w/Z1 bleeder port; Tomei Expreme titanium exhaust; JWT oil pan spacer; ARC Japan catchcan; HKS oil cap; Uprev engine software
Drivetrain OS Giken STR2C; ZSpeed CMAK CSC delete kit; Wilwood master cylinder Z Speed version 2; Coolerworx Race shifter; SPL solid bushings; Z1 diff cover; 370Z rear axles, hubs, wheel bearings; ARP extended studs
Suspension SPL front LCA solid bushings, solid rear diff bushings; Hotchkis front sway bar; Nismo Yamaha body dampers
Brakes Z1 2-pc. floating rotors; Carbotech XP12 pads front, XP10 pads rear (now using G-Loc pads R9); Z1 Motorsports master cylinder brace; Goodridge stainless brake lines; Castrol SRF fluid
Wheels & Tires Volk Racing TE37SL 18x10.5 +22; Michelin Pilot Sport 4S 285/35; Project Kics R40 Iconic lug nuts
Exterior Aero Fly1 carbon fiber fenders; PowerStream front diffuser; Fully Torqued Racing splitter rods; Nismo V3 Aero by Autech Japan; front bumper deflector delete; Matchless Crowd Racing Japan tow hook, canards, hood; Craftsquare Japan carbon fiber mirrors; Daytona Racing Japan titanium canard bolts; paint correction and ceramic coating by Drive Radient/Merit Partners
Interior Recar SPG bucket seat; Brid FG rails; Coolerworx shifter; Nismo 380RS gas pedal; Defi red racer 52mm water, oil temp gauges w/Advance BF system; OMP Velocita Superlegerro steering wheel; Works Bell quick-release, short boss hub; trunk plastics & rear wiper deleted
Big man upstairs
Dad, Mom, and the family
Julie L. , you are always the MVP!
Official Nismo 350z Owners Group #0001-1613
Sam D. @ Super Street for the opportunity.
Sinh N. for the photos
Kyle K. for all the exceptional work on the car since day one.
Kyle S. @ Z1 Motorsports for building the Nismo Diff, final drive, and axle swap.
Dylan C./Crew @ Countersteer LLC
Bryana M. & Scott C. @ Nismo USA
Jeremy S. & Natalie R. @ Nissan USA/Heritage
Hiroshi T. @ Nissan Japan
Bryan & Michelle S. @ Zdayz
Russell & Shana F., Jon P., Spencer H., Sam M., Austin I., Popadics, Matt Y., Chris S., and all the crew @Z1 Motorsports
Akira S., Taka-San of Tomei USA
Shinichi K. @ MCR Japan
Yuki Y. @ Daytona Racing Japan
Turner D. @ SPL Parts
David H. Coolerworx Canada/USA
Austin S. of Stollsteimer Powdercoating
Steve L. & Rowe L. @ Mackin Industries
John C. @ Corner 3 Motorsports
Raj D. & Wen H. at Mastermind NA for the JDM goodness
Jon R. @ SPN Performance
Ravi T.@ We Don't Lift
TJ B. @ Tom's Auto & Todd R. (Babyzilla)
Mike C. @ Evasive Motorsports
Duane B. @ RCompound
Richard K Sr./Jr./Chuck @ Lee tire
Coz, Ravi T., Mervin T., Wes/Marissa H. @ Nasa AZ
James M. @ JZilla Track Days
Jim M. & Jade B @ Chin Track Days
Brian K. @ Ford Performance
Peter K. @ Krause & Associates
Ross B. @ Speed Secrets
Nish P. @ Short Stop Garage
Kevin P. of K.Parlett Racing
David T. of TLM Driving
Jonathan H., Burt S., Evan H. @ Merit Partners
Gerson C., Hector, Ryan, and the crew at Drive Radient for the paint correction/ceramic coating on my car and family's cars.