Humans are an endlessly creative bunch. If there are gaps in our knowledge, we'll fill them in. We imagine faces, body types, and possibly whole life stories on the basis of how a radio announcer's voice sounds. And when we see a car like this trick '03 Nissan 350Z, a mental picture of its owner forms.
The usual go, handle, and stop stuff will all be revealed shortly, but look first in the trunk, resplendent with carbon-fiber panels. Check those three inverted 10-inch JL Audio 10W6 subwoofers, two McIntosh amplifiers, rarely seen in an ICE setting (an MCC224 four-channel for the Dynaudio 240 GT components, 6.5-inch woofers and 1.1-inch tweeters set into the door panels, and an MCC301M single-channel amp for the subs), plus a Nakamichi IN-DV7 DVD player with a Concept RP-170 17-inch screen that pops up right through the rear strut bar by pressing a button on a remote control. This dude is clearly an audiophile and likes a bit of flash to go with it. What does he listen to that takes three subs? Hip-hop or thrash metal? Either way, a 350Z's trunk is the least useful part of the car, so why not fill it like this?
This guy is tenacious too. He wanted a full Do-Luck widebody kit, including the front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper with a carbon-fiber diffuser, imported from Japan and he didn't care that it took him two years to get it. Even then, he didn't blink at customizing the rear bumper to make it blend in with the rear quarter panels. He also stuck to his guns when getting a 1x1 carbon-fiber weave to meld seamlessly into the center of the front bumper's bottom section, although this was no easy task.
A refusal to compromise is all over this car. Every aftermarket part had to be high quality, so that's why the body is completed by Top Secret carbon-fiber B-pillars and tailgate, Seibon carbon-fiber doors, a Mastergrade carbon-fiber roof overlay, lightweight Craft Square mirrors, a Power Enterprise rear wing and a Hasemi Motorsports carbon-fiber hood. Classy stuff.
How's that picture coming? Bear in mind that our mystery man also took part in dismantling and refitting many of the components. He stripped out the interior to soundproof it with Dynamat. He likes the satisfaction of having created something with his hands, bringing his vision into reality. This includes working on the cabin, choosing a restrained yet impressive theme of 1x1-weave carbon-fiber, and brushed aluminum for the door panels, the dash, and the center console.
To keep a consistent look, Bride Cuga Type-HL seats were chosen along with Bride seat rails, floor coverings, and rear upholstery. A Sparco quick-release steering wheel joins Project Mu pedals and a titanium shift knob from UTR-working a B&M short shifter kit in the otherwise stock six-speed manual transmission. A six-point rollcage, courtesy of Cusco, has polished sidebars, while occupants are held in place by Takata harnesses connected to a Rally Innovations Quik-Trac harness bar, which are all finished in Cusco blue to match the rollcage. Instrumentation is an eclectic mix of digital and analog: PLX Devices (boost/wideband) and McIntosh gauges respectively.
What about those 19-inch Work Equip wheels? They don't come from the shop like that. These have been custom-painted with a black gloss finish, set off by a polished lip. The fronts are 9.5 inches wide and run with a custom offset of +15mm, while the rears are 10.5 inches wide and their custom offset is +7mm. Tire choice: Nitto Extreme ZR 245/35 front and Michelin Pilot Sport 275/30 rear-a somewhat capricious arrangement, but our man feels the rears have some extra traction.
No such issues with the engine bay. The trusty 3.5L VQ35DE V-6 remains pretty much unmolested, except for the judicious addition of twin Power Enterprise turbochargers, a Cosworth intake plenum, Turbo XS UTEC engine management, an Unorthodox pulley set finished in chrome, a CJ Motorsports stage one fuel system, and RC Engineering 550cc/min. fuel injectors. A Koyo aluminum radiator replaces the stock unit and the radiator hoses are now from Samco Sport. The factory catalytic converter was also dumped in favor of a Helix test pipe.
The forced-induction system is kept relatively simple: HKS blow-off valve, Power Enterprise wastegate, ARC intercooler and pipes. For a little extra push, a 10-pound polished bottle of Zex nitrous oxide fights for space beneath the JIC Magic carbon-fiber front-strut tower bar and among the chromed front and cam covers, cam control valve sensor, and throttle chamber.
A factory-fresh 350Z is good for 306 hp. This one develops a claimed 400 whp at 6,000 rpm, while running a conservative 7 psi of boost-healthy enough without getting too hardcore. To keep that muscle in check, a Project Mu big brake kit has been installed: six-piston calipers at each corner bite onto SCR 14-inch rotors at the front and 13-inch units out back, actuated by Project Mu brake lines fashioned from Teflon. The suspension was also deemed worthy of an upgrade; TEIN Basic coilovers and Cusco 40mm antiroll bars were obvious and smart choices.
So, how do you see the owner? About 25 years old? A couple of tattoos and maybe a piercing, a cute girlfriend? Definitely a good job-to afford a 350Z in the first place and then spend thousands modifying it. Starting to dislike him a bit because you wish you were more like him? Next time you go to Hot Import Nights in, say, Washington DC and see this car, make sure there's a cushion tied to your butt.
While looking around for the owner, you might see an older guy, about 47, telling a friend about how he likes fishing, talking about his grandchildren, his love for jazz (the music, not the basketball team), his job as an IT manager, or his Hyundai Elantra. Ask him where his son is, as you'd like to talk to the guy who built this 350Z. He'll answer with: "I'm that guy." You'll be glad the cushion was there.
Wesley Banasan came to modifying late in life and via a different route than usual. He fell in love with the 240Z during the mid-'80s while in the United States Air Force, based at Okinawa. "If I knew better, I would have shipped the car to the U.S. and kept it," he said. It was the quest for stress relief from the day job and a passion for quality audio that got him started on this project.
His goal became to have the confidence to show with an elite team (Team Emotion) and win HIN, "but mostly to enjoy friends' company and have a good time." He found that mods are never perfect-there are issues of fit, or some performance part doesn't live up to the hype-but he has learned from the best. "Be patient, do it right the first time, don't cut corners," said Banasan. "In the long run, you'll save money; try to do most or some of the work yourself. Pride is a big factor. If you have to send the mod to a shop, don't go cheap. Pay extra for that quality."
This approach pays off. Banasan has won several honors, including trophies from HIN and NOPI. "But my biggest trophy of all is when a child looking at your car tells you: 'Hey mister, I love your car' and you see that excitement in their eyes. That is heartfelt."
What about that screen in the trunk? "Sound of Tri-State was very resistant about cutting the strut bar," said Banasan. "But I told them: 'Either it's done this way, or we don't do it at all.' It's beautiful work." Indeed.
Has Banasan finished? Nope. "I'll probably do some insane exterior work for next year," he said. He might also build another Z, or perhaps a GT-R. "This is my way of saying: 'I refuse to get old.'"
Behind The Build
Head to the message boards at www.importtuner.com to chat about this feature
Name: Wesley Banasan
Hometown: Dover, De
Occupation: Syms Rally Team Technical Director
Build time: Three Years And Counting
"Build the car 'clean'. An instant 'wow' factor can only make a car less appealing; a clean build will make admirers appreciate your car much longer, with better results."
'03 Nissan 350Z
Output 400 rwhp at 6,000 rpm (boost: 7 psi), 368 lb-ft
Engine Poweripes; Unorthodox pulley set; Cosworth intake plenum; Turbo XS UTEC engine management; CJ Motorsports Stage 1 fuel system; RC Engineering 550cc fuel injectors; Koyo aluminum radiator; Samco Sport radiator hoses; Zex nitrous oxide; Helix test pipe
Drivetrain Stock six-speed manual, B&M short shifter kit
Suspension Tein Basic coilovers; Cusco 40mm antiroll bars; JIC Magic carbon-fiber front strut tower bar
Wheels/Tires 19x9.5 Work Equip wheels +15mm offset (front), 19x10.5 +7mm offset (rear); Nitto Extreme ZR 245/35 (front), Michelin Pilot Sport 275/30 (rear)
Brakes Project Mu SCR 14-inch rotors, six-piston calipers (front), SCR 13-inch rotors, four-piston calipers (rear), pads and lines
Exterior Do-Luck wide body kit; Hasemi Motorsport carbon-fiber hood; Top Secret carbon-fiber tailgate and B-pillars; Seibon carbon-fiber doors; Power Enterprise rear wing; Craft Square mirrors; Mastergrade carbon-fiber roof overlay
Interior Cusco six-point roll cage; Rally Innovations Quik-Trak harness bar; Takata harnesses; Bride Cuga Type-HL seats, rails, and upholstery; UTR titanium shift knob; Project Mu pedals; Sparco steering wheel with quick release; JL Audio subwoofers, Dynaudio 240 GT components, Nakamichi IN-DV7 DVD player, McIntosh MCC224 four-channel amp, MCC301M single-channel amp and gauges; PLX Devices wideband and boost gauge; custom carbon-fiber and brushed aluminum
Gratitude East Coast Auto Body, CARV2, Elegant Wood Design, Sound of Tri-State, Work Wheels, Seibon, DGM polishing, Glosser cleaning supplies, Diverse Concepts (my first car club). Special props for Emotion for allowing me to be part of their team and 'LP' for that extra encouragement. Mostly thanks to Andy Bui for his foresight.