Perhaps it's the fault of the economic system we're born into, which pits each of us against our fellow man, rather than alongside him. Or maybe it's the result of parents and teachers showering our childhood years with encouragement that we're each special, unique individuals, destined to accomplish great things. We can certainly place the blame on pop culture that glorifies individual-against-world struggles through film and music. But no matter where we point the finger, each one of us is guilty--of thinking we can make it on our own.
The truth is we're each products of our environment. We're only as good as the people around us, and--whether or not we realize it--the key to success in life lies in surrounding ourselves with successful influences. Virginia Beach native Frank Trapani is fortunate not only in that he realizes this, but that he did so at a young age. Like a lot of us, Frank discovered the import automotive way of life from high school friends. "The import scene was in full swing when I got into it," he explains, "The RX-8, S2000, WRX, and EVO were all released when I was in school, and my friends were either driving them, or building the older imports to take them out," he laughs, "but the 350Z was the one for me."
Learning from first-hand accounts of friends who were replacing clutches in their brand-new AP1 S2Ks, busting up their WRXs' five-speed trannys, or losing their EVOs to the repo man after they mistakenly thought they could hack large new-car payments, Frank decided to play it safe for the first two years after the car's release. "First-year 350s had tire feathering problems from faulty suspension components, oil consumption issues, etc.," he explains, "and initial demand for the cars caused prices to spike. I decided to wait a couple years and save a few bucks before I bought one." Which was triply smart, because once he did cop an '05 in the summer of '05, aftermarket performance parts were already in full production, and Frank and his buddies added the requisite intake, exhaust and suspension almost immediately. "My friends and I would all help each other build our cars and compete at the track," he tells, "and the 350 was pretty fast for what it was . . . but I eventually wanted more."
The following Fall would see Frank leave the old crew in search of continued education and new adventures in New York--a journey he and his Z made together. "We had some of the fastest cars around, back home," he explains, "but the guys in NYC were crazy . . . just crazy!" One of the first he met was drag racing legend Vinny Ten, at a local show in the winter of '05/'06. At the time, Frank's 350Z could pull a low 13-second quarter-mile pass. Vinny was building one that would eventually run 6s just months later. "Vinny was working closely with Jim Wolf Technologies to build his drag car," Frank explains, "and they were also looking for a street car to prototype a new GT28 twin-turbo kit. Vinny recommended me, and four weeks later I was rollin' a 460whp, stock-block Z." With power production reliably taken care of, Frank turned his attention to turning heads, by way of a full Blitz kit, with over-fenders and 20-inch rollers. "It was different from any other Z out there," he explains, "but got old real fast." Hanging out with NY's drag and time attack elite taught Frank the virtues of speaking softly, whilst carrying a high-powered, race-prepped beating whip. The dubs and the kit had to go, and in their place, Frank had Auto Elite in Virginia Beach shake up an INGS+1/GReddy/Nismo exterior cocktail, and garnish it with race-ready Volk Racing GT-F wheels, staggered at 19x9.5 in the front, and 19x10.5 behind. Functional VIS canards and a Veilside rear wing were also added, and the Z's tired, budget suspension was replaced with TEIN coilovers, Hotchkis sway bars, and GT Spec bracing.
It was around this time that Frank decided he--again--needed more power; 40K miles on twin GT28s had finally become monotonous, and he'd caught wind of yet another prototyping endeavor--this one, for a single-turbo GT37R kit manufactured by Powerlab in Arizona--and a guy named Jeremy Tibbs of Performance Factory in Orlando, in charge of development. A deal was struck, and after shelling out some cash for Arias Extreme Duty 9.0:1 pistons, Pauter rods, a full Brian Crower valvetrain, and a whole list of other goodies, Frank's beating whip was turned registered deadly weapon, to the tune of 670 whp and 617 lb-ft of torque at just over 17 pounds of boost.
"It's still a street car," tells Frank--which explains the pimp Rockford Fosgate/Infinity/JL Audio in-car entertainment, Defi gauges, Veilside recliners, and Megan Racing brakes. "but I'm planning to take it to the time attacks and drags this year," which, again, explains the dualistic Defi gauges, Veilside recliners and Megan Racing brakes. "After a 25psi re-tune, we should be hitting over 750 whp, and running low 10-second passes." Cue the Spec twin-disc clutch and lightweight aluminum flywheel; also doubly advantageous in a street car.
"Vinny's got some tricks up his sleeve for the upcoming season," Franks warns, in closing, "So I'll be shadowing him and his crew with the car at most of the east coast events . . . I have a feeling there's a lot more I can learn from these guys."
Behind The Build
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'05 NISSAN 350Z
Output 670 whp @ 7,000 rpm, 617 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
Engine Brian Crower Stage 2 cams, valve springs, retainers; Pauter connecting rods; Arias Extreme Duty 9.0:1 pistons; Powerlab oil pan, intake manifold spacer, front-mount intercooler, three-inch piping; ACL race bearings; HKS headgasket, EVC 6 boost controller, custom four-inch carbon fiber Ti Toyota Supra exhaust, F-Con V Pro EMS; ARP L19 headstuds; five-angle valve job; Garrett GT37R turbocharger; TiAL 44mm wastegate, 50mm blow-off valve; Koyo radiator; Samco Sport hoses; Autotechnik carbon fiber diversion panels; Deatschwerks 850cc injectors; Walbro 255Lph fuel pump; Altered Atmosphere throttle body spacer, billet fuel rail; Nismo oil cap, radiator cap, polished intake plenum; OEM Nissan '06 350Z oil pump
Drivetrain Spec twin-disc clutch, lightweight aluminum flywheel
Suspension TEIN Basic coilovers; GT Spec front strut brace; SBC camber kit; Hotchkis front and rear sway bars
Wheels/Tires Volk Racing GT-F wheels (19x9.5 front, 19x10.5 rear); Toyo Proxes T1-R tires (245/35-19 front, 275/30-19 rear)
Brakes Megan Racing brakes (14.5-inch slotted rotors with six-piston calipers front, 13.5-inch slotted rotors with four-piston calipers rear), stainless steel brake lines
Exterior INGS+1 N-Spec front bumper; GReddy GRacer rear bumper; Nismo Version 3 hood; VIS Racing Invader 3 canards; Veilside Version 1 rear wing; '07 Nissan 350Z LED taillights, headlights cleared and painted, HID conversion; Stillen rear roof spoiler; BASF Dark Shadow/Silverstone two-tone base paint, pearl, clearcoat
Interior Veilside VSD-1 Limited carbon fiber seats; EVO-R carbon fiber dash accents, titanium shift knob
Electronics Defi Imperial gauges, Link control unit; Pioneer AVH 6800 head unit; JL Audio 5000 amplifier, W3 subwoofers (x2), stealthbox; Rockford Fosgate Type R component speakers, door speakers
Gratitude Jeremy Tibbs @ Performance Factory and Altered Atmosphere; Vinny Ten; Intense Motorsports; Auto Elite; Discount Auto Sound; GT Spec; East Coast Truck and Auto; the S.A.G.E. crew; Tim, Kevin, Ray and Danny @ Strike Team; the rest of the Long Island crew; my family for their endless help and support
Virginia Beach, VA
Assistant project manager, East Coast Truck and auto; Liberty Custom Painting
Cars, the gym, hanging out with the crew, family
"Prepare for the worst; hope to get off easy."