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1994 Nissan 300ZX

The uphill battle to perfect Japan’s forgotten mid-’90s supercar

Luke Munnell
May 13, 2011
Photographer: Kevin Bandy

Meet Shaquita. She’s big, black, loud, and proud. Honey’s hood rich and ghetto as hell, with the booty to prove it. Now, before you call the NAACP on us and fire off the hate mail, know that these aren’t our words, rather those of Shaquita’s owner (crossing the line?): Steven Darchiville. As the short, broke, brown (also his words) Canadian kid from Spartanburg, SC, who’s put up with her for the past five years, he claims he gets to use these terms of endearment forged during the two’s love/hate relationship. She refuses to do anything he wants without a fight, he beats her around on the streets for fun. But ask anyone who knows them and you’ll hear two truths: He’d sacrifice nearly anything for her, and she makes him a better man.

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The saga begins back in 2005, when Steven was just getting out of a long, stale relationship with a ’96 Plymouth Neon. She was his first, and he’d saved seven months’ worth of dishwashing wages to bring her home. She taught him how to wrench. He bought her all the best clothes, shoes, and power-adders. They went far together, but Steven dreamed bigger; the Plymouth was content with settling down in the small town and relishing the slow life, and he knew she would only hold him back. Five years came and went as Steven worked his way up to a better-paying server position in the restaurant, and looked for something new to accompany him on the next steps. A friend told me about a used 300ZX some redneck guy in town was selling for quick cash, Steven tells. It was parked under a tree when I went to see it, and looked like it had been there for years. It was covered in leaves, sap, and bird shit, was running on five cylinders, had a chopped stock suspension, and well over 200K miles on the odometer. It looked like hell, he continues. I was in love.

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The car was red, naturally aspirated, and neglected. Steven bode farewell to the Neon, and invested what little he made off her in tuning up the Z. He replaced her mangled stock suspension with Tein springs and Tokico dampers and fitted her with a new set of wheels that same year. The next saw Steven upgrade the Z’s suspension with SPL solid subframe collars and Topspeed front and rear camber arms and tension rods, swap out the Teins for Megan Racing coilovers with more aggressive spring rates, and add an HKS Hi-Power exhaust, bolt-ons underhood, and a Stillen lip in the front. Like the ugly-duckling-turned-beautiful-swan of the after-school special, Steven’s new lady had taken off her glasses and let her hair down. And it made him want her even more. I took on more shifts at work and started thinking about what I could do to improve my income, he tells. Anything I could do to keep upgrading.

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2007 saw Steven work longer hours and save for two important milestones in the pair’s relationship: a set of ultra-rare Work wheels and a JDM twin-turbo VG30DETT swap. If you’ve never turned a wrench under the hood of a Z32 300ZX, here’s a tip: buy those fancy low-profile ones, some swivel sockets, and a vast assortment of extensions. Installing bolt-ons was enough for Steven not to want to mess with it again. I had the front clip shipped to my friend’s shop, NSPerformance, dropped the car off, and picked it up one week later with the conversion done, he explains. This included the shop having to fabricate custom brackets for the radiator, source custom radiator hosing, bypassing the factory ECU-controlled boost solenoid by way of a Greddy electronic boost controller, and convert plugs and wiring to the crank angle sensor, power transistor unit, and fuel injectors. Not bad for a trial run. It was their first attempt at the swap, elaborates Steven. Almost four years later I’ve had no problems.

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Bodywork was similar. We could all spend weeks massaging the sheetmetal, fiberglass, and urethane of our rides to perfection, spraying them with flawless coats of base and clear, and then sanding and buffing to a glass-like finish . . . after years of practice doing it. But why do all that when you could put in as much time at a job you’re already good at and just pay a professional? Steven opted for the latter, and by 2008 his Z was flossing a mix of perfectly fitted Greddy, Powertrix, Nismo, and shaved JDM and USDM Nissan exterior components sprayed DuPont Onyx Black by good friend Ethan Mathis. Stereo components were similarly handled by the pros at nearby Elite Audio, and we suspect Shaquita got her name as soon as they showed Steven the true power of the three 10-inch Arc Audio subs crammed seamlessly between the trunk and Status Ring seats.

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Surprisingly, fitting Shaquita with her next set of shoes might have been the biggest challenge altogether. I’ve had five different sets of aggressive wheels on this car, Steven explains. And each one required different spacers, tire sizes, and fender tweaking. If you’ve seen this car in past photos, sitting tough on aggressive rollers, they were nothing like the Veilsides on the car now. It took me nine hours of pulling, rolling, and tire stretching to get them on, Steven confesses. And that was inside a full-service shop with a tire machine, all different tires, and an assortment of wheel spacers. The final recipe: the wheels18x10-inches with a +10mm offset and 20mm spacers in the front, and 18x11-inches with a +30mm offset and 5mm spacers at the rear255/35-18 front and 285/30-18 rear Nankang NSII tires, gradual rolling/pulling of the rear fenders, as much camber as Steven could dial in all around, and notched rear lower control arms. The rear wheelwells are totally maxed out, says Steven. Game over.

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Make no mistakeSteven made Shaquita his so they could enjoy life the way man and car were meant to: nights out on the town, weekends in the countryside, speeding through twisty two-lanes, and out-gunning lesser machines on the open road when necessary or for no reason at all. Shaquita’s been the same car for nearly two years now, and Steven hasn’t changed a thing, with the exception of upgrading her brakes for the occasional downhill canyon jaunt. I love everything on the car, he says, bluntly. The Wilwoods, the Megan coilovers, the wheels and tires, the power and tuning . . . it’s what I always wanted, and I wouldn’t change a thing. A big, loud, brash, ghetto-booty-flossin’ dream come true. Named Shaquita. Maybe it’s true what they say: Once you go black . . .

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Behind the Build

Steven Darchiville


Spartanburg, SC

Wheel/performance retail sales

Photography, dance, fitness, music production

Build time:
5 years



1994 Nissan 300ZX

Output: 380 rwhp / 390 lb-ft of torque

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Engine VG30DETT; Jim Wolf Technologies (JWT) POP Charger intake; HKS Hi-Power exhaust; Megan Racing test pipes, downpipes; Sard R2D2 blow-off valves (x2); Z1 Motorsports side-mount intercooler piping; Greddy Profec B Spec II electronic boost controller; Deatchwerks 550cc injectors; Concept Z Performance Air Guide radiator diversion panel; Socketed ECU, map-tuned by Ash Powers of Ash-Spec

Driveline Concept Z Performance short shifter; XTD Stage 3 six-puck clutch, Pro-Lite flywheel; SPL solid transmission mount; Z1 one-piece Platinum driveshaft

Suspension Megan Racing Street Series coilovers; SPL solid subframe collars; Topspeed front camber arms, rear camber arms, tension rods

Wheels/Tires Veilside Andrew Racing V wheels (18x10-inch +10mm front, 18x11-inch +30mm rear); Nankang NSII tires (255/35-18 front; 285/30-18 rear)

Brakes Wilwood 13-inch two-piece front rotors, four-piston front calipers, Street front pads, stainless steel lines; Brembo drilled/slotted rear rotors; Hawk HPS rear pads

Exterior Greddy Gracer front bumper; Powertrix side skirts; Nismo smoked clear corners; JDM front fenders, side markers; custom shaved rear bumper, flattened front fenders, rolled/1.2-inch pulled rear quarters; DuPont Onyx Black exterior paint, applied by Ethan Mathis of M&E Body Shop

Interior Status Ring front seats; G-Force Pro race harnesses; Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IV Momo steering wheel; Nismo Version R shift knob; NRG four-point harness bar

Electronics Auto Meter Phantom boost gauge; Alpine IVA-D105 7-inch DVD touch screen head unit, Blackbird GPS; Arc Audio Kar Series KS900.6 amplifier, 6.5-inch front component speakers, 10-inch subwoofers (x3); Stinger wiring; Street Glow red LED interior illumination

Gratitude Maruchan Ramen for helping fund this project; Joe at Elite Audio; my family for support; 300ZXClub; NSPerformance; all my peeps in the ’Burg; RimWerks for putting up with my wheel fetish, and for the strength to push myself to achieve more in life.


Nissan Street Performance
M&E Body Shop
By Luke Munnell
304 Articles



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