Luck is a mysterious thing. Some people have it, some people don't. Of course, one theory on luck is that you make your own in life. As the saying goes, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." In other words, luck is earned through hard work and determination, not to mention the willingness to take a risk and to see bad luck and potential setbacks as opportunities for growth and a new direction.
Mike Shaw is a hard-working family man who makes a living as a truck driver. But it just so happens that he also has a real passion for cars, motorbikes and speed, which would explain why Mike owns this wild widebody Nissan 350Z as well as a 9-second Kawasaki ZX9, both of which have seen action on the streets of Indianapolis. But if it wasn't for an unexpected engine failure with just 9,000 miles on the clock-something a lot of people would call bad luck, but Mike preferred to see as a opportunity-we might not be telling the tale of this hard-working American and his Do-Luck dream machine.
Having played around with cars and bikes his whole life, Mike used to be into modifying mini trucks, but when it came time to build something new it was Nissan's new sports car that caught his eye. "The import scene was really heating up in Indiana, but everybody around here was into Hondas, so I wanted to do something different. I talked my options over with a buddy who suggested the EVO VIII or 350Z, but for me a sports car shouldn't have four doors, so the choice was easy."
That's when Mike headed to the local Nissan dealership and picked up a brand-new '04 silver 350Z. Within six months Mike had installed the usual intake and exhaust mods and in the spring equipped it with a carbon-fiber hood and some 19-inch Konig rims. A very reasonable beginning for a street car build, but that's when, with only 9,000 miles on the motor, Mike heard a bad knock coming from the bottom end. Pulling it into the driveway, that knock turned into a connecting rod punching a hole through the oil pan and led to an unsatisfactory experience with the dealership, which refused to cover the engine failure under warranty because of the cold-air intake. "I could have fought with the dealership and maybe got it covered under warranty, but instead I figured I'd use this experience as opportunity to build the engine."
That's when Mike parked his Z in the garage and completely disassembled it in preparation for a serious rebuild. Mike was originally planning to do a 4.5-liter Nissan V-8 engine swap, but after researching this option he decided a built VQ35 would be plenty powerful without needing all the custom work a V-8 swap would. For starters, Mike bought a new short-block, which he stuffed with Wiseco 11:1 pistons, Eagle rods and ARP main studs. He also had the heads ported and polished, at which point he assembled them with Jim Wolf Technologies S1 camshafts and valvetrain, and ARP head studs. To the heads he bolted a Kinetix Racing SSV intake manifold and a newly released SSV engine cover that's contoured perfectly to the manifold. On the exhaust side, Mike went with Stillen headers, an Invidia stainless steel test pipe and a GReddy TiC true dual exhaust. Sponsor X Level, an online parts supplier based in the Indy area, also pitched in a Cyber Speed Hyper Force ignition system, grounding kit and voltage system. All in all, a serious all-motor build with serious power potential, especially once Mike has the ECU fully tuned with a Haltech he plans to install soon.
But what really makes this Z so special is the striking Do-Luck bodykit and the fact that Mike and two friends, Donald James and Mark Sanders, built it in two and a half weeks, working late nights to get the car ready in time for the Import Alliance show in Nashville, where tire sponsor Falken wanted it on display. "When we started, the Z was completely bare. The bodykit needed to be installed and painted, the interior was completely gutted, no dash, nothing inside except the steering wheel, and somehow in two and a half weeks we got it built in time for the 700-mile drive from Indy to Nashville." In fact, the eight-hour drive was literally the engine's break-in trip, with less than 100 miles on the odometer before they left for the show.
It was in Nashville at the Import Alliance show that our photographer, Jeff Creech, spotted Mike's unique widebody Z wearing a stunning set of Extreme Gold 19-inch Work VS-XX wheels. The nine-piece Do-Luck bodykit, imported by sponsor X Level-which provided all of the parts for the build, either through sponsorship arrangements with the parts makers or by selling them to Mike at cost-took six months to arrive and is one of the only ones in America. But this super-rare JDM bodykit wasn't enough for Mike, he went the extra mile by also installing Do-Luck's distinctive carbon-fiber rear spoiler as well as a VIS Racing carbon-fiber rear hatch as well as shaving the door handles and antenna. Rather than going with a predictably flashy paint scheme, Mike very tastefully decided to offset the bold aero mods with a subtle coat of DuPont Flat Black paint, shot by his buddy Donald James in his garage.
To Mike's credit, his masterpiece of a Z didn't just catch our eye, it also took home quite a few trophies since that eventful trip to Nashville. Quite an accomplishment for a family man and truck driver from Indianapolis, but as Mike will tell you himself, none of it would have been possible without the support of his wife of 17 years and his three kids, the tremendous local help he's had from guys like J.T. Cocherell from X Level, and the motivation provided by that unexpected engine failure he chose to turn into an opportunity. And so it would seem that you really do make your own luck in life, and Mike's hard work and dedication make him the lucky owner of the hottest 350Z Indiana and Nashville have ever seen.
Specifications & Details
'04 Nissan 350Z
3.5-liter VQ35DE V-6
Wiseco 11:1 pistons, Eagle rods, JWT S1 camshafts, valvesprings and shim, and oil pan spacer; ARP main studs and head studs; ported and polished cylinder heads, Cometic 0.03" head gasket, Kinetix Racing SSV Extreme Flow intake manifold and custom painted engine cover; Injen SP Series Mega Ram intake, Unorthodox Racing Ultra SS underdrive pulley set, Stillen headers, Invidia stainless steel test pipe, GReddy TiC True Dual exhaust, Cyber Speed Hyper Force ignition system, grounding kit, and GT voltage system; Koyo radiator, Samco hoses, Titek carbon-fiber cooling panel
JWT clutch kit and lightweight aluminum flywheel
Tein Basic coilovers
Wheels, Tires And Brakes
Work VS-XX 19x9.5" (f) and 19x12" (r) wheels, Falken FK-452 235/35-19 (f) and 315/25-19 (r) tires
Do-Luck 9-piece widebody kit, carbon-fiber diffuser, and carbon-fiber wing; VIS Racing carbon-fiber rear hatch and fusion-style rear spoiler; shaved door handles and antenna; DuPont Flat Black paint, Lamin-X headlight film, smoked taillights and rear turn signals, X Level graphics
NRG quick release hub, Auto Meter carbon-fiber Volt and Fuel Pressure gauges, Black suede covered seats, headliner, and shift boot; Pioneer head unit
Falken Tire, NRG, Sun Auto, X Level, Donald James Paint
My wife and three kids, J.T. from X Level, Donald James, Mark the Nissan Tech, and the Indy Z Club