One of life's greatest achievements is leaving a legacy behind, that little something that helps you make your mark on the world. When Tanabe-san of Power House Amuse passed away last fall, it was a shock to the whole Japanese tuning world. He was a great man, an innovator, an individual who over the last decade made a name for himself and his company. Tanabe-san had a true passion for perfecting cars, a vision that helped him create some of the most well-known cars the JDM scene has ever seen. The 380RS Superleggera is his last creation, one of many cars that he worked hard to get ready before his departure from this world. We saw the car at this year's Tokyo Auto Salon, a Z33 wearing the distinctive Amuse style, and one we had to focus on in detail to do justice to it's underlining concept, as well as the great man behind it.
Entering into the Power House Amuse shop is quite an experience. The first time I set foot in the top-of-the-line workshop around five years ago, I was greeted by Tanabe-san who eagerly showed me all the projects he was working on, including the turbocharged and stroked F20 that would be fitted to the then brand-new S2000 GT1. His presence is very much felt in the cars and the products that Amuse is still creating and building. His wife is keeping the name alive, and business is proceeding with constant support from a customer base that spans the globe. The Superleggera is quite a sight when seeing it out on the street. The aggressive body conversion gives it a very imposing stance, especially rolling on those massive 20-inch BBS LM-R wheels.
In Italian, superleggera means "superlight" and it's a term that Tanabe chose to emphasize as the main idea behind this project. The base is an already limited-edition car-the Japan-only Nismo 380RS-and the idea was to make it even more special with some Amuse-style modifications. The first thing was to shed weight, not an easy thing to do because the car needed to stay street-legal, so stripping the interior was totally out of the question. The body was the main area that Tanabe-san planned to address in the quest for lightness, so it was also the perfect opportunity to design a completely new, more aerodynamic, bodykit.
At the front, the 380RS nose was altered with a new style bumper featuring a 20 percent larger opening at the center, which thanks to a special air guide, supplies a lot more air to the radiator. The front diffuser and spoiler works on the already great aerodynamics of the 380RS, which offered zero lift at the front. Now, thanks to the finely tuned Amuse design, the front end develops downforce, helping push the front of the Z down onto the asphalt for more cornering bite and stability. The front fenders sport a wider stance as well as a small sliver of an air outlet, which blends into the Super GT inspired carbon vanes. These are there to help flow air from under the car and from the wheelwells out and around the sides of the car to keep drag low. The skirts continue to aid airflow along the side of the Z, while at the rear a set of FRP overfenders have been applied to the arches. These are mainly aesthetic as the small curved outlet they create is not functional.
The already aggressively styled rear bumper of the Nismo 380RS was left untouched because there are plenty of Super GT cues there already to differentiate the car from more run-of-the-mill Z33s. However, in the quest for more rear end stability, the rear diffuser has been redesigned and extended by 70mm, joining the large rear spoiler, which increased downforce considerably.
The spoiler is also fitted with a carbon gurney flap to add even more efficiency to the design. While the FRP body parts do help shed quite a bit of weight, it's the dry-carbon items that really make a difference. Starting at the front is the Type-III dry-carbon hood, which on top of being paper-light sports a series of outlets arranged in a "V" design. Helping shed mass from the highest point of the car is the dry-carbon roof. A great deal of weight was removed from the rear of the car, thanks to the Amuse rear hatch, which is again made from precious dry-carbon. As a final touch, and the biggest weight-saving measure, the doors have been replaced with dry-carbon ones, beautifully constructed to fit and align with the rest of the bodywork. Thanks to the Amuse kit, the 380RS has lost more than 300 lbs.
One of Amuse's strengths has always been its titanium exhausts, sporting high-quality welding and the signature burnt-blue tailpipes. For the Superleggera, no cost was spared in creating the best possible system, which starts all the way at the front of the car with the titanium headers. These help the VQ38 pump out gases more efficiently, not to mention giving the engine a totally different tone. Twin sports catalysts then clean up the gases without compromising flow and, of course, keep the car street legal. It is then on to the lightweight titanium Y-pipe which connects to the "R1 Extra" main system featuring titanium construction, twin silencers and the signature blue accents on the tips.
The sound is simply phenomenal, deep at idle and very metallic and race car-like as the engine revolutions rise. To help give the engine a sportier edge, the camshafts have been replaced with a set of special Amuse R1 items. These, together with the Amuse Hi-Tec reprogrammed ECU, allow the VQ38 to produce just less than 400 hp-a very respectable number indeed. To provide more performance-oriented driving dynamics, specially set-up Amuse dampers have been fitted along with extremely lightweight titanium alloy springs. These allow the car to remain comfortable on normal roads but are great on track as Tsuchiya-san proved in a recent Hot Version DVD. The Superleggera runs on Ericsson BBS LM-R 20-inch wheels shod in Bridgestone RE050 tires, but when pushing for times on track smaller 18-inch wheels are used along with sticky semi-slick rubber.
Once you open one of those light carbon doors you can't help but admire the interior, which has been kept pretty simple. Replacing the stock seats are a pair of Recaro carbon-Kevlar racing buckets, which help shave a few more pounds from the Z33 while additional instrumentation from Defi has been neatly fitted to the Amuse triple meter enclosure. All of the body parts from the Superleggera demo car are available as a complete kit, although the carbon parts will be extra and ordered separately.
There is no doubting that Tanabe-san's vision will live through the cars Amuse will continue to build. The company has already started development on the new 370Z, so expect to see some great products coming out in the future.
Specifications & Details
Nissan NISMO 380RS
Amuse R1 camshafts, Amuse R1 titanium headers, Amuse R1 sports catalysts, Amuse R1 titanium front pipes, Amuse R1 Extra titanium exhaust system, Amuse Hi-Tec Rom ECU
Suspension and Brakes
Amuse Hi-Tec damper kit, Amuse titanium springs 8 kg/mm (f), 18 kg/mm (r), Amuse 6-pot front calipers and 2-piece slotted discs, Amuse brake pads
Wheels and Tires
Ericsson/BBS LM-R 20x9 +8 (f), 20x10 +18, Bridgestone Potenza RE050 255/30/20 (f), 285/30/20 (r), PCD changer
Amuse Superleggera front bumper, Amuse Superleggera front diffuser, Amuse Superleggera front fenders, Amuse dry-carbon hood Type-III, Amuse Superleggera side skirts, Amuse dry-carbon doors, Amuse Superleggera rear fenders, Amuse Superleggera rear underspoiler, Amuse Superleggera rear wing, Amuse Superleggera dry-carbon side flap, Amuse dry-carbon rear hatch, Amuse Superleggera dry-carbon roof
Recaro carbon-Kevlar bucket seats, Takata racing harnesses, Momo steering wheel on snap-off boss, Amuse triple-meter panel, Defi water and oil gauges (x2)