Many times when people set out on their first major build, things quickly snowball and it's possible to lose sight of the end result they hope to reach. As much as no project car is ever "done," there must be direction and purpose with an ultimate goal, even if that goal is never fully realized (or changes several times along the way). We all want to go fast, but the desire to look good in the process can quickly get the best of us. It's all about balance - after all, it's hard to have your cake and eat it, too, especially when it's your first slice. Joe Mangione is a man with a plan, and his '03 350Z has it all: good looks, rare JDM parts and more than 500 sweet twin-turbocharged horsepower on tap.
When Joe picked up his Z33 back in 2003 he soon discovered the online Nissan community. After seeing some of the crazy stuff that people were doing, Joe realized he was in for more than he had bargained for. Nothing happens overnight, and Joe didn't give up. His goal was to build a beastly street monster he can have fun driving and occasionally take to the track, while still keeping the creature comforts required of a daily driver. Joe battles his way across Los Angeles traffic in the Z every day to go to and from work, and seven years later Joe's Z has come a long way.
To start things off, the exterior of his Z has been fully worked over from head to toe. A nice kit consisting of a ChargeSpeed Type 2 front bumper and custom-moulded Ings +1 LX side skirts and rear bumper really sets the car's body lines off. Goliath Construction handled paint and body work, coating most everything with custom Gunmetal Mica DuPont paint. Joe left some bare carbon fiber showing, including the hood and the less noticeable but arguably much more bad-ass rear diffuser. A custom modified Mastergrade rear diffuser has been fit into the bumper, a very unique touch that sets Joe's Z apart from the crowd.
The stance is handled by an array of nice aftermarket suspension pieces -TEIN Flex coilovers were chosen for their broad range of adjustability and the fact that they're suitable for daily driving as well as track abuse. Joe commutes to and from his office Monday through Friday, so he knew he needed to set the car up in a way that could be changed up when necessary. "This car has kind of been my never-ending Lego creation, and to this day I couldn't be happier - this thing is a blast to drive and pretty much tackles anything I throw at it," Joe says. "I've been in the visual-effects industry for the last 15 years for film and music videos, and I love creating something from scratch and putting my own twist on it, so the car was no different."
A perfect example of Joe's drive to get something new and unique is evident in his brake setup. A set of massive 6-pot APP big brakes have been fitted up front, and as if that wasn't enough, the matching kit has been setup in back. These hardcore stoppers are the first Z33 APP big brakes to make it to our side of the Pacific, and they look right at home behind the massive flat-black 19-inch Volk TE37 wheels.
The coolest part of Joe's creation is almost the most subtle - the engine bay is mostly covered by OEM plastic pieces and is very discrete-looking at first glance. Unsuspecting car guys and even Nissan fans who look too quickly might never know that a whopping 535 hp and 500 ft-lbs of torque lay in wait under the hood of Joe's Z. The fully built GTM block is force-fed by an upgraded APS twin-turbo kit while tuning is handled by an HKS F-Con V Pro, the car produces enough power to make anyone who misses the stealthy front-mount intercooler look silly indeed.
When asked about his experience with this car, Joe is quick to thank his friends who helped him along the way. "After going in circles a few times, I eventually found a safe haven at Corner 3 garage in Lake forest, CA," Joe says. "Shop owners Steve and Nima actually took the time to help me realize the direction I wanted to take for the car. Their passion for the Nissan community blew me away from Day 1, and I soon noticed I never felt like a customer when I visited their shop - instead I felt like family." With passion driving the build instead of politics or profits, it's easy to see how Joe and Corner 3 were able to come together and create such a nice well-rounded car.
And what's left to do now? There are always more "things" you can do to a car, but Joe is happy with his current setup. "I just want to drive it and enjoy it now," he says - and we don't blame him. With a great overall setup like this, we would be content to drive this car to work, out to a movie and then to the track on Saturday morning. Joe plans to keep this car for many years to come, and we hope he continues to modify once the bug bites again. Because no one ever stays away forever, especially with a Black Beauty like this just begging for some love.
Specs & Details
'03 Nissan 350z
Engine Nissan VQ35DE 6-cylinder
Engine Modifications Upgraded APS twin-turbo kit (2871R) GTM Stage 1 short-block, pistons/rods, Stage 1 heads; JWT S1 camshafts, ARP main studs, Lower rev-up plenum, APS tallboy plenum, Aqua Mist meth/water injection, APS 3.5" test pipes , 3" exhaust; AAM Stage 1 fuel return system, Walbro 255 fuel pump, HKS 680cc Injectors, EVC boost controller, knock amp, SSQV blow-off valve, Camp 2 diagnostic monitoring system; Cusco oil catch can w/ bypass valve, Setrab oil cooler setup w/ custom aluminum diversion funnel & bracketing, dual power steering coolers
Engine Management HKS F-Con V Pro 3.2
Drivetrain Cusco RS 1.5-way LSD, ACT heavy-duty 6-puck clutch, JWT flywheel, Nismo differential cover
535 hp & 500 ft-lbs of torque at 14 psi
Thanks To Steve & Nima from Corner 3 Garage , Marty & the gang at TWC Competition, Adam from Z1 performance, Mike at ClearCorners.com, Denise, Tommy, Peter & the rest of my350z.com, Goliath Paint and Body, RHD Japan, APP