In the world of Nissan, there's the GT-R and then there's everything else. Nothing compares to the performance or exclusivity of Godzilla, the aptly nicknamed all-wheel-drive, twin-turbocharged, fire-breathing, Porsche-eating R35 GT-R. But for sports car purists - we're talking two-seater, rear-wheel drive, front-engine performance with the ability to turn off all the electronic nannies - it's tough to beat Nissan's other icon, the Z. Now in it's sixth generation, the 370Z maintains a clear link back to the original Fairlady, the S30 240Z. But can this latest and greatest Z-car be tweaked enough to hang with Godzilla around a racetrack?
Thanks to Sharif Abdelbaset, owner and ECU tuner extraordinaire at Forged Performance, and his friend and founder of Godzilla Performance, Jay Stoops, you're about to find out. You've no doubt heard of Forged Performance, a turning shop based in Marietta, Georgia, that's widely known for its expertise with Nissans (but those guys will make anything with four wheels go faster), so it should come as no surprise that the company's GT-R shop car is seriously quick around a road course. So quick, in fact, that Sharif owns more than a few TTU (NASA Time Trial) track records.
Godzilla Performance, on the other hand, is new to the tuner scene, but if its 370Z is any indication, we'll be hearing a lot more from them. Founder Jay Stoops knows a little something about Godzilla, having owned a very potent R35 that Forged Performance helped build to very similar specs to the company's own race car. But Jay wanted a new challenge, so he set his sights on building a 370Z that could hang with a GT-R. And so the chase began.
With little more than 100 miles on the odometer, Jay dropped his Z off at Forged Performance, where Sharif and his crew of 12 technicians, fabricators, tuners and go-faster junkies stripped this pristine white Fairlady down so fast that it would make a sailor blush. According to Sharif, "Every unnecessary component was removed: interior panels, sound deadening, seats, airbags and any unnecessary wiring. A full certified rollcage was fabricated, along with all the required safety equipment. The end result was a car that weighed 2,850 lbs and was blasting past Porsche GT3s at its first test day at Roebling Road. That's without any power-adders at all, except for test pipes."
With the initial race preparation completed, Jay decided he wanted to get his hands dirty by installing one of the first GReddy twin-turbo kits in the country. In the process, Jay also upgraded to larger fuel injectors, a fuel cell, spherical suspension bushings and a massive engine cooling system, at which point he brought it back to Sharif at Forged for some ECU tuning. On a conservative-reading Dyno Dynamics dyno and at just 12 psi of boost, the Godzilla-chasing Z pumped out a rock solid 518 whp on a stock block.
According to Jay, "Nissan left us with a lot of work to do in order to keep this engine cool, particularly with the additional of forced induction. Even with basic oil and radiator solutions, we'd routinely see oil temps of 270-plus [Fahrenheit] and coolant temps of 250! We coordinated with C&R for a large NASCAR-style, twin-pass radiator with integrated oil cooler, along with a dedicated oil cooler that's nearly the same width and height as the radiator itself. With these pieces in place after some creative ducting and mounting solutions, oil temps and coolant temps stabilized at a reasonable 220 degrees despite 100-degree ambient temps and many high-speed laps."
Forged Performance's GT-R is a machine you may recognize from our '09 Modified Tuner Shootout, where it placed third overall in a field of highly developed race cars. Using an internally stock VR38 engine with an AMS twin-turbo upgrade, bigger injectors and fuel pumps, and careful tuning of the Cobb AccessPORT, Sharif has managed to squeeze an astounding 700 whp out of it when running C16 race gas. But for road course use, he limits output to 550 whp so that stress on the engine is kept to a minimum and the power-to-weight ratio is optimized for TTU competition.
But Godzilla is no lightweight, though the FP version has been lightened by almost 200 lbs, thanks to a partially gutted interior (the stereo and A/C systems are intact). Still, tipping the scales at 3,650 lbs means it's giving up 760 lbs to Godzilla Performance's much lighter 370Z. But with its highly advanced AWD system putting power down even more effectively thanks to JRZ triple adjustable coilovers, a new set of massively wide 18-inch HREs (replacing the 19-inch Volk RE30s seen here) and Hoosier or Toyo race tires, and Forged's own prototype race sway bars, will weight really matter or will grip reign supreme?
According to Sharif, "The 370Z is a beast! With its lightweight, heavily modified chassis and suspension and 500-plus horsepower to the wheels, it's a handful to master on track. You have to be very smooth yet dedicated to throttle control, as the car has a strong midrange and reaches full boost by about 3800 rpm. I always believed the GT-R had the best braking system ever, but this 370Z eclipses it. The initial bite from the big StopTech Trophy Race brakes is neck-snapping and there's never a hint of fade." Jay then added, "I think what makes the 370Z really fun to drive is the high level of driver involvement compared to the GT-R. You're busy inside the Z's cockpit. All three pedals, both hands and manipulating all the controls simultaneously makes for great fun and a sense of accomplishment in taming the beast."
It's a different story behind the GT-R's wheel. "The car is incredibly balanced and poised," Sharif says. "Traction and acceleration coming out of corners is second to none on track. When analyzing the in-car data, the 370Z is actually just as fast in terminal velocity, stronger on the brakes, but gets left behind coming off the corners. This is obviously a result of the GT-R's AWD system, which allows the driver to apply throttle much sooner. So all of the speed and lap time improvement is generated from how quickly the GT-R comes off the corners and can transition to full throttle."
All well and good, but where are the lap times? On the same Toyo R888 DOT race rubber, the Forged Performance GT-R has posted a best of 1:15 at Roebling Road while the Godzilla Performance 370Z has gone as quick as 1:17. At Road Atlanta and Carolina Motorsports Park, the gap is a bit bigger, with the GT-R running 3 seconds a lap quicker than the Z (1:31 versus 1:34 at Road Atlanta and 1:40 versus 1:43 at CMP). So it's clear that Godzilla is still the big dog in the world of Nissan - at least for now. The next steps for this already impressively quick 370Z include improved under panel aerodynamics, brake ducts and a built engine with far more power. Carbon-fiber body panels to reduce weight further are also in the works. So don't get too cozy on that mountaintop, Godzilla, because this feisty Fairlady hasn't given up the chase.
Engine VR38 3.8-liter V-6
Engine Modifications AMS billet twin turbo upgrade, Injector Dynamics 1000cc fuel injectors, custom twin in-tank Walbro fuel pumps, CBRD test pipes
Engine Management Cobb AccessPORT, Pro Tuned by Forged Performance
Suspension JRZ triple adjustable coilovers, FP selected spring rates, FP prototype race antisway bars
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 19x10" (f) & 19x11" (r) Volk RE30 wheels, Hoosier/Toyo 295/30R18 (f) & 335/30R18 tires, AP Racing J-Hook rotors, Carbotech XP12 brake pads
Exterior Aeromotion rear wing
Interior Racetech racing seat, Schroth 6-point racing harness, TraqMate data acquisition system
Numbers 700 whp & 650 wtq w/ C16 race gas; 3,650-lb curb weight
Thanks To Forged Performance, HRE Wheels, Toyo Tires, Hoosier Tires, JRZ Suspension, Cobb Tuning, Willall Racing, Nissan Motorsports, Carbotech, AEM, HKS & Nagtroc.org
Specs & Details
'09 Nissan 370Z
Engine VQ37HR 3.7-liter V-6
Engine Modifications GReddy 20G Twin Turbo Tuner Kit, Deutschwerks 600cc fuel injectors, Aeromotive FPR, custom Godzilla Performance fuel cell & fuel return system, C&R heat exchanger/radiator & oil cooler
Drivetrain OS Giken clutch kit, AMS short shifter
Engine Management HKS boost controller, stock ECU Pro Tuned by Forged Performance
Exterior Modified Nismo front bumper, custom Godzilla Performance splitter, Aeromotion rear wing
Interior Racetech racing seat, Schroth 6-point racing harness, Sparco 350mm steering wheel, GReddy infometer touch gauge, AEM AFR gauge, fire suppression system, Numbers 518 whp & 450 wtq w/ C16 race gas; 2,860-lb curb weight
Thanks To Godzilla Performance, Forged Performance, GReddy, StopTech, JRZ Suspension
What Does it Cost to Own an Icon?
With the popularity of old school Japanese cars exploding, acquiring your own KGC10 Skyline GT-R or S30 Fairlady Z (240Z in America) is getting pricier by the minute. KPCG10-based Skylines that have been converted to GT-R trim fetch as much as $50,000, and genuine Hakosuka GT-Rs go for twice that.