The 350Z you see here was built by a shop called Car V2 in Wilmington, Delaware. Sadly, that shop has since gone out of business, but the twin-turbo 350Z it built has stood the test of time and deserves a better look; it’s a fine example of how to build a force-fed Z that can go Murcilago hunting, with roughly half the cubes, six fewer cylinders and no second mortgage required.
It makes a little over 550 at the wheels on pump gas, yet it’s docile enough to drive around town all day without any drama, says James Cusack, who together with Jay Kang, were the driving forces behind Car V2. It’s also understated to a point where it doesn’t get too much unwanted attention unless, of course, a squirt of race gas enters the fuel system. That’s when it gets hard not to notice the Z when it unleashes 624 rwhp.
But this power didn’t come easily, especially in 2003 when this build went into full effect. The V2 crew gently eased the VQ35DE motor from between the fenders of a newly acquired 350Z and decided that simply sprinkling on the usual assortment of ECU and filter modifications was never going to do the boys would leave after-cats and cold-airs to the other guys. Car V2 wanted to make big power, and that would only be achieved with forced induction boost. And lots of it.
At the time, there were very few manufacturers making or selling the kind of extreme-duty parts we knew that we would need for what we had in mind, James explains. The firm had set itself the lofty goal of pushing 700 hp through the coupe’s crankshaft, and grenading the new (and very expensive) VQ35DE wasn’t an option. Once the engine had been disassembled, the work of Nissan’s engineers was carefully examined. The heads appeared to be masterfully redesigned versions of the older VG30 items, and along with the hearty four-bolt main block assembly, were deemed to be up to the job at hand without further modifications. The internals, however, would be another story.
Low-compression VQ pistons were sourced through CP Pistons, the high-strength forged aluminum components featured all the state-of-the-art trickery and came precision-balanced to within 1 gram. Once pinned onto Crower Pro Billet race-duty rods, they were hung on the stock crankshaft and Nissan kindly stepping in to supply the required bearing. GReddy was one of the very first companies to release a twin-turbo kit for the 350Z back in ’03, James says, and we were first in line.
The new kit’s duo of Mitsubishi-based 18G turbos would be more than adequate to move enough air, even for this boost-happy bunch, and GRreddy’s reputation for quality would ensure a painless installation. With the kit bolted in place and the block buttoned up with APR fasteners, the entire package was dropped back in the bay and the car was strapped to the rollers. A couple of restrained right-foot pulls returned numbers in the 400s for horsepower and torque, and the crew resisted the temptation to flog the force-fed combo during the critical break-in period; boost levels were kept to a laughably low 9 psi. As the guys slowly nudged up the airflow, inadequacies in the stock support systems began to show themselves. Fuel supply and ignition timing were clearly going to be issues, James recalls. The team at Altered Atmosphere Motorsports (AAM) stepped in and supplied the perfect fuel delivery solution with its race-duty system.
The Z’s stock return-less fuel system configuration, which works great on the naturally aspirated engine, just didn’t have what it took to feed the huge demands of the force-fed package. AAM’s custom return fuel system is especially designed for big turbo applications like ours, James explains. We also swapped out the GReddy-supplied 440cc RC Engineering injectors for bigger 750cc RC items.
With the hardware hooked up, it was obvious the OE engine management would also need a little help to deal with all the new toys under the hood. We had all the components we needed to make the big numbers, James says, but the challenge was to make everything work together smoothly, so the car would be a reliable, driver-friendly, streetable package. Factory computers don’t work so well at the kind of boost levels we like. At the time, there wasn’t much in the aftermarket for 350Z engine management, so the crew tried a Turbo XS UTEC engine management system, which takes over the fueling and ignition duties while the OE unit is left free to handle the rest. The system, once plugged in and programmed, had the Z thrashing the dyno mercilessly. The 500 ponies were easily liberated at 15 lbs of boost, with an additional 65 hp freed up at 18 psi running on premium-grade gas. Adding VP Fuels C16 in the tank and turning the boost up to 25 psi gave us a whopping 624 hp at the wheels with 674 ft-lbs of torque that’s an easy 700-plus horsepower at the crankshaft, James says. That’s with no modifications to the plenum or throttle body and running a stock crankshaft, heads and cams; it has a lot more power in it, but we’re getting to a point where any more boost will start to compromise the daily driveability.
The Z’s subtle and understated exterior treatment was a very conscious decision on the part of the Car V2 crew. The beautifully sculptured fenders have been filled with gun metal 19-inch Volk Racing SF Challenge rollers, which barely cover the race ready StopTech 4-pot anchors, a C-West carbon-fiber skirt kit, along with JDM side markers provide the only other exterior adornments. It’s a wild car with very mild looks, James says, and lets face it, sneaking up on people in a semi-stock-looking car and whipping out a 600hp can of whoop ass never gets old. Amen to that, brother amen to that.
Specs & Details
'03 Nissan 350Z
Engine Nissan VQ35DE 3.5-liter V-6
Engine Modifications XT Pro CP prototype pistons forged 8.5:1; Crower billet rods; ARP head & main studs; GReddy twin 18G turbochargers, 3-row front-mount intercooler, oil catch tank; Tial 38mm external wastegates; AAM 3" race-spec downpipes, billet fuel rails, race spec swirl tank fuel system & relocation kit; HKS Type II racing blow-off valve; 750cc RC Engineering fuel injectors; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; CAR V2 custom 3 Y-pipe; JIC-Magic single sided 3 race exhaust; NGK -2 colder Iridium spark plugs; Hondata VQ35 lower plenum heat shield; Hyper Earth grounding kit; ARC Titanium radiator panel
Engine Management TurboXS UTEC EMS & 4-bar MAP sensor, Blitz FATT DC3 turbo timer & SBC-ID boost controller
Drivetrain RPS Stage 3 clutch w/ Synergy flywheel
Suspension TEIN Type Flex coilover suspension
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 19" Volk Racing SF Challenge rims; Michelin Pilot Sport tires; StopTech Stage 3 355mm 4-pot (f/r); JIC-Magic carbon-fiber strut bar
Exterior C-West carbon-fiber skirt kit; JDM Z33 Fairlady side markers
Numbers 500 whp & 500 wtq at 15 psi, 93-octane pump gas; 565 whp & 576 wtq at 18 psi, 93-octane pump gas; 624 whp & 674 wtq at 25 psi, VP Fuels C16 race gas
Interior Blitz Power Meter; Defi 60mm boost & EGT gauges; Bride Ergo seat/ harness; PLX Wideband O2 Meter
We had all the components we needed to make the big numbers, but the challenge was to make everything work together smoothly, so the car would be a reliable, driver-friendly, streetable package.