As I sat in the all too familiar southbound 405 freeway traffic last August, I had an opportunity to do one of two things. I could either get angry at the hundreds of cars between me and my destination, the drivers of which could clearly not have any justifiable reason to be on the road at the same time I was, or I could calmly accept the fact that this is what was happening and reflect on what I was on my way to do on this particular occasion. I try to avoid Southern California freeways at all costs, but it isn’t possible to achieve this goal 100 percent of the time. At least this drive was to do something cool. Chris Forsberg has a new car, he says, and he wants me to shoot it in front of a bar in Long Beach. Unsure of the motivation, I probe for more information.
“Is this car a street-driven car, Chris?” I asked him on the phone. “No, Nate, it’s actually a four-seater drift demo car that has a 500hp V8 in it.” I conclude that Chris has beaten me to the bar and enjoyed a few too many Jameson and ginger ales. After all, what other explanation could there be behind wanting to, first of all, build a car like this, and second, to shoot it at a bar? Still unclear of the context behind Chris’ plan, I venture on and put my faith in the former Formula Drift champion’s choice of shooting scenarios. As it turns out, there’s a very good reason indeed for wanting to shoot at this bar, and I discovered what that was as I finally made my way down the Cherry Avenue exit ramp and head toward 4th Street aka “Retro Row” in the heart of Long Beach.
As I pulled up and parked next to The Pike Restaurant and Bar, I saw Forsberg jog out waving at me enthusiastically, as if I didn’t see the pearl white SSR MS1-clad M35 sitting in front of the bar. The Pike is a place that a select few of our readers might be familiar with, but don’t feel bad if you’re not one of them. According to Chris, this eclectic little bar is kind of like a secret Formula Drift driver hangout (spoiler alert!), and he has been a regular patron, along with his lovely wife, Michelle, (the couple actually held their wedding reception here) ever since meeting the bar’s owner at the Long Beach Grand Prix several years ago. You see, the owner of Pike is Chris Reece, former drummer from a little band called Social Distortion (maybe you’ve heard of them; they’re only one of the most influential punk bands of all time). Anyhow, Chris Reece also happens to be an avid car guy and motorsports fanatic, so when he and Forsberg met, it was only a matter of time before Reece’s bar had a new gang of regulars.
At that point, it was becoming clearer to me why Forsberg wanted to shoot here so badly. It wasn’t the “apple juice for grown-ups” in his blood. It was more simple than I had made myself think all along. This place is fun, and Chris built this car to be fun—it’s as simple as that. And in all honesty, it’s not as weird as I thought it would be, shooting what is essentially a race car on a busy city street. The M56 looks like a street car from a distance; you’ll never think otherwise until you get close and notice it has four Recaro bucket seats and a completely custom rollcage, designed to allow four people to safely slide sideways around a track at a ridiculously high rate of speed. I mean if that’s not your definition of fun right there, you’re reading the wrong magazine. Chris has built this car pretty much entirely on his own with one single purpose in mind: to create an exciting demo car he can use to safely take people for ride-alongs because, as he says, the best part of the car is seeing people’s reactions after going for the ride of their lives.
A big aspect of what makes this car interesting is, of course, that it has four seats, but there’s more going on with the M56. On the outside, Sam’s Auto Land has laid down a fresh (in more ways than one) pearl-white paintjob, with the only body modifications being an OEM Infiniti lip kit and a Seibon Carbon hood and trunk for weight savings. The interior has been stripped down in typical race car fashion; things like the factory glass, carpet, and sound deadening have been removed for further weight reduction. However, the dash is still mostly intact, and Forsberg has installed a PCI 4 Link Pro Intercom so he can clearly hear his passengers hollering in enjoyment (or perhaps terror, depending on who’s riding.) The rollcage has been specifically designed so that all four bucket seats are able to fit safely and securely, thanks to custom-made brackets Chris fabricated himself. The ’cage is not “technically” legal for competition use in Formula Drift due to the inherent nature of not being able to fit the kind of hoop-to-rear-bar design mandated by the rule book. However, Chris is adamant that the car is 100 percent safe despite this fact. The M56 is even equipped with a DJ Safety four-stage fire suppression system, just in case a joy ride turns sour.
The M56 is powered by the 5.6L V8 native to the Nissan Titan pickup truck. Chris has beefed up the package to deliver a reliable 500 horses, mostly due to the addition of Nissan Motorsports individual throttle-bodies, Jim Wolf camshafts, and JBA tubular headers. All these horses are transferred to the rear wheels via a 350Z transmission, an ACT triple-plate clutch, and a custom Driveshaft Shop driveshaft and axles. Distribution is helped by a Tomei Technical TRAX rearend, and a set of DG-5 coilovers help keep everything in line and handling properly on track. A BigStuff3 ECU is in charge of managing everything under the hood, and Chris says the power is more than enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face who is lucky enough to experience it.
And that’s what it all really boils down to for this car. As we wrapped up the shoot, Chris and I decided to take a load off and hang out with the crowd at The Pike for a while. It was really cool for me to hear about how Chris has built this car with such a different goal in mind than his famous 370Z competition car, even though they share many aspects. He tells me that he’s taken quite a few people for ride-alongs, and so far no one has left with anything but a huge you-know-what eating grin on their face afterward, which is exactly what he wants. By the time this article hits newsstands, you’ll be able to see the M56 for yourself across the nation at various drifting events. And who knows? Maybe if you play your cards right, you can be one of the lucky four and someday go for a spin with Chris. I’m still waiting for my turn, though, so take a number and wait in the back of the line.
Specs & Details
'10 Infiniti M35
Engine Nissan VK56DE 5.6L V8
Engine Modifications Nissan Motorsports individual throttle-bodies; AEM carbon-fiber airbox; K&N oil filters; Mishimoto radiator; Accusump; dual Walbro fuel pumps; Jim Wolf cams; JBA headers
Engine Management BigStuff3 ECU
Drivetrain 350Z six-speed transmission; ACT triple-plate clutch; The Driveshaft Shop driveshaft & axles; Tomei Technical TRAX differential; Tilton twin-disc clutch
Suspension DG-5 coilovers; Chris Forsberg Racing rear arms; Tein tie rods; electric power steering; spot-welded chassis
Interior Recaro SPG driver seat; SPG XL passenger seats; PCI 4 Link Pro intercom; Simpson harnesses; six-point rollcage by Hot Line; Painless Chassis wiring harness; DJ Safety 4-stage fire suppression system; Fuel Safe fuel cell ; Auto Meter gauges; Clarion VM700B monitor; rearview camera;
Exterior Infiniti OEM lip kit; Seibon Carbon hood & trunk; paint by Sam’s Auto Land
Wheels, Tires & Brakes SSR MS1 wheels 18x9.5-inch (F) 18x11-inch (R); Hankook RS-3 Tires 245/40R18 (F) 265/35R18 (R); Project Mu brake pads
Thanks To everyone at NOS Energy Drink, Hankook Tire, Nissan USA, Sam’s Auto Land, SSR Wheels, Recaro, Seibon Carbon, Hot Line, and PCI Race Radios for helping me with this build.