As any of you who take your daily driver to the track can attest, there are inevitable compromises required when building a dual-purpose car that can get you to the office in comfort during the week and into the winner’s circle at the track on the weekend. Simply put, it’s not easy finding that sweet spot where your car’s capable of delivering satisfying levels of comfort on the street and equally satisfying amounts of speed around a racetrack.
Rather than chasing the elusive dream of a perfect dual-purpose machine, National Speed shop founder and President/CEO George Taylor III decided to build two 350Zs, one as the ultimate street car and the other as a no-holds-barred track day weapon. Before you go assuming our man George may have bitten off more than he could chew, keep in mind that he’s not only been building seriously fast machines of all kinds since he was a kid, was racing Bandoleros around Charlotte Motor Speedway at the age of 13, and was a pit assistant for a NASCAR team, he’s now the head honcho at National Speed at the ripe old age of 22.
George was actually inspired to open National Speed because one of his early projects was a supercharged 350Z. As he explained, “After sending the Z to a number of shops across the country for modifications, I realized just how unprofessional these places were. They were dirty and disorganized and seemed to be feeding off the misconceptions and reckless behavior brought on by the Fast and Furious.”
This experience really highlighted for George just how badly the tuner scene needed leadership and a shop where things were done right with a focus on customer service. With this in mind, you shouldn’t be surprised by National Speed’s spotless shop space, in-house Dynojet, daily updates of customer cars on its website, and a customer lounge that features recliners, a PS3, and a 112-inch screen.
One of the things we like best about this Wilmington, North Carolina-based shop is that George and his crew are equal-opportunity speed freaks. Their ongoing projects range from a ’69 Pontiac GTO to a ’12 Mitsubishi Evo X, and if you read our “Old School” issue a few months ago, you may even recognize the name National Speed because the company played a major role in building the SR20DET-powered 240Z that graced its cover. National Speed also has its hand in just about every form of motorsport imaginable, from autocross and time attack to drift and drag, be it with shop cars or employees’ cars. Plain and simple, these guys like to go fast and are more than happy to help their customers achieve the same goal.
We chose the 350Z for our builds due to many factors. Some of these include potency of the drivetrain, superb handling balance, existing aftermarket support
With experience building just about every chassis available, why did the National Speed team choose the 350Z as its starting point for this no-compromises two-car project? As George told us, “We chose the 350Z for our builds due to many factors. Some of these include potency of the drivetrain, superb handling balance, existing aftermarket support, and, not to be left out, aesthetics.”
Sounds totally rational, but the truth is, National Speed is pretty irrational when it comes to horsepower, because the black street Z makes 635 whp on 93-octane pump gas, and the silver race Z makes an extra 65 whp thanks to a bigger turbo. In fact, both these Zs were used in the R&D phase of the now-defunct Momentum Performance Single Turbo Kit (built around a GT35R turbocharger), so any of you with this turbo kit on your VQ-powered machine are looking at its birthplace.
As for the rest of the motor work on both Zs, which include top-shelf internals from Arias, Pauter, Cosworth, and Brian Crower, Performance Consultant Jordan Watson put it this way: “We chose the parts that we did in the motor because they work as one unit—symbiotically. You can have a bunch of expensive parts, but if they don’t work together, what’s the point? The parts selected for these vehicles all work efficiently together.”
Not that it’s been nothing but smooth sailing during the build of these badass Zs. As George explained, “As anyone with a boosted VQ can tell you, heat is always an issue, but we managed to overcome this with some creative problem solving. I also find heating up the 315 Hoosier slicks on the race car when driving it on cold streets to be a bit of a problem. Fending off the hordes of camera phones and onlookers at every stop is also a challenge.” The National Speed crew did find a good way to keep gawkers at a distance though. “Apparently the bellow of an open wastegate on a 700-whp car at 7,000 rpm scares the average person. One time we drove past a group while cruising down by the beach, and when the wastegate opened, a girl dove on the ground so fast you’d think she was in the middle of a war zone dodging gunfire.”
The engine management and drivetrain upgrades required to reliably run these Z33s at such high power levels is no joke, though. We’re talking a Haltech Platinum ECU on the street car and a Motec M800 on the race car along with DSS axles and OS Giken clutches on both. George and crew weren’t playing games when they selected the wheel and tire packages, either. Volk RE30s with staggered 275/305 BFGoodrich KDWs look the business on the black street Z, while the silver race car has gone even more aggressive with custom 19-inch HRE wheels and 285/315 Hoosier slicks.
Both cars have seen some tasteful upgrades applied to their bodywork and interiors. The race car has a surprisingly subtle MSA Type 7 body kit that integrates very nicely with the factory lines, but the APR front splitter and rear spoiler do hint rather strongly at the car’s true intentions. The custom NASCAR-style rollcage is also a dead giveaway, as are the Recaro Speed seats, Takata harnesses, and Sparco steering wheel.
The street Z is a bit flashier thanks to its JP Aero N-Spec body kit, but its black paint and tinted windows keep it flying under the radar to some extent. Inside, the Sparco Milano leather seats, suede headliner, Wicked custom fiberglass door panels, and a serious audio system provide plenty of added style, but the custom four-point rollcage is proof this street machine is built for far more than just hard parking.
As National Speed’s Performance Consultant Jordan Watson put it, “The sum of the project is only as good as the parts utilized and the execution.” Truer words were never spoken, and this philosophy is certainly fully realized on both of National Speed’s eye-catching and hugely powerful Nissan 350Zs. And with this team being so young and yet so experienced and professional, we can’t wait to see what they bring us next.
Specs & Details
'04 Silverstone Nissan 350Z
Engine Modifications 3.8L stroker; Darton mid sleeves; 100mm Arias Extreme Duty 8.5:1 pistons; custom “250hp Per Rod” rods; billet block girdle; oversized lower oil pan; ARP L19 rod bolts and main studs and 13mm head studs; 101mm custom head gaskets; DE Rev Up oil pump; Cosworth heads w/ +1mm oversized ss intake valves and inconel exhaust valves; Ti retainers, dual valvesprings, upper intake plenum, and plenum spacer; JWT C8 camshafts; port-matched lower intake manifold; Momentum Performance Stage-II GT3794R turbo system; race headers; 3’’ turbo-back exhaust; Stage-II intercooler system and 850cc fuel injectors; custom billet fuel rails’ Walbro 255-lph in-tank pump and in-line pump; custom -8AN feed/return lines; Aeromotive A1000 fuel pressure regulator; Koyo R-Core radiator; Samco radiator hoses; FAL dual-slim fans; Stillen oil cooler
Engine Management Motec M800 stand-alone; large thread IAT sensor; 3-bar MAP sensor and boost-control solenoid
Drivetrain OS Giken triple-disc clutch; 1.5-way LSD and diff fluid; Driveshaft Shop 900-whp axles/hub assemblies; Amsoil 75W-90 transmission fluid
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 19x10 (f) and 19x11 (r) HRE C90S wheels; 285/30R19 (f) and 325/30R19 (r) Hoosier R6 race tires; ARP extended wheel studs; Muteki open ended lug nuts; StopTech 355mm 6-pot BBK (f), 355mm 4-pot BBK (r), and ss brake lines; ATE Super Blue brake fluid
Suspension D2 36-way adjustable coilovers; SPC camber/caster kit (f) and camber kit (r); Megan Racing rear lower-control arms; H&R sway bars (f/r)
Exterior MSA Type 7 body kit; APR front splitter; GTC-300 rear wing
Interior Recaro Speed front seats; Sparco steering wheel and installation components; Takata harnesses; custom NASCAR-spec rollcage; custom gauge panel
Specs & Details
'03 Super Black Nissan 350Z
Engine 3.5L VQ35DE V6
Engine Modifications Momentum Performance Stage-II GT35R turbocharger system, headers, and dual exhaust system; 96mm Arias Extreme Duty pistons; Pauter connecting rods; ACL Race connecting rod and main bearings; custom billet main-cap girdle; ARP standard main studs and L19 head studs; RevUp oil pump; HKS 98mm/0.030” head gaskets, ported cylinder heads, and lower plenum; Brian Crower 264/264 camshafts, valvesprings, and retainers; Cosworth upper plenum; Power Enterprise oil pan; custom oil cooler setup; Koyo rad w/ slim-line fans
Engine Management Haltech Platinum stand-alone
Drivetrain OS Giken ceramic twin-disc clutch w/ upgraded billet pressure plate; custom differential brace
Wheels, Tires & Brakes 19x10 (f) and 19x11 (r) Volk Racing RE30 wheels; BFGoodrich g-Force KDW 275/35R19 (f) and 305/30R19 (r) tires; StopTech 355mm 6-pot BBK
Suspension Momentum Performance upper control arms; D2 coilovers; SPC camber kit (r); GReddy strut tower brace (f)
Exterior JP Aero N-Spec body kit, shaved door handles, fenders, trunk, and rear wiper, 2006+ taillights; 12% window tint
Interior Sparco Milano leather seats- custom 4-point rollcage; Wicked C.A.S. custom fiberglass door panels; Focal door and rear speakers (6); custom rear sub enclosures; Diamond Audio subs; custom rollcage-mounted JL amps; custom painted radio housing; Kenwood head unit; Momentum shift knob; suede headliner