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Project LS350Z Part 1 – SPEC Clutch

Installing a SPEC clutch kit on our V8 in advance of swapping in the power plant

Mark Gearhart
Jan 10, 2017

It’s been a long road of prepping, but our Project LS350Z is full steam ahead! In case you missed our mission statement on the project, check the article here.

Christmas break is the perfect time to relax for most, but for us it was time to take a deep dive into getting our LS3 installed. Working on Nissan’s Z33 is more advanced than working on S-chassis cars. The engine compartment is fairly tight and to get the engine out, you need to remove the front core support or drop the K-member. We opted to pull the engine out of the top since there wasn’t going to be adequate room in our garage to remove the engine from the bottom.

350Z still stock.JPG Photo 2/12   |   It’s the time we’ve been waiting for – ripping out the 170,000-miles-old VQ35DE

The Z33 harness is best left on the engine and disconnected from the car, though we decided to remove the harness first (yeah, don’t do that). Our VQ has 175,000 miles and ran like a champ but has had a valve cover and rear main seal leak for the last few years. Needless to say we were coated in a thick layer of grime by the time the engine was out. Remarkably, all the bolts (including for the catalytic converters) were easily removed. Since we are converting our car to manual, the automatic shifter assembly was removed as well.

SPEC twin disc clutch.JPG Photo 3/12   |   The SPEC twin disc clutch is too nice looking to be covered up by a bell housing.

Prepping Our LS3
With the VQ out and the engine bay cleaned, it was time to prep our LS3 and TR6060 transmission for installation. The more common transplant transmission to install with the LS family is the T56. The reality is that T56s are getting harder to find at a reasonable cost. The TR6060, while being a remote shifter assembly, can be found cheaper in most cases with much lower miles. They were first introduced behind the LS3 in the 2010 and up Camaros, so worst case scenario the transmission is going to be seven years old. We were able to get a good deal on our trans from Formula Drift champion Michael Essa, who campaigned a Camaro in the 2015 season. A sequential was installed in place of the TR6060 in competition form and the Camaro only had 25,000 miles on the clock. The shifter location of the TR6060 sits back about 2.5 inches from the fourth-gen. Camaro T56 shifter location. We will need to shorten the linkage accordingly and mount the remote shifter assembly to the tunnel.

Slave cylinders.JPG Photo 4/12   |   Always buy a new slave cylinder when installing a new clutch, but be careful, there’s two different part numbers for the TR6060 transmission.

SPEC’ing Out The Clutch
Before we mated the engine to the transmission, we needed a clutch that would perform. The requirements were that it needed to handle the rigors of drifting, be street friendly, and handle over 700 lb.-ft. of torque. SPEC Clutch felt the Super Twin was going to be what we needed.

Engine and SPEC kit.JPG Photo 5/12   |   Our SPEC Clutch setup includes full face clutches that can handle over 800 lb.-ft. of torque while still being friendly enough to drive. As you can see, our Fueled Racing oil pan is already installed and we will cover that in our next segment.

“Since the car is utilized daily and likely often in stop-and-go traffic, we chose our new Stage 1 enduro-organic disc material for this Super Twin,” said David Norton of SPEC Clutch. “The woven organic matrix also features some metal, graphite and Kevlar, and is bonded to a steel backing for the ultimate in non-sintered rigidity. This setup can take a beating and still be smooth and manageable.”

8 bolt flywheel.JPG Photo 6/12   |   Our crankshaft is from an LSA, commonly found in the CTS-V. It’s a factory forged crank that can handle big power. One unique aspect is that it’s an eight-bolt configuration for the flywheel mounting. Here we torque step a new set of factory flywheel bolts up to 72 ft.-lb.

When we asked Norton about picking between single and twin disc setup, he explained, “A consumer benefits from a multi-disc clutch when the capacity of a single becomes insufficient or when drivability of a sufficient single disc unit has deteriorated to the point that the car is no longer fun to drive. The benefits are two-fold: higher capacity and better drivability. More discs mean more surface area, and more surface area not only provides a higher capacity, but also adds progressiveness to the engagement and, thus, a more streetable unit.”

SPEC clutch discs.JPG Photo 7/12   |   It’s pretty hard to install the SPEC discs wrong. They are labeled accordingly – flywheel and transmission side, separated by a floater plate.

Since our LS3 had an LSA crank, we needed to have the upgraded aluminum flywheel drilled for eight holes. Installing the clutch assembly is straightforward – new factory bolts were used to secure the flywheel. From there, we slid the clutch alignment tool through the discs and pressure plate, installing them on the flywheel. With a little thread sealant on the bolts, the pressure plate was torqued to spec (pun intended).

Full stack installed.JPG Photo 8/12   |   The full stack is installed, red thread sealant applied to the pressure plate bolts, and everything is torqued to spec in a star pattern.

With this install we purchased a new slave cylinder. Be careful though as there were two different slave cylinders offered on the TR6060 – a short and long style. Additionally, there’s the possibility of having to add an additional shim (that’s included with the clutch kit) that installs behind the slave cylinder. To determine if you need a shim some measurements must be performed.

We previously installed the Fueled Racing oil pan and we will cover that in our next segment where we equip the engine with the oil pan, engine mounts, and get the assembly installed in our 350Z!

Shim measurement.JPG Photo 9/12   |   SPEC includes a shim that’s installed behind the clutch release bearing in some applications. You will need to perform some measurements to see if you need it. First, measure the back of the block where the transmission mounts to the face of the pressure plate. Since the pressure plate’s fingers are recessed slightly, you will need to measure this as well and subtract it from your first measurement. Don’t forget to take into account the thickness of your straight edge.
Trans measurement.JPG Photo 10/12   |   Next, measure the distance from the face of the slave cylinder’s bearing to the mounting surface of the transmission with the bearing pushed all the way in. You can take apart the bearing and remove the spring, but if you have a second set of hands, one of them can easily hold the bearing down for this measurement. Subtract the transmission measurement from the engine measurement.
Shim.JPG Photo 11/12   |   If the gap is over 0.250-inch, the shim is needed. In our chase we were at .268-inch and needed the shim. We weren’t too happy with the leftover thread engagement of the slave cylinder’s retaining bolts, so we stole two bolts that hold the upper and lower intake manifold shells together from our 350Z. They provided the perfect additional length and thread pitch. Now everyone’s favorite part, mounting the transmission and engine together…
Engine ready to drop in.JPG Photo 12/12   |   On the next segment we will review the Fueled Racing 350Z installation kit! Stay tuned!
By Mark Gearhart
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