Nissan’s 370Z is better described as a grand tourer rather than an all-out sports car. It is not only hefty, but it’s also a little underpowered for the weight. That criticism might be a touch on the harsh side, but considering how little the car has stirred the aftermarket and racers alike, it seems to be a justified assessment. In the tuner’s eyes, the car should’ve come with a set of turbos, and in the track rat’s mind, the car is just a little too porky to really be a stellar road racer. As a comfortable GT car, the 370Z doesn’t appeal to the hardcore fan, but what happens when you drag the Z off the couch, mandate two hours in the gym daily, and feed it only kale and broiled chicken? The result is eye-opening.
Despite the reputation, there’s plenty of potential with the Z. Successful in Super Taikyu endurance racing, the modern versions of the Z car have been shown to race well when that heft is lessened and the output raised. Such is the case with this lovely, fine-tuned example from Valkyrie Autosport, whose car is no bloated sow at 2,650 pounds dry. To keep up with some powerful machinery, they had to extract a little more from the VQ engine.
While the VQ was always a motor defined by its low-end torque, its top-end left something to be desired. Not anymore. Initially, the race car used used a 3.7-liter Jim Wolf block and the VQ40 crank from a Nissan Frontier, though, eventually, the truck’s crank was ditched for a standard piece. Using a set of polished heads for the VQ35HR, a Motec M1 ECU, JE Pistons and bench-tested, Grand Am-spec intake and exhaust cams, the motor provides the punch and the response the Z needs to be competitive in the NASA TT1/ST1 class.
Harnessing that added thrust is a Tilton triple-plate clutch and an Aasco custom flywheel, which is currently mated to a stock 370Z 6-speed. Eventually, a six-speed sequential will replace the stock piece, but seeing as power isn’t outrageous, the original six-speed should suffice. This car is built on a reasonable budget, after all.
For that reason, the materials used for the extensive weight reduction aren’t all that exotic. Wider, fiberglass fenders don’t follow the original lines of the car, but give it an aggressive, purposeful appearance fitting of a racing car, and they also house massive 320/650-18 Hoosier slicks front and rear. A Seibon carbon decklid trims the weight a bit more, as does a fiberglass roof, with all original steel roof components removed to keep the center of gravity low.
The car’s poise and precise handling owes much to the SPL spherical bearing kit, adjustable upper A-arms and adjustable toe and camber kits. Complementing these is a set of JRZ 2-way adjustable shocks with Hypercoils springs. While Valkyrie took the tuning program quite far, they insisted on retaining the original 370Z suspension mounting points. Owner Brian Lock mentioned that, “although we went crazy with the widebody and weight reduction, it really is still a Z. We didn’t want to build a ‘silhouette’ car. We wanted this to still be seen as a 370Z.”
After running the car for a season, the crank failed. So Lock decided to reduce the power slightly in favor of greater reliability and serviceability with a standard 3.7-liter crank. With additional tuning, and a conservative setup, that mild decrease in output shouldn’t hinder the Z’s overall performance, especially if it’s blended with clever thinking. Lock is a realist, and understands that fuel strategy could give the budget world-beater an edge.
Lock’s approach is quite simple, “the ultimate goal for the car is the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, hence the custom, 30-gallon fuel cell. We knew that we didn’t have the budget to beat a GT3 Cup car on pace alone over 25 hours, but if we could stay out on track longer, then we can easily make it up.” Confident in his approach, Lock and his Nissan could have what it takes to beat the venerable German bruisers — we wait with bated breath.