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2JZ 350Z: NATURE VS NURTURE

Posted by Matt Bell on 5th November 2020

There’s something terrifically unnatural about Zane Petty’s 2JZ 350Z. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely not vanilla; in fact, it’s totally bananas…

Feature taken from Banzai magazine. Photos: Viktor Benyi

There’s a lot to be said for humans just taking a step back and letting nature do its thing. Yes, we like perfectly manicured lawns, but letting a few weeds and wildflowers peep through is good for the bees, isn’t it? And if there’s one thing the world really needs right now, it’s more bees.

However, life in all its disparate aspects is primarily about balance. Nature and nurture working hand-in-hand. Take the humble banana, for instance – the type you find in the supermarket (the Cavendish banana, fact fans) literally could not exist in the wild; every single banana you’ve ever eaten has been an asexual clone, artificially inseminated by humans in a process called parthenocarpy. And vanilla – the artificial insemination of vanilla orchids (using a blade of grass to open the flap that separates the male anther from the female stigma, then smearing the sticky pollen from the former over the latter with your thumb) is so labour-intensive that it’s the second-most expensive spice in the world after saffron… and yet humans keep doing it because nature won’t satisfy our gratuitous whims all by itself.

The point of all this is that cross-pollination and overt human intervention are necessary for our basest pleasures, and the 350Z you see before you throws this all into sharp focus. The brainchild of a vividly imaginative Chicagoan enthusiast by the name of Zane Petty, it fuses all manner of unnatural ideas to create something truly spectacular. Sure, he could have just bought himself a 350Z and kept it stock, and he would have had a jolly nice time zipping about in it as they’re bloody good cars. But that’s not the way this game is played. You don’t read this magazine because you’re interested in people reviewing day-to-day life in standard cars. So you’ll be pleased to learn that Zane’s full-on custom Nissan is packing a mighty blown Toyota engine among its assorted tricks. All thoroughly unnatural, which is precisely what we like.

“This is the third car that I have modified, but definitely the first one I have built,” he assures us, and the definition is essential – there’s a world of difference between applying bolt-ons and tearing something down to reimagine it anew. “Before this I was into Euros, and had a B5 Audi S4. This was the first car I learned to really wrench on, it was a super budget build while I was in college. But I had wanted a 350Z since I was in middle school; I had a poster on my wall as a child that now hangs in my garage! I loved the style, and I love that everything on the car has a Z on it… even though the fenders are all that’s left now.”

The vision in Zane’s head was of a tastefully modified black 350Z; indeed, he’d already built a black one in his imagination so he knew exactly what he was looking for. However, dreams and reality seldom synthesise in the most logical way, and instead of buying a standard car to act as a blank canvas, Zane’s attention zig-zagged askew when he saw a supercharged version advertised which really tickled his pickle. “It was three hours away, and really overpriced,” he recalls, “and owned by a guy who really didn’t know anything about the car.” Sounds like a strong basis for a happy relationship, then. And as is so often the case, buying someone else’s project turned out to be a bit of a pain in the backside; adding a Vortech supercharger to that VQ motor is unquestionably a recipe for thrills, especially with 375 horses in your skyrocket, but the dodgy state of tune meant that it blew up before long. “I destroyed that motor when the crank decided to bounce around inside it,” he deadpans. “So the car went to Touge Factory outside of Chicago to get a fully built VQDE with a brand new Vortech supercharger. That motor had a million issues keeping the belt on though; I towed it down to Dynosty in Louisville, Kentucky for them to fix it and give me more power. I was pleased with the shop’s efforts, but sadly not with the outcome – so I decided to swap the motor myself.”

A reasonable response, although this was no logical plan to simply swap in a fresh new VQ V6 and make the car happy in its established niche. No, after these various machinations, Zane was adamant that he needed to level up, and installing the revered and iconic Toyota 2JZ-GTE straight-six was the way to do that. And so, in his garage with his own two hands, that’s precisely what he did. “The car only left my garage for fab work and tune,” he’s keen to point out. “The whole build was done by me and a couple of friends with hand tools; the motor and tune was done by Sound Performance just outside of Chicago. In choosing parts I really didn’t want to cheap out on anything or miss anything I would regret later, and the build all went pretty smoothly – from pulling the motor to it being tuned and running took around eight months. The only really significant hurdle I faced was on the day it was going in to be tuned, and the car caught fire! The turbo was thought to be ruined; I had a BorgWarner S366, and in that moment I decided to go with a Precision 6766 instead.” Blessing in disguise really, as that mighty Precision turbo is a superb flourish on top of a beautifully built engine: Zane tore the whole 2JZ down and rebuilt it afresh, adding in BC 264 cams, BC springs and valves and re-angled valve seats at the top end, with fuelling uprated via a Walbro 450 pump and FIC 1300 injectors. The Mishimoto catalogue was comprehensively raided, yielding an intercooler, radiator, fans, catch can, power steering reservoir and coolant overflow, and custom downpipes were crafted to mate the Supra Store 2JZ manifold to the hardcore Z1 350Z dual exhaust system. A few other tricks and tweaks, the sensible addition of an ECUMaster EMU Black ECU, and mapping by the legendary Turbo Joe, and the 2JZ was making a neat 500bhp at 15psi. Given how ludicrously strong the 2JZ is, that’s power Zane can use all day and every day.

There’s more to this build than that engine swap of course, that goes without saying. The two-jay-zee may be the big-ticket item, but you don’t see that when this thing rolls into the showground and airs out. What you do see is an absolutely killer stance thanks to an Air Lift Performance setup carefully tweaked for the perfect fitment. The wheels sit supremely flush, having been precisely crafted to do so by 5One Customs in California – they’re iForged Senekas, in staggered widths with the rears measuring a massive 11-inches wide, an effect impressively enhanced by the application of sparcely-treaded 265-section R888s. It’s part of a full-on because-race-car vibe that extends to the Corbeau buckets and harnesses in the interior, genuine NISMO sideskirts, and that perky Rocket Bunny ducktail. And we just love the fact that beneath that striking spoiler you’ll find a boot build panelled with real wooden planks – just one of a plethora of amusingly jarring and unexpected details that this home-built hero loves to serve up.

“The car is mostly used for shows and events, although occasionally I’ll take it to work,” says Zane, no doubt winning the office car park on those particular days by quite some margin. “People’s reactions are amazing; if someone knows the car when I pull into a meet, there will be a swarm around it by the time I park! I love that people truly appreciate the project, and see it for a complete build that flows from the engine bay all through the car.” Unsurprisingly, after all this time and effort, he just can’t stop tinkering with it. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? These things have a habit of getting under your skin – so before too long it’ll be sporting a vented carbon bonnet, an upgraded fuelling system to properly cope with E85, and hopefully somewhere in the region of 600bhp. Or more. You know these 2JZs can take it!

The entire process is wholly unnatural of course, but that’s what makes it so enthralling; the savage cross-pollination of Nissan and Toyota, taking the best elements of both to create something stellar and unique. It’s the tastiest vanilla-banana milkshake you can imagine… with a lingering aftertaste of race fuel.

Tech Spec: 2JZ 350Z

Engine:

2JZ-GTE VVTi 3.0-litre straight-six, Precision 6766 turbo, re-angled valve seats, BC 264 cams, BC springs and valves, Titan crank pulley, Supra Store exhaust manifold, Perfect Tuning intake manifold, custom downpipes to Z1 exhaust system, custom intercooler piping, Mishimoto intercooler, Mishimoto radiator, Mishimoto fans, Mishimoto catch can, Mishimoto power steering reservoir, Mishimoto coolant overflow, Drift Motion idle motor, Walbro 450 fuel pump, flex fuel sensor, Aeromotive fuel regulator, FIC 1300 injectors, carbon fibre spark cover, CD009 transmission, Collins Garage swap kit, Collins Garage Stage 5 clutch, ECUMaster EMU Black ECU, Wiring Specialties harness, tune by Turbo Joe

Power:

500bhp @ 15psi

Chassis:

Custom 9.5×18-inch (front) and 11×18-inch (rear) iForged Seneka wheels (built by 5One Customs, California), 225/35 Yokohama tyres (front), 265/35 Toyo R888 tyres (rear), Air Lift Performance V2 air-ride, 350Z Brembo brakes with custom powdercoated gold calipers, stainless brake lines

Interior:

Corbeau seats and harnesses, K Bar harness bar, Status full carbon steering wheel, NRG quick-release, Likewise gearknob, AEM wideband and boost controller/gauge, custom wood boot build with Air Lift tank

Exterior:

KBD V2 front bumper, NISMO sideskirts and rear add-ons, Rocket Bunny wing with custom rivets, tinted taillights, headlight eyelids, carbon fibre rear diffuser

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