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 |   |  TF Works SR20-Powered Nissan 350Z - Midwest Track + Show Champ
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TF Works SR20-Powered Nissan 350Z - Midwest Track + Show Champ

Why race cars that are show cars are almost always better than the opposite

Aaron Bonk
Jul 23, 2015
Photographer: Ginash George

One of the most imposing time-attack builds to emerge from the Midwest and victor of '15's Tuner Galleria spoils, Matt Eck's 350Z, probably wouldn't have happened were it not for an S14 that burnt to the ground in a house fire.

That's where the SR20 engine came from that ultimately made its way into the Z33 at the hands of Chicago's TF-Works. "All he wanted was for us to put the engine into the car," shop owner David Lee says about the '05 chassis that's since been prepared for the race track and put through the one-off, carbon-fiber and titanium-lined wringer.

  |   TF Works Nissan 350Z Voltex Rear Diffuser

The Powertrain

It starts with an SR20DET short-block that's been hogged out for 2.2L of displacement. More cubic inches mean getting the honkin' Precision 5862 turbo going is a whole lot easier and is in part what's led to the engine's 550 whp and 500 lb-ft of torque that Lee, in a shoulders-shrugged sort of way, says are really just preliminary, low-boost figures that ought not to excite you. Underneath the Seibon carbon-fiber hood, there's little that's been sourced from the off-the-shelf department. The twin-scroll turbine hangs from a custom exhaust manifold crafted by Lee's crew that pushes its waste through a 3-inch titanium exhaust handmade by the same team. None of this is the sort of stuff you'd expect from a car that, initially, went under Lee's care for nothing more than an engine swap. "Matt wanted to build the car, but he didn't know what direction to go," Lee says. "So we advised, collaborated, and came up with this."

  |   Gone is the VQ35DE V6 of the 350Z! This SR20 has been bumped up to a 2.2L and given more boost from a Precision 5862. What's that equal? More power and better weight distribution!

And by this, Lee means a Z33 with the sort of dry-sump oiling system typically exclusive to big-dollar race cars, a ProEFI standalone computer that'll make your chipped ECU look about as sophisticated as a Walkman, and an OS Giken gearset and Exedy triple-disc-clutch combo that's worth more than a Miata. "Every part was chosen with purpose and for the appropriate response," Lee says before describing the MR2 electric power steering system that was integrated, which frees up parasitic drag at the crank yet allows Eck to go around corners without having to supplement his diet with Muscle Milk.

The Chassis

Eck delivered the Z33 as a stripped-down shell, bare of just about everything that differentiates a 350Z from a pile of metal that resembles a 350Z. The blank slate allowed Lee and his team of fabricators to construct the chassis how they saw fit. The chrome-moly rollcage, which surrounds the Racetech seats and protrudes into the engine bay, tying into the shock towers, increases the Z33's rigidity, allowing the suspension to better do its job. Suspension like Stance two-way coilovers and a barrage of custom control arms and tie rods together allow the chassis to better do what the driver will expect it to.

  |   TF Works Nissan 350Z Voltex Body Kit

Walk around the Z and it's obvious that everything that could be made better was. Here, stopping is just as important as turning and making lots of power; as such, TF-Works fitted the coupe with 380mm Tarox rotors all around with 10-piston calipers up front and 12 in the rear. In other words, here, a single corner's got more stopping power than your whole Civic. None of this means Eck's Z is any heavier than it ought to be, either. As it turns out, despite the added metal, the whole lot tips the scale at 2,900 pounds without him in it—that's about 500 pounds lighter than when the Z33 left Nissan's assembly line and with its weight better distributed.

  |   Several weeks were spent fabricating custom aluminum ducting to help with cooling.

The Aero

But all you care about when you first see Eck's Z is the big, fat Kognition GT wing that's mounted out back. That and the rest of the aero work, it's all purposeful. Like the Voltex front and rear spoilers and side sills that direct air toward all the right places, helping plant the chassis downward and increase tire grip as the speedo needle moves the right way.

It's this sort of aero that initially got Lee's TF-Works off the ground. Lee founded the company in '03, but it wasn't until it began importing Origin aero kits from Japan that the business really took off. "This was one of the first affordable kits from Japan," he says. "Now you could build a 240 that wasn't ugly."

  |   TF Works Nissan 350Z Kognition Gt Rear Spoiler

Not ugly just like Eck's Z33 with its Lexan windows fitted at TF-Works that retain the original panes' curvature but weigh a whole lot less. Not ugly like the handcrafted tin work that directs air from the front bumper's opening toward the slant-mounted aluminum radiator that hooks up to the engine's water inlets and outlets with a series of anodized-aluminum fittings spanned and clocked to match the engine bay's lines. These aren't the sort of details you'd necessarily expect from a purpose-built track car, but are nevertheless what led to the car's being crowned Best of Show at last April's annual Tuner Galleria.

  |   While it won Best of Show at Tuner Galleria, this is where this Z33 belongs! (Photo by Nicolas Cassara)

Best of Show trophies won't make Eck's Z do any better on the time-attack circuit come later this year, though, and he and Lee are quite aware of that. According to Lee, another 150 hp are already in the works, and by the time you read this, Eck's Z33 will have made the transition from the show circuit to where every carbon fiber of its being says it ought to be: the racetrack.

  |   TF Works Nissan 350Z Voltex Front Bumper
  |   TF Works Nissan 350Z Racetech 4009Hr Driver Seat
  |   TF Works Nissan 350Z Omp Steering Wheel
  |   TF Works Nissan 350Z Kognition Gt Rear Spoiler
By Aaron Bonk
413 Articles
TF Works SR20-Powered Nissan 350Z - Midwest Track + Show Champ
Tuning Menu
Owner: Matt Eck
Hometown: Wheeling, Illinois
Engine: 2.2L SR20DET short-block built by Mazworx; Darton ductile-iron sleeves; CP 90mm 9.0:1 pistons; Crower rods; Calico Coated ACL bearings; ARP main studs; Power Enterprise head gasket; Mazworx P11 SR20VET CNC-ported cylinder head; Supertech dual valvesprings, titanium retainers, valve guides, inner valvespring seats, and +1mm oversized valves; P12 cams, valve cover, and cam angle sensor; GReddy adjustable cam gears; Mazworx 1/2-inch head studs, timing chain tensioner, dry-sump oiling system; Nissan VVL plug cover; ATI crank pulley; Accusump pre-oiler; TF-Works custom alternator bracket, custom intake box, custom 5" Garrett intercooler, custom intake manifold with 90mm throttle body, customer intercooler piping, custom twin-scroll exhaust manifold, custom 3" titanium exhaust, custom fuel surge tank, aluminum ducting; Precision Turbo 5862 turbo; TiAL MVS 38mm wastegates (2), 50mm blow-off valve; Injector Dynamics 2,000cc injectors; Walbro 400-lph in-tank fuel pump; Bosch 044 in-line fuel pumps (2); CJM fuel return kit; Fragola hard-aluminum and steel-braided fuel lines; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; M&W ignition system; AEM ignition coils; Setrab oil and power steering coolers; C&R radiator; SPAL fan; Davies Craig electric water pump; MR2 electric power steering pump
Drivetrain: Z33 transmission; Mazworx transmission adapter plate; OS Giken gear set; Exedy triple-disc clutch; Tilton hydraulic clutch release bearing; Tomei 1.5-way limited-slip differential; NISMO differential cover; Driveshaft Shop driveshaft and Pro Level axles;
Engine Management: ProEFI EMS; Racepak Smartwire power distribution module and IQ3 dash; custom wiring harnesses;
Footwork & Chassis: Stance Pro Comp +2 coilovers; SPL Pro V3 front upper arms, front lower arm bushings, front compression rod bushings, front outer tie rod ends, rear toe arms, rear camber links, rear traction links, rear knuckle bushing kit, and solid differential bushing set; TEIN hardened inner tie rods; Fontana Nissan Racing front lower control arms; AM Performance strut tower bar; Whiteline front and rear stabilizer bars and endlinks
Brakes: Tarox 380mm rotors, 10-piston front calipers, and 12-piston rear calipers
Wheels & Tires: 18x9.5" front, 18x10.5" rear Volk Racing TE37SL wheels; 265/35R18 front, 275/35R18 rear Toyo Proxes tires
Exterior: Voltex body kit; Seibon carbon-fiber hood, fenders, doors, and trunk hatch; Kognition GT rear spoiler; Optic Armor Performance Lexan door and hatch windows; It's Proper livery
Interior: custom rollcage; Racetech 4009HR driver seat with custom fixed floor mounts, RT4009 passenger seat with Buddy Club rails; Teamtech Motorsports harness; Works Bell quick-release hub; OMP Targa steering wheel, fire-suppression system; PCI RaceAir helmet blower system; SPA Technique gauges



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