Since we last featured our long-term Maxima in the January 2000 issue, we have rolled quite a few miles over and the car is still a blast to drive. The Nissan distances itself from the masses by rolling on 19-inch Volk Racing AV3s from Mackin Industries. We have added power to the Maxima with a HKS cat-back exhaust, which netted 5.2 hp at the wheels. When we last left the project our 19-inch Volks were feeling lonely-too much space between them and the fender lip-and we wanted to see if a ground effects kit would spice up the Nissan's body lines.
We enlisted Eibach Springs to bring the Max out of the clouds. Eibach's Sportline springs are designed to lower the car about an inch and provide a more aggressive stance while lowering the center of gravity for better handling characteristics. Even after rolling the fender, we found our 275/35-19 rear tires occasionally rubbed when the suspension was fully compressed. So if you plan on running 19s, go with a 19x8-inch, 265/35 combination. The rubbing is more of a noise nuisance than a real flaw and we can toss the car around as hard as we like without complaint-only big dips cause the light rubbing. We are currently planning to swap our wheels out for Volk IIIs and are going to try 18s on for size.
We have tossed the Max around with gusto. On Highway 1 just North of the Monterey Peninsula, we hit a set of twisties and the Maxima proved to be up to the challenge. It was one of those magical drives where the timing between apexes is just right and you are able to explore the entire handling spectrum of a car to the fullest-quick tight turns, long sweepers and changes in elevation. We found the steering quite responsive and the Eibach coils allowed the suspension to provide plenty of real-time feedback. There was a touch too much body roll, but this occurred only under the most demanding conditions. If you're a canyon carver and a Max pilot, a set of sway bars should be on your wish list.
We wanted to further distance our project car from the mortal 2000 Maximas out there so we ed Stillen for one of its urethane body kits. We knew the company had the kits because Stillen built the 2000 Maxima Pace Car for CART and used that vehicle for R&D. We also liked the way the Stillen kit did not drastically change the lines of the car and its urethane construction meant the front spoiler could take a licking and keep on ticking. The Stillen front clip retains most of the Maxima's contours and styling cues, only "buffing out" the areas that need it. Best of all, the Max can park normally as all body work clears conventional parking lot curb barriers. The rocker panels are subdued, which we prefer to something that looks like a pontoon, and the rear fascia finishes off the car nicely while staying in line with the original contours.
We're not finished with Stillen; we plan to use the company's supercharger system (used on the Pace Car) as well as some of its bolt-on power parts to really boil the blood of the VG30DE engine. So stay tuned as we give this sculpted four-door a set of sprinter's legs.