Simon Lee is a builder by day and fabricator/grease monkey by night. Among other things, the 24-year-old acquired his Nissan Fairlady 300ZX through a trade when he sold his 243kW Honda Integra Type-R. From day one, the 300ZX was destined to be none other than a track car.
Nissan released the 300ZX Z32 model in the early 1990s and it was an instant hit, securing its place as one of the top-ten performance cars in the world. In 1990 it claimed the title of the ‘all-time best-selling sports car’, which it still holds to this day.
Although a fast-responsive car, the factory chassis weighs around 1500kg, so for obvious reasons Simon’s first task was to put his 300ZX on a diet. The electric seats weighing in at 35kg each were the first to make a one-way trip to the tip. Following the seats, all remaining interior parts were removed and disposed of, including carpet, sound deadening, door cards, dashboard, and roof lining. A few hundred kilos were shed in the process and Simon was happy with the weight reductions.
The ongoing battle with the crowded engine bay has many times had Simon convinced that he needed to replace the V6 VG30DE engine with an RB.
“So far, the reason I have not replaced the VG engine with something else is because they are so damn cheap to buy and they have ample torque without requiring many, if any modifications,” he says.
He started with a naturally aspirated model and attended a handful of track days, but, without a turbo, he wasn’t producing quite enough power or tyre smoke to satisfy his drifting desires.
He purchased a complete Z32, twin-turbo car, stripped it of the engine and a few suspension parts, and sold the body within weeks. The VG30DETT engine had low kilometres on the clock, but was in an unknown condition. Simon removed the heads, new gaskets were put on, and the turbos rebuilt. A few laps into his first track day with the addition of the turbos, it started overheating. Simon performed a leak down test on the engine only to find it had either a blown head gasket or cracked the head. He wasn’t going to fluff around to figure it out so with the help of Kass Prujean, the DETT engine was made redundant and a DE+TT took its place.
Lin from Concept Dynamic Motorsport, along with Dave Steedman, worked together to tune the car. A very healthy 255kW on a mere 8PSI had Simon quite pleased with himself considering the only modifications included a custom three-inch exhaust that he made himself, and a set of high-flowed injectors.
“At some stage I would definitely like to do a full engine rebuild and forge the internals, but at the moment I am making some pretty decent power without having to spend any serious money on it,” Simon says.
For the last eight months the car has been in and out of the garage, slowly undergoing more modifications: adjustable suspension, camber and castor arms, subframe lockout kits, offset rack spacers, full frontal tube framing, roll cage, complete rewire, hydraulic handbrake, exhaust-system remodel, etc. Simon plans to modify his steering knuckles to acquire some more lock.
“At the moment the factory lock is OK, but it’s just not enough. It’s frustrating when you’re coming out of a corner sideways and your car and mind are both pushing for more angle, but your knuckles just won’t allow it,” he says.
Lucky for Simon, the suspension components of the 300ZX are very similar, and, in most cases, identical to that of the Nissan Skyline R32. This has meant that finding suspension parts for his Fairlady has not been as painstaking as it could have been.
Recently Simon was given the opportunity to drive Adam Davies’ competition car. Adam is a D1NZ pro competitor and owns an S-chassis with a 13B Semi PP rotary-powered engine under the hood. Simon drifted the 380kW car around Taupo Motorsport Park with a vibrant amount of confidence.
“It was absolutely incredible. That car is so responsive and, oh my gosh, the lock on it is amazing. After having been given the chance to drift a car that has a perfect set-up, like Adam’s does, it has really inspired me to work harder on my own car.”
Currently Simon is working on completing his roll cage and getting the car off the axle stands and back on the track. Next year, whilst still attending casual track days, he is aiming to do as many competition events as he can, such as Motorhead Festival, Battle of the Rookies, and Battle Mania.
“I want to compete in D1 for sure, and although I feel like I might be up for the challenge now, the D1NZ series is not just about single passes. I need to learn more about proximity, and to do that I need more battle practice. I am not afraid of the speed, nor am I afraid to get close to the other drifters, but I need to master it to avoid becoming a hazard.”
I think it is fair to say that we are going to be seeing more of Simon as his drifting addiction advances.
“Thanks to my Dad who, although spent a lot of time clipping me round the ears, also helped a lot with the tube framing and many other aspects. Thanks to Jorgi for letting me live in my garage and helping out where she can, Bentley at Bay Tyre and Alignment, Dave Steedman at Team DSR, Lin at CDM, my Mum for giving up her garage space at times, Mike at Macs Mufflers, Glen at TCL Isuzu, and everyone else who has helped in some way or another.”