Héctor Cademartori reports on this unique 1991 Nissan 300ZX, and its equally special owner.
Story and Photos Héctor Cademartori
To check out our collection of articles celebrating the Z car’s 50th anniversary, see the rest of the ExtravaganZa HERE.
They live all around us that’s why we call them neighbors…
And in every neighborhood there’s always one with a special car.
Look around and you’ll find them both; the neighbor and the car. Sometimes you don’t even have to look; you can hear them. Of course, you being you, give them a break when once in a while they start their cars after 11PM on a Tuesday.
“That’s Mike. He must be getting ready for a race this weekend” or “Mike told me that he is taking the car to a show on Saturday…,” you’ll tell your wife while sitting in the living room watching reruns of Perry Mason on MeTV. “It must be that he’s having problems… that engine doesn’t sound right…hope he can fix it…,” you add because, most likely, you’ve been there yourself.
I have two such “neighbors with benefits” within a block and a half on my street and there’s another one in a small business complex located on the street behind my house.
I’ve seen that car parked out in front of the business and our Z ExtravaganZa series of articles inspired me to pay a visit to the family-owned and operated shop that makes custom acrylic lenses for commercial lighting.
I met Mr. Leo Diaz, the owner, and we connect immediately in Spanish. (Hector is originally from Argentina. Ed.)
I ask him about the car. “It’s my son César’s car. Wait right here, he’s in the office,” he tells me and goes to fetch him.
César’s Spanish is perfect, no doubt due to the efforts of parents who realized the value of another language besides English. (Héctor and his wife Florencia did the same with their three children. Ed.)
César is 30 years old and his car is a 1991 300ZX. Both are the same age.
“I had another 300ZX,” he began, “but I sold it and bought this one. It was originally a Twin Turbo but it had a non-turbo engine. Apparently when the original engine broke they installed a standard mill and hooked the TT’s turbos up to it. However, I wanted something different, a new experience, and decided to do this project.” César concluded, while dramatically throwing open the car’s feather-weight carbon-fiber hood.
And there it was … an LS3 6.2 liter engine where once lived one of Nissan’s pride and joy V6 twin turbos. “It came from a 2008 Corvette and I took it all apart and rebuilt it. I cleaned up the engine bay and took off all the brackets and things that I was not going to use,” explained César.
We asked about the obvious problems of the project and he described the process, “It took me a year to do it. One of the most difficult parts was to fit the exhaust but I managed to do it. LOJ Conversions has a kit with engine mounts to clear the sub-frame and an adapter plate for the 5-speed gearbox and the flywheel. The drive shaft is aluminum and is two inches shorter than stock. In fact, this engine is located more towards the rear than in the Nissan. Weight wise is also lighter.”
“The V6,” he went on, “with the turbos, exhaust, manifolds, etc, made the Z about 150 pounds heavier. When I removed the engine the suspension went up, but I was surprised when it didn’t go back down when I dropped the LS3 in. We put it on the dyno and it delivers a true 442 HP and 420 lbs of torque to the wheels.”
And where did this young man gain all this knowledge and skill that was needed to put this project together so well, you ask?
“In 2015 I graduated from a three-year Toyota-Lexus Master Technician course called T-Ten at Citrus College, and that’s sponsored by the manufacturer.”
OK. Question answered.
And how does this Japanese/America mechanical love child run?
For that, you’ll need to ask César next time he shows up with this unique (and very personal) 300ZX/LS3 at one of Empire Z Club’s monthly meetings at the Denny’s restaurant, on the 10 Fwy and Milliken, out in Ontario, California.