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JLarson's build thread

This thread is a little late, as I'm currently just about 1 year deep into ownership of my 370, but since I greatly enjoy reading all of your build threads,

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Old 06-06-2018, 08:39 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default JLarson's build thread

This thread is a little late, as I'm currently just about 1 year deep into ownership of my 370, but since I greatly enjoy reading all of your build threads, maybe you'll enjoy mine too! I'll try to tell the story in such fashion that you'll enjoy it

If you want nothing but info on my 370, start with post 2, but in post 1 I'm going to talk about who I am, and how I came to love Z cars.

My name is Josh, and I'm the Director of Quality Assurance for a manufacturing company up in northeast Philadelphia. I've been a Z owner for about the past 12 years, and a true enthusiast for maybe the last 5 or 6.

My accidental love affair started with a 1985 300zx, non turbo. The interior was classic 80s - complete with the digital dashboard, and the voice of "bitching Betty" reminding you periodically that "Door is open" and "Lights are on". The tape deck didn't work, the air conditioner didn't work, and the exterior appeared to have been repainted by a palsied seizure victim using a textured gray suitable for covering concrete floors; but by God, that car ran.

And ran.
And ran.

By the time I bought it at age 22 or 23, it was already a 20 year old vehicle, but it gave me 5 virtually trouble free years of operation, reliable through some of the hardest times in my life.

Prior to the housing market crash in 07/08, I worked in a family business doing construction. Initially, thanks to strong customer loyalty and a large backlog of jobs (we had a 2 year waiting list - we were the kind of family business you actually wanted doing work for you) we were insulated from the worst of the crash, but that eventually ran out. By early 2011, my savings were gone (the sort of savings you build up buying 20 year old vehicles, and eating knock-off brand knorr packaged noodles instead of going out with your friends on Friday nights) and our business was basically dead. I'd get maybe a week of work in a given month. I couldn't hold out any more, so I went to highway construction for a blessedly brief period of time, sometimes driving over 100 miles per day (not compensated for it by my company). The Z held on.

A friend of my dad's gave me a referral which helped get me in as a QA clerk in a local aerospace machine shop. Within a year, by the grace of God, I was elevated to QA Manager. I was still driving my aged 300zx. Still faithfully carrying me to and from work, day after day, but I knew it was approaching the time where I'd have to put ol' Betsy out to pasture. The digital dashboard now functioned only intermittently. One headlight occasionally didn't come up. My wheel bearings were shot. Suspension hadn't ever really been good, but was getting much worse. I fantasized about a working air conditioner!

So my search for a new vehicle began. My pay had risen with my new position (not by much, but a fortune compared to what I had been making) and I set my eyes on a Z32. My Z31 had been so reliable, I naturally (and foolishly) assumed I'd have the same kind of experience with a Z32. I wanted a TT, but I had an NA budget, and eventually found a 1990 300zx that appeared to be in decent enough shape in NJ. Turns out, that was a lie. The aftermarket exhaust hid the whine of a failing differential. A test revealed tragically low compression in all cylinders. The radiator began leaking like a sieve. I was quoted $9k to get it in working order - money I did not have. I had no skill to do the work myself.

I started walking to work, hitched rides when I needed to. Pondered my next move. My dad did the initial research on the 350z, told me to check out one of those. I didn't have the money, was averse to a loan, but it seemed like the only path forward. I found a 2006 350z Touring at a local Subaru dealership, and went for at test drive. The car hugged curves like a good pair of underpants. It had a working stereo, and air conditioning. Heated seats. It was so far beyond what I had ever driven that I couldn't believe my good fortune. I bit the bullet, financed the car.

Meanwhile, I still owned the 300zx, and my mind still slowly processed what to do with it. I determined I would learn about cars, not just what I liked, but how to maintain my own. I had no tools, but I had the internet, so I read everything I could find on the Z32.

I had never even changed my own oil - I could build a house, but not replace my brake pads. I had become a rocket scientist (not exactly, but it sounds good) and I had never checked an intake filter.

I started buying tools, acquiring what I would need. I worked on the 350 first, because it already ran. Installed a 5/16ths plenum spacer. I felt triumphant. Installed ART pipes. I was a hero. A Motordyne TDX V2 exhaust. This was awesome. I could actually do this stuff myself!

I started planning and acquiring parts for the 300zx to perform a TT swap. Picked up a used TT engine that would need a rebuild, intercooler piping, leather seats in decent shape. Engine hoist, engine stand, ramps, more tools, more sockets.

I left the machine shop and started a new job at my current company. My salary more than doubled.
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File Type: jpg 20180114_144617.jpg (416.4 KB, 7 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 08:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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And then I met this woman! On our first date, she couldn't stop smiling when I hit the accelerator in the Z, and she loved the sound of my exhaust. On weekends, we'd work on my Z32. We went hiking in the white mountains, visited Switzerland. I proposed on top of a mountain. We bought a house, and sold her house. We were married 1 year and 1 day after our first date.

She urged me to take a look at a Z34 when I mentioned in passing that I'd seen some I liked, and when I picked out Magma Red, it was an emphatic YES from her. She was now driving my Z33 periodically. The attached photo is where we stopped by my parents' house on the way home, with my 2014 Touring Sport 370z. Very briefly, it was unmolested.
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File Type: jpg Megan.jpg (104.5 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg JoshWeird.jpg (60.6 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg Zs.jpg (569.1 KB, 24 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 08:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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First mod: Window tint. This was my first car with tinted windows, so I stayed legal - 35 all around.

Next, Z1 intakes, purchased from a guy parting out his Z.
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File Type: jpg Tint.jpg (348.0 KB, 11 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:01 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Z1 ported upper manifold followed close behind. While my intakes had been no big deal, the manifold proved a little bit more tricky for me, for 3 reasons.

First, I'm an idiot.
Second, the DIY on the forums didn't mention that the upper plenum has a gasket (as do the throttle bodies).
Third, the gasket doesn't actually fall out of the plenum when you lift it. That would've been a strong clue for me that I needed to transfer the gasket from the old plenum to the new plenum.

Started the car, and it died immediately. WTF. Sweating profusely, with the temperature in my garage slightly higher than the surface of the sun, I dissected my setup, reassembled it, started it - died again. By now it was close to 10 pm, the sun was gone but the heat remained, and I turned to the internet, eventually stumbling over a thread which provided the necessary enlightenment. Cursing my foolishness, I vowed to return!

TL;DR - I transferred the gaskets, and the car started. May your own installation be easier than mine. On the flip side, after 3 uninstall/reinstalls, I got pretty good at it.
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:11 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Fast Intentions catback followed. I found a good deal locally - $700 for a setup, in perfect condition. I'm fairly obsessive over details (hence my job), so I'd determined I wanted the gains from the Fast Intentions. I'd also heard good things about the sound of the exhaust. Those went on the car without issue, but even unresonated, they were a bit too quiet for my taste (and for that matter Megan's).
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:14 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Around this time, Megan and I started going to local meetups with a group called VQPhilly. Lot of awesome people, and this is where I met Craig, also known as the Craigster, and He-Who-Helpeth-Install-Headers. More on that later. Craig was running a built 350z with close to 700 whp from a supercharger that he'd modified himself. The sound of his car was like a freight train powered by all the fires of hell. It was amazing.

Megan really enjoyed the car group, and since she was in the market for a car, the next logical step was to find her one that suited her more practical desires!
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:29 AM   #7 (permalink)
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The solution was a G37x sedan. Yes, I know a coupe is way more sexy. Yes, I did try and argue in favor of that. But she wanted an AWD sedan, with real passenger space, not just seating for leg amputees. We drove this home the same day Mike (Socce) from the forums came to do some work on his car with me.

Mike and I tackled his intakes, upper manifold, lower manifold, front rotors, and oil cooler before we ran out of time. We did run into a few hiccups - he'd been sold Stillen Gen3 intakes from a G37, not from a 370z, and we didn't have the tools to modify them for his use. He kindly sold them to us, so my wife had intakes on her vehicle the first week of use. She did have a few moments of panic when I pulled out the dremel to cut the rad supports to make room, but this subsided.
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File Type: jpg GZ.jpg (522.5 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg 20171007_231045_Burst01.jpg (388.1 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg Gen3s.jpg (410.8 KB, 10 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:31 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Although the G37x was mostly suitable for Megan, she did find herself missing the roar of the exhaust on my 350z.

So her birthday present was something a bit special.
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:34 AM   #9 (permalink)
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By now, we were into early November, and I had enough projects to keep me busy for a while. I knew my next procurement would be Long Tube Headers, if I could find any priced reasonably. I really wanted Motordyne, since they have the swappable catalytic converter, but I found a deal on Fast Intentions that was entirely too good to pass up.

They arrived still heat wrapped. I needed to see what was underneath, so I stripped it off, and sandblasted it at my shop. After talking with Rusty, I determined a coating would best suit my needs, and JetHot provided me with a nice red high temperature solution.
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File Type: jpg Wrapped Longtubes.jpg (399.1 KB, 14 views)
File Type: jpg SB Longtubes.jpg (258.9 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg CoatedHeaders.jpg (402.7 KB, 10 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:37 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Installation of the long tubes was accomplished in December, the week before Christmas, by the grace of the Craigster (who has a lift - blessed be his name!). 14 hour install time. My review is written elsewhere on these forums. Paired with the sound of the unresonated FI catback, I can tell you that I no longer felt it was too tame. Holy God. I set off car alarms, frightened small children, and inspired lactation in the unwary.
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File Type: jpg 20171210_174906.jpg (324.0 KB, 8 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:40 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I was racing the clock now, with a dyno tune scheduled for the 26th of December @ RT Tuning. My Christmas gift from the wife was 63mm throttle bodies. My in-laws gave me Z1 Bushing Inserts.

I picked up the z1 intake upgrades, and modified my crash bar using a sawzall and metal cutting blade. Welded it at my shop.
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File Type: jpg 63mm TBs.jpg (507.2 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg 20171217_162625.jpg (56.1 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg 20171219_122711.jpg (399.7 KB, 7 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:42 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Testing the fit after the sawsall cuts - I wasn't entirely sure how my fabrication was going to turn out.
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:44 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Welded, installed, and intakes in place! Ready for my tune!
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:46 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Dyno completed on December 26th! Results were about where I expected to be. Vince was also kind enough to give me my dyno results overlayed against a stock 370z to show comparative gains, since I didn't have a baseline.

334 whp / 278 wtq.
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File Type: jpg dynorunShare_0.jpg (66.2 KB, 9 views)
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:48 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Somewhere in there, I found time to dynomat my trunk and wheel wells. OldGrayDog, also a forum member, pointed me in the right direction with a knock-off brand product that is every bit as good as dynomat, and a fraction of the price. But I won't tell you what it is.

Because I can't remember. Looks like I'll have to check my private message archives.

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