2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23
Nissan tries to keep it fresh with some extra sporting stuffby Jonathan Lopez, on
The 2018 SEMA show is here, and Nissan is headed to Vegas with a newly tuned iteration of its aging 370Z sport compact coupe. This latest build combines a selection of parts plucked from the factory, and the aftermarket, as well as a smattering of custom one-off, fabricated pieces that “may appear someday alone or packaged together at Nissan dealership parts departments.” Sounds great, but how does it fare amongst the best of the best in the desert?
2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23
First, Let’s Talk About Performance
As you can probably guess, the Nissan Project Clubsport 23 is intended only for the track, as alluded to by the “Clubsport” name.
As such, Nissan began by sourcing a “donor body and engine,” with the former coming from a 2012 Nissan 370Z Nismo edition.
It’s a solid platform to start any build, but the Z’s standard VQ engine is a bit long in the tooth at this point, so instead, Nissan added the 3.0-liter VR30DDTT V-6.
This newer powerplant is a twin-turbo gas engine rated at 400 horsepower, and was first offered on the Infiniti Q50. Standout features include an aluminum block and aluminum head, as well as direct-mount turbos with an integrated exhaust manifold plus twin water-to-air intercoolers.
Upgrades to the powertrain include the usual performance bits. For example, the engine now breathes more easily thanks to an AMS Performance Cold Air Intake, while a Z1 Motorsports blow-off valve makes extra fun noises.
Speaking of fun noises, the engine sends spent gasses into the atmosphere by way of a new custom dual exhaust system from MA Motorsports, which measures in at 76 mm (3 inches) in diameter. The exhaust terminates behind the rear license plate mount for a cool integrated aesthetic.
Final touches include a new AMS Performance heat exchanger, an MA Motorsports power steering cooler, and new radiator and intercooler coolant hoses from Z1 Motorsports.
To send the power rearwards, Nissan stuck with the Nismo’s original six-speed manual transmission.
However, the VR30DDTT was never offered with a stick shift from the factory, so to make it work with the new engine package, MA Motorsports was employed to create a new clutch disc, cover, and flywheel assembly.
The rest of the drivetrain includes a Nismo GT Pro-Carbon two-way limited-slip differential, which stays at optimal temperature thanks to a new MA Motorsports Differential Cooler.
Can It Corner?
Extra go is always appreciated, but you’re gonna need the right components to put all that power to good use.
As such, the Clubsport 23 comes with a slew of Nismo suspension bits, which customers can now pick up for their own project car. These include a Nismo three-piece body brace kit, as well as Variant 3 coilover shocks from KW mated with an Eibach rear spring kit. The brakes are also beefier, and include Z1 Motorsports’ two-piece slotted rotors, Nismo’s HC Street/Track brake pads, and Nismo stainless steel brakes lines. Making the traction are Hankook RS4 tires, which wrap the upgraded wheels with a sizing of 285/35R18.
What About Style?
To add in just the right amount of show to match the go, the Nissan Project Clubsport 23 comes upgraded with a new honeycomb front splitter from APR, plus a new front air dam from MA Motorsports. Out back, the rear bumper was drilled out for improved airflow and to integrate with the new exhaust tips, while a JDM-spec rear foglight was installed for extra style points.
Up front, the stock hood was tossed for a new carbon fiber unit, and comes matched with Aerocatch hood pins and carbon fiber covers for the sideview mirrors and B-pillars. The whole thing comes wrapped in a bright shade of Gloss Burnt Orange, courtesy of Speedesign Custom Graphics.
In the corners you’ll find Nismo-branded aluminum-alloy rollers from Rays, measuring in at 18 inches in diameter and 10.5 inches in width. Nissan says it’ll sell these lightweight wheels at dealerships “at a future date.”
What’s It Like In The Cabin?
No SEMA build is complete with at least a little extra goodness in the cabin, and the Nissan Project Clubsport 23 obliges with a few odds and ends.
First up, the Z’s cabin was stripped down a bit, complying with the overarching “track machine” theme. However, it’s not totally devoid of comfort features - for example, the upholstery is new, and now includes a fresh diamond-pattern vinyl on the doors, center console, and central tunnel, all of which are offered as a nod to the original 240Z.
Beyond that, the rest of the interior is quite business-like. The driver and a passenger are held in place with the hot-off-the-presses QRT-R race buckets from Sparco, which are mated to Sparco’s race-spec six-point harnesses. Steering inputs are made by Sparco’s R383 wheel, which is fixed with a Bell Works Rapfix hub.
Finally, in the event of a crash, a custom welded-in roll cage and full cabin/engine bay fire suppression system keep it safe.
There’s a lot to like about this build. The drivetrain and powerplant swap are particularly interesting, and have us excited about what Nissan is thinking in terms of future performance products.
“The ultimate goal was to create a vehicle that owners could duplicate themselves using Nissan Motorsports or aftermarket parts,” the automaker explains. “Depending on interest levels, Nissan Motorsports may offer a ‘builder’s kit’ that consists of hard parts and electrical components to assist customers with building their own ultimate track Z car.”
That all sounds quite lovely, but there’s a problem.
Now, it should be said that I’m a pretty big fan of the 370Z. I like the styling, I like the FMR drivetrain layout, I like the performance intentions behind it. However, as any regular reader will undoubtedly guess at this point, the Z is just too old. The 370Z first rolled out of the factory in 2009, which means it’s been in production for nearly a decade as of this writing.
I appreciate Nissan’s intentions with the Project Clubsport 23, but I can’t help but think about what a seventh-generation Z could bring to the table.
Hopefully, when the next-gen does break cover, Nissan will apply this same performance gloss to it.
Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Specifications
|Nissan||Nissan 370Z NISMO body and chassis|
|Nissan||3.0-liter VR30DDTT twin-turbo V6 rated at 400hp, 6-speed manual transmission|
|AMS Performance||Cold air intake kit and piping|
|Z1 Motorsports/HKS SSQV||Blow-off valves|
|MA Motorsports||Dual 76 mm custom exhaust|
|MA Motorsports||Power steering cooler|
|CV Products||Power steering fluid reservoir|
|AMS Performance||Heat exchanger|
|Z1 Motorsports||Coolant hoses|
|Optima||PC950 Light Weight Battery|
|Nissan||NISMO GT LSD Pro-Carbon 2-way differential|
|MA Motorsports||Clutch disc and cover, flywheel, differential cooler|
|KW||Variant 3 coilover front and rear shock absorbers, front springs|
|Nissan||NISMO front and rear suspension components|
|Nissan||NISMO HC Street/Track brake pads, stainless steel brake lines|
|Z1 Motorsports||2-piece slotted brake rotors|
|APR||Honeycomb carbon fiber splitter|
|MA Motorsports||Modified Rear Bumper, Front air dam, front and rear tow hooks|
|Seibon||TS-style carbon fiber hood with Aerocatch hood pins|
|Nissan||NISMO carbon fiber mirror covers and pillar garnishes|
|Speedesign Custom Graphics||Exterior body wrap|
|Sparco||QRT-R competition seats, 6-point harness restraint system, R 383 steering wheel|
|Bell Works||Rapfix Steering Wheel Hub|
|Cabin and Engine Bay||Fire suppression system|
|MA Motorsports||Custom diamond pattern upholstery|
|Hankook||RS4 285/35R18 high performance tires|
|Rays||NISMO Cast 18x10.5-inch Flow Formed wheels|
Read our full review on the 2009-2017 Nissan 370Z.
Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan 370Z Roadster.
Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo.
Read our full speculative review on the next Nissan Z.