Nissan tries to keep it fresh with some extra sporting stuff

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?

First, Let’s Talk About Performance

2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Exterior
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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.

2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Exterior
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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?

2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Exterior
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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?

2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Exterior
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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?

2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Interior
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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.

Final Thoughts

2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Exterior
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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

Supplier Part
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
Eibach Rear 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

Further Reading

2009 - 2017 Nissan 370Z High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2009-2017 Nissan 370Z.

2009 - 2017 Nissan 370Z High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan 370Z Roadster.

2015 - 2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan 370Z Nismo.

2020 Nissan Z Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 660951

Read our full speculative review on the next Nissan Z.

At first look, the Nissan Motorsports Project Clubsport 23 project car would not seem out of place in the parking lot of any weekend gathering of Datsun and Nissan Z® car enthusiasts. However, take a closer look at the Project Clubsport 23, and you’ll discover an amazing amalgamation of OEM, aftermarket and bespoke fabricated parts that may appear someday alone or packaged together at Nissan dealership parts departments.

Nissan Project Clubsport 23
In the search for an ideal, dedicated track only vehicle, the Project Clubsport 23 borrows generously from many of the most respected suppliers of performance parts that are tested and developed in Motorsports. What is shown at the 2018 SEMA Show might be significantly different months from now as parts for the vehicle are continuously developed.

The ultimate goal was to create a vehicle that owners could duplicate themselves using Nissan Motorsports or aftermarket parts. First and foremost, the Project Clubsport 23 is an ongoing parts development platform.

Not available for purchase. Yet.
In building Project Clubsport 23 project, the Nissan Motorsports and MA Motorsports team started just like any Z® enthusiast would – finding a donor body and engine. In this case, the project started with a 2012 Nissan 370Z NISMO. The original 350-horsepower 3.7-liter VQ37VHR engine was replaced by a factory 3.0-liter VR30DDTT twin-turbo V6 rated at 400hp.

To fully engage sports car enthusiasts, it was decided to keep the 370Z NISMO’s 6-speed manual transmission. This was a challenge due to the fact a VR30DDTT has never been coupled to a manual transmission. MA Motorsports managed to develop a clutch disc, cover and flywheel assembly to complete the transition all the way back to the NISMO GT LSD Pro-Carbon 2-way differential, which is cooled by an MA Motorsports Differential Cooler. Much time was spent to ensure the VR30DDTT engine properly communicated with the manual transmission.

The refinements continued, starting with an AMS Performance Cold Air Intake kit and Z1 Motorsports blow-off valves. MA Motorsports fabricated a bespoke dual exhaust system measuring 76 mm in diameter to ensure there was no disruption in airflow from the VR30DDTT engine. The exhaust exits through the rear license plate body panel, which gives the Project Clubsport 23 a unique, motorsports look and feel. To help keep the VR30DDTT powerplant running cool, the factory cooling and steering systems were upgraded with an AMS Performance heat exchanger, MA Motorsports power steering cooler and Z1 Motorsports radiator and intercooler silicone coolant hoses.

The braking system was upgraded using soon-to-be released NISMO HC Street/Track brake pads, Z1Motorsports 2-piece slotted rotors and NISMO stainless steel brake lines. The suspension modifications included a combination of newly released NISMO front and rear suspension components, NISMO 3-piece body brace set, KW Variant 3 coil-over shock kit and Eibach rear springs.

Topping off the project’s go-fast parts are NISMO-branded RAYS cast aluminum-alloy 18x10.5-inch wheels and Hankook RS4 285/35R18 high performance tires. The wheels utilize the latest in RAYS "flow-forming" technology for high quality, strength, durability and affordability. They are expected to be available through Nissan dealerships at a future date.

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.

The inside and outside story
Like the drivetrain, the Project Clubsport 23 body and interior reflect combinations of parts from trusted parts sources and custom fabrication. Dominating the interior are the new-for-2018 Sparco QRT-R competition seats, Sparco 6-point competition harnesses and Sparco R383 steering wheel with Bell Works Rapfix hub. Also featured is a Cabin and Engine Bay fire suppression system, along with a custom welded-in roll cage. The custom upholstery was stitched in a diamond pattern by MA Motorsports, offering a contemporary throwback to the diamond pattern vinyl used in the original 240Z

Finally, the once-stock 370Z NISMO body features a pairing of factory NISMO panels with an APR honeycomb carbon fiber splitter/MA Motorsports air dam, a modified rear bumper to allow better air flow/cooling, JDM rear fog light, Selbon TS-style carbon fiber hood with Aerocatch hood pins and NISMO carbon fiber mirror covers and pillar garnishes.

Finishing off the project is a custom Gloss Burnt Orange body wrap by Speedesign Custom Graphics – giving the Project Clubsport 23 a final glow for its SEMA Show debut.

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