Article by Brian Hannon. Photography by Chad Burdette.
The import versus domestic car argument can get quite heated. The domestic guys tend to boast about their power and quarter-mile times, while the import crowd brings up turning left—and right—and things go downhill from there, but what about a compromise? Why not combine the best of both worlds—agility from the import side with brute force from the domestic camp? That was the question Alexander Gallardo had to ask himself when he came to a crossroads with the evolution of his 2003 350Z a few years ago.
Back up a few years and he was working at a performance shop building Zs, Gs, and GTRs and finally had the chance to pick up a 350Z of his own, a car he had his sights on since it first hit the road. To him it was a complete package of power, handling, and design. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
To set his 350Z apart from the rest of the crowd, he started down the modification road. For Alexander, it was a long road with lots of twists and turns. Bolt-ons were followed by a supercharger and then scrapping the blower for a Greddy twin-turbo setup. It still wasn’t enough, so he built the block, added more boost, and ended up with 650 horsepower at the wheels and 600 ft-lbs of torque. In his words, "It was a stupid, fast car.” At the time, he was gunning for Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Porsches with the "highway queen.”
Then things changed—he discovered road racing. It all started with go-karts and participating in local endurance races and league racing. He wanted more (sensing a theme here), so he started taking his Z to the track for lapping days. He quickly realized that while a highly boosted engine setup could do wonders for relatively quick highway pulls the rigors of an extended session on the track could be its demise. The turbos were cooking the oil, coolant temps were borderline uncontrollable, and the exhaust kept developing leaks.
He tried everything he could to make the VQ35 a little happier on the track: bigger radiator, more powerful fans, oil coolers, etc. Nothing was working. Other options were available, but a sizeable investment would be required that Alexander felt could be spent more effectively elsewhere. Reliable power was what he was after, and he knew of a cheap and abundant source—the Chevrolet LS1 V8.
Using an engine conversion kit from Sikky Manufacturing, he dropped the LS1 into the relatively accommodating engine bay and started blazing a new trail with his Z. Gone were the days of keeping one eye on the track and the other on the coolant temperature gauge. He could now focus on hitting apex’s and nailing braking points without worry. According to Alexander, engine prep is as simple as "Change the oil and it’s ready for a track day!”
Naturally, Alexander couldn’t leave the LS1 stock for very long. After his first track day with the new setup, he found himself longing for the power his car used to have. Fortunately, it doesn’t take an extensive mod list to yield impressive gains with an LS1. The small block now boasts a Fast 90 throttle body and a ported intake feeding more air to the CNC-machined ports with a 233/239 Comp cam in charge of the valves.
Once the 5.7-liter V8 is finished with its combustion, the exhaust gases escape through a set of Sikky 1 3/4" tube headers (designed specifically for the 350Z/LS1 marriage) and into an APS 3" exhaust with a custom 3" X-pipe. Though the mod list is relatively short, it’s producing a more than healthy 430 horsepower at the wheels.
Transferring that power to the ground is handled by a Sikky driveshaft (again, specific for this conversion), a Carbotec limited-slip differential, Driveshaft Shop Stage 5 axles, and a 3.9 final gear for some added kick.
Power without control on the track is pretty worthless, so Alexander didn’t cut any corners when it came to the suspension. JRZ RS Pro coilovers, found on many Time Attack and professional racecars, are at all four corners along with Cusco sway bars to keep things level. Fine-tuning of the suspension geometry is handled with a set of SPC camber arms and A-Arms.
The final connection to the tarmac is a set of well-sized Volk Racing RE-30s measuring out at 19x10 up front and 19x11 in the rear. The massive Volks are shod with a set of super-sticky Toyo R888s that provide massive amounts of grip on the track. Wheels that large are needed to clear the huge 14-inch StopTech big brake kit that is responsible for the braking demands. Six-piston calipers provide the bite on the front rotors, while four-piston calipers are responsible for the rear. A set of NISMO brake ducts help keep brake temps down on the track, so Alexander doesn’t have to worry about unnecessary brake fade.
Outside, Alexander again drew inspiration from top-level Time Attack setups and employed a Voltex Type 8 wing along with their rear diffuser to help smooth out the airflow at the back end of the car. An INGS bumper is complemented by a custom ARP splitter to keep the front end planted, and a set of JP Vizage side skirts round out the body modifications.
If the bark from the LS1 isn’t enough to clear out the traffic at the track, the menacing all-black "Lord Vader, your car is ready” shape in the rearview mirror will certainly have others making a path.
Inside, Alexander kept the Z fairly basic and didn’t lose its track focus. A set of Sparco Evo Tech seats and Schroth 4-point harnesses keep him planted so that he can focus on the driving, while a Sparco steering wheel translates what he wants the car to do.
While the car has an Alpine head unit controlling the factory BOSE stereo, we’re fairly confident the LS1 at full song provides a much better sound track than just about anything the sound system can pump out.
Going forward, Alexander has no plans to ditch the LS1, but the power bug still has a hold on him. He’d like to keep the car naturally aspirated to keep the weight down, so a Stroker setup could be in the future or perhaps a fully built block.
Be on the lookout for Alexander’s new shop, CheckSix Garage, as we expect to see more big builds from him in the future!
Build at a Glance
Tuned by Charlie @ LSXperts
Tuned by Charlie @ LSXperts
LS1 short block
CNC ported heads w/ dual valve springs
Comp cam 233/239 .600
ARP rod bolts
Fast 90 ported intake
Fast 90 throttle body
Sikky Swap kit for a 350Z
Sikky 1 3/4" tube headers
Custom 3" X pipe
APS 3" exhaust
Driveshaft Shop Stage 5 axles
3.9 final gear
JRZ RS Pro’s coilovers
Cusco Sway Bars
SPC camber arms
SPL Solid bushings
StopTech 6-piston front brakes
StopTech 4-piston rear brakes
NISMO brake ducts
VOLK RE30s (19x10 front, 19x11 rear)
Toyo R888s (265/30/19 front, 305/30/19 rear)
INGS front bumper
Custom ARP splitter
JP Vizage side skirts
Voltex rear diffuser
Voltex Type 8 wing
Sparco Evo Tech seats
Avalon harness bar
Schroth 4-point harnesses
Sparco steering wheel
Works Bell quick release
NRG short hub
Alpine head unit
Factory BOSE system