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Vee Six Zed

Forget the relatively easy task of dropping a RB-series six into a classic Zed - try the quad-cam VG30DET for a challenge!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • VG30DET engine conversion
  • Autronic management
  • Upgrade suspension, brakes and steering
  • Immaculately presented body and interior
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This article was first published in 2006.

If someone told you this relatively stock looking 260Z packs a transplant engine it’s likely you’ll think it runs a RB-series straight-six – a single turbo RB20DET, RB25DET or maybe a twin-turbo RB26DETT. Well, that’s what we thought too – and we got a shock when we first popped the bonnet! Forget the ‘easy’ RB conversion, this Zed runs a turbocharged quad-cam VG30 V6 (VG30DET)! And, yes, it is a very tight squeeze into the designed-for-an-inline-six engine bay.

Vehicle owner, Brendan Kelly, gets a buzz out of showing people something different when he lifts the lid, but credit for the concept and execution goes to the previous owner and Brisbane’s Z Car Workshop. Allan Stean for Z Car Workshop says he was initially a bit reluctant to undertake such a project but, with plenty of time and effort invested, the car now comes together beautifully. But it’s been a long road since the (incomplete) import engine arrived at his door...

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The quad-cam VG series V6 is a very wide beast and there’s barely enough clearance in the Zed engine bay – there’s ample space in front of the engine but side clearances are nightmare-ishly tight. The engine was fitted and removed several times before Allan was happy with the location. Fitment involved fabricating custom engine and gearbox mounts and countless other hurdles with wiring and plumbing. The coolant radiator was upgraded to cope with the high-output turbo engine and Allan took the time to install fully functional air conditioning and power assisted steering (the latter was never available as a factory fitment). The steering system comprises a Subaru rack with modified inner tie rod ends to accept the Zed outer ends, modified crossmember and a new steering shaft.

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The factory quoted power output for the VG30DET 3-litre V6 is up to 190kW but with a few basic mods you can expect this example to push around 250kW. This extra power comes from a 3 inch mandrel exhaust, pod air filter (mounted in the nosecone) and a large air-to-air intercooler. Boost pressure is also lifted to a maximum of 14 psi.

Interestingly, the engine was delivered with an auto transmission attached but it was soon realised that the dedicated trans control ECU was not supplied. At this point, a Skyline five-speed manual ‘box was hung off the engine together with a Turbo-spec clutch. A custom tailshaft has been fabricated to connect a R31 Skyline LSD rear-end. The entire Skyline rear – including disc brakes – has been bolted in. Front brakes are a unique combination of Toyota calipers and Honda discs.

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The tired original suspension was given the flick and has been upgraded to adjustable height front struts, lowered springs and a combination of Koni/Bilstein dampers. A front suspension tower brace, new low-compliance bushes, adjustable castor rods and adjustable front lower arms (which give camber control) are also fitted. We imagine the relatively short V6 engine should also improve weight distribution compared to a straight-six engine.

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Despite packing quad-cam turbo power, upgraded suspension, bigger brakes and new steering, this Zed looks surprisingly mild. No huge spoilers, no eye popping paint and no excess bling. The standard Zed panels have been beaten into shape, the rust has been cut out of the usual areas and it’s all covered in a healthy coat of BMW gold. The only aftermarket bits are a front spoiler (incorporating a cut-out for the intercooler) and Simmons FR16 inch rims.

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Inside you’ll find a similar theme. The dashboard and door trims have been revived to as-new condition, new carpet has been whacked in and the seats have been swapped for Z32 300ZX leather items. Sparco pedals, an Autotecnica flat bottom steering wheel and up-to-date sound system complete the picture.

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Since purchasing the car only a few months ago, Brendan has removed the previously installed programmable management system (which we are told was never happy running the VG30DET) and installed the latest Autronic system. Fitted and tuned by C-N-J Motorsport, the Autronic unit fires the standard Nissan injectors (with a surge tank and Holden VL Turbo fuel pump found at the rear) and coil-on-plug ignition system. The ignition system has also been configured to drive the factory tachometer – a nice touch that eliminates the need for a big aftermarket tach.

Brendan tells us whenever he squeezes the accelerator of his V6-powered 260Z he’s blown away by the effortless rush of torque and speed. The engine is also remarkably smooth and refined – even by new car standards. This, combined with the air conditioning and power steering, gives the 30-odd year old 260Z a much more modern feel. Certainly, it’s a long way away from when Brendan laid eyes on a 260Z sitting in a showroom back in the early ‘70s!

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Next on the agenda are some further cosmetic work on the body (there’s rust re-emerging in a couple of spots) and some mechanical fine tuning. With these tasks out of the way Brendan says he hopes to take the car to his local race circuit to enjoy some timed laps. Won’t it be refreshing to see the VG30DET exchanging fastest lap times with the ‘mainstream’ performance engines?


C-N-J Motorsport+617 3290 3966

Z Car Workshop +61 7 3808 2755

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