This pumped-up Nissan 350z is a proper little lunatic, dropping purple hearts and making a nuisance of itself. It’s the latest flavour of madness from the scene-kings at Knight Racer, and it loves to bonfire tyres in its own purple haze…
Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.’ So said George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and this concept can be happily hijacked when observing the aggressively caricaturised 350Z you see here. Your brain knows what a Nissan 350Z looks like. Your eyes can see this car. But there’s a synapse which is failing to fire as you attempt to thread the two together; it’s something you recognise, and yet… it’s wholly different. Is this real? Does ‘real’ matter?
To further stretch the imagery, the ‘Big Brother’ notion also neatly applies here. Living in the shadow of an impressive older sibling is always troubling for the soul (and yes, we’re aware that’s not the point of Nineteen Eighty-Four, but just go with it), and bigger brothers don’t get a lot more impressive than the Nissan GT-R. That’s a car which managed to reframe the concept of a road-going sports car in one fell swoop, harnessing futuristic technologies and incredible engineering solutions to offer a car that could do things never before thought possible – and all for a more reasonable price than a 911, which annoyed the Porsche fanboys a lot. So Nissan’s 350Z has had to live in the long shadow of this halo model for some time.
But Knight Racer had other ideas you see. This Bletchley-based firm’s startling brainwave was to mix in the aggression, the spirit, and – yes – some of the actual parts from the GT-R, using all of these fireball ingredients to turn the 350Z into a furious little battler with a moxie that belies its diminutive proportions. Behold the GT-R wheels that perch on each corner, making it look like a Hot Wheels toy; it perfectly mirrors the physics of its owner’s own body. Dan James, the extraordinarily smiley man behind the wheel, is a fitness model by trade, and the manner in which he’s reworked and amped up his own physical form makes this car a perfect companion for him. They’re both astoundingly muscular reworked versions of the bases nature provided – this isn’t simple evolution, this is science and art mixed in with a whole load of hard work.
It makes perfect sense that Knight Racer would be the team to carry out this transformation. After all, Bletchley is the home of code-breaking in the UK, the epicentre of the very notion of deconstructing formulae and reimagining them in different forms, so who better to pick apart the DNA of the 350Z and the GT-R and fuse them together? Their own personal Engima machine would presumably make short work of that sort of thing.
Knight Racer have been operating in the UK for a decade or so, starting off importing aftermarket tuning and modifying parts for Japanese cars, and going on to develop and distribute their own bespoke parts – such as the carbon fibre bonnet you see on this 350Z. They now have their own in-house FRP factory, meaning they can provide bespoke goods at decent prices and help customers to develop one-offs, and they also have a bodyshop offering custom work, paint, repairs, all sorts. So the car you see here is essentially a showcase of the many and varied things that Knight Racer can do.
Helpfully, Dan already has an existing professional relationship with Knight Racer, meaning that this rakish Zed gets to act as a sort of official showpiece for the company as well as being his own personal car. So how did it all come about in the first place? Well, the KR guys are renowned for their prowess in fettling GT-Rs and it made sense to build something different in order to demonstrate the breadth of their diversity; the timing worked out rather nicely as Dan was looking for a new set of wheels too. “This car started out as a bone-stock 2005 350Z in red,” he explains. “My girlfriend and I saw it, test drove it, and fell in love with it right from the start!”
And the inspiration for the look? “This bodykit has proved to be quite successful over the last two years,” Dan reasons, “so me and Albert [Wong, Knight Racer founder] thought it was about time we built one to demonstrate the quality and workmanship of our work that is not a GT-R… but with GT-R cues, such as the exhaust and the wheels.” The bodykit in question is Rocket Bunny’s widebody aero kit, which comprises of the wider arches (+40mm and vented at the front, +80mm at the rear), the front bumper with integrated wide-arch sections, front lip, rear diffuser, ducktail spoiler, and LED DRLs. If you see the finished product beside a regular unmodified 350Z, the difference is astonishing – it’s like something from a manga cartoon; fatter, lower, meaner, almost unreal.
“I’d always loved the 350Z, and now I had chance to own one,” Dan continues. “Plus I’m a big-time gamer, and I spent a lot of time looking on the net and in magazines, and built my dream 350Z on Forza. Then having the opportunity to work at one of the UK’s biggest Japanese tuning houses, it was only natural to make my dream a reality! The team at Knight Racer worked late shifts to help me build this; all products were made and fitted in-house, so it was an incredibly fun process.”
With the kit painstakingly fitted to TRA-Kyoto perfection by the KR craftsmen, they added their own proprietary carbon bonnet before slathering the body in an eye-catching and sumptuous shade of creamy custom-mix Cadbury’s purple – an ironic choice, given Dan’s health-oriented lifestyle; we imagine his chocolate intake is pretty limited, so perhaps this vibrant colour allows him to live out those Bournville fantasies in a more vital sense. The footprint of the car is vivid too – naturally the Rocket Bunny kit creates some sizable arches to fill, and it was always the plan to fit the R35 GT-R wheels which are aggressively sized at 9.5×20-inches. To get the body hunkered down properly and allow those vast rollers to fully inhabit the newly-crafted housings, the KR team subbed in a fresh set of Tein Flex Z coilovers, and we have to say the effect is outstanding. Every inch of this Zed is gloriously absurd, in the best possible way; it refracts the established Zed-car form through a fresh and vibrant filter.
As you’d hope, the car also has the beans to back up the brawn. Would you expect anything less? So the squad have treated that VQ35 motor to a Stage 1 Knight Racer remap, as well as fitting a custom exhaust system derived from pukka R35 GT-R pipes, complete with the correct quad tails as well as a decat. The result? A safe and usable 320bhp, along with a hellstorm of shouty noises. Which is just what the car deserves, of course. Look this wild machine up on YouTube, and you’ll find that it eagerly spins on a sixpence, detonates its tyres at will, and sounds like a distressed whale being forced through some kind of colossal mincer. Which is presumably the effect that Dan and the guys were going for.
The upshot of all this is that the Knight Racer 350Z, a brilliantly bonkers little thing, sits within the hinterland between what you know and what you want to believe; a reality that exists solely in your mind, and yet here it is in front of us. If that’s wrong, we don’t want to be right.
Tech spec: Nissan 350z
VQ35DE 3.5-litre V6, Knight Racer Stage 1 remap, decat, custom stainless exhaust system developed from R35 GT-R system – with GT-R quad tips, 6-speed manual gearbox
R35 GT-R wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, Tein Flex Z coilovers, EBC discs and pads
Colour-coded plastics, NRG wheel, retrimmed 350Z seats.
Rocket Bunny wide-arch bodykit, Knight Racer carbon fibre bonnet, full Knight Racer respray in custom Cadbury’s purple
“Albert the boss, Rob the main tech, and the team at Knight Racer. They not only built the car to my spec, but also helped think of ways to make it extra special.”
Feature taken from Banzai magazine. Words: Joe Partridge. Photos: Adam Rous