Taking contemporary styling cues and old-school ideas, then pushing the resulting concepts into the future, Nick Gaerthe’s wide-body Nissan 350Z is like other you’ve seen before…
Feature first appeared in Fast Car magazine. Words: Joe Partridge. Photos: Ronald Veth
What you’re looking at here is essentially a time machine. A bridge between modifying eras, as if Mr Peabody’s WABAC or Doc Brown’s DeLorean has catapulted back through the spiralling time circuits to a couple of decades ago, pinched a few stylistic ideas, then sprinkled them broadly over a 2020 canvas. It’s evident in the details, and the more you look the more you find. Check out the tail end, for example. See those unusual lights, and insane exhausts? Now think back to what was hot in the late-1990s/early-2000s tuning era. No, we’re not talking about illuminated fibreglass sub enclosures, bad boy bonnets or Wolfrace Voodoos… it was light swaps and mad exhausts that really defined the big-ticket builds. This was pretty popular in the UK, but the insatiable tuners across Western Europe really knocked things up a notch – the modding scene in Belgium, Spain, France and the Netherlands shoved a whole bunch of mad ideas into our wide-eyed consciousness: Civics with IS200 lights frenched in, 309s with E36 lights, Mk2 Golfs with Mk4 clusters, and everything had a bonkers exhaust, with flame-licking 5-inch tails poking through bootlids and other such lunacy.
This spirit of creative endeavour is evidently still alive and kicking in the Netherlands, which is where we find this particularly saucy Nissan 350Z, prowling the mean streets of Rotterdam with time-tunnel crackles sparking off it like Bill and Ted’s phone box. Nick Gaerthe is the owner, and he pinpoints the moment he really got into the idea of modified cars as being the time he attended the Ahoy 100% Tuning show back when he was 14 years old; he’s 27 now, so a little simple maths allows us to deduce that this was (um, *scrunches up eyes, counts on fingers*) 2007. Yep, that sounds about right – Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift had just come out, so the styling ideas of the early 2000s were fusing with a growing enthusiasm for modding Japanese cars. That all ties in well with what we’re seeing here. The young Nick had vowed that he’d one day be exhibiting his own car at 100% Tuning, and with a fairytale sense of progression, such an event has come to pass.
…but this isn’t the first we’ve heard of Nick’s outrageous 350Z. Readers with eagle-eyes and decent memories may remember this car appearing within these very pages back in 2017… although it was pretty much unrecognisable then from what it’s become this year. Back then it was bright purple, and wearing a fresh new set of Fiberglass Mafia wide arches. With Nismo bumpers, a jutting front splitter and chassis-mount rear wing, it was a bullishly aggressive road-racer with attitude in spades. Bagged on Air Lift suspension over a glimmering set of WatercooledIND three-piece wheels, it was the very embodiment of a show car build in a quintessentially 2017-esque style. The interior was lavishly kitted out with a full-on high-end Focal audio system – massive subs in the boot, amps in Perspex display cases in the rear, speakers everywhere, a proper job. Everything done beautifully, and an end point reached: Nick had always dreamed of building a show-quality 350Z and, having displayed it at that iconic Euro show and bagged himself a Fast Car feature, the job was jobbed.
Except that, no, it doesn’t really work like that. Once you’re elbows-deep in this world, you can’t just turn the emotions off like a tap. If you’ve spent your life dreaming of show car builds, you don’t just build one and then go off to find a new hobby. Nick was keenly aware of the constantly shifting trends in the tuning world, and he wanted to ensure that his project stayed fresh. He also clearly wanted to hurtle figuratively back to the time of his modding birth to borrow a few conceptual ideas, before stripping the Nissan down and starting again. And that’s precisely what he did. The unsuspecting 350Z was disassembled down to its component nuts and bolts, so that he could lay all the bits out like some massive demented Airfix kit, scratch his chin awhile, and ponder how to reimagine it for 2020.
The starting point was to consider the focus of it. This needed to be a far racier build, something a lot more hardcore. So the whole interior was unceremoniously junked, fancy Focal install and all, with everything stripped out of the shell – carpets, soundproofing, the lot, it all went in the skip. Peering inside now, all you’ll see is a pair of bucket seats and harnesses, a towering gear shifter and hydro handbrake, and a custom rollcage that Nick built and installed himself. Indeed, at this point it’s worth mentioning that Nick has done near enough everything here by himself, working feverishly in his garage to bring to life the freaky visions in his head. The custom Samsung tablet display is a particularly neat touch, and with the interior concept taken care of, it was time to consider the exterior aesthetic.
Those fat and imposing Fiberglass Mafia rear arches remain, but the fronts have been swapped out for Fly1 Motorsports items which extend further down the bumper. The rear wing has been replaced by a colossal Big Country Labs unit that sits at an aerodynamically sympathetic angle above the Fly1 Motorsports ducktail, and the body is wrapped in an aggressive drift-inspired wrap by Blackfish Graphics. But the true genius of the makeover is what Nick’s done to the rear end. There’s very little 350Z left in there, as he’s custom-mounted a set of 991-generation Porsche 911 taillights to neatly follow the angle of the bootlid. The bumper’s been thrown in the bin too, as the new custom exhaust features a pair of girthsome heat-wrapped pythons sinuously slithering their way hither and thither around the tail before exiting in the centre in a hellstorm of raucous barks. The cutaway tail reveals a clear plan view of the supercar-wide Toyo R888R rubber, which is now wrapped around a delectable quartet of staggered WORK Meister S1 wheels.
The overall effect is pretty mesmerising, and it all succinctly encapsulates every element of Nick’s journey with this car: having grown up dreaming of such a creation, he’s traversed back and forth through time to pull together all of the ingredients he desires to create something truly show-stopping. And obviously he’s going to be changing it all soon, because that’s just how this game is played. He’s already shopping for a set of underbody neons, and it doesn’t get a lot more early-2000s than that, does it? It really is a time machine that Nick’s built here. But he doesn’t have to take it to 88mph to blow people’s minds – it can do that job even when it’s standing still.
Tech Spec: Wide-body Nissan 350Z
Fiberglass Mafia V2 rear wide arches, Fly1 Motorsports front arches, custom wrap by Blackfish Graphics, Big Country Labs rear wing, Craft Square mirrors, Raptor liner paint, custom Porsche-style rear with 911 taillights, Fly1 Motorsports ducktail, Lamborghini-style rear window louvres
VQ35DE 3.5-litre V6, custom exhaust system, Chase Bays reservoirs, Mishimoto oil cooler, Mishimoto radiator
12.5x19in ET-14 (front) and 14x19in ET-9 (rear) WORK Meister S1 wheels, Toyo Proxes R888R tyres, Air Lift Performance struts with AccuAir management, Driftworks camber arms
Fully stripped, custom rollcage, Recaro seats, Chase Bays hydraulic handbrake, Vertex steering wheel, Raceism harnesses, custom Samsung tablet display