NASA has nine spec classes, many of which involve momentum cars that accentuate every mistake you make behind the wheel. Spec Z was introduced in 2012 to offer participants an affordable way into a faster class — and the formula is working well. Spec Z rules offer the cost-containment benefits of a well-thought-out spec racing class, but does so with a faster platform. This month we delve into the details of Spec Z, a class that has begun to come into its own.
The NASA Spec Z class is an affordable racing series, primarily focused on road racing, and shall function as an advertising and marketing tool for the series sponsors, the independent sponsors of each team, as well as the official sanctioning body of the series. The purpose of this series is to provide an avenue to promote sponsor brand awareness on a national scale. Additionally, this series should provide a stage to showcase driving talent, in hopes that the most talented drivers will advance to even higher-level professional series.
Eligible Makes and Models
2003 to 2008 Nissan 350Z. Nissan Motor Corporation is the only manufacturer of models that are legal for this series. However, other companies, including Nismo, which should be considered a separate company from Nissan Motor Corporation, may manufacture some legal and/ or required parts and components.
Donor Prices and Availability
$3,700 to $10,000
2003-2004 3,100 lbs.
2005-2006 3,175 lbs.
2007-2008 3,325 lbs.
Fuel usage is restricted to unleaded gasoline commonly found at track side retail pumping. Octane is limited to a maximum of 100 (R+M)/2 as labeled on the pump. Race fuels such as, but not limited to, ERC brand are prohibited. All fuel additives are illegal, per the CCR. Note: event supplemental rules supersede this section.
Average Cost to Build Car
$17,000 to $30,000 with donor
Average Cost to Buy Built Car
$20,000 to $25,000
- Approved ECU reflash
- Factory Brembo brake kit
- Larger radiator
- Fresh coolant hoses
- KW coilover suspension
- Wheels and tires
- Camber arms for front suspension
- Good alignment
- NISMO differential and cooler
- Oil cooler
Average cost to run a weekend — $1,000 conservatively
Tires, size, brand and prices (from Phil’s Tire Service, Cragsmoor, N.Y)
Toyo Proxes RR P275-35-18 $285 each, which good for about 16 heat cycles
Brakes, brands and prices
Hawk DTC-60 and DTC-70 fronts, Brembo calipers: $178
Pagid RS 4-2 fronts, Brembo calipers: $294
Carbotech fronts, Brembo calipers: $155
Toyo Tires, Hawk Performance, Winding Road Racing, Nissan Motorsports, Spec Clutches, Sampson Racing Communications, Frozen Rotors, Injector Pulse.
Yes, Nissan Motor Corporation offers discounted OEM and NISMO performance parts support and contingency awards.
- Simple rules set
- Nissan factory support
- Cost of the car is reasonable and not much more than slower spec classes
- Easy to repair
- Newer model vehicles
- Bang for the buck, it’s a pretty quick car for not much money
- Great entry to racing, yet fast enough to hold your interest over time
Growth of the class has been slower than expected
- Reflash maps available from Nissan Motorsports.
- Camshafts shall comply with the OEM Specifications. OEM cams are required. Cams ground from blanks or reground cams are not acceptable. No mixing of cams between engine models. Cams must be installed in their original location.
- Pressure plate and clutch disc are unrestricted provided the unit is a single disc clutch system weighing no less than 13.5 pounds for the pressure plate, and 3.5 pounds for the clutch disc.
- Rear camber is unrestricted provided it is within the normal limits of adjustment. No modification to increase or decrease camber is allowed on the rear wheels. Front camber may be adjusted utilizing adjustable upper front A-arms per 14.1.d.
- Alternate brake package from the 350Z/Akibono 370Z Sport brakes are allowed but must be used in their entirety front and rear.
- A single 2-inch circular hole may be cut in the rear strut-tower brace directly above the rear shock for the single purpose of accessing the rear shock rebound adjuster.
What Racers Say
Phil Turner, NASA Mid-Atlantic racer
“I’ve always liked the look and performance of Z cars, and the chance to cost-effectively race wheel-to-wheel fulfilled a lifelong desire, with a car I really enjoy driving. Spec Z cars are really fun to drive, reasonable on consumables, super reliable and Spec Z is one of the fastest spec classes available in NASA. So there’s lots of room to grow as a driver.”
Tom Kaminski, Spec Z National Director, NASA Utah racer
“These cars are very, very quick for a spec car. I don’t want to sound biased, but it’s probably one of the top two spec classes to get into. If someone is getting into racing, and has a slightly limited budget, and they want to be fast, then Spec Z is pretty much the way to go.”
David Dirks, NASA Rocky Mountain, 2013 Spec Z National Champion, 2010 944 Spec National Champion
“My first car was my mom’s beat-up Datsun 280Z, which I drove for over a decade, so, my affinity for the Z car goes back pretty far. I was leaning toward racing in GTS toward the end of my 944 Spec days, however when Spec Z was introduced in 2012, I was definitely intrigued. The rule set was well architected, the parts costs were reasonable with Nissan’s help, and the car just looked bad-ass.
“The 350Z has proven to be a great platform for a spec racing series. The cars are fast and handle well, especially with 275 wide tires all around. Amazingly, the difference in power between the cars in our region is very small, even with engines with over 90,000 miles on them, like mine. The result is close racing — just how a spec class should be. But equally important to me is the camaraderie within the class here in the Rocky Mountain and Utah regions. We all pit together, share data, setups, beers and all sorts of shenanigans. This is how I want my racing to be.”
2012 National Championships at Mid-Ohio