Nissan Motorsport International. Mention these three words to anyone with an ounce of interest in the whole import scene and they will no doubt picture in their minds the numerous racecars that have worn the Nissan name throughout the years. Nismo, of course, is the official tuning arm of Nissan, a company that not only designs and develops aftermarket parts but one that builds racecars and race engines. Their experience in the motorsport field has allowed them to create some of the best and most sought after products out there, including complete cars. Their latest effort, the extremely limited edition Z-tune follows in a very short line of equally impressive machinery. First it was the S14 Silvia based 270R, then came the BCNR33 Skyline GT-R-based 400R and two years ago the R34 based Z-tune. When Nismo showed the car for the first time at the Nismo Festival back in 2004, it was announced that only 20 would be made. List price: a cool $153,500. There was no doubt that with a price tag like that the Z-tune was a very serious car. Although it might not have been the most powerful or even the fastest GT-R, it was, and still is, the most complete and accomplished street-going Skyline GT-R ever built. As the production of these 20 cars is ending, we decided to closely follow the build of the n16 Z-tune, the last of only a handful of these cars that will be sold outside Japan.

The development of the Z-tune was a very slow one. It all started back in 2000 when Nismo showed the first prototype of the car at the Nismo Festival in Fuji Speedway. At that time the Z-tune was a stripped out race car, much like your usual tuner demonstration vehicles and packed a 600hp, 66kgm, 2.8L version of the RB26, badged "Z1." It certainly grabbed the crowd's attention as it won the tuner battle. The Nismo engineers had achieved what they set out to do. In 2001 the project evolved and began to incorporate details that would turn it into more of a road car than a track-only beast. This meant the addition of air conditioning; a full Connolly leather interior; a catalyst to meet stiffer emission regulations; and a decrease in power to the 500PS Z2 variant of the engine to make it more durable. As development continued, the 2.8L engine was used in the famed Nrburgring 24h Falken GT-R in 2003 and 2004 - where it came in 5th position behind far more advanced carbon chassis race cars. Nothing tests an engine like the German 24h race; and here again Nismo was happy with the engine's performance and team's result. One crucial step in the development process was a chassis and suspension setup trip to the Nrburgring Nordschleife, which allowed them a chance to test the car's capabilities to the fullest on the most demanding road on the planet. The end of 2004 saw the finalization of the Z-tune project where Nismo decided to make the car more special to set it apart from other GT-Rs. This included the design of a new front bumper with cleaner, more flowing lines and flared front wheel arches that mimic those of the GT-500 race Skylines, all built from carbon fiber. This, coupled with the R-tune carbon bonnet, side and rear skirts, would make the Z-tune instantly recognizable and a step above the rest. The interior gained a leather trim and an airbag-equipped steering wheel for the complete street car package.