The Nissan ZX-T

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The Nissan ZX-T


Electramotive soon acquired an unrivalled reputation as the US’s leading specialists in the sale and preparation of road-going and racing Nissans, so when the Japanese company decided to move up into the GTP category it was natural that they should approach Devendorf to run the project. Searching around for a suitable ‘off-the-peg’ chassis to base his new car on, Devendorf purchased a Lola T810 rolling chassis, which was simply T710 monocoque - similar to the ones that had earlier been delivered to GM for their ‘Corvette GTP’ project, with slight detail modifications to allow for the different engine, cooling and bodywork installations. So alike were the two chassis, they shared both the same suspension installation and physical dimensions.

An agreement had been struck between Nissan and Electramotive for the works to build single turbo V6 engines to John Knepp’s parameters, based on the production ‘Z’ car power units. The unit would retain the stock iron block and aluminum heads, but Knepp had the necessary skills to be able to develop and reprogram the engine’s sophisticated but problematic electronic brain. The result was the 3.0 liter VG30, which in 3.2 liter twin-turbo alloy-block (Electramotive cast) configuration, was also supplied to Nissan for their March-based Group C effort. Bodywork for the new car was designed in-house mainly by Yoshi Suzuka.

The Nissan ZX-T made its debut at Laguna Seca in May 1985 and did not win any races in the first season, but came close in the second year when, at Portland in 1986, Geoff Brabham won pole and he and Elliot Forbes-Robinson led all the way only to run short of fuel with two laps left. They stopped for a top-up but finished third at the flag.

By 1987, more chassis had been supplied from Broadley’s Huntingdon works (or from Japan–JS) and, amongst other modifications, the troublesome Weismann transmission had been swapped for a Hewland unit. The team’s first win finally came at Miami that year, Brabham and Forbes-Robinson starting from pole and leading home Rahal and Mass’ Porsche 962. Apart from four more pole positions there was little else to celebrate that season. Quick, the Nissans most certainly were but reliability remained heavily suspect.

Things were to be different in 1988 though. The Lola chassis were decommissioned (they were complex to work on) and Jim Chapman’s JC Prototypes built a new version, designed by Trevor Harris, broadly along the same lines to retain the older car’s running gear and bodywork. At the same time, the team’s tire supplier changed from Bridgestone to Goodyear. To complicate affairs still further, new regulations were introduced to restrict the runaway engine outputs that were beginning to be seen from the turbo-cars. By obliging these teams to fit inlet restrictor plates to their engines, IMSA reasoned that the pendulum would swing back in the favor of the big American pushrod V8s. Knepp overcame this little problem by building electronic control of the turbocharger wastegate into the engine management system. This was an innovation (much copied later), which at a stroke virtually negated the new regulations. Even a further mid-season rule change, that gave the pushrod cars an extra weight-break made little difference.

Despite all the changes, 1988 became a season of almost complete domination by Electramotive, much to the chagrin of the newly-arrived TWR Jaguars, who possibly imagined they would get an easier ride. Electramotive avoided the early season Florida endurance races, but thereafter Brabham, using the new chassis ‘8801’, wiped the floor with nearly everyone, taking nine wins in total (including eight in a row), usually partnered by John Morton. Nissan won the manufacturers’ crown and the Australian won the GTP Drivers’ championship title.

The car we offer today, chassis number 8602, is we believe the second of the two original Lola T810s to be delivered to Electramotive. (It still retains a “California Coolers” decal on the chassis). It raced in 1985, 1986 and probably 1987. Afterwards, it was retired and used by Nissan as a show car, being sold to its present owner in 1990.

In 2007, he undertook an extensive restoration, and the finished car was rolled out for it’s first track test at Willow Springs in August 2009. Just too late for the Monterey Historics, where it was displayed in the paddock, it is now offered for sale at $550,000.

This is an extremely fast and good handling ground-effect Sports-prototype from the great days of IMSA. For the experienced vintage race driver, it should prove a winner in either GTP or Group C races.

Electramotive Nissan ZX-T (IMSA GTP - 1985)

Electramotive Engineering Incorporated, El Segundo, California, USA.

Chassis Fabricator:
Lola Cars Ltd., Glebe Road, St Peter’s Hill, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England.

Lola T810 aluminum honeycomb monocoque with full length side pontoons (from pedal-box to behind rear bulkhead), designed by Eric Broadley. Ground effect chassis. 120 liter fuel tankage.

Electramotive VG30 GTP 60 degree V6, blown, watercooled. Single Garrett TO3 turbocharger.
87.0 x 83.0mm/ 2958.9cc
Iron block, aluminum heads, wet iron liners.
4 plain main bearings. Steel crankshaft.
Steel con rods. Ross light alloy pistons.
Sealed Power rings.
SOHC belt driven. 2 valves/cylinder (44.07mm inlet, 35.05mm exhaust), 1 plug.
Compression ratio 8.5:1
MSD Ignition. Bosch injection.
Electramotive engine management system.
Semi-stressed chassis member.
Maximum rpm 9,000.

Carbonfiber and Kevlar, designed by Yoshi Suzuka.

Inboard push-rod front suspension and outboard wishbone/coil/damper rear. 13 inch ventilated discs. AP 4-pot calipers outboard. BBS rims - 16 x 11 inch front, 16 x 14 inch rear. Bridgestone tires (Goodyear 1986-on).

Weismann 5-speed, later Hewland VGC 5 speed.

Wheelbase - 2705 mm.
Track (f) - 1600 mm. Track (r) - 1550 mm.

850 kgs.

Lola T-810 Chassis

HU-810/02: Electramotive. Nissan V6 Turbo.

28/7: Portland: Devendorf/Adamowicz, #83; 16th NR.
04/8: Sears Point: Devendorf/Adamowicz, #83; 9th.
25/8: Road America: Devendorf, #83; DNF.

1986: Re-numbered as Nissan 8602.
02/3: Miami GP: Forbes-Robinson/Adamowicz, #83; 10th.
04/5: Laguna Seca: Forbes-Robinson, #83; 19th NR.
08/6: Mid-Ohio: Forbes-Robinson/Heimrath, Jr., #83; 7th.
27/7: Portland: Brabham/Watson, #83; 3rd.
03/8: Sears Point: Forbes-Robinson, #83; 4th.
24/8: Road America: Forbes-Robinson/Brabham, #83; 47th NR.
21/9: Watkins Glen: Forbes-Robinson/Lammers, #83; 24th NR.
5/10: Columbus: Forbes-Robinson/Brabham, #83; DNF. Accident.

04/10: Columbus: G. Brabham/E. Forbes-Robinson, #83; 28th OA. (Diff.)
25/10: Del Mar: G. Brabham/E. Forbes-Robinson, #83; 6th. (Spin.)

1987: Became a show car.
1990: Sold to present owner, from Nissan.
2007: Under restoration.
2009: Restoration completed.
Tested at Willow Springs.
Monterey Historics (displayed).