Photography by Alec Donaldson
THERE’S A TURNING POINT WHEN SOMETHING THAT STARTED OUT AS A HOBBY BECOMES A LIFESTYLE; WHEN SOMETHING YOU LIKE OR ARE INTERESTED IN BECOMES SOMETHING YOU LOVE. TUNING VEHICLES IS SUCH A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THAT. YOU START OUT SMALL AND WORK YOUR WAY UP UNTIL THE SCENE EVENTUALLY SWALLOWS YOU WHOLE – NOT THAT YOU PUT UP A FIGHT TO STOP IT. YOU COMPETE, YOU LOSE, YOU LEARN, YOU MAKE YOURSELF BROKE, AND YOU COULDN’T BE HAPPIER.
Not only is Brian McCann a textbook example of someone who has dedicated his life to the scene, he’s also built the most insane and exclusive Nissan 350Z that we’ve ever seen. It’s no wonder that he made it all the way to the final round of Tuner Battlegrounds and was able to show his car off at SEMA. It fit right in amongst all the other “out-of-this-world” builds at the show. I might have even seen some of them blushing.
“I’m a normal, part-buyer and car-builder kind of guy that found himself getting connected into the industry,” says McCann. “Right now, I own AZEXILED, which is a small, relationship-based reseller and importer of JDM parts.”
Stardast, if you didn’t know, is the name of wide hip kit on McCann’s Z and one of the companies he distributes for. He was actually among the first three people in North America to get the widebody kit for his 350Z – one owner in Las Vegas, Al Vincent in Manitoba, Canada (also a TBG competitor) and McCann in Arizona. The transaction ended with McCann receiving an exclusive kit and a working relationship with Stardast in Japan.
“There were many late night/early morning messages to Japan, and after overcoming our communication barrier, I ended up becoming great friends with Kenichi Nezu, CEO of Stardast, and actually became their global distributor for everywhere outside of Japan,” McCann recalls.
Before the Stardast-clad 350Z that most of you, and everyone on the SEMA floor, are familiar with, McCann took it through a couple changes. The first iteration was built up with exclusively aggressive Weber parts in 2010 and 2011. The next major change came in 2012 and 2013 with the addition of the controversial VeilSide kit, flat black paint job and what McCann painfully describes as a “two-year engine build saga.”
What most don’t realize is that McCann’s 350Z has been with him for the long haul. As a guy in his mid-20s, who just started making a bit of extra money, he purchased the car brand new off the dealership lot in 2005. It started out with small things, like stickers and eventually steering wheels, but we all know how quickly that can snowball.
“You do basic stuff because it looks good enough and it’s cool for you and keeps things simple, but then that one cool mod will roll around that brings up the level of the car,” McCann explains. “Then you sell everything you put on the car and level up those mods to match.”
After deciding he was over the VeilSide kit and acquiring the Stardast one, it was time to level up the rest of the car to match the transformational widebody. McCann enlisted the help of his friend Niko Markovich, who just so happens to be a very talented rendering artist. Through Markovich’s skill to render accurately, McCann was able to see which parts would mesh and which ones wouldn’t before dropping the cash on them to be modified by Division Autosport and Extreme Auto Concepts. Through this whole planning and design process, McCann took huge inspiration from two particular cars that he spotted at the Tokyo Auto Salon in 2014.
“The car itself is a blend of the two cars that Stardast had at Tokyo Auto Salon,” reveals McCann. “They had their white 350Z sharing a booth with the FD RX-7 from Car Shop Glow. I have pictures of both of them together and made mash-up pictures of my car as a literal blend between the two.”
Inspired by the RX-7’s radical splitters and canards, McCann set out to give his Z the same feel, but with no splitters on the market for the Z that fit with his aggressive vision, he ended up taking the good old DIY approach. Taking sheets of alumalite, McCann cut them to proper size and design for his car, made them chassis-mount for extra stability and bent them into shape. Best of all, it’s all functional!
“I didn’t want to build a car that looks like a race car, but have it not function like one, so nothing on the car that looks functional is skin deep,” McCann reveals.
On top of the handmade splitters on the front and sides, Garage Mak GT wing, C West canards, and even then Garage Kagatoni diffuser – originally meant for an FD RX-7 – are all functional pieces on the 350Z. It’s a good thing, too, because the built engine, with parts from names like Brian Crower, CP Pistons, Mishimoto and Precision Turbo, combine to give McCann 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. It’s best to make sure the car is planted in any way possible.
After drooling over rare JDM parts and taking many a picture of the Niche Targa three-piece forged wheels, SEMA show goers next turned their attention to the outstanding body on the Z. Under the Stardast over-fenders and Avery Dennison Midnight Sand wrap are more imported beauties, like the JP Vizage front bumper, Do Luck rear bumper and Amuse 380RS fenders and skirts. Technically, you could buy all of this and put in on a 350Z, but it would never look anything close to McCann’s Z. That’s because of the extensive custom work it took to satiate his artistic vision.
“You can’t just buy the same stuff I did and put it together,” McCann says. “It’s not a question of just filling a gap; it’s sectioning multiple pieces, cutting the wheel arches out of the front bumper and moving them forward or backwards to create better radiuses, changing the overall shape of the nose on the bumper.”
It took 12 hours worth of labor to modify the VIS Racing hood to fit around the additions to the engine. That’s the kind of work that McCann is willing to put in to perfect his vision. That’s also something that gets lost behind a build that is high profile like this. McCann turned wrenches on this car, he didn’t just drop it at a shop with a check and then pick it up a couple months later. When he needed help, he employed his friends.
“If I couldn’t turn a wrench or if I couldn’t do the bodywork, there’s no way I could trust just anyone with my vision,” McCann says. “Yes, I did a lot of the work myself and this is my work of art, but it was carried out by the hands of my friends, who were my surgeons.”
When this hobby becomes a lifestyle and this interest becomes a love, it’s important to keep track of your roots. Doing things yourself and doing them with your friends are really some of the most important things you can do to keep this whole tuning thing alive, especially when it becomes part of your livelihood. With that said, it’s safe to say that the tuning fire is burning bright at McCann’s camp. You can bet that when he goes even more functional this year with Voodoo13 billet suspension arms and Stance Supersport coilovers and air cup system, his friends will be ready to help him put that monster together.