The sound of a highly modified 2JZ screams while it pushes the 350z across the asphalt. Followed by a wall of smoke pouring from the rear tires squelching and sliding the car into the corners forcing the rear bumper inches away from the clipping points. Switching through the transitions appear simple while behind the wheel Nina Zagozdzon juggles the steering and hand brake, and pedals in fluid-like rhythm. The on goers watch as she and her “Firestarter” exhibit their talents both of which were built from scratch.
The 350z is a long way from her fist car, a Daihatsu Quore, given to her as a humble way to travel into the city and hang out with her friends. She spent many nights and weekends watching in the local sprint races, and participating in various events, but it wasn’t until she attended her first drift race that her ambitions changed. “I enjoyed driving and racing, but the moment I saw a drift expo at a car meet, I knew this is something that I am going to do till the rest of my life.” She says. “I found it so much more exciting than just going in circles in the same line on a track.”
At the age of 18 she purchased a Mustang, then shortly after a 1990 BMW E30 that she had customized into a drift car. “It was the most affordable option for me at the time, and the BMW parts are really easy and cheap to get.” She says. “I would suggest it as first car for drifting to everyone.” And so for the next few years, she practiced.
Beginning with a lower horsepower car is good for any person who wants to learn to drift due to forcing the driver to use the car and skills, not the power, but naturally Nina’s skills progressed and the180hp M50B25 engine couldn’t keep up. That’s when she decided to team up with a local racing shop, Kageki Racing to help build her new drift car, a 2006 350Z.
They began by completely stripping the car down, and swapping the stock 3.5 V-6 engine for a Toyota 2JZ in-line 6-cylinder. The engine machine work was taken car by Naprec in Nagoya Japan starting with the cylinder heads. which were customized by adding larger 2mm larger intake and exhaust valves, and CNC-ing the combustion chambers with a larger combustion surface along with custom porting for the planned turbo charger.
Naprec also beefed up the engine block capable to handle upwards of 700 horsepower by adding all new internals. The mechanical water pump was swapped out for external electrical pump and the engine cooling would be plumbed throughout the of the car, by “Adel Wiggins” joints attaching the piping.
Boosting the engine is a Borg Warner EFR 8374 Turbo with the upgraded titanium alloy shaft and turbine wheel that pushes the air through a Garett intercooler with custom solid piping into an EVO 10 throttle body; then mixed with 75-pound injectors that bang out the exploded gas through custom fabricated headers and exhaust system.
The transmission is custom rebuilt Nissan GTR 35 unit, retrofitted for the Toyota power plant and built by Kalmar motorsports. They scrapped the slush box internals for straight cut gears and made sure the power is getting to the ground with a WRC twin disk ceramic clutch. And yes, she says the transmission makes the coolest sound in the world – next to the turbocharger.
The interior was completely stripped down and a full custom roll cage installed, then painted to match the exterior color while a set of Sparco racing seats were added with 5-point harnesses, accented by carbon fiber door panels, custom built center console with the control switches and a solid pink vertical brake stick.
Keeping the car in tune is a robust Cosworth Pectel SQ6 ECU system, with P1 Omega digital dash display that let’s Nina keep track of the vitals. “When I originally asked Kageki Racing to start working on my 350z, at the start I was going for around 400hp, but we ended up with 640hp and 900nm of torque!” Says Nina.
After two years of building, “Firestarter” was finally completed, and now Nina has a lot of work to do behind the wheel. “Since my previous car was only in the street category, I have a lot more achievements to claim!” She says. “I’ve been adapting myself to the new car, since it is 4-times stronger and works quite differently with the huge turbo! So this season I’ll continue practicing then next season will begin competing in “Czech Drift Series” and “Drift King” series.
Building a brand by the name, “Lady Hoonigan,” anyone following her online content can say she has quite the grip on Firestarter — so the Czech Drift Series shouldn’t be to far out of reach. As for upgrades to “Firestarter,” she says that will mostly be the unexpected bumper changes. “I have a huge amount of people supporting me, and thanks to that I can do what I love.” She says. “My family, friends and mainly sponsors, and all my gratitude goes to them!”
Photos by Kageki Racing