Sunday, June 25, 2017

Nismo Works Special: F-Sport Engine Explained

The F-Sport engine has always been surrounded by an aura of mystery due to lack of reliable information both online and from Nismo part itself. Subject to numerous speculations, its origins date back to many years ago when Nismo was in the midst of refocusing its business and approach to customers.

In the early 2000s the company started pushing the brand promotion to new heights: for years Nismo had been releasing tuning parts and even complete cars like the 400R, but lacked focus in its approach. It's no secret that the management had been watching closely European brands like AMG and begun modeling its branding after them. Nismo celebrated its 20th anniversary fresh of back to back victories in JGTC in 2003 and 2004 and, as Nissan was coming out of financial troubles thanks to Carlos Ghosn, the company had extra bandwidth to develop new exciting projects. It's during this era that the iconic red, black and white stripe motif was released - a trademark that is still highly recognized today.

Nismo released the first complete engine concepts with the S1 and R1 powerplants, leaving to customers the option of mating them with comprehensive chassis and suspension tuning - the famous S-tune and R-tune packages. 
S-tune complete car recognizabke by the chrome logo (left)

In 2004 Nismo really kicked things into higher gear, releasing engine tuning and parts for almost every Nissan production car: from the Firlady Z to the new Skyline V35, all the way to the March. In the same year, the release of the legendary BNR34 Z-tune marked a milestone in the Nismo brand development, becoming the most powerful and expensive complete car ever released to the general public.
Z-tune prototype testing at the Nürburgring
We are all familiar with the unique specs of the car: tested at Fuji Speedway and the Nürburgring, its 2.8 liters Z2 engine produced 500ps and was bespoke to the Z-tune. The engine block, the camshaft, the con-rods, the crankshaft and many other parts were specifically developed for this limited edition model only. While all these components monumentally increased the allure of the machine, they also created an issue that has been probably overlooked by most outside the company: Nismo had invested significant amount of money in R&D and production of parts that, commercially, were going to find application in only 19 customer cars - a figure too low by any standard to fully justify the spending.

Additionally, industrial production rules and economies of scale meant that far more parts were produced than the ones necessary to the Z-tune production itself. Nismo kept a good stock to cover replacements and maintenance needs for the 19 vehicles sold, but was still left with plenty of spares in the warehouses. Releasing the Z2 engine to the general public was obviously out of question as it would have stained the value and desirability of the Z-tune. So, what to do? Most of these questions found their answers in the F-Sport engine concept.

Unlike the R1 and S1 engines the F-Sport never really made it on the Nismo catalogs and was mildly promoted, main reason being that Nismo was going to use some of the leftover spares they had in stock, but with no intention of mass-producing these parts in the future. Again, not a very focused approach, rather aimed at keeping parts moving and bringing some extra revenue. But releasing very limited engines in trial-run production numbers wasn't something completely new to Nismo after all: ever heard of a RB26 Short Version or a RB26 Nür-Sport?

Where to position the engine within Nismo offer to customers was another question mark: the track-focused space was taken by the R1 and the S1 was doing a great job in offering extra performances to owners who had road-driving in mind. The F-Sport was designed to fill a niche in between, targeting more mature owners in seek of a boost in performance while maintaining a strong grand touring feeling and versatility. The engine was offered with a list of additional options called F-Sport GT Package. Made to order, the first complete car was presented at Nismo Festival in 2005 and all the customer cars were handled by ZELE International.
First F-Sport GT Complete Car

F-Sport Engine (2.8l)



Let's start with the comprehensive list of all the parts originally designed for the Z-tune that were sold as the part of the F-Sport package:

- GT Engine block
- GT Crankshaft
- GT Con-rods (Spec 1)
- GT Head gasket
- ECM
- Sport air-filter
- Racing spark-plugs

While the list is inclusive of all the key parts necessary for the engine to work, it's worth noticing how Nismo decided to omit key components to avoid competition (or extreme resemblance) with the Z2. To begin with, the camshaft, pistons, intake collector and the custom-made IHI turbochargers were not included; as a result, the F-Sport produced similar power figures (500ps), mostly thanks to the increased engine displacement, but lacked the explosiveness and racecar feel of the Z2. Again, the concept was to create a smooth engine with generous torque with road use as its primary function. It's also interesting to notice how the F-Sport was stripped of the race-derived Spec2 con-rods (and GT pistons) and fitted with the Spec1 instead. Still made of the same SNCM439 nickel molybdenum they are 2mm shorter than the Spec2 (119.5mm vs 121.5mm) and mated to genuine OEM Nissan pistons for RB26 with 30mm compression height. The end result is a powerplant that pulls more vacuum at low RPM, which translate in better throttle response and low-end torque, exactly in line with the engine concept. 

Nismo Super Coppermix Twin Clutch



Released in February 2005, this is a Nismo part we are all now familiar with, but back then was a necessary add-on to handle the extra power since the single-plate Coppermix clutch was developed and optimized for set-ups up to 420ps.

Nismo HA S-tune Suspension Kit



In line with the grand touring car concept, the F-Sport GT Package was fitted with Nismo HA (Height Adjustable) suspensions.
While maintaining the conventional balance of comfort and performance of the famous S-tune, Nismo added the possibility to adjust the ride height (± 15mm) to allow users to tune them without lowering the car too much. In order to differentiate the from the standard S-tune, Nismo changed the color of the shock absorbers to black.

Nismo LM GT4 Limited II 05Ver



All customers were offered the optional LM GT4 aluminum wheels manufactured by Rays. The 2005 model came with a satin dark silver finish.

Nismo Sport Airbag Steering 



Looks familiar, right? This was the exact same steering wheel fitted on the Z-tune, albeit reupholstered in silver instead of the premium red Alcantara.

The F-Sport package was offered as an aftermarket option: Nismo fitted them on customer cars with mileage up to 60,000km or bought limited numbers of used vehicles on the second-hand market with mileage up to 55,000km and then sold them as complete cars through ZELE International. Due to the change in the engine displacement all cars had to be registered as modified vehicles to comply with the authorities. 
Nismo complete cars at Nismo Festival
Depending on the specs, final prices would range roughly between 6,000,000 and 7,500,000 Yen. Final production numbers an dates are unknown, but, clearly, this set-up was offered on a made-to-order basis rather than volume-produced. During one of my recent visits to Omori Factory I spotted one F-Sport engine on display with a rather jaw dropping price-tag of 7,150,00 Yen, more than 4 times the original (1,680,000 Yen) price.

It is unclear whether Nismo has capacity to still produced them, but judging from the pre-facelift (2009) logo on the engine cover my educated guess is that some spares are still available, albeit several years old.

Nismo history is surely fascinating; although its strategy hasn't always been fully clear it's cool to see how the company has evolved over the years and, most importantly, how their commitment to support older models such as the RB26-powered GT-Rs hasn't faded one bit.

Until next time.

4 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if I influenced this post or not but this is some great info! I remember reading an issue of GT-R magazine from 2005 where they sold the GT short block for roughly $10,000 usd or so and was thinking this could be the route to a semi Z-tune.

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  2. Hi Sahir,
    Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I've got so many inquiries about this engine that I thought would be finally time to write a post about it. Definitely, these parts were a lot cheaper back in the days!

    Ale

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  3. this is some great info ! I was looking everywhere in the web but all I could found is written in Japanese. I think nismo is raising the price to maintain the exclusivity of the F-spec/sport engines.

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