Many people followed the Matt’s VHR NA build that Shift Tech Performance put together back in July of 2017, though only a few people are aware of the story behind the build, or the subsequent second build done in December. Although the first build was, for all intents and purposes, a success on almost every level, its likely the least impressive thing to be accomplished concerning all parties involved!
Matt originally was chosen from a group of around 30 enthusiast who had applied to have Shift Tech Performance sponsor a custom build to help showcase the new business as a serious contender in the market. Having a clean 370z with big plans and sharing the same enthusiasm for greatness, we embarked on an adventure neither one of us will ever forget…
Initially, there were 2 all-motor builds and one boost build on the docket for the sponsorship deals, and Matt was the 2nd in line. The first NA build was supposed to be a G37 coupe, owned by an amazing young man named Eric. Eric, who is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met (we will talk about why here in just a moment), loves to share. In fact, Eric loves to share SO much that just two weeks before his engine was to be built, he tried to share his Infiniti’s occupation in the space/time continuum with another vehicle. Unfortunately, Eric’s G37 was in need of rebuilding, but the engine was no longer getting the priority!
With Eric’s build taken off the table, we moved to start on Matt’s project. The original ideas for Matt’s 370’z included a fully built, high-compression VHR with Cams, custom intakes, exhaust, tune, etc and were shooting for around 375whp. We set aside a small budget to cover the majority of hard costs and Shift Tech Performance launched into gear, pun intended :).
No more than a week or so into the project, Matt received some bad news….
His doctors had received the test results back from a previous visit and confirmed that, though otherwise young and healthy, Matt was going to need to start treatment right away to combat an aggressive cancer that had developed in his lymph-nodes! We both knew that the VHR build was no longer the priority in his life and that sacrifices would need to be made in preparation for the rough road ahead. Being balls-deep into the build already, I had to determine the most efficient way to navigate reassembly while keeping the cost down. To make things worse, Matt and his wife (then fiance) had already put their second car up for sale and now I was on the clock to get the Z back to him ASAP!
Needless to say, with time and money allocations depleted, only a shell of the dream was achieved. Pistons were kept stock bore to save on machining, head’s didn’t get resurfaced due to time constraints (though it thankfully it wasn’t a necessity), no headers or custom intake modifications, and engine bay/block dress-up was kept to a minimum. With almost no time for testing or engine break-in, it went straight to tuning at Dyno-Comp. Dyno numbers were solid but nowhere near the goal and the fact that the piston rings hadn’t even seated yet made for even less palatable results… Regardless, the car was together with no squeaks, leaks, or rattles, and was reliable to drive while Matt shifted his focus onto his upcoming wedding and chemo treatments.
Over the next few months, I watched as Matt endured the blows of cancer; loosing his hair… weight, and his ability to work and provide for his soon-to-be wife… All the things that give us men our sense of prowess and purpose…
I called periodically to check in and offer help but was always told he was doing great, even when he wasn’t, lol. He was too proud to ask for help and too stubborn to let cancer be a reason he would need it! Aside from giving his Z a quick check-up before the wedding, in which a car envoy/cruise was part of the itinerary, Matt asked only for thoughts and prayers. I was unable to attend the wedding but from what I gathered from the attendees, it was an absolute blast. Between the stunning beauty and joy radiating from the bride, and the bliss that only exists in the presence of true love, it was hard to imagine the hell lurking just within…
Proceeding the wedding in October, Matt turned is attention back to making cancer his bitch! Through chemo, unexpected complications from chemo, financial hardships, and the stress of it all, I never once caught him in despair. I never saw him without his head held high and a smile on his face. When we spoke, the conversation always revolved around the certainty of a bright future, the virtues of crypto-currencies (and how I should have listened to him earlier lol), and how excited he was to keep building his 370Z if he could keep it through everything. The optimism in the face of statistically fatal opposition was inspiring and an effective way to put things in perspective.
Shift Tech Performance had only been operating six months but had experienced unimaginable success thanks to people like Matt, who took a risk by giving me the opportunity to showcase my talents on their hard earned passion. One of the pistons that drives my desire for success is to have the ability to offer a hand-up to those in need, so I felt that, although Shift Tech Performance was nowhere near the ultimate success, I knew I wanted to help Matt finish his build. I was on the fence for a couple of weeks as I knew the holidays were right around the corner and both time and money were going to be a rarity!
Drowning in the throws of running a new business, it was difficult to even find time to consider the details to such an endeavor. I kept the thought to myself as I plugged away at the various projects on the board. At some point in early November, before I started my workday, my wife shuffled up to me, wrapped in a blanket, with tears rolling down her cheeks and her phone in her hand. I asked her what was wrong and she said “Matt just posted on Facebook… What he’s going through… It’s just hurting my heart..”.
I don’t remember exactly what was in the post that she had showed me but I’ll never forget the pain she felt in that moment as she came to terms with the reality of his nightmare. I told her not to worry because Matt was strong and he wasn’t going to lose this fight with so much waiting for him on the flip-side. She nodded slowly as if lost in thought for a few moment before wiping the tears from her face then stated that we need to do something nice for him. I spent the rest of the morning running my previous ideas by her and attempting to determine a what kind of time and budget could be allotted to completing the build that Matt , and I, originally set out to accomplish.
I went to work on contacting my vendors for pricing and availability of the parts we skipped originally and started to compile the list. During this process, I realized that I was still sitting on a set of custom high-compression Wiseco pistons that Eric had bought for his build, prior to the accident. These were .020” over-sized, which were perfect to help me achieve the perfect tolerances and power numbers we envisioned. I called up Eric and explained the situation and asked if he would be willing to let me buy his pistons from him, maybe even at a discounted rate, if he would like to contribute to the surprise rebuild that was to come.
Eric, who has never even met Matt before, jumped at the opportunity to help! He insisted that we use the $950 set of pistons as a end-goal donation to help entice others in the community to donate money to a Gofundme account that Eric was to setup and run, in addition to the pistons!! I was blown away by his generosity and commitment to the cause. Within the constraints of a 30 minute phone call, I had gained the assistance of a great man and a new scope for the scale of the operation.
As Eric got started on setting up the Gofundme account, Josh, a moderator for one of the local Facebook groups (AZVQ), messaged me to gauge my interest in possibly donating some performance parts to help raise money for Matt during the holidays. He was unaware of the plan already in place so I relayed the info, and after a little back and forth, we decided to combine our efforts. Josh went off to organize a charity car meet and raffle to help raise funds for Matt and Eric and I set off to raise funds for the new build.
Within a matter of just a couple weeks, we had organized a surprise build, fundraising options, and a car show, leaving just the matter of getting the car from Matt. This proved a little more difficult than we had hoped considering they had downsized due to financial constraints and the Z was the only car for the household. Without any feasible way to “borrow” the car for a couple weeks, we had to just cut Matt into the plan. Eric put together a post and shared it across various car groups in which he stated Matt’s situation, the goal of completing the dream build, and our desire to raise money to not only build the car, but help him keep it after the fact. Matt was blown away and messaged us all repeatedly to express his gratitude and excitement. I couldn’t wait to see what type of response this would get from the community and to get started on the build.
It wasn’t more then just a few days that we had raised almost $3000 on Gofundme in addition to the pledged pistons from Eric and the prospect of the upcoming car meet and raffle. I was so grateful at the outpouring of support that I received in organizing everything and could only imagine how Matt must have felt. It was really a magical moment in time as Matt dropped off the car and a portion of the donations to allow me to begin the project.
With only 10 days before the car meet, which was scheduled on December 23rd, I went to work with the dream of completing everything in time for the meet. I literally worked every waking moment with most of my work days ranging from 18-26 hours. Through absolute sheer will and utter exhaustion, the car was completed around 10:00am on the 23rd… There was no time to have it re-tuned or even road test the car other then on the way to bring it to Matt in preparation for the meet, but alas it was complete and running strong!
The meet was an overall success, though a little unorganized. Everyone showed up to show support and raise a little money.
Shorty after all of this, the car had a VVEL motor get sluggish which required a replacement before getting the final tune and power numbers. I guess since everything with the build went perfect, and that isn’t allowed in the performance automotive world, it only makes sense that some random electric motor would fail… lol. This set us back another week or so in having to order parts and replace the assembly, though once repaired, it was finally time to see how we did!
Here is what we did:
Shift Tech Performance custom made high-compression 11.5/1 Pistons (.020” over)
*Manufactured by Wiseco
Build specific ring gaps set
Block clean/inspected/bored/and decked
Eagle Connecting Rods
Nissan OEM specified bearings for perfect clearances
Micro-polished Crankshaft Journals
Nissan OEM Gasket Set
Cylinder Heads Cleaned/Inspected/Resurfaced
Full Valve Job with Cam Clearances all reset and new Valve Seals
Full Shift Tech Performance Blueprint of engine w/corresponding build tag
GTR Iridium Spark Plugs (one step colder)
K&N Short Ram Intakes
DC Headers with Insulating Wrap
High Flow Cats
Tuned with Up-rev software by Dyno-Comp.
Here is what we got:
With 91 octane pump gas…
conventional oil (used during break-in period only)…
Engine that wasn’t even fully broken in…
Wait for it…
As of early April, 2018, Matt was officially cancer free! Although he still needs to go through the follow-ups, we are all hopeful but confident that the worst is over! The 370z is still running strong and we are looking forward to getting in a few final dyno runs and updating the page. We expect to see near 400whp with our final runs 🙂