Los Angeles, CA
Nissan 300 ZX
3.0 L Twin Turbo V6
Cunningham Racing 5-Speed Manual Transmission
Fully-Adjustable Independent Suspension
Cunningham Racing Water Cooled Disc Brakes
1989 Nissan 300ZX Turbo IMSA GTO
1989 was a banner year for Nissan, with racing wins at the 12 hours of Sebring, a Japanese Touring Car Championship, and two class championships in IMSA. Nissans were certainly proving their might on the international racing circuit. The 300ZX offered here is no exception to this success. Campaigned by Clayton Cunningham Racing, this Nissan 300ZX, chassis #002, had seven top-five finishes in 1989 alone, including a 3rd at Mid-Ohio as driven by John Morton.
Between 1989 and 1995, Clayton Cunningham racing built seven factory-supported Nissan 300ZX race cars to compete in the IMSA (International Motor Sport Association) racing series. Of these race cars, the 300ZX proved to be an extremely successful platform, winning both the Manufacturer’s and Driver’s Championships in 1992 and 1994, as well as an overall win at the storied 1994 Daytona 24 Hours, and a 1st in Class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that same year.
Clayton Cunningham would campaign chassis 002 in 1989, piloted by well-known and successful Nissan driver of the era, John Morton. The first iteration of the 300ZX Turbo GTO cars struggled with early development issues. For instance, the cars weren’t stable at high speeds and the braking system didn’t have sufficient cooling capabilities, keeping the car from being competitive enough to win races. The 1989 season concluded with a 3rd place at Mid-Ohio being the car’s best result.
For 1990, chassis 002 was treated with several upgrades, one of which included a chassis and wheelbase extension, running an updated 2+2 configuration. Cunningham racing also fitted the car with their own custom fabricated water-cooled brake system that helped prevent the brakes from fading throughout the length of a stint.
With a longer wheel base, refined chassis, and update braking system, Cunningham Racing had created a fierce competitor with the newly updated 300ZX platform that lead to the car’s first victory at Mosport with Steve Millen behind the wheel. Chassis 002 would go on to successfully compete from 1990 to 1992, logging a total of four race wins that included Mosport and Road America driven by Steve Millen, and Mid-Ohio and Mosport driven by Jeremy Dale, as well as 16 top-three finishes over its 45-start career.
After its competitive career was completed in 1992, the car was fitted with a passenger seat to provide an on-track experience to passengers, remaining under the ownership of Cunningham Racing. Chassis 002 is the only car of the series to have chassis modifications to accommodate a passenger seat and safety harness, making the car immediately recognizable amongst the grouping.
From Clayton Cunningham, this 300ZX Turbo was sold to the late Toby Bean. When acquired by Bean, the car was in as-raced condition, maintaining its original appearance and componentry. Under the care of Bean, the car would be regularly exhibited at vintage racing events and maintained in race-ready condition. Owned until his passing in 2017, the 300ZX would be purchased from the Bean estate by today’s seller, joining a fantastic collection of motorsport and racing cars.
Under current ownership, the 300ZX Turbo has been brought up to full mechanical operation for competitive use by RM Motorsports in Wixom, Michigan. In preparation for track use, the engine and spare powerplant accompanying the car were fully rebuilt by Roush Performance. In 2019 chassis 002 raced to victory in both the 2019 Long Beach Grand Prix and the 2019 Rolex Motorsports Reunion.
While many configurations of the 300ZX engines and chassis were used from 1989 through 1992, this particular example sports an all-aluminum, twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC V6 engine paired with a Cunningham Racing five-speed gearbox with Hewland VGC internals and a Cunningham Racing quick change rear end housing with Hewland VGC internals. The early cars were equipped with a 5-speed transmission while the later chassis were fitted with transaxles.
Still sporting its red, white and blue Nissan livery, this vintage racer cuts an impressive figure. It has never been crashed and never fully restored. The mechanicals have been changed as they timed out through the years, and the gaskets used in the current engine rebuild were upgraded from the original “fire gaskets” to more modern gasket material to handle the heat and pressure of the turbochargers; a common point of failure in period. The Garrett turbochargers were replaced with modern examples; however, the originals will be included in the sale as spares. Additionally, a down tube has also been added to the frame near the A-pillar to increase strength and safety for modern use. With these minor updates in mind, this 300ZX race car remains very close in originality and specification to how it was raced in period. In addition to the sale of this extraordinary piece of motorsport history, the seller has agreed to join the car on-track with the engine tuner to assist the new owner with the full starting, racing, and maintenance procedures.
As one newscaster enthused during pre-race coverage of the 1992 IMSA race at Mosport in which Jeremy Dale prevailed in this very car, “A twin-turbo V6, horsepower upwards of 700, brakes bigger than a serving plate and tires sticky enough to peel paint off a wall. This is not your average Nissan.”
Having been repainted in 2018, keeping its Red White and Blue Nissan livery, the paint and body of this 300ZX Turbo shows very well with only minor signs of track use on the nose of the car, in line with its recent vintage racing use.
The nose has been fitted with small headlights for nighttime use, currently protected by alloy covers. The original 17-inch BBS wheels have been replaced with an 18-inch version in order to keep up with current racing tire availability. With the sale also comes a spare set of wheels
A quick look inside and you will see that this car is setup for nothing other than racing. With a race seat and a five-point Sabelt harness surrounded by a full racing cage. Of the group, chassis 002 is the only car with an updated frame to accommodate a passenger seat and safety harness.
The cockpit remains in good shape, having never been restored from its time on track with Cunningham Racing but always maintained in driving condition. The dash is covered with Auto Meter gauges for the driver to monitor the entire car while racing. In addition to the gauges there is also a MoTec digital dash display mounted to the steering column.
There are a few minor scuffs on the carbon fiber floor and transmission tunnel, but this is a 30 year old race car that has seen it fair share of track time. Please note, as with any race car, you will need to replace the five-point harnesses and other safety equipment on a regular basis in order to pass a race track technical inspection.
Engine and Drivetrain
The 3 Liter twin turbo V6 currently fitted in the car has just 6 hours on the clock since a fresh rebuild by Roush Performance. Included in the sale is a freshly built spare engine, also completed by Roush, only having dyno tuning and break in time.
The early 300ZX GTO cars were fitted with a 5-speed manual transmission, where late cars were fitted with a transaxle. The transmission and quick-change reared housings are Cunningham Racing designs with Hewland VGC internals.
This 300ZX Turbo is currently available for viewing at The Motoring Club in Marina Del Rey, CA. Interested parties must arrange a viewing appointment through the “Schedule a Viewing” prompt on the listing.