In 2008 Godzilla washed up on the shores of the United States for the first time, as Nissan unleashed its GT-R on the streets of Los Angeles. The car didn't breathe fire, however (at least, not in the traditional sense), and it was aesthetically more pleasing than the giant lizard from which it took its monstrous sobriquet.
Then as now, the GT-R came standard with a twin-turbocharged V-6, all-wheel drive, and enough computer and digital integration to make a Gen-Y enthusiast giddy. It quickly rose to prominence in the tuner market, whereupon it began showing up more frequently at dragstrips across the country. Drag racing is an unlikely place for Godzilla to hang, given its computer-aided driving controls and AWD, which make the car a perfect fit for road-racing action. Our guess is that the lure of pure acceleration is far too great for GT-R owners to resist.
The mystical monster's world clashed with reality recently when two GT-R owners, Joe Castallana Jr. and Paul Vivkid, showed up to Atco (New Jersey) Raceway one fall day in late 2011. Both are fine examples of the serious modified GT-Rs that roam the New York streets.
The two were there to square off against a pair of C6 Corvettes in a low-10-second slugfest. Upholding the General's honor were Jim Barbaro and Rick Longo, each of whom hauled a supercharged Vette into battle. They were armed with CCW drag-racing wheels at all four corners for more traction, reduced rolling resistance up front, and less weight. Each street machine carried more than 700 rwhp to the asphalt. It was going to be brute American horsepower against Japanese technology in a fight to the death.
As we dug deeper into our Corvette team, it became apparent that these two cars were well-traveled street/strip machines. Longo's '05 has run a best of 9.90 at 144 mph, but it did so in extremely cold conditions. The sinister black Corvette is known to prowl the streets of New York with regularity, so if you happen to see this car, be afraid--very afraid.
Motivation comes from an LS2 engine that gets pumped up by a ProCharger D-1SC supercharger. The intercooled blower system pressurizes the stock intake manifold with 16 psi of boost. Backing this beast is a fully built automatic transmission. Vette Doctors in Long Island, New York, is credited with the performance modifications and tuning.
The black Vette rolls on the aforementioned CCW drag wheels, while a pair of Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials stick the power to the asphalt. Race weight is a scant 3,270 pounds, as compared with the 4,200-plus pounds of the GT-Rs sitting across the pits.
Barbaro's white '08 Z51 was built to satisfy a full range of senses, from visual to aural to tactile. The car was treated to a wide-body upgrade to create the appearance of a white Z06, which wasn't offered by Chevrolet at the time. The car also rolls on CCW wheels, both on and off the street, so style is clearly a priority.
Another high-priority item for Barbaro is the horsepower under the hood, and for that he found himself knocking on the garage door of Cartek in Garwood, New Jersey. The shop prescribed a Vortech V2 High Output kit, along with American Racing full-length headers and an X-style crossover pipe that exits to the outside air via a GM dual-mode exhaust.
The 12 psi of boost from the Vortech help the LS3 engine generate 752 rwhp with a custom PCM calibration done in-house at Cartek. The mild nature of the stock camshaft and untouched heads allow the Z51 to display excellent street manners. The A6 transmission utilizes paddle shifters for easy up and down shifting actions. Race weight with Barbaro behind the wheel is 3,320 pounds.
On the GT-R front, Castallana Jr. and Vivkid brought a pair of turbocharged coupes that appeared ready to tear down skyscrapers. Vivkid's was the milder of the two imports, with an Iveytune-calibrated PCM, exhaust upgrades, and a quartet of Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials. Castallana's car, on the other hand, boasted a fresh Iveytune-built VR38 V-6. A pair of GT30-76 turbochargers provide the 28 psi of boost, while a Boostlogic intercooler keeps air temperatures under control. As on Vivkid's GT-R, sticky MT radials stand in at all four corners.
We knew as soon as the car rolled out of the trailer that Castallana was a serious player. He built this car to dominate the GT-R realm, and early on it seemed he had hit his mark: His first run out of the trailer with the brand-new combination was a 9.78 at 148 mph--and this was on what he called a "soft" tune. We have no doubt that this car is 8-second capable with more boost and a tank full of race fuel.
After a few shakedown runs, Castallana turned up the boost knob by just one click and scored what would be the quickest run of the shootout with a 9.52 at 152 mph. Having clearly established his car as the class of the field, Castallana motored into the pits and let Vivkid duke it out with the Corvette contingent.
Longo would answer the call to take on Vivkid's GT-R, as the trans in Barbaro's C6 was having trouble upshifting under wide-open throttle. (Still, the white C6 had already gone 10.35 at 135 mph.) With Longo's Vette running 10.10s at 140 mph, and Vivkid's car in the 10.30 range at 137 mph, the matchup looked to be a close one.
The menacing, black C6 howled in anger as Longo heated the tires in the burnout box. Vivkid simply went around the water and cleaned off his Mickey Thompson rubber--all that's required when drag racing an AWD car. As both cars pulled to the starting line, seemingly everyone at the track stopped what they were doing to watch the match race.
Longo used his years of racing experience to attack the tree and got the early jump, his Vette roaring to a 1.55 60-foot time, while Vivkid trailed with a 1.62. The supercharged C6 stayed ahead of the rapacious import and cruised to victory with its best run of the day: 10.01 at 140 mph. Vivkid was close behind with a 10.32 at 138 mph.
Castallana quickly rolled off another mid-9-second run following the grudge race--just to remind everyone that although the C6s had won the battle, he was still winning the war.
Nissan is clearly serious about keeping the GT-R competitive, having increased the car's output in both 2011 and 2012. And while the LS-powered Corvette has a plethora of aftermarket upgrades available to keep it competitive, building a legitimate Godzilla hunter is going to take some real work.