Take a deep dive into Nissan’s NPT-90 vintage aero warrior

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Wikimedia Commons/Stuart Seeger

Nissan Performance Technology (NPT) entered the 1990s on a high in IMSA racing, dominating the ’89 season with its GTP ZX-Turbo and prying the GTP constructor’s points championship away from Porsche, who had largely owned the decade. The ZX-Turbo left some wide tire tracks to fill, but the Trevor Harris-designed endurance racing weapon known as the NPT-90 would successfully carry that momentum forward the following year. Only two cars were built, and the one we’re examining today is the first.

Chassis no. 90-01 has resurfaced recently for auction, and Hoonigan took the opportunity to meet with the car’s race engineer and designer himself. In this video, Trevor Harris walks viewers through the inner workings of his twin-turbo endurance racer.

The NPT-90 represented some of the most cutting-edge racing technology in existence thanks to the development work of El Segundo-based Electromotive, who was a pioneer in early motorsports EFI and data logging. This company gave the newly twin-turbocharged VG30 V-6 the tools necessary to run reliably. Those snorkles on the racer’s hips feed each turbo ahead of a new four-valve head; the engine block was a race-only special by Electromotive, but the production-style heads mimicked those of the VG30, found in the factory-built 300ZX. Unlike the street car, however, this VG30 churned out an immense 950 hp thanks to the skunkworks operation at Electromotive and NPT.

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Electromotive didn’t just bring engine development in-house; it also had its own wind tunnel, allowing engineers increased freedom to play with the aero package.

“I would typically run as much downforce as we could get away with,” says Harris. Even so, “on the banks of Daytona, we found that we were a good 10 mph slower than the Porsches,” he continues. The Nissan’s lap times were still quicker than those of its German competitors. Why? The NPT-90’s insane levels of downforce helped keep it glued to the ground during the tricky in-field road course which made up the majority of the lap.

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Chassis no. 90-01 reclaimed the constructor’s points championship for 1990 and triple-downed on it with a slew of podium finishes in 1991. Nissan tried to replace the car in 1992, but the NPT-90 was brought back out after the new chassis were involved in crashes. Despite two DNFs at Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen, the humble 90-01 continued to podium and harvest season points, though Toyota would finally catch its rivals in the constructors’ standing.

Chassis no. 90-01 is currently for sale at Canepa through Stratas Auctions, an attractive opportunity for anyone who’s curious about vintage-racing a big-aero IMSA car with a brutal wave of boost swelling inside the intake with every stab of the throttle.

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