Multi-Function Gauges Keep This LS3-Powered Nissan 350Z In The Know

November 29, 2017 / by Richard Fong

Nissan Z cars have always been prime candidates for engine swaps, and the 350z is no exception. This LS-swapped ride was treated to a supercharged LS3 and a set of Innovate Motorsports Gauges to monitor it. 

Nissan’s legendary family of sportscars, often referred to as the “Z”, have a heritage dating back to the late 1960s when the S30 240Z first arrived on US soil. This affordable sportscar with its L24 inline six-cylinder engine proved popular with enthusiasts. As they became more affordable on the second-hand market, fans of “American Iron” discovered that the Z chassis were good candidates for engine swaps. Before long, American small-block V8 engines were wedged between the shock towers, transforming the Z into a straight-line rocket.
Innovate Motorsports’ MTS gauges offer modularity and multiple sensor readouts in an installation-friendly 52mm gauge diameter. We used an ECB-1 ethanol content and boost gauge, plus two MTX-D guages. The gauge on the left displays temperature in the center with battery voltage on the outside while the MTX-D on the right shows oil pressure in the center and temperature on the outside.

Fast forward to the year 2002, and Nissan returned to this sportscar segment with the 350Z. This machine, chassis code Z33, filled the void left by the 1996 300ZX Twin Turbo six years earlier.  Since its release, the Z33 enjoyed significant popularity during its production run (2002-2008), resulting in widespread embrace by both enthusiasts and the aftermarket. 

Since the LS3 engine does not readily interface with the Z33 electronics, monitoring engine vitals requires upgrading the stock clocks to aftermarket gauges, sensors and wiring.

For those interested in swapping, there are plenty of LS cores on the used market, as well as a plethora of crate engine options. For this application, Gearhart sourced an LS3 engine, harness, and ECU for the 350Z project. With loftier-than-stock performance goals in mind, a brand new LS3 with forged internals and a Paxton NOVI-1500 supercharger, backed by an ECS C6 Corvette bracket system was built . To complete the long block assembly, higher flowing DART aluminum cylinder heads replaced the factory units atop each bank of cylinders.

The MTX-D water temperature probe mounts to the right cylinder head. The driver's side head is utlized for the factory coolant temperatur sensor.

Since the LS3 shares nothing in common with the VQ35DE, everything from the engine mounts to the wiring harnesses and engine management must be swapped out in order for the new engine to function in a Z33 shell. This further leads to much of the factory Nissan electronics being rendered useless, even the gauges and instrumentation– a major problem with over 700 horsepower on tap. To solve that issue, Gearhart turned to Innovate Motorsports for a set of their multifunction gauges (MTS line) to measure boost, ethanol content (for the E85 he plans to use) water temp, oil temp, air/fuel ratio, oil pressure, and fuel temperature. 

The oil pressure sensor replaces the GM factory unit at the back of the block by way of a brass adapter.

Because the 350z interior has three, neat pods mounted in the center of the dash, the Innovate guages will find a clean home, replacing the factory instrumentation.

Innovate Motorsports offers a broad selection of Modular Tuning System (MTS) electronic gauges to monitor and datalog (when connected to a datalogging recorder) engine vitals and various tuning parameters. Offered in a user-friendly 52mm diameter, these gauges can be customized to complement your interior color scheme (gauge faces and/or interchangeable bezels) while delivering important information about your vehicle in an easily read and interpreted format.

The 4 BAR MAP sensor mounted to the firewall relies on a vacuum line connected to the intake manifold to deliver manifold pressure data to the ECB-1 gauge. This is what feeds boost signal to the gauge.

Trading Places

Exchanging the factory MFD, Oil Pressure and Volt meters for multi-talented gauges from Innovate Motorsports increases the number of variables you can monitor. Rather than losing the use of three gauges, you’re actually gaining five or six. The MTX series of electronic gauges are equipped to display two different features on the gauge face. To replace the oil pressure gauge, the MTX-D Oil Pressure and Temperature gauge (P/N 3913) covers both variables by displaying the oil pressure on the digital display in the center, while the oil temperature is represented by a ring of colored LEDs. This gauge relies on its own oil pressure sensor and temperature probe, ensuring accurate readings. By using Innovate Motorsports’ free LM Programmer PC software (LogWorks), the gauge can be programmed for either Fahrenheit or Celsius. It can also be configured to read pressure in either PSI or BAR. Warning levels can also be set, along with minimum and maximum temperature values. 

Once the factory gauges were removed, the trio of 52mm Innovate gauges took their place within the pods and do not require any special hardware. An Innovate Pocket Logger (PL-1) is mounted in the concealable compartment, below. 

See Innovate's full line of digital and analog gauges here.

To continue monitoring battery voltage, an MTX-D Water Temperature and Battery Voltage gauge (P/N 3853) was also installed. This gauge displays water temperature on the digital display in the center of the face while battery voltage is represented by the ring of colored LED lights. Like the other Innovate Motorsports MTS products, this gauge is configurable by way of the LM Programmer software. Minimum and maximum voltage values, temperature displayed in either Fahrenheit or Celsius, and warning alarms when critical levels have been reached are completely user-programable. The included water temperature probe has a range of 120-to-280-degrees Fahrenheit (49-to-138-degrees Celsius). Battery voltage is measured from 6-to-25 volts DC.

The ECB-1 relies on an ethanol sensor equipped with 3/8-inch SAE push connectors. Special adapters convert the push connectors to -6AN fittings. This sensor has been outfitted with -6AN adapters to make the connection to custom -6AN fuel lines.

Output targets for this LS3 engine reside in the neighborhood of 600-plus horsepower at the wheels, thanks to boost from the blower. Knowing the boost pressure is imperative to ensure that the system is functioning properly, as well as for diagnostics in the case of a malfunction. The obvious solution was the Innovate Motorsports ECB-1 multi-function gauge (P/N 3906). The ECB-1 easily outperforms the factory multi-function display since it not only measures boost pressure, it also monitors ethanol content, fuel temperature and the air/fuel ratio.

The included 4 BAR boost sensor taps into any ancillary vacuum line and measures manifold pressure from 29 inHg vacuum up to 43.5 PSI boost pressure. This is paramount with the Paxton supercharger installed on Gearhart's LS. 

Part     Part Number   MSRP
ECB-1  3906   $499
MTX-D Battery/Volt 3853 $159
MTX-D Oil/Water 3913 $219
Pocket Logger PL-1 3875 $99

E85 offers race fuel performance but costs less than regular unleaded pump gas. It’s becoming more widely available at the pump, giving  enthusiasts a performance option for much less money. Unfortunately, E85 (ethanol 85%) standards at the gas pump can vary from as little as 53-percent ethanol to as much as 85-percent, which can impact the calibration of the engine management system. Knowing the ethanol content in your tank is imperative for proper tuning of the ECU. The included ethanol sensor relays the ethanol contents as well as the fuel temperature. This sensor makes the connection to 3/8-inch SAE quick disconnect fittings or to -6AN lines by way of -6AN adapters (sold separately.) If you’re running an aftermarket ECU capable of providing flex fuel calibration, this sensor can provide the signal necessary for the ECU to properly scale for any mixture ranging from pure premium unleaded to 100-percent E85. 

Innovate Motorsports’ Modular Tuning System offer scalability and interfaces with the PL-1 Pocket Logger to record data from up to 32 channels. The Innovate Motorsports PL-1 Pocket Logger activates with the touch of a button and records up to 580 hours of data on a 2GB SD memory card.

Finally, a Bosch LSU 4.9 wideband oxygen sensor samples the exhaust gasses and relays the air/fuel ratio data to the ECB-1. The display can be set to show one, two, or all four metrics simultaneously. While most settings can be accomplished with the two buttons located on the gauge face, employing the LM Programmer software permits more specific setting of alarms as well as a host of other features. Given its versatility, and broad variables monitored, the ECB-1 proved the ideal solution to replace the stock multi-function display in the third gauge pod.

Like all Innovate Motorsports’ MTS products, these gauges can be daisy-chained together and datalogged for troubleshooting or analysis. To record the data reported by the gauges, Innovate’s extremely compact PL-1 Pocket Logger is used, positioned discreetly in the convenient storage compartment below the gauges in the center console.

Since the datalogger starts and stops recording at the press of a button, this location offered an ideal and discreet mounting location for the PL-1 while placing it within easy reach of the driver. If your application doesn’t happen to have a convenient hiding place for your PL-1, Innovate Motorsports offers an optional remote trigger to make locating the start/stop trigger more convenient. Using the included 2GB SD memory card, up to 580 hours of data (up to 32 channels with a sample rate of 12-times-per-second) can be recorded. The logs can be downloaded and analyzed using Innovate Motorsports free LogWorks PC software.

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Getting Fired Up

Just hearing the roar of the 350Z’s LS3 engine swap at first firing elicits a feeling of anticipation and excitement. Being able to scan the trio of dash-mounted Innovate Motorsports gauges for engine vitals adds satisfaction to the sensory overload. Stepping on the throttle for the first time releases a surge of adrenaline that will keep you coming back for more. 

Topics: SPORT COMPACT, featured, TUNING TECH, Tech

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Written by Richard Fong

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