History of Project Leopard

One of the newer tuner magazines to come out of Primedia was Project Car Magazine.

The premise of Project Car Magazine was to use “Real Tech, Real Cars and Real budgets”. While they did a lot of this, they also had resources.

While there were familiar cars that were built… they also had a handful of cars that were not the typical mainstream car. This included an Altima, G20 and of course the M30. At the time, mainly enthusiasts were into these cars. 

The editor of the magazine, Gary N, was talking to Naoki and they wanted to do a build. Naoki’s car was already SR swapped, but Koji’s M30 was fresh and stock. Koji said he was planning on swapping, so he was gathering parts. It just worked out that Project Car Magazine needed a feature and the M30 was perfect.

Koji and Naoki kept the build secret. Naoki did drop some hints about a crazy build happening. When Koji revealed that his car had been swapped and it would be in the magazine, everyone was surprised and of course impressed. 

One of the things that Koji made sure was that F31club got credit. For all of us that believed in the car, it felt great to see that our community got credit and the chassis would be appreciated. 

Even though I have known Koji since those days of F31club, I didn’t have a chance to meet him until 2019 at JCCS.
I recently asked him how it all started. One of the main people at Project Car Magazine was Gary N. He has known Koji for a long time. Gary was looking for material for Project Car Magazine and it just so happens that Koji has been getting parts for an Infiniti M30 he had. Koji said that is what set it in motion. With the local connections such as Sr20store, Phase2 Motortrend and Syko Performance as resources, I believe they did the swap in 6 weeks. One of the most interesting pieces on this car is the R31 crossmember which came from Australia and was initially discarded by a shop there. 


A couple years ago when I started to track down M30s that were part of F31club, Project Leopard was one of them. It is funny how a car that is well documented can go missing. Cameron sent me an email saying he owned the Project Leopard and gave me quick back history in which I want to post here. This was in 2017 I believe.

“Hey man I have the project car m30.
A buddy of mine owned it a long time ago. He bought it from some guy and the car came with the magazine and the guy was sad to let it go, my buddy owned it for a short time and did some minor changes to it such as add gauges shift knob and stuff.
Later he found a evo 8 for sale and he offered it up for trade. When he traded the m30 it was still super clean no rips in the seats no faded/cracked paint no cracks in the dash.

Later he found out that the guy with the evo was wanted for a hit and run that killed a pedestrian in the evo. Now the hit and run guy has the car and it’s starts to get all fucked up. Seats ripped dash cracked. He hits another pedestrian and sells the car for super cheap to the guy who owned it before I got it then he ran to mexico.
The guy after that was so happy with the car and motor and started turning it to a drift car with forest wang being his inspiration. (Forest wang once owned a m30) so he added the angle kit and had alot of videos of him drifting it. And he did some sketchy wiring in the engine bay. Later he blew the motor.
I found the car while I was out of California for work for 3k. I messaged my buddy I work on all my cars with he went checked it out and figured it was worth it. And picked the car up for me. I sent him money a week earlier. I came home and found out the car had a bad misfire in the 6th cylinder and did a couple things, it started right up but had a horrible idle do to misfire. Later I found a automatic rb25 for sale with wiring harness for very cheap. And I jumped on it. I pulled the bad motor and replaced it taking the good parts from the bad motor such as Greddy intake manifold steel exhaust manifold gaskets. The old turbo was sold to a friend for a miata. And I added a bigger turbo (cheap shit) and top mount turbo manifold and external wastegate. The engine bay has all sorts of random wires and stuff. But I actually sent it to a friend to have the wires tucked and only the wiring needed to run and drive the car hooked up to a switch panel. After it gets done there in a couple weeks it getting sent to another friend for a half cage and door bars. Also have seats and harnesses coming for it. When I originally got the car i wanted to get new parts and make it nice. But there is so much work and I have a way nicer project miata. That I’ve swapped a 1.8 into fully built and turboed. So that take up alot of my time and money.
So the Infiniti remains a drift car and I’m happy with it, it’s alot of fun and the track and I can’t complain, it has it’s ups and downs but i really enjoy it, sometimes I daily it still haha. I know you guys are about preserving the m30 but this is what I like and this car is fun to watch people stop and stare cause it looks so homeless and broken with the angle kit giving it 9 degrees of camber in the front. I love my pile hahaha.” – Cameron

It is unsure how many owners Project Leopard had after Jon. Initially I was thinking 2 or 3 before Cameron got it. 

Jon bought the M30 from Koji. He drove it a bit and kept it clean. He either sold it or traded it. That was pretty much it until 2019. Jon sent me an email saying he had bought the Project Leopard (again) and his mission was to make it clean again. He said it was rough compared to when he had it before. I told Jon to make a list of stuff that it needs and so when an M30 hits a junkyard, I can get him the stuff. I was honestly excited because I felt this car deserves that second chance. I asked Jon on how he found the car again. He said that someone told him an RB powered M30 was in his town (Tehachapi). When he went to check it out, he verified the R31 crossmember.

I didn’t hear much shortly after. Jon then told me he had a business venture that he was exploring and that he needed to sell the car by the end of 2019. He would be moving and couldn’t hold the car. He tried to sell it on CL and a couple forums. Then there was no new news. I texted Jon just to get an update and then he offered the car to me for cheap. He also got the original engine and had taken it apart to determine what the issue was with it. That is when he confirmed it was a blown #6 ringland. There were also many parts missing such as Greddy Intake manifold, RB25det transmission and other bits. Jon tried to track down every piece he remembered. I felt that this is when he realized it was a big project. If he wanted to get it back to that quality when he had it, it was going to go the distance.

When I agreed to purchase it, I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do honestly. I needed to figure a game plan and understand the logistics (Jon lives in the middle of California).

Now I will start a new chapter for Project Leopard.