IMSA GTP: THE NISSAN YEARS
Spiderman, the Bat-Sign, Bart
Simpson…even legendary Nissan
motorsports manager Kas Kastner
appeared in dayglo red on the headlight
cover of a Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo.
Electramotive brought personality
and style to IMSA and the GTP
category just as the series was
becoming a household name. The pop
culture crossover through headlight
art, like the Nissan program itself,
became a must-see component during
GTP events when the primary No. 83
entry was joined by an identical 84.
“That started at the endurance
races,” Kastner recalls. “I had them
put reflective tape on the second car
so we’d know one from the other one.”
What began as dayglo chevrons
quickly took on a new life as
Electramotive’s headlight art became
an anticipated unveiling.
“One of the mechanics came up
with that,” Kastner continues. “At
Miami, we won all three categories
– won in GTU, GTO and we won GTP.
The fellow did a thing on the headlight
cover of me in a high hat and a magic
wand. I grabbed that cover.”
The headlight art tradition hasn’t
been maintained by current two-car
IMSA teams, but it’s ripe for a return...
Another Electramotive tradition, the
all-crew victory lap, has also been
relegated to IMSA’s 1980s history books.
“I still have that original photo of
the first time they did it – that was
West Palm Beach,” Kastner says.
The sight of Brabham’s entire team,
piled atop the GTP ZX-Turbo for win
after win in ’ 88, spoke to the team-first
ties that propelled the Nissan project.
(TOP LEFT, clockwise) Kas Kastner, the
Bat-Signal and Spiderman – IMSA fans
couldn’t wait to see what Electramotive
Engineering would show up with next.
fourth consecutive GTP titles in 1990-’ 91.
Nissan’s reign from 1988-’ 91 was
testimony to the core players who failed,
struggled, yet pushed on through the dark
early days. That darkness would return at its
peak and topple the entire organization.
More than the Electramotive name
changed in 1990; Page left and other
central figures, too, as NPTI became a slave
to scale and excess. The championship-winning team was enveloped by more than
200 new staffers. The special feeling from
the original El Segundo days began to fade.
“When I started at Electramotive, end
of 1980, I was one of two full-time
employees,” Moss says. “We got up to
somewhere around 20 in GTP. With NPTI
it became at least a factor of 10 to one...”
As its new 24-hour resource for any
and everything, Nissan piled IMSA GTO
assignments on top of Group C projects
“We lost focus on the one thing we
had in the beginning – that everything
we did was to make the car go faster ”
for Nissan Japan, along with countless
other programs. With NPTI pulled in every
direction, Dan Gurney’s All American
Racers team, with its rival Toyota-powered Eagle Mk III GTP design, blew
NPTI to pieces on the 1992 IMSA trail.
“We lost focus on the one thing that we
had in the beginning – that everything we
did was to make the car go faster,” says
Brabham. “Suddenly, you had to have 16
purchase orders to get something done. It
was a nightmare. What bothered me was
walking around NPTI and seeing people
that I had no idea who they were, or what
NPTI’s IMSA program and Japan’s
economy hit rock bottom at the same time.
One glaring item on Nissan’s accounting
ledger stood out to stem some bleeding.
“By ’ 92, there were more than 250
NPTI employees,” Honsowetz says. “They
had an astronomical budget, but were
losing money. You can’t even fathom how
much money they had – but no business
plan. All of a sudden, we didn’t have any
After the 1992 season, once the giant
wire transfers from Nissan Japan stopped,
the winding down of NPTI’s huge Vista
workforce got under way. “I had to write a
letter to all these guys saying, ‘Your position
has been eliminated,’” Kastner laments.
With the Nissan GTP program’s demise,
IMSA’s premier class limped into 1993
before crumbling at the end of the year.
Just as NPTI had become too big to
survive, GTP became untenable without its
defining team. People made Electramotive
great. Largesse took its heart.
late 1987 as chief
designer and track
(ABOVE, with Don
from the radical
AVS-Shadow Mk. 1
Can-Am car to a
he dumped the
rubbery Lola T810
chassis for his own
and followed it with
another title winning
car, the NPT- 90.
(MAIN) For 1992, Nissan’s latest GTP iteration, the NPT- 91, boasted
twin turbos, but began to trail Dan Gurney’s Toyota-powered Eagles.
(BELOW) The intended replacement, the P35, was started then
abandoned as Nissan switched attention to production-based racers.