This Manual-Swapped Infiniti Q50 Is a Proper Stateside Skyline

The Q50 was never offered here with a stick in its highest performance trims. That doesn't mean nobody wanted one.

q50 build lead
Tyler Gray

Infiniti might not be the first brand that comes to mind for driving fans, but one thing's for certain—it's made some good cars worth loving, and there are likely few people that know this better than Tyler Gray. After buying a certified pre-owned 2014 Infiniti Q50 back in mid-October four years ago, he decided he'd had enough with the automatic. He then set a course to build his own ultimate Japanese sports sedan.

By sourcing a slew of parts—both mechanical and aesthetic—and working in his California garage to get the install just right, the manual swap is now complete. Gray is one of the few people with a stick shift, 3.7-liter V6-powered Infiniti Q50. It's a remarkably clean build.

Jalen Hamilton

Gray was hooked on the Q50 as soon as he got behind the wheel. While his 2004 G35 coupe was in the shop for transmission repairs, he got one as a loaner and knew he needed it. "When I drove the car to Phoenix for vacation, I told myself I had to have one," Gray said. After a stint in a five-cylinder Volkswagen Jetta, his dream car—a Brilliant Silver Q50S—finally arrived on the lot at a price he could afford. He bought it, and after a few years of daily driver duty, the boredom of pandemic lockdowns got to him. It was time to turn it into the ideal JDM-influenced Nissan sedan.

A little time spent at the track showed the car's primary weakness: its seven-speed automatic transmission. That had to go, but from the beginning, Gray decided that if he was going to do a manual swap he wanted the install to be clean. The car was still his daily driver, after all. "It was very important for me to make sure the fit and finish was as close to OEM as possible," he told me.

Tyler Gray
Tyler Gray

The swap was made a bit easier by a few people who had taken on similar projects before. The Nissan enthusiasts over at the workshop "Concept Z" had already manual-swapped a Q60, the coupe version of the Q50 sedan. The two cars are very similar, so Gray got help from them working out some of the early details. Wanting to keep the conversion looking as stock as possible, Gray also ordered the center console parts from the manual Q50 diesel that's only sold abroad. After sourcing those part numbers and diagrams from a dealership in Glasgow, Scotland, they were ordered through Nissan Motorsports. These were the first of many parts to be ordered from the company.

Once the center console parts arrived, the project's speed picked up. Gray says it was actually pretty straightforward work if you're interested in doing this kind of job. "Everything went pretty smoothly," he said. "There was a lot of careful cutting and particular placement of bolts and brackets but, if you’ve done a clutch job before you could probably handle this swap pretty easily."

The new six-speed transmission was sourced from a 370Z, as well as most of the swap's other mechanical parts including the clutch pedal, brake pedal, and handbrake. Gray performed a ton of other modifications while he was in there, including numerous changes to the suspension—swaybars, bushings, coilovers and more—and the addition of a Tanabe Medalion catback exhaust. The wheels are Work T5Rs, and the entire Nissan-branded front fascia is from a Skyline 400R, the high-performance JDM version of the Q50 sedan.

Gray says the whole build is tied together by small parts that, while they don't necessarily make the car faster, improve its driving feel. "I believe the meticulous nature of the build and the emphasis on driver engagement has reflected accurately on the nature of Japanese tuning culture. I’ve kept body modifications to a minimum," he said. He also says that, despite using some American parts to get the swap done and working right, the Q50 is, after all, a Japanese car. He wants it to still have influence from its nation of origin. 

"The Q50 has a bit of soul from across the Pacific, and I’m happy that I was able to translate that to the vehicle. I love this car," Gray concluded. "I consider this the real start of our journey together."

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