You know how much we love the Nissan Z cars here at Sung’s Garage. The founder, Sung Kang, owns at least three 240Zs, and now that I own a 350Z, I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you exactly what made this such a great car.
A Brief History
The ’70s released some of the greatest cars of all time, but Japan was a step higher than the rest as the country’s car manufacturers starting building small, light, and efficient cars. These cars were just beginning to be shipped over to the States, and one specific sports car from Datsun hit America hard. Defined as the first ever Japanese muscle car, the 240Z became incredibly popular boasting a sporty engine for the time, a small price tag compared to its American competitors, and incredible styling.
It was a success, and before we knew it, Nissan had built a family of Zs. But in 1990, the model changed quite drastically as the Z32 was released. The model became more of a grand tourer rather than a simple sports car, and its twin-turbo engine was powerful with 300 horsepower. Unfortunately, it was incredibly unreliable, but thanks to its low price and Japanese charm, it will always be legendary.
Enter The 350Z
After a few year’s hiatus from the Z family, 2003 brought us the 350Z. Originally, it wasn’t supposed to happen, with Nissan instead planning to renew the 240Z name with the concept you can see below.
But Yoshihiko Matsuo, the designer of the original 240Z wasn’t a fan of this. And to make matters worse, Nissan had finally realised that the 2.4-litre KA24DE engine they were planning to use just wasn’t good enough to be used in the successor to such an iconic line of cars. So instead, they built the VQ35DE 3.5-litre V6 engine. Add the body shape we now all know and love, and the 350Z was born.
The Legendary VQ Engine
There are few engines that sound quite as good as the VQ of a 350Z, and for a naturally-aspirated engine, it made significant power. 287 horsepower and 274 lb-ft was sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox to a viscous limited-slip differential that came standard on all models.
The best thing about it? The car only cost $27,000 new, which Nissan was sure to make clear at the 2002 North American International Auto Show in Detroit where it described the car as “$50,000 performance for under $30,000”. With six cylinders, tight styling, and a throaty exhaust note, manufacturers producing sports cars with V8s were slowly becoming hot under the collar.
A Driver’s Car
Being front-engined, rear-wheel drive, and treated to features such as an LSD and multilink front and rear suspension setups, this was a car that could be thrown around and enjoyed, despite its weight of a small country. Coming in at a minimum of 1,450kg depends on spec, it wasn’t a light car, but smiles per miles were high. The pedals were designed specifically for heel and toe downshifting, the steering wheel was weighted nicely, yea, it’s no surprise it was quickly picked up by racing teams.
The World Of Tuning
Thanks to the likes of The Fast and Furious films, the 350Z was thrown into the world of tuning with it already being a beautiful car to use as a base for further exterior modifications. It didn’t take long for Veilside to drape a widebody kit over it for DK’s 350Z in Tokyo Drift, and it’s now rare to find a car meet without a 350Z lurking somewhere.
Under the hood was a different kettle of fish, however. The VQ engine was quite highly strung from the factory, and as production went on and even more powerful versions of the engine were released, it’s turned out to be an expensive engine to extract more power from. It is, however, perfectly doable, with companies such as Vortech building supercharger kits that would send the power into the mid 400 horses. Turbo kits are also available, but expect an almost five-figure sum for substantial power gains.
Right now, you can buy a decent 350Z for around $5,000. I got mine for a little more than that, but with an ultra-low mileage and full history to make up for it.
If you want to stick around and follow what we do with it here at SG, take a look below where I introduce to you the new car in the Garage.