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2003 Nissan 350Z - Line Of Succession

Recapturing The Original Z's Spirit

Adam S. Geczi
Feb 1, 2008
Photographer: E. John Thawley III
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The year 1970 marked the introduction of the Datsun 240Z. Quick, fun and affordable, the original Z car became immensely popular with the American sports car audience. The successful racing ventures of Bob Bondurant and BRE served as an early catalyst for import racing in America.

Although much has changed in the last 37 years-for instance the price tag in 1970 was $3,600-the 350Z reintroduced in 2003 largely recaptured the spirit of the original Z. The 350 is quick in the turns and short on the braking right off the showroom floor. The VQ35 platform, albeit not a bulletproof engine, is capable of laying down 450 whp on stock internals-even if this is only the case for one dyno pull.

Rob Fuller at San Jose, Calif., based Z Car Garage recognized this early on and has been taking full advantage of Nissan's engine technology at the urging of his clients. Fuller, an avid supporter of the Z cars is well versed in both the strengths and weaknesses of Nissan, a sought after skill that allows him to squeeze as much extra power, braking and handling out of the cars as possible without compromising integrity. Working with one-time owner Dale Preston and his wife Connie, Fuller set out to meet the nearly impossible challenge of simultaneously building a race car and a show car. The couple was dedicated to the early Z cult of the 1970s and rekindled the spirit at the onset of the new 350 era. However, Dale and Connie had a philosophical disagreement as to what their '03 350Z should be. Dale wanted to build an exciting track car, but Connie was looking forward to cruise nights and awards. Deciding that the car should satisfy both requirements, the result is a new spin on hybrid technology aimed to satisfy both the racer and the cruiser.

For the racer, the powertrain has been outfitted with a number of high-performance options, including a pair of Mitsubishi TDO5H-18G turbochargers with TiAL external wastegates and an optional high-boost front-mount intercooler kit with a Type-S blow-off valve from GReddy. The Japanese tuner has a great deal of expertise in safely boosting engines with stock internals and were also the first to offer a twin-turbo kit to the emerging market shortly after the Z's reappearance. Powered by GReddy's cost-effective e-Manage programmable piggyback engine management system, this Z reveals two sides. Fuel-mapping parameters can be safely altered to increase engine performance to 400 whp at 7.8 pounds of boost or, for increased reliability and fuel efficiency, the touring trim power output level can be reduced to 360 whp with the flip of a switch-a setting that is far less taxing on the unprepared bottom end. Boost control functions are managed with a GReddy Profec-B Spec II unit. Other engine upgrades include a GReddy oil pan with increased reservoir capacity to provide more time for the oil to cool before reentering service and a Walbro fuel pump powered fuel injection system with AAM fuel return. The latter is a necessary upgrade with the larger fuel pump, as the factory returnless system is unable to compensate for the increased fuel pressure, especially at idle. Major improvements in fuel pressure stability can be achieved by adding a fuel pressure regulator after the fuel rail, as is the case with the AAM system.

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Drivetrain modifications are centered mostly on the bell housing and the differential assembly. A custom ZCG drag race profile performance clutch along with a Jim Wolf Technology heavy-duty aluminum flywheel improve coupling on the dragstrip, while a short-geared differential from an automatic transmission equipped model fitted to the rear is a great complement to the reformed power curve. Upgraded braking power is courtesy of StopTech, a premier manufacturer of brake systems using large heat-dissipating rotors and rigid fixed calipers. With this big brake kit, a 350Z can come to a complete stop from 60 mph in as little as 98 feet, placing StopTech ahead of many of its competitors. Part of their success is contributable to the patented bolt-in bridge, which increases caliper stiffness where it matters most, the area perpendicular to the pistons. Stylish and performance-oriented Injen 304 stainless steel exhaust components create a tone that greatly emphasizes the throaty turbo exhaust. All exhaust pieces are CNC mandrel-bent and robotically welded for a consistent finish. Eibach Sportline springs lower the ride height by 1.2 inches in both the front and the rear. On track days, performance enhancing 245/35 front and 275/35 rear Hoosier slicks mounted to 18-inch Axis lightweight aluminum wheels are bolted to the hubs.

For the cruiser at heart, the interior amenities include two-tone custom leather seating, a DVD player with TV tuner hooked to a 7-inch widescreen monitor mounted in the front and a 19-inch widescreen LCD in the trunk. Sound is pushed through a custom installed eight-speaker Polk Audio system with a 10-inch subwoofer. The factory brickyard pearl exterior color is enhanced by candy red ghost flames, and the 8.5x19 Niche wheels in the front and 20-inch rear varieties wrapped in 235/35 and 355/30 Michelin rubber respectively are a definite eye catcher at car shows, a combination that has earned the owners numerous awards.

At 3,185 pounds in full trim, this isn't a purebred race car. But its dual purpose and 12.72 e.t. at 113.5 mph at the track is a distinguishing mark and a testament to the commitment of dedicated Z community members who promise to carry forward the legacy that began once upon a time with the 240.

By Adam S. Geczi
17 Articles



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