The Nissan 350Z is a two seat sports car that was manufactured by Nissan from 2002–2009 and marks the fifth generation (codename: Z33) of Nissan's Z-car line. The 350Z entered production in late 2002 and was sold and marketed as a 2003 model. The first year there was only a coupe, as the roadster did not debut until the following year. Initially, the coupe came in base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring and Track versions, while the roadster was limited to Enthusiast and Touring trim levels. The Track trim came with lightweight wheels and Brembo brakes, but its suspension tuning was the same as all other coupes. The Nissan 350Z has succeeded by the 370Z for the 2009 model year. After the Nissan 300ZX was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1996, Nissan initially tried to keep the Z name alive by re-creating the 240Z the following year. The car was conceived by Nissan's North American design team in their free time, and the concept was introduced in a four state Road Show in July 1998 to various car media, dealers and employees. Yutaka Katayama, regarded as the "Father of the Z" unveiled the Z concept sketch to the public when he received a motor industry award. The design, representing a modern vision of the 240Z, did not please the original 240Z designer Yoshihiko Matsuo, who compared it to the Bluebird and Leopard. The 240Z concept was produced for the Detroit Motor Show for the following August and September. Nissan was unhappy with the first design as they felt the original 200 bhp (149 kW; 203 PS) 2.4 L engine known as the KA24DE that was going to be assigned made the car feel underpowered, they also felt the car was considered too "retro" or too "backward" resembling a futuristic 240Z; thus, a redesign was commissioned. During a press conference in February 2000, president Carlos Ghosn announced plans to produce the car as he felt the new model would help to assist the company's recovery. Z Concept was unveiled in Detroit Motor Show two years later, which was similar in body shape but with a new front end. The car then underwent a minor redesign and was eventually assigned the VQ35DE engine, hence becoming known as the 350Z.
Since its introduction in 2002, it did not take long for drivers and teams to enter a Z33 for competition when B.J. Zacharias and Michiel Schuitemaker of Schuitemaker Motorsports helped the car to make its début in the Grand-Am Cup Series at the start of the 2003 season. They have taken a few podium finishes with Unitech Racing who is also the other team to field a Z33, but effort was proved to be successful under the name of Geddings Racing scoring wins along with the other current Grand-Am entrant East Competition Promotorsport. The Grand-Am Cup car has also been used in the new FIA GT4 European Cup. Schuitemaker Motorsports with drivers Michiel Schuitemaker and BJ Zacharias won 3rd place in the '03 Grand-Am Cup season. The following year, they improved and finished in 2nd place. Schuitemaker Motorsports was sponsored by 350EVO, a manufacturer of performance 350Z parts. After winning 3rd overall in the '03 season, Nissan had Wright Tuning build a new 350Z race car for the '04 season. This car differed from the '03 car in that it was completely stripped and seam welded. The cage was lighter and stiffer by using different diameter tubing where possible. The car used a Menard's built engine with a Pectel engine management system. Overall racing weight was 2,450 lb (1,110 kg) which was the minimum allowable weight for its class. The '04 chassis proved to be the most successful chassis to run in Grand-Am to date. The '03 chassis was sold to a French team with Edouardo Atkatlan as the driver. It still competes in the European "Fun Races" today, winning 2nd place in the inaugural '07 race in Madrid.The 350Z replaced the Skyline GT-R as the car for Nissan's factory and customer teams in the Super GT's GT 500 class. The cars used are heavily modified and feature a longer nose and tail (requiring the production of the Type-E homologation special), carbon fiber bodywork, and a tube chassis. In 2004, NISMO won the GT500 championship. Until the 2007 season, the car was powered by a VQ30DETT V6. In order to increase competitiveness, however, a new 4.5L V8 powerplant has been developed. The 350Z, with slightly more pedestrian modifications also competes in the GT300 class (having started there even before the Skyline GT-Rs were replaced) by teams such as Endless Sports and Mola. In 2003 Hasemi Sports won the GT300 championship with the 350Z. In 2008 season, the 350Zs were all replaced by Nissan GT-Rs in the GT500 class, but they have continued to be used in the GT300 class as the GT-Rs overexceed the horsepower limits which make it impossible to participate. Thus, two 350Zs competed in the series and MOLA won the both Drivers' and Teams' championships in the GT300 class.
To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the début of Datsun 240Z, Nissan released a tuned version of the 350Z coupé. The 35th Anniversary Z was débuted at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas on November 2, followed by its first public appearance at the Miami Auto Show in early November. It went on sale in January 2005. 35th Anniversary Edition includes an uprated 300 hp (220 kW) V6 engine for the 6-speed manual transmission model. Other key 35th Anniversary Z equipment (standard on both 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic equipped versions) includes unique 18-inch (460 mm) cast aluminium-alloy wheels, front and rear spoilers, Brembo brakes and special Z badging. The car comes in a variety of unique colours including "Ultra Yellow", "Super Black" body colours. This Z's interior also was available with a two tone black and biege set configuration. Also including a Bose 7 speaker premium sound system with available navigation. During the 2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) unveiled the 350Z GT-S concept. The GT-S featured a unique radial flow supercharger (that could be turned on or off via a switch on the dashboard), raising engine output to 382.6 bhp (285.3 kW; 387.9 PS) and 424.8 N·m (313.3 lb·ft) without modifications to the engine components. The car also featured new body kit for more cooling and downforce and wider 245 and 265/40/18 tires. No plans for production have been revealed, although there have been some hints that the package may be offered as an upgrade kit. The car has been tested favourably against its possible production rivals, the Porsche Cayman S and BMW Z4 M. Auto Express magazine reported the GT-S would be on sale in UK for £36,000, but it has yet to be produced.
The car is used in import events and drifting, where in the latter, some drivers such as Tanner Foust, have started to use them with success in the D1 Grand Prix and Formula D series. At the 2006 D1GP exhibition event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Tanner Foust became the first driver to score a perfect 100 points in a 350Z. In the non-Japanese domestic D1GP spinoff series, D1 Great Britain (D1GB), there are two Z33s that compete in the series. Of the 2007 season, both SVA Imports and Sumo Power 350Z currently competes in the EDC (European Drift Championship), which is run by a different organization to D1, and in Formula D, Foust took runner up spot at round 1 and at round 2, Chris Forsberg would score its maiden victory in his Roadster equipped with a VK56DE from a Nissan Titan. His win for the 350Z was followed up by Youichi Imamura's win during the Las Vegas round of the US D1GP series in his RB26DETT engined car. Foust would eventually take the Formula D title. The SVA Imports Z33 is significant for being the other drifting car other than the Team Orange Impreza to feature a rear radiators with air ventilation on both sides rather than just on one on the Impreza. There are few 350Z drift cars actively participating in DDGT drift competition in Korea; one such 350Z in the scene is the 2007 Black 350Z piloted by Ko-Ryung Hae with TEAM CHRONOS. Also z33 successfully takes part in D1 Ukrainian Drift Federation. In 2009 and 2010 its pilot, Aleksandr Grinchuk got the top ranking for the year in Ukraine. Option magazine founder Daijiro Inada used an extensively modified 350Z, dubbed Option Stream Z to compete in the Silver State Classic Challenge. The car was equipped with a GReddy/Trust T88 turbo-charger and was stroked to 3.8 L to produce over 900 bhp (671 kW; 912 PS). The Option Stream Z was also featured in the PlayStation 2 game title Gran Turismo 4.In 2004, the tuner Dandy and magazine Option entered a Z33 known as the Option Dandy 380Z with a donor engine from a wrecked Stream Z minus turbocharger producing 370 bhp (276 kW; 375 PS), to compete in the F/GT class for unblown grand touring sport cars at the Bonneville Speed Week. The car could at best reach 151 mph (243 km/h). However, stock 2005–08 350Zs can reach 159 mph (256 km/h), which is the speed that the speed limiter is set at. It is common that cars running on the Bonneville Salt Flats does not reach as high a speed because they are running on salt, not tarmac. Because of this, the Option Dandy 380Z is probably faster than the stock cars.To promote the 350Z, Nissan released a short film, "The Run", with a 2003 model being driven in a high-speed run through city streets of up to 200 km/h (124 mph). This took place through the narrow cobblestone streets of Prague in the Czech Republic, and lasted six and a half minutes. The 350Z has been given extensive coverage in the automotive press, and has obtained generally positive reviews. Eddie Alterman, senior editor of Automobile Magazine, said of the 350Z "An outstanding performance value. They got all the important stuff right." While David Swigg of Motor Trend said "With a competent driver at the wheel and the traction control switched off, many Boxster drivers would be hard-pressed to post better lap times than with this Z." Top Gear magazine later awarded the Nissan Designers with the 2004 Top Gear Magazine Car of the year award. Automotive journalists tend to praise such features as the 350Z's value, performance, handling, and braking. Criticisms tend to be directed towards the grade of interior plastics, greater curb weight than its competitors, cabin ergonomics and engine refinement. Other reviews have criticised reflections off the back strut in the rear window. At present, the 350Z has won over 40 international awards from various media and industry sources. Including:
* Nominated for the 2003 North American Car of the Year.
* Japanese Performance Car of the Year 2007 TopSpeed Magazine
* 10 Best Cars 2003 Car and Driver Magazine
* Most Significant Vehicle of the Year. Two years running Edmunds.com[
* Editors' Most Wanted 2003 Edmunds.com
* International Car of the Year: Most Sex Appeal Award 2003 Road and Travel Magazine
* Canadian Car of the Year 2003 Automobile Journalists Association of Canada
* Best New Design 2003 Automobile Journalists Association of Canada
* Driver's Choice Best Performance Car 2003 MotorWeek Television
* Winner 12 Best Cars Under 30K Road & Track Magazine
* Car of the Year 2004 Top Gear Magazine
* The Ten Most Beautiful Cars Of The Decade Winding Road