Discover the history of the Nissan 350Z (also known as the Fairlady Z if you’re talking about JDM versions of the car). We’ve been working through our back catalogue of combined buyer guides and vehicle histories and splitting out the histories into their own articles, such as this one.
In this article about the 350Z history you’ll learn the origins of the car, as well as learn about various special models and specifications.
Table of Contents
Early 350Z History
Following the withdrawal of the Z32 300ZX from the United States market in 1996, Nissan initially tried to keep the Z name alive by re-creating the much loved 240Z the following year. Nissan’s North American design team created the modernised 240Z concept in their free time and the car was introduced to the world in July of 1998.
Yukata Katayama, often regarded as the “Father of the Z” revealed the concept sketch to various different motoring press, dealers and staff. However, the new concept failed to impress Yoshihiko Matsuo, the 240Z’s original designer (he claimed that the design looked like a Bluebird).
Still, the modern 240Z concept car was produced and the design team displayed it at the Detroit Motor Show the following August/September. Unfortunately, while Nissan was happy with the idea of the concept, they weren’t so keen on the execution of it. They felt that the original 200 horsepower 2.4-litre KA24DE engine was underpowered and not suitable for a Z badged car.
Additionally, they felt that the design was too “retro” and not modern enough. A redesign was commissioned and in February 2000 the president of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, announced plans to produce the car as he felt it would help the company recover after a period of poor economic performance.
The new Z concept car was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2001, with an overall similar body shape, but a completely new frontend. Following the motor show a slight redesign was carried out and the car was fitted with the VQ35DE engine, and thus it became known as the 350Z.
Nissan Introduces the 350Z (Z33)
Released in July 2002 in Japan, the first 350Z models were available at Nissan Blue Stage dealers, while American buyers would have to wait until August to get their hands on the new Z car. United States Nissan dealers offered the 350Z in five different package options:
- Base – No VLSD, traction control, cruise control or electronic heated seats. Only came with cloth seats.
- Enthusiast – Cruise control, VLSD and traction control as standard.
- Performance – Same as enthusiast but also came with 18-inch wheels, a front air dam and a rear spoiler. Nissan also offered the option of Brembo brakes and VDC replaced the normal traction control system.
- Touring/Luxury – Standard features included electronically-powered leather heated seats, VDC, VLSD, xenon headlights and 18-inch wheels. Buyers also had the option of upgraded Brembo brakes and a GPS system.
- Track – Track models featured Brembo brakes, a front air dam, rear spoiler, traction control, 18-inch wheels, cloth seats as standard. Buyers could also opt for a GPS system as well.
European buyers could only purchase ‘Track’ models (they were marketed and badged as ‘350Z’).
The car was powered by a 3.5-litre DOHC V6 engine known as the VQ35DE that produced as much as 287 horsepower (214kW) and 372 Nm (274 ft-lb) of torque. Depending on the model, driver and transmission choice, the 350Z could accelerate from 0 – 100 km/h (0 – 62 mph) in anywhere from 5.3 to 5.8 seconds.
The new 350Z model continued the tradition of a front-mounted engine with a rear-wheel drive layout. It was designed by Ajay Panchal of Nissan Design America in San Diego California and it featured a long-hood short-deck design that was common on past Z/Fairlady cars.
The 350Z‘s main exterior highlights were a sloping fastback style arched roof line, high waistline, bulging fenders that reached to the corners of the vehicle, and brushed aluminium door handles.
On the inside the car was given brushed aluminium accents and the main gauge pod was mounted directly to the steering column, allowing its movement to coincide with that of the steering wheel. Buyers could opt for leather or cloth seats (depending on the trim level) and the layout was 2+2.
2004 350Z Roadster
In 2004 Nissan decided to introduce the 350Z Roadster with an electronically retractable soft-top roof to both European and American markets. European markets had to make do with the same trim package (Track), while American buyers could either opt for an ‘Enthusiast’ or ‘Touring’ package option. A Grand Touring (GT) package was added as an option in 2005.
2005 Updates and Anniversary Edition
To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the launch of the 240Z, Nissan released an upgraded version of the 350Z. Nissan revealed the 35th Anniversary 350Z at the Speciality Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas on November 2. The car would make another appearance later that same month at the Miami Auto Show, before going on sale in January 2005.
Nissan gave the 35th Anniversary Edition an updated version of the VQ35DE V6 engine that produced as much as 300 horsepower (225 kW). This was then mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Despite the power increase, the 35th Anniversary Edition features a roughly similar 0 – 100 km (62 mph) time as the earlier models.
Along with the improvements made to the engine, Nissan also gave the car 18-inch cast aluminium-alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, front spoilers, and special Z badging. The only two colours available were “Ultra Yellow” and “Pearl Blue”, while the interior was available in black. A Bose 6-speaker premium sound system was also included as standard and the car made an appearance in Gran Turismo 4.
A newly updated CD009 manual transmission and alterations to the suspension were also made in 2005.
2006 Mid-Cycle Facelift and Update
The 350Z received its first major update for the 2006 model year. Nissan’s updated 300 hp VQ35DE Rev-up engine that was given to the Track and 35th Anniversary models was offered for every trim level that had a manual transmission option. The older, less powerful VG35DE engine continued to be offered with cars with 5-speed automatic transmissions.
Other additions for the year included bi-xenon projectors, new LED near lights, a revised front fascia, changes to the interior trim, and speed sensitive steering.
All trim levels above the enthusiast package received an upgraded braking system with a larger brake booster, larger diameter discs, and dual piston calipers at the front. Touring and Grand Touring models also featured radio-steering controls as standard, while MP3 compatibility and Satellite Radio were optional extras.
The 350Z was once again update for the 2007 model year with a new VQ35HR engine that replaced the old VQ35DE V6. Nissan’s new engine produced 306 horsepower (228 kW) at 6,800 rpm and 363 Nm (268 lb ft) at 4,800 rpm. The redline was also raised to 7,500 rpm and the bonnet/hood was redesigned with a bulge that harkened back to the original 240Z. This was done to accommodate the raised deck of the new engine.
Buyers in the United States could opt for Base, Enthusiast, Touring, Grand Touring, and NISMO trim levels, while those in Europe had the same options as before. Bluetooth was also another addition for the 2007 model year.
Special Edition 350Z Models
Nissan produced a number of different special edition models over the course of the 350Zs life. We have listed them below:
Fairlady Z Type E (2004)
Nissan produced five special edition Fairlady Z Type E models for homologation requirements for Japanese Super GT. The Type E featured a longer nose and rear overhang, as well as a number of different aerodynamic add-ons. Engine performance was rated at 276 horsepower (206 kW) at 6,200 rpm and 363 Nm (268 lb ft) of torque at 4,800 rpm.
350Z 35th Anniversary Edition (2005)
We’ve already talked about this car above. It was introduced to celebrate 35 years since the debut of the Datsun 240Z.
350Z GT-S (2006)
Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) revealed the 350Z GT-S at the 2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The car featured a unique radial flow supercharger that could be turned off and on via a switch on the dashboard. This new supercharger increased power to 382.6 hp (285.3 kW) and 424.8 Nm (313.3 lb ft) of torque without any other modifications to the engine components.
Nissan also gave the car a new body kit that improved cooling performance and gave more downforce. The car also received wider 245 and 265/40/18 tyres. While motoring journalists tested the GT-S, no production models were created.
Fairlady Z Type F (2008)
A special edition model of the 350Z known as the Fairlady Z Type F was created for the Japanese market from 2008. The car was available in both coupe and roadster forms.
On the outside buyers had the option of six different body colours for the Type F: Premium Blaze Red, Premium Sunshine Yellow, Premium Mystic Maroon, Blade Silver Metallic, Diamond Black Pearl, and White Pearl.
The Type F also featured exclusive heated red leather seats, a red leather steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake/parking brake lever. Other trim pieces were also finished in red and there was an aluminium kicking plate. A BOSE audio system finished off the interior additions.
Other features of the Type F included RAYS forged aluminium wheels that were wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 245/40R18 93W front and 265/35R19 94W rear tyres. VDC was also included and Brembo calipers and discs were fitted on all four corners.
Nismo Special Editions
Nissan’s motorsport division, NISMO, also worked their magic on the 350Z. They created five different versions/upgrade packages over the course of the car’s production life.
NISMO R-Tune (2004)
A couple of years after the launch of the standard car, NISMO introduced the R-Tune. The R-Tune 350Z received significant modifications to the engine such as upgraded cams, pulleys and headers, which increased power immensely. Interestingly, despite being produced by NISMO themselves, the R-Tune upgrades voided the Nissan factory warranty.
NISMO S-Tune (2005)
One year after the launch of the R-Tune package, NISMO released the S-Tune GT. This was done to celebrate the success of the NISMO team in motorsport, particularly the Super GT series. NISMO gave the S-Tune GT revised long nose bodywork that was similar to the Type-E’s bodywork.
The engine was also modified to produce 296 horsepower (221 kW) and the redline was increased to 7,200 rpm. Sportier suspension was fitted to round off the upgrades for the S-Tune and NISMO produced a total of 20 of the cars a month in Japan.
NISMO 350Z (2007 – 2008)
The NISMO 350Z coupe made its debut at the New York International Auto Show in April 2007. It featured the same engine as the regular 350Z (VG35HR) and was only available with a six-speed manual transmission and a Viscous Limited-Slip Differential (VLSD).
The bodywork/aerodynamic package was inspired by the NISMO Super GT Championship Car. This included an aggressive front fascia with chin spoiler, an extended rear fascia, an underbody diffuser, a rear wing and new side skirts.
To improve the car’s handling performance, NISMO gave the 350Z tuned independent multi-link suspension that was developed by Yamaha. They also fitted Brembo four-piston calipers at the front and two-piston calipers at the rear. These calipers combined with 330 mm (12.8 inch) discs at the front and 320 mm (12.7 inch) discs at the rear dramatically improved braking performance over the standard car.
NISMO-branded gunmetal grey forged alloy wheels from Rays were also fitted (18-inch front, 19-inch rear), and these were wrapped in Potenza RE050A 245/40WR18 front, 265/35WR19 rear tyres from Bridgestone.
Another NISMO addition was a branded tuned exhaust, while Yamaha improved the front and rear dampeners to increase chassis stability.
To create the car, NISMO pulled a number of standard 350Zs from the production line. They then sent them to Nissan-tuner Autech who hand-welded the structural seams to improve body stiffness and rigidity. This, along with the upgrades to the suspension system made the NISMO 350Z a much more capable track car than other trim levels.
The first NISMO 350Zs went on sale in the United States in July 2007. A total of 1,607 were created for the 2007 and 2008 model years.
NISMO Type 380RS (2007 – 2008)
Another NISMO branded car was released for the 2007 model year. This was known as the Type 380RS and it was essentially a road-going version of the 380RS Competition race car.
NISMO gave it a detuned version of the race car’s engine that produced 348 horsepower (257 kW) at 7,200 rpm and 397 Nm (lb ft) of torque at 4,800 rpm. Other upgrades included Brembo disc brakes, Yamaha front and rear dampers, forged RAYS alloy wheels and Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R tyres (245/40R18 front, 275/35R19 rear).
NISMO Type 380RS-Competition
This is the race version of the above Type 380RS. It featured a 3.8-litre (VQ38HR) engine that was rated at 394 horsepower (294 kW) at 7,500 rpm and 421 Nm of torque at 5,200 rom.