Performance Bargain: Why You Should Buy A Z33

Do you realize you are looking at the bargain performance platform of today and the foreseeable future?

The Z33 is, and has been for a while now, the most affordable modern Japanese sports car on the secondhand market in Japan. Prices start at just under US$3000 for well used and probably abused manuals, with $5000 looking like a enough budget to score something in decent condition. That’s not a lot of money for a whole lot of car.


This whole post came to be after my recent visit to Garage Mak in Nagano, a shop that has totally embraced the Z33 platform and in doing so gained kudos from Japan’s entire Z community. According to the Miyagawa brothers, this Nissan model has become a tuning favorite; they’re cheap to buy and there are a ton of options to get decent performance out of them, including a massive secondhand parts bin at your disposal through such wonderful sites as Yahoo Auctions Japan and of course Up Garage.

Take this customer car parked outside their shop for example; it gives you an idea of how far some people are prepared to go. Upgrades include a Nismo bumper alongside the Garage Mak Revolution aero kit with bolt on overfenders, 2007 R35 GT-R 20-inch wheels, and behind them an R35 Brembo brake package.


The engine gets upgraded pistons and an HKS GT Supercharger kit which is a very common spec for Garage Mak’s customers. These mods and their supporting upgrades get you a reliable 100hp+ boost in power, which is great for street use. More so, it turns the rough revving VQ engine into something a little more inspiring.


Truth be told, I was never a fan of the VQ series of engines. I did like the Z33 and Z34s, but always thought they were let down by the motor. In standard form they feel lazy, rough and almost unbalanced. But then Tanabe-san from Power House Amuse took me out in his Z33 demo car and I was totally blown away by how the Nismo heads and high compression pistons he was running transformed it into something totally different. It was explosive and immediate in response with a boost in torque and power right across the rev range. And if supercharging and NA tuning aren’t options, you can always go the turbocharged route like the Garage Mak time attack demo car you see here.


With a big single BorgWarner EFR turbine and fully-built motor this thing is able to kick out a monster 800hp and 80kg/m of torque, showing the very high end of what’s capable with this platform and engine.


If you recall, I ran a spotlight on this car earlier in the year at the HKS Premium Day and we’ll be seeing more of it later on in 2017 as it enters a few time attack events at Tsukuba.


On Garage Mak’s rolling road dyno there was another Z33 getting mapped to maximize the performance of its newly-fitted HKS GT Supercharger kit.


People send their Zs to Garage Mak from all over the country; this fully-built blue example had come all the way up from Aomori-ken.


I came away from Garage Mak with a newfound appreciation for the ageing Z33.

Hell, if you had money to spend, would you get a new 86/BRZ and tune it up a little, or pick up a cheap 350Z and go wild for the same amount of cash? Surely the second option will yield a better and far more fun car!

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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SHHHHH. Dont give the secret away...


however there are probably a few months - year left of old-age first owners who haven't heard of 'drift'.

Patrick Peebles

That's exactly what I was thinking...

Dino Dalle Carbonare



I've never seen a z33 for less than 8,000 hopefully the prices in my area decrease soon, especially since I sold my RX8


these things were the new 240sx, bashed up, stolen left and right. I'd always dream to make a itb stroked 3.8L NA VQ but the Honda boys that shifted to 240sx, now shifting to 350z just left a bad taste in my mouth

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Why care what others do? Just do what you want


that's not the issue, the issue is getting one and having it stolen and stripped there's been a security flaw that's been exploited by the 240sx boys. main reason why I never got a honda, it's the same reason I sold my 240sx and Z33. didn't want to worry about them getting stolen all the time.


Unfortunately where I'm from, Z33 Fairlady Z has expensive roadtax (have to pay annually) due to its' 3.5-litre engine... maybe that's why they become "affordable".


While I love the G35 coupe, this is literally the only generation of Nissan Z I wouldn't seriously consider buying. It's just always looked weird to me.

And I'm convinced that exorbitant road and gas taxes are the governing elite's way of keeping the little nobodies away from cars without having to be honest and just ban them outright, which would be political suicide.


I'm glad cars with 2-litre engine still has reasonable roadtax, and my favourite is, our government still make 13B (rotary) as 1.3L & 20B as 1.9L/2.0L, however the fuel price though...

Dino Dalle Carbonare



I'm from Italy too: given its age, road tax is reduced to something around 1200/1300€ per year.
What's really tricky is finding a good one for less than 12000€ :/


Actually it's good to hear older car has reduced roadtax, that doesn't happens until the car is over 40 years old as I recall... but to get the reduced roadtax, it has more than just being 40 years old.


The road tax in Japan isn't exactly cheap either, which is part of what keeps the resale values down. If I pay 60,000 yen per year for keeping a 2.6 I'd imagine a 3.5 being close to 100,000 per year, in addition to bi-annual shaken (~150,000.) I think insurance premiums on them are a bit higher than other similar cars as well.



Fitzgerald Mayi

forreall shhh delete this post woah there bout add 240 tax to the z platform.


I remember wanting one during the Tokyo Drift hype but then I test drove one and the gear box was pretty lousy and the visibility was not great. Felt heavy, too. Might be a nice GT and drifting car but I wanted something lighter out of the box.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Or you could add more power


More Power = faster in a straight line

Less Weight = faster anywhere

So a debatable argument, but you already know that.


I'm glad someone mentioned the weight issue. However, the v6 kinda compensates. But overall it will definitely be a different experience from S chassis.


well, if you would kindly STFU, they will stay a bargain. ;)

Dino Dalle Carbonare



Considering all the trouble I've had with my anniversary edition Nismo .. Out of all my cars I love her the most. When she's running she's the best handling best sick best ride. Beats my Twin Turbo Ruff Porsche on corners and still gets people's attention today.


Pretty sure you're lying about owning a RUF.


Owns Ruf Porsche.
Can't spell Ruf.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

What problems?

Amirul Makhtar

if only it was this cheap in my country. even a road legal 240sx is more expensive than the price of z33 mention in the post.


That exact situation the breeds ingenuity & character. But yeah, a lot more work. Although there is the guy on youtube who drifts an old chevy truck with just a dump truck sway bar up front and a locker... sometimes your eyes blind your vision.


I've always had my eye on them, my dad bought an imported fairlady back in 2011, I don't think he had it for much more than 6 months, a mix of terrible mpg and not feeling as fast as it should. I wish I'd have gotten to have a go. I don't know which I'd rather own more a Z33 or a Z4 coupe.


I really want a Z4 Coupe, they're still kinda expensive though for a good one. Rarity value I guess.


I looked into getting a z33 when i was toy shopping, but for every price point Autotrader also showed me a Corvette (or Stang) with more power and less miles. The Mustang is a different type of vehicle of course (though its the one I bought), but a Corvette for the price of a Z? That's a bargain.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah that would make it a tough choice


RX-8 are good picks too... They are dirt cheap and with lots of aftermarket stuff to play with.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

What like engine swaps? lol


Funny thing about engine-swapping an RX is that the RX is one of the few cars on the road that becomes MORE reliable when you stuff a different engine into it.

Any engine.


haha, true :)
They can be rebuild fairly fast and easily but even then, early models with 150.000km or less are sold for 10 to 20-man yen everyday at dealer auctions (ok, I have direct access to those, which helps a lot, but still)... Sometimes less. Shaken and taxes are also cheap, considering its engine. For a car to beat on in the mountains or at the track, they really are pretty good. And if you're not into rebuilding the engine when it dies, just unbolt everything from the dead car onto the new one! A good fun expendable car :)


3000$? Here they are still more like 10-12.000.


Dirt cheap in the US, and for good reason. Look at its contemporaries. The S2000 for example holds (or exceeds) is value to this day. I guess if you really do want a Z33, get the 2007 and up "HR" spec engine. They respond well to bolt-ons and make over 300whp easily. But they command more than the $8k as quoted by Dino.
If you want CHEAP, get an '03-05 350z chassis and throw an LSx in it. Then the S2000s won't kill you on the road courses!

Thelamus Ceasar

They are dirt cheap in Japan. Thought about getting one myself. But I got a couple of cars I have to finish first.


VQ's are great engine, just the Z platforms really make space a premium and aftermarket bits arent cheap. Go the turbo engines from Japan though... Forged internals and ready to rock n roll. Just better off for a track hack car since will need custom wiring ECU and transplanted manual box.

Daniel Jenkins

I've been considering these ever since Car Throttle did a very similar feature to this. I was originally in the market for a S13 hatch but after being messed around three times on 3 very good deals I'm wondering to up my budget a bit and go for a Z33. In a couple of years time I can imagine this become a cult classic and very desirable for a clean, unmolested one


Yeah dude you 100% -- as you said ''wait until it becomes a classic'' I have a 2004 with only 65000 k's --- a garage baby and i'm biding my time. I have a swift sport and suzuki carry ute to bugger around with and 2 datsun 1200's to experiment with [cut, strip,fibre glass parts] ---just one day i might sell --all about the price


Wish it was the case in France. Z33 are between 12000 and 18000 euros... far from a bargain.

Mike Donnelly

If you want to see the most glorious 350Z in existence, look up Sasha Anis from On Point Dyno.




Can the early VQ ECUs be tuned or are you stuck with a stand alone?

Ярослав Петрив

Yep, it can be tuned. Osiris UpRev


In Spain this car is over 11K...


Carthrottle once wrote an article similar to this about the Mazda MX-6. Now I can't find one anywhere, darn it!


I've recently been thinking the same thing. I don't see them on the streets at all.


Instead of the 86 I'd get a used BMW 2-series. If prices reach lows like that near me for the Z I'd totally consider it. It'd have to be in good condition though.


You can't fake light weight but if I stumble across the right one I would totally buy a Z.


I always find Z33 more attractive than Z34 as the outline of the new one seemed redundantly decorated, the old one is close to perfection.

I found myself wanting one so badly now.

Gianluca Fairlady Z33

I bought my Z almost stock and am workin on it every time a bit. I think it's a great car and worth far more money for that what they are sold for. And if you don't know a lot about the VQ platform check out Sasha Anis from On Point Dyno. This guy and his team are absolute champs! more than 400 whp squeezed out from a self developed vq35hr engine! Dino, we need more posts about good Z33 stuff.. ;)

Many greetings from my Z33 at "kleines Karusell" Nordschleife!


Man...I really love that first Z, and the whole R35 theme going on... Garage Mak builds some of the cleanest modified looking cars, in my opinion.

Thelamus Ceasar

Aside from the power plant the car is nice. But the VQ is not as strong as the VG and that is my issue. If they could have put the VG in this one they would have had more success


It's a shame the interiors are horrifically ugly and the build quality is generally poor.


I'm a massive fan of the Z33's exterior styling and the noise they make with the right exhaust, and for those reasons I do desperately want one... but I agree, I don't think I could live with that disgusting interior. The weight is a pretty big turn-off, as well.


They really aren't that heavy, the base models weigh 3,200lbs, about what a NA Z31 weighs, and you will not find a RWD 6 cylinder car that weighs less than aside from a classic BMW (like my E30) or an old Z car, but those are more expensive than 350Zs and have a different appeal. The convertibles are heavy at >3,400lbs, but they're also a terrible choice if you're looking for a "performance bargain" in the first place because of the added weight and looser chassis.

350Zs aren't really undervalued either, they have flaws that contribute to the low pricing and are fairly common.


An HR 350Z is still on my short list for when I go RWD after my Honda project is far enough along. I went on a mountain drive with a local VQ Club a while back thanks to a friend's invite, and that soundtrack of Z33s/34s and Infiniti Gs echoing off the rocks was intoxicating.


Two flavours of the Z33


Quite a bit heavier though, and very hard to find with a manual transmission.


Yeah, one of these will do nicely. More conventional lines = more attractive car.


I disagree with the price I haven't seen a Z under $8000. But the one you want to get is the 2007-2008. The older versions come with the lower horses but a little more torque. But in my opinion I will get a z33 than a brz. The brz lacks of power is horrible specially for today year and I know that people are going to say they are good at handling but the same with the Z, plus the Z has more power


The fact that you can get a 370z Nismo with 350 bhp for $41,990 MSRP shows that these modern Zs have always been a bargain, and just look at that design.


I guess the Z heritage lives on :)



but since we're here: IS300/Altezza, BMW 335i (late 2000's), Genesis coupe, aaaaaaaaaaand Miata! Don't worry guys, there will always be missile material.


He started it!


The real bargain in the states is the g35, I just picked up mine for thousands less than a comparable 350z. It comes with brembos, lsd, pretty much your track pack 350z but heavier and more comfort.

James Oversteer

I love my Zed, 2003 painted in Porsche 2D8 green, Japspeed K4 exhaust, LED running lights, 06+ facelift headlights and break lights, Japspeed wing, intake etc. I really want to super charge her but that's too expensive at the moment.

Ярослав Петрив

Here in Europe they cost more than 10.000€ for the 2003 model, later models more like 15.000€.


We picked up our LeMans Sunset '04 350Z Touring (6MT, standard brakes, leather interior) with 68,000 miles for $7,000. Came with Anniversary 18" wheels on it, a new clutch and an intake. Needed a window regulator, an antenna, a radiator fan and a clutch master cylinder.
I swapped in a set of 350Z Nismo dampers and springs and picked up a second pair of 8.5" wide wheels so it's running a square tire setup all around. Added Hawk HP+ pads, brake ducts, a Motordyne 5/16" plenum spacer, Hotchkis front sway bar, adjustable suspension arms and sticky tires, and we've got ourselves a heck of a DE car. Now just looking for manual cloth seats and a set of bigger brakes so it can be even better on track. A Nismo LSD would be icing on the cake. Excellent value!


Here in Brazil they are at 25~30k usd mark, and with the minimum wage at 280 usd / mo, its unreachable for a regular person.


Lazy Rough and unballanced!? thats the exact opposite of what most profesional car reviewers say, the specs on the VQ and where it's mounted against the firewall made it one of Nissans most "well ballanced for handling" motors ever (at the time), they are an amazing platform in my opinion, even before adding boost.


He said the *engine* feels unbalanced, which it does, they are quite coarse and unrefined.


Do they gift cars in America or something? Here in Spain you're looking at 12k+ euros for an average condition one


Fugly Bodywork: Why You Should Not Buy Time Attack Aero

That said the Z33, Z34's are nice and a bargain. 25 cars at $4000 to $8000 right now in the Seattle Craigslist.

There's nothing wrong with the engine either, the car is just overweight.