2003 Nissan 350Z Track (Z33) – On the Regular – 191
Seeing a murdered-out, matte-black Nissan 350Z slammed on 20-inch Work Meisters rolling down the motorway next to you is one thing, but hearing the unmistakable hiss of a turbo building boost as the driver drops a couple of gears right next to you is something else. If you live in Auckland, the good news is there’s a fair chance you’ve already had this very experience.
While most sensible people (ourselves included) choose to get around town in something fairly sedate, Aucklander Drew Miller likes to live a little more on the wild side when it comes to his means of travel. Drew’s 2003 Nissan 350Z Track is not only a slammed, highly modified and alarmingly quick vehicle, it’s also a regular sight on Auckland’s roads — Drew’s certainly not afraid of racking up the Ks on his vehicle. “I’ve put 30,000 [kilometres] on this car since I bought it two-and-a-half years ago,” he tells us. “It’s always been a daily street car and it always will be.”
Although Drew was at first looking for a Mazda RX-7 to modify, fate intervened and he was instead offered the Nissan 350Z at a very good price through a friend of a friend: “I was going to be using this car every day, so the more I thought about it, the more the Nissan seemed like the better choice — more reliable, cheaper on gas and way less people are modifying them compared to the Mazda.” Before Drew had even gone to pick up his new 2003 ‘Track’ 350Z (the Track was the sportiest of the range, and came stock with big Brembo brakes, among other upgrades), he had already formulated a plan for the car. “I’d wanted to do the same thing no matter what type of car I got — satin black paint, a really high-quality AV system and slammed on large genuine Japanese wheels.”
Considering the car came into Drew’s possession bright orange, jacked and only able to receive Mai FM, he had a bit of a task on his hands. That said, in a stroke of brilliant luck, when picking up the car Drew also spied a set of huge 20-inch (20×8.5- and 20×10.5-inch) Work Meister S1 rims sitting in storage at the original owner’s place. “The wheels were exactly what I was looking for, so I worked out a deal and managed to take them away with me.” Considering how much of a mission it would have been to bring in his own genuine wheels at that time, that particular turn of events couldn’t have worked out any better for him.
Before fitting the wheels, Drew wanted to get the rest of the car looking right. A set of BC Gold coilovers was installed and the Zed was taken to Peter at Lineham Spraypainting in central Auckland for a new coat of paint. Although a matte/satin black car is nothing new, we like what Drew and Peter came up with: doing all the proper prep-work, using a high-quality Spies Hecker base black and a clearcoat with matting agent to give it that smooth, faultless satin look. Once the big 20s were fitted and the car dropped on its arse, the entire visual package came together. C-West bodykit, tinted lights, blacked-out windows and a unique, moody body — it’s badass, but not in a West Auckland rattle-can-paint-job kind of way.
Anyone that knows Drew, knows he likes his music and that he likes it loud. This meant a trip to Autosafe and Sound, where a fairly serious Pioneer audiovisual system based around a pair of 12-inch Champion Series subwoofers in a custom carbon-fibre enclosure was installed. As Drew admits, “The sound system is actually my favourite thing about the car,” and we can see why — the Pioneer amps, speakers and subs create a perfect balance between loud and clear — ideal for sitting in Auckland traffic day in, day out.
With the looks and the sounds well and truly sorted, Drew was happy to roll the Zed for the next year or so, until he got the heads-up from mate Andy Wakelin at Dodson Performance: “Andy had found a full HKS turbo kit for the 350Z in Aussie. It was sitting in a tuning shop over there and they wanted it gone.” As it turned out, Andy had stumbled upon the perfect upgrade for the Zed. “I didn’t want the car off the road for very long, so that ruled out making up everything from scratch. I also checked out a supercharger option, but I’m so glad I didn’t end up going down that road now,” says Drew.
The kit arrived with a mid-sized 30-37 turbo, intercooler, piping, wastegate, manifold and downpipe, meaning that everything was there and ready to go — resulting in the car only being off the road for a short time while everything was fitted. Although there are plenty of places in Auckland to get the work done, Drew instead decided to pack up his new HKS goodies and head south, driving all the way to Wellington to drop the car off with Andre and the crew at STM. Before taking the Nissan to pieces, STM chucked the car on the dyno to see what it pulled before installing the HKS turbo set-up. With an exhaust system, air filter and an HKS F-Con piggyback computer, the car made a very healthy 173 kilowatts at the wheels, but although the F-Con was great for the naturally aspirated set-up, it’s unable to map the boost of a turbo arrangement.
However, Andre had a solution that thankfully stopped short of wiring in a full-on stand-alone ECU, as Drew tells us: “Before I took the car to Wellington, Andre told me about re-flashing a factory 350Z ECU using UpRev software.” UpRev allows for the complete re-flash of stock ECUs — it’s even flexible enough to map the boost of turbo or supercharged forced induction. With the power of the new software in hand, STM fitted all the HKS gear and threw the car back on the dyno, where it jumped up over 100 kilowatts in power to 284kW at the wheels.
The drive back to Auckland, as you can imagine, was a fun one for Drew. “It’s gained over 54 per cent in power and it’s real smooth when the power comes on, the car spins the wheels off the throttle in third, and with 275-wide tyres, they’re big wheels to get going — it’s primo to drive.”
Drew seems to have got the formula right with his Z33, it looks tough, it’s full of high-quality gear and it’s damn quick for a street car. In fact, he’s essentially reached the limits of what this car is capable of, short of getting really serious and ripping into the motor. “The turbo is apparently pretty much maxed out as it is, and so is the motor, safety-wise. So more power would mean having to forge the motor, a bigger turbo, new manifold and so on and so on — but I’m happy with where it’s at, 284 kilowatts is enough for me.” So although the option for much more power is there, we feel like that would betray the idea of what this car is all about. It’s comfortable, legal, fast and thoroughly modified all-round, whilst still not crossing that line that turns your ride into an ‘only for special occasions’ kind of a car, and that’s something of a rarity these days.
This article is from NZ Performance Car 191. Click here to check it out.
2003 Nissan 350Z Track (Z33) – Tuning Menu
ENGINE: Nissan VQ35DE+t 3500cc V6
BLOCK: Factory internals
HEAD: Factory internals
INTAKE: HKS filter, HKS intake,
HKS front-mount intercooler
TURBO: HKS 3037 56T
BOV: Turbosmart Race Port
EXHAUST: HKS turbo-to-cat pipes, Xforce rear half and mufflers
FUEL: Aeromotive in-tank pump,
ID 1000cc injectors
ECU: UpRev re-flashed factory computer, Turbosmart Street EBC boost controller
OTHER: HKS earthing kit, GReddy oil cap, GReddy sump plug, HKS oil filter
GEARBOX: Factory six-speed manual
CLUTCH: Xtreme single plate
DIFF: Factory LSD
OTHER: Custom-made lightweight driveshaft
STRUTS: BC Racing coilovers
SPRINGS: BC Racing
OTHER: Adjustable camber arms, adjustable toe arms, pillow ball mounts
BRAKES: (F) Brembo calipers, DBA slotted rotors, Ferodo pads, (R) Brembo rotors, DBA slotted rotors, Ferodo pads
WHEELS: (F) 20×8.5-inch Work Meister S1, (R) 20×10.5-inch Work Meister S1
TYRES: (F) 245/30R20 Falken 452, (R) 275/30R20 Falken 452
PAINT: Spies Hecker metallic Mini black with matte clearcoat, gloss roof
ENHANCEMENTS: C-West–style N1 Kits bodykit, tinted lights, tinted windows
STEERING WHEEL: Momo
GEAR KNOB: GReddy
INSTRUMENTATION: Turbosmart eBoost
ICE: Full carbon-fibre install, Pioneer double-DIN DVD head unit, Pioneer four-channel 1200W D-class amp, two Pioneer 12-inch Champion Series subwoofers, Pioneer 17mm 260W components, Pioneer 16mm 260W two-way speakers, Pioneer 16mm 280W four-way speakers, Pioneer 600W four-channel amp, Pioneer Bluetooth adapter, one-farad Monster capacitor, Kicker cables, Team Track S5 alarm
POWER: 281kW (377hp) at the rear wheels on 9psi
Drew Miller – Driver Profile
Occupation: Team Track specialist
Length of ownership: 2.5 years
Build time: 2.5 years
Thanks: Kate and the team at NAC Insurance; Squid at Albanian Street Customs; Mark Sweetman at Autosafe and Sound; Andy at Dodson Performance, ph. 09 4413152; Fran the Tyre Man at Tyretech, ph. 09 4425217; Peter at Lineham Spraypainting, ph. 09 3764393; Rachel and Kevin Mooney at AVS, ph. 09 4768052; Andre at STM, ph. 04 5866384; Josh at BNT; Davey at Holdsworth Automotive, ph. 09 4425422; Neil at City Nissan; Karl at Elite Automotive; the guys at Navman Wireless and anyone else I have forgotten! Follow us on Facebook.com/teamtrack
Words: Peter Kelly Photos: Adam Croy