Monday, May 6, 2019

New Project Car

Four years ago, shortly after buying my BNR34, the desire for a second car kicked in pretty much right away. I am not going to adventure into the eternal debate of “should you drive the wheels off of your dream car or not”, but I have always looked at the GT-R as that old bottle of Japanese whisky that you open on special occasions. The second car project is something I mentioned about a few times in the past and, along with finishing up the GT-R at Omori Factory, was one of my resolutions for 2019. 

My search started about two years ago, when I began to play with the (short lived) idea of buying another BNR34. I thought this would be a cool choice for somebody who runs a blog named after the model, but quickly realized that it wouldn’t really add anything new to what I have already experienced. The BNR32 and BCNR33 are also too similar and too old to be enjoyed with peace of mind, while the mighty R35 lacks that third pedal and shift lever that I love so much. Other JDM classics like Supra, Evo, Impreza, S2000, etc. haven’t really aged too well in my opinion and, while I always appreciated them, were never cars that I truly desired to own.

Personally I tend to become attached to things: I’d rather own a few selected items that are truly mine and bespoke than flipping through a lot of stuff and never build a real connection with it. This is something that I have found especially true with cars, which is why buying a model that I truly wanted was my single number one priority as, like with the GT-R, it will be a car that I’ll keep forever. Decent power, a manual transmission and reliability were the three other “must” items on my list, which further narrowed the search to very few cars available today.

There is one car, however, that back in 2002 caught my imagination more than others. On the same year when Nissan announced the end of production of my beloved BNR34, they launched a two-seater with captivating, modern lines, a torquey 300ps V6 and, most importantly, a very reasonable price point and a global market release: the Fairlady Z (or 350Z for us Europeans). The Z quickly became my realistic “dream” car at that time, as I spent the next 2-3 years reading favorable reviews on Evo Magazine and watched it capturing two series title in JGTC and Super GT. Priced around €30,000 and with a design that clearly broke away from the late 90’s boxy Japanese looks, it was something that normal kids like me could really see themselves owning one day.

Today the standard Fairlady Z looks a bit dated and rough around the edges, but in 2007/2008, Nismo (through Autech) grabbed a few hundred models, stiffened the chassis with extra spot welding, fitted the newest and better performing VQ-HR engine, a set of Yamaha dampers, Nismo suspensions and an aero kit with a generous front splitter and rear wing that, when matched with a nice set of wheels, makes the car look incredibly good.

The Fairlady Z Nismo Version was released in limited numbers only in Japan and US; being built at the very end of the Z33 lifecycle it was basically the most refined version of the model and, besides the extra tuning, contained all the improvements made over the years. I know, some of you might be disappointed for it being “just a Z”, but reality is that the Nismo Version is probably faster than a stock BNR34 on most circuits. Besides, I do really like it and it has all the qualities to become the perfect Japan tourer and occasional track-day companion.

Being naturally aspirated and rear wheel drive the Z also offers a fairly different experience from the BNR34 and, from a design point of view, I think it looks fantastic: definitely better than the 370Z or - here I dare saying it - the new Supra. It’s also a robust car that given its production numbers is very easy to maintain. And while it might have ended up as a cheap “beater” overseas, in Japan the Z enjoys a good following, so much so that Omori Factory is still releasing parts and tuning menus for it, as well as supporting a one-make series named “Z Challenge”. 

I ran into a few models at Nismo Festival and Omori Factory and had the opportunity to check the car up and close before making up my mind. The final bit of news is that, after months of looking around, few weeks ago I ran into the perfect example: an unmolested, 19,000km model and pulled the trigger right away. A quick drive around the block confirmed my suspicion that, as always, the internet experts have been too harsh in slamming it as “old and unrefined”: sure, it’s not a modern 911, but it delivers a nice lower torque range punch, looks great and it’s a ton of fun! More importantly, it’s a car that can be enjoyed with peace of mind and looks like the perfect match for my GT-R. The only question is: will I resist the temptation and leave it stock, or should I add my own touch as I did with the R34? Let me know your thoughts and stay tuned!

Until next time.

17 comments:

  1. It depends on the Z33 model that you've purchased. If it is a limited model, I'll say it is better to keep it stock to preserve its value and original identity. If it is a mass produced model, then I suppose you can add your own touch to it to differentiate it from many other similar mass produced model.

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  2. Nice choice! It's a Nismo one so it's no beater whatsoever, never ever. Haha! Was on the same dilemma before, mind was set to get another GT-R but ended up getting... an Evo 7, now swapped to 9. :D So I have these turbo awd buddies unlike you which chose N.A this time. Which got me thinking, in the future what should I get? But of course the GT-R will stay. For Keeps. :)

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  3. Oh and leave it stock for months maybe (actually it's really not stock since its Nismo lol), then if you found out some nice mods in Nismo maybe go for it.

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  4. Replies
    1. Great question, which I’m surprised nobody asked before. Quite simply, it comes down to a balance between performance, cost reliability and the use I intend to make of the car. Low mileage 380RS are currently on sale for between JPY 4 to 4.5M: a lot of money for just an extra 35hp over the Version Nismo; and the gap can further be narrowed with a ECU and exhaust upgrade. Cost apart, I don’t want to deal with the hassle that comes with owning a limited edition car (recently Omori Factory started to offer engine overhaul services for the 380RS, but could guarantee only 10 allocations); this is a car that will be driven, and not just taken out for the occasional monthly spin. So I just thought: why not start from a more simple base and build something special out of it? Stay tuned! : )

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    2. Hmmm, you've made some good points. I'd have factored those into my decision of purchasing too. However, what do you consider low mileage for a 10yr+ sports car like such? I've seen some for around JPY 3.0M~ range w/30K-60K km of mileage. As for overhauling the engine at Omori, besides the very limited allotment and the premium service costs; the menu doesn't seem to include replacing most of the major components.
      Anyhow, how's your CSR coming? Was it supposed to be ready by the golden week?

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    3. I was looking for examples with around 20,000km (eventually I found mine with 19,000) and 380RS with that mileage go for close to 4.5M, if not more. It’s really not just a matter of price, but rather piece of mind: I wanted a car that I can drive knowing that, should the worst happen, it can be easily fixed without having to worry about parts availability, long waits or exorbitant costs. Whether we like to admit it or not, having all these thoughts on the back of your head DO affect how we use our cars, which is why even rich people (who could easily afford repair and restoration) still hardly drive their exotics. The difference in performance is just too small and the 380RS is just not special enough to justify the hassle. Plus, why buying a 12 year old car that is 1 of 300 when I can build my own 1 of 1 with fresh parts in 2020? : )

      CRS is finished and I took delivery during Golden Week: I’m working on a dedicated post that will be ready on June 1st!

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