Project350z V3, coming soon?

So the time has come, I am currently car shopping again. I’ve been threatening it for a while now, but with the 2015 Solo National Championships going on this week, and a few other life things figured out, it is time to make the 2016 autocross season happen!


So a few details. I’m once again looking at early 350z’s, this time around I’m not looking for a daily driver, this next car will be built specifically for autocross and a fun weekend toy, with some daily driving here and there (thankful I have a short commute). I am looking for the perfect car, how do you define that? Well, in an ideal world the perfect 350z for me would be:

  • Year: 2003, 2004, 2005
  • Model: Base, Enthusiast. Preference would be Base, the lightest of the 350z’s.
  • Mileage: <100k, though I think this is going to be the one I have to be the most flexible on.
  • Transmission: Manual (not optional)
  • Mods: None

Why 2003, 2004, 2005?

The primary reason is the price, I am looking to get something cheap, I would like to spend between $5k and $7k. The other reason is that the weight of the later cars went up a bit as safety equipment was added (standard side curtain airbags, etc). I also had both a 2003 and 2004 before, so some of the motivation is nostalgia.

Why a Base or Enthusiast Model?

The Base and Enthusiast models are the lightest of the models. The Enthusiast model has Traction Control, HID Headlights, and a Limited Slip Differential (LSD), options that the BASE model doesn’t have. Both of my previous cars were Enthusiasts, though my preference this time around would be a base model. While I like the HID headlamps, I definitely don’t need them on a primarily autocrossed car, and the TCS on the prior to cars was turned off every time I started the car up, so I would prefer not to have it this time around. As for the LSD, the one provided in the 350zs was a horrible device, so I would be replacing it with something better this time around. So at this time, a BASE model is my preferred option.


You might think, Chris, if you’re going to prep the car for autocross, why do you want one without mods? A couple of reasons:

  1. An unmodded car, is more likely (but not always) to be unmolested, not as abused
  2. Mods in Autocross change classes on a car, I want to be able to control where the car goes, without having to take it completely apart to see if there are mods I don’t know about and would be illegal in whichever class I choose to build the car for.

2005 Base Model 350z

I looked at a 2005 Base model 350z today, here are my comments on that car. If the owner of that car happens to stumble on this, please take no offense, this is just my analysis of the car for the purposes of assisting anyone else looking to purchase a 350z for autocross purposes. The car I looked at today was silver, pretty obviously repainted at some point as the front end looked pretty good for a car with 150k miles on it. That being said there were plenty of issues to be found with the car, here’s a quick rundown, along with my thoughts on each. From the original post, the owner said the car was stock, but inspection of the pictures on Craigslist showed otherwise. Initially I noticed that the tail lights had been replaced, the intake replaced, and the wheels replaced, further inspection of the car found other things as well.

  • Bumper cover – this car had obviously had some front end damage, nothing that I could see in the frame, but the bumper cover was literally ripped/separated from the top right portion of the car.
  • Plastic undertray – the undertray under the motor/front end was nowhere to be found. I know you can purchase this, as I replaced the one on my first 350z, but replacing the one on this car might have been an issue as the tabs where most of the screws would go into on the bumper cover were broken or missing.
  • CAI – this car had some form of a cold air induction system, though I couldn’t find a brand on it. The filter attached to it was caked in dirt and grease.
  • Plenum spacer – As I found on my 2004 350z after purchasing it, this car appeared to have a spacer of some sort installed as well.
  • Driver’s seat – As common on the 350zs, the side bolster on this car was worn through to the foam. Honestly this isn’t a huge deal as I would be replacing the seat(s) with a more race oriented seat anyways.
  • Driver’s side carpet – the driver’s side carpet was worn through, and the owner had some big bulky rubber floor mat in there to cover it up. The base models I believe originally didn’t come with floor mats, it is a shame someone didn’t put one in this car early on to prevent this.
  • Dirt everywhere, so much dirt
  • TPS Monitors and tires – the car was equipped with 18” Performance wheels, with 225 tires on them. There were no TPS sensors, the tires were far too narrow on the wheels, plus they would need to be replaced, they were crap tires.
  • Spare tire – the spare was still in the car, though it was not attached to the car as it should have been, the screw for that was nowhere to be found, and the jack/tools to change the spare were either missing, or misplaced.
  • Spare tire well – The inside of the spare tire well on this car had either oil, or water in it. He claimed it was spilled oil, it sure felt like water. Either way, there is nothing that should be in there besides a spare tire, how does water get in there?

The biggest deal

So after listing off all the things wrong with the car, I do keep in mind that it is a 10 year old car, with 150k miles on it. I gladly would have purchased the car and turned it into an autocross beast, but we simply were too far off on the price. The car itself according to KBB and Edmunds is worth at most $5500, which is what I told him I would be willing to pay in cash. He wanted $8750 as he says he has a loan on it (he posted it again on Craigslist after I left at $8500). Honestly after writing this up, if he were to reach back out to me, I would probably drop my offer a bit, Edmunds says dealer retail on the car is like $4k.

What comes next?

At this point I don’t know when I will purchase my next 350z. I hope to find something this fall, we have one more Gateway Autocross Association event later this year, I would love to run my own car for that, but that might not be possible.


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