Joust of the 33s

The sports car from Nissan which the world knew before the Skyline/GTR is the Fairlady Z. Sharing the same birth year as the GTR (1969) as I mentioned in my previous GTR 50th Anniversary post.

The Fairlady Z a sucessor the the Nissan Fairlady, a convertible sportscar of 1959. The Z saw many sucessive models starting with an inline 6 engine (the infamous L-type) configuration for the first 2 generations. The third generation at the entering at 1989, the 300ZX changed to a V6 configuration which stuck to this day minus the turbos.

The coming of Carlos Ghosn which resinstated the Fairlady Z and the GTR, the first of this two being the Z. Little known fact but the 4th generation Z (Z33) was also fathered by the later to come R35 GTR's Mizuno Kazutoshi who applied some theories later first to the Z33 which would be later applied to the GTR. Including Nissan's "Premium Mid-ship Package" (first applied to the 350GT Skyline (V35) and a racing car design for the driving position. The Californian Nissan design studio was responsible for the winning design for this car.

2007 saw the upgrade of the Z's V6 with an increase in redline from 6800rpm to a much wanted 7500rpm. This year also saw the introduction of Nismo Complete cars. 

Like the Track edition and Nismo GTR which are based on the same body in white The Nismo Z33 came in two versions. The Fairlady Z Nismo (Nismo 350Z) and the JDM only Fairlady Z 380RS. The later being a limited run of 300 units was built to homologate a special 3.8 litre version of the V6 (VQ38HR). This engine was a detuned version of the race engine designed for the Super Taikyu Endurance race series in Japan. The reason for this increase in displacement from 3.5 litres was in order for the Z to be competetive against the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (997) car and even in the detuned road iteration it produces a competetive power to the equivalent Porsche 911 GT3 (997) road car of 350hp at 7200 rpm and 397 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm.

The later and globally (in select countries) sold Nismo 350Z uses the standard VQ35HR (306 bhp at 6800 rpm with 363 Nm at 4800 rpm) in th
e same body as the 380RS. The body and chassis saw a number of enhancements over the standard car with firstly the body in white having increased weld points and additional bracing not seen on the standard model to increase stiffness. Suspension and brakes also saw an upgrade with fullset of Nismo suspension and links including the Yamaha Performance Dampers which I have on my R33 to see the first production car use in this car. Brakes as well despite having the same calipers as the standard car saw a bump up in rotor size front and rear (330mm front and 320mm rears). To finish off the package, one off wider silver wheels by RAYS Engineering and an extensive aero package developed specifically for this car provide a very functional but also visually pleasing distiction from the standard model.

Readers of Ale's BNR34 blog will know that he recently has aquired a second car which happens to be a Nismo 350Z. I have been wanting to take it out and the other Sunday both Ale and I happened to be in Tokyo so we met up for a impromptu cars and coffee.

Another Sunday to get out and drive.

 Seems a BNR34 club was out for a meet.

Let alone one but TWO Alfa Spyders!

Keeping that hot meal warm.

I was actaully out at Tatsumi PA earlier that morning before Ale buzzed me to ask if I happened to be around so headed down for a coffee.

After a quick lunch we settled on Crispy Kremes coffee and donuts (yes that is a matcha icing donut. I am a fan of anything matcha including itself).

Then it was time to head up to Tatsumi PA and the Wangan for a head to head of the 33s (Z33 and R33)

Yes Ale managed to source some limited run RAYS Engineering Volk G2 wheels which were a custom spec made for Omori Factory, a perfect addition to the Nismo Z.

After having spent time running with the Z33 I have been eager to take it for a spin. Ale asked if I would like to take it for spin which I was happy and grateful to oblige so we swapped cars for one lap of the C1.

The drive

First initial impression was the throttle response of not only the NA engine but also the flyby wire throttle acctuation. The Z is particularly known for having a very well tuned e-throttle and that definately was one of the outstanding points of the car. To which it took some time to adjust to.

The Z33s clutch was very easy to modulate coming out of the carkpark and the brakes with the larger rotors inspired more confidence than the somewhat undersized ones of the R33.

 Obviously there differnce in outright power between the S1 and the VQ35HR was apparent however it was more the character of the two engines which stood out to me the most. The RB26 being the race engine it is, is an engine where you must be constantly aware of which gear and RPM you are at in oder to get the most out of the engine.

 In comparison the VQ35 the RPM was less relevant with a very flat power curve with my favourite range being between 3000~4000RPM where I naturally hung around as there was a nice bit of torque there. The engine is more of a 'tool' which gets the job down of producing the 300+ HP required of it. Being more plug-and-play than the more laborious RB.

Another very obvious difference was advances in chassis technology with the Z33 feeling significantly more rigid bothe suspension and body wise. This also made apparent my overdue need for a chassis refresh on my 33 (suspension and subframe bushings/links). The Z33 is a very comforable car with just the right amount of isolation from the road.

The verdict

The Z33 is a good car with a capable and balances chassis which inspires confidence. Sure footed and does not fatigue the driver with an amount of insulation from the road. It makes for a good long distance cruiser and with a set of more supportive seats than the stock numbers it will be a real nice car to throw around abit as well.

The R33's RB has character that the Z33's VQ35 could only dream of however the older chassis technology and nature of the car does wear the driver more than the Z33 and I would pick the Z33 if I were to race either of the two in an endurance race.

Both cars have their own very distinct characters which if I were to summerise in one word/phrase each would be "raw" and "plug-and play". As Ale has demonstrated, why not have both.