2023 Bull Market Pick: 2003–08 Nissan 350Z
Welcome back to the Hagerty Bull Market List, our annual deep dive into the collector cars (and bikes) climbing the value ranks. This vehicle is one of 11 chosen for the 2023 installment of the List. To see the other 10, click here.
Performance-wise, 1996 began seven long years of darkness for Nissan. The fast, pretty 300ZX had ended its production, and there wasn’t much in Nissan’s U.S. portfolio to interest the power-hungry. The wait was on for the next Z, and briefly, it seemed as though Nissan had minimal interest in a meaningful revival of its most heralded model.
It took until 2002 for Nissan to introduce the 2003 350Z, and it was deserving of the name. Rave reviews followed. Automobile magazine named it Automobile of the Year, and Car and Driver named it to its 10Best, calling it “a re-creation of the segment-busting Datsun 240Z that set the sports-car world on its ear in 1970.” Segment-busting or not, sales were strong, especially after a roadster version debuted for 2004. The coupe was offered with a complicated roster of Base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring, and Track versions, while the roadster came only in Enthusiast and Touring.
Power came from a 287-hp version of the versatile VQ35DE 3.5-liter V-6, and manual and automatic transmissions were offered. The so-called Rev Up engine with upgraded internals and a bump to 300 horsepower appeared in the 2005 Track model, and in 2007, it was boosted to 306 horsepower for all models.
Nissan was back on the performance radar, but it wasn’t until late in the 2007 model year that the company really cashed in on America’s fascination with NISMO, the name of Nissan’s performance tuning division in Japan. The golden child of the 350Z lineup, the 2007–08 Nissan 350Z NISMO is by far the most valuable model today.
The NISMO Z had the stock 306-hp V-6, but the rest of the car was blessed with a long list of performance and trim upgrades, such as a front spoiler and an aggressive rear wing. It also included forged alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, NISMO-tuned suspension bits and pieces designed by Yamaha, a tuned exhaust, a six-speed manual, and a viscous limited-slip differential. Little faster in a straight line than the base car, the $38,070 NISMO Z sold out its modest run of 1607 copies, and that ended the 350Z. As it was then, the NISMO Z is still hard to find.
Steve Ellis of Los Angeles was living in Texas when he found his 2008 Nissan 350Z NISMO in San Antonio. With 130,000 miles, “It was in pretty rough shape, but it had a clean title, and like all of us, it just needed some love and attention.” The NISMO Z was an excellent track-day car from the factory, but Ellis added bigger tires and wheels, refreshed the suspension with solid bushings and an adjustable linkage, and gave it “a little more aggressive alignment that helps on track days.”
The nearly trouble-free car has since had plenty of track days, autocrosses, and just plain driving—all of which has added more than 70,000 fresh miles to the odometer. “My main takeaway was astonishment at just how solid it felt, even with the incredible 204,000 miles on the clock. The rest of us had similar reactions,” says Joe DeMatio, senior content manager.
Whether you choose a Base 350 or a NISMO variant, it’s hard to go wrong with one of these Zs. “They’re just good, solid cars,” Ellis says.
Highs: Commendable reliability; crisp performance on track; tons of aftermarket equipment available.
Lows: Not exactly roomy inside; outward visibility submarine-like; engine a little underpowered; climbing resale value will likely move it out of the “affordable” category.
Price range: #1 – $55,000 #2 – $39,900 #3 – $32,800 #4 – $16,400
HAGERTY AUTO INTELLIGENCE SAYS:
With the release of a new Z, collectors are likely to go back through the old catalog. The 350Z has previously been overlooked by the market, with values lagging behind earlier Zs until only recently. Average #2 values for the 350Z have increased 78 percent since the start of 2021—the largest increase for any Z aside from the 1978–83 280ZX, which doubled in that time. Boomers still own the majority of 350Zs, but 19 percent of new policies added in 2022 were from buyers under 40.
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