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Nissan’s 300zx enjoyed two glorious generations, starting in the 1980s and until the mid-1990s. Although the 300zx is renowned for how difficult it is to work on, it has the proper equipment to demonstrate impressive performance, and at a great price. Its naturally aspirated VG30DE 3.0-liter V6 sends 220 horsepower to the rear wheels, which are spun by a limited-slip differential. The 300zx TT had the same engine with two turbochargers and made 300 horsepower, this time called the VG30DETT.

Short of swapping the engine, the 300zx remains difficult to work on because of its cramped engine bay. However, there are a few performance upgrades owners can do without removing the engine. These are some of the best Nissan 300zx mods.

350z Wheels: Simple and Easy Mod

Nissan 350z roadster at a showroom in Sydney
Nissan 350Z Roadster | Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Owners often swap stock 350z wheels as one of the most common 300zx mods. The stock wheels from a 300zx are made of steel and are either 15 or 16-inches in diameter. There was an alloy option in the 16-inch size as well. The 350z’s wheels are made from aluminum, shedding some weight from the already heavy 300zx, and are 17-inches in diameter. This also gives the 300zx far more tire options. 350z wheels are everywhere, and affordable on eBay. 

Upgraded Brakes: Necessary Mod

Akebono front and rear disc brake kit

The 300zx is a heavy car, weighing as little as 3,287 pounds in its coupe N/A variant. This probably has something to do with its steel unibody construction, as well as its iron-block engine. Its weight dictates the need for enhanced stopping power. Stock brakes will induce brake fade with a bit of spirited driving, even without engine upgrades or turbochargers. Vented and slotted rotors will help with cooling, and ceramic pads offer quiet, yet effective stopping power. Z1 Motorsports sells an Akebono brake kit for $1,948.

Camshaft: Complicated but Worth it

1990 nissan 300zx
1990 Nissan 300ZX | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The VG30DE’s rotating assembly can handle roughly 500 horsepower at the wheels, thanks to forged rods and its cast-iron block. With that in mind, the engine benefits greatly from an aggressive camshaft upgrade. Of course, going the camshaft route benefits even more from a tune and more fuel. More fuel means bigger injectors, and a bigger fuel pump to handle the flow. If tearing apart the engine, forged pistons are a worthy upgrade. All four camshafts can run for about $1000. This could become one of the more expensive Nissan 300zx mods, but the power is worth it.

Drive Pulleys: Simple Yet Effective Mod

Nissan 300zx lightweight drive pulleys

Changing the drive pulleys is a relatively simple and inexpensive modification. On the 300zx the work is probably a bit more difficult than on other cars, but this upgrade has owners seeing a 25 horsepower increase. The power comes from the engine having to rotate less mass to spin the accessories, thereby freeing up some drivetrain loss. While the front of the engine is apart, some bigger throttle bodies may be worth getting into as well. Z1 Motorsports sells a set of drive pulleys for $300.

Air Intake: Basic Upgrade

1990 nissan 300zx
1990 Nissan 300ZX | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Owners report gains of 10 horsepower just from upgrading the intake. Whether or not the engine needs a tune after upgrading the intake is debatable, as its computer should learn and adapt. Owners recommend JWT, without experiencing the same problems as a K&N filter might present, where debris is allowed into the engine because of how thin the filter is. The JWT air filter costs $89. 

The 300zx is a heavy Japanese sports car that has the potential to perform well but can be difficult to work on. Fortunately, these 300zx mods can be installed without removing the engine, or any large parts from the car. Thankfully they aren’t too expensive for how much performance they offer, especially as one of Nissan’s fastest cars ever.


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