Is the Nissan 350Z Engine Good For An Engine Swap?

Hot-rodders are always on the lookout for a good engine. It must fit in the desired car, make decent power (or at least be capable of it), and sometimes it must be reliable. For a racing car, a V engine serves one crucial purpose. It’s physically shorter, thus can be fitted closer to the center of the vehicle to achieve ideal balance and a lower center of gravity. 

This means the Nissan 350Z engine could be a prime candidate for an engine swap. Right now, 350Z sellers are posting their car for sale with a separate listing for the engine. Could it be because the engine is a hot engine-swap commodity? It makes decent power from the factory and is a V engine, but is it reliable and affordable?

A brief history of the Nissan 350Z

Nissan 300ZX racing to victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring
Nissan 300ZX racing to victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring | ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

The much-beloved Nissan 300zx departed the assembly line in 1996 for U.S. markets. Missed it was, as the 300zx in its prime made 300 horsepower from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, equipped with LSD and if you were lucky, a t-top roof. It was also a big hit with modifications and tuning. It would be another six long years before we’d see a new Z car hit the streets. 

Thus the 350z was born. Nissan offered the 2002 350z with a 287-hp 3.5-liter V6 in a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive platform. While on paper it was a perfect sports car, eventually the experience became a bit stale, with little changing even into the next model, the 370Z.

Is the Nissan 350Z engine reliable?

2005 Nissan 350Z driving on the road
2005 Nissan 350Z driving on the road | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The short answer is, yes, the Nissan 350Z’s engine was reliable. The 350Z used the VQ35DE in the first generation and then shifted to the VQ35HR to close out its later years. The VQ35DE used forged rods and a forged crankshaft inside an aluminum block under aluminum cylinder heads. By 2005 it had reached 300 horsepower. The VQ35DE did suffer through a few recalls. Notably, the check engine light could come on because of a faulty soldering process, and in 2005 it experienced some fuel leakage, according to Justia. The fuel leakage was due to a cracked fuel filler hose, which Nissan fixed.

What modifications are available for the Nissan 350Z engine?

The VQ35DE already makes about as much power as it can on its own. Owners can spend lots of money on new exhaust and a cold air intake, but the horsepower gains will be minimal at best. Even the stock headers aren’t restrictive enough to warrant a performance upgrade. In order to get more power, forced induction is the best way forward. Twin-turbo kits are available and boast 125 additional horsepower with impressive reliability. 

Is the Nissan 350Z engine worth the money?

Considering the VQ35DE can be found on eBay for around $1,500, it is absolutely worth the money. Even the 300-hp versions aren’t going for too much more. It’s a small amount of money for the performance, and with a $5,000 turbo upgrade plus a tune, it might even reach 500 horsepower. The Nissan 350Z engine is undoubtedly a prime candidate for an engine swap.

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