Scale Cars

Aoshima/Tamiya Nissan Fairlady Z 350z Nismo


I’m kind of surprised at myself for not having built a Z33 or Z34 up until now – specifically the Z33, as it very much feels like an import poster car for the 21st century. It’s not an uncommon sight around here, and even when people not very interested in cars see them they immediately know it’s an iconic sports car, in a different way than knowing a Ferrari or Lamborghini is a sports car when you spot one.

I had taken a look at a die-cast 350z from Jada’s lineup, but none of their cars are ever in true 1/24 scale, so I got rid of it; this plastic kit may not have the Veilside kit that the Jada car did, but I’d rather have proper scaling than cool body kits.

Our build this time starts with a very sad story – the title is a bit strange because it says that this is both the Aoshima and the Tamiya kit – which is true. I was originally set on building the Tamiya Nismo.

I didn’t do any research on this model before I bought it. Of all the kits available of the 350z on the market, I decided that I liked the Nismo body kit the most. Aoshima also made a Nismo version, but the tiers for model cars in my head go:

  1. Tamiya (the very best)
  2. Aoshima (good stuff)
  3. Fujimi (avoid if possible)

But it looks like this kit could be knocking Tamiya down a bit, which is strange in that it’s not even a particularly old kit (circa 2007 for this Nismo edition with the new body, the original 350z came out in 2002).

First impressions of the main body aren’t great – it’s rare for Tamiya to have this many mold lines, and they’re not exactly subtle.

You’d be forgiven for thinking those raised lines are supposed to be part of the car, but unfortunately that’s not quite where real bumpers connect. Speaking of which, it looks like Tamiya went for a uni-body approach for their Z’s, where each version is given a completely new mold, rather than having a single body mold and different bumpers/skirts/body kits per version.

The last-generation Z32 I built was from 1989 and it did better than this. You’re regressing, Tamiya. (I use that 300zx as a benchmark to compare below-average kits now – if only because that kit was so good for its time).

Mold lines sanded away; ready for paint.

So, I’ve decided to go with a gloss black body this time – a color I’ve actually yet to do. I think I’ve mentioned this before on kits where I used gloss black for roofs and other isolated body panels, but Tamiya Gloss Black is really a godsend – I’ve never seen any other black come out so mirror-shiny straight out of the can.

I’ll mention now that this kit will be based as much as possible off of a real car. Usually I’ll build my cars to my liking, without a solid real-world example to emulate, but in this case I actually found a surprisingly simple and gorgeous Nismo that I wanted to replicate when I was browsing for inspiration:

It’s not even heavily modified, but there’s something about the understated look that drew me in. I haven’t seen any other Nismo look this good, so I decided it only appropriate to build it myself.

The real car has a very subtle feature running down its flanks – tiny red pinstripes on each side. I didn’t even notice them at first glance, but close-ups of the car feature them. Masking the body and painting the red stripes would be the first-instinct course of action, but I thought to attempt it with decals first just to see if it would turn out cleaner.

There’s a surprising lack of simple red pinstripe decals on the market – you’d figure something so simple would be abundant, but a lot of the stuff I’ve seen is flashy and feature strange designs that branch off the actual stripe. These decals from Golfer Racing were some of the only ones I could find that were simple red stripes, and even then only two are given in the pack, so if I mess up with these, it’s over.

Naturally, of course I mess up. Trying Mr. Mark Fit on these was a bad idea – they’re extremely delicate (moreso than most decals) so they melted and turned into a mess right away, breaking the line. Even in areas where I didn’t use Mark Fit, the decal broke just from normal handling and placement adjusting, so it wasn’t very feasible from the start. Good thing the sheet was cheap (unfortunately it looks like I got what I paid for).

So, back to the original plan – masking a simple line should be a piece of cake, right?!

My number one concern was making sure the masking tape was completely stuck down on the inner edges of the line they’re supposed to mask out, because any red bleed would be a royal pain in the arse to clean up. Thankfully it actually came out very clean – but upon a double take, it’s actually way too thick.

This is ok – lines are simple shapes and easy to work with. Just mask the original pinstripe in half and spray the exposed part black.

It…worked. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t complete success. This is about as thin as I can get it, though it’s still quite a bit heavier than it appears on the real life car.

Some parts of the line got just a bit too thin, so there’s a bit of red fade-out on one side.

Remedied with some acrylic brush paint to connect the line to make it solid again.

And with no warning at all, here we have devastation swooping in with zero mercy.

Lessons on being an idiot: crank your new paint-drying convection oven way too high because it didn’t seem to be warm enough before. Come back after an hour to find that the cops have flagged your Z for illegal street racing, determined that the body shell was a stolen part, and have impounded and subsequently crushed it.

If I remember correctly, this was at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve since learned how to use it properly – 100 degrees is just about the perfect temperature to circulate warm air inside and have the paint cured in a few hours. Without the oven, I’d have to wait almost two weeks for the paint to really cure all the way; handling it before this can leave fingerprints in the finish, which has happened before.

So, this is how we got to the Aoshima kit – but it’s okay! I’m not even mad about losing the Tamiya body, because that kit was worse than just having some mold lines on the body.

After opening the Tamiya box, I suffered from some serious buyer’s remorse because it became apparent from perusing the parts that it didn’t have a movable front axle – all four wheels were connected with metal poles, similar to a diecast car.

Sure, this means that it probably rolls extra well, but the only “articulation” we ever get out of model cars is through the moving front wheels, so that’s sort of a make-it-or-break-it feature. If I had done my research on the kit beforehand I would have avoided it altogether and gotten the Aoshima kit right off the bat (which does feature movable fronts), but alas, if I had done that I probably would’ve toasted the Aoshima kit and been forced to buy two of it anyways.

Without even opening the box, the Aoshima kit is already making a better impression on me than the Tamiya kit, just because it’s bigger, beefier, and seems to be more comprehensive overall. I also did my research this time and actually confirmed that the Aoshima release does indeed have the standard movable front axle.

Aside from not featuring any outlandish mold lines, Aoshima also does their body mold the way I’d expect Tamiya to do it – a central shell mold, with bumpers to be attached.

Nismo front and rear bumpers – a key difference with Tamiya’s front bumper is that Tamiya includes the front grille bars and lip as a separate piece, while Aoshima gives it whole here. That’s going to make masking and painting these parts a bit more of a pain.

Aoshima’s kit even includes the stock side skirts and trunk bill, and most interestingly of all, very tiny overfender garnishes unique to the Nismo.

I never really noticed these existing on the Tamiya mold, but after looking it up it appears it is indeed supposed to be an extra bit of flair to make the Nismo a bit more aggressive. They’re so tiny and thin that it really barely makes any difference, but I welcome them. Wasn’t the easiest thing gluing them on without a mess.

Unlike the Tamiya body, this Aoshima shell required most of its components be assembled before paint. Aoshima also seems to dislike giving any guiding pegs or grooves – the fender flares and wing just glue on, with no markers or indicators to make sure they’re straight and aligned other than your eyeballs.

Painted black just as before, and restriping the red on the new body.

Properly thin this time, though I may try to bring it down even more later.

Masking the front and rear diffusers was not fun. They come standard in gunmetal on all Nismos.

In contrast, the side skirts were (obviously) very easy to work with.

I was worried about the gunmetal flakes being too heavy and looking off against the gloss black, but thankfully it turned out to blend well.

Aoshima has been doing this a lot with their later kits – and it’s very much a welcome and intuitive feature that I wished Tamiya took notes from. Like the Subaru I built before this, you get an option when assembling the suspension on whether you want the “normal” ride-height or the “low-down” height.

Both models include parts for either a manual shifter or an automatic gate, even though the Nismo was only ever available with a stick. The auto shifter is likely a leftover part from the normal release.

This was interesting for me when I noticed it on the runners – I never knew the Z (Nismo at least) had a specialized driver’s seat that was different from the more plain passenger seat. It’s not significant – just what looks to be an extra bolster that’s meant to go between your inner thighs – but enough to make it different and probably meant to make the driver feel special.

I always knew the latest Z’s were space-challenged, but building the actual interior like this just reminds me (and baffles me) again of how raised and confined the rear trunk area is.

The tubs between the Aoshima and Tamiya models are similar, as they should be, but for some reason Tamiya’s details (like the handles on the cubbies behind the seats) are much smaller and less defined.

Something I didn’t consider when buying the Aoshima kit was that it didn’t include LHD parts – Tamiya acknowledges non-JDM cars a bit more by including both LHD and RHD parts.

I try to build my cars as Correct Left Hand Drive when possible, unless a LHD version just doesn’t exist (ala Skyline, Silvia). In this case, I normally wouldn’t mind building this Z33 as RHD, but I did have the means to make it LHD through the Tamiya dash, and it was being based on a real car that’s LHD, so it only felt appropriate for me to go through the extra effort to make it work.

The mold differences in the center dash console are very subtle, but apparent nonetheless. I can’t say one is better than the other – the Tamiya mold is a bit rounder, while the Aoshima console is a bit squared off, but I don’t actually know which version is more accurate, having never owned a Z33.

The steering wheels have some more contrast – most notably, Aoshima molds the “Z” on the steering wheel in, versus Tamiya leaving it blank and relying on a metal transfer decal to bring that bit of detail out later.

I somehow fully expected the Tamiya dash to require some serious cutting and molding to fit it to Aoshima’s tub – but they actually line up nearly perfectly. The tabs that hold them in are different though, so I had to cut those out and just attached the whole thing with glue.

I didn’t dry fit the dash fitment with the doors or body beforehand – I just slapped it in and prayed to whatever gods that may be that everything would fit. And as it turns out, it’s not a perfect fit with the doors, but it’s enough to work. There’s a bit of an awkward gap where the dash and door meet because their curves don’t match up, but the piece can fit without trimming and cutting, and that’s what matters.

And just for kicks, a look at Tamiya’s chassis underbody (left) versus Aoshima’s (right). This is the sort of thing that really baffles my headcanon ranking for these companies – they both sin by having the driveshaft and transmissions molded in so it isn’t as detailed, but Tamiya somehow does especially worse by having nearly the entire exhaust also molded in, along with almost all of the suspension components. I’m so used to Tamiya making you feel like a real mechanic by giving you everything from the differentials to the individual drive axles to assemble that I’m baffled they would step their game so far down by giving an almost entirely in-molded chassis.

The Nismo wheels included by both kits are nearly identical – they somehow look subtly different at glance, but upon closer inspection it’s actually very difficult for me to pinpoint where they actually differ. A plus on Tamiya’s part is that they include satin chrome door handles.

Body colors are all finalized; clear coat laid.

As much as I praised the Tamiya Gloss Black for being a near-perfect mirror gloss right out of the can, the effect can sometimes be distorted by more clear gloss on top.

So of course, in the face of orange peel we attack with polish.

Certainly an improvement, but I decided a while ago that I would stop settling for “good enough” and aim for perfection when I’m working on these cars, as much as I can. Improvement only comes from raising my own standards, after all.

Sanding (not even wet sanding) the entire body down with 1500 grit – and working up to 3000, I’d normally never bother with this much extra work, but in this case I thought it wrong to settle for less when I had done so well before.

Polish the sanding out – and we’ve gotten our perfectly smooth mirror finish. It’s really trippy – the color is still deep black, but it’s also perfectly reflective.

Seat inserts painted red by hand.

The decal sheets between the two versions of the kit are seemingly near-identical, but for some reason Tamiya’s sheet is yellowed and seemed extremely aged. What’s more, the decals themselves are extremely weak, and break at the slightest prodding. Aoshima’s decals have no such problems.

Tamiya has the advantage of including masking stickers for its front and rear windshields though, as well as a small set of metal transfer decals for the main badges.

The dash gauge decals were bad all around – both Tamiya and Aoshima included some thick clear borders around each individual gauge face, and while that normally wouldn’t be a problem in a traditional gauge cluster, the Z is a bit more unique with its completely segregated pods. This means the decals wouldn’t go in flat with their thick clear borders, so I had to painstakingly go in and trim them out in order to apply them.

Somehow got it done.

While I was shopping for this kit online, I happened to come across a nice little add-on package – a photo-etched detail set. I know these are available for nearly every car, but I never really bothered with them since their prices can vary pretty wildly. In this case though, it was cheap and could be shipped quickly, so I decided to go for it after experiencing how nice the metal PE parts were on my NSX.

This set is designed specifically for the Tamiya Nismo, from a company called Crazy Modeler – and man did they actually go crazy with these details. There are maybe 7 tiny pieces that you can use to completely wrap the front lower grille in, even though I’m pretty sure that area on the actual car isn’t bare brushed metal.

The main pieces that I really wanted to access with this add-on kit were the photo-etched slotted brake rotors. They’re some of the most common PE part upgrades on model kits, and I’ve always wanted to try them to see how realistic it would actually end up looking.

This was also a nice touch – the bar that goes over the trunk in the rear has a silver insert with the Z emblem. I was just going to paint it silver, but in this case I think the metal would look good in its place.

Used a tiny metal “Z” for the steering wheel badge, along with metal door reflectors, which I painted over with clear red.

The mirrors presented an interesting choice – I had three options: the Tamiya chrome metal decals, the chrome plastic inserts from Aoshima, or the metal photo-etched plate from Crazy Modeler. Of the three, the only one that wasn’t actually chrome and reflective the way a mirror should be was the photo-etched part, so that was immediately thrown out.

I really wanted to use Tamiya’s thin metal transfer decal, since those always look kickass and very realistic, but unfortunately no matter how much I tried to make it work, they wouldn’t quite fit inside the Aoshima housings. The shape was ever so slightly off, so they would always jut up in one corner or another. In the end I had no choice but to use the chrome plastic pieces that Aoshima provided.

After sitting on it for a bit, I decided that the pinstripes were still too thick.

Same trick as before – mask half the line off and paint the exposed red in order to thin it down. I had already clear coated and sanded/polished the rest of the body though, so I didn’t want to spray over all that and have to do it all over again.

Thus, the solution was to decant some of the gloss black spray and finely cover up half of the pinstripes on each side – it should be such a small amount that it blends with the rest of the body without forcing me to re-sand and re-polish everything.

This is really as thin as it’s gonna get, and I’m okay with it.

All interior pieces done, just needs to be assembled.

As much as I praised Aoshima for being better than Tamiya by actually including a movable front axle instead of a static axle bar, they were really only marginally better. Aoshima still decided to include a metal axle for the rear wheels, though this is much more forgivable than what Tamiya did by including this for all four wheels.

The photo-etched rotors fit perfectly on the rears, but needed some sanded and adjusting to fit up front, since I’m using them on the Aoshima kit when they were designed for Tamiya parts.

Now, for wheels – I actually lucked out in that the car I’m basing this build off of really ran RE30’s – and Aoshima just so happened to make that wheel as an aftermarket parts set.

The wheels on the real car are a bit of a satin chrome – exactly what these parts come in, so for maybe the first time ever I’m actually not going to paint the wheels – they’ll go on the car exactly as they came out of the box.

The fitment just on the chassis alone satisfies me greatly. Aoshima’s “low-down” height option was no joke – those RE30’s are basically touching the inner fender wells.

And for a little more authenticity, Brembo decals!

Window dome painted by hand, since Aoshima didn’t include masking stickers and I wasn’t about to use Tamiya’s in case they had any deviance.

Tub done – I’m very proud of how clean it came out.

The speaker grilles behind the seats are done with two layers of PE parts included in the Crazy Modeler set. Unfortunately I was a fool and totally forgot to add the PE seatbelts that came with the set, but I can always save them for the next car.

The headlight housings on the real car are blacked out save for the area surrounding the projector, so we went in with some gloss black paint here for the same effect.

Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll still need to do some adjusting with the wheels, now that we can see what it looks like with the body shell fitted. They sink in way too much for my liking – in actuality, the real car’s wheels have deeper lips, despite being the same design, meaning it’s likely running a more aggressive offset than what I’m getting here on the model.

The front is particularly bad. Since there are no deep-dish RE30’s that I’m aware of for models, I can only fix this by adding “spacers” to the hubs to push the wheels out.

My first idea was to cut some thin pla plate up and insert it into the wheel hubs in order to push the polycaps out so they could still mount normally on the car’s axles, but this ended up being a bad idea since the polycap material doesn’t take well to glue.

The new backup was now just to glue some cylindrical spacers onto the hubs and mount the wheels onto those, which ended up working, even if it is a bit precarious.

I actually dislike Aoshima’s headlight lenses – they seem a bit too long and thick for the housings. Both Tamiya and Aoshima include the taillight lenses in clear red though, so that’s a nice touch that saved me the hassle of painting.

Like the mirrors, I had several options here for the front and rear Nissan badges. The ones from the Aoshima decal sheet are just plain ‘ol water-slide decals, though they are printed realistically. The chrome reflective metal transfer decals from Tamiya are nice, but unfortuantely hugely flawed in that it’s just the shape of the badge – there’s no lettering in them that actually reads, “Nissan.” And finally, there’s the best choice – the photo-etched set is realistic, has depth, and has “Nissan” finely etched in.

The reference car I’m basing this kit off of has a single red “SCRAPE” decal on its passenger side rear quarter window. Amazingly enough, I didn’t really have any red decal of that proper size that I could add to represent that bit of detail, so I decided to just go with one of my leftover Good Smile flames from the Itasha NSX – I thought it would look neat on just one side.

And finally, to bring the gloss that I worked so hard on back after some serious manhandling of this kit, we’re going for one last wax – with real carnauba wax meant for full-scale cars.

Well, I got kinda close, photography differences aside. Thankfully I finally picked up a proper DSLR this past holiday season, so photo quality should increase from here on out – my current camera has felt woefully shortchanged when I take it to car models, since it was always meant more for macro applications that suit action figures/Gunpla much more.

I’m immensely proud of the mirror-black finish I finally managed to achieve with this kit. I’ve only managed to get a perfectly deep and smooth non-orange-peeled finish once before, and back then it was just a fluke. This time I put in the work and it ended up paying off – all the cooler that it was with black, a color that notoriously shows scratches in the limelight.

The one issue that irks me a bit about the kit are its headlight housings – I used the Aoshima ones since they were the most likely to fit properly with the Aoshima body, but it looks like it still isn’t as snug as it could be. The lenses feel just a bit too large, and the plastic seems slightly too thick to look proper in this scale, resulting in a bulbous look that isn’t consistent with the Z33’s sleek nose.

The clear red taillight lenses fit perfectly, but again Aoshima throws random issues in by making the lower blinker lenses too short. There’s about a centimeter of gap on the outside edge for each lens, but thankfully the chrome housings underneath mean this issue is basically undetectable.

I’m happy with the ride height and wheel offsets after I had modified them, but it still doesn’t change my disappointment that both Aoshima and Tamiya copped out of molding any independent rear suspension and opted for the bronze axles instead.

The metal photo-etched parts ended up only adding subtly to the overall build, but I feel they make this kit stand out just that much more from my standard cars that I haven’t used metal on.

Of all the crazy body kit styles that are available for the Z33, I’m also glad to have chosen the Nismo – I think it’s understated up front but when you juxtapose it to the stock bumper it’s very much a night and day difference.

I used to absolutely abhor this rear bumper though – I thought the rectangle diffuser was the ugliest break in body design ever, and it shocked me more when I first learned that this was a Nissan body kit, not some gaudy re-imagining from an aftermarket company.

But ironically, it’s really grown on me. I like it a lot now, and am ashamed to have thought it was atrocious before. I still think it’s a pretty in-your-face break from the bulbous look of the overall car, but now I think it works.

I’m very proud of the interior – especially since it’s using a dash that wasn’t meant for the kit but somehow miraculously worked.

Basic undercarriage. The transmission and rear suspension units had to be painted silver by hand; thankfully the exhaust unit was a bit more forgiving as separate pieces.

Like the front headlight lenses, I think the rear windshield was molded a bit too thick as clear plastic. The defroster lines are so thick that you can barely make out the tiny package shelf beneath, and the metal piece I used for the brace bar doesn’t get shown off as much as I would’ve liked.

It’s also almost surprising that neither Tamiya or Aoshima offer this car with its proper motor – the VQ and HR have quite a reputation in Nissan’s lineage, so I figured someone would include an engine, but alas, not so.

Modelers wishing to drop in a resin engine like an RB20 or 2JZ won’t have a hard time though – the hood is already a separate piece from the body, and it shouldn’t take much effort to cut open the frame between the front fenders that the hood sits on. I actually already had a resin RB26 sitting around by the time I was finishing this kit up, but that was destined for another Nissan.

Despite not being a great kit in and of itself (major points off for metal axles and so much chassis detail just half-molded into the underbody) I actually think this is the closest I’ve built to a perfect car so far, despite how underwhelming and seemingly boring the overall build may be. I’ve tried to keep myself to a higher standard as I build nowadays, constantly pushing for better, which is why I think I finally managed to get far enough to get a really nice mirror-black finish on this kit where I’ve almost never succeeded before.

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