Scale Cars

Tamiya Nissan Fairlady 300zx Turbo (Rebuild)

I already mentioned before how I don’t like to have variants of my car kits on display unless the old kit is being scrapped – which is very much what’s happening here. The big difference this time is that when I build a new version of a car, I’ll usually go with a different kit or manufacturer (like my latest Aoshima R34 that replaced my older Tamiya kit), though I’m building the exact same Tamiya 300zx Z32 this time that I had built before in gunmetal gray.

No matter how I sliced it or tried to look at that kit, I wasn’t happy with it now that I’ve improved significantly building cars – and since I had an entire spare Z32 kit lying around, I figured hey, why not – the kit’s already here, I might as well do it better this time.

My original 300zx was one of my earliest kits, and thus a bit unrefined compared to how I build now. I liked the gunmetal color, but didn’t like how large the metallic flakes were, so I knew I wanted to go with a different body tone this time. Back then I also didn’t take care to touch up the edges of the body panels, so you can see missing paint on areas like the edges where the doors meet the fenders.

I also always regretted not tinting the windows since the fishbowl look wasn’t very attractive, so this is a good chance to rectify that.

Recall that because I thought I lost the hood to my original kit, I had to buy a second one – but then the original hood turned up again after a week, so I was left with an entire unbuilt Z32 just gathering dust. I’ve been stealing from its parts occasionally for other builds – mostly its engine components like radiators, fans, and brake boosters because it’s one of Tamiya’s few kits that actually come with a full motor.

A fresh body is very welcome, since to use the old one I’d have to paint over the existing gunmetal (which, granted, is a very thin layer anyways), or spend hours sand-stripping it evenly. The latter approach carries with it risks of sanding away panel detail (and I just hate sanding in general), so I’d rather stick with fresh bare plastic.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever have another T-Top in the collection, so to make this one really stand out I decided to cut out the molded-in T-Top windows, effectively making it an “open” targa top.

Cutting the body frame means the clear parts will also have to follow suit of course – Tamiya originally gives us all the windows as a single drop-in dome, so since I’m removing the side windows and top, we’re left with just the front and rear windshields, with the rear quarter windows attached. Of course, the cuts were made with a heat knife since a regular exacto or scissors would either have a very hard time or straight up crack the brittle clear plastic altogether trying to cut it. ‘

Now, while I’m using a fresh body because I was dissatisfied with the old one, I didn’t actually see anything wrong with the original motor I built for my first Z32. Besides, the new kit is missing a few components like a radiator and fan so it would just be more convenient to transplant all of the old painted parts and stick them straight in the new chassis rather than waste time rebuilding everything the exact same way.

Recall that the suspension components on the original kit were horribly mangled in my early attempts at fitting wheels that weren’t meant for it, so all that is being tossed in favor of rebuilding it correctly this time.

Speaking of those wheels though, I still plan to use them – they’re very unique and actually were the original kit wheels that came with my very first Japanese model car kit – the VeilSide Combat R32 GT-R.

I’m also keeping the exhaust from the old kit – I had created custom tips out of styrene before and really liked the look, even if it kept the stock mufflers.

The seats in my first 300zx were pulled from a Jada 1/24 diecast Fast and Furious Eclipse. I didn’t want to reuse those seats since I was going to do something different with harnesses this time, but I did end up pulling these buckets from another Jada diecast – this time a Fast and Furious Subaru WRX STi.

A large part of why I wasn’t satisfied with my first run of this kit is because I just didn’t like the car’s stock bumper – the front end of the Z32 as a whole treads a bit too much uncanny valley for me, but there’s not much I can do about the Lambo headlights or big flat nose. What I can do is chop the grille and go in with some putty to try and massage a new front end look out of it.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, no aftermarket resin transkits are available for the Z32. I looked up some popular aftermarket bumpers for the real car to get an idea of what I should be aiming for when I decided to shape my own modified OEM front end, and it looks like a very popular conversion is to a big ‘ol smiley style that keeps all the OEM bumper lights.

I decided to take the path of least resistance and avoided adding too much to completely reshape the “mouth” of the car – instead I just cut out all the thin plastic “lines” that made the car look like it had braces and shaved the opening till we had a meaner GReddy-style front grille.

I used Tamiya White putty to fill the edges of the foglights in, since those will essentially be deleted. The clear foglight lenses from the kit were glued in first, then putty applied over it so I didn’t have to use as much putty to fill the void. The problem comes when Tamiya putty takes forever to fully cure, and after every coat of primer to check if the surface is finally smooth, it seems to never stop shrinking, meaning I have to constantly reapply and re-sand until the foglight divets are all filled in.

For a little more of an aftermarket modded touch, I decided to add some JDM aero mirrors I had laying around in my spare parts box.

Using the stock rotors and calipers, though the mounting hubs on both sides are shaved as smooth and narrow as possible in anticipation for fitting some thicc wheels.

For once I’m actually keeping the underbody somewhat accurate with body color white, instead of just painting the whole thing black and gray and being done with it.

Decided to apply the red valve cover decal that Tamiya included for the motor – it’ll stand out more in a white bay than the old black decal.

Mounted in the bay.

The suspension components are all built prim and proper this time – the mutilated setup on my old kit is very apparent when you put them side by side. Rather than cut the chassis to ribbons trying to fit the wheels, my plan this time is to just cut the mounting hubs as far down as they can go on the subframe, doing the same on the wheels, and keeping the rotors as thin as possible so as to reduce added width when it all comes together.

I’ve finally decided to try flocking – I’ve played with the idea in the past, but never really got around to it since I tint most of my kits and you can barely see the interiors anyway. In this case though, the 300zx will be an open T-Top, meaning everything from the carpet to the dash and rear package shelf should be on full display.

I’m sure every modeler has their favorite brand or type of flocking that they’ll swear by for achieving the most realistic effect, but in lieu of actual research (because I’m self-taught, dammit), I went out and just grabbed the cheapest and most available flocking available at my local hobby shop – KEN’S KUSTOM FUZZI-FUZ. The K in Kustom is egregious enough, but the fuzzi-fuz really sells it.

The process of flocking is in itself a very simple and intuitive process – paint the areas you want flocked in either clear or color-matched paint, and sprinkle the magic pixie dust over it before it dries.

Tap off the excess and voila. The grains are already very fine as they are, and the effect generally looks pretty good for the tub carpeting, but it looks unusually thick and too large for the dash and doors.

I didn’t know how matte coat would affect the flocking and I couldn’t be bothered to look it up, so I just went ahead and sent it – and lo and behold, it seemed to pat the flocking down a bit and gave it a thinner-looking finish, largely fixing the thick look from earlier.

This kit is going to be a pioneer of innovation for me – first time flocking, first time actually making an attempt at racing harnesses. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while too, but it’s always hard to swallow the extra cost of detail parts that have to be ordered usually from overseas. Apparently these “eduard” brand harnesses are pretty popular, and they’re very straightforward photoetched parts sets, rather than some sets that literally give you strips of fabric and have you build the belts themselves from scratch.

I’ve never seen this type of “printed” PE parts before – the belts themselves are made of thin metal like everything else, but feel like they have a soft fabric-like layer over them, lending to a very realistic texture and finish.

Instructions unclear – you’re telling me these aren’t engine belts?

Eduard has more complex five or six point harnesses available, but I went for the 4-points out of simplicity (yes yes, 4 points are supposedly unsafe IRL, but these kits won’t be getting into deadly frontal collisions anytime soon…I hope).

Putting them together is straightforward according to the instructions (I took a few more minutes to figure everything out since I’ve never run harnesses in my life and therefore haven’t really looked into their construction before), but very tedious, given how small and thin the parts are. Of course, the parts all need to be glued together.

I would’ve preferred some Sparco belts, but the Sabelts were cheaper and more readily available. Awkwardly enough, the harness holes in the seat back are actually kind of the wrong shape – they’re taller than they are wide, so the belt doesn’t really fit through smoothly.

Of course, we can’t have harnesses without a harness bar or roll cage. Thankfully the Subaru I pulled the seats from also came with a neat little semi-cage, though of course it’s too large to just drop straight into my Z32’s tub.

I hadn’t planned on having door bars, but after I cut the rear bars down they just happened to be in a nice position, so I kept them.

Drilled mounting holes in the tub; the cage needs to be painted before it’s inserted and glued in.

The seats are a tight fit with the door bars in, so the sides had to be sanded and trimmed down a bit. It’s really flush in there now.

Harness bar in.

Certain sections like the middle cross member actually kept coming off when I was adjusting the fitment, so we ended up with some ugly glue marks in an attempt to shove everything back into place.

Attaching the metal harnesses themselves to the bar ended up being a lot more difficult and frustratingly tedious than I anticipated. I had originally wanted to wrap the full remaining length of the belts (there was quite a bit remaining, what you see here is what’s left after I chopped them down) around the harness bar, but that proved to be very difficult to do with the seats and bars all in the tub and glued in.

I couldn’t really take them out to do it since the distance between them would then be off if they weren’t mounted in, so I ended up unfortunately going the lame route and mounting them with some of the included clip buckles (which, I guess, is how they’re meant to be mounted, but wrapping them around the cage is cooler).

I finally figured out that the three mysterious rectangles molded into the chassis that Tamiya included were indeed meant to be intercoolers – the 300zx came with some unorthodox side-mount intercoolers and a small center one, in lieu of a traditional large front-mount. I think the side-mounts are more correct for the Z32’s application – apparently very few owners switch to FMIC’s. Still, Tamiya’s stock rectangles are just undetailed slabs, so I decided to delete them and insert a leftover core from my R34 Z-Tune, realism be damned. This front mount is also extra incorrect because it needs twice as many inlets and outlets for a twin turbo application, but whatever – you (probably) won’t be able to see that stuff once the grille is over it.

On top of being the wrong kind of intercooler realistically, if you look at it from any angle but straight on it’ll basically look like a cardboard cutout of a real intercooler. This is okay. We’ll make up for it by running some aluminum pipes to mate it to the motor so it isn’t just…there.

The pipes were bent and run down into the bay to meet the tiny little turbos that sit near the clutch – to realistically make the piping work I’d have to bend them very sharply to meet the compressor outlet, but that’s basically impossible with this scale and the room available (as shown above, they’re literally facing the frame), so the pipes basically go straight into the turbine inlet. That’s how turbos work, right?

Disaster. I think any Z I build is cursed to meet this fate – why I’m avoiding a Z34 for now. Everything was so perfect – the front bumper had been smoothed out, the paint looked good, the t-top cutouts were complete – but somehow when I came back to my paint oven the temperature had mysteriously been cranked up to 400 degrees. I had learned my lesson from the first Z I sent to the scrapyard when I melted its body to slag, so the paint oven is always at the correct (100 degrees) temperature now. This is straight sabotage!

My paint oven is in the living room, where any of my housemates may have access to it (it’s been an unspoken rule that they leave my paint corner alone), but someone clearly has it out for me. First the mysterious vandalism of my R34 and now a Z32?!

Thankfully, I’m not as upset over this one because we have reserves. I wanted to avoid working with the original gunmetal body, but this is where having two copies of the kit comes in real handy.

All. Over. Again.

I also decided to shave the side markers on the fenders this time for a cleaner look.

The constant buildup of primer and paint means I was starting to lose some panel lines – the bumper lines in particular had to be completely re-scribed.

I must’ve re-puttied this front end ten times – for some reason no matter how long I let the stuff cure and no matter how smooth it looked after sanding, the foglight area would still bulge and show up after paint.

I deduced that it was probably because of the original foglight lenses only being loosely cemented in the original kit, rather than firmly glued down. They were moving around under the putty and paint, causing the raised look. The only choice I had was to cut them out, undo all my putty work, and re-glue them firmly.

Finally looking smooth. Unfortunately the aero mirrors I originally wanted to use with the body were lost forever in the oven tragedy, so we’re left with the stock mirrors once again.

The entire rear taillight assembly is just one clear piece – the body panel it lays over is painted chrome with the clear part itself filled in with clear red and orange.

Even with the side windows completely deleted and the T-Top open, I made sure to tint the rear window assembly nice and dark.

Body masked and painted black for weather stripping and trim parts. I’d normally paint this stuff in by hand but it was hard getting smooth lines last time I tried – figure masking lines would alleviate that here.

I immediately retract what I said about getting cleaner lines with masking. I think this is just me being an idiot and peeling the tape up too soon though – the paint was still tacky and thus pulled up and bled around in some areas.

Fixing with some decanted touch up paint. The black stripe that runs along the Z32’s side is particularly annoying to get right.

Getting the front and rear windshields in on their own without any support from the wide windows ended up being  messier than I anticipated – the front in particular had a bunch of gaps around the edges that had to be pressed out.

I had intended to leave the front grille open without any mesh at all, but then decided to put it in anyway, because mesh is great.

Adding a little more detail to the bay with wire and beading thread.

Interior/chassis/motor done. Just needs the body and wheels on.

The plan with the wheels this time will involve cutting the stock hubs all the way down, then inserting a styrene spacer that was just barely thick enough to allow the caliper to clear the face of the wheel.

With the calipers barely tucked behind the spokes, this is literally the closest I can run the wheels in terms of offset – hopefully when it mates up to the suspension it’ll end up nice and flush against the fenders.

I commonly do this as a way to “cheat” in lowering the car – just assemble the rotors/brakes with the wheels first, then glue them to the suspension at whatever height is desired, since the only things that really have to line up are the center of the rotors and the wheel hubs.

Finally, throwing on some new decals – I ordered a few new sets of “street” decals from a German seller. These are more dedicated to the phrases and markings dedicated to street culture rather than official sponsor markings, which I haven’t really had on any of my cars.

I wish I had some side by side comparison photos of my original Z32 next to this one for comparison to see just how far we’ve come, but unfortunately sacrifices had to be made.

I’m really, really happy with how the front bumper turned out. Maybe it’s just me being a vain a-hole and admiring my own custom work, but I like to think if I saw this style on a real Z32 I would think it’s also infinitely more attractive than the stock braces.

It’s really just a few pinholes away from being a Rocket Bunny FR-S bumper. Ironically GReddy’s actual Z32 bumper doesn’t look anything like this.

I still really adore this car’s rear end much more than the front though – the metal Fairlady license plate actually came from the PE parts set that I used on my Z33.

Fitment ended up being on-point – thankfully I preserved the steering perfectly too (it doesn’t roll though).

Very happy with how the motor and bay turned out, even if it’s really the same core engine from the last kit. The wiring detail and vacuum lines add just enough detail while still keeping the look clean overall.

Hood prop made from a piece of bent pin wire.


The hood doesn’t have any sort of hinges at the base, so it’s not really connected to the car so much as it just sits on top of the bay.

My finest interior yet, even if the rollcage and harness bar assembly is a bit messy. I still don’t think I’m going to bother with flocking in the future for my usual enclosed tub cars that have tinted windows, but for an open T-Top like this, the detail really stands out.


I mentioned during my first run through with this car that this is really one of Tamiya’s best kits for its time – supposedly a 1989 release! Since then I’ve benchmarked many newer kits against it, including its newer sibling the Z33 (which, for the record, Tamiya really dropped the ball on – it didn’t come with a motor or even a steering rack).

As a cheap and plentiful yet very well-detailed kit, I think this 300zx would be an excellent entry for those just starting out with model cars – I’m glad I built it early on and had an easy chance to improve on a second version here without sinking more cash into more expensive and rarer kits.

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