Are Nissan 350Z’s the best budget track car you can build right now? Duncan James’ 350Z NASA Time Trial car could be just that
Edition #4: Duncan James and his budget built Nissan 350Z NASA Time Trials Track Car
LapMeta Drivers Spotlight: Duncan James
Is the Nissan 350Z the perfect budget track car? Duncan James’ Alliance Racing 350Z is a perfect example of building a fast car on a reasonable budget. His continued focus on improving his car combined with his dedication to improving his craft behind the wheel has led him to be a NASA National Championship Time Trials runner up in TT3. Right on the tail of a Porsche that costs about seven times the price of what you can buy a 350Z for right now.
In the drifting community the 350Z is highly regarded for being a cheap, entry level, fun rip machine based on how affordable it is to obtain. Considering the plethora of aftermarket parts available for these cars, they are a hot commodity among young car enthusiasts looking to get their hands on something fun that doesn’t break the bank .
However, the same can be said when considering a 350Z for a track car candidate. All of the same principles apply. You can acquire a street example for somewhere in the 5-10k range. For a car that handles rather well, has a great exhaust note, and makes 300hp from the factory - it’s easy to see what makes these cars popular.
Duncan’s 350Z started life as a street car that he purchased all the way back in 2013. Since then he has turned it into his NASA Time Trials competition track car for the TT3 class. Building it up one mod at a time, the build has been a labor of love over the past 9 years. He has tried different tires, brake packages, and suspension set ups along the way. Which is why it’s fascinating to see someone stay committed to a vehicle for such an extended period of time with a constant pursuit to make the car better.
A few highlights of his build:
- Stock 350Z Engine with Cams
- Stoptech Big Brake Kit
- SPL Suspension
- BC Racing Coilovers
- Hawk Brake Pads
- Goodyear Tires
- Gutted with Full Cage
- NISMO GT Differential
- Cooling Upgrades
- Front Splitter & Rear Wing
- Race Louvers Fender Vents
Duncan has always been surrounded by cars. “Motorsports has been in my veins since I was a kid. My family was always drag and street racers. I only started doing competitive driving recently with less than two years of competition under my belt.” He had previously been doing track days prior to turning to NASA and their well known Time Trials series to try his hand against other drivers. With fairly limited experience Duncan states that he “really tries to focus in and pick things up quickly”.
We asked Duncan what he thought the most important modification a driver can make to his or her car? He quickly defrayed from talking about his 350Z and said “It sounds cliche, but the loose nut between the seat and steering wheel. I try to focus more on myself as a driver than the car. I believe driver development is the key to move up. Plus it's a great feeling beating the people and teams that just have money to throw away.”
His tool of choice to improve his driver mod would be data review. “Comparing other people's laps and consistently reviewing my own has made a difference. It's one of the reasons I use Lap Meta. Also just reviewing my own video and seeing what I do wrong and finding new things I can try. Sim racing has also been a massive advantage to help me build strong habits”. We can attest to the benefits sim racing can provide any driver from rookie to experienced. Duncan is certainly focused around improving his craft in any way he can.
A look at Duncan’s Alliance Racing Sim Rig.
Duncan took his 350Z all the way to the NASA National Championship Race at Daytona in 2021 competing in the TT3 class with his 350Z. He finished second, only 1 second slower than the winner who competed in a newer 991 Porsche 911 with aero. Considering the original MSRP of the Porsche was probably double what Duncan currently has invested in his 350Z track build, the results are exceptionally impressive.
Seeing what he has achieved with this platform with a mostly stock powertrain and only focusing on handling and driveability upgrades reveals the true value of what a 350Z has to offer to someone looking to get into the track community.
Moving forward Duncan’s long term plans are to do endurance racing. Whether that be professional or at the semi-pro level in series like AER or WRL. He’s yearning for some wheel to wheel racing action to take the skills he’s learned in time trial competition and apply them towards more serious racing.
We look forward to seeing where Duncan’s career progresses and plan to follow along with all of his fast laps on LapMeta. You can follow his build and efforts on his Instagram account @theallianceracing
Check out his onboard video from Duncan’s favorite track, Barber Motorsports Park on LapMeta HERE.