Z32 Engine ECU Research/modernisation project

Discussion in 'Technical' started by Jeremy, Feb 7, 2024.

  1. Jeremy

    Jeremy New Member

    Hello all,

    I entered the 300zx project club by simply buying an engine (TT) with the intent to eventually put it into a rolling shell. It was going to be as stock as I could make it just to keep things simple.

    I have since recently bought a 1989 Z32 TT 2+2, a bit sooner than I was expecting. It needs a lot of love to bring it back to life. Because it needs a bit of work it got me thinking about things that I could do while I have the engine out. This has turned into needing to do a heap of rust repairs and got me further thinking about what I can do while I have stripped the entire car and giving it a re-spray.....

    To that end, I had two major things I wanted to achieve.

    1) Modernise the engine bay
    2) Modernise the interior/HMI aspect of the car i.e. sensors/cameras/digital guage cluster/infotainment system etc.

    Both of these things I have little to no experience in and I'm hoping there are people here that can help steer me in the right direction. I'm not after bolt on fixes where possible, I would like everythign to be as integrated and deliberate as possible where I can.

    To modernise the engine bay, I was looking at a new ECU. So far I have looked at the Haltech Nexus R3/R5 and a new generic harness or Elite 2500 plus Plug + Play harness adaptor. Does anyone have any experience with these or other options? I want to be able to reduce the sensors, vacuum lines etc that can be modernised using more contemporary solutions. I also would love to add drive-by-wire and all the other functions that go along with a new ECU. For those who know a bit about this, is it worth a whole new harness or is it just as good to use the existing one? What things can I get after to take full advantage of a new ECU?

    I assume to some degree what happens with the Engine ECU will have flow on effects with the second part of my plan, as there would be lots of inputs to any updated dash clusters/infotainment systems etc?

    Has anyone successfully brought a Z32 cabin into the future (now) yet? Does it require its own ECU on a new CAN BUS?

    I'm after :
    • Integrated parking sensors
    • Integrated reverse camera
    • Digital gauge cluster (think modern BMW/mercedes/audi instrument cluster) - customisable digital display that integrates GPS
    • GPS that's integrated into cluster
    • Upgraded steering wheel controls?
    • Integrated HUD, displays GPS/NAV info
    I am fully aware this is a bit of a pipe dream but there are a lot of new technologies like Android Auto that are starting to make this stuff a bit more achievable/affordable. Even if I can't achieve all of this now I want to be set up for it when things come available in the future. Happy to hear anyones experience or advice with any of it.


    MORBOOST Active Member


    have a play with this dash mount website https://makomotorsport.com.au/products/nissan-z32-300zx-dash-mount-custom find the dash that will suit your specs then look at compatible ecus.

    Elite 2500 has dbw functions, and I believe link g4 can be optioned. Polar engineering is making a dbw mount for stock intake manifolds, the nil stock merlin machining manifold uses r35 gtr throttles ect:
    parking sensors are a generic diy kit same as reverse camera, you properly need a double din screen in the radio slot or tablet
    you can use 350z or 370z steering wheel to get additional wheel buttons

    I would get a new harness either way - wiring specialties has options if using a plug and play ecu
  3. rob260

    rob260 Administrator Staff Member

    For ECU and wiring harness unless you have very specific requirements a plug in ECU with a replacement OE style harness will do 99% of what a motorsport ECU with a custom harness will do. Full disclosure yes I sell plug in ECUs and replacement harnesses so take that with as large a grain of sale as you like, however when you start looking at what you actually want an ECU to do you'll be quite surprised.

    Regardless of what ECU you fit it is going to need a coolant temperature sensor, a throttle position sensor, a crank position sensor, and a cam position sensor. Just like the stock ECU or a plug in aftermarket ECU. The advantage with the plug in ECU is that it retains the factory sensors (yes, this is an advantage...). If you want to update the sensors it's just a matter of changing the connector and updating the settings in the ECU. Your vacuum lines are used to provide reference signal to the fuel pressure regulator, the fuel damper, your blow off valves or recirculating valves, and as a pressure source for your boost control solenoid, and a pressure reference for a MAP sensor. Ie nothing to do with which ECU you fit.

    20 years ago plug in ECUs were typically quite limited but that is no longer the case and unfortunately this seems to be widely misunderstood.

    From a harnessing point of view. I'm in the process of building up a harness to suit my motorsport ECU (Emtron KV8) and DBW throttle bodies (among other things). So far I'm in for

    - Approx 50 hours and $800 in education
    - At least $4000 in tooling (DMC and rennsteig crimping tools, ideal strippers, heat gun, insertion/removal tools, suitable vices)
    - At least $1000 in materials (boots, solder sleeves, connectors, sheathing) with plenty more to spend (the actual wires that will make up the harness, power supply, etc)
    - Probably 30 hours in planning, researching (finding the right connectors, boots, pins) and planning and documentation (the last one is a real time suck)

    This is without touching on the cost of components (the ECU, various sensors, injectors, coils, all that).

    You could do it for less, but I want to build a professional motorsport spec (nobody who knows what they are talking about talks about milspec...) that I can rely on. It would probably be a little chaper to take it to a professional workshop if you're going that way as you wouldn't outlaying for tools and training... but a couple weeks' work at workshop rates adds up pretty quick, too.

    Anyway I'm just outlining my experience of the scope of the project you're suggesting. You might be quite happy taking something like this on. Or perhaps $1200 for an off the shelf harness starts looking pretty good if it will do what you realistically need it to do.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2024
  4. NI85

    NI85 Active Member

    If you're after full features. Maybe try and find a wrecked luxury car that has them and transfer it's harnesses and components. Decent Modification is costly and time consuming anyway.

    Or buy a Tesla model 3 and put Nissan badges:D which is no more silly than Ferrari badges on the 300zx. Also many manufactures do badge swapping anyway.
    Saw a Tesla model 3 yesterday with a spacex badge... obviously an Elon Musk fan.
    geron likes this.
  5. ivan129

    ivan129 Active Member

    Hi Jeremy... I'm sure all of us have had big plans for our project cars however the reality is it takes time, money, tools, skills and a workshop and often you end up reworking the mod because you find that the outcome doesn't live up to your expectations or you come up with a better idea.
    There's a saying, the best way to eat an elephant is a small piece at a time. So, take on the parts of the project you have the time and money to get finished, drive the car and then go for the next step of the modifications. My experience with a Zed is that once you start modifying you never realy get to the end. I tell my friends that my car is a living project in that it just keeps evolving, but if you enjoy projects then I guess thats part of the fun. Driving it too also brings a lot of satisfaction.
    I've spent years playing with my toy, too much time in the shed and not enough on the road. I hope your gets some road miles b4 you get too old or poor to enjoy. Good luck
  6. geron

    geron National Petroleum Equipm

    If you are rebuilding the Z, I suggest to do a few 'easy' small deletes to the VG30DETT that can make it bullet proof / never have to worry about things.
    Below is the minimum, I'm sure there are other things but it's what I've done to mine and haven't had any issues for a very, very long taaaaaaaaaame, 10+yrs.
    For example,
    - delete / simplify the under plenum water hoses and upgrade the water hose at the rear of the engine that goes to the LHS turbo. This particular hose can cause a big headache once it fails, a thick rubber hose can be used, it will last pretty much forever!
    - upgrade as many of the water & PCV hoses to silicone (they don't go hard over time and easy to work with) Z1 sell them as a package.
    - grind the plenum to allow room for easy removal/installation of injectors!
    - if you have a series 1 engine, use series 2 Injectors with the o-ring adaptors and get series 1 to series 2 electrical adaptors and all plug and play, no stress. Z1 / Consept Z perf.
    - the recirculation valves can also be upgraded to hold boost pressure better, easy job and well worth it. Z1 again do a kit for this.
    - stock turbos can be upgraded with a 360° thrust bearing (ebay) and a 'step seal' at the rear housing to prevent oil leakeage in the future, they will be 100% reliable, pretty much for the life of the engine! - do it yourself, no need for turbo re-balance, mark the shaft and the compressor wheel before taking it apart. Also mark the front compressor and rear compressor housings in relation to eachother for easy re-assembly.

    I know that the above is not the latest tech stuff that you are enquiring about but since you are there mucking around, they are worth while updates and IMO very important.

    As for Android auto, a 'good' Chinese head unit with 4mb ram and 32 or 64mb memory will be more than enough, I have one in my Z. Need to make sure before buying to ask the seller that Android auto works right out of the box and not to have to install an app for it to function.

    Alternatively, a Kenwood unit with Android Auto will work amazingly well. I have installed one in the Subaru and it's awesome.

    As for all else, $$$$ or as suggested previously, just buy a TSLA!

    Be realistic and enjoy the Z :)
  7. rob260

    rob260 Administrator Staff Member

    And if you don't want to pay shipping from the states I also have all of this for sale from Sydney. Maybe I need better stickers or something?

    MORBOOST Active Member

    Its not stickers, Ill let you know what I do for a true customer experience. Any time I need a part, normal maintenance things grudge purchase. I check ebay first dont find what I need remember rgs performance check your site find what I want "yes In stock" then I think what else does he have (while I have it apart) end up going through adding only in stock items to cart, get carried away it comes to 20k, get heart palpitations - dont sign up - delete browsing history - walk away. If you had your listings on ebay the most pressing thing would be taken care of.

Share This Page