I AM ESSENTIAL: Steven Sampaga's 2006 Nissan 350Z

I AM ESSENTIAL: Steven Sampaga's 2006 Nissan 350Z

Photography by Kerry Guevara, Steven Sampaga, @mautsukuda, Randi Bentia.

Steven Sampaga has always had a love for Nissans and the whole Z family. He told himself one day he would own a Nissan Z. It was difficult being a broke college student going to nursing school and working at a yogurt shop, but he managed to save enough to afford a 2006 Nissan 350Z. That is when Sampaga named her Sally.

The passion as a car enthusiast started at a young age. "I would go over to my friends' houses and play with our RC cars," Sampaga remembers, "and we would build lowrider models, and race in Need for Speed Underground." As he got older, Sampaga attended many car shows and one that stood out was Hot Import Nights. "I can recall seeing an all-carbon fiber 350Z while The Game was preforming on stage," he remembers. It was at that moment he realized he wanted to build his Z. "I had a dream and wanted to make it a reality."

After graduating nursing school, he told his best friend Donato Cruz that he had a lot of plans for the Z and wanted to build it. "We had worked on previous builds together and I can say he is a mechanical genius," Sampaga expresses. They started taking Sally more serious in the Summer of 2015 and worked on it non-stop.

"It started with bodywork, bagging it, and then wheels done all in my garage," he states. They moved forward and had everything he could polish on the VQ. "I added all the bolt-ons that were not only functional, but also gave performance gains," Sampaga mentions. "Even after doing all the work we had done, I still wasn't fully satisfied." He wanted more power.

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On January 2017, Sampaga decided he wanted to do an engine swap. After hours of research, he realized how much work had to go into a swap but he was ready. "Donato was on board with the build," he states, "and we started gathering tools we needed, such as a engine crane to a TIG welder." They decided on using an LS3 6.2, Motec M130 as the ECU GPR software and Motec C125 race logging kit, Tremec T56 Magnum and Sikky parts to have everything set in.

What inspires Sampaga to build the 2006 Nissan 350Z is his family and the love of being a car enthusiast. "Donato is my best friend and I call him family, my brother," he states. "We share the same love for cars and it keeps the passion alive." After putting in hours of work in his tiny garage, bleeding from cuts and sharing good times, he says it's worth it after seeing the finished product. "It's the support of all my friends and family that keeps the car community thriving," he states. This will be a lifelong journey and he's excited to share it with the world.

"I am a Registered Nurse and Nurse Manager," Sampaga mentions. He works with dialysis patients. "It’s been tough managing the supplies and empowering the team to adjust to the new COVID-19 changes." Throughout this coronavirus pandemic, his team has grown stronger and he has worked on some areas of opportunity. "I have become a stronger leader and appreciate all my fellow medical professionals,"Sampaga expresses.

28 Steven Sampaga 2006 Nissan 350Z pasmag tuner battlegrounds


Owner: Steven Sampaga
Location: Bakersfield, CA
Vehicle: 2006 Nissan 350Z
Horsepower: 500 (estimated)
Club: N/A


Facebook: Steven Sampaga
Instagram: @stevsam


  • LS3 6.2L swap
  • FAST LSXR Intake Manifold 102MM
  • FAST LSX High-Flow Billet Fuel Rails
  • FAST Fuel Rail Lines
  • FAST Ignition Coils
  • Nick Williams Performance Throttle Body 102MM
  • Edelbrock Fuel Injectors
  • Moroso Valve Covers
  • Moroso Coil Pack Mounting Brackets
  • Billet Specialties Premium Tru Trac LS Pulley System
  • NOS Nitrous Bottle 10lbs


  • GReddy exhaust w/ cutouts


  • MOTEC M130 ecu
  • MOTEC C125 Race Logging Kit
  • NOS Nitrous Gauge
  • AutoMeter Carbon Fiber Gauge Gauge
  • Boost Gauge


  • TREMEC Magnum T56
  • Sikky mount kit
  • Sikky driveshaft
  • Tomei differential


  • Cosmis Racing wheels


  • Hawk Performance rotors


  • SPL camber kit
  • Cusco strut bar


  • Seibon Fiber Hood/Fenders
  • AeroCatch Hood Latch
  • Battle Aero CF Wing
  • APR Front Splitter
  • Password JDM Winglets
  • Nismo V2 Front Bumper
  • Nismo V2 Side Skirts
  • Nismo Exhaust
  • 370z Side Markers
  • Mastergrade Carbon Fiber Rear Diffuser


  • Spec D headlights
  • Custom interior lighting


  • Custom headliner diamond wrap
  • Tremec Shift Knob
  • Grip Royal Steering Wheel
  • NRG Quick Release
  • NRG Short Hub
  • Enjuku K Racing Harness Bar
  • Bride Vios III Racing Bucket Seats
  • Cusco K Bar and 6-point roll cage
  • Takata harnesses


  • Meguiar's
  • Cosmis Racing
  • SoCal Zs


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