1981 Datsun 280ZX 2017-07-13T12:38:53+00:00

Project Description

OVERVIEW

Have you longed for a vintage sports car, but couldn’t get over the impracticalities? Perhaps you fear temperamental mechanicals, discomfort on trips longer than 10 miles, or maybe a general lack of refinement. If you fit into this bucket, you can now sleep soundly. The Datsun 280Z exhibits the enviable qualities of its predecessor the 240Z, while bringing more comfort, finesse and practicality. The 280Z is subdued yet sporting. Perfectly suited for a trip to the lake or running errands around town.

In its heyday, the 280Z was Japan’s sports car. It rivaled the offerings of the Germans, Italians and British, yet did so with everyday reliability.   Its 2.8-liter inline six is silky smooth and keeps you grinning right up to redline. It emits a sonorous roar that reminds you that the car means business. Once on the open road you’ll find the right rhythm for the suspension, and you’ll begin to wind the engine out a little bit, realizing just how much fun you’re having.

This 12,000 mile, one-owner example still has that showroom-fresh smell. The soft, leather seats are incredibly comfortable on longer journeys. The tight cockpit fits around you like a glove. You can tell this is a driver-focused car, especially because all of the gauges, lined up neatly on the dash, are tilted slightly towards the driver. All the better when you’re trying not to alarm your passenger as you blast down your favorite road.

While it may lack the broad appeal of something like a Mustang, or the nimbleness of a tiny British roadster, the Datsun 280ZX has a unique appeal all of its own. It doesn’t come with any baggage or pretenses. It asks you, as the driver, to extract what you want from it. Perhaps best of all, regardless of what you want to use it for, the 280ZX can and will deliver the goods.

OVERVIEW

Have you longed for a vintage sports car, but couldn’t get over the impracticalities? Perhaps you fear temperamental mechanicals, discomfort on trips longer than 10 miles, or maybe a general lack of refinement. If you fit into this bucket, you can now sleep soundly. The Datsun 280Z exhibits the enviable qualities of its predecessor the 240Z, while bringing more comfort, finesse and practicality. The 280Z is subdued yet sporting. Perfectly suited for a trip to the lake or running errands around town.

In its heyday, the 280Z was Japan’s sports car. It rivaled the offerings of the Germans, Italians and British, yet did so with everyday reliability.   Its 2.8-liter inline six is silky smooth and keeps you grinning right up to redline. It emits a sonorous roar that reminds you that the car means business. Once on the open road you’ll find the right rhythm for the suspension, and you’ll begin to wind the engine out a little bit, realizing just how much fun you’re having.

This 12,000 mile, one-owner example still has that showroom-fresh smell. The soft, leather seats are incredibly comfortable on longer journeys. The tight cockpit fits around you like a glove. You can tell this is a driver-focused car, especially because all of the gauges, lined up neatly on the dash, are tilted slightly towards the driver. All the better when you’re trying not to alarm your passenger as you blast down your favorite road.

While it may lack the broad appeal of something like a Mustang, or the nimbleness of a tiny British roadster, the Datsun 280ZX has a unique appeal all of its own. It doesn’t come with any baggage or pretenses. It asks you, as the driver, to extract what you want from it. Perhaps best of all, regardless of what you want to use it for, the 280ZX can and will deliver the goods.

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A LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW

When it debuted in 1969, the Datsun 240Z was a game changer. It stirred up the sports car climate previously dominated by German, British and Italian competition. Whereas the others may have offered a slightly more emotional experience, the Datsun offered something the others couldn’t. It was reliable. Oh and it was also affordable.

When tasked to build a predecessor to the highly successful 240Z, Datsun engineers questioned how they could improve upon an already good thing. They did so modestly. The second generation car shared the same long-hood fastback profile of it’s predecessor, accentuated by a hood bulge and sugar-scoop headlight buckets. If delivered the fun of the first generation car, with more refinement and comfort. To put it simply, it grew up.

A LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW

When it debuted in 1969, the Datsun 240Z was a game changer. It stirred up the sports car climate previously dominated by German, British and Italian competition. Whereas the others may have offered a slightly more emotional experience, the Datsun offered something the others couldn’t. It was reliable. Oh and it was also affordable.

When tasked to build a predecessor to the highly successful 240Z, Datsun engineers questioned how they could improve upon an already good thing. They did so modestly. The second generation car shared the same long-hood fastback profile of it’s predecessor, accentuated by a hood bulge and sugar-scoop headlight buckets. If delivered the fun of the first generation car, with more refinement and comfort. To put it simply, it grew up.

WORD ON THE STREET

“In the early 90’s, I used to own a clone of this car, a 1980 280Zx which also had about 25k miles on it at the time. I really wanted an ‘authentic’ 240Z, but even way back then, their values were already appreciating. A 10-ish year old 280ZX was the cheapest way to get into the Z-car world. While I missed the purity and visceral nature of the original 240Z cars, I consoled myself with the much higher standard of ‘luxury’ of the 280ZX (and I also thought the T-tops were fun). It was great fun to drive, very usable as a daily driver, and truth be told, an experience reminiscent of the purer 240Z cars. I felt like James Bond driving it (even though, to my knowledge, the movie character never drove a Z-car in any of the films, I squinted and pretended it was a poor guy’s Aston Martin – even though my girlfriend and future wife at the time disagreed).”

AnalogMan, BringATrailer.com

“Inside, if you like accessories and plush accommodations, all is well in the 280-ZX. The seating and steering-wheel positions are the best of the five cars, and the multitudinous controls and adjustments are just as well done. The most important addition to the Datsun’s comparatively mundane, if practical, exterior is a dashing set of quadrangularly bladed alloy wheels. Except for these whirling eye-catchers, the 280-ZX’s long suit may be its stealthy ability to blend easily with the madding crowd when faced with police power, something none of our other sports/GT aspirants can do worth ducky dung.”

Larry Griffin, Car and Driver

“Yet we suspect that these refinements are what allowed the 280ZX to find a wider audience. Rather than feeling like some bare-bones sports car, the ZX hit the personal-luxury zeitgeist head-on, while offering a far more distinctive look than so many other efforts. Making the ZX look an awful lot like the outgoing, original Z was a double-edged yuzuri dogu: It gave the new car a familiar look that was instantly recognizable to anyone with a pulse, but it also may have foisted a set of expectations on the ZX that it was never designed to satisfy.

There’s also the notion that the classics had something of a resurgence in the late ’70s and early ’80s–just about the time when most car companies had given up on anything sporty in their lineups. Front-wheel drive was all the rage, and while mags back in the day insist that rear-drive was for the dinosaurs, they continued to sell: Chevy’s Corvette and Pontiac’s Trans Am, both long in the tooth at that point, were among the sportiest offerings available from their respective makers that year, and were down significantly in power from earlier seasons–yet both had record sales years in 1979. (You may also recall that the Mustang II of the mid ’70s, the one decried as little more than a reskinned Pinto, sold more than a million units over its half-decade of life.) The 280ZX sold more than 100,000 units in its debut season–another record.

So, what to make of the ZX? As a point-and-squirt sports car, which it was never meant to be, it’s not nearly primal or urgent enough. Fans of the original Z will see this as a failure. Yet its sales numbers don’t back that judgment up: As a GT car, as something to eat up vast distances in relative comfort, as what Nissan designed it to be in the first place, the ZX hits its mark.”

Jeff Koch, Hemmings

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