1978 Datsun 280Z: Finisher Needed

1978 datsun

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For a classic that’s said to be a great driver when restored, these Datsun Z-cars seem to pop up often as cheap projects. This particular example, a 1978 280Z here on eBay, is listed with no reserve and bidding at only $380. My eyes could deceive me, but it appears the seller has addressed most of the bodywork needs, including new floors and frame welded in! The majority of the rust has already been tackled, but the quality of the corrosion repair would require closer inspection. Although it hasn’t been run in 5 years, the seller claims the inline six did run and that the radiator currently maintains good pressure with no coolant leaks. While I’m sure reality is a bit less rosy than the seller describes, this is still certainly cheap enough to serve as a good base for a winter build. The orange paint on the door jambs is all I need to imagine this 280Z repainted and lowered on a set of polished Minilite wheels. Done and done!

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  1. Paul

    Mini liters on a Z? No, libre or mesh. Maybe cosmic.

    If I were to sell my MG, I’d want a Z.

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    • JeffAuthor

      True – some Cosmics would be quite choice on there.

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  2. David Frank DavidMember

    These are fun cars and can be had rather inexpensively. They are low maintainance and still run great even with lots of miles on them. This rust free example, for example, is only $3000.

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    • JeffAuthor

      I was always under the impression the later ones weren’t much fun to drive…true/not true? They are temptingly cheap.

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      • Gary

        I think it was the 280ZX that became bloated and not as much fun.

        I also think the 280Z was simply a 240Z with a larger engine to help make up for the loss of HP due to emissions regulations.

        Mostly going from memory on these comments.

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      • DolphinMember

        I had a ’70 240Z for many years and it was the best performance bang for the buck of any car I had owned. It was stock except for wide mags and Michelin tires, so it handled well for that era, and would easily pull redline in every gear except top.

        A girl I knew thought Z cars were cool, so she bought a brand new 280Z with 5-speed. When I drove it I thought it was a different car. Everything about it was soft—suspension, steering, power delivery. It was quieter and much more refined than the early Z cars, and it even had a fancy (stock) sound system.

        Datsun was very clever. They got the 240Z on enthusiasts’ radar by making it perform, and cheap to buy at around $3600, with not many options available.

        Then Datsun had guys like Bob Sharp race highly modified Z cars and win multiple C Production championships, so the 240Z ended up in lots of performance-oriented ads in the car mags and also on the covers.

        Then a slow march toward refinement began, beginning with the ’73 Z car, which was down on power because of tighter emissions. By the time the 280Z arrived it was a refined GT car, not a street fighter anymore.

        But Datsun kept supporting the 280Z in racing and kept winning championships with the 280Z because the comp cars were from a different planet than the retail 280Zs. Buyers liked the comfort of their street 280Z, and also the performance image the race wins gave the car.

        So your impression is bang on Jeff. A stock 280z is a very different driving car than the early 240Z. But the 280 body is nearly the same as the early 240Z, and except for the bore the 280 block is the same as the 240 block, so someone could change a 280 to be pretty much like an early 240, but you’d need to lower the car, use performance shocks, and change a lot about the engine.

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      • Wayne Thomas

        Any RB25/RB26 or VQ35 engine swap cures any non-funness to drive.

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  3. Tundra/BMW Guy

    David, where is the rust free, for $3000, being advertised?

    Like 0

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