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Garage Find: 1978 Datsun 280Z

What’s better than a 70s sports car in period colors? A 70s sports car in period colors wearing an awesome stripe kit! This 1978 Datsun 280Z recently emerged from supposedly long-term garage storage and still looks pretty strong – though there is some rust lurking in spots. Still, for a manual transmission Z car, this one looks pretty tempting. Find it here on craigslist for $5,500 in Southern California, and go here if it disappears.

From this photo, you can see evidence of rust in the lower rear quarter. It appears to start at the rear bumper mounts, which we would remove anyway to fit slimmer bumpers. The aftermarket wheels would also have to be stripped, with something classic like Panasports left in their place. The seller says the inline-six does run but needs a “tune up”; as the Datsun has been on Californa’s non-op status, it seems likely this was parked due to running issues.

And even if it was, the 280Z was seemingly loved all the while. The interior is in surprisingly excellent condition, with the exception of the aggressive steering wheel cover. The seating surfaces look great, as do the door panels. We’re glad to see the manual transmission here, as it’s not uncommon to find these grand tourers saddled with an automatic. The dash doesn’t appear hacked up but some heat-related cracking wouldn’t surprise us; the console looks great and the backseat unused.

As noted, there is rust on the lower sills of the 280Z. This could be due to a damp storage environment or possibly coming from further north up along the Pacific Coast. From this angle, it looks surface-level in nature; hopefully, it hasn’t also been munching on the subframe or other chassis components. The car looks dry enough overall that this is hopefully contained to the areas we can see. $5,500 isn’t unrealistic, but there’s also plenty of these cars out there without rust for not much more money.


  1. JohnM

    Priced decently, and that color/graphics package is no doubt first rate, but if you’re going to drive in anger rather than just cruise the boulevards the 240/260 is really the way to go.

    • Sheldon Braffman

      Agree with you about a 240. They were a Vette eater. The worst thing about the 70’s “Z’s” is that they were rust buckets. That’s why you don’t see many on the road.

  2. Rx7turboII

    No way no how. Not for a 2+2 model with that kind of rust. I’ve owned dozens of Z cars since 1984 and everyone ended up with the shock tower punching through the hood after hitting a big pothole because of rust. The next one if their is to be one, will be mint and $$….lol

  3. 8banger dave Member

    Agreed. Zs are cool but the 2+2 ain’t for me – keep rear seats for a Caprice or some Caddy. And agreed again, the 240/260 is a better car for many reasons, the lack of hideous oversized bumpers being one…I kick myself every day for selling my clean/rust-free 240…

  4. joeinthousandoaks

    I too sold a super nice 240Z in 1991 to pay for my honeymoon. At least I still have my beautiful bride!

    • Steve M

      Me too…..Orange over black with slotted mags, should have never sold it.

  5. Frank

    2+2=No. Never understood why they made the 2+2, it never looked right. Was it just for North America? Have owned a 76 & 77 280’s and an 83 ZX but always wished I had a 240.

  6. curt

    To me it look like the bottom plastic cover of the steering column is gone and all the wires are just hanging…it could an electrical problem that put it in the garage…

  7. Beatnik Bedouin

    I’d be concerned about the rust that can’t be seen and wonder if this car came from somewhere where the roads were salted in winter?

    Back in the ’70s, I used to race on Mulholland Dr in Los Angeles and the 5-mph-bumper equipped Datsun Z cars were known as ‘flippers’ due to their being horribly under-damped and having so much weight out on their extremities. They turned turtle with alarming regularity.

    Given the choice, I’d rather have a 240Z, especially as this one is a 2+2…

  8. Gay Car Nut

    I remember the Datsun Z car. I’ve always found the 2+2 model Datsun Z more attractive than the fastback version.

    Like 1
  9. Geo164s

    What’s better than a 70s sports car in period colors? A 70s sports car in period colors not wearing a hideous stripe kit!

  10. SoloRideZX

    Yeb..another classic color..if it’s orginal then repaint and shine..2+2 is way stretchy The Z..i think the coupe is better since its sport car;well it’s personal preference..the price is not cheap nor expensive if the car need fee touchs..i own midnight Blue 280ZxT coupe but the first generation were icons,..

  11. George

    Had several, and worked on many.pretty much bullet-proof drivetrain,many electrical issues.

  12. Tricky

    The ad days ‘V6’…what the..? Nice cars but much prefer the lighter sportier 240Z

  13. Ehren Jacobs

    I had a 1977 280z Champaign with white interior. It was kind of fem but I still miss it.

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