Low Mileage Time Capsule: 1982 Datsun 280ZX

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The history of Nissan’s Z-car is one of Before and After. “Before” began in 1969 with the advent of the 240Z, marketed as a Datsun in the US. An instant success back then thanks to its big, silky, in-line six-cylinder, outstanding handling, swoopy looks, and reasonable price, the 240Z has gathered a fanatical following in the last ten years. The right collector can tell you which 240s had vertical defrost grid lines and at what VIN the horizontal grid started; or when the c-pillar badge changed and the hatch vents were present. Even the one-year 260Z has its fans, but once the 280 arrived, the chronicle of the Z became one of carmaker versus government regulations. Ponderous bumpers were required to meet crash standards, which led to a larger, heavier engine. Fuel injection helped with emissions and power, but after all that, the car was slower than early cars. The 280 ushered in the After period which amounted to acquiescence to lumbering but comfortable Z cars. The first of these was a grand tourer, the 280ZX, eleven inches longer and weighing 600 lbs more than the 240, but sporting luxury seating, softer suspension, and more noise insulation. Despite the fracture from the sporting milieu, the first-year 280ZX sold 86,000 copies – a record for Nissan. Here on eBay is a 1982 Datsun 280ZX, with an asking price of $17,500. The car is located in Merrick, New York. T.J. – thanks for this great tip!

The powerplant is a 2.8-liter six-cylinder featuring fuel injection and 145 hp. This car has a four-speed manual, though many were delivered with automatics. Top speed was about 120 mph, but as noted, zero to sixty times were in the nine-second area, about a second slower than early cars. (One year earlier, the same engine had a lower compression ratio and ten fewer horses.) The seller notes that the odometer reads just 48,000 miles which is believed to be original.

The interior reminds us of the luxury appointments that the ZX was known for, starting with the cushy leather seating. The rear hatch area is neat as a pin and holds the original T-top sleeves. The T-tops themselves are tinted safety glass for an airy cabin feel. The spare is still in place, with its air canister. The seller notes that all records from new are available, including work receipts, books, and manuals. The jack and tool kit also remain with the car.

The seller promises “NO RUST” and the underside is very dry – a miracle in salt-happy New York. This car displays in nearly every way that it has been cherished. While it’s not the sparky performer of its earlier brethren, I’m willing to forgive it for that in return for its outstanding condition. What do you think?

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  1. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    Here’s another from the dusty files. I have an old friend that had this exact car many moons ago. I’m sure he bought it new. I remember, we tried to count the hose clamps once. One cold N.Wis. winter night, some back road, he let ‘er go. To say the performance was exhilarating, would be an understatement. The gauges were orange, and shifted into 5th at 100. Deer are a constant concern, and at that speed, would have sliced one in half. I always say, the Z cars were the Asian XKEs, with none of the trouble,,except one. Like a dare devil,
    Knievels, for example, jump motorcycles through the air, and some health issue kills them. The Z cars were without question, the best Japan had to offer, and as good as they were, no match for the tin worm. Great find.

    Like 11
    • JMB#7

      Howard, he may have shifted into 5th at 100, but as he approached 120 I am willing to bet that he went back down to 4th. My recollection is that 4th gear would top 120, but 5th would bog down at that speed. 5th was good for keeping the rpms down when cruising.

      Like 5
  2. angliagt angliagtMember

    This is like Old Elvis versus Young Elvis –
    the 240Z was a sports car,lean & semi-agile,a sports car.
    The 280ZX was overweight – a touring car.These were the
    “Disco Datsuns”.

    Like 6
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      No sports car here, just a touring car, but why brown paint. Leave that to UPS.

      Like 9
    • Emel

      Yea the 280ZX’s were a whopping 300 lbs more in weight than a 240Z and even more whopping 2 inches wider. Disco my arse !

      Like 2
  3. msheiner Maxwell SheinerMember

    I have a 81 280ZX turbo which unfortunately they only came in automatic that year. It is exhilarating to drive and the quality of the car is outstanding. As much as I love her, a 5-speed would be much more exhilarating. The price seems more or less fair given where the market has been going. It’s got the leather seating services and the five speed both of which make it attractive, although it’s not the most attractive exterior color LOL

    Like 7
  4. Tara

    Whoever is interested, get a shot of the frame where the engine is!!
    Z cars are noted for that to rust, really BAD!!!!!

    Like 2
  5. The Other Chris

    I would rather have 5-speed in brown than auto in any color. The brown looks appropriate for what it is and for representing the time period. Since it’s more of a tourer, I’d actually prefer a 2+2 to fit the whole family (sort of) even though they only look half as good. Someone will get a nice car here.

    Like 3
    • Emel

      I believe the 2 + 2’s were slightly longer…at least they appeared like they were.
      Maybe those were the tourers.

      Brown is ok….Silver metallic was dynamic looking on these.
      or at least on mine it was !

      Like 0
  6. Emel

    Had the first year one, 1979 280ZX.
    Thing ran and ran with only a lifter adjustment once in 200K miles.
    Had to get rid of it, as the rails were rotting, previous owner never
    got it rust-proofed you see. But it only cost me $900 bucks to buy it.

    Since i never had a car like this before….did not realize it wasn’t a sports car.
    But since it only had 2 seats and a 4 or 5 speed. I thought it was.

    I’m glad there are those around…to tell it me wasn’t.
    (well not really, you see I’m a sarcastic sob) lol

    Like 2
    • JMB#7

      It was a sports car. Just not the race car that the 240Z was. I am not the final authority, but the 260Z was the smogged-dog. The 280Z got the Bosch FI, and the 280ZX continued with it. The fuel injection helped it meet emissions without robbing the bulk of the power. The 240Z thru the 280Z were considered the first generation, and the 280ZX was considered the second generation. Negative comments on the ZX has more to do with breaking from prior Z tradition than any shortcoming of it’s own. They were fun reliable sports cars and were adding more luxury just like almost all of the competition at that time.

      Like 3
  7. RickyMember

    I currently have a 1980 280ZX 2+2. Automatic tranny, perfect for this 71 year old man. Peripheral neuropathy doesn’t allow me to clutch anymore. Always get admiring looks and thumbs up whenever I drive it. Started with a 1972 240Z in 1978. Moved up to a 1976 280Z ten years later. Another ten years passed and then got a 1978 280Z. Now have the 1990 280ZX 2+2. The Z cars have mellowed just as I have. Will probably keep this one forever.

    Like 5
    • Jon.in.Chico

      I hear ya, Ricky … I’m 71 also and am always reminded of my left hip replacement when shifting my ’04 350Z Touring Roadster … I’m the original owner, buying it from the Nissan dealer for whom I worked … it’s a great attitude adjuster and will keep it as long as I can keep climbing in and puling myself out … only 108K miles and the same clutch (my ’96 King Cab has 131k with the same clutch)… btw, the 1990 model is a 300ZX – great-looking body style …

      Like 1
  8. Mason Phillips

    I owned an ’82 2+2 and it was a great touring car. Quiet, comfy, great ride and decent gas mileage. Wish I had never sold it. A buddy had a 240Z and they were very different cars, but more fun to drive. I also drove an ’83 Turbo and it seemed much faster than my 2+2. Still seemed like a touring car though.

    Like 2
  9. PRA4SNW

    My buddy had one of these in light blue – popular color. The salty northeast took care of it in no time.

    Like 0
  10. Bamapoppy

    I had a 1971 with a build date in Nov. it had the 240Z badge on the C pillar. Perfect condition. Sold it to buy my ‘76 Corvette back from the woman I’d sold it to. The line to kick me in the butt for selling the Z forms to the right.

    Like 6

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