One of 80 Made: 1983 Spartan II Neoclassic

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The neo-classic movement was a tremendous force in the automotive marketplace at one time, leading to the creation of all sorts of shockingly expensive, assembly line-built monstrosities that the rich and famous seemingly flocked to. Nowadays, they aren’t worth anything near what they once sold for, but seemingly still have enough of a following that they always find new homes. This model – called a Spartan II Neoclassic – is actually based not a Fiero or a C4 Corvette, but a Datsun 280ZX Turbo from the late 80s. That’s a shock, as these grotesque expressions of wealth are almost always based on American-made models. The seller says this Spartan listed here on craigslist has just 40,000 original miles, and he’s asking $24,900.

Honestly, I’ve written about the different generations of the Z car numerous times, but I didn’t recognize the roofline as being from Nissan’s premier sports car when first looking at it. But, once you see it, it’s kind of hard to ignore, as those chrome door handles and T-top roof are clearly from an early-80s 280ZX. Aside from this minor detail, there’s no way you’d accuse this car of being anything other than its own design. It’s hard to believe there’s a homely Nissan under this swoopy skin, which clearly was trying to draw a direct line between 1980s Miami to the era in which the great Gatsby presided over the Hamptons. And speaking of those two locales, this Spartan could fit in well with either community.

Bam – here it is. This is where you suddenly realize you’re not in a 1980s GM product but in the cockpit of one of Japan’s most predominant sports coupes. The three air vents in the center of the dash and the headunit / equalizer display make no attempt to hide their origins, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Z cars always had a good looking interior, and this one is improved further with an aftermarket three-spoke steering wheel. The leather buckets appear to be in excellent condition, and the same goes for the crack-free dash and clean carpets. The old-school analog gauges are a clear sign this is an older Z; the later ones had a more modern cluster and in some cases, a digital readout.

With just under 41,000 miles on the clock, this Spartan is like many of the other oddball luxo-cruisers that seemingly were bought and never used, either out of plans to release them as a low-mileage collector’s item or because eventually the realization set in that this was not the kind of car you wanted to be seen driving every day, or at least not after 1991. The seller reports that this is not a kit car, but rather an assembly-line built model that wasn’t put together in someone’s garage. I suppose so, but with a body built around an existing car, and a turbocharged drivetrain from that same vehicle, this Spartan seems like it’s more in between a kit car and a production model than anything else. Would you drive it?

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  1. alphasudMember

    I would think a car like this has an extremely limited audience and I mean extremely! Of course I could never imagine a Ford Pinto would have its day so you never know maybe someday these will be sought after.

    Like 4
    • BGinAK

      I would honestly prefer a Pinto van.

      Like 2
  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    Good write-up Jeff. I’m not sure I would have used the adjective “tremendous” in the first sentence, but the rest of that sentence, and the whole write-up, is spot-on. I’m with alphasud, the market for these has to be extremely limited. I have no idea what is a reasonable price, but it seems like it would be lower than this ask.

    Like 4
  3. Mike

    Yeesh, that entire front end needs a redesign. Surprised that it doesn’t have a super garish RR rip-off hood ornament.

    Like 2
  4. Igor

    I wonder how recent the photos are. Picture #9 on the Craig’s List ad has a “sold” sticker on the windshield.

    Like 1
  5. Carl R Bacon Jr

    They must have moved on from Datsun, and went to GM as my uncle has a ’85 (Johnson) Phantom that has the identical body parts, but on a ’85 Camaro. My uncle is powered by a tuned port 350 with a automatic. I had to change a motor mount on it and it is quite interesting to say the least. I wouldn’t say cobbled, but not highly engineered.

    Like 2
  6. nlpnt

    Best thing about this car is the dual fuel gauge (Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik just did an article on them) – the separate readout for the last quarter-tank required a separate float and sender and a complete separate circuit.

    Of course, that’s also available in a stock 280ZX, which is a far more attractive package imo.

    Like 2
  7. Tim M

    No, no, and hell, no. Hideous! Didn’t Steve Martin drive one of these the Jerk?!?

    Like 4
  8. JCAMember

    I would love to drive this onto the first tee at Bushwood Country Club

    Like 10
  9. charlieMember

    Would fit in at Mar a Lago.

    Like 13
  10. JS

    This is begging for a bucket of oily rags to start a garage fire.

    Like 5
  11. DeeBee

    It’s a Neo- Something- but, “classic” is certainly not the word. I’d say it’s time to dig a bit deeper into the thesaurus to find a more fitting noun. Possibly “stomachache”?

    Like 3
    • Graham Clayton


      Like 0
  12. Mike Morgan

    It sold for $27,500 at Mecum, Kissimmee in 2018, then sold again at Barrett/Jackson, Palm Beach the same year for $20,900.

    Like 5
  13. Malcolm Boyes

    Its so utterly appalling that I’d just love to have it. There is no way someone is going to take you seriously tooling around in this..but what fun..the antithesis of my VW Thing!!

    Like 2
  14. BGinAK

    I never understood why anyone would want to buy such a hideous automobile.
    They belong in the movies (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) or better still, in cartoons (101 Dalmations).

    In closing, I have always claimed that I would drive anything, and in over 50 years of legal driving, I have managed to drive anything including a snowmachines, a double steering axle bus, drag car, exotics, tracked military vehicle, large backhoe and even a 150,000 ton tanker, but – I wouldn’t be seen driving this monstrosity without a Richard Nixon mask on.

    And it would have to be at night on a lone desert highway – with no witnesses.

    Like 5
  15. Steve Clinton

    To drive this monstrosity you need to wear a kerchief tied at the neck, an open shirt showing a gold medallion and a hairy chest, and a sporty cap.

    Like 4
  16. MDW66

    If I had a condo in Del Boca Vista I would have to get this car

    Like 10
    • JCAMember

      Unfortunately, the condos are all sold out at Del Boa Vista so you can’t move there

      Like 1
  17. DavidLMember

    “these grotesque expressions of wealth ”
    Finally, the words to describe these “neo-classical” automotive gargoyles.
    Having said that would be interested to see it rat-rodded?

    Like 1
    • Steve Clinton

      Uh oh. You’re gonna piss Kenn off! LOL

      Like 0
      • Charles F TuckerMember

        It IS a rat rod, as it sits, just a very nice one. Rat rods do not have to be ugly, although most are. The problem with this is the size, it looks OK in a picture, but on the Datsun chassis it is a lot smaller than a ’30’s car of US manufacture with the same (well less exaggerated) lines. But it is like the dog catching the car it was chasing, once you get it, what do you do with it? The Australian 2 seater is far more practical and won’t distract other drivers. “Look at that, Dad” I can hear my kids saying, back in the day.

        Like 0
  18. Kenn

    You naysayers probably would be equally disparaging of drivers of Duesenbergs, Buggaties, early Mercedes sports cars, etc. (Yes, I know the spellings are incorrect. I just get annoyed at the opinions expressed here on vehicles that don’t meet the standards of the common folk, so don’t take the time to correct spelling errors.) I would drive this car with pride, and bask in the smiles of those who see me. And be happy that they enjoy something different than a muscle car which looks like any other car to them until you raise the hood to show a big engine. Which non-muscle car fans wouldn’t appreciate anyway.

    Like 7
    • Steve Clinton

      Everyone is entitled to share their opinion. That’s what makes this country great. Those that disagree should just ignore the comments they don’t like and move on.

      Like 4
    • Steve R

      There is a difference, those are real and a product of their time. This is fake and doesn’t stand for anything. If someone had a modernized interpretations of the real deal, I’d feel the same way.

      Steve R

      Like 3
      • Charles Sawka

        Even Glen Prey Auburns ?

        Like 0
    • Terry J

      Reminds me of the car in the movie “The Magic Christian” with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr a few decades ago. Remember anyone? :-) Terry J

      Like 0
    • DavidLMember

      No. Those cars were unique and endeavoring to be original and unique. The problem w/ the Spartan, Excalibur, et al is that they’re taking the best(?) parts of these old classics and smashing them all together to make … I’m not sure. That’s what’s troubling for me as they’ve taken some of my favorite parts of the classics and tried to create something that ends up just not working stylewise, e.g. the faux Mercedes front end, the fender mounted spare tires, landau arms and created a stylistic hodgepodge that ignores scale and size.

      Like 0
  19. Winfield Wilson

    Well, it’s not the ugliest neo I’ve seen. At least it doesn’t have VW bug turn signals. 😋

    Like 0
  20. CJinSD

    Those “three air vents” across the dashboard are actually an oil pressure gauge, a turbo boost gauge, and a digital clock.

    Like 2
  21. Terry J

    They don’t let just any car into the tents at Mecum or Barrett/Jackson, Palm Beach so to buy one for under $25,000 ? Regardless of your personal taste we live in an age where AMC Pacers & Gremlins are desirable collectors items, so by that standard ( Bizarre is the new COOL) this Spartan is a great find. I’d drive it (and a Pacer / Gremlin). :-) Terry J

    Like 3
    • Steve Clinton

      You’d probably get more attention driving a Spartan than driving a Pacer or Gremlin! LOL (I would choose the AMC over that ‘look-at-me’ car any day!)

      Like 2
  22. David Miraglia

    Not one of my favorites, garish, ugly and forgettable. Never liked them even back when. My old favorite Lincoln Mark Five had more class than this abomination.

    Like 1
  23. Dave S.

    This isn’t what I’d normally would be looking for …. but I’m going against the common opinion here and say I’d like to own this car and I’d have alot of fun with it.

    Like 2
  24. chrlsful

    Mr. s Clinton’n Charlie hit dat nail head 4 me….
    (“open shirt”, etc) ( Mar-a-lago)
    “Liberace car” , some very large families who live N. of Boston (North Shore).
    Weren’t there several of these types (low production, 1/2 copy, lrg motors) in the ’70s and 80s?
    Now we have just had a long effort that passed – the OK for low production ‘classic car copies” to be marketed (a la Mr.Sawka’s comment). Let’s hope they are ‘as good as the real thing’. Porsche sc (bathtub), MGTD, Cord 812 (coffin nose) & others are made today as it is. My wish? to have some big brother support for R&D on the EV so as to catch-up/surpass the other nations.

    Like 1
  25. Richard Wilson

    Set up for auto x would be fun. Always wanted to put a healthy motor n manual under one of these big behemoths and have some fun on the track.

    Like 0
  26. Geoffrey Ehrlichman

    characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice.
    “books that people buy and display ostentatiously but never actually finish”

    Like 1
  27. Jcs

    The only place this car is in its comfort zone is South Florida.

    Cars like these went for stupid money back in the day.

    Copious cocaine will do that to you.

    Like 2
  28. James Edward Jordan

    I own one that I picked up for $4500 cash from an estate sale. One owner all original 45k miles… I LOVE IT and everyone that sees it is completely in love with it too. I have 15 cars in my collection and this one is always a head turner over the muscle cars and the 50s classics…no one looks at my stupid expensive, high maintenance italian and German sports cars anymore. They all look the same. Mine came off the assembly line in CA with etched glass …yes etched decorative glass side windows and rear windows!! All black with chrome and stops people in their tracks. I turn down 25-35k offers everything I am at a show.

    Like 4
    • Andrea

      I really don’t understand the over the top hate for this car. I know people have different opinions but these comments are just so ugly and judgmental. I found my 85′ Spartan II in the middle of a desert town for $2,500.00. It needs some body work and a fresh coat of paint but it runs great! I LOVE this car. I fell in love the moment I saw the photo on craigslist. Even in it’s ugly state I get nothing but compliments and everyone seems to enjoy chatting about it.

      Like 2
    • Corkey G

      I have owned mine for 23 yrs. Every local car show, brings home an award. People line up to inspect it and ask it’s History. I refer to it as a Pump Wagon!

      Like 0
  29. JAMES

    i have a 1980 spartan 1 and i love it . a person who talks bad about your car is a person who has nothing else to do but to complain.

    Like 2
  30. Mike

    Our company had the contract to build these in 81-83. Built on brand new 280zx Turbo 2+2’s at the time, it was stripped down, front frame extended, suspension beefed up, rear hatch cut off and body panels were built of fiberglass, attached painted and reassembled then sent back to Spartan to be trimmed out after being hand pinstriped by Keith. What you may now see as a hideous vehicle was, at the time we were building them, quite sought after. We couldn’t keep up with demand. They were sold mostly to rich and famous people at them time for 49K or more through Datsun dealers if I remember correctly which was a chunk of money in the early 80’s. Love it or hate it, there was a place for it at one time. After the 280zx it was retooled to the 300ZX with many more sold on that platform. Sure wish I knew where all those brand new steering wheels, hoods, fenders, hatches, bumpers, rear interior panels, etc. went after we sent them back to Spartan Comp. Probably got trashed!

    Like 2

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