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One Owner: 1978 Datsun 280Z 2+2

Here on craigslist is a resident of Peoria, Arizona that Datsun fans might want to investigate: a one-owner 1978 Datsun 280Z. The asking price is $15,000. I’m always skeptical of low-mileage odometer readings if documentation isn’t available to support the claim, and this car has been repainted and re-upholstered so judging whether the 66,000 miles on the odometer is accurate is even more challenging. The 280Z has a reputation for ruining the 240’s sportiness, but these cars have virtues once you accept them as GTs rather than sports cars. Two body styles were offered: a coupe and a 2+2, and each has its proponents. The longer wheelbase of the 2+2 is said to improve handling especially if you track your car; the coupe just looks better. The 2+2’s rear windows do open; but dang, the coupe still looks better.

Nissan responded to the increasingly onerous emissions regime in the US the same way as most makers: the 280Z received a larger, 2.8 liter inline six with Bosch fuel injection generating a boost in horsepower to 150. Performance wasn’t sparkling since 5 mph bumpers and increased luxury equipment also caused a weight gain. Zero to sixty takes 9.3 seconds, and top speed is 121 mph. But its competitors were suffering downgraded performance as well, and the 280Z still had that long-nosed sporty appearance so it remained popular. During the four years of production, more than 235,000 280Zs were sold. This car is equipped with a three-speed automatic – a shame since a five-speed manual was optional. But on the positive side of the ledger, this engine bay is impressively spiffy.

As noted, the seats have been re-upholstered recently. I would ditch that steering wheel cover, The carpets are clean, the dash has no cracks, and the gauge faces are bright. The cargo area is spotless and the interior panels are perfect. Many of these cars were optioned with T-tops but this one is not.

The trim, lenses, paint, badges – all look near perfect. So it’s not a survivor thanks to the paint and interior work, but it’s still a very nice car. Values have increased thanks to the sometimes outrageous prices that its sibling – the 240Z – brings at auction. Average prices hover at about $16k, but we have to knock this one a bit for the automatic and the 2+2 configuration. As nice as this car is, I’d want a small discount off the asking price here; what do you think?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    After really appreciating the 240Zs it’s sad to see the 260 and the 280s cars. Big attitude change for me. Bought a ’72 out of a catalog probably due to the looks of the car alone. Looks went away after that.

    Like 5
  2. Gary

    Just a couple things in the write up. The manual transmission was standard in 78 and T-Tops were not offered until the ZX in 79. If you could verify the mileage as actual, the price is ok at $15k, but otherwise I would agree the price is a little high for a 2+2 automatic.

    Like 5
  3. Tim

    Never liked the lines of the 2+2 but to each their own. YMMV

    Like 2
  4. Mister Green

    My parents had one of these. I’ll never forget it breaking down on a freeway in the middle of nowhere, and my mom standing there with the hood up, doing what her mechanic told her to do: “Hit the brain with your shoe.” Which sounds dumb… but it worked. One of the first cars to have a brain… which of course, like most brains these days, often needs percussive maintenance.

    Like 4

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