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Simply Stunning: 1978 Datsun 280Z

Datsun often claimed that the Jaguar E-Type did not influence it when designing its Z-Car range, although a brief look at the styling and engineering makes that statement hard to fathom. They shared many of the same styling cues, with both also featuring an excellent six-cylinder engine and four-wheel independent suspension. The price was the most apparent difference between the pair, with cars like this 1978 280Z significantly more affordable than the iconic British classic. Our feature car is a two-owner survivor that presents superbly. There is little to criticize about its condition or presentation, making it a turnkey proposition for its new owner. The seller has listed the 280Z here on Craigslist in Phoenix, Arizona. It could be yours merely by handing them $54,450.

Cars like this 280Z demonstrate how rapidly the Japanese car industry evolved during the 1960s. Manufacturers like Datsun spent the early post-war years producing re-engineered versions of vehicles from European manufacturers like Austin, but they proved to be fast learners. Their cars were typically heavier than the donors upon which they were based, but it didn’t take long for them to produce cars with a build quality that became the envy of the motoring world. However, in 1969, Datsun decided to demonstrate that it could build something more exciting than an affordable shopping trolley, with the original 240Z taking the world by storm. It evolved into the 260Z in 1974, with the 280Z arriving in 1975 as the final version of the First Generation Z-Car range. Our feature car rolled off the showroom floor in 1978, with its original owner electing to order it in stunning Code 306 Silver Metallic. They treated it to a repaint in its original shade in 2007, with the seller becoming the car’s custodian and second owner approximately fifteen years ago. They treated the Datsun to a color sand and polish in 2022, returning the paint to a sparkling state. There is none of the patchiness that is often associated with Silver, with the exterior holding a consistent shine. The seller admits that a close inspection will reveal chips and marks, but they don’t detract from its stunning appearance. Rust can be the mortal enemy of Z-Cars, with the floors, lower rear quarters, and the area around the rear hatch opening particularly prone. However, this 280Z has benefitted from a life spent in dry Arizona, allowing it to remain completely rust-free. The trim and chrome are exceptional, and the car retains its original glass. It rolls on its dealer-installed “Black Pearl” alloy wheels that are as impressive as the rest of the exterior. These are wrapped in high-end Vredestein tires to accentuate this car’s exceptional handling traits. Rounding out this Datsun’s positive attributes is the news that the seller actively encourages in-person inspections. That proves they feel they have nothing to hide with this beauty.

The mechanical specifications of the First Generation Z-Car evolved with each update, although the basic formula remained unchanged. Datsun fitted each car with four-wheel independent suspension and power-assisted front disc brakes to provide excellent handling and stopping power. This 280Z features its original fuel-injected 2,753cc OHC L-Series six, producing 170hp and 177 ft/lbs of torque. It feeds the power to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, although some buyers opted for the three-speed automatic for a more relaxed driving experience. However, the self-shifter came at a cost, with a ¼-mile ET of 17.5 seconds significantly slower than the 16.5-second pass this classic should be able to produce. The first factor to consider with this Datsun is that it is a numbers-matching survivor. The seller has meticulously maintained this classic, utilizing OEM parts wherever possible. They recently treated the engine to a reseal and a fresh coat of paint, rebuilding the fuel-injection system with new injectors and wiring. They replaced the clutch, motor mounts, wheel bearings, and many brake components. This gem is in excellent mechanical health, running and driving perfectly. It has no needs or shortcomings and is ready to offer its new owner immediate classic motoring enjoyment.

Rust isn’t the only weakness with the First Generation Z-Cars because interior trim and plastic are prone to significant deterioration. This is often an issue with cars from warmer regions, and given this car’s location, I braced for the worst before examining the interior shots. It seems I had nothing to fear, because this interior is one of the best I have seen. There is nothing worth criticizing, and even the prone dashpad has avoided the typical cracking issues. However, I wouldn’t tempt fate on that front, and investing in a cover to protect it from UV rays would be wise. The seats represent one of the few deviations from originality. The seller says they began looking tired and sad, so they treated them to a retrim in genuine Ferrari Black leather. The result is stunning and provided the new owner keeps them clean and regularly conditioned, they should remain soft and supple for many decades. This 280Z is a rare beast because it is common to see the factory radio make way for an aftermarket stereo. Its two owners have avoided that temptation, with the original Hitachi AM/FM stereo radio intact and in working order.

This 1978 Datsun 280Z is among the nicest I have seen in the classic market recently, and there is much to like. The listing suggests it has been maintained utilizing a “cost is no object” philosophy, and the seller includes a comprehensive collection of invoices and receipts tracking every aspect of the fifteen years it has spent in their care. That further accentuates the desirability of a car wearing a badge that has been one of the recent stars of the classic market. Their price is far from being considered pocket change and sits well above the market average. That will probably limit the number of potential buyers, but it only takes one for this Datsun to find a new home. Are you tempted to be that person?


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevada1/2rack Member

    Nicely kept, as is the 1600 Roadster he’s also selling (“..a great package deal on both..”) https://phoenix.craigslist.org/evl/cto/d/phoenix-1969-datsun-1600-roadster/7712097821.html
    But the bumpers always took away from the lines of the car, which was a shame.
    I’m sure there’s a few somebody’s out there that knows how to fix that, and I would in a New York Minute.

    Like 8
    • Peter_W

      Replacing the factory railroad ties with earlier 240-260Z blade style bumpers is a snap. The tough part is finding decent bumpers to do the swap. I have this car’s twin in my garage and was lucky enough to find NOS bumpers online (20 years ago). They’re totally worthless as bumpers, but look a million times better. I think you can still find fiberglass ones and I’ve even seen $tainless $teel repops advertised. The procedure is available on popular Z sites

      Like 0
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    Very nice,but for that price I’d rather have a nice 240Z.

    Like 8
  3. Gtoforever

    Always liked these, but not over 50 k worth.
    Time will tell.

    Like 7
  4. Daniel

    103,000 miles for $54,000??? That price is totally insane. He must think the thousands he spent on repairs add to the total price? If anyone pays over $20,000 they are fools, and even that is ambitious.

    Like 12
    • Pete

      I agree . I spent nothing near 54k for my 78 hls

      Like 0
  5. Greg

    Some sellers think their car is worth 10 times insanity.

    Like 5
    • KC

      Barrett Jackson prices……Nahhhhhh

      Like 4
  6. KC

    Asking Barrett Jackson prices,,,,,Nahhhhhh

    Like 3
  7. Eric B

    The comments regarding price are definitely dead on for this one. This would sell for less than half the asking price on Bring another Thousand. Where most things over overpaid for, but not quite as bad as the TV auctions.

    Like 5
    • Dave

      I have a 1978 280z with similar miles, condition. Paid $8,000 many years back. Third 78 I’ve owned. Not sure why but it’s more fun than many other higher end, faster sports cars i have driven. Imho.
      That being said, i have it insured for $28,000 (by choice) (Haggerty ). But yeah not 50k. It’s not a 240z. 240z typically bring this type of coin but not the 280z. It is beautiful tho.

      Like 2
  8. V12MECH

    It’s very nice.Maybe if mileage was 13,000. Big bumper car. But too much money. Get a very nice 240/260 and gas money left over.

    Like 3
  9. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    That’s a stunning price…….

    Like 1
  10. bob

    one of the best cars i ever owned.

    Like 0
    • Mitch Martin

      I ve owned three ‘78s through the years . First one I bought new in 1978. Two silver ones were 5 speed and the sky blue was a 4 speed . A previous own of the blue one, had the computer chip removed , or had it replaced with a chip that opened up the engine. I was brave enough to get it up to 150 mph and still had pedal leftover.

      Like 0
    • Kelly D Raulston

      I have a 76 280Z with 350 original miles, and the car has never had license plates installed. It still has the original trip permit in the rear hatch window. Garaged it’s entire life and from original owner.

      Like 1
      • Neil R Norris

        A nice time capsule. Do you sit in a lawn chair and stare at it? Make vroom noises? What’s the point is my question?

        Like 2
      • Eric B

        Cameron Frye’s father’s Ferrari comes to mind. “He never drives it, he just rubs it with a diaper”.

        Like 0
  11. HoA Howard A Member

    Well, it finally happened. Watching TV auction, a pristine ’70 240Z sold for more money than a ’63 Corvette roadster, TWICE! The Z went for $70 GRAND, the Corvettes went for around $55-$60,000. That’s history in the making, folks.

    Like 0
  12. Mark K

    Back in the 80’s, I had a silver ’76 280Z . Sold it for $800… [sniff, sniff, whine]

    Like 0

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