Single-Year Color: 1978 Datsun 280Z

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

Datsun’s First Generation Z-Car range graced American showrooms from 1970 until 1978, with the company offering buyers a choice of twenty-nine paint colors during the production run. However, the Black Pearl cloaking our feature car’s exterior was a one-year-only shade, and it is believed that less than 1,500 buyers ticked that box on the Order Form. This classic is a survivor that a new owner can enjoy immediately. However, restoring this gem guarantees it will turn heads. It is worth a close look if a Japanese classic is on your Wish List.

The seller purchased this 280Z many years ago, deciding to part with it because they don’t slip behind the wheel as often as they feel the car deserves. The Black Pearl paint appears original, with no evidence of a previous restoration. It wears a selection of marks and imperfections that are inevitable on any vehicle of this age. Still, the shine and lack of panel imperfections leave its appearance acceptable for those seeking a survivor-grade vehicle. Rust was a problem with the Z-Car range, typically impacting the floors, lower rear quarter panels, and the area around the hatch opening. This 280Z has avoided the worst of those issues, with the seller stating its only problems are confined to a small area in the passenger-side rocker, near the fuel filler, and the back bumper. Otherwise, it appears this classic is rock-solid. The trim is in generally good order, and there are no significant imperfections with the glass or wheels.

Rust isn’t the only weakness with Z-Cars because interior trim is prone to deterioration. This car hasn’t avoided those problems, with the dashpad exhibiting the almost inevitable cracks above the center gauge cluster. I have seen owners achieve respectable results performing DIY repairs using Polyvance, although some throw caution to the wind and splash their cash on replacement pads. This isn’t a cheap option, with reproductions selling for over $800. Throwing on a cover would offer a short-term solution, and I would probably leave that in place once the pad was repaired or replaced as cheap insurance against future issues. I spotted minor wear on the driver’s seat’s outer edge, but the remaining Black vinyl is in good order. The carpet in the rear cargo area has faded heavily, which is another typical problem. Dropping new carpet into that area won’t cost a fortune, although a classic of this caliber probably deserves a complete carpet set to achieve a consistent color. The seller states that the air conditioning blows cold, and it appears the factory radio made way for an aftermarket radio/cassette player.

The seller supplies no engine photos, but the impression is that this Datsun is numbers-matching. Its engine bay houses a 2.8-liter OHC six that benefits from Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection to produce 149hp and 163 ft/lbs of torque. The ponies feed to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, allowing the 280Z to cover the ¼-mile in 16.2 seconds. However, the company didn’t focus on outright performance when developing the Z-Car because it sought to create a “total” driving package. Therefore, this car’s excellent brakes and four-wheel independent suspension allow it to come alive when pointed at a twisting ribbon of road. The seller indicates the vehicle is in sound mechanical health, with no identified shortcomings. It seems it is a turnkey proposition that will provide its new owner with instant motoring gratification.

The seller listed this 1978 Datsun 280Z here on eBay in Norfolk, Nebraska. Moderate bidding has pushed the price to $7,537, which is below the reserve. It appears to have avoided the worst of the rust that often plagues these classics, and its restoration should be relatively straightforward. Values for these cars are climbing far faster than the market average, suggesting they tick the boxes for someone seeking a long-term investment that provides a rewarding driving experience. Therefore, even if the refresh pushes past the current market value, the new owner could recoup those costs in coming years. That must make it worth a close look.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. MrBZ

    Great write up Adam. Temptation to dive in here is driving me crazy. Brother owns a body shop so hideous bumpers and reasonable rust issues are no big problem. Virtual twin to my 77 5spd (which was rated 170hp) aside from paint so I know it would fit like a glove. Decisions.

    Like 3
  2. Big Bear 🇺🇸

    Good looking Z. I was Fortune enough to drive these when they were new at a dealership. And they were fun to drive.😄 If I brought this….. the first thing I would do. Get the early bumpers and take off the ugly from this Z. I noticed on the back window it had louvers . The brackets are still there. I think the reserve is north of $10,000. It’s worth it. Good luck to the seller… 🇺🇸🐻

    Like 3
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      You can take the mounts for the big bumpers out and move them back or go Big Bear’s route with early units. I’d also get the suspension out of the stratosphere to get the good handling back that the original Zs had. After having the louvers on the back deck of our Daytona Z I’d sure put them back on this car as they do wonders for comfort on hot, sunny days.

      Like 5
  3. Big Bear 🇺🇸

    Hey… I was wrong about the reserve . It’s at $8,000 and it off. So some lucky buyer is going to have fun!! 🐻🇺🇸

    Like 2
  4. bob

    owned a new 78, what a great car. more of a “cruiser” than a “go fast”. great on the highway.

    Like 1
  5. PRA4SNW PRA4SNWMember

    I’m not a big fan of the black on this car when there were so many other good looking colors for these.

    Like 1
  6. Mike

    Geez, the back bumper could make a nice picnic bench. Right up there with a US spec Maserati Merak.

    Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds