Sports Or Luxury Car? 1980 Datsun 280ZX Survivor

I remember a hot debate going on when this car was new about whether Datsun had “lost their way” due to all the luxury features added to the Z car when the ZX was introduced. All I know looking at this car is that I like it! The ZX with all the options is located in Santa Monica, California and is listed for sale here on eBay, where bidding has opened at $8,000 but there’s a buy it now figure of $12,500.

While the ZX may be somewhat softer than the Z that preceded it, whomever ordered this car was happy to go for all the bells and whistles. With T-tops, rear louvers, the “Grand Luxury Package” and air conditioning, this “sports car” was decked to the nines! Just look at what that package included: dual 6-way power seats with lumbar adjustment, AM/FM stereo with four speakers & power antenna, aluminum alloy wheels, power assisted 4 wheel disc brakes, power steering, power windows, cruise control, rear window wiper/washer, computer sensor system,
dual remote power mirrors, digital clock, and finally lighted vanity mirrors!

I wonder if all those options still work? We’re told that the car has had two careful owners and only 91,000 miles under the wheels. Maintenance records from new are included with the car, and it is said to only show minimal signs of wear throughout. There are plenty of high resolution pictures in the auction listing that seem to bear this out.

This is the picture that won me over when I was deciding whether or not to write this car up. What a striking interior in gorgeous condition. Aside from some plastic oxidation in spots, the interior looks mint. And how about those T-tops? The rubber still looks supple; I hope they don’t leak!

The injected 2.8 liter inline six is covered with more vacuum lines and emissions equipment than you’d believe possible. That’s one of the reasons why it’s nice to get a survivor like this rather than try to restore or refurbish one of these complicated cars. I’d like this one under my tree in a week, how about you?


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  1. RayT Member

    These don’t do a thing for me. My experience with various Datsun and Nissan Z-cars led me to believe that the more “features” they added and the more “luxury touches” were included, the more they became Touring Cars and not Sports Cars. And don’t even start me on the mandated impact bumpers….

    An original first-series Z was a cool machine. After that, they became the Japanese equivalent of the last-generation Thunderbird. Whatever exceptional performance and handling was intended just didn’t get out.

    • Chuck

      Have to agree. I owned a ’72.a ’72, a ’74-1/2 and a ’77. Loved all of them. When the ZX came out, I left Datsun/Nissan for good. (I was definietly in the, “they’ve lost their way camp”.)

      I can say the same for Porsches, Owned a few of them as well. Said good-bye with the introduction of the 996. Now I have a couple of old TR6s.

  2. jaymes

    I like these cars, especially when its not the ugly 2+2 style that the sellers try to hide. its amazing shape, these cars were ruined by the time they were 7-8 years old.

  3. Mark

    My Dad’s Air Force buddies stationed in Japan bought Z’s there and shipped them home to the States (free freight and no import hassles- those were the days). I wonder if they could specify LHD from the factory? Then in 1996 Nissan commissioned a series of factory re-manufactured 240z’s built around the cleanest, straightest bodies they could find. They sold for $25K, which given the incredible, concourse restoration level, was probably a loss on every car. In the 20 years years since, I have yet to see one of those for sale.

  4. Don E

    Mark, I did see one here in Socal but not for sale. It was better than the first factory build.

  5. George

    Jamie, a survivor? Just bringing it up as you mentioned that the interior grabbed you. Almost 100 thousand miles with those 80’s velour inserts and the carpet that perfect? You think that is original? I highly doubt that it is. Nice car but I would prefer a 70 240 in good condition.

  6. JoeR

    While I was into American iron, my brother used buy the turbo versions of these and the (in my opinion) ulgier 300zx turbos. We were in the Northeast and the biggest problem was the garbage metal they used to build the subframes with. Even though the suspentions weren’t very stiff, he used to rally race and beat on them until they just about fell apart. They were a dime a dozen in the 90s.

  7. steve m

    A non turbo with ugly interior and those terrible ’79-’80 wheels for 12K…… makes me miss my ’81 turbo with the badd azz 4 spoke wheels even more

  8. racer99

    Had a black over gold turbo’d version of this with the honeycomb wheels — stole my heart the first time I saw it but I traded it off a year later. After having a 240 and 260, the 280 seemed confused about what it wanted to be and, as a result, wasn’t either a sports car or cruiser but something in between. Have to like this one’s condition but the colors and the fact that it’s a 280 leave me a little cold. I had an opportunity to pickup one of these at auction a while back for around $600 (if memory serves me correctly) and passed.

  9. David

    I had a 280ZX in high school. Just seeing this car brings me back to those days. Had lots of great memories in it. Sadly, I lived in the Northeast and the car rusted out. But now, living in FL, I might entertain the idea of getting another one sometime… if the price was right.

  10. nessy

    My favorite car from Japan. The color and base wheels are kind of blah. The Turbos with the two tone paint look outstanding. Here is my all original 81 Turbo with 20k original miles. The Turbos were rockets, still are today.

    • David

      Mine was the same color scheme! But mine was a non-turbo version. Girls were attracted to it. Lol

  11. DKW

    My father bought one in his mid-life crisis stage. I was a Turbo, black over silver. I was 17/18 at the time and loved it when he let me take it out. Once past the turbo lag, it would beat a 6.6 Trans-Am. My dad loved the car…

  12. Bill

    I had an 81 two tone, blue and silver. Non turbo. Pretty car, but slow. It refused to hot start. It started rusting within one year. Dumped it after a year

  13. gene

    I had one . It was a 1983 280zx turbo.
    Faster than a IROC or 5.0 Mustang GT.
    I missed that car .

    Like 1
  14. Eric Dashman

    I worked on a lot of these 240/260/280Zs before they went to the ZX cruisers. They were real sports cars, although the later 280s with FI and the heavy pollution systems did those nice straight 6s no justice. I still want an early 240 with the SUs (or Hitachis). The FI wasn’t bad for the day but the air pumps and other crap really did in the performance. Still love the design (without T-tops….boy, do I hate T-tops…they leak, they’re a nuisance to take off and put on, and why not just erect a sail if you want to reduce your gas mileage). When those first 240Zs came out, they were $3600 new, or almost double what my new 72 Corolla Deluxe (2TC) cost, and did I drool, but couldn’t afford one. Still can’t :-)

    • racer99

      Before the 280ZX I had (see comment above) I had a de-smogged 260 with triple Webers. A really fun car that was decently light on it’s feet and with more than enough power to get you in trouble and the noise it made at full song was awesome. Traded it on the 280 and wished I had it back a week later.

  15. Car Guy

    A buddy of mine used to call these “Disco Z’s”. The original 240 and interim small bumper 260’s were the real sports cars. These were nice highway cruisers and the majority came with automatics by then.

  16. TJP

    I can smell a fresh paint job and Flipper “FLUFF” on this posting. Look very closely and you’ll be best kept to pass and KEEP LOOKING,

  17. Steve

    This was my Dad’s ’80 280Z in Western Maryland. When it got up in miles and began to rust along the seams he sold it to a guy in town who was going to restore it however it just sat and pretty much rusted into the ground. Sad.

  18. nessy

    When the new for 81 Turbo 280ZX was introduced, it was the fastest automatic transmission car you could buy that year. The Z car’s power left test drivers speechless. In fact, it was the fastest car on the road in 81 and held that record for several years. It outran every new Corvette, Trans Am, Z28, Ferrari, V12 Jaguar, Porsche 924 Turbo, ect. The Turbo Z was faster with the automatic than with the 5 speed Turbo which came out for 82. A Turbo ZX would run to 60 in the 6 second range and the quarter in the 14s at over 90, still faster then many new cars today. Think about that when the average 1981 model car ran 16 seconds to 60 and 21 seconds in the quarter. A car was considered “fast” if it ran 10 seconds to 60. Boost pressure was only 7 pounds, so all you had to do was turn up the boost a bit and add a larger exhaust system with a free flowing cat and these cars were running in the low 13s at over 100 in the quarter. For a car like this to be introduced by a company who’s Country was pretty much destroyed less than 40 years earlier was remarkable. All the respect is due to the 81/82/83 DATSUN 280ZX TURBOS.

  19. Steve

    Very nice reply. But sir I owned an ’81 turbo 5speed with t tops and 4 spoke turbo wheels and I am sure it was an ’81

    • nessy

      Your car Steve was an 82, I am 100% sure. The first year 81 Turbos were never offered with the 5 speed. It was automatic only. Datsun’s stock 5 speed was just not up to taking on the extra power. Also, when you said you had the 4 spoke turbo wheels, those wheels came out for 82/83 only. The 81 Turbo had a one of a kind BBS type wheel as you can see the wheel in the photo of my car above.

  20. nessy

    I believe that the new Turbo Z was the car that started the horsepower wars again during the 1980’s. Just look how many fast cars started being built by the mid 80s.

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