Thirty Year Garage Find: 1978 Datsun 280Z

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Considering all of the financial angst that Nissan is encountering these days, it makes one wonder if they wish they could return to the days of the “Datsun” nameplate when they had selling power and market share. And part of Datsun’s ’70s star power was in the form of their Z car sports car. Starting with the 240Z, What Nissan referred to as their “S30” model, later grew into the 280Z and located in New Castle, Delaware, we have found a final-year example from 1978. It is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $6,056, reserve not yet met.

Most think of the Z car as a two-seater and most produced were. There was, however, a 2+2 version with a backseat that was large enough to accommodate a case or two of beer, but that’s about it. They are easily identified by the altered shape of their rear quarter windows and flatter, less sharply sloped roofline.

According to the seller, this 280Z was inherited from his uncle and is listed as a 34K mile example though there is no pronouncement or documentation to that effect other than the five-digit odometer reading. While this Z was last registered in 1990, the seller doesn’t mention how long he’s owned it but he’s decided to find it a new home. This Datsun is reminiscent of the 1977 “Zap” model which was outfitted in a Sunshine Yellow finish, replete with black stripes and yellow, orange, and red chevrons at either end of the stripes. Granted, this is the wrong year and the appliques are not correct but the black, red, and orange power bulge hood enhancement, over a strong yellow finish, brings the Zap model to mind. As stated, the finish on this Z is still strong though it has, as expected, lost some luster. And some images show the passenger fender wearing a slightly different hue of yellow; real or a trick of the camera? The body is free of rust other than a minor surface spot tor two which are probably the results of stone chips, etc. The bumpers are an unfortunate requirement. The Z car never wore the 5 MPH mandated bangers well, but there’s not much that manufacturers could do in the ’70s. While the Ansen Sprint type wheels are not original, they fit is Datsun’s personality perfectly – they were a sign of the time. That said, the tires seem unusually tall, wrong profile perhaps? The seller advises that he has the original wheel covers.

Dig deep into the listing and you’ll discover, “I just want to to make it clear if you did not read the comments and questions section this car does not run at this time. Before the owner’s death he removed the fuel injectors to replace because it failed emissions inspection at DMV and did not replace them before his death. Also, the emergency brake has been engaged on it since it was put in the garage over 30 years ago and was covered up. Rear wheels are still locked from it and will need to be released”.  Thanks for the clarity, that’s a bit of a show-stopper and a surprise as this Datsun looks pretty good. The initial thought was that it’s a runner and it’s not. The inoperative engine is a 2.8 liter, inline six-cylinder affair that develops 170 HP and drives through a five-speed manual transmission. If this one has been sitting for 30 years, expect more than an injector reinstall to get it up and running. The long term garaged storage does help explain this Z’s sound exterior appearance, however.

The interior is spot on! Datsun Z cars of this era always put together a quality interior and this one is no exception. There is no evidence of scuffs, tears, seam splits, or any of the other sorts of mayhem that adversely affect an older car’s interior. The only item of note is the hatchback area’s carpet, it looks to be seriously faded but still totally useable.

As usual, there’s no telling where the reserve is on this Datsun, a BIN price can give you an idea but there is no such option here. Nevertheless, this 280Z certainly is a nice example and is enhanced by its low mileage, assuming that it is accurate, and the inclusion of the manual transmission. But then most of these that I have discovered generally are in great shape, it seems as if the owners realize what they have and consequently, the cars are well cared for. The only misgivings here are the unknowns around the engine, the concern being that the problem may be more than fuel injectors and exacerbated by the passage of time. What do you think, worth the risk?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Cattoo CattooMember

    Looking at the engine compartment and the drivers seat I could see only 34k on this car. Not proof but good indicators.

    Like 4
  2. Jerry

    BIG gamble buying a car with a motor not running and not SURE why….and sitting for years….it would be a $5,000 car for me in that condition since it needs $$$ to get it in road worthy condition.
    BTW….I had a Red 77 Auto and 78 Red manual back around 1994.

    Like 3
    • JMB#7

      Understood. But if you could visit it in person, the lack of injectors would not stop running a quick compression check. If I inherited this from my uncle, I would have cleaned the injectors and put them back in. Then I would have too much fun with it and not sell it. Evidently the niece or nephew who inherited it does not have the same love for the Z-car as their uncle. Or maybe they already have too many toys.

      Like 1
  3. flmikey

    10K for a non-running Z car? Why did I buy that silly Apple stock all those years ago when I could loaded up on these?

    Like 1
  4. Kevin

    Why is the hatch carpet brown, while black carpet is used in front cockpit?

    Like 1
    • Stillrunners

      My bet it would be from the sun based on my ownership of many a fast back car.

      Like 4
  5. Keith

    Man I love 240Z, 280Z, and 300Z. Had all three of them at one time and my first car was a 280Z it was dark bronze with the black louvers on the back had a huge stereo system Rockin down the road, man does that bring back great memories.
    I would love to own another one one and maybe one I will.

    Like 0
  6. Bob Mck

    This is going to be fun to drive once repaired.

    Like 0
  7. Chuck Ferrell

    Love these. I had four of them back in the day. I’ve always had at least one sports car. I started with a Triumph Spitfires, (’68 and ‘2 and a ’72) Moved to a cold climate and switched to a ’72 240, then we bought another one (his and hers). It was a ’73 240. Upgraded to a 260Z late in ’74 and finally a ’77 280Z. I hated the 280ZX so I switched to a Corvette in ’79. I hated it and replaced it with an RX7 in 83. Since ’86, it’s been just Porsches for fun cars. But of all of those, I think I liked the Z cars the best.

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      Chuck, you are alright in my book. Triumph, Z-Cars, RX7, and Porsche. I hope you are referring to the earlier Porsches. I mean they are still great cars, but the current breed just doesnt fit in the same realm as the others.

      Like 1
  8. Robert

    My late aunt in Toluca Lake had one just like this same year, paint and decals. It also had low miles and I could have bought it for $6000 but bringing it back East to where I was living didn’t make sense to me. Would have rusted out pretty quick there.

    Like 0
  9. Tracy

    I wonder if it was a zap edition that had to be re-painted and this was as close as they could get for the time?

    Like 0
    • Michael C

      The ZZZap Edition was 1978 only, as was the Sunburst Yellow paint. If this was indeed a ’78 it was not originally yellow, much less a ZZZap.

      Like 0
    • Michael C

      I should have typed 1977 only. The ZZZap Edition and Sunburst Yellow were only offered in 1977.

      Like 0
  10. PRA4SNW

    SOLD for $12,307.

    Like 0

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