This is a Datsun: 1977 Datsun 280Z

77 Z side

Are you old enough to remember Datsuns? Up until 1986, all cars and trucks manufactured by Nissan Motors were sold under the name Datsun, a brand name that had dated back to the company’s earliest years producing cars – the first Datsuns were sold in 1934. And then the nameplate was unceremoniously dropped in favor of the parent company name. Maybe the marketers thought Nissan was a better name in countries like America, where they felt they could most easily expand their market share.

Originally sold in Japan under the Fairlady Z model name, the car we knew here as the 240Z was introduced in 1969 as a smooth handling two seat GT sports car. Z cars were very sophisticated for their time and their relatively low prices made them a performance bargain. The Z cars offered 4-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts in front and Chapman struts in back, front disc brakes, and a fairly peppy engine. With a relatively light weight build, they had plenty of handling ability and quickly became popular cars.

77 Z engine

Over the years, engine displacement and size increased, as Nissan tried to overcome the challenges of emissions controls on engine outputs and Federal safety requirements on bumpers and body designs. For the 280Z, engine size was increased to 2.8 liters, and the reliable Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system was added as well.

Hailing from sunny and dry La Mesa, California, this very solid looking 1977 280Z is listed for sale here on craigslist for a very reasonable price of $7,000. The seller has evidently owned this car for a long time, and has a lot to say its condition and the work he’s done on it. Unfortunately, for those of us not nearby, there are few pictures and not much to be learned from them. This car has a good look about it though and hopefully any prospective seller will perform a careful inspection to ascertain its true condition.

The seller says he has done a lot of work on the car in the past two years, but now with a young child, has only driven it 500 miles during that time.  He’s added an aluminum radiator, new brakes and rotors, new struts front and rear, new alternator, new clutch and brake master cylinders, new tires, an alignment, new muffler and exhaust, new injectors, and a new battery. This Z features factory air (not working, needs to be checked), 280ZX wheels, 240Z bumpers (still has the originals), body is tight, carpets good, but the seats need to be recovered.

77 Z front

Overall, that’s a nice list of mechanical work done, meaning this is a car you should be able to drive daily while you take care of its flaws. But, it seems just as likely that the new owner may just choose to keep the car the way it is and have some fun with it. These are great looking, fun-to-drive cars, and this one is just a very nice almost-original example that those of us who live in the rust belt never get to see anymore.

The seller’s pithy final words of the ad make me want to see this car rescue so a new owner can enjoy it: “It was a daily driver before relegated to the garage where it has sat for years.”


  1. z1rider

    This answers (at least partially) a question I have pondered for many years. When the entire industry had to make the switch to 5 mph bumpers, did the bodies receive changes that would make it difficult to retrofit earlier style bumpers. At least for those bodies which were carryovers into 1973 and 1974 when those bumpers became mandatory,

    In the case of this Z apparently not. Though I’m not that surprised since Datsun no doubt retained the early style bumpers for sales of vehicles elsewhere. Though for domestics some of the 5 mph bumpers actually looked very well integrated as far as styling was concerned so I’m fine with many of them.

    Others though looked more like chrome plated railroad ties. A lot of Fords (Maverick for one) , BMW 2002’a and some others come to mind.

  2. patrol

    Nice little car. But i am confused by why the early 240z is more wanted than the later ones with bigger engine like this 280z?

    • Blyndgesser

      The later models are heavier and came from the factory with unsightly battering ram bumpers (which seem to have been replaced with the earlier version here). Despite the bigger engine they aren’t as quick or as light on their feet in factory trim as the purer early models, but as this one illustrates, there are ways to fix that.

    • Dolphin Member

      In addition to the bumper and performance differences, the other reasons the early cars are preferred by Z car fans are:
      — early cars are lighter and handle better. The 280Z suspension is much softer compared to the early 240 cars
      — early cars are simpler to tune, repair, and modify
      — the ‘first’ of a new, desirable sporting model is usually the most sought after, partly because it was ‘first’. Later Z cars became heavier and more luxurious.
      — early Z cars can rust badly, so good ones are scarcer than later Z models

      The most sought after Z cars are the 1970 model year cars with serial numbers under 1,000

  3. Slim Chance


  4. mike young

    Actually the name change for U.S. market was in ’84….
    I’m wondering what that Rocker trim is on this car ? Perhaps covering troubles? Curious what the original color is as I see the engine room has unfortunately been painted flat-black…

  5. Bob Hadley

    I lived in Japan during the early’80’s
    and then, the Fairlady Z’s were turbo charged, from the factory, no safety glass, non American approved lights, etc, man, they were quick, agile, and FUN! Unfortunately the Safety branch of the U S gvt, really gutted those cars, not near as fun in the US market.

  6. joeinthousandoaks

    Ditto on the bumpers Z1Rider. That first picture really threw me off thinking there was a typo on the year of this car. La Mesa is in California but still close to the ocean so rust could probably be a problem. He also doesn’t say where it was a daily driver. The plates indicate it was registered in California in the last 5 years. Great car though, having had a 240 in college, this is something I would really like to put it my garage.

  7. Glenn

    This bodyshell looks, to me anyway, more like that of a 260Z than it does 280Z. I honestly don’t think this is a 280Z.
    The 280Z was clumsier looking and had almost totally lost the appeal of the 260 and the 240.

  8. krash

    …..always loved the lines of the earlier 240’s….as time went on and the model evolved, it seemed to lose its appeal…perhaps because Datsun started to cater to those who wanted two tone paint, velour styled interiors, and t-tops…too bad, because they had it right in 1969…

  9. grant

    You make me feel old David. My first car was a 79 210 hatch. Wonderful little car. Learned everything on it. Had a rusty (you could see the road!) 260z for a short time, it went like stink but my girl was scared of it and I was young and broke so it went to someone who could fix it. Yes I do remember datsuns.

  10. Doug Towsley

    I have had a number of Datsuns, Trucks, 510s and a couple Z cars. Currently I have a 1974 260Z as a donor car for a Fiberfab Caribee kit car. Reason is anything 1975 and earlier do not require DEQ/EPA emissions testing. So I am free to modify to my hearts content. I suspect for many areas there are similar rules and thus the desirability of earlier cars. Further, the Fuel systems were simpler, less emissions equip, and needless complexity. The early Zs were very simple little cars. later ones had a lot of bells and whistles.
    I Had a 280Z for a while I picked up cheap ($300 off of CL) and sold it along with another Kit car project 2 years ago. I had a LOT of interest in it. I got it as it wasa good donor car with a title. But there seems to be a very strong following for the 280Zs for some reason and while many prefer the early ones there is no lack of demand for the later 280z’s. I know one of the admins on another site and if you want to know all the fixs and upgrades as well as seem some really neat cars spend some time researching projects, builds and tech posts over at AlteredZ.Com see: and the tech forum and related material on See: If you cant find the answers to any Z based questions there, The problem doesnt exist.

    I dont have an opinion on the above car, other than it seems like a nice one. But the market seems stong on them and a LOT of them are being exported to Europe and Asia. There was a bid deal some years back where Nissan bought up like 100 cars? and shipped back to Japan, Factory techs restored and in some cases customized them, and then resold them. It created a MONSTER amount of media interest and helped drive sales of their modern Z cars. Which, I would really like to have one of those, (A modern Z)

  11. `11

    Nice old Z, I had 1977 and the earlier bumpers really improve the looks. This one seems to be a good buy as prices have risen in the last five years or so

  12. Pete W.

    A bit of disinformation is sprinkled throughout the comments section and as a long time Z owner, I thought I’d clear up a few things.

    The original Z design body (designated S30) was continued pretty much unchanged from it’s introduction in late ’69 (as a ’70 model) through the last 280Z model year (1978). The first major restyle came in ’79, as the model sold as a 280ZX.

    All early Z’s were pretty much rust buckets, depending on where they lived and how well they were cared for. As was pretty much every Japanese car of that era. European cars, too.

    The largest S30 change was to the bumpers to conform to US specs, starting with the ’73 model year to mid’74, when they got heavier and pushed away from the body, through the correctly described “railroad ties” in ’77 and ’78.
    Also, side impact beams in the doors.

    BTW, Goertze gladly took credit for the original design, although history shows that the styling was pretty much done in house by Nissan employees and contractors.

    Goertze, however, was responsible for the lovely, and very rare, Toyota 2000GT.

    The S30 restoration program (instigated by Nissan in the late 80’s to keep interest alive in Z cars while the last 300ZX (S32)was being developed for market, only resulted in 25 completed cars, after a lot of hype and speculation. The program involved a handful of designated Nissan dealers offering complete restored 240Z’s. The work was performed on the West Coast by a couple of well known Z Car specialty shops and used NOS parts where available.

    Unfortunately, the logistics of finding, restoring, and marketing the cars pumped
    the selling price into the $25,000 range and proved to be untenable as a long term strategy. They did keep Nissan’s name alive in the sports car world until the new ZX was introduced in late 1990.

    As far as swapping out the “railroad ties” on the later S30’s it’s not all that hard, providing you can find some decent, 240 or early 260, bumpers to mount. Any popular Z car site can show you how. You can even use the original 280 shock absorbing bumpers.

    I did it on my ’78 280 after stumbling over a set of NOS bumpers online some years ago. I still have the car and they do look great (as well as knocking about 30 or 40 pounds off).

    Just be careful where you park because they are worthless as protection from “park by ear” drivers.

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