Don’t overlook this classic Japanese sports car.
With the launch of a new Nisan Z, interest in the heritage of this legendary sports car line has spiked once more. Out of all the interesting models produced over the decades, one of the most important is the Datsun 280ZX Turbo. It helped restore the image of the Z, which like many performance cars had suffered under restrictive fuel economy and emissions standards, thanks to the addition of forced induction.
An Indiana man restores the cars he loved as a kid. See them here.
The S30 or first-generation Z, called the Datsun 240Z in the US market, saw more success than most would have imagined. After all, few associated Japanese cars with any kind of true performance at the time. For that reason, many collectors focus heavily on first-gen examples.
Not helping things was the fact the S130 or second generation of the Z got off to a rough start in 1979. Nissan had the aim of making the 280ZX more of a grand touring car instead of a hardcore sports car, which didn’t set well with many fans of the S30. The larger, heavier, and more luxurious model also featured softer suspension and a longer wheelbase for open-road cruising comfort. Most insulting, the 2.8-liter engine produced just 135-horsepower, which paired with taller gearing made the Z feel sluggish.
When 1981 rolled around, the 280Z Turbo turned the ship around, increasing power to 180-hp and 203 lb.-ft. of torque. Tightened up rear suspension meant sportier handling. Enthusiasts clamored for the more thrilling new Z and Nissan listened. The Turbo was able to outrun many performance cars which were far more expensive, embarrassing some of the bigger brands. Once again, Datsun became the marque for budget-conscious shoppers who still wanted plenty of thrills in their car.
The next model year, the naturally-aspirated 280Z also saw a power bump. In other words, the Turbo model helped get the Z pointed in the right direction again. For this reason, the Datsun 280ZX Turbo is a performance hero and worthy of adding to your collection.
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