Nissan 280ZX

Carpedia

Jan 17th, 2020

Nissan 280ZX

The coupe has had a dynamic ascent since the history of cars, and this steep climb is best captured with the Nissan 280ZX. The Nissan 280ZX (aka Datsun 280 Z and Datsun 280ZX) is a sports car model drawn from the Fairlady Z, which was Nissan’s jab at sleek sports cars. 

The 280ZX or S130 is part of the long-running Z series, which started with the 240Z or S30 (first Z generation) in 1969. It succeeded the S30 in 1978, the previous generation’s body cues. 

This sports car/grand tourer had since then become known as the Japanese sports car that gave European supercar manufacturers a run for their money. It took the world by storm owing to its sleek styling, smooth performance, and fair price range. Nissan had its sights set on challenging the British-built MGB-GT and so intentionally drove the price down

This front-engined, rear-wheel-drive coupe had a four-wheel-drive independent suspension that came with integrated MacPherson struts at the front and Chapman struts at the back with standard front and rear disc brakes. It took advantage of twin SU Hitachi carburettors but later changed this due to the implementation of stricter emission regulations. 

Background (1969-1978)

The Z car (Fairlady Z) reached its export markets first with the S30, which had three generations (240Z, 260Z, and 280Z), named according to the capacities of the engines that powered them (2.4, 2.6, and 2.8 litres). The Japanese-spec Fairlady Z, though, featured a 2.0-litre inline-6 petrol engine (96 kW).

Some of the earlier models included the Fairlady ZG that had prolonged fibreglass with aerodynamic front nose portion, a spoiler at the rear and acrylic glass headlight cover with fender mounted. Other iterations were the Fairlady Z432 and Z432R, which both had 2.0-litre engines.

240Z

For the export market, the first-generation S30 (from the 240Z to 280Z) did not feature in Australia. The S30’s successor (S130 aka 280ZX), however, took its design from the 240Z. 

The 240Z was a 3-door coupe with an FR layout, powered by a 2.4-litre L24 inline-6 engine paired with either 3-speed automatic or 4-speed/5-speed manual gearbox. The 240Z's engine managed to push out a whopping 113kW of power which was quite impressive at the time. 

260Z 

In 1975, Nissan had its next-generation 260Z ready for the market. It was an improvement to the previous 240Z with a new body model style, configured as a 2+2 3-door coupe and still adopting an FR-layout. It received a larger-capacity 2.6-litre L26 inline-6 engine (123 kW) coupled with either 4-speed/5-speed manual gearbox or 3-speed automatic transmission. 

The 260Z engine was a cast-iron block alloy head with a seven-bearing crankshaft and a single overhead camshaft. It also had an improved bumper size that became a central feature in the later releases.

It featured an improved air conditioning system, a stronger chassis with a new styled bar at the rear, and a redesigned central console.

280Z 

The 280Z was the generation that directly preceded the 280ZX. The 280Z was the model that broke Nissan's conventional approach to its line of sports cars. Its production ran from 1975 when it debuted and up until 1978 when the 280ZX was launched. 

The 280Z maintained its predecessor's 3-door coupe body style and FR layout. Under its bonnet was a 2.8-litre L28E inline-6 engine (127kW, 221Nm) that powered the rear wheels via a 4-speed/5-speed manual gearbox or a 3-speed automatic transmission. 

The 280Z's safety parameters were improved to include wider bumpers. In 1977, it got an additional sporty trim called the Zap, which was offered in sunshine yellow with black stripes down the centre and sides. In 1979, the 280Z was replaced by the S130 or 280ZX. 

Nissan 280ZX (aka Nissan S130 or Datsun 280 ZX)

The Nissan 280ZX was a completely redesigned 280Z. It has transformed from an overtly sports-oriented coupe into a more refined and comfort-oriented sports car/grand tourer. It did retain the L28 inline-6 engine and most of 280Z’s mechanicals. It is now available in two-seat and 2+2 or four-seat configurations. 

Nissan had improved on its emissions and aerodynamics and upped its luxury features, including a new rear-axle and power steering that came from Nissan's luxury sedan, the Datsun 810. Critics were quick to lament that the Z-car made a sharp turn into a grand tourer with the 280ZX. The market, though, seemed to find the change appealing, and this was shown in the huge sales success of the new Z car. 

The US market received a turbocharged variant, which at the time was the fastest Japanese imported car, with a sprint time of 7.4 seconds (0-97 km/h) and a top speed of 210 km/h). In Australia, the available engine was the naturally-aspirated 2.8-litre L28E engine (103 kW, 202 Nm), which was lower than the one on its 280Z predecessor. 

Only the 2+2-seat model was sold in Australia, available in 3-speed automatic transmission and 5-speed manual gearbox. Standard equipment included air conditioning, alloy wheels, power mirrors, power steering, power windows, and a radio cassette.

A 2+2 T-Bar Roof model was offered in 1980 along with the previous base model. The T-bar roof panels were removable and could be stored away. This model featured similar standard equipment and the same engine and the earlier version.

Racing Nissan 280ZX 

The 280ZX is no stranger to the racetrack. Its most iconic feature was under the hands of experienced racers Bob Sharp, Elliot Forbes, and Paul Newman. The 280ZX helped claim 97th rank at the SCCA national championship victory with a 2nd rank win.

Despite a brief disappearance of the 280ZX, it was bound to resurface in 1998. Nissan pushed a program to bring back the 280ZX by refurbishing the old 240Zs, but it didn't catch on. 

The Nissan 280ZX remains a classic sporty car that can be seen rolling down the streets every once in a while. If you have a long-decommissioned 280ZX in your garage and wish to re-establish it back to its glory, then hit us up at Carpart. We can help you put this icon up for sale or look for replacement parts to keep it up and running. Visit our website today! 

-RayKaz