Nissan Z Cars Through the Years

240 Datsun Z cars
240 Datsun Z cars

The lineup of Nissan Z cars has a long and proud history. After digging through the history of this legendary Japanese sports car it appears that the first offering in America was the 240 model that was released in late 1969. This was soon to be updated to the Datsun 260Z in 1974.

This car is rare because it had a short running. Just one year later in 1975 the straight six (inline) engine was punched out to 2.8 L, therefore renaming the car the 280-Z. The numbers in the title of the car of course equal the engine size even on the models that are built today.

1975 Datsun B210
1975 Datsun B210

1975 was also my first memory of this car as we went to a local Datsun dealership when my dad was in search of a fuel efficient vehicle thanks to the fuel crunch in the mid-70s. We did come home with a new Datsun that day but it was not a Nissan z car. We wound up with a B210 in a strange orangeish yellow color.

At the time foreign cars were few and far between and we were the only family with a Japanese car in the whole development. I remember the day that we brought it home! Our neighbor who was a World War II veteran came running out of his house screaming and yelling. He was a prisoner of war and spent time in a Japanese POW camp. He felt that by us buying a Japanese car that we were betraying our country (He had a point).

From Datsun to Nissan

1979 280ZX Black and Gold
1979 280ZX Special Edition

In 1979 these Nissan Z cars reached their tenth anniversary and rolled out a special model to celebrate. Not only was it well received as in breaking the all-time sales record for this model, but it was also named the import car of the year (again) by motor trend magazine.

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Winning the motor trend car of the year can help propel a car into sales figures the car-maker never expected. It is also some of the best free advertising to this day. So no surprise it was a big deal in 79 and the car really started to gain traction at this point.

1984 Turbo Z
1984 Turbo Z

The Japanese automaker realizing the potential of this 2-door sport coupe started work on a complete redesign and a much anticipated re-launch of the next-generation. It was not ready to go until late 83 starting for the model year 1984. This was not only the year I graduated high school but it was the year that the Z would see its biggest engine yet with a 3 L V-6.

84 was also the 50th anniversary of the Datsun/Nissan motor Co. They celebrated by strapping on a turbo and breaking the 200 hp barrier for the first time. They put together a package in 1984 that was an anniversary edition turbocharged Nissan Z car. With a hood scoop offset to the driver side of the hood became the easiest way to identify this car. A look inside would reveal every luxury option that Nissan could throw into a vehicle at the time including leather seats.

What would be next for the Z?

In 1990 Nissan Z Cars were reborn once again with new styling and new engine options. And Yes you guessed it, they earned the car company the still prestigious award of motor trend import car of the year. The Z32 build out ran from 1990 to 1996. A convertible model was offered in 1993 that was very unique looking and provided the company with impressive sales numbers and profit margins.

1995 300ZX Twin Turbo
1995 300ZX Twin Turbo

What I remember most about the Z32 was people started to call this car the “Corvette killer“. Not only did the styling of the vehicle rival the Corvette but the twin turbo 3 L V-6 produced over 300-based horsepower. With the lighter weight of the V-6 and the overall lighter weight of the Z car, these vehicles would run toe to toe with a Corvette of the same model year.

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What killed the Z they say was the total cost. Ringing the bell at $50K the sales started to diminish to the point where the company decided to put the Nissan Z cars on hiatus till they could figure out what to do. This brings us to the modern day in with the year 2000 the roll-out and come back of the next-generation Z32 known has the 350Z.

I have written extensively about this car and its more recent counterpart the 370Z over at my website. So I’m not going to get into great detail about this particular model. If you’re interested in seeing more about it you can follow this next link which opens up a new window to see more about today‚Äôs Nissan 370Z.

As for me I always wanted one from the first time I stepped foot in the Datsun dealership in 1975. With the launch of the 350 Z my passion was also reignited. I couldn’t afford a new one so I decided to buy an old one. I wound up with a Z31 1988 300ZX 2+2 in the silver blue color known as Ice mist.

Although the car was a lot of fun it was also a lot of trouble. I have dedicated a whole section on this website to my Nissan 300ZX problems. I also posted pictures of it on Pinterest along with Car stuff and other cool car pictures. If you would like to see more of the most recent articles posted here this next link will take you back to the auto repair information blog homepage.