Nissan was still a relatively small automaker when it hit the international market in the 1960s, but that changed after the first Z car became an instant hit. The legendary Z range of cars is highly regarded by gearheads around the world for its sports car performance, unique designs, rock-solid reliability and affordability. Although Nissan successfully sold the Z car over seven generations, the 300ZX model proved essential to this impressive streak.
The 300ZX came after the hugely popular 280ZX, a model that also received heavy criticism for emphasizing luxury over driving pleasure. Built on the third (Z31) and fourth (Z32) generation, the Nissan 300ZX not only cemented Z-car status in the sports car scene; it also heralded the dominance of the JDM sports cars of the 1990s. Here are ten more reasons the 300ZX was so great.
ten The 300ZX was the first Z-Car to wear a Nissan/Datsun badge.
The first Z31 debuted for the 1984 model year and was the first model to simultaneously sport a Nissan/Datsun badge. Nissan had long planned to phase out the Datsun brand name, and the Z31 initiated the transition to completion in 1985.
Technically, 1984 could be considered the only year of the Datsun 300ZX. With improved acceleration, handling and refinement over previous Z cars, the Nissan 300ZX became hugely revered and recorded the second best-selling Z cars in history.
9 Nissan offered the 300ZX in different body styles
Nissan introduced the T-top design in 1980 with the 280ZX, which carried over to the 300ZX generation. The T-top was available in 2-seat or 2+2 coupe configurations, externally differentiated by the length of the rear window and the position of the gas filler cap.
In response to popular aftermarket conversions, Nissan offered a convertible version in 1993 for the first time in Z-car history. Although T-tops accounted for most 300ZX sales, Nissan built hardtops, affectionately nicknamed “slick tops”, sold only with naturally aspirated engines.
8 Porsche 944 and Corvette C4 served as 300ZX benchmarks
Despite the Z31’s popularity, enthusiasts still subjected it to the same criticism as the previous 280ZX, citing its handling as being more of a GT than a sports car. Determined to turn the tide, Nissan evaluated the competition of the day, including the Porsche 944 and the Chevy Corvette, to make the Z32 the number one sports car in the world.
Although the Z32 features the same wedge-shaped exterior profile, Nissan aimed to achieve the handling and steering of the 944 and Corvette, while beating them in design and aerodynamics. In the end, Nissan claimed the Z32 produced less lift than its rivals and also surpassed the straight-line stability of the Porsche 944.
7 The 300ZX was one of the first CAD-designed production cars
The Z32 ushered in a renewed emphasis on Z-car performance instead of the luxurious grand touring of previous models. Nissan has used a form of CAD software running on a Cray-2 supercomputer to achieve the most remarkable styling makeover the Z line of cars has ever received.
The Z32’s exotic appearance included a significantly wider body with a rounder profile, longer wheelbase, fewer harsh edges, and faired headlights. Nissan achieved the slippery body by tilting the headlights more than 60 degrees, which helped give the Z32 a slightly increased coefficient of drag of 0.31 compared to 0.30 in the Z31.
6 300ZX Advanced Technology Featured
Z31 models produced before 1987 featured a computerized voice warning system that alerted drivers to critical issues such as low fuel, exterior lights left on, parking brake left on, or door open. Other tech features included a Body Sonic audio system with a bass booster, a digital stereo with an equalizer, and a digital gauge cluster. Interestingly, the 300ZX was the first car to feature an LED center brake light.
Although the Z32 edged out the Z31 as a sports model, Nissan equipped it with advanced technologies such as cruise control, automatic digital climate control, CD player, power driver’s seat, heated mirrors and power steering. HVAC equipment. Turbo models received Nissan’s HICAS (Super High Capacity Actively Controlled Suspension) four-wheel steering system to give the Z more or less a degree of rear steering angle.
5 The 300ZX boasted Japan’s first mass-produced V6
Mechanically, the 300ZX boasted a significant shift from an inline-six in previous Z cars to a V6 engine configuration for better weight distribution and efficiency. The V6 installed in the Z31 was among the first of the iconic VG, Nissan series and the first mass-produced V6 engine in Japan.
The Z31 received a naturally aspirated 3.0-liter single-overhead-cam V6 with 160/165 hp and a turbocharged 3.0-liter single-overhead-cam V6 with 200/250 hp. On the other hand, the desirable Z32 was available with either a 222 hp naturally aspirated 3.0-liter V6 DOHC or a 300 hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. In 1995 and 1996, designated Nissan dealers sold a rare SMZ 300ZX tuned by Steve Millen and developing 365 hp.
4 The 300ZX saw motorsport success
Bob Sharp Racing campaigned and won with a 300ZX at the 1986 Trans Am at Lime Rock, and it remains the only Trans Am victory for a 300ZX. Electramotive installed a developed VG30ET engine in the GTP ZX-Turbo which raced in the IMSA GT Championship and All Japan Sports Prototype Championship, becoming dominant in the 1988 IMSA GT.
The 300ZX again dominated the IMSA GTO and GTS classes from 1990 to 1995, with Steve Millen driving a twin-turbocharged 300ZX for Clayton Cunningham Racing. Other notable motorsport achievements include victory at the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona, first place in the GTS-1 class at the 1994 24 Hours of Le Mans, first place in the GTS-1 class at the 1995 12 Hours of Sebring and an existing land speed record in the E/BMS class at the 1995 Bonneville Speed Trial.
3 Nissan built special edition 300ZX models
Nissan produced a 50th Anniversary Edition turbocharged coupe with a silver/black paint job in 1984 to commemorate the automaker’s half-centennial. The Anniversary Edition model featured a digital instrument cluster, radio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, Bodysonic speakers in the seats, embroidered floor mats and leather seats, mirrored T-tops, G -force, a 50AE printed gray cloth interior cover and a 50e AE logo badge on the driver’s side front fender.
In 1988, Nissan offered the pearl-white turbocharged Shiro Special, one of Japan’s fastest cars that year at 153 mph. Unlike the Half-Centennial Special, the Shiro had no additional luxury options, but instead sported performance-oriented upgrades. These include heavy-duty anti-roll bars, stiffer springs and matching dampers, and a viscous limited-slip differential.
After an aggressive campaign to change brand names from Datsun to Nissan, the 300ZX was squarely on the media radar. In 1990, the 300ZX appeared in Automotive trends “Import Car of the Year”, road and track “Ten best cars in the world”, Automotive magazine List ‘All Stars’, and Car and driver List of “ten best cars”.
The performance of the Z32 was so good that it made everything Car and Driver Lists of ‘Ten Best’ between 1990 and 1996 and Automotive magazine “All Star” lists from 1990 to 1994. Additionally, the Z32’s unique styling earned it a spot in QG List of “the most stylish cars of the last 50 years” in 2010.
1 The 300ZX restored the sports car status of the Z-Car
Federal emissions and crash regulations imposed throughout the ’70s made the Z car heavier and slower, and Nissan compensated for performance with more luxury features and equipment. As a result, enthusiasts viewed the 280ZX and Z31 as GTs rather than sports cars.
Thankfully, the Z32 bucked the trend and dispelled skepticism about the Z car’s sports car status by winning several comparison tests and several “top ten” lists it featured. The 300ZX battled fierce competition of the day, including Supra, Porsche, and Corvette variants to restore the Z-car’s reputation.
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