Classic Cool: Nissan 300ZX

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Apr 20, 2021 | Nissan, Classic Cool, 300ZX | Posted in Vintage Views | From the Nov. 2019 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Nissan

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

Nissan flat-out ruled the first half of the ’90s. It had the products, the race program and the fanatical customer support. And its halo model of the day was the 300ZXTwin Turbo.

This wasn’t the simple, lithe car of the ’70s, though, but the right product for the times. It was fast, attractive and, yes, comfortable. And Nissan sold a ton of them–nearly 90,000 in just the U.S., about double the number of Mk IV Supras sold worldwide.

Fast-forward to today. The Supra fetches the higher premium, but interest in that Z32-chassis Z is growing. RM Sotheby’s sold four of them as part of the Youngtimer collection, with one bringing in $53,200 and another selling for an even $66,000.

The 300ZX was all new for 1990. While a 3.0-liter V6 still provided power, this one had twin overhead cams. The base car made do with 222 horsepower; that flagship Twin Turbo model, however, sported 300, the magic number for the day. Underneath, this new Z relied upon double wishbones. Timeless sheet metal topped the entire package.

The 300ZX Twin Turbo came to market at right around $33,000–about $64,000 in today’s dollars. (Quick price check: The 2020 Nissan 370Z, now a full decade since its last real update, starts at $30,090.)

The praise soon followed. “Brace yourselves, sports fans: what we have here is nothing less than the first Japanese sports car able to run with the big dogs,” Csaba Csere wrote in the November 1989 issue of Car and Driver. “Whether you’re comparing acceleration, roadholding, or top speed, the Turbo Z has the qualifications needed to compete against the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette, the Porsche 911 or even the Ferrari 328.”

But changing times would eventually work against the Z. By 1995, you’d pay about $42,000–more than $70,000 in today’s dollars–for a new 300ZX Twin Turbo. Buyers, meanwhile, seemed more interested in trucks. As a result, the entire Japanese supercar market pretty much collapsed. Nissan sold nearly 40,000 Z-cars to Americans for 1990; by 1995, that figure had fallen to less than 5500. While Z32 production continued through 2000, American dealers dropped the car after 1996.

Practical Guidance

Our Expert

Rob Fuller 
Z Car Garage
zcarblog.com 
zcargarage.com 
(408) 452-0350

1993 to 1995 are my favorite years for the Z32TT. The early cars have more issues than the later models. Just like today, after the first year, lots of issues were resolved as the cars saw the road and clocked miles.

Early cars have electrical woes, including the connectors (corrosion in the all those connections) and the heater core (which requires you to remove the dash to fix). Look up early injector issues. TwinTurbo.net is a great resource for information.

1996 is the least friendly for modification since it’s the only year of OBDII.

Believe it or not, you can still get quite a few parts from Nissan. The aftermarket is filled with support for the Z32: Concept Z Performance, Z1 Motorsports, Specialty-Z, and Jim Wolf Technology.

Always get a Z32 pre-purchase inspection. Make sure it gets up on a lift–seen some pretty scary cars.

I like the automatic Z if you are using it for cruising. The auto transmission can only take so much abuse.

T-top leaks can happen. Seals are still available both on the aftermarket and as a Nissan part.

Favorite mods: JWT Pop Charger intake, JWT ECU upgrade, and Specialty-Z cat-back exhaust–best exhaust ever.

What about buying a non-turbo Z32? Yes, if you love the styling of a Z32 and are afraid of the Twin Turbo. Great car, just underpowered if you have ever gotten a taste of the boost.

Research the cost of ownership. These are expensive cars to repair when things break. Every one of them will need injectors. Timing belt services are pricey. Take your time and find the car that suits you and your budget. The least expensive cars are usually the most expensive in the long run.

Recent Sale

1995 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo

$23,000 via Bring a Trailer

• Very original, wearing a thoroughly ’90s hue.

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Comments
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300zxfreak
300zxfreak New Reader
12/15/19 3:55 p.m.

I'm 300zxfreak, and I approved this message.

rodknock
rodknock Reader
12/15/19 4:50 p.m.

I have always liked the look of these. I don't like how tight the engine bay is but that can be solved with an LS swap. 

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
12/15/19 5:27 p.m.

I have a yellow Hot Wheels matching this car.  

papamilad
papamilad New Reader
4/23/21 7:11 p.m.

The secret with these cars is to buy a non turbo model and slap all the stock turbo bits onto it. on 93 they make about 400whp, closer to 500 on e85. All able to be done with stock ECU/turbos.

Stealthtercel
Stealthtercel Dork
4/23/21 7:48 p.m.

Since Mr. W. mentioned Csaba Csere, it seems appropriate to mention that when CD finished their long-term test of one of these, they said, "We'd do it all over again.  With the same car."

That's always stuck with me as a pretty comprehensive thumbs up.

neverdone
neverdone New Reader
4/23/21 8:21 p.m.

In the early 90s I worked at a Nissan dealership as a lot boy and spent thousands of miles dealer trading these up and down the east coast. It was pretty awesome for a 20 year old college kid.  300s or Maxima 5 speeds were my favorite... and automatic Pulsars were the worst...they were the 1990 equivalent of the Pinto.  I think of how great (except for the Pulsar) Nissan was then and how crappy it is now and shake my head.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
4/24/21 11:15 a.m.

Always liked the build and performance but not the looks. They are OK until you think of a 240Z at which point they become blockish and heavy looking

hybridmomentspass
hybridmomentspass Reader
4/27/21 5:03 a.m.

First car I drove after getting my license was a turbo Z31

I always had a hankering for a Z32 and ALMOST got one. Almost.

It was between a NA Z32 - Black with brown interior, OR a Red with black interior turbo MR2. I went MR2 and have my third one in the garage right now.

While Im not a fan of the interior of the Z32 any longer, the body is still very sexy. So many cool things on that chassis

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