Earlier this week, I was out giving a co-worker a lift from another facility when I stumbled across this interesting sight, just on the other side of the fortified security gate. Due to time constraints I was only able to get this one shot, but in this case it worked out perfectly. Almost immediately my mind started making an apples-vs.-oranges comparison. Aside from the fact that they are both front engine, rear wheel drive, two-seat sports cars, no two vehicles could be more different.
Over 10 years, drastically different cultures, and completely different design and engineering philosophies mark these dueling icons. And yet, their core mission is the same- deliver pure driving satisfaction to their enthusiastic owners.
The screaming red ‘Vette is a 2001-2004 z06. The Z06 model is the ultimate incarnation of the C5 platform which originated in 1997 all the way until 2004, when C5 production ended. Motivation comes from a 7.0 liter LS2 engine that originally pumped out 385 horsepower, but jumped to 405 ponies in its second year. Other performance-enhancing tricks on the Z06 compared to the standard ‘Vette include bigger brakes with functional cooling ducts, thinner glass, super lightweight magnesium alloy wheels, and a titanium exhaust system. All Z06s come equipped with a 6-speed manual transaxle. No automatics were available on the z06.
The cool blue 300ZX appears to be a 1987-89 model. The 87-89 is the later, facelifted version of the Z31 platform which originated in 1983. The 1983-1986 version was blockier and chunkier in that 80’s Japanese way. The 1987 upgrade, with its smooth sides and more rounded corners, was Nissan’s way of modernizing the now-aging platform. Power came from one of two versions of Nissan’s venerable 3.0 liter V6, making 160 HP in normally aspirated trim, or 200 HP in turbocharged form, turning either a five-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. In 1990 an all-new Z, sporting dramatically different exterior styling and the availability of a hot new 300 HP twin-turbo engine, would make its debut.
America’s only true sports car has experienced its fair share of ups and downs over the years, but has basically stayed true to its original formula- providing butt-clenching performance and brash, in-your-face style at a ( relative ) bargain price. Today’s C7 is the best ‘Vette ever. And the future only looks brighter. By contrast, the Z has gotten steadily bigger, plusher, more refined, and more expensive with each subsequent generation. The Z has had its ups and downs as well, but it continues to be a smooth, sophisticated, and refined sports car for the thinking man ( or woman ) enthusiast- the Fast And Furious crowd notwithstanding.
Our feature Corvette makes its bones through a combination of pure brute force and raw sex appeal. Our feature Z wins its fans through its overall refinement, civility, comfort, and mechanical precision. It’s no secret that in an all-out performance contest, the Yankee Z would leave its older far-east competitor in the dust. Even so, the Nissan would probably be much more pleasant to live with on the daily slog to work, or driving an elderly female relative to church. In my lottery dream garage, I’d have plenty of room for both.