Curbside Capsule: c. 1979 Datsun 280ZX 2+2 – Two Plus Two Equals…

c. 1979 Datsun 280 ZX 2+2. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, May 28, 2016.

I enjoyed algebra class.  I also feel like I’m reasonably intelligent.  When I had first seen the “2+2” designation on the Chevrolet Monza hatchback as a kid, it irritated me.  Why did this car have a stupid, easy math problem tacked onto it?  Then one day, I sat in one.  It belonged to a college student of my father, a gentleman named Kemper, who reminded me a little bit of Jim Rockford-era James Garner.

I was a car-hungry teen and he was looking to sell it to me for something like $500 ($1,100 in 2023).  “It’ll make you popular with all the ladies!”, he had said.  By this point in the early ’90s, this ’79-or-so Monza was in awful shape and the motor shook violently when I fired it up.  The little, formerly sporty H-Body hatchback felt like it was bent on self-destruction.  I didn’t have to back it all the way out of Kemper’s driveway into the street before I had made up my mind to politely pass.  No offense, Sir.  And pay attention in my dad’s class because he doesn’t play.  Next.

1979 Datsun 280 ZX 2+2 print ad, as sourced from the internet.

As it relates to the “2+2” designation, those little butt-buckets in the second row weren’t going to cut it, even if that Monza had run right.  And suddenly, a car like the ’79 Datsun 280ZX 2+2 makes sense… sort of.  I’ve made reference here at CC to the right and left halves of my brain duking it out for dominance when it comes to my decision-making abilities and simply what I like.  The 280ZX 2+2 is the embodiment of my ongoing, internal struggle.  The right side of my brain says, “This car makes sense, Joe.  You’ve ridden in the hatchback of a Honda CRX before.  A two-seater could never the correct choice for you.”  My left brain says, “That styling, though…”

1979 Datsun 280 ZX 2+2 press photo, as sourced from the internet.

Otherwise and on the surface, I don’t have any issues with the looks of the first ZX, which I thought was a nice and effective evolution of the final 280Z.  To liken the ZX to my own physique, if the original Z was me in my early thirties, the ZX is me now in my late forties: just a little bit softer, but still basically fit and not trying to prove anything in terms of my abilities.  In middle age, I’ve also moved upscale and can easily prioritize things like comfort.

As for the 2+2, was there any other effective solution available to make it less awkward-looking from the side?  I have respect for a tasteful shooting brake that can accommodate rear seat passengers, like a Volvo 1800 ES, Jensen GT, or a Lancia Beta HP.  I also love the sloping fastback profile of the regular, non-addition 280ZX.  The 2+2, however, seems to exist in the no-man’s-land somewhere between a genuinely attractive grand tourer and a late-’70s Cutlass Salon.  Here’s to life’s inevitable, little compromises.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, May 28, 2016.