COAL: 1994 Nissan 300ZX – 600ZX Actually, After I Got Done With It

“Buy low/sell high” is a great rule for practically any business venture.  If you can do both, you’re well on your way to profitability.  If you can regularly achieve at least one of these, you still have a good shot. Even more so if it’s a 300ZX sporting a 6.0 Chevy LS V8.

In all the buying and selling of cars I’ve done, I know that the “sell high” part is never guaranteed.   Cars selling over their value can happen, but it takes time.  You have to wait for the right buyer to come along.  There is a used car dealer not far from where I live who over-prices his inventory and waits, and waits, and waits.  I know he has had an early 70s F-150 on his lot for two years now.

I don’t like to keep cars very long.  I like to price them just at or even a tiny bit under market value, and then allow the buyer to talk me down just a little more.  So for me, the only part of the “buy low/sell high” construct I can control is the “buy low” portion.  Accordingly, when I’m looking for a car I often sort by price.  There is a lot of junk on the low end, but occasionally you can find a gem.

A 1994 Nissan 300ZX was a gem I found.  These 1990-1996 cars were internally named Z32.  The classified ad said “not running” and the owner ran a used car lot about an hour and a half from my house.  He told me there was water in the oil and his mechanic suspected a head gasket.  I made an appointment to look at it after verifying that it was a two-seater.  In my opinion the 2+2 models had terrible proportions.  The older Z31 2+2s were even worse.

I picked up a car trailer from U-Haul and made the drive.  I figured the sight of trailer could move the price down, but the distance I drove could move the price up.  How would he know how far I drove?  He and I were in different telephone area codes, and he probably knew that if he paid attention to his caller ID.

Except for the engine, the car was actually in nice shape.  There was only one modification, the wheels were upsized, aftermarket ones.  Other than that the car was stock. The leather on the driver’s seat was badly cracked, but otherwise the interior was very nice.  The paint was probably less than ten years old and was nice too.  There were no dents, and no rust – because Florida.  It was a T-topped N/A V6 with a slushbox.

The seller and I went back-and-forth on price for a minute or two.  He even threw out the line: “I’ve had a ton of calls on this one.”  My standard reply is always “Well, where is everybody?”   We eventually compromised and he even procured a portable electric winch from somewhere to help motivate the car on to the trailer.  I had that little Nissan in my garage by lunchtime.

Over the next few weeks I pulled the engine and trans and made a tiny bit of money back from the scrap metal guy.  I picked up a Nissan five-speed manual at a junkyard.  I also gathered the other necessary parts for the conversion like a clutch pedal, shifter, clutch master cylinder etc. etc.

I already had a Chevrolet gen III 6.0 V8 sitting in my garage, so that went in.  My son started calling it the 600ZX.  I found a company in New Jersey that sells a unique flywheel and adapter plate for mating a Chevy LS1 to a Nissan gearbox.  The factory DOHC V6 actually took up more room side-to-side than the GM LS engine did.  The room front-to-rear was a tight fit though.

My big task was fabricating a set of headers and exhaust for it.  I began as a rookie on the MIG, by the time the job was done I felt like a journeyman welder.  But there was a bright spot:  these cars had IRS in the back with a fixed differential, so that made running the rear part of the exhaust much easier.

These 300Zs had a screwy double-sump gas tank that sat over the driveshaft, with a little computer that told the pumps when to move fuel around.  Unfortunately, I had to learn all about that.  The C5 and C6 Corvettes had a similar setup.  Speaking of Corvettes, the rumor was that Chevy engineers carefully dissected a 300ZX when they were developing their car.  The twin-turbo version of this Nissan was world-class when it debuted.

When finished, my car was super-fun to drive.  400 foot pounds of torque and as much horsepower in a 3,100 pound car is a rush.  The acceleration was like a commercial jet rushing down the runway for takeoff.   I drove it daily for a little while, but like everything else, I grew tired of it.

I had a feeling I could “sell high” and I did.  My little 600ZX is cruising the streets of Miami now.  At least that was the area code of the guy who called about it.  When he came, he was pulling an empty flat trailer, so I knew he was serious.