My Hobby Car Of A Lifetime #8: 1992 Nissan 300ZX — As Close As I’ll Ever Come To A Supercar

The styling was simple, and simply beautiful. Photos by author.


As close as I’ll ever come to owning a supercar.

The ’90-’96 300 ZX was the pinnacle of the Nissan Z series. It was a stand-alone model that had its own unique platform and suspension design. It arrived at the moment that all of the Japanese manufacturers produced a top of the line, special performance model.

Honda had the NSX. Toyota had the Supra. Mitsubishi had the 3000 GT, which was a platform mate of the Dodge Stealth.

Nissan had the twin-turbo 300ZX. Mazda had the RX7.

Then, Chevy had its 300 hp Corvette.

It was a good time for performance car fans, or make that, for affluent performance car fans. Each of these cars pushed the price as high as it could go. This was due to each of these cars being highly developed, bespoke designs. There were also international financial matters that I have little familiarity with.

The market did not embrace these pricey Japanese competitors, and these models either disappeared or were severely cost-cut. It was a zenith for Japanese manufacturers.

I initially bought the 300ZX car because it was the ultimate evolution of the Z, and because it was a newer model. I hoped it would give me a break from continual wrenching since I was coming off of another serious back episode and thought that this might spare me some pain.

The car was ten years old at the time but looked like new, and it came with an invoice that documented a complete engine rebuild.  It was a big ticket expense, that was reflected in the price, but I felt that it would ensure a long lifetime in my hands.

This was a car that I had admired from afar. The styling was very modern and a complete break from the past. The performance and appearance were as serious as a Porsche. The lounge lizard rep was left far behind with this clean contemporary update. It was a luxury high-speed sports car.

As I have already described, I had an early Z that I was pretty happy with, but when the opportunity presented itself to buy this particular car. I jumped on it.

One of my favorite colors, pearl white. Not a speck of chrome.


The car was my favorite color, metallic pearl white, with a saddle leather interior. It was the naturally aspirated version, rated at 222 hp. It was equipped with a T-Top –my first experience with that type of roof– and a five-speed transmission.

This time I chose the two seat version as I no longer needed to drop my kids off at school.

The seats were comfortable and supportive.


This model had made quite a splash when it debuted, as it was such a change from the prior boulevardier designs. The buff books raved that it was now a bonafide high-performance sports car,  even better than the original 240Z. However, most attention was focused on the twin turbo model. I had considered one of those, but I felt that the N/A (naturally aspirated) model would probably not have been run as hard. The complexity of the twin turbo design, purchased as an older car, also caused me some concern.

I was involved with the SCCA and I became a Country music fan. The factory rated this engine at 222 hp.


The N/A version had a special intake system that doubled the intake area of the incoming charge at high rpm. This made it a bit weaker at lower rpm. It was similar to the Honda V Tech system though I don’t believe it advanced the cam timing. My car also had a set of Magnaflow mufflers. They sounded good, but every kid with a rice rocket wanted to drag me at the stop lights.

I also did some auto-crossing with this car. The narrow power band made it more difficult than with the more docile 280Z. I think that this would have been a much better car with an automatic transmission. As it was, it didn’t really come alive until it was doing over 50 mph. Then it would gain rpm rapidly and rush well past 100 mph. High speed handling and stability were outstanding.

It was fun but I wasn’t a star.


I had a constant issue with the exhaust gas re-circulation system, EGR, which would occasionally trip the CEL. I found a very good mechanic at a Shell station that I frequented. He was hard at work rebuilding his own twin-turbo Z. We talked and I discovered that he had been a factory trained Nissan mechanic before he bought the service operation at this station. I figured that anyone that could rebuild a twin turbo motor could handle any problems that I might experience. That turned out to be correct. Over the years he did a lot of work for me that was more difficult or complex than I wanted to tackle on my own.   He was my go-to guy for many years. Trying to find a good, honest mechanic is one of the most difficult problems in the old car game.

One thing that I learned with this car was that I did not like T-Tops. It was a hassle to stop the car and remove them, insert them in their protective bags, and secure them in the rear storage area. If I intended to park the car and leave it unattended for any period, then I’d have to put them back in place. I contrasted this with the power moonroofs that I’d enjoyed with my Honda Civic and Cadillac Seville. These were much more convenient since they could be opened and closed while in motion. While I enjoy a convertible, I really like moonroofs, and three of my current vehicles are equipped with them.

I was still involved with my swap meet business which wasn’t going that well. I still had a few months left on the lease of my shop, and I considered selling a car to help make ends meet. While the 300 was an outstanding performer and an impressive car to cruise around in, I found that I preferred the torquier more relaxed 280Z. So the 300ZX was put up for sale.

I first tried to sell the car to the consignment lot that I frequently visited, since their sign advised that they bought cars. I thought that this would be easier than dealing with CraigsList buyers, which can be tiring. Was I surprised when they lowballed me! They only offered me 2,200 bucks, which was a third of what it was worth, and a third of what I eventually sold the car for. Buy low, sell higher is the mantra for business, but I decided to let them make their money on someone else. But over the years I had bought three cars from this lot.

My eventual buyer was like that of my ’90 Honda Civic. This person had wanted a nice ’92 for years but was holding out to find a nice one since so many were getting thrashed and beat up by their second and third owners. He didn’t even know how to drive a manual transmission and brought a buddy to test drive it for him. I had recently put a new set of Yokohama tires on the Z, and he gave me 6,000 dollars for the car. That’s what I paid for it, and I at least got to enjoy it for a couple of years.

I had been thinking about getting a convertible at this time, there had never been a factory Z convertible before the ZX, and I believe that this model was produced by an after-market contractor. This was common with low-volume conversions. I didn’t care for the styling of these models and never seriously considered one. I’d choose a more mainstream model. That turned my attention to the Mustang.

I held onto my 280Z for a time after the 300Zx was gone. By then my swap meet business was also gone. My time with Zs had also come to an end.


Related CC reading:

Vintage Reviews & Commentary: 1990 Nissan 300ZX Turbo – “Porsche Likes Luxury”

Curbside Classic: 1994 Nissan 300ZX Convertible – Out Of Touch, Out Of Time