We’ve seen a few “Datsun 280ZXs” on CC over the years, but how about the Nissan Fairlady Z? It’s the exact same, but with subtitles. And LHD, seat doilies, fender mirrors, a smaller engine… Come to think of it, there are quite a few things that did not translate from Japanese to English, with this one.
The JDM Turbo version made do with a 2-litre, as opposed to the 2.8 that (most) foreign countries got. The non-turbo 2.8 was available in Japan, but had less success than this smaller turbo version, which provided 145hp to play with, but was taxed less. The turbocharged 2.8 seen in global / US versions was even more potent (180hp), but the non-turbo 2.8 only packed 135hp, so in Japan, smaller was better indeed.
The Japanese call these “2nd generation Fairlady Z” or the Nissan S130 – sometimes with “Z2000 Turbo” after it, for this particular spec. One thing they do not call these is “ZX,” strangely enough. And it was never badged as a Datsun here, even upon its August 1978 launch (and unlike the first generation Fairlady Z). At least on the home market, people knew what Nissan was and were thus spared the “Datsun by Nissan” badging of the era.
That Fairlady name is really a tough sell outside Japan, especially for a manly 6-cyl. sports coupé. Offbeat names were something of a Nissan specialty (Cedric, Sylvia, Cherry…) and, in the ‘70s, those were usually accompanied by very questionable styling. On this last score though, the Fairlady Z is the exception that proves the rule.
OK, it’s not as awesome as the first generation was – by a long shot. But given the context of Nissan in the ‘70s, this was a remarkably restrained and tasteful design. They smartly decided to keep the original car’s styling template pretty much unchanged, with the E-Type-esque long nose and round headlamps, and the short fastback rear. They didn’t want to tinker with the formula too much – a wise choice.
The big difference with the previous generation was the level of luxury and sophistication, which Nissan cranked up a notch of two. It made for a heavier car, which was not especially a good thing in Japan, and it seems this generation was a bit less successful here than it was in places like North America, to the extent that some US-market cars are being shipped back to Japan nowadays to satisfy local demand.
Alongside from Donkey Kong, dying Soviet premiers and high interest rates, is there anything more early ‘80s than these wheels? I think these are the original alloys for the Turbo Z, but I’m not 100% sure, as I could not find sufficient source materials on the web. Finding info about the JDM career of this model is a bit more difficult than for the US, European or Australian side of the story.
So I’ll keep it nice and brief – there’s not much I can add that hasn’t been written already in one of the fine articles below. It’s just interesting to encounter the original version. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s just about Suntory time…
CC Outtake: Datsun 280 ZX: Just The Ride For A Trip To The Dentist, by Chris O’Bryant
eBay Find: 1980 Datsun 280ZX – Enough To Make My Heart Melt, by Gerardo Solis
Vintage Ad: 1979 Datsun 280ZX – A Creature Of Comfort, by Perry Shoar