One of the few things that I remember from high school was taking a business writing class, where I had to compose a letter about a defective car. Of course, I remember the subject of my false correspondence: a Datsun 260Z.
So many years later, I cannot faithfully recall the details of the poor Datsun’s make-believe malfunction, but I was becoming aware of the car’s real-life failings. It was obvious to me, if not to the average consumer, that the 260 moniker was a tacit admission that a bigger engine was needed to overcome the primitive emissions-control equipment of the time. That first generation Z car eventually grew to be a 280Z before the next generation appeared as the fuel-injected 280ZX.
Unlike most late ’70s Detroit iron, the 280ZX grew in size, now offering enough space to add a second row of seats, which this facelifted car does not appear to have, judging by the rear windows. Still, even this two-seater could not escape the trends of times, as the ride was softened to appeal to a wider audience. I can also remember when I graduated from college, my dad had his eyes on a ZX that he thought would be perfect for me. I finally dissuaded him once he looked up the fuel mileage and got an insurance quote (the car had a salvage title). I wound up with a Pontiac J2000 after Mom refused to co-sign for the Honda Civic I really wanted.
This particular car’s interior appears to have held up well for being 31 years old. Sharp-eyed readers will note the automatic transmission and digital dash, rather appropriate choices given the Z’s “lounge lizard” posture and one can very easily imagine the addition of buttons on the upholstery to complete the next step to Brougham status. Thankfully, Nissan realized that priorities had begun to change by the time the first 300ZX came around in 1984, or else we would have seen Zs with Landau roofs.
Related reading: 1983 Datsun 280ZX: The Cutlass Supreme Brougham Z?
Nice find. Childhood neighbor’s daughter had a red 240Z. I got to sit in the driver’s seat once. I think the car had broken down and my job was to steer while it was pushed out to the street where the tow truck could get it, or something like that. ANYway, point is, when these restyled beasts came out I could tell right away they lost the entire soul of the original. Such a shame.
Not that this is a bad car. It’s kind of like a 1978 Grand Prix: standing on its own, it’s a fine enough car, but compared to Grands Prix before, wow, what a tumble it took.
Nice looking Datsun 280ZX. I remember these when I was a boy. I was 7 yrs old when I first saw a 280ZX. I thought it was better looking than the 240Z-280Z that came before it.
So the writer was in high school when the 260Z was already on the road.
In fact, it was a very nice car for what it was, sporty and fun to drive.
Before it, there was the original ‘Z’ the 240Z. Powered by a 2.4L 4 cylinder engine. Prior to the Zs were the 1600 and 2000 roadsters. (all numbers representing engine displacement) Both very fine little convertibles with an optional hard roof.
I owned a 2000 which had twin carbs from the factory and was a blast to drive.
I read so many critical reviews written by people who were in diapers when a particular car they are criticizing was new. Have a little respect, the Japanese auto makers were making great strides toward modernization, “as you know it”.
The 240Z was a straight six, not a four.
And in the Japanese market (where the car was called Fairlady Z), a lot of the early cars had a 2-liter six, not the 2.4, which I don’t think even became available in Japan until sometime in ’72.
The 240Z was a six cylinder, not a 4. Also remember that there was a 2+2 version of the first gen car, which was rather ungainly and didn’t sell particularly well.
I swapped cars with a friend for a week in the winter of ’80; my Dasher wagon for his 260Z. He was moving to The Detroit area (Ypsilanti) and needed a wagon. I drove the 260Z from Kenosha to Ypsi through a lake effect snow storm that started in NW Indiana and degenerated to an ice storm all the way across Michigan. Definitely white-knuckle driving. The Z did fine, as long as you treated the throttle gently.
My sisters ex had a 71 240Z. Fun cars but horrible rusters. After a couple of Buffalo NY winters, rust holes appeared on the tops of the front fenders that sent columns of water over the car when driving in the rain. His finally met its demise by getting wrapped around a fire hydrant after hitting an ice patch. A couple of other friends had 260s, 280s and one of those 3rd gen 300ZXs. I always felt that the later, more refined models were severely lacking in the driving excitement area compared to those first gen cars.
From sports car embarraser (240Z) to Monte Carlo wanna-beeeez (280ZX).
Wanna be? The ZXs made much better personal luxury cars than anything coming out of Detroit.
The 240Z is now a classic. They did have the thin skin and rust problems typical of Japanese cars of the era. As with most cars of that time period, the later cars (especially 260Z) did not cope well with later 70’s US requirements.
Always associate these with gold chains and excessive male décolletage. Have said that they were still a better sports cars than most of the aging European ones of the time.
With the right differential/transmission choice, the 280ZX was a competent and comfortable car. The T-tops have all the benefits of a convertible without the hassle.
“The T-tops have all the benefits of a convertible without the hassle.”
Huh? How in the world are T-tops less of a hassle than a convertible? I have an MR2 and you flip two latches and push the top down. Done.
T-tops? You have to stop, take them out, or put them back in, put them in the trunk, or take them out of the trunk. (There’s also the fact that most I’ve ever been around leaked).
Unless you had a land yacht whose power top failed I can’t imagine a convertible being more of a hassle than T-tops. I’ve owned 3 convertibles, I would never want to own a car with T-tops. T-tops were a product of the end of the convertible (XOR so we thought), there’s a reason you don’t see them much anymore.
Compared to the MG’s Michelotti top, the Datsun was easy.
Personally – I love the ZX – and don’t care a bit about its image. I went to a cars and coffee event this past weekend and there was a 1980 ZX, t-tops, black and gold, 5-speed. I drooled over it.
I also love these, especially the turbo version. Those were genuinely fast cars of the day, sounded good, and were fun. Fellow gearhead in high school had one and it was a hoot, and did one of the most righteous smoky burnouts ever done in our high school parking lot.
I had a 77 or 78 (I can’t remember for sure what year it was now) 280, it was a crappy 2+2 but was a rust free California car that came with a log book going back to the 70s of everything done to the car, including gas purchases! (The original owner was obviously OCD).
And my friend had a red 280Z, which was a really fun car. But I never cared for the ZX. It was just too tame and had to much crap on it. I’ve always liked my cars simple. A manual transmission, good handling and/or power, a top that comes down and I’m happy.
That’s why I don’t think Ill be buying a car newer than 2000, I don’t want all the bells and whistle crap,they put in cars these days. I don’t even want power windows and no AC doesn’t faze me one bit.