Curbside Classic: 1984 Nissan 300ZX Turbo

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
curbside classic 1984 nissan 300zx turbo

It’s nice to see someone still deeply in love with their pristine eighties time-capsule 300ZX. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it, but it’s always been a bit difficult to muster any warmth for Nissan’s Z cars after they turned the truly remarkable original 240Z into an ever more porky and ugly caricature of itself. The 300ZX was an attempt to ditch the over-wrought original styling cues for a clean new look, but by then the ZX was severely tainted by image issues, the price of its success.

This Z31 generation of Z cars was based on the chassis of its 280 ZX predecessor, but it introduced the VG 30 series engine, the first of a long line of Nissan’s increasingly highly-regarded V6s. In its first appearance here, it had SOHC heads and power outputs that seem laughable today for what was then a leading edge design: 160-165 hp for the normally aspirated version, and 200-205 for the turbo, as installed here. European turbo models had a better “Nismo” cam profile, and produced 230 hp. Given its 3,000 lb weight, the 300ZX was an adequate but hardly sparkling performer in un-turbo form.

The chassis of the 280ZX and this generation 300ZX was never in particular high regard, and had a rep for being a bit floppy at the limits, and generally uninspiring. Perfectly adequate for the overwhelming percentage of buyers, who wanted something to go with their suburban version of the Miami Vice look while tooling down the freeway. Somehow, the Toyota Supra’s relative lack of sales success protected it from the ZX car’s cheap gold chain image.

Its successor, the second generation (Z32) ZX300, was a much more ambitious attempt to regain true sports car creds with an all-new chassis and higher output DOHC engines. It received critical acclaim in the press and its styling was certainly more ambitious than the rather anodyne and generic version here, even with its tacked on fender extensions and sills. That’s not to say that with the right preparation, the 300ZX couldn’t be a winner on the race track, but frankly that has more to do with other factors than what was being actually sold at the dealer. Paul Newman drove one to its only Trans Am win in 1986. Good publicity, but not enough to keep redeem this generation 300ZX from also-ran status.

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  • Turbo60640 Turbo60640 on Mar 25, 2010

    Ppoor man's Porsche 928?

  • Jakoye Jakoye on Nov 03, 2010

    Oh Paul, you're so wrong on this car. It was awesome! I had an '85, and then when that got destroyed in a wreck (not my fault!), I bought an '86. Most fun I've ever had with a car. I loved driving it! BUT... and this is a big but, that car was a complete piece of shit. I mean EVERYTHING broke on that damn thing. It was a blast to drive and (I thought at the time) looked great, but man the quality was low. I love the current 370's too, but I have little doubt that Nissan's quality issues are still as bad as they ever were.

    • 300Zman 300Zman on Feb 10, 2012

      Ive drive one of my 4 everyday and ... I think i spent... maybe 300 on anything extra... other than the normal oil changes, So i would say... not to bad a 2 - 28yr old 84 Annv cars and 27yr old showcar and a 86 600 hp Sleeper that blows everything off the road lol.. Its to bad you had a Lemon but i can tell you this thats all my family drives is NISSAN and they or I have never had Problems and not to be prejudice but iam the manager at AZ and i can tell you the least amount of parts i pull for are Nissan parts,, been there 4 yrs and thats the truth,, so if you like the 370 then you might become a Nissan guy once again .. have a good one..

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