By on April 17, 2015

Apologies to Messrs Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Plant for the title.

We continue our journey through the wasteland of the automotive internet with another car that fills my imaginary garage–that fantasy world where there are no orthodontist’s bills.

I distinctly remember when the Z32 started hitting the enthusiast magazines in 1989, around the same time as another iconic Japanese sports car was filling the same pages. It didn’t hurt that my dad was a long-time Z owner–and occasional president of the local Z club–and a regional Nissan marketing executive lived two blocks away. The 1990 300ZX was right up there in my preteen automotive poster dreamworld with the usual suspects from Maranello, Stuttgart, and Sant’Agata. Dad ended up with a non-turbo version, in middle-aged-guy-appropriate deep cherry red, that he ended up trading before the 60k timing belt service was due.

The 300hp twin-turbo was mind-blowing back then–of course, minivans had around 150hp rather than the 283 in my T&C. Corvette and 944 Turbo performance from the same place that serviced Mom’s Sentra? That’s why I can’t believe this yellow example on eBay has only fifteen thousand miles on the odometer. Who wouldn’t want to drive this halfway across the continent?

The color probably doesn’t help. But otherwise (save for the Nissan hamburger logo that shouldn’t be on the between-headlamp panel on a ’90) this looks just like the cars I drooled over in the local showroom as a kid. $29k might be a stretch, too. But there are so few left that are this clean that I can imagine someone will pull the trigger.


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29 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: Squeeze My Lemon...”

  • avatar

    This is one of those cars that I’ve never liked, but that I respect. I have a hard time believing that this model is from 1990 (and therefore older than I am); it looks at least seven or eight years newer than it is.

    • 0 avatar

      Z cars were getting a little soft as the years went on and I thought they got some of it back with this redesign. Still a bit too big for what I want in a sport car/GT.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    This car looked terrific in pearl white.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes! I saw one driving around town last summer and it was a fantastic-looking car.

    • 0 avatar


      Pearl white is the appropriate color for these, with a nod to black. With the T-tops and the tan leather interior. Yaaaas.

      Beautiful. Hard to believe it could be 26 years old.

  • avatar

    I always liked the four-seat 300ZXs. They’re still quite striking, even—especially–in yellow.

    • 0 avatar

      i disagree, the two seat coupe is great looking as is the convertible (these didnt make it to most of the english speaking world)

      the 2+2 is just too long and bloated

      the car’s worst thing is the VG30 twin turbo motor shoehorned into the front

      just too little room and like most 20 yr old nissans they do fun things like blowing heater cores and ceramic turbos

      would love to have a 300zx but with a LS1 or RB25/26 conversion

      the VG30 isnt even a bad motor, its just a bad motor in THAT car

      • 0 avatar

        Really? I’ve seen more than a few Z32 convertibles in Canada, even in the past year. I know also I’ve got a Nissan all-line brochure from ’95 or so that has the convertible in it.

  • avatar

    That 15k mile car probably needs said expensive timing belt job, unless the PO can prove it’s been done in the past 6 years or so. These are really awesome looking cars, so awesome that Lamborghini borrowed the headlights for their Diablo! The only other thing I really know about them is that they’re quite heavy, and working on them is apparently a pain. I’d still like to own one, it’s more attainable than one of the last gen Supras, and probably more reliable than a FD RX7 or 3000GT.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the FDs are reliable enough once you re-engineer them.

    • 0 avatar

      They WERE quite heavy. I remember when they came out they were ridiculously heavy, but apparently the heaviest model was 3,020 pounds, which by today’s standards is not so heavy.

      I had a white non-turbo ’92 5 speed. That car looked great and ran great when I got rid of it with 190K miles on it in ’05. I wish I still had it, but the fear of having to do anything more major than a fuel filter change drove it out of my fleet.

      I would love to have that yellow car, if only it were white.

  • avatar
    John R

    I’ve loved the Z since elementary. Especially the two seater with the targa top.

    I might be onboard with $29k if it were a different color, but I imagine finding unmolested examples of the twin-turbo with low miles is tough. Mk IV turbo Supras and FD RX-7s in the same condition tend toward $40-50k.

  • avatar

    Hey, that’s my daily driver! Well, not that exact car obviously — my white ’95 TT looks quite a bit rougher, and has 291K miles on it. But it’s still a blast to drive and it’s been Camry-esque in its reliability. I too had always wanted one back in high school. Once out of college, I found a job and found some money, so I bought one. Never expected that 16 years later I’d still be driving the same car, by choice.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Would love see a write up on your ride.

      I met a guy once with a Morgan plus 8 who had similar miles, north of 200k, drove the snot out of the thing out of passion. Obviously, he did not enjoy camryesque reliability but had refineries most of the problem spots.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d also be fascinated to hear a long term ownership review of one of these beasts!

    • 0 avatar

      I have a similar story. I first saw the then-new Z at the 1989 New York auto show. I was 19. I hung the brochure centerfold of a silver turbo on my dorm wall. In 1997, I bought a 1996 2+2 with 12k miles, and I’m still driving it 18 years later. Still puts a smile on my face, and I still sneak an extra look as I walk away after parking it. It has been rock-solid reliable, the radiator cracking last year was the first major non-maintenance expense, and was not that expensive to replace. (The mechanic, who specializes in Z cars, was surprised I still had to original radiator, as they are prone to this failure.) Every time I even think about replacing it, I just know I would have seller’s remorse.

  • avatar

    I love these cars, they still look good even 25 yrs later, classic design.

    I would buy this long before I spend $40k on a Integra Type R. And it might even go up in value.

  • avatar

    The money makers for that dealership are the air-cooled ones in the background. To have had the foresight to go long on old Porkers 2-3 years ago……

  • avatar

    When these first came out I saw a kid do the full Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy” routine when one pulled up to local Wendy’s. I liked these but was a much bigger fan of the contemporary RX-7. One night my friend and I took his lightly modified Carrera RS and got in a race with a guy who had a heavily modded Z and he destroyed us. Nothing but taillights.

  • avatar
    Jonathan H.

    That car was my first purchase when I got my first real job after college in ’94. It was on consignment at a local Nissan dealer. I’d head down there just about every night and stare at it mustering up the courage to plunge myself into debt so soon after landing a real job. It was a low mileage example in perfect condition. It had aftermarket leather seats with yellow piping which I thought was the coolest. It also had two weird additions that were definitely signs of the times. First was the in-dash Sony minidisc changer which was the audio equivalent of the Betamax. That didn’t stop me from buying a home unit and and the rare new releases in that format though. The other thing was the symbol Prince replaced his name with hand-painted on the door handles and a larger rendition on the rear valence between the tail lights. Luckily those scraped right off with no damage to the paint.

    I tried and failed twice to get the dealer to sell it for a reasonable price. I guess they could sense my desperation and thought they had a sucker because they didn’t budge from the exorbitant asking price. So I gave up thinking I’d lost my chance at owning that car. A couple months later an ad in the local paper showed up from a private seller. I arranged a meet and showed up to find the same car being sold direct by the owner this time around. I remember the ride home after plunking down the cash being one of the happiest days of my life. It was my first experience with a turbocharged car and it was like night and day in comparison to the old Z cars I cut my teeth on.

    Being on a limited budget I had to perform all my own maintenance including the first timing belt change. With the help of a really good enthusiast forum it went off without a hitch. After about 4 years of ownership I decided to drive to Atlanta for a Z meet in the middle of January. As I made my way through the mountains of Tennessee(from my home in Kentucky) I hit some black ice on the interstate. As the car got light and started its first of two 360 degree spins my heart sank in realization of the impending disaster that awaited me. As the car turned that last quarter turn I met the butt end of a center divider’s impact structure on the passenger side and bent the car into a cruelly fitting banana shape.

    I was fine and a local tow truck happened by and pulled my out of the ditch and hauled the car to the tow yard. I called my best friend to make the two hour trip to pick me up and stood and stared at the car in the freezing rain stunned that I bothered to attempt the trip in those conditions. I collected my personal items out of it, including the handful of minidiscs, and waited for my ride. I only saw it one other time after it was trucked back home when I did the walk-around with the insurance adjuster. Of course it was totaled which was the worst bookend to my ownership experience.

    I took the insurance check and hauled ass a few weeks later to Poughkeepsie, NY for what I thought at the time was a nice red replacement ’95 model. Turned out to be a lemon and gave me headaches the entire time I owned it. No car I’ve owned before or since the pearl yellow twin turbo Z has ever been able to live up to my love for that car.

  • avatar

    I almost bought one of these back in ’96 but got a new Eclipse turbo instead. The Eclipse was great, but I can only imagine the 300ZX would have been AWESOME (yes in all caps).

    These cars in twin turbo form are quicker then my current Z33. And I had a yellow car – a Honda Prelude Si. Not really a fan of this shade of yellow, however in red this would be a “must have” car. Amazing how so many of the Z’s design cues continued during its production run – you can clearly see where my Z33 got its inspiration from. Wish the T-Tops carried over but most likely made the car softer.

  • avatar

    I had a ’91 non-turbo slick top before upgrading to a new ’92 Twin Turbo. It was a beautiful Sapphire Blue and I had to have it after a test drive. After installing half the Jim Wolf catalog, it was a beast. The car was super reliable and never needed anything but gas, oil and tires. Lots of tires! I sold it after 4 years of trouble free driving. I actually repurchased it 2 years later and enjoyed it for another few years. Finally sold it to a friend to buy a new 2001 BMW 540 (that I still have). He also put many trouble free miles on it over the next few years. It was bullet proof reliable and with the modifications I made; it was scary fast. It was also extremely comfortable and a great car for covering long distances quickly. It was one of the best cars I’ve ever had and I often wish I had kept it.

  • avatar

    Just two months ago I very reluctantly traded my near-mint silver ’95 non-turbo for a brand new Golf. I do miss that car. My last with a manual transmission. Too many projects and no more room at a new house. I feel sad.

    It handled like a slot car, was extremely comfortable, and was just a great-looking car all around. A real revelation when it hit the market in 89.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine had ’91 or ’92 in black, with a turbo, it was in the shop constantly for all kinds of stuff. He loved driving it, but the shop time made him hate it, so he dumped it pretty quickly for an F150, then about ’99, he got a Trans Am that he still has, it’s been pretty much bulletproof, except the junk factory head unit(s) were garbage, so it has long had an aftermarket unit in it. Weird thing, his dad bought a ’93 red turbo 300ZX, and it’s been as good as the other was bad. He’s going to be selling it soon, as his driving days are numbered, and my friend is now thinking about buying it from him, but scared the good days are behind it. It’s got 100K on it, no winters, and looks great. The old man takes care of his cars.

  • avatar

    I can still remember a year or so prior to release one of my car buddies was just adamant there was no way the released car would be a twin turbo…

    Yeah these things absolutely stunned when they came out, my cousin bought a pearl TT when he was single and it was just gorgeous and fast, a lot of fun with the ttops out.

    It’s also a design that’s aged VERY well, I really wanted one badly but the timing and funds never worked out.

  • avatar

    My first magazine subscription was for Automobile, the first issue I received was February ’91, on which the cover story was the wrap-up of their four seasons test on a 300ZX Twin Turbo. Their verdict was that they loved the car so much they wanted to repeat the test, with the exact same car. That sort of praise leaves an impression on a 5-year old.

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