By on July 3, 2015

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Like most sports cars, the Z got fat as it aged. The one/two combo punch of emissions and safety regulations worked over many a performance car throughout the ’70s, some not surviving the decade. The Z changed from SU-clone carbs, to finicky Hitachi flat-tops, to a Bosch fuel injection system over three years, all the while increasing displacement to handle the extra weight of massive bumpers. Enthusiasts may whine about the changes, but it seems market pressures added the pounds, too. In 1979, the 280ZX was released — a softer, more luxurious car than the predecessor.

Yet, it sold just as well, showing that Nissan were right about the market. New Z owners were pulling up to the valet at the disco, rather than carving canyons.

Yep, it’s the commercial that’s been passed around social media for years like a rolled-up twenty.

The 1980 Anniversary Edition Black Gold ZX was perfect to usher in the new decade. As a little car-fanatic kid in a multiple-Z-owning household, I had a toy R/C model of this very car tucked next to me in bed on occasion, rather than a teddy bear.

$17,000 is a big number for the car I’ve come to refer to as the 2DSC — two door saloon car, as it’s not much different than a Maxima of the era. The later cars, especially the turbocharged examples, brought much of the performance back to Nissan/Datsun showrooms, but these early ZXs were just good, comfortable cruisers.

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33 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1980 Datsun 280ZX Black Gold Anniversary Edition...”


  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    This is when Datsun departed from sport cars and started building boulevarde cruisers for the US market……..what a pity.

    I do think Datsun of an earlier age created some of the best, memorable and affordable sports cars of the time.

    Overall better than Euro and US offerings.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Nissan in the ’70s-’90s went back and forth between sporty, stylish cars and more stolid, luxury cruisers. Probably a reflection of the internal Nissan/Prince division and which side was ascendent at a given moment.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Great car. The straight six was when people respected Datsun/Nissan products. Many of the upper tax bracket kids in High Schools loved these 280z’s. Look how far nissan/infiniti has fallen since these brilliant 280z products. I remember my sisters pediatrician owning one of these cars. Every time she would go I wanted to go and check out his car. I think his was a turbo. Doctors parking lots were peppered with these 280z back in the day. Now, you mostly see nissan/infiniti products in the nursing parking lots.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      So Nissan sucks because people you consider cool don’t like them anymore? Lol. Nurses didn’t buy Nissans in the 80s? Lol. Can you name a better sports car bargain than a base 370Z? Lol.

      • 0 avatar

        Nissan sucks because it slid from being a credible car manufacturer who produced a line a vehicles with at least a modicum of sporting intentions into a purveryor of low-FICO sleds. The 370Z is an exception.

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        Sporty.. there is very little in nissans lineup that equals the old quality or uniqueness of the old 280z’s. InfinitiNissan is the lowest credit score auto maker. Besides the gt-r nissans offer nothing that other auto makers already offer offer. Yes for the money a base 370 can be had for about 30k. But they are a dime a dozen and extremely generic.Like Flybrian stated. Low FICO score auto maker. LOL. Nissan does not make sucky cars. They just don’t make cars like the old 280z’s anymore . And yes. You won’t see to many nissans anymore in the doctors parking lot. As in the late 70’s and 80’s.

        • 0 avatar
          dantes_inferno

          > They just don’t make cars like the old 280z’s anymore

          As a former owner of a 1st generation 1977 280z, I concur. The next generation 280zx was a bloated whale of a boulevard cruiser by comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      ‘Many of the upper tax bracket kids in High Schools loved these 280z’s.’

      I went to high school with a girl whose rich Daddy bought her a new one when she turned 16. Absolutely despicable girl, which is why I cringe every time I see one of these.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “I went to high school with a girl whose rich Daddy bought her a new one when she turned 16.”

        One of the teachers in my high school did quite well on the side in real estate (might have been some family money too). His son and daughter were a few years younger than me but they were the same ages as my younger siblings. Both kids got Porsches as teenage birthday presents but at some point the daughter crashed hers (minor injuries to her). Anyway, this recent crash was unbeknownst to one of their fellow students whose unwitting timing made this all exponentially more hilarious when she boisterously ask said teacher, “Mr. ____, WHEN DO I get a Porsche?!?”

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    How do you not love this car?

    I worked for a guy when I was in HS who had one, sans the T Top roof, which was unfortunate. He would let me take it out on occasion, what a blast to drive.

    Fast forward to today and the Nissan lot is gaggle of bland soulless sedans/CUVs with a dark cloud of mediocrity hanging over it.

  • avatar

    I could care less about nimble, fleet, tossable handling of the original 240Z – this generation 280ZX was timeless and the Black Gold edition the absolute pinnacle of what these cars were about – style, performance, innovation, comfort, luxury, and swagger. T-tops, digital dash, talking voice reminders, plush leather uphosltery, two-tone finishes, rear window louvers – all that’s missing is a mirror and a line of coke.

    We bought an ’83 280ZX a few years ago from the ‘classic’ public sale at Manheim St. Pete along with an ’82 Fleetwood Brougham. It was two-tone silver and blue with all options, including the digi dash, louvers, and voice alert. God, what a car. Made $4000 off of it when all was said and done, but I demo’d that thing for a week.

  • avatar
    7402

    At this point the Z car was fast becoming a freeway missile in the manner of contemporary Corvettes rather than the spiritual descendant of the Fairlady roadster and the British sports cars that inspired it.

    Improbably, when the delivery truck I drove for a small business was in the shop or unavailable the owner’s 1972 240Z was the substitute car. Quite the gift for a teenager with a newly minted driver’s license. Lots of fun on mountain roads and it would pull up to 80 in second gear. A colleague in the early 1990s bought a 300ZX Turbo that was more fun in a straight line but provided a very anesthetized experience compared to the visceral thrill of its ancestor.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Japanese Monte Carlo/Thunderbird – I mean that in a good way. :-)

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Honestly, the 280ZX is my favorite Z car of them all, especially with T tops.

    And for like 70 bucks, I can get a little one that turns into a robot.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I forget what movie it was, but some dude had one of these and was preying on high school girls. Bleh. The late 70s were a pretty abysmal time for the US culturally, “automotively” and just generally. Cars like this epitomize this. I can just see some greasy dude with his chest hair puffing out of his polyester shirt just creeping down some back street skeeving out some ladies leaving a club. Yeech

    Oddly enough that dude’s kids, fist pumping Four Loko bros, tend to gather around the new Zs like moths to a flame.

    • 0 avatar
      TDIGuy

      I don’t know about movies, but in reality, Paul Bernardo kidnapped two schoolgirls using his girlfriend’s 240SX. Although originally witnesses said it was a Camaro.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        @TDIGuy, that 240SX was descended from the Z car’s little brother, the 200SX. The SX was a softer, inexpensive “sporty” car.

        Back when the Bernardo thing was just getting started, it was easy to believe that the unknown bad guy would drive a rusted out Camaro, but–as we gradually found out as more and more facts came to light–most everything in that story was far different than a lot of people had assumed. To the B&B out there, Paul Bernardo is back in the news today because he is up for parole. You can do a websearch for the story. Suffice to say that Canada’s legal system failed miserably in this case- although I believe that most any other country in the civilized world would not have done any better either.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I like special edition cars. This Datsun would look choice parked with a ’82 Collector’s Edition Corvette and a ’83 Crimson Cat Capri.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This was back when Nissan could still win races, and when the Z wasn’t CUV based with a hopped up minivan motor.

  • avatar
    rpm773

    The Z cars of the late 70s were my first favorite car as boy of 3 or 4. Long before I could develop any prejudices toward one manufacturer or another.

    On the other end of the spectrum was anything with stacked rectangular headlamps (of which there were many at the time)…for some reason I had a real aversion to cars with those.

  • avatar
    Justice_Gustine

    Most favorite car in my “used to own” list. Had a silver & blue 280ZX, the ‘GL’ model that was the definition of gadget mobile. Twin joysticks in front of the center console to aim mirrors. Single joystick to adjust balance and fade on the stereo. No harsh key-in-ignition buzzer – the polite “ting-ding” would remind you. The countdown diagnostic display in the center of the dash that checked fluids and ended with ‘OK’ as if a preflight check was in progress.

    On the flip side it was a rust magnet, put me through hell tracking down a blippy sensor that would flood the motor at random.

    Thank god for the louvers – otherwise the baby seat strapped in the 2-seater’s hatchback would be under the direct sun. Yeah I did….

  • avatar

    I owned a 1981 ZX Turbo from 1983 to 1996 and loved that car. I loved the comfortable interior, the t-tops, the red instrument lighting, the little flashlight built-in under the hood, the beautiful alloy wheels and the siren-like whine of the turbo when you pushed the go-pedal. With 250,000 kms on the clock it was consumed by the rustworm and so ended my sporty car experience for a while. It did all this with only 180 hp apparently. Now I drive a C6 with 436 hp and it gets much better gas mileage than the ZX ever did.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    When I was 19 I got a job at a Datsun dealer in the parts department. Unfortunately the job was not ready for me and I did a stint for a couple of months in the clean-up department. We had to take sea wax off of the cars with varsol, peel the blue tape off the mouldings, de-plastic the interior, etc.
    One of the highlights was getting to prepare the first 240Z sold in that city. It was orange, and the defroster wires in the back window were vertical. We had to be very careful with it because it was so expensive. It was sold to a doctor, and no wonder – who else could afford the $3500.00 CDN required to buy it!

  • avatar

    I love that old commercial. Watched it on YouTube many times. The dude with the porno-tastic moustache is hilarious. What’s even funnier is imagining the agency that came up with this campaign. They weren’t jokin’ around, this spot was gonna sell some Z cars.

    I get the feeling that the kinds of people who bought a “black gold” anniversary ZX were the kinds of people who couldn’t really afford it and had to stretch to make the payments. They probably ended up trashing most of them, parking them outside, where the rather frail components would tend to rust and other things would start to fall off. The contemporary Supra was much better built, but duller and not as much riotous fun as this ZX. I fully admit to wanting one as a kid.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    Bought a new 280ZX in “79 and kept it for three years. The car was a blast to drive, had a nearly impeccable build quality, was beautiful and…was a chick magnet. Early on, I was introduced to Ricky Diehl of Diehl Racing who specialized in the Z cars. I left the car with them for a day because he suggested doing a few “adjustments”. That evening, Ricky and I went for a test drive…I was shocked at how much more power the car had! Handling was even improved! Needless to say, from then on, Diehl did all the maintenance on that car. Never had any troubles with the 280ZX…still, the best and most fun car I have ever owned. Sold it for a BMW…bad choice.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    gotta love a car thats almost half hood!

  • avatar
    banerjba

    Brilliant car. Love the look and feel of the car.

    Our neighbour in Upper State New jersey traded his nearly new loaded flaming chicken Trans Am for one of these. Second oil shock in 1979 and the 280 was a lot better on gas.

    I still remember the the radio ads from WABC “Datsun 79, we are driven…..a long way”.

    Nissan had a lot of very decent cars in the 1980s too but the name change killed them in a lot of markets. To this da, many non car people don’t realize Datsun became Nissan, even though the logo is nearly identical.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I dunno, this example was asking (and got) $23,900

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/221770294876?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

    We already discussed this car in my Ebay Junkyard Find thing I did, in the middle of May.
    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1972-volkswagen-karmann-ghia/#comment-5653674

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I can’t find my favorite disco-style commercial now. Was on YouTube before – a JDM ad for the Mitsubishi Sigma (coupe). There was some very groovy (almost porny) music playing, and a pretty white lady driving. It mostly just showed her enjoying some wind through her big hair.

    Kon sa to-a, the voiceover said.

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