Digestible Collectible: 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
digestible collectible 1986 nissan 300zx turbo

I suppose that technically, the first sports car to come to the U.S. from Japan was the Toyota 2000GT, but very few of those were ever sold. The cars that fueled the performance revolution from the East were the Nissan Z-cars. The early 240Z is especially sought after by enthusiasts and collectors due to the good performance brought by light weight and minimal power-robbing emissions crap.

The later cars, like most cars (and people, really) got fat as they aged. The 280ZX gained a bunch of weight as they were geared toward a cruiser rather than a stripped-down, performance machine. In 1984, the 300ZX came along with a new engine and angular styling that was divisive among fans of the older models.

My dad was one of those guys for a while, until he drove the new model. I think I was 8 years old when he traded his non-turbo 280ZX on a bright-red 300ZX Turbo. He drove it for a couple years, put some gold BBS mesh wheels on it and ended up selling it to a stripper.

The transaction wasn’t like you are thinking. She just happened to be the one who responded to the newspaper ad.

Anyhow, these 80s-era Z’s are finally catching the eye of collectors. This 1986 model, easily distinguished by the side skirts that were only offered that year (save the limited-edition 1984 anniversary model) looks magnificent in deep pewter paint. The black leather( ish) interior looks nearly perfect, especially considering the 168,000 miles on the odometer. The high miles concern me a bit, especially on a turbocharged engine, but it seems well cared for. The price of $12,000 seems about right, as I’m seeing low-mileage Z31’s trade for double that figure.

With a clean inspection, I wouldn’t hesitate on this car.

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5 of 44 comments
  • Kmars2009 Kmars2009 on Oct 12, 2015

    When this 300ZX came out, the STYLE was clean lines...hence the angular look. The outgoing 280 ZX seemed...well, old looking. People wanted this look on many cars. (angular) The following gen car looked better, with it's softer lines, however, to some, it was a fat ass. Especially from the rear. Anyway, this was an appropriate design for it's time. I'd love to have one!

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Oct 12, 2015

    A friend's daily driver is one of these. In nice shape, with the removable roof panels. It's the original dark green, like British racing green.

    • Crabspirits Crabspirits on Oct 12, 2015

      That's pretty cool if it's the original #235 Dark Green Metallic. Only 1 was reportedly imported to the U.S.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Oct 12, 2015

    The Datsun 1600 roadster was the first Japanese sports car imported in any real numbers. The 2000GT had sales numbers in the tens, if that. The 1600 a navy buddy owned turned 0-60 in 11 seconds, faster than my '65 Impala 283/Powerglide.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Oct 12, 2015

    Stepdad had a 280zx. It wasn't a sportscar, but a good GT. We'd bury the 85 mph speedo and leave it there. You don't see these, or any of the Z cars or even the 300 zx series in the Northeast...they were very quick to rust....