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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2 of 44 comments
  • 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....

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.