Junkyard Find: 1981 Datsun 280ZX 2+2

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Datsun 280ZX was sold in the United States for the 1979 through 1983 model years, and many a line of cocaine was sniffed inside these cars during their heyday as affordable sports cars. The 280ZX still shows up regularly in California wrecking yards, but most of them go unphotographed as I continue seeking out the really rare stuff. However, since I’ve never included a 280ZX in this series, and this one in the San Francisco Bay Area was an especially ugly rare 2+2 version, I decided to photograph it.

Was this car available new with blue interior and purple seats? Probably not, but the early 1980s were a strange time.

Sunroofs were once considered high-prestige luxury items, and so people would pay shops to install aftermarket units. This one appears to have been installed when the car was nearly new.

That’s a lot of miles for a car of this era, even a Nissan.

Some low-end used-car lot tried and failed to get $1,199 for this car. No rust, but very tired.

The image of the 280ZX in its homeland (where it was known as the Fairlady Z) was similar in general Malaise white-powderishness to that of the American models.

[Images: © 2017 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

More by Murilee Martin

Join the conversation
3 of 55 comments
  • Johnster Johnster on Jan 17, 2017

    The 280-ZX was never considered to be anywhere nearly as desirable to collectors as were the 240-Z, 260-Z and 280-Z. Though it carried most of the Z's styling cues, the goofy looking moldings around the upper door were tacky and ruined the appearance. The biggest negative in the eyes of enthusiasts, though, was the switch from an independent rear suspension using Chapman struts to a semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension. The 280-ZX just didn't handle as well as the previous 280-Z. The first generation 300-ZX didn't handle all that well, either, however Nissan really did get it together with the second-generation 300-ZX.

  • Brett Woods Brett Woods on Jan 25, 2017

    My Dad had a black 1982 Datsun 280zx Turbo with T-top. Going just from memory now I can say, that car was the fastest and had the most beautiful front end and under the hood the engine was special and beautiful to look at. I remember reading about it in, I think R&T but maybe it was C&D. The issue had the new 280zx Turbo and the DeLorean which was much anticipated by me. The article said the Datsun 280zx Turbo in auto moved 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds which was faster than the contemporary Ferrari 328. The manual was a couple 10ths slower, but in real-life corners I expect it would have been faster because you could have kept it in the turbo. My Dad bought the automatic. The Delorean 0-60 mph was 8.9 sec which was disappointingly slow in comparison and I think killed sales – that was because they didn’t put the 350 ci Corvette motor in it. The two plus-two came out toward the end of the model run and to my eye, the stretch didn’t help the proportions of the car. Also, I think some new safety regulations might have come into effect, anyway it had a big black rubber bumper up front. Still, even looking at the picture of the interior in the junk yard, I think you can tell that it was better than that of a modern Boxter. Those polymers were dual density soft-touch. I’m sure it was a pleasurable car to own but, as MM says – rare.

  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)