Junkyard Find: 1981 Datsun 280ZX 2+2

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 datsun 280zx 2 2

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 [s]ugly[/s] 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]

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  • 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.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that