Junkyard Find: 1980 Datsun 280ZX

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1980 datsun 280zx

Nissan sold the 280ZX version of the famed Z-Car here for the 1979 through 1983 model years, right up to the end of the Datsun era and the start of the “Name Is Nissan” period we’re in today. These cars don’t have the maniacal following of their 240Z/ 260Z/ 280Z predecessors but sold well when new, so I find the 280ZX to be reasonably easy to find in the big California car graveyards I frequent. Here’s a well-equipped ’80 in Alpine White paint, showing off its T-tops in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a few years back.

I’ve documented the demise of a dozen Z-Cars since 2007, including a 1980 Black Gold 280ZX and the incredibly rare 1980 Black Red 280ZX.

Some used-car lot tried to sell this car for $1,499. Classic. T-top. Fun!!!

This little patch of body rust on the hood is the only corroded spot I could find on this car’s body.

Just barely over 150,000 miles on the odometer. California junkyards have a lot of 40-year-old cars like this.

The double fuel gauge was one of the nicest features Nissan put on high-end cars around this time.

The 2.8-liter straight-six engine in this car made 132 horsepower. List price for the 1980 280ZX coupe was $9,899; the 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 (essentially the same car as the ’79 Z28 Jeff Spicoli crashes in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) cost $7,121 and had 190 horsepower… but that Camaro didn’t have the tiny-phonograph-based Nissan Voice Annunciator box.

The Jatco three-speed automatic added 295 bucks (about $1,055 today) more to the ZX’s price tag.

My reference books are silent on the cost of this T-top roof, but it couldn’t have been cheap.

This car could have been put back on the road easily enough, but there’s a glut of nicer 280ZXs in California.

You can’t talk about the 1980 Datsun 280ZX without showing the legendary Black Gold TV commercial.

It’s ready to conquer a new decade, with an open cockpit to the sky. The ultimate definition of Awesome!

In Japan, this car (known as the Fairlady Z) had much better TV commercials. Zed Zone!.

For links to nearly 2,300 additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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2 of 19 comments
  • Justice_Gustine Justice_Gustine on Feb 08, 2022

    A dashboard gadget I liked was the diagnostic countdown that checked several things like coolant battery and washer fluids, summing up with "OK". It looked like a nixie tube with several layers of images.

  • Wodehouse Wodehouse on Feb 09, 2022

    Madonna feeling like she's "going to lose my mind" with a can of spray paint.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.