By on February 7, 2022

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNissan 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.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, emblem - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’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.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, used car dealer sign - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome used-car lot tried to sell this car for $1,499. Classic. T-top. Fun!!!

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, rust - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis little patch of body rust on the hood is the only corroded spot I could find on this car’s body.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, speedometer - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsJust barely over 150,000 miles on the odometer. California junkyards have a lot of 40-year-old cars like this.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, fuel gauge - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe double fuel gauge was one of the nicest features Nissan put on high-end cars around this time.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, engine - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, automatic gearshift - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Jatco three-speed automatic added 295 bucks (about $1,055 today) more to the ZX’s price tag.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, T-tops - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMy reference books are silent on the cost of this T-top roof, but it couldn’t have been cheap.

1980 Datsun 280ZX in California junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis 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!.

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19 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Datsun 280ZX...”

  • avatar

    I bought a year old 73 which was a really fun car. Got my first drive in one at the Bondurant school at Ontario Speedway. As the decade went forward, these just got less desirable. Of course that applied to most every brand.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    T-tops rule! A t-top and pop up headlights = the ultimate cool look.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That double fuel gauge is the business. They should bring it back for EVs.

    • 0 avatar

      Dated a girl who had an 81 – no T tops but had the stick. She sure used that guage within a guage for gas…a clear indicator of her “hand to mouth” pissing away of her weekly paycheck. A lot of fun to drive. OHC, FI, fully independent suspension, all disc brakes…quite an achievement for the time and certainly worlds more advanced than a similar year Camaro. Shocked that the only rust was that spot in the photos. Hers had such bad rust that I struggled to do the front brakes – everything crunched as I jacked it up. With a huge hole in the passenger footwell, she ultimately had to junk the car because the car rotted so bad it was no longer safe to drive.

  • avatar

    Ok, so what was the point of the “double fuel gauge”? Anybody?

  • avatar

    major rust buckets!!!!!!!!!! The turbo cars were pretty quick in the day.

  • avatar

    Friend of mine in Hawaii had one of these. When she moved to a new condo she moved most of her stuff in her ZX. Not sure how many trips she made, fortunately it was only a couple miles away.

  • avatar

    I replaced my ’79 Trans Am WS6/L78 with a ’80 280ZX after tiring of the Pontiac’s never ending quality and assembly issues. Both had factory T-tops, why Nissan could engineer them to never leak, rattle or whistle when GM couldn’t I don’t know. The Nissan was nowhere near as fast as the 400 cu in Firebird, but it never failed to start, nothing ever broke and it was much smoother and more comfortable than the GM car. I’d love another one and look weekly for a clean manual trans example.

  • avatar

    Power output is pathetic for 2.8L engine in the “sports car”. Or am I missing something?

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    Madonna feeling like she’s “going to lose my mind” with a can of spray paint.

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