Nissan 300ZX History

By Rob Wagner
Nissan 300ZX History
Nissan Motor Corporation

The Nissan 300ZX was produced by the Nissan Motor Corporation as part of the famed Z line. The 300ZX on a Z31 chassis was manufactured from 1983 to 1989, and the Z32 chassis followed through the 2000 model year. These models continued Nissan's long history of producing high-performance luxury Z cars starting in 1969 with the Datsun 240Z.

The Takagi ZX

300ZX, an angular design

The 300ZX was designed by Kazumasu Takagi and his crew based on the 280ZX, and by extension was a descendant of the 240, 260 and 280Zs. It was first introduced as the Datsun/Nissan 300ZX just as Nissan was going through its phasing out of the Datsun moniker for exports to the United States. Takagi focused on improving aerodynamics and increasing power over the 280ZX (see References).


The 1984 50th Anniversary Edition 300ZX

The first 300ZX models were powered by a 2-liter inline 6-cylinder engine along with a newly designed and optional single turbocharged 3-liter V-6, which was the first mass-produced V-6 in Japan's automotive history. The Z31 single turbo version generated up to 205 horsepower while the 1989 twin-turbo Z32 models had up to 300-horsepower output depending on the year (see References).


The 1988 300ZX, a slight facelift, the debut models

The Z31 series coupe featured an angular wedge-shaped front end with horizontal headlamps, a fastback that trailed to a chopped rear end. It sat on a 91.3-inch wheelbase and measured 173.7 inches long. It weighed 3,027 pounds. The post-1989 Z32 series was radically redesigned and featured a more contemporary look that still holds up today with rounded styling and bulging fenders. Its wheelbase was lengthened to 96.5 inches but its overall length was shorter at 169.5 inches. The Z32 weighed about 3,200 pounds (see References).

Racing Pedigree

The 1993 300ZX 3-liter twin-turbo engine

The 300ZX racing model captured first place at the 1986 Trans Am racing series and the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona. It also captured the land speed record at the 1991 Bonneville Speed Trials, clocking a top speed of 260 mph (see References).

Special Editions

Interior, the 1990 Z32 chassis model

To celebrate Nissan's 50th anniversary in 1984, it introduced its Anniversary Edition, which was chock full of luxury appointments. It offered MPG and compass digital readouts on the dashboard, electronically controlled adjustable shock absorbers, "Bodysonic" seat speakers, a mirrored T-top, wide rear fenders, leather seats and other luxury accents. The Shiro Special followed in 1988 with a turbocharged V-6 capable of reaching 153 mph. It featured a pearl white paint job, high-performance suspension, front air dam, Recaro seats and other racing-style appointments (see References).


The 2+2 fastback

The Z31 received a modest facelift for 1986, but the big change came in 1989 with the Z32 version and its completely new body. The Z32 replaced the Z31 single turbocharger with a twin turbo. A 2+2 fastback was produced for the Japanese market but was never exported to the United States. Among the improvements of the Z32 over the Z31 were: standard driver's airbag in 1992, a convertible model introduced in 1993, standard passenger side airbags and a redesigned rear spoiler in 1994 (see References).


The 1996 300ZX twin-turbo, the United States

Nissan produced 329,900 units of the 1983-89 Z31 models. Nearly 295,000 were exports. It built 164,170 models of the 1989-2000 Z32s with about 99,000 exported. Only the Z32 versions came in a convertible in addition to the 2-door coupe. Imports to the United States ended in 1996 (see References).

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.