Nissan Fairlady Z Buying Guide
Nissan is one of the few Japanese manufacturers producing sports cars and is still making them. Some models, such as the Nissan Fairlady Z, have been produced since the 1960s.
Production of the Z started with the Datsun 240Z in 1969 and was produced until 1978. The first-Generation Fairlady Z was sold in Japan as the Nissan Fairlady Z, Nissan S30, or the Datsun 240Z. Nissan continued making the Z mainly in Japan with the 280ZX and the 300ZX.
Towards the end of 1999, Renault bought Nissan shares. In 2001, Nissan promised to make the Z a better car than its predecessors and make it profitable since Nissan was on the verge of collapsing. In 2001 the 350Z was unveiled at the North American Auto Show, and when production started, it was one of the most bought cars of its time.
The 350Z rivaled cars such as the Porsche Boxster and various rear-wheel-drive muscle cars in the US, such as the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger. Production ended in 2008, and the 350Z was replaced by the 370Z, replaced by the current Nissan Z (400Z).
Since production, Nissan has used the front engine all-wheel-drive configuration on all Zs, making them good options for motorsports. The 240Z was first used in motorsports to race in the East African Safari Rally in 1973, clinching pole position. Nissan Zs were also some of the cars that revolutionized drifting in Japan, alongside the Nissan 2000 GT-R and the Toyota AE-86.
If you are looking for a project drift car or streetcar on a budget, the 350Z or 370Z is perfect. The 240Z is highly collectible, and other models in its generation include the 260Z and the 280Z. Only around 500,000 units of the first-generation Nissan Z were made. In motorsports such as drag racing, you’ll mostly find the 350Z, 370Z, and 300ZX.
Pros and Cons
The Fairlady Z 350Z and the 300ZX might have blunt looks, but nothing some good wheels and an inexpensive body kit can’t fix. On the other hand, the 370Z and the 240Z look perfect without significant work. Some wheels, fender flares, and a good paint job would do on one with an RB26 under the hood. No one would expect to get gapped by a 50-year-old Datsun.
Some prefer keeping their 350Z or 370Z bone stock with minimal cosmetic mods, which is okay. At least you don’t have to worry about scrapping your lip on the driveway or the body kit falling off. Since the 350Z and the 370Z have NISMO editions, you can upgrade yours with NISMO parts, making the car look better and more authentic than aftermarket parts.
The first-generation Nissan S30/Datsun 240Z is highly collectible, especially the first edition models. It is considered the first Japanese muscle car. 10 years ago, you could quickly get a 240Z in mint condition listed for around $17,000, but the price has doubled over time, and finding one under $25,000 is rare.
If you have some extra cash and are wondering whether to get a 240Z, do it, especially if it’s running and has all the original parts. Any other models produced in the first generation, such as the 260Z and the 280ZX, are also collectible.
Other models in the Z line-up can hardly be considered collectible, but you never know. With manufacturers planning to go all-electric, you better get a Nissan Z with a proper combustion engine.
For a sports car, the Nissan Z is quite reliable. From the first generation 240Z to the 370Z, no one really complains about them being unreliable. A 350Z, 300ZX, or even a 370Z might not be reliable as a Prius. Still, it’s reliable for a car that can make over 300 horsepower and look good.
The 350Z and the 370Z have a reliability score of 4.8. In contrast, the 300ZX has a reliability score of 4.5 which means that all these cars have above-average reliability scores. As for the 240Z, no reliability score is available as per current reliability standards, but if it’s in good condition or has minimal issues, you’ll not have a hard time with it. Older cars rarely lack some problems, such as electricals failing and bolts falling off.
They make good project cars
Nissan Zs are some of the easiest and most fun cars to build. Whether you are building a drift car, a track car, or a daily driver, parts are readily available and easy to install. If you want to build a fully custom vehicle, get one that’s basically a shell and build it to your specifications using either OEM parts or aftermarket parts.
Some go to the extent of getting everything custom-made, but this takes patience, and a deep pocket since custom-made parts are not cheap. Non-car people will ask why you will buy a car for a few thousand dollars and then build it for more than ten times the price you got it for. But they don’t understand, do they?
The 350Z and 370Z platforms are perfect if you consider an engine swap or bought one without an engine. VR38DETT and RB26 engines from the GT-Rs are common. You can even install a Ferrari or an LS engine if you love extreme. These swaps are common among builds made for drifting, drag racing, and other motorsport requiring massive power outputs.
Every model in the Nissan Z line-up handles perfectly with a front-engine rear-wheel-drive chassis. The Nissan Z also has a 50/50 weight distribution and low ride height, reducing body roll. The 300ZX has an LSD which ensures traction is sent to both rear wheels regardless of whether or not one wheel loses traction.
On the 350Z and 370Z, there’s an LSD and traction control system that reduces tire spin and an ABS system that applies brakes individually on each wheel when traction is lost. The 240Z and the 280ZX do not have traction aids but they sure are fun to drive and handle perfectly. You can also install an LSD from another or have one custom-made.
For a car with a V6 under the hood, a 350Z is quite affordable, especially if you are a first-time car buyer. You’ll get one listed for around $5,000 with a few mods done to it. If you are looking for a bone stock one, it’s rare getting one, but they are listed for around $4,000. But no one really keeps a Nissan Z bone stock.
370Zs are also quite affordable, and if you prefer a little modernity and have around $12,000, which gets you an early production model.
Poor braking system
Understandably, the 240Z and the 280ZX have poor braking systems since they are 50-year-old cars. But the 350Z really has a braking problem which was also there during production. Nissan installed Powerstop brakes on the 350Z, which are not that good for a car that weighs over 3800 pounds. Common issues with the braking system include overheating, locked calipers, and faulty brake lines
Nissan also used Brembo brakes on the 350Z, but they were not good either. You just can’t be sure with the OEM brakes on a 350Z. If you decide to keep them, do not drive at high speeds until you have the whole braking system checked or upgraded.
The Akebono brakes on the 370Z are not that bad and will last you around 60,000 miles of daily driving. However, suppose you want to tune your car to high horsepower figures. You’ll need the extra stopping power, so you have to get a better brake kit.
The build quality of any Nissan Z is good but not good enough to reduce road noise coming from the tires and the side mirrors. Insulating is a viable option, but it’s also expensive. Road noise is inevitable in most sports cars, and most people do not really complain. You’ll have to get used to the windows rattling and tires skidding as you go through corners.
Small cabin and trunk space
Like any other small sports car, the Nissan Z has a 2+2 seating configuration meaning it can seat 4 people. The cabin space is not too bad on the front seats, but it’s a whole different story on the rear seats. You may want to take your friends for a ride, but you can’t, as the back seats can barely fit a mid-sized teenager. The trunk space is only suitable for some light grocery shopping. Fitting a large suitcase or a whole cart of grocery shopping is impossible.
However, not all Nissan Z models are 4-seater. Unlike other generations, Nissan made the 350Z and 370Z as 2-seaters, which buyers could opt for a 2-seater or a 2+2 seating configuration.
Nissan Zs have their own share of issues, but not all problems are shared across all models. For example, rust is a shared problem on all Nissan Z models. Still, excessive oil consumption is mainly in the 350Z and earlier production models of the 370Z. Some issues occur in one specific model, such as how manifold failure only occurs in the 300ZX.
If the car has been stored away for a long time without any maintenance checks or cleaning, you’ll find rust in areas where the metals are exposed. Surface rust is not as bad as all you have to do is buff it out and repaint. Still, if the rust has eaten deep into the metal, this is something you should definitely worry about.
Common rust spots include, underneath the car, beneath the floor padding, in the engine bay, and on the U-joints. You should also check for cracks while checking for rust, as rust weakens the cracked metal, making the car unsafe for driving.
The first-generation Fairlady Z came with a carbureted inline-6 engine with 2 round top carburetors. Due to age or constant use, one or both carburetors may fail. Using incorrect fuel and loose fitment can also damage the carburetors. The first signs you’ll notice are loss of power and black smoke when accelerating hard.
Continuous use of faulty carburetors will lead to engine flooding, which is terrible for a 50-year-old engine regardless of whether it has been rebuilt. If the OEM carburetors are still on, you should get better aftermarket ones. They might be hard to find but totally worth it and increase the lifespan of your vehicle.
Carbon build-up OEM throttle body
Carbon build-up is expected in the 350Z and early models of the 370Z. This results from oil leaking through the intake valve seals and air leaking through the crankcase. Which is expected in a 350Z and has nothing to do with component failure.
There are three main ways to reduce carbon deposits in the throttle body. If you are looking for a quick fix, resetting the ECU does it but only works for a while before you have to reset it again. Cleaning the throttle body using a throttle body cleaner when changing the oil or doing other work in the engine bay also helps.
Get an aftermarket throttle body installed if resetting the ECU or cleaning the throttle body is too much work. This saves you from the pain of poor fuel consumption, misfires, slow acceleration, and stalling.
Camshaft sensor failure
The camshaft position sensor monitors the camshaft’s position and speed. It then relays data to the ECU, regulating the fuel entering the combustion chamber and the spark needed to ignite it. If the camshaft position sensor is not working, the ECU will not compute the fuel and spark required.
Basically, no combustion will occur in the combustion chamber, and your car will not start or stall on you when driving.
Nissan recalled some units of the 350Z due to camshaft position sensor failure. If the sensor was replaced, it is indicated on the car’s log. If you notice your car stalling or not starting, you recommend replacing the sensor if all other issues check out. Also, check the sensor’s wiring and if it’s installed correctly.
Excessive oil consumption
This is a common issue in the 350Z and 370Z, but in the 350Z, it’s completely normal. The 3.5-liter and 3.7-liter VQ engines consume more oil than other Nissan engines. Some owners have reported an increase in oil consumption when they tune their cars lightly or use synthetic oil.
With a 350Z, you always have to stay in check with oil changes. Flushing the engine before adding in new oil maintains regular oil consumption. You should also check the head gaskets regularly as head gasket failure is common in cars with high fuel consumption.
Excessive oil consumption in the 350Z is not as bad as in 370Z. It mainly occurs if the car is over 100,000 miles or is hardly driven. This is not bad because there’s no point in having a sports car you can’t enjoy driving. If the oil is low, you’ll hear ticking noises in the engine, which indicates that you need to top up the oil or the engine is due for an oil change. You don’t need to wait for the oil indicator light.
Air in the fuel tank will cause the fuel pump to supply insufficient fuel to the engine. This results in engine sputtering, backfiring, and even stalling due to fuel starvation. This is common in the 370Z and late production models of the 350Z. To prevent air from accumulating in the fuel tank, always keep it filled. Low fuel levels promote air accumulation when the fuel moves around too much.
Clutch failure in the 370Z is mainly caused by a faulty concentric slave cylinder (CSC). The low or leaking clutch fluid causes concentric slave cylinder failure in the Nissan 370Z, which can wear out parts and damage the clutch.
If the slave cylinder is broken or cracked, it needs to be replaced alongside the clutch. The flywheel also needs to be resurfaced before re-installation. It is recommended that you replace the slave cylinder with a better aftermarket one, especially if running a stronger aftermarket clutch. Check for any leakage in the fluid lines before filling up new fluid.
In the 350Z, the clutch tends to wear out quicker than most sports cars in its class. The OEM clutch wears out at around 30,000 miles. Suppose you are considering doing some transmission upgrades on your 350Z. In that case, a better aftermarket clutch is all you need to solve your transmission issues.
Continuous use of a faulty clutch will lead to transmission synchro failure. The synchro drags and grinds as you shift gears, and the end result will be a hefty garage bill to replace both the clutch and the transmission synchro.
Electrical components failure
This is common in the first two generations of the Nissan Z, the 240Z and the 300ZX. Old wiring systems wear out with time and cause various electrical failures in the vehicle. Headlights may fail to come on, or the stereo fails, and you can’t listen to your favorite music while cruising at night.
Since these cars are old, you should consider rewiring them before doing any other mods. The old wiring system might also affect mods by adding new headlights or an aftermarket stereo.
Exhaust manifold warping (300ZX)
The exhaust manifold on the 300ZX tends to weaken over time, leading to warping. This breaks off the studs between the exhaust manifold and the cylinder heads, creating a space that allows exhaust gases to leak through. To check if the exhaust manifold is warped, remove the gasket, then reinstall the exhaust manifold. If there is an uneven gap between them, it shows that the exhaust manifold is warped.
The exhaust manifold can be straightened if the warp is not that bad. Still, there is a risk of warping again, especially if you plan to increase the engine’s power output. The best solution is to replace the exhaust manifold with a stronger aftermarket one and install better head gaskets.
Faulty ignition coils (300ZX)
Ignition coils on the 300ZX fail over time, especially if the car still has the OEM ones. Loss of power, especially in twin-turbo engines, is mainly caused by faulty ignition coils. You can find one, two, or three faulty ignition coils and replace them. Still, it is recommended that you replace them altogether. There are better aftermarket ignition coils for the 300ZX, most of them being sold as a set.
Replacing all ignition coils together ensures that you know when to change all of them together. Also, if you don’t replace them altogether, the old ones might fail at any time, and your car might not even start or stall on you.
Worn out driveshaft support bearing (300ZX)
If you hear a clunking noise and vibrations from underneath your car, there are many possible reasons. You’ll hear such noises on a 300ZX if the driveshaft support bearing is worn out. On the 300ZX, two driveshafts are held apart by a support bearing.
The drive shaft support bearing wears out with constant use, and in sports cars like the 300ZX, it wears out more rapidly. It is recommended that you replace the driveshaft support bearing every +/- 80,000 miles depending on your driving habits. It will definitely last longer than the OEM one if you get a stronger aftermarket one.
Power steering pump failure (300ZX)
The power steering pump on the 300ZX was not made to last a lifetime. It might be in good condition, but there is a high probability that it will fail you at any time. Signs of power steering pump failure include stiff steering and uneven steering. You may want to make a turn and end up on the curb instead.
You should consider replacing the power steering pump with a better aftermarket one. Replace the steering rack if you plan to use your 300ZX for drifting. The steering rack on the 300ZX is not made for heavy drifting.
What To Look For When Buying a Nissan Fairlady Z
Being among the most frequently passed around JDM cars, you must look out for current or future issues when buying a Nissan Fairlady Z. There is the apparent rust in older models such as the 240Z and 280Z and the inevitable oil leaks and high oil consumption in the 350Z. To make pre-purchase inspection easier, we’ve compiled essential details for each generation to look out for when buying a Nissan Z.
Buyers who aren’t sure which Fairlady Z to buy from two or more generations can decide depending on the information provided for each generation. Importing a Nissan Fairlady Z from Japan doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get a clean car, so ignore the assumptions and inspect it before driving it off the dealer’s yard. It’s not a few times that some importers have sold rust-invaded cars.
What to look for when buying a Nissan Fairlady 240Z, 260Z, 280Z or 280ZX
Most 240Zs in the United States are either old, incomplete, or completed projects with extremely high price tags. Most buyers will be inclined to the first two, especially those who prefer to keep the car original. Most S30 240Zs, 260Zs, 280Zs, and S130 280ZXs in mint condition have modern engine swaps, the most common being RB, SR20, or LS engine swaps. Which is not bad since early L series engines can’t do much in today’s automotive scene. But if you’re a car collector or buying an early production Fairlady Z to build and sell, keeping everything original, including the engine, helps increase the car’s value.
When buying a Nissan Fairlady Z S30 or S130, you must check for rust regardless of how clean it looks. Some sellers will point out the rust spots in the listing details or have documentation showing where the rust was, when and how it was repaired. On the other hand, others will cover it up and put a lower price to attract potential buyers, removing the need to inspect for rust. So where should you inspect for rust when buying a 240Z or 280ZX?
So, which are the common rust spots you should start with? It’s advisable to start with the frame before moving on to the body panels and the engine bay. But with these cars, everything metallic is prone to rust, so a comprehensive inspection is necessary. The presence of rust doesn’t mean you should back up buying your dream 240Z, especially if it has a bargain price. Assess the extent of the rust before making an offer or walking out on the deal. If the rust is manageable and the costs don’t affect your project car budget, why not buy the car?
Buying a completed or restored 240Z, 260Z, 280Z, or 280ZX saves you the ups and downs of building one. It’s, however, good to inspect the quality of the artistry on the car to ensure a door does not fall off or something else goes wrong after buying the car. If the car has an engine swap check the engine’s fitment in the engine bay, and there should be supporting mods if the engine is pushing high numbers.
What to look for when buying a Nissan Fairlady 300ZX
The Nissan 300ZX is a favorite among tuners and buyers who want to make easy power as it has the best engine options, even better than its successor, the 350Z. The 2.0-liter turbocharged RB20DET in the Z31 300ZX and twin-turbocharged VG30DETT in the Z32 are the most sought-after engines when buying a 300ZX. In between, there are single-cam turbocharged and naturally aspirated V6 engines which are just as tunable, but it takes more to make power out of them. The advantage of these is that any 300ZX with one will have a reasonable price tag.
The 300ZX isn’t prone to rusting, unlike most Nissans of its time, such as the Nissan Silvia S13, but it wouldn’t be wise to skip checking for rust underneath the car and on the wheel wells. Most owners with T-top 300ZXs complain of leaks, so that should be the next place you check for rust. If there’s no rust, small twigs, and debris will accumulate where the T-top merges with the roof if the T-top is leaking. Also, check the weather stripping on the doors, trunk lid, taillights, and headlights for precaution.
In the Z32 300ZX, N-VCT (Nissan Variable Cam Timing) system failure is among the most reported issues by owners. It is characterized by a rattling sound from the front of the engine when it starts and dies off after a few minutes of driving. If there’s no rattle, none of the components is failing, or the car has a VCT system deletion, preventing possible issues such as high fuel consumption.
Turbo failure and boost leaks are imminent in high mileage 300ZXs with the OEM turbocharged on the twin-turbo V330DETT. Fixing these and other major engine issues isn’t a walk in the park due to the cramped engine bay, and it’s one of the reasons some owners sell. You can tell if the turbochargers are gone or if there are boost leaks if you notice a whirring sound from the engine during the test drive and turbine rattling noises during idle.
What to look for when buying a Nissan Fairlady 350Z
Not only does the Nissan 350Z make the perfect drift car, but it’s also an excellent car for a first-time car buyer who is into JDM cars. It’s the car that most people with high-end Silvias and Skylines started with, and through it, they learned how to work on vehicles, attended JDM car meets, and made long road trips. Some professional drifters will tell you they learned to drift on a 350Z. But this does not mean that it is without flaws.
You can’t tell if the car has high oil consumption from a test drive before buying, but oil leak spots in the engine bay are always a red flag and are common in the 350Z. While inspecting the engine bay, also check for coolant leaks. High running temps during the test drive indicate low oil or low oil pressure meaning the oil pump is either gone or the coolant system but not low oil. Such issues are inevitable in 350Zs, especially in early model years with the VQ engine. You have to get used to it.
Failing electrical components, such as the AC system or the headlights, is a common minor fault in 350Zs and can get on your nerves. Sometimes the door locks malfunction or handles fall off or break. Interior trims aren’t any different, and the car might need upholstery, bearing in mind that 350Zs are some of the worst-maintained JDM cars.
The 350Z has enough power as it is without any mods, but given that aftermarket support is excellent, it’s difficult to resist modifying one. It starts with simple mods such as an air intake, replica wheels, and stickers that can be installed in a home garage without any special skills or tools. Before you know it, you are comparing turbochargers and body kit prices on eBay. The only way mods can go wrong is if the mods are installed incorrectly or the previous owners installed counterfeit parts, which often happens on 350Zs.
Lastly, pay attention to the gear changes and the ride feel during the test drive. The car might ride a little rough being over 15 years old, but if the steering is stiff and there’s too much noise from the suspension, you might need to re-inspect the car or seek a third eye from a car technician before buying. The same applies to gear slippages and shift delays.
What to look for when buying a Nissan Fairlady 370Z
Only some JDM cars are better than their predecessors, and the 370Z is one of them. It doesn’t look dull like the 350Z and has more power due to increased engine displacement. The 370Z is also more reliable, handles better, and has a nicer interior than the 350Z, including the base models with the fabric seats. Prices might still be a little bit high, but you get your money’s worth with a 370Z being a newer car.
There isn’t much to look out for when buying a Nissan 370Z unless the car has some abuse history, and most of the issues you’ll come across on owner forums are manufacturer faults. For starters, master clutch assembly failure is common in 370Zs with a manual transmission characterized by a spongy or light clutch pedal. If the car has an aftermarket master clutch assembly, you might be set for life. But if it still has the OEM one, there’s a high probability it will fail despite working fine at the time you buy the car.
Electronic steering lock failure was one of the most commonly reported issues in 370Zs between 2009 and 2011, and Nissan issued a recall. If the car didn’t get a recall repair, the best way to prevent steering lock failure is to replace it with one from a later model, preferably from 2014 onwards, since 2012 and 2013 models also have the same issue. Other Nissan 370z possible future issues include fuel pump failure, high oil consumption, fluid leaks, and catalytic converter failure.
The Nissan S30/Datsun 240Z and the Nissan S130 start at around $25,000 but most listed for that price have some pending work, and you will need to commit to them. If you are looking for one in pristine condition, you might have to fish out more than $45,000. The first-generation Nissan Z is slowly becoming a collectible. If you debate whether to get one, this is a sign to buy one already regardless of the price.
Other Nissan Fairlady Z models start at around $5,000, but if you find a 370Z listed for that, it needs extra cash to be drivable. A 370Z in good condition sells for approximately $12,000, with prices increasing depending on the year of production. If you want a brand new or a low mileage 2020 370Z, you can get one at a dealership or an owner selling. Most of these will go for around $25,000.
- Nissan Silvia (Read Our Nissan Silvia Buying Guide)
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Models and specifications
1970-1973 Nissan Fairlady Z (240Z, S30)
When the Nissan S30 was unveiled, it was one of the most stylish sports cars. No one would have ever imagined a Japanese-manufactured vehicle competing with manufacturers such as Porsche and BMW and thrashing out the competition in some markets.
It came with a carbureted 2.0-liter straight-six engine with around 150 horsepower. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual, or 3-speed automatic transmission. In 1974 the carburetors were changed due to emission laws, and the power output was reduced to 120 horsepower. Various models of the 240Z were produced throughout its production years apart from the base spec model.
A long-wheelbase model was made to homologize the 240Z Group 4 race car. It has an elongated hood which is a result of the extended chassis. It also makes the ZG more aerodynamic. You might find one with acrylic headlight covers, fiberglass aero-Dyna nose, lip spoiler, and OEM fender flares if you are lucky.
The 240ZG was only sold in Japan, but Nissan added the aero-nose and lip spoiler to a standard 240Z. A standard 240Z with these upgrades was sold as a 240ZG outside Japan.
With power output reduced, Nissan decided to equip the 240Z with the S20 engine used in the earlier generations of the Nissan Skyline. The twin-carbureted twin-cam 2.0-liter engine was put in a 240Z, and it was sold as the Fairlady Z432. Later on, Nissan also used a more powerful version of the S20 engine from the KPGC10 Skyline GT-R (Hakosuka) on the 240Z. This model was sold as the Z432-R.
No significant changes were made to the 260 apart from it having 2 seating configuration options and a larger 2.6-liter engine. Since other models were mainly sold in Japan, Nissan made the 260Z mainly for the stated and other markets outside Japan.
The new L26 engine made less power than the original L20 engine at its production time. Like the 240Z sold in Japan, power is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual, or 3-speed automatic transmission. You can get a 260Z 2-seater or a 4-seater with a 2+2 seating configuration.
In 1975 the L26 engine was bored, stroked to 2.8 liters, and put in the 280Z. No other significant changes were made except for adding a “Zap” edition trim for the 280Z.
1978-1983 Nissan Fairlady Z S30 (280ZX, S130)
Nissan completely redesigned the 280ZX, but it still carried over the L28 from the 280Z drivetrain and suspension components. The 280Z is more of a driver’s car than the 280Z. It has better ride comfort, better handling, a comfort-tweaked suspension, and insulated doors, among many others.
The 2-seater and 2+2 seating configurations were retained, with extra room in the rear seats for a full-sized adult to wiggle their feet. Aerodynamics was improved in the 280ZX by removing the open grill in the 280Z and replacing it with a closed grill.
However, power output was reduced to around 130 horsepower, 5 horsepower less than in the 280Z. This means that the 280ZX accelerates slower due to the lower power output and the extra weight from the upgrades done. The lower output is because Nissan focused more on fuel economy than power output when they made the 280ZX.
280ZX-T (ZX Turbo)
In 1981, Nissan made a turbocharged version of the L28 engine, which made around 180 horsepower at the time of production. This engine was put with the 280 ZX-T, and you can easily differentiate one with a base trim 280ZX. The 280ZX-T has racing stripes and silver alloy wheels from the factory.
Laws in Japan stated that turbochargers could only be installed on sub-2.0-liter engines. So, the 280ZX-T was never sold in Japan. It was mainly sold in the US and was the fastest JDM car in the US at its production time.
1983-1989 Nissan Fairlady Z Z31 (300ZX)
In 1983 Nissan decided they would no longer make “boring” cars to focus on fuel efficiency. First of all, they made the 300ZX as aerodynamic as possible. They then fitted it with a V6 instead of the carbureted straight-six engines used in the previous generations.
At this time, Nissan began using RB engines in their vehicles, and the RB20DET was used in the 300ZX 200R. The 200R was the last ever Fairlady Z to have a straight-six engine. You get the 300ZX Z31 with either a 5-speed or 4-speed automatic transmission. The 300ZX was only available as a 4-seater with a 2+2 seating configuration. Still, if you want a 2-seater, you can easily remove the rear seats.
When Nissan made the 300ZX, they made it while focusing on the North American market. At the time of production, the name Datsun was no longer in use, so the 3000ZX was badged as a Nissan. The 300ZX was also sold in other markets. Still, it was available in only 2 turbocharged engine options in Japan. The VG20ET and VG30ET.
300ZX; 200Z, 200ZG, 200ZS
These were the base trim models equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged (VG20ET) V6 which made around 180 horsepower at production. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed or 4-speed automatic transmission.
This is the only 300ZX model to feature a straight-six engine discontinued for use in the 300ZX in 1985. It has the 2.0-liter turbocharged RB20ET driving the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission.
A larger naturally aspirated 3.0-liter V6 (VG30E) was also used in the 300ZX. This spec shared features with the 2.0-liter base spec models except for the engine. The VG30E made around 150 horsepower, depending on the year of production.
This spec has a turbocharged version of the VG30E called the VG30DET, which churned out around 260 horsepower at production. Transmission options are similar to other models, but most of these were equipped with a manual transmission.
This is a more efficient but still reasonably powerful 300ZX sold to buyers who wanted the best of both worlds. It has the VG30DE, which made around 190 to 220 horsepower depending on the year of production.
300ZX 50AE (50th Anniversary Edition)
The 50th Anniversary edition has a few performance and comfort upgrades over other models. It was equipped with a digital dash, Bodysonic speakers embedded in leather seats, and a climate-controlled AC. It is also the only 300ZX you can get as a 2-seater, but a 2+2 seating configuration was offered as an option.
Two engine options were available from the 50AE spec, the VG30E or the VG30DET, driving the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. The manual transmission was standard, but Nissan allowed buyers to opt for the 4-speed automatic transmission.
1989-2000 Nissan Fairlady Z Z32 (300ZX)
In 1986 a new design for the 300ZX was revealed, which was more streamlined and better looking than the 300ZX Z31. The headlight design matched the hood lines, and the body was more “rounded” with fewer body lines.
Only 2 engine options were available for the Z32, the VG30DE retained from the Z31, and a new VG30DETT, a twin-turbocharged version of the VG30DE. The 2-seater and 2+2 seating configurations were maintained, and buyers could get either as standard without paying extra.
A new T-top was introduced, and it was standard, which enables you to remove the top leaving a T structure on which the roof panels are mounted. The only downside to owning a T-top model is that it has manual climate controls instead of automatic controls in other models.
Being the base trim model, the 300ZX comes with the naturally aspirated 3.0-liter VG30DE, which made around 230 horsepower at production time. Transmission options remained the same as in the 300ZX Z32. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission.
You get the 300ZX-T with the new twin-turbocharged VG30DETT, which was among the most powerful JDM engines when first put in the 300ZX Z32. It had over 300 horsepower, which means that it can give supra and skyline owners a run for their money.
2002-2008 Nissan Fairlady Z Z33 (350Z)
The 350Z was unveiled after Renault bought Nissan shares. It was the first Nissan Z model to be offered in both coupe and roadster body configurations and one of the few convertible JDM sports cars at its time of production.
The VG engine was replaced by a new VQ engine with a higher displacement at 3.5 liters. Like other generations, the 350Z has a front-engine rear-wheel-drive chassis, and the rear wheels are driven via a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. All trims shared two common engines, the VQ35DE, and the VQ35HR.
Base trim 350Z
Being the most basic trim, it has a cloth interior and is only available as a coupe.
The enthusiast trim was sold as a coupe or a roadster with an electronically retracting roof. It also has performance upgrades such as a Viscous LSD, traction control, and cruise control.
Like the base trim 350Z, the performance trim was only sold as a coupe but with major performance upgrades. It has all features in the enthusiast trim, larger Brembo brakes, cruise control, and the Viscous LSD was replaced by a VDC, Vehicle Dynamics Control.
The performance trim also looks better than the Enthusiast and base trim package due to the larger 18-inch wheels, rear spoiler, and front air dam.
This is the most performance-focused trim in the Nissan Z line-up. It has all the other features in other trims with an added sportier suspension and optional GPS navigation.
Buyers who wanted a comfort-oriented 350Z could get the Touring trim. But this does not mean it made less power than other trims. You get the 350Z Touring trim with leather seats, climate control, GPS navigation, and all other features available in other trims.
Nissan made 5 units of the Z type to homologate the 350Z race car in the Super GT racing series. This was as per Japanese homologation requirements. Power output was similar to other trims with a longer nose, lesser body lines, and a rear overhang, improving aerodynamics.
35th Anniversary Edition
No significant upgrades were made to the 350Z Anniversary edition except for new cast aluminum alloy wheels and Z badges instead of the Nissan logo badges. However, the 35th Anniversary edition was only sold with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The 350Z Type F was sold in both coupe and roadster configurations. Features are just like in the Touring trim but with added Bose speakers and heated seats. It is the only trim that buyers have 6 body colors to choose from, unlike the other trims with 2 or 3 body color options.
NISMO R-Tune performance package
NISMO made a performance package that increased power output in the 350Z to over 350 horsepower after bolting on and a light tune. The package included new headers, camshafts, and pulleys. However, the insurance was automatically revoked if a buyer installed the kit while still under insurance.
This is a NISMO-tuned 350Z made to celebrate Nissan’s success in the Super GT series. It features a sport-tweaked suspension, aero nose, and a tuned VQ35DE engine that made over 300 horsepower at production time.
NISMO made their version of the 350Z, but they did not use the VQ engine. The 350Z NISMO comes with a 3.5-liter V6 (VH35HR) engine with features from the touring trim. The front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper were copied from the Super GT 350Z, improving aerodynamics.
NISMO TYPE 380RS
This trim features a 3.8-liter VQ38 from the type 380-RS competition car. Still, the power output was reduced to 350 horsepower to be road legal. It has forged alloy wheels, a rear wing, and aero bumpers similar to those in the 380RS race car.
2008-2020 Nissan Fairlady Z Z34 (370Z)
The 370Z was introduced after the 350Z was discontinued in 2008 and was available in all markets starting in 2009. All trims have the 3.7-liter VQ37HR driving the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed manual transmission.
Like the 350Z, the 370Z is also a 2-seater but has better legroom than its predecessor. Most Nissan Z enthusiasts expected that the Nissan Z generations would end with the 370Z in 2020. Still, later in 2021, Nissan unveiled the Z34 Nissan Z, which began selling in March 2022.
The 370Z is considered one of the best-looking and performing modern sports cars you can get on a budget. It will easily keep up or even beat rivals such as the Porsche Boxster, costing almost twice its price. You can get an early production model for just under $15,000, while a brand-new one or a fairly used one will cost you around $25,000. Roaster models cost more than coupes.
Base trim 370Z with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic transmission. It came standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, upgraded to optional 19-inch RAYS alloy wheels. All standard equipment such as the stereo and the fabric seats could be upgraded to higher standard equipment found in other trims.
The roadster is more comfort-oriented. It comes with heated leather seats, BOSE speakers, a 10GB music box, and a 6-CD changer stereo with Bluetooth and USB connectivity. It is more of a touring spec car. It is also equipped with satellite navigation and real-time traffic navigation embedded into a 7-inch touchscreen. The 370Z roadster comes with a viscous LSD as standard, and if you choose the sport package, you only get a manual transmission with synchro-rev matching.
NISMO tuned the standard VQ37 to over 350 horsepower, making the 370Z NISMO the most powerful Nissan Z, and added components to handle that extra power output.
The 370Z NISMO comes with Yokohama Advan Sport-Y tires on 19-inch forged tires RAYS wheels which are good for daily driving and track use. NISMO aluminum sport calipers and vented rotors are standard on the 370 Z. At the same time, other models use non-vented rotors and steel calipers.
40th Anniversary edition
Only 1000 units of the 40th Anniversary 370Z were made, and all were sold as coupes with a manual transmission. A special anniversary graphite color was the only paint option offered and interior leather upholstery with 40th-anniversary stitching on the seats and floor mats. All units get a certification of authenticity and a premium satin car cover. Other features are just as in the Roadster trim.
370Z color editions (Yellow and Black editions)
These special color editions are named as per the colors they come in. The 370Z yellow edition was sold only with a unique yellow paint inspired by a European GT-4 race car. It was only sold as a coupe in the British market.
The Black edition was made when the 40th Anniversary edition 370Z was made. It has 40th Anniversary embroidery like the 40th Anniversary edition but was only old in Metallic black paint.
370Z Nürburgring edition
The 370Z Nürburgring edition features extra goodies that are not standard or optional on other trims. These include Dunlop sport max GT tires wrapped on 19-inch OZ alloy wheels and a Cobra exhaust system.
It was only sold with the Ultimate Yellow color used in the 370Z yellow edition. If you bought one from Nissan or zero mileage from the dealership, it comes with a $160 gift card redeemable at the Nürburgring.
This was also made around the same time when the 40th Anniversary edition was being made. It features GT decals and racing stripes on Pearl White, Metallic Black, or Black Rose painted body panels. It has the same features as the 40th Anniversary edition but with some extra goodies. They include; underbody insulation, a rear-view parking camera, adaptive dampers, satellite navigation, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
- First-Generation; Datsun 240Z/Nissan S30/Nissan Fairlady Z, +/- 500,000 units
- Second-generation; Nissan Fairlady 280ZX/S130/Z30, +/-480,000 units
- Third and Fourth Generation; Nissan 300ZX Z31, Z32, UNKNOWN
- Fifth Generation; Nissan 350Z Z33, UNKNOWN
- Sixth Generation 370Z Z34, UNKNOWN
Yes. All Nissan Z models have a reliability rating of 3.8/5-4.5/5. This means they have average annual repair costs, which is not bad.
Nissan Z models with carbureted L engines will last around 250,000 miles with the required maintenance before you start budgeting for major replacement parts. Other models will last between 200,000 and 400,000 miles depending on the maintenance and driving habits of the previous owners and yours as the new owner. If a car has a good maintenance record, you’ll definitely enjoy driving it, and it will last long.
Yes. The VQ engines used in both cars can handle approximately 400 horsepower with stock internals. Turbocharger kits add around 100 horsepower or more if you upgrade the supporting internals. Anything above 400 horsepower with the stock internals will damage your engine and reduce reliability and durability.
Both systems help maintain vehicle traction but work in different ways. Traction control ensures that all wheels are spinning at the same speed by identifying the wheel spinning more than the others and reducing its speed. On the other hand, VDC monitors vehicle motion to minimize body roll and understeer.
Nissan Z models are popular because of three main reasons. Availability, reliability, and affordability. You’ll get a 300ZX or a 350Z listed for a lower price than a Nissan Skyline or a Nisan Silvia, and if you compare the prices, you can get 2 or more 350Zs for the price of a skyline. They also make good project cars, especially for drifting. There are more 350Zs on drift tracks than any other JDM sports car.
This depends on the driver, but manual transmission is a better option if you compare a 5/6-speed manual to a 4-speed automatic. The 5-speed and 7-speed automatic transmissions on the 350Z and the 370Z are also engaging, especially for drivers who love paddle shifters.
How to import a Nissan Fairlady Z
Read our Ultimate Guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.
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