Paleo Nissan: 1981 Datsun 280ZX T-Top 5-Speed – SOLD!

Sep 2020 | Classifinds, Sports Car Saturday

October 16th Update – Over the past week, the private seller of this 280ZX deleted their Craigslist ad, so we’re now able to call this sportscar “Sold!”

If you didn’t see it earlier this week, Nissan announced its new Z concept car, and it’s a stunner.  While the roofline emulates the original 240 Z, the rear taillight treatment reminds us more of the 280ZX.  In a word, it’s awesome.  Coincidentally, “Awesome” was the one-word catchphrase Nissan used for nearly all of their Z-Car advertising in the late 1970s through the early 1980s.  Posted for sale earlier this week is this 85K original mile 1981 280ZX T-Top 5-Speed recently on Craigslist in Washington, New Jersey.  Featuring one repaint of the factory metallic blue hue, the current caretaker has his ZX priced at $15,000 firm. Comparing this price against the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool confirms this asking price falls between the #2 “Very Good” estimate of $12,200 and the #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $18,500.  As a second data point, the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his 280ZX priced between the #1 “Concours” appraisal of $24,300 and the #2 “Excellent” estimate of $13,800.

First launched in 1970 as the 240Z and then later replaced by updated 260Z and 280Z variants, by 1978 Nissan elected to perform a complete redesign of its iconic sports car.  Nissan elected to call the new version the 280ZX and with it retained only the L28 inline-six engine and other driveline components from the 280Z. Nissan offered both two-seat and four-seat (2+2) designs. Compared to the more overtly sporting earlier models, the 280ZX was a much softer, heavier car, with less focus on driving and more on driver comfort and refinement.  Softer suspension, better sound insulation, more comfortable seats, and ample equipment including high-end audio systems defined the new ZX. In the spirit of the times, emissions controls and aerodynamics were markedly improved over the first generation Z-cars, while weight was down somewhat as long as the buyer did not pick much from the very long options list.  The exterior design was evolutionary, less rounded, and with better-integrated safety bumpers. Many parts, including the rear axle and the power steering, came from the Datsun 810 luxury sedan.  Most of the design effort went into an entirely different and much more modern interior.  The 280ZX became a grand tourer rather than a sports car, particularly in the plush Grand Luxury versions.

However, by 1982 Nissan hoped to get back some performance street credentials by giving the 280ZX a mid-cycle facelift in 1982 that included revised NACA ducting in the hood, new alloy wheels (fourteen-inch six-spoke alloys for non-turbo models, and fifteen-inch four-spoke alloys for turbo models), a revised B-pillar garnish, new pin-stripe style tail-lights, and rubber bumper over-riders replaced the earlier model’s chrome and rubber items. The bumpers were now also body-colored and wrapped around further. Interior changes were minor but included new seat trim styling. The 1982 model also was the first to offer the popular voice warning system, which warned the driver when the headlights were left on after the vehicle was turned off if the parking brake was on while the vehicle was in motion, and many others.  This facelifted model has since come to be called the “Series II” 280ZX.  While the naturally aspirated 1982 and 1983 Datsun 280ZX boasted a 0-60 mph time of 9.1 seconds (1.2 seconds slower than the Corvette of the same year), opting for the Turbo version dropped that time down by a more respectable two seconds.

These early eighties, Disco-Era non-turbocharged Z-cars may not have the performance of either earlier or later models, but we like how clean this survivor example remains in our favorite color combined with the five-speed manual transmission and T-Tops.  This is the entry-level, RADwood- and Malaise-ear eligible Z-car you can enjoy reliably without breaking the bank to buy it.  Good luck with the purchase!

Gas prices were on the minds of all consumers in 1980 and this Datsun 280ZX from that year puts an interesting spin on how economical owning a sports car could be:

Based on the pictures provided, this appears to be a nicely repainted survivor example of an early eighties Z Car.  While the aftermarket satellite radio adapter looks a bit clunky, at least the original radio remains in place if you decide you want to start having this car judged in a preservation class.  While at this point you can get away with not needing the A/C system, fixing and converting it would be a priority for us to complete over the winter.  Other than those two niggles, this appears to be an awesome (pun intended) disco-era Z car example that won’t disappoint.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“Stunning rare 1981 Datsun 280ZX Fastback T-Top Coupe, Metallic Blue/Mint Dark Blue Cloth Int., the car is a survivor with one repaint always owned by fanatical Z collectors in factory stock condition it has the very desirable sought after 5 Speed Manual Gearbox making it super fun to drive, the factory fuel-injected powerful straight-six engine runs excellent no issues, very low 85k actual Orig Miles, no visible rust car is rock solid, very nice paint redone by the prior owner the factory color always gets compliments. Equipped with all the best options full power, PS, PDB, PW, Rare Removable T-Tops w/Storage Bags, Factory Air Conditioning (fully intact not cold as I never use it), factory Stereo w/upgrade (see pix), factory Alloy Rims w/nice meaty radials, the exhaust is tight no issues, mechanically this is truly a sweet running/driving Z. I have receipt folder from the past owner and during my ownership its always been garaged covered and tendered. It runs/drives tight as a pin with a perfect clutch the 5-speed gearbox shifts like butter stops on a dime and handles amazing like all Z cars are known for. Z cars of this vintage in prime condition are getting very hard to come by are rapidly appreciating due to the strong demand and very limited supply. If you miss this one you’ll be hard-pressed to find a cleaner one for under 20k. Let these just taken pix speak for themselves! Priced to sell as-is where-is at $15,000.00 ***firm/non-neg no time wasters and no trades.

Do you have a 280ZX story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!

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