Back in the 1960s, Nissan was merely a small Japanese automaker that was yet to make a big impact on the international market when it worked with Yamaha for the design of a prototype for a new sports car, an updated Nissan Fairlady. The finished design was a great opportunity to create a halo car that would improve the company’s image. The project, however, was eventually dropped. Fortunately, Nissan USA president Yutaka Katayama thought of creating a cheaper sports car for the international market. The plan was to create a new series of GT cars that would be stylish, fast, and innovative but would come at a much lower price by using interchangeable parts. This project led to the 240Z rolling out of the assembly line, sold in 1969 not only in Japan but also in the US. The second generation Z car, the S130 series, introduced the Nissan 280ZX along with other models. It became successful in different classes of racing, especially in the US.
1978: Introducing the 280ZX
The Nissan 280Z was introduced in North America in 1975 under the first generation S30 Z car lineup. A remarkable change to the Z car would have to be the Bosch fuel injection system used instead of SU carburetors. Engine displacement was also increased to 2.8L. These changes brought about the power hike of up to 170 hp, even though the Z vehicle had added weight from luxury features and a bigger bumper.
When the second generation S130 came out, the 280ZX was unveiled in 1978. It had the same 5-speed manual transmission from the 280Z and the 2.8L L28 inline-6 engine. Other than that, it emerged as a new and improved Z car built with more luxurious features. Some of the bigger changes found in the third generation Z car were the t-tops in 1980 and the addition of a turbocharged model in 1981. The turbo option was mated to a 3-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission and could generate as much as 180 bhp and 203 lb.-ft. of torque. This model brought performance to a whole new level.
The Nissan 280ZX enjoyed much success. In its first year, it already hit a record high of around 86,007 units sold. It was also named Import Car of the Year by Motor Trend in 1979. The 280ZX was also successful in the racing circuit, with several victories earned in the 1979 SCCA C Production Category, 1979 and 1980 IMSA GTU Championship, and 1982 and 1983 IMSA GTO Championship.
The redesign increased the performance and comfort levels of this second generation Z car. It had focused more on providing luxuries to satisfy consumer demands. However, some had noted that the design’s focus on luxury took some of the driving fun. The280ZX was eventually replaced by the 300ZX, which was known for its improved handling, better acceleration, and other refinements.