Nissan 280ZX

Zaheer July 18, 2011 0

In 1978, Nissan Motors introduced a sports coupe called the Nissan 280ZX also known as Datsun 280ZX and Fairlady Z. the Nissan 280Zx was basically a second generation Z-car that took over the Datsun 280Z in last half of 1978. It was with the 280ZX when company indicated the “By Nissan” subscript next to the Datsun logo. In 1984, the Nissan 300ZX replaced the Nissan 280ZX. The car was declared the Motor Trends Import Car of the Year in 1979.

Design Goals

Compared to 280Z, the Nissan 280ZX was completely a redesigned car except for the L28 inline-6 engine and certain driveline components that it shared with 280Z. It was available as both 2-seater and 4-seater (2+2) versions.

The Nissan 280ZX came with an improved fuel economy, emissions and aerodynamics than the first generation Z-cars. The emphasis was given to improve the fuel economy because of the 1978’s gas crisis. The Nissan 280ZX also featured a high-end audio system.


The Nissan 280ZX shared its suspension with the parallel Bluebird 910. It featured the MacPherson Struts on the front and semi-trailing arm independent in the back. It also featured a longer wheelbase 91.3 inch (2319 mm) than the previous model having wheelbase of 90.7 inch (2304 mm).

The braking and steering was also enhanced for Nissan 280ZX. In the beginning, the 280ZX was available with unassisted rack-and-pinion steering or Datsun 810 based recirculating-ball with power assistance. In 1981, the Turbo model received a new power assisted rack-and-pinion steering which was introduced on the normally aspirated models in the next coming year.

Marketing and Sales

The Nissan 280ZX was marketed in domestic market as Fairlady Z, while in US and Australian markets it was sold as Datsun 280ZX. The car was co-branded Datsun by Nissan in United States from 1979 to 1983.

It was available with both 2.0-L and 2.8-L engines in the domestic market while it featured the L28-powered versions in the markets outside Japan. The Fairlady 280Z received the 2.0-L, L20 engine.

No-frills 2-seater and Grand Luxury (GL) ZX were the two trim levels available in the American markets. It was equipped with all the up-to-date equipments of the time. In 1982, an optional digital instrument cluster was introduced.



Nissan Motors homologated a high-performance whale-tail type spoiler for the Datsun 280ZX by manufacturing 1001 units of 2801ZX-R. All these cars came with unique body decals and ZX-R logos. Although, these and other cars produced during the time looked similar in appearance, the only difference was the whale-tail and decals.

The models produced after 1980 came equipped with a T-bar roof available on both 2-seater and 2+2 body styles. The major advantage of T-bar roof panels was that they were removable and could be stored in the rear of the car.

On the 10th Anniversary of the car, a limited edition was introduced in 1980. It was offered two two-toned finish including black/gold and black/red. About 3000 units of this anniversary edition were produced out of which 2500 were available in black/gold paint while the rest were in black/red paint.


In 1981, the turbocharged model powered by L28ET engine was launched in the US market generating 180 bhp (134 kW; 182 PS) at 5600 rpm and torque of 203 ft-lb (275 Nm) at 2800 rpm. The model sold in Japanese market received L20ET (2.0-L Turbo) engine equipped with manual or automatic transmissions. However, the other export markets received the 280ZX with a normally aspirated 2.8-L turbo engine equipped with either manual or automatic transmission.

A single Garrett AiResearch TB03 with an internal wastegate was featured in the turbocharged 280ZX with no intercooler present. The turbocharged 280ZX also featured a higher volume oil pump, oil cooler on automatic models and Nissan’s Electronic Concentrated Control System (ECCS).

According to Car & Drive (1981), the turbocharged 280ZX mated to 3-speed automatic sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, quarter a mile in 16.6 seconds at a maximum speed of 130 mph (210km/h).

The criticism regarding the rear suspension forced the Nissan to revise the rear suspension for the 1982 model. The revised suspension was also introduced in non-turbo 280ZX from 1982 onward.


In 1982, a mild facelift was released featuring reworked NACA ducting in the hood, new allow wheels (14 inch 6-spoke alloys for non-turbo models, and 15 inch 4-spoke alloys for turbo models), a reworked B-pillar treatment, new pin-stripe style tail-lights, and rubber bumper over-riders. On the interior, it received new seat trim styling. The most important feature of 1982 facelift was the introduction of first voice warning system.

Other features were power steering, new rack-and-pinion system, and modifications in rear suspension layout. The facelift model later became popular as Series II 280ZX.

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