The Nissan 300ZX, also known as the Nissan Fairlady Z, is a sports car produced by Nissan. It comprises the third and
fourth generations of the Z-car line-up, given the chassis designations Z31 and
The 300ZX name followed the numerical
convention put forth by Yutaka Katayama, then President of Nissan Motors USA.
This was used in the North American, European, and Australian markets. In Japan
Fairlady Z is used.
The Z31 and Z32 feature a 3.0 liter, V6,
naturally-aspirated or turbo charged engine.
Although both motors are from the same VG
series and having the same displacement, the
output of the Z32 is greater than the Z31.
The naturally-aspirated Z32 has 222 hp
and 198 lb-ft of torque versus the Z31 with
160-165 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. The
twin-turbo Z32s have 300 hp and 283 lb-ft
torque versus the single turbo Z31, which
has 200-205 hp and 227 lb-ft of torque.
The main difference in the newer motor is
the addition of dual overhead camshafts, and
for the turbo charged version, dual inter
coolers and variable valve timing.
The Z31 chassis was designed after the
previous Z-car, the Nissan 280ZX, and had
two special editions. The 50th Anniversary
Edition focused on luxury to celebrate the
company's semi-centennial in 1984, the Shiro
Special, released 4 years later, boasted
Styling would be completely redesigned
with the release of the Z32, This tended
towards finer curves and more efficient
aerodynamics. The newer chassis also
featured four-wheel steering, called Super
HICAS, in its top-of-the-line models.
Although it was not a special edition, in
1996 Nissan designated the final 300
American units the Commemorative Edition.
Production of the Z32 ceased outside of the
home market and continued in Japan until
August of 2000.
True to its heritage, the race-only 300ZX
cars had several notable victories,
including the 1986 Trans Am series and the
1994 24 Hours of Daytona.
However, auto sports politics and a
controversial GTS-1 class win at the 24
Hours of LeMans that same year prompted the
International Motor Sports Association to
declare the twin turbo engine illegal for
future competition. The 300ZX also holds the
E/BMS land speed record of 419.84 km/h
(260.87 mph) from the 1991 Bonneville Speed
Throughout its life, the 300ZX has been
praised by critics. Car and Driver placed
the car on its Ten Best list for 6
consecutive years. Motor Trend awarded it as
the 1990 Import Car of the Year. In 1996
Automobile Magazine reflected upon their
years of experience with the Z-car with a
“The 300ZX Turbo is a dance; it's a song; it's rolling, roaring automotive art.
There is no
colour that doesn't suit it. There is no mood-lifting chemical
substance it can't replace.”
300ZX Import Tuner Challenge
The Z31 chassis designation was first
introduced in 1983 as a 1984 Datsun/Nissan
300ZX. This continued until 1985 when Nissan
standardized their brand name worldwide and
dropped the Datsun badge.
Designed by Kazumasu Takagi and his team,
the 300ZX improved aerodynamics and
increased power when compared to its
predecessor, the 280ZX. The newer Z-car had
a drag coefficient of 0.30 and used Japan's
first ever V6 engine instead of an I6 in the
spirit of the original Fairlady Z.
This new V6 (2960 cc) single overhead cam
engine was available as a
naturally-aspirated VG30E or a turbo charged
VG30ET producing 160 hp and 200 hp
The engine was either a type A or type B
sub-designation from 1984 to April 1987,
models from May 1987 to 1989 had a W
sub-designation. The W-series engines
featured redesigned water jackets for
additional cooling, fully floating piston
wrist pins, and more power, 165 hp naturally
aspirated and 205 hp turbo charged.
The 1984 to 1987 turbo models featured a
Garrett T3 turbocharger with a 7.8:1
compression ratio, whereas 1988 to 1989
models featured a low inertia T25
turbocharger with an increased 8.3:1
compression ratio. Producing 5 extra
horsepower, these engines were equipped with
self-adjusting hydraulic valve lifters.
In Japan, the Z31 also came with a
2.0 litre motor. The 200Z, 200ZG, and 200ZS
used the VG20ET motor while the 200ZR had
the RB20DET. Other than the 300ZX, the only
other factory Z31 variant to use the VG30DE
engine is the 300ZR.
The Japanese 300ZX Turbo was free of
tough emissions regulations as in the US,
allowing it to produce 230 hp, outperforming
not only its North American counterpart, but
the 2.0 liter Z31s as well--their engines
only made 170-180 hp because of local
The Z31 chassis was based on an 280ZX.
Although the newer chassis had the same
wheel base and MacPherson
strut/semi-trailing arm independent
suspension, it handled and accelerated
better than the 280ZX. Turbo Charged models,
except for the Shiro Special edition, had
innovational 3-way electronically adjustable
1983-1989 Nissan 300ZX Z31
Special edition Z31 releases
Nissan manufactured two special edition
Z31s. In 1984, the 300ZX 50th Anniversary
Edition was released to celebrate Nissan's
50th anniversary. These cars were all fully
loaded turbo models with a Silver/Black
In 1988, the turbo charged Shiro Special
debuted with pearl white paint, stiffer
springs and matched shocks, a unique front
air dam, paint matched wheels, Recaro seats,
and a viscous limited-slip differential.
It was the fastest car out of Japan,
capable of 153 mph speeds. 1002 Shiro
Special Z31s were made in 1988.
Style and evolution
The Z31 body was slightly restyled in
1986 with the addition of side skirts and
the removal of the hood scoop for a much
The old rubber spoiler was replaced with
a more durable fibreglass one, and a third
brake light was added to comply with US
safety regulations. The car was given a
final make over in 1987 that included more
aerodynamic bumpers, fog lamps within the
front air dam, and 9004 bulb-based
The 300ZX titled rear reflector was
updated to a narrow set of tail lights
running the entire width of the car with an
LED third brake light on top of the rear
The Z31 continued selling until 1989 with
70,000 units were sold in 1985 alone.
In 1989 Nissan replaced the Z31 chassis
with the Z32. Production of the naturally
aspirated versions followed by the
twin-turbo. The Z32 was also titled 300ZX
because it had a the same displacement
engine. Since the engine had dual overhead
cams, the engine name was revised to VG30DE.
The twin-turbo model VG30DETT.
Style and evolution
The Z32 chassis would undergo several
changes between 1989 and 2000. Safety
additions are the included standard driver
and passenger-side airbags and true
pillar-mount seat belts. The Z32's year
sales in 1990 reached 39,290 units.
- Manual climate controls discontinued (except in convertible).
- New electronic climate controls allowing control over air flow direction,
but no more ambient temp gauge.
- Nissan logo put on the front fascia (nose panel).
- Driver's airbag now optional.
- Air conditioner evaporator valve changed from aluminium to steel for better
- North American brake rotors changed to NA units. Previous NA rotors were 4
- CD player option added for both the TT and NA; it was previously only
available in the NA.
- Bose stereo head unit changed.
- Logo on floor mats changed from "300ZX" to "Z".
- Hardtop coupe available at mid-year (NA only).
- Brake master cylinder changed to new unit in February 1991.
- Keyhole on driver's door and interior light illuminated when driver's door
handle was pulled.
- Sales: 17,652 units.
Z300ZX - Z32 - Convertible
- Driver's airbag made standard.
- Brake calliper material changed from aluminium to iron, to help warpage/shimmy
- Dashboard and door complimentary material changed from fabric to suede.
- Separate mirror heater switch eliminated (combined with rear defroster
- Mirror heaters made standard.
- Power adjustable driver's seat standard on TT.
- Sales: 6,708 units.
- Turbo oil line insulation changed for better heat dissipation.
- Convertible option added.
- Upgraded Bose stereo made standard.
- AIV/reed valves removed.
- Sales: 11,599 units.
- Front fascia became body coloured instead of gray strip.
- Rear spoiler design changed to a taller, pedestal-type.
- Seat belts redesigned; they were moved from door mounts to true pillar
- Super HICAS system changed to an electrically-actuated unit (previously oil
- Passenger's side airbag introduced and made standard.
- Keyless entry added.
- Titanium keys discontinued in November 1994.
- 'Reset' button removed from clock.
- Off-white 'Pearl' colour is dropped. Future 'Pearls' are more of a
- Sales: 5,320 units.
- Variable cam timing (NVTC) dropped. Factory HP rating remains at 300hp as
seen on original 1996 model year window stickers and third-party dyno testing
shows 300 hp.
- OBD II electronics introduced.
- Driver's seat back rest no longer included adjustable side bolsters.
- Sales: 2929 Units total, 300 of which are the "Commemorative Edition."
In 1984 to 1985 showroom stock racing the
car scored its only Trans Am win in 1986 by
From 1985 to 1987, the Electramotive-developed
GTP ZX-Turbo was raced in the International
Motor Sports Association's (IMSA) GTP class.
Also in the All Japan Sports Prototype
Championship, badged as a Fairlady Z, using
a Lola T810 chassis and a VG30ET engine. A
series of crashes attributed to tire
blowouts combined with a difficult T810
chassis caused poor race success.
Between 1988 and 1989, the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo
dominated in IMSA GTP racing. Additional
factory endorsement, combined with a new
chassis, transmission and more reliable
Goodyear tires contributed to better
success. The SOHC VG30ET was making upwards
of 1000 hp, with a power band that extended
from 4000 to 9000 rpm on a single turbo.
From 1990 to 1995, Steve Millen drove the
twin turbo 300ZX for Clayton Cunningham
Racing. The car dominated the IMSA in its
GTO, then later GTS categories with a
newly-designed chassis and engine.
Millen would rank as the #1 Factory
Driver for Nissan for 7 years and earn two
IMSA GTS Driving Championships and two IMSA
GTS Manufacturer's Championships.
Among enthusiasts and the team themselves
the biggest triumph was the victory in the
24 Hours of Daytona. In the same year at the
24 Hours of Le Mans, the 300ZX ranked first
in the GTS-1 class and 5th overall.
In an attempt to level the playing field
in the GTS-1 class by reducing the allowable
horsepower, the IMSA declared the twin turbo
VG engine ineligible. The 1995 GTS 300ZX car
would debut with the V8 Nissan VH engine at
Daytona and would place first in the GTS-1
class at the 24 Hours of Sebring and
Mosehead Grand Prix in Halifax.
Clayton Cunningham Racing Nissan 300ZX.
The JUN-BLITZ Bonneville Z32 holds the
E/BMS class land speed record of 419.84 km/h
(260.87 mph) set at the 1991 Bonneville
Speed Trial. The vehicle was built as a
partnership between JUN Auto and BLITZ.
||Nissan Fairlady Z
||1983–2000 (Imports to North America ceased in 1996)
||Hiratsuka, Kanagawa, Japan
||Sports car/ Grand Tourer
- 1990: The 1990 300-ZX Turbo is named Motor Trend's "Import Car of the Year".
Motor Trend also names it, "One of the Top Ten Performance Cars". Automobile
Magazine honours the 300-ZX/300-ZX Turbo as its "Design of the Year", and names
the 300-ZX Turbo to its "All Stars" list. Road & Track names the 300-ZX Turbo
"One of the Ten Best Cars in the World". Car and Driver names the 300-ZX Turbo
"One of the Ten Best Cars".
- 1991: The 300-ZX Turbo is named to Car and Driver 's "Ten Best" list, and is
once again one of Automobile Magazine's "All-Stars".
- 1992: For the third straight year, Car and Driver names the 300-ZX Turbo one
of its "Ten Best", and Automobile Magazine names it to its "All-Stars" list.
- 1993: For the fourth straight year, the 300-ZX Turbo is named a Car and
Driver "Ten Best", and one of Automobile Magazine's "All-Stars".
- 1994: For the fifth straight year, the 300-ZX Turbo is named to the "Ten
Best" and "All Stars" lists by Car and Driver and Automobile Magazine,
- 1995: For the sixth straight year the 300ZX Turbo is named to the "Ten Best"
by Car and Driver.
- 1996: For the seventh straight year the 300ZX Turbo is named to the "Ten
Best" by Car and Driver, this is also the final year of production in the US.
Even after production stopped magazines have continued to rave and award the
300ZX even years later.
- 2004: Automobile lists the Z32 as one of the 100 coolest cars of all time.
- 2006: Automobile lists the Z32 on both the "20 Greatest Cars of the Past 20
years" and the "25 Most Beautiful Cars in History".
"once again beautiful, so sleek and tight and shimmering that it still looks
great ten years after it went away" -Automobile, 2006
From the year it was introduced, the Z32 has also won many tests
against similar sports cars such as the Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth, Mazda
RX-7, Chevrolet Corvette, Toyota Supra, Dodge Viper and the Porsche 968.
In Australia, the 1990 to 1995 Nissan
300ZX was assessed in the Used Car Safety
Ratings as giving "average" protection for
occupants in a crash.
The 300zx was also reported by the United
States Department of Transportation to be
safer than other popular sports cars like
the RX-7, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro,
Pontiac Firebird. Mainly due to advanced
placement of the seatbelt being mounted on
the door instead of on the car body.
The Paul Newman/Bob Sharp Racing IMSA 300ZX.
Z31 Nissan 300ZX
Modern Nissan (Datsun) 300ZX Car
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that is one hot car !