Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where we highlight fascinating cars we found walking around a town that is known for being bigger than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out: New York, New York.
Nissan hasn’t known what to do with the Z car lately. The 370Z is a vehicular great aunt, once supposedly very cool but now old and tired. You heard the stories, but you can’t believe them. Even if the (actually pretty good) 50th Anniversary Edition looked fantastic, it’s hard to believe they were any fun before they settled down.
Old Zs, though? They’re the cool uncles that stayed cool, the ones that were in the merchant marine and spent some time spearfishing in the DR but mostly take it easy these days, collecting Dead bootlegs and brings you a shell casing whenever he comes by the house. The uncle that who still winks and nods when he passes you a beer, even though you remind him that you’ve been of drinking age for damn near half a decade by now.
Sure, Uncle 280ZX isn’t quite as slick as Uncle 240Z, or as rad as Uncle 300ZX, but he’s got your back when you’ve missed curfew. After all, he’s seen worse. “You’re nowhere near the rebel your dad and I were back in the day, eh? You were just out having fun,” Uncle 280ZX says to your dad with a knowing smirk.
And this 1983 Datsun 280Zx down on my block yesterday morning? It’s seen its share of fun.
The 280Zx, known internally at Nissan as the S130, was the first all-new Z car since the 240 launched in 1969. Retaining the same engine, the 280ZX was larger and softer than the 280Z it replaced. More of a GT than a sports car, and most were less than happy to see the Z-car get a little flabbier and softer as it grew up.
This 280Zx is a 1983 model, which was the final year for the car before the Z31 300Zx would be introduced for 1984. Though a turbo that could hit 60 in 7.4 seconds was on offer, this car doesn’t have it so it made do with only 145 horsepower when new. Today? I’d say this car makes markedly less but at least I do know that it moves under its own power.
I hope the owner manages to fix whatever issue is causing the trunk to be filled with transmission mount boxes and replace the fender-mount mirror on the driver’s side, because while 280ZXs have long been passed over in favor of Z cars older and newer alike, there’s something charmingly askew about this one, just like everyone’s favorite cool uncle.