The Nissan 280ZX is a three-door fastback sports car produced from 1978 to 1983. This vehicle also is known as the Nissan S130, Datsun 280ZX, Nissan Fairlady Z, and Nissan Fairlady 280Z depending on the market.
Nissan 280ZX Z-Car Continuation: Design and Introduction
The Nissan 280ZX was the successor to the Nissan S30, also known as the Datsun/Nissan 240Z. Both are part of the Nissan Z-car series, one of the most successful and trend-setting sports cars series ever produced. As such, the 280ZX had big shoes to fill with high expectations. While the 240Z model was quite popular, Nissan decided to go with an entire redesign of the 280ZX model to follow. The 280ZX was offered in two body styles, including a two-seater and a 2+2 four-seat design. While the L-series inline-6 engine remained at the heart of the vehicle, the 280ZX put greater emphasis on driver comfort rather than pure performance. While the outgoing 240Z had a minimalistic interior, the new 280ZX provided more comfortable seats, improved sound insulation, and a generally more luxurious interior.
Improved Features and Options
If the top-of-the-line Grand Luxury version was selected, the 280ZX essentially transformed into a grand tourer model that could compete with offering from more upmarket luxury brands. In North America, the two-seater version was usually minimally equipped while the 2+2 body style was sold as the GL and included most options available, such as a premium audio system. Turning to the mechanical aspects of the 280ZX, one of the main areas of change was the suspension system. It was redesigned to be much softer to provide the occupants a more comfortable ride, which was accomplished by using MacPherson struts in front and semi-trailing arm independent suspension in the rear. On top of the suspension modifications, the 280ZX was also designed to have significantly improved emissions controls, aerodynamics, and fuel efficiency. This led to some confusion about the engine’s power as Nissan deliberately tuned the vehicle to be slightly less quick in exchange for improved fuel efficiency. The exterior of the 280ZX included a major reduction in drag coefficient, thanks to the removal of the wide open grille found in the S30 along with elaborate wind-tunnel testing. It also featured a lower center of gravity and nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, which helped to retain a sporty feel despite the change to a softer suspension.
Engine and Performance
At its heart, Nissan used an 2.8L inline-6 L28E engine with Bosch L-Jetronic multiport fuel injection and a compression ratio of 8.8:1. It initially had 133 horsepower, but was increased to 143 horsepower in 1981. Also in 1981, a turbocharged model using the L28ET engine was released as an export model to the United States, producing 180 horsepower and 203 lb ft of torque. It had no intercooler and limited boost to 6.8 psi. The domestic market in Japan received the 2.0L L20ET engine. The L28ET was only offered in an automatic transmission due to concerns about the manual’s reliability, while the L20ET models has the option for automatic or manual transmission.
Later Updates and Looking Back
In 1980, a T-bar roof became available in both body styles, allowing for removal of the roof panels which could be stored in the rear of the vehicle. Then in 1982, the 280ZX received various exterior styling updates, leading to a Series II designation, with a new hood, wheels, and tail lights. Color-matched bumpers also became available. The Nissan 280ZX was a successful follow up to the popular 240Z. While some enthusiasts were hesitant to accept the more luxurious and softer ride, the increased power of the turbocharged engines and the overall improvements allowed the 280ZX to continue the Z-car forward in popularity, leading to its current legendary status of today. It was Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year in 1979 and sold more than 86,000 units in its first year.