Ever since Japanese car manufacturers became key players on the global car market, Nissan was amongst the first brands to grace its lineup with proper performance machines. From the days of the legendary Datsun 240Z until today`s sublime Skyline R35, Nissan has always had at least one sports car in its portfolio. In the late `80s, Nissan unveiled probably the best iteration of its Z-Series coupes in the form of the 300ZX model, code name Z32. Introduced during the golden age of Japanese sports cars, the Nissan 300ZX was one of the fastest and most accomplished cars on the market and a serious competitor to the renowned European and American sports cars.

Nissan 300ZX Origins

After the enormous success of the original 240Z from the early `70s, Nissan introduced the bigger and more powerful 300ZX in 1983. The model sold well, but it still lacked the prestige or performance of many European and American cars. That is why Nissan decided to go all out on the next generation, which debuted in 1989. Called the 300ZX (Z32), the model featured an all-new platform, new engines, much-improved aerodynamics, and a modern interior with a long list of standard equipment. Nissan invested a lot of money into the engineering of the new coupé, and the 300ZX featured four-wheel steering as an option and a twin-turbo V6 as the top of the line engine choice. However, such an advanced car couldn’t be affordable, and with a $30,000 base price in 1989, Nissan shocked many enthusiasts. Simply, the new 300ZX cost the same as the Porsche 944 Turbo and Chevrolet Corvette of the era, which many weren’t willing to pay.

Power and Performance

Under the bonnet of the 300ZX Z32, there were two V6 engine options, both with 3.0-liter displacement. The base engine (code: VG30DE) was a naturally-aspirated, dual overhead camshaft petrol unit with 222 HP, but the real gem was an optional 3.0-liter twin-turbo motor with 300 HP on tap. This may not sound much today, but back in 1989, the 300ZX with 300 HP had more power than both the Porsche 911 Turbo and Ferrari 328 GTS! In terms of performance, the base 300ZX could achieve 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, but the twin-turbo model could do it a full second quicker, making it as fast as some supercars of the era. Both versions had top speed electronically limited to 155 mph.

When it was released, the 300ZX Z32 received numerous accolades from magazines and automotive media for being a well-engineered and very competent sports car. Car testers were amazed by its handling, performance, and quality and thought of it as more of a Gran Turismo car than a stripped-out sports machine.


Although it was an expensive car, at least for Nissan, you might be surprised to know that you can find one for sale for less than £10,000. There are even some examples (base models in poor condition) for around £5000. There are several reasons for such low prices, and the first of them is the fact that the 300ZX was never as popular as the Honda NSX or Supra Mk4. Secondly, this model was produced in relatively few numbers and is therefore difficult to find spare parts for. However, that is precisely why the 300ZX is such a great sports car bargain. You can get an elegant Ferrari Testarossa-rivaling coupé (at least in the performance department) for the price of an entry-level Dacia.


A lot of 300ZXs you might find are in poor condition or neglected by their owners, which makes restoring them very difficult and expensive. We suggest you walk away from those cars and only concentrate on those with a full-service history. The most common problems occurred when the owner skipped regular maintenance intervals. The most important thing is frequent oil changes (3000 miles) and timing belt (60,000 miles or four years) replacement. Irregular oil changes can affect the turbocharger, piston ring wear, and result with blue smoke. Nissan installed a lot of advanced components in the 300ZX, and you’ll want to check if everything works as it should before buying. Since the primary market for the Z32 wasn’t Europe, you might have some difficulties obtaining spare parts.

Of course, stay away from tastelessly modified cars and twin-turbo models fitted with aftermarket systems, performance chips, and so on. A 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine can indeed deliver much more than 300 HP, but inexperienced mechanics with the ambition to become tuners are not the people you want to buy the car from.

Conclusion. Should you buy one?

If you can find a good example, the 300ZX is a thoroughly over-engineered car which has stood the test of time. This is an elegant GT with more than enough power, performance and rarity factor which can still hold its own against much more modern cars. Japanese cars from this period are almost classics already and the 300ZX is sure to experience at worst no further depreciation and at best some generous financial appreciation.