The Nissan 300ZX is one of the best Japanese performance cars of all time.
The “Z32” generation, in particular, remains one of the “Japanese hero cars” from the 1990s, alongside the likes of the Toyota Supra, Nissan Skyline GT-R, Mazda RX-7 and Mitsubishi GTO/3000GT.
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, I personally believe that the 300ZX (also known as the ‘Fairlady’ – learn more about the other name here) is the best looking of the 1990s Japanese hero cars, with the RX-7 being a close second.
In particular, the unique rear end of the 300ZX has aged particularly well. Those tail lights still look amazing.
These cars have a loyal following for good reason! Not only is the 300ZX great to look at … it is great to drive as well.
One thing that makes the 300ZX is the ‘targa top’ or ‘T-Top’ roof. On a warm summer’s day you can pop the roof panels off and let in the light and fresh air, giving an “open top” experience that isn’t so easy to replicate with any of the 300ZX’s contemporaries.
However, are all 300ZX equipped with a targa roof?
In this short edition of Car Facts, we look at the roof options for the 300ZX.
Did Every 300ZX Come With A Targa Top?
No – in fact there were three possible roof choices/options on the 300ZX.
Slicktop/hardtop – The “slicktop”, which is just a conventional hardtop roof, is the other main roof option that was available for the 300ZX. This was actually the base/entry level roof option, with the targa top being the premium choice. In the United States, the slicktop was only ever sold with the NA engine and slicktop cars were typically more basic in terms of equipment specification. Later in this article, I’ll explain why many people prefer this roof option.
Targa Top – This doesn’t need much introduction (as if you’ve found this article you are clearly aware that the 300ZX came with a targa top). The T-top roof was the more luxurious option, and in the US market it was the only way to get a twin turbo-powered 300ZX (in case you’re wondering if all 300ZX are turbo, no they are not). In the Japanese domestic market – read our JDM meaning guide here – and some other export markets, you could have the targa top with or without a factory turbo engine.
Convertible – If you’ve read our Nissan 300ZX buyer’s guide, then you’ll already know that there were a small number of 300ZXs built with a soft top folding roof, like you might find on the Mazda Miata. Convertible 300ZXs are rare indeed, and this is the only body style to have never been offered with a turbocharged engine (all 300ZX convertibles are non-turbo, and all are two seaters – there was never a factory 2+2 convertible available). The convertible 300ZX is definitely a “left field” choice, and most enthusiasts want either the slicktop or the targa due to the superior driving dynamics on offer. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the 300ZX body shape suits a convertible roof either, but your opinion may differ!
Is The Targa Top Or Slicktop Better?
In some respects, this comes down to personal preference.
In the US market at least, some prefer the slicktop over the targa top (at least if they don’t mind about the lack of turbocharging) because being base spec cars the “slicks” have fewer complex components and have an inherently lighter weight. For example, if you want to build a stripped out track monster, then the slicktop will be the better choice.
On the other hand, the t-top option is the easier way into factory turbocharging, and also more luxurious features.
If you want the lightest, most structurally strong 300ZX possible, then you’ll want to buy a slicktop. However, if you are purchasing in the American market, then you’ll need to be happy with a naturally aspirated slicktop 300ZX if you go down this path OR you could look for an imported JDM-spec car, or possibly even look to turbocharge your NA slicktop. In fact, in doing research for my recent article on whether or not you can turbo a non turbo 300ZX, one of the more common reasons for this to be done – at least in the US market – is if you want a slick/hardtop 300ZX with a turbo engine.
Because of their relative rarity in the American market, slicktop 300ZXs can also command a premium over similarly specified t-top cars.
Personally, I’d still prefer a targa top over a slicktop 300ZX (even though living in NZ you can occasionally find hard top twin turbo cars) as I’d rather have the ability to take the roof panels out and enjoy the sunshine, and I’m not much of a “push it to the limits” kind of driver.
If you are a driving purist and have the choice between a slicktop or t-top NA 300ZX, then you’d want to take the slicktop.
Conclusion – Are All 300ZX Targa Top/T-Top?
No, not all 300ZXs come with a targa top. In fact, the targa top (aka “T-Top”) was a premium option in export markets like the United States, and the base model was the slicktop/hardtop.
It’s much more common to see JDM 300ZXs with ‘slicktop’/non-targa roofs in markets like New Zealand where we get a lot of used Japanese imports. This is because in the American market, the more premium models/trims were typically sold, which came with the T-Top roof.
What do you prefer? The targa top or the slicktop/hardtop? Maybe even the convertible! Let us know in the comment section below – it would be great to hear from you.
Make sure to check out our Nissan 300ZX buyer’s guide a model history for more information about this legendary car. You’ll discover everything you need to know about finding, inspecting and buying a Nissan 300ZX.