Is The 300ZX A JDM Car?

The Nissan 300ZX is one of the best Japanese performance cars of all time.

As one of the “hero cars” of 1990s Japanese performance motoring (alongside the likes of the Mitsubishi 3000GT, Toyota Supra Mk4, Mazda RX-7 etc) the 300ZX has gained a legendary reputation and loyal following.

It is also a popular choice with JDM enthusiasts and those into Japanese car culture.

But is the 300ZX a JDM car in the first place?

In this edition of Car Facts, we delve into the JDM credentials of the 300ZX.

What Is The Definition Of JDM?

In order to determine if the 300ZX is truly a JDM car, you need to have an understanding of what the term actually means.

The best place to start is by reading our comprehensive JDM meaning guide. This will give you a full breakdown on of the meaning of the term.

In short, however, a JDM car is one that is produced for sale in the Japanese domestic market. Therefore, not all Japanese-built cars are JDM (despite the fact that the term has come to be used liberally in the context of general interest in Japanese cars and car culture).

Once again, I strongly suggest that you read our guide on the true meaning of JDM to get a better understanding of the term.

Does The 300ZX Fit The Definition?

Here’s where it gets fun.

The 300ZX is and isn’t a JDM car.

Allow me to explain, before you jump to the comment section and accuse me of being totally crazy. 

The 300ZX is actually the export name for the Z32 generation of Nissan’s longstanding Z-Car line that has been running since the late 1960s, and of which there is a new iteration in the form of the Nissan Z – which looks like a superb car based on initial impressions.

Back in the 1990s, you could walk into a Nissan dealership in the United States (or other countries like the United Kingdom, although sales there ended in 1994) and splash your cash on a “300ZX”.

These cars are not JDM, at least not in the true meaning of the term. Yes, they are Japanese cars, and if you rocked up to a modern day JDM meetup with one of these now used cars nobody would bat an eyelid, but they don’t meet the true definition of the term.

So is there a genuine JDM 300ZX?

You betcha! It’s called the “Fairlady Z” (which is the Japanese market name of each of the successive cars in Nissan’s Z-Car lineup)

The JDM version of the 300ZX is the Fairlady Z.

300ZX vs Fairlady Z Differences

If you know anything about true JDM cars, then you’ll know that there are typically many differences (some big, some much more subtle) between these versions and any export market cars. 

Some are fairly universal, such as the fact that Japanese domestic market cars are limited to 180 km/h, or that they used to be limited to 276hp.

However, when it comes to the 300ZX vs Fairlady Z, there are some specific differences.

I won’t cover them all here – you can find much more information in our Nissan 300ZX buyer’s guide and model history – but some of the key differences are as follows:

  • In the US market, the 300ZX “slicktop” (hardtop) was only ever available with a naturally aspirated engine, whereas it could be purchased with a twin turbo engine in Japan.
  • The 2+2 was available with turbo and non turbo engines in Japan.
  • Different headlights and some other lights
  • Steering wheel on the opposite side of the car
  • Different trim/spec options available from new

In New Zealand (where the Garage Dreams editorial team is based) plenty of ex-Japan Fairlady Zs show up for sale on the used market, although many people still refer to them as a 300ZX – which stands to reason as the main rear badging says 300ZX:

Conclusion – Is The 300ZX A JDM Car?

Yes, and no.

The 300ZX was available in a “JDM specification” but this car was actually called the Fairlady Z (the 300ZX was the export name)

If you are based in the United States, for example, and have bought a 300ZX that was sold new in the USA, then that isn’t a JDM-spec car.

On the other hand, in markets like New Zealand where there are many used Japanese import cars, it is possible to buy JDM 300ZX (aka Fairlady Z) and many of the 300ZXs that are driving around are these ex-Japan cars.

There are some differences between the Japanese and export versions, particularly when compared with the US market where there was less choice in terms of body styles when wanting a turbo engine.

If you’d like to learn more, then make sure you read our Nissan 300ZX buyer’s guide and model history for more information. 

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  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

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