Nissan’s Z-car was completely revamped for the 1983 (1984 in the US) model year. The previous models, the 240Z, 260Z, 280Z and the 280ZX, were all well received but Nissan needed something new. Designed by Kazumasu Takagi, the Z31 300ZX featured improved aerodynamics and increased power when compared to the 280ZX. The new, streamlined body had a drag coefficient of 0.30 and the car was powered by Japan’s first mass-produced V6 engine instead of an inline 6 that was typically used. Nissan stated that the new V6 engine found in the 300ZX would re-create the spirit of the original Fairlady Z that was so loved. The Japanese company offered a total of five engine options for the Z31:
- 2.0-litre VG20ET V6 Turbo (200Z, 200ZG, 200ZS)
- 2.0-litre RB20DET I6 Turbo (200ZR)
- 3.0-litre VG30E V6 (300ZX)
- 3.0-litre VG30ET V6 Turbo (300ZX Turbo)
- 3.0-litre VG30DE V6 (300ZR)
- five-speed FS5W71C manual
- five-speed FS5R90A manual
- five-speed FS5R30A manual
- four-speed Jatco E4N71B automatic
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Z31 Special EditionsNissan produced two special edition versions of the Z31; the 50th Anniversary 300ZX in 1984 and the “Shiro Special” 300ZX four years later. The 50th Anniversary Z31 was released to celebrate half-a-century of the company, and was painted in a special silver and black colour scheme. In the United States all 50th anniversary cars came with a turbocharger, a digital dash and ancillary gauges such as a G-force meter and average mileage. The car was also kitted out with electronically adjustable shocks, Bodysonic speakers, embroidered leather seats, special 16-inch aluminium wheels, flared wheel arches and 50th Anniversary logo badges. Over 5,000 Anniversary Edition Z31s were produced for the U.S. and Canadian markets. Australian buyers could get a non-turbocharged 2+2 version of the Anniversary Edition. In 1988, Nissan launched the turbocharged Shiro Special that was finished in pearl white paint. It was more performance orientated, with stiffer springs and shocks, heavy-duty anti-sway bars, paint matched wheels, Recaro seats, a unique front air dam, white painted door handles and a limited-slip diff. Nissan offered no options for the Shiro, what you saw is what you got. At the time, it was the fastest car to come out of the land of the rising sun, capable of hitting 153 mph (246 km/h) with the limiter removed. The United States received just over 1,000 of these Shiro Specials between January and March 1988. Throughout its life, the Z31 received minor styling changes and updates. In 1986 Nissan fitted new side skirts, 16-inch wheels (turbo-models) and flared the wheel arches slightly. They also painted many of the black plastic trim pieces to match the car. Nissan gave the Z31 its final makeover in 1987. The car got more aerodynamic bumpers and bulb-based headlamps that replaced the sealed beam ones. The Z31 300ZX continued to sell until 1989 and by the time production had ended, well over 300,000 examples had been produced. Nissan would completely redesign the 300ZX for the next generation car.
Z32 300ZX HistoryThe Z32 was a complete step up from the Z31. It was much more technologically advanced, more stylish and had a lot more performance. Along with the 240Z, the Z32 300ZX is arguably the most famous of Nissan’s Z cars. The story of the Z32 300ZX starts with designer, Toshio Yamashita. He wasn’t just content with building a replacement for the Z31, he wanted to change how cars were designed and make something special. Yamashita originally went to school to become an architect, but his farther believed he was too small to work on building sites. Instead, he signed Yamashita up for an industrial design program. Yamashita got his first gig at Nissan in 1968 and his first big break came in 1984 when he got to work as a lead designer on the Z32. The other lead designer was Isao Sono. At the time, Nissan’s Z car range was incredibly important to the company. It helped drive profits and improve Nissan’s reputation as a quality manufacturer, especially in the United States.
The Birth of the Z32 300ZXOriginally, Nissan wanted designers to submit designs for both the Z32 and the new Silvia (240SX in the United States), but Yamashita only submitted one for the 300ZX. He worked on the Z32’s design proposal at home. Yamashita and his wife had just had a baby. When his wife and the baby went away with her parents, he worked on the project, perfecting the design of the new 300ZX. While Yamashita was busy with his new baby, the real reason he only submitted one design is because he was only interested in the 300ZX. Out of all the designs submitted, Yamashita’s was chosen as the winner. Compared to the Z31, his design was sleeker, more aggressive and dropped the familiar 240Z-style look. It was a car that would move Nissan’s Z-series out of the 1980s and into the high-tech 1990s. Yamashita wanted to make the 300ZX look and feel like a hot-blooded sports car. Like the 240Z, the Z32 was heavily influenced by American car culture and Yamashita visited the country to find out why the original Z car was such a hit. The first thing he did was to redesign the proportions of his 300ZX. He made it lower and wider to fit the wide-open spaces of America, as Japan’s streets were much narrower. Secondly, Yamashita needed to make the design more aerodynamic. Square-edged, boxy looking cars were being replaced by more aerodynamic, smoother shaped vehicles as they were more efficient and modern. These cars were not only better for the environment, but also better for the owner’s wallet. Yamashita’s headlight design was a major headache for Nissan’s engineers. He had designed them with large clear covers as a call back to the original 240Z and they would sit at a 60-degree angle to maintain the car’s sleek shape. Engineer’s wanted to change this to 45-degrees to make it easier to design, but Yamashita was having none of it. Eventually, Yamashita and the engineers worked out a design. He ended up finding very small projectors – which were a new design at the time – for Nissan’s engineering team to use. The 300ZX’s headlamps would later be used in the Lamborghini Diablo, a testament to their design. The 300ZX’s curved shape also created a number of engineering challenges. Over 30 prototypes were rejected as Yamashita was determined the smooth, curvy lines of the design. The car would eventually launch in 1989 and production would continue until the year 2000.
Nissan 300ZX Z32 SpecificationsOnce again, Nissan offered the 300ZX in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged forms. The two engine options were as follows:
- 3.0-litre VG30DE V6
- 3.0-litre VG30DETT V6 Twin-Turbocharged
- five-speed FS5R30A manual
- four-speed RE4R01A automatic
- four-speed RE4R03A automatic