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Nissan 300 ZX - Z31: more luxurious.., more tourer ..and less pure sports car....

Although sales of the 280ZX remained strong, it could not go on forever. The traditional style was becoming outdated and its basic engine design originated in the 1960s. Plus other Japanese manufacturers were introducing fresh competition, such as the Mitsubishi Starion, the Mazda RX7 and Toyota Supra.

1984 Nissan 300ZX Z31 advertisement

The Z31 was designed by Kazumasa Takagi and a team of developers, featuring a new, more aerodynamic body than the previous 280ZX. The 1984 Nissan was about as different from its predecessors as it could be. The original rounded contours and scoop headlights were replaced by wedge profile with semi-concealed headlights. A potent 3.0 litre V6 replaced the classic inline-6.

But continuing a trend dating back as far as the 260Z, the new 300ZX was more luxurious as well, more tourer and less pure sports car. However, sales had climbed with every model change, and from standpoint, Nissan was doing the right thing.

The styling was undiluted '80s, chiselled and Italianate. It was still available as a two-seater or 2+2, the two-seater continued and fastback, the back lights reaching almost to the tail. The 2+2 had flatter roof with steeper backlight.

Both body styles were quantifiable more efficient shapes than earlier Zs. Compared to the previous inline 6, the 300ZX's V6 was shorter front to back, not as tall, and only slightly wider, all of which allowed a lower hood line.

The 300ZX also produced more power than its predecessors.This new V6 (2960cc) SOHC engine was available as a naturally-aspirated VG30E or a turbocharged VG30ET producing 160 and 200 horsepower respectively.
The engines were either a type A or type B series engine from 1984-1986 and later a W series from 1987-1989 which produced 165 and 205 horsepower.

A choice of 5-speed manual or either 3-speed or 4-speed overdrive automatic transmissions were offered.

The chassis remained somewhat similar to the 280ZX, with the same 91.3in (2319 mm) wheelbase. The suspension (MacPherson) was still strut-front and semi-trailing arm-rear independent suspension, but with better geometry and improved shocks. Standard on the Turbo were driver-adjustable shocks.

On the home market, the list of models included the 3-litre 300ZX and the 2-litre Z, ZG, ZR, and ZR II spec. The 300ZX in Japan was not subject to tough emissions regulations as in the US therefore producing 230 horsepower. The 2-litre models used either a VG20ET or RB20ET engine and developed between 170-180 horsepower. This was to, "make the most of the local taxation laws."

A specially equipped model celebrating the company's 50th anniversary, called "300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition" was introduced and was priced at a company-record $25.000 while the base 1984 Z listed for $15.799.

300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition

Another novelty was an optional digital instrument panel, a technological tour de force, but unfortunately hard to read.

Optional digital instrument panel

The 300ZX received "freshened" styling for 1986. Adding side skirts, replacing the fibreglass spoiler with a durable plastic one, the 300ZX was given a much sleeker look when the hood scoop was removed. A third brake-light was also added to the interior of the unit for safety. But prices continued to rise, and competition from a host of sport GT cars resulted in sales slipping to 52,936.

Freshened styling ...

Another "freshened" styling followed for 1987 by given its final makeover. Replacing the sealed beam style headlights with modern 9004 bulb based lights, and the addition of increased aerodynamic bumpers, and fog lamps within the front air dam the car was dramatically updated. A narrow set of tail lights that ran the entire width of the vehicle replaced the '300ZX' reflector in the rear and a 3rd brake-light found on the top of the rear hatch. Several small engine updates were also added in 1987 that included the installation of a smaller T25 turbocharger, an R200 limited slip differential that allowed for quick response and a compression ratio of 8.3:1.

The 'Shiro Special' SS was the second special model produced by Nissan. Introduced in 1988, the vehicle was a pearl white 300ZX that came without available options, stiffer springs and matched shocks.

A year later the Nissan 300ZX was given its final makeover with more horsepower for both non-turbo and turbo models in 1989.

Overall testers found new 300Zx faster and better-handling than what had come before. And dealers had customers standing in line. The 1984 version of the 300Zx was the most popular ever, and at 73,101 sold , the to-selling sports car in America.

Motor Trend top-speed tested a 300ZX Limited Edition at 153 mph, making it the fastest Japanese car in America, sales however sagged to 19.357. This design's final year was 1989. It was a carryover model, and word on the steet was "Wait for the new one". Sales dropped to 1,300 per month ...at least until April, when the next Z (Z32) arrived.... But that model had opened a different chapter in history books ...

S.Sz.