Driv­ing a piece of his­tory

Pi­o­neer­ing cars like Nis­san’s 300ZX carved a path ‘toward a mod­ern per­for­mance fu­ture’


My par­ents used to own a bean and al­falfa sprout busi­ness when I was a kid, which led to fre­quent and lengthy car-rides with dad to visit sup­pli­ers. On those drives, we’d al­ways be talk­ing cars and, of­ten, about the Nis­san 300ZX.

I was ob­sessed with it. I’d mem­o­rize the specs and fig­ures from car mag­a­zines, stor­ing them away in my mem­ory banks for dis­cus­sion with dad.

The 300ZX had a ma­jor role in shap­ing my grow­ing gear­head brain and dad and I spent many a drive bond­ing over dis­cus­sion of it.

Dad said my re­ac­tion to see­ing a Nis­san 300ZX in real life made him won­der if my eye­balls would split open and ex­plode.

All said, this was my num­berone Ja­panese sports car of the day, thanks in no small part to the tech, fu­tur­is­tic fea­tures and styling that al­ways sucked me in.

Fast for­ward to a cool mid-Oc­to­ber day a few weeks back.

I’m stand­ing in a park­ing lot at Niss­san head­quar­ters, look­ing at a 1996 Nis­san 300ZX twin-turbo that was never sold, had been driven very rarely, and had just spent sev­eral decades sit­ting in a large bay, as way to pre­serve a piece of Nis­san’s per­for­mance his­tory.

But to­day, the car was plated, in­sured, freshly ser­viced and ready to drive.

A small hand­ful of auto writ­ers got a chance to spend some time with it. Now, it was my turn.

Mem­o­ries flood back

A ner­vous pang ap­peared as I slid into the driver’s seat, see­ing, sim­ply, “6,140” on the odome­ter.

This 22- year- old, twin-turbo flag­ship, by mod­ern car stan­dards, wouldn’t have even seen its first oil change. It was a, roughly, $55,000 car in its day, though it’d fetch plenty more than that now, in this con­di­tion.

Mem­o­ries flooded back. The twin-turbo, three-litre V6 dis­pensed 300 horse­power and nearly as much torque. I re­mem­bered the 16-bit en­gine com­puter. The four-wheel steer­ing. The fact that this was one of the first cars to be de­signed in a su­per­com­puter.

And all these years later this old-school Nis­san still got me with its looks. The wedge-shaped nose, un­mis­tak­able head­lamps, pedestal spoiler and com­pact, ath­letic di­men­sions pull off a look like a real-life hot-wheels toy.

It even had the tell­tale “twin­turbo” de­cal on the rear hatch, just above the gloss- black trimmed tail­lamp ar­ray.

I was 14 again.

In­side, cli­mate con­trols, wiper con­trols and light­ing con­trols are as­signed to small pods that sprout out from the in­stru­ment clus­ter cowl. This leaves a bar­ren cen­tre stack, al­beit for the BOSE cas­sette player and a stor­age cubby.

The cli­mate con­trols beep when ma­nip­u­lated, LED light seg- ments flit­ting away to help vi­su­al­ize your se­lec­tion. It looks like the helm of a sci-fi space-shut­tle.

Leather seats are pil­lowy and soft, highly power ad­justable.

The 280 km/h speedome­ter has a boost gauge be­neath, help­ing driv­ers keep an eye on the state of the tur­bocharg­ers.

Fu­tur­is­tic touch

There are “t-top” roof pan­els over­head, and a small tog­gle switch that al­lows se­lect­ing of ei­ther “sport” or “tour” mode from the ad­justable sus­pen­sion — an in­cred­i­bly fu­tur­is­tic touch in the day.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween each sus­pen­sion mode is stark and the modes switch al­most in­stantly.

Smooth en­gine Per­for­mance by to­day’s stan­dards is not mind-bog­gling; the 300ZX surges along with glee once the tur­bos get breath­ing,

Glimpse to the fu­ture

The 300ZX sig­nalled things to come, and to­day, ma­chines like the 370Z and the GTR ex­ist and thrive, be­cause of the path these pi­o­neer­ing ma­chines carved out toward a mod­ern per­for­mance fu­ture.

This par­tic­u­lar unit’s fu­ture is cer­tain: As I sit here com­plet­ing my story, it’s now parked safely back in its garage, un­der a cover, at Nis­san HQ, where it will be kept comfy and maybe come back out for a drive again in an­other decade or two.

I hope we’ll meet again.


The Nis­san 300ZX helped pave the way to per­for­mance au­tos on the mar­ket to­day.

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