1990-1996 NIS­SAN 300ZX Z32

Automobile - - Drives - by RORY JUR­NECKA

SO YOU GRAD­U­ATED from high school in the 1990s, your ca­reer is go­ing well, and you’ve re­al­ized that you’ve even got a lit­tle money saved— maybe it’s time to re­ward your­self? You drove a Civic back then, but what you re­ally wanted was a se­ri­ous Ja­panese sports car. To­day, prices are soar­ing for clean fourth-gen­er­a­tion Toy­ota Supras and third-gen­er­a­tion Mazda RX-7s from the same era, though in your Craigslist searches, you no­tice the Z32-se­ries Nis­san 300ZX is, well, pretty af­ford­able. You dug those too, and they’re more in your bud­get. Ah, but which ver­sion to choose?

When the all-new 300ZX launched in 1989 as a ’90 model, an audible sigh of re­lief went out among the Z-car com­mu­nity. For more than a decade, en­thu­si­asts watched help­lessly as the once smart, eco­nom­i­cal, and sharp 240Z slowly went off its train­ing reg­i­men, gain­ing weight, los­ing fo­cus, and drift­ing dan­ger­ously into boulevard cruiser sta­tus. The new model, code-named Z32 in­ter­nally, was a rev­e­la­tion in con­trast. Said to be the first car de­signed com­pletely by com­puter-aided de­sign (CAD)—on a Cray-2 su­per­com­puter, no less—the new 300ZX was state-of-the-art.

Power came from one of two en­gines: a 3.0-liter nat­u­rally as­pi­rated DOHC V-6 with vari­able valve tim­ing (222 hp, 198 lb-ft) or the same with a pair of Gar­rett tur­bocharg­ers boost­ing power to 300 hp and 283 lb-ft. The lat­ter was good for a 0-60 time of 5.5 sec­onds—enough to bring the fight to its Ja­panese com­peti­tors, as well as Chevy’s Corvette and Porsche’s 944.

All cars were equipped with ei­ther a five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion or a four-speed au­to­matic.

Twin Turbo ver­sions fea­tured unique body­work with in­lets in the front bumper and a rear spoiler.

They also fea­tured tweaked brakes, sus­pen­sion, and Nis­san’s ad­vanced Su­per HICAS rear-wheel steer­ing, which was ini­tially de­vel­oped for the Ja­panese-mar­ket Sky­line.

The re­sult was im­me­di­ate praise from the au­to­mo­tive me­dia, Au­to­mo­bile in­cluded. The Nis­san 300ZX was an Au­to­mo­bile All-Star five years run­ning from 1990 to 1994. In 2004, we named it one of the 100 Great­est Cars of All Time. Pretty im­pres­sive, no? But which ver­sion is right for you, and how much should you pay for one in to­day’s mar­ket?

For an­swers to those ques­tions, we con­sulted Se­bas­tian Cha­coff at Spe­cialty Z of Chatsworth, Cal­i­for­nia (spe­cial­tyz.com), a shop that fo­cuses on Nis­san Z cars.

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