1990-1996 NISSAN 300ZX Z32
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.