Nissan 280ZX

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Keywords: Nissan 280ZX
Description: Going into the 1970, when people thought about Japanese cars at all, they usually thought of them as small, cheap, and underpowered. Most Japanese manufacturers were simply attempting to sell the

Going into the 1970, when people thought about Japanese cars at all, they usually thought of them as small, cheap, and underpowered. Most Japanese manufacturers were simply attempting to sell the same "kei" cars they were selling in their home market; though they were adequate for Japan, they didn't have anywhere near the level of performance or utility that Americans expected from.

Going into the 1970, when people thought about Japanese cars at all, they usually thought of them as small, cheap, and underpowered. Most Japanese manufacturers were simply attempting to sell the same "kei" cars they were selling in their home market; though they were adequate for Japan, they didn't have anywhere near the level of performance or utility that Americans expected from their cars. The few Japanese manufacturers trying to break past that either focused on highly experimental and temperamental technologies, such as rotary engines, or charged such a high premium for their sport models that few ever seriously considered them.

Released in 1970, the Datsun 240Z was small, inexpensive, and plentifully powered. It offered handling, looks, and performance normally associated with British and German roadsters, only at a fraction of the price. Better yet, the 240Z also proved to be significantly more reliable than its British competition and, unlike its American competition, could regularly achieve over 20 miles per gallon. In short, it looked fast, drove faster, and was economical to boot. As word spread about its capabilities, it achieved greater and greater sales successes.

Like other performance-minded cars of the era, owing to steadily growing safety and smog regulation requirements, the 240Z's performance and economy steadily declined as the years passed. In 1974, to help work around this, Datsun released the 260Z, which was equipped with a larger engine than the 240Z. Unfortunately, the American 260Z generated less horsepower, owing to increasingly stringent anti-smog measures, and had more weight than the 240Z, owing to the larger engine and larger bumpers. Consequently, the 260Z was quickly replaced with the 280Z, which gave the 1970-vintage body a still bigger engine and even beefier bumpers. To help resolve some of the performance and smog issues of the 260Z, the 280Z was the first Z to come equipped with fuel injection, instead of the carburetors used in previous engines.

By 1978, owing to steadily increasing fuel costs and steadily decreasing performance from smog-strangled, bumper-clad sports vehicles, the market for sports cars was rapidly diminishing. In an attempt at preserving some relevancy for its Z line, Nissan released the 280ZX, which was a near-complete redesign of the 280Z. It kept the same engine and much of the same drivetrain as the original, but replaced the original body with a larger, more aerodynamic body. Instead of focusing strictly on performance, the 280ZX came equipped with more luxury-oriented features, such as a premium sound system, a softer suspension and a larger fuel tank. Nissan also geared the car much less aggressively, choosing to focus on gearing for fuel economy and engine noise rather than raw acceleration. The results were mixed – though the 280ZX was a much more comfortable tourer than the 240Z, it lost much of its performance edge. In 1981, this was addressed by releasing the 280ZX Turbo; unfortunately, the engine was now too powerful for the manual transmission used at the time. Consequently, 280ZX Turbos only came equipped with a three speed automatic, which dampened enthusiasm somewhat. Even so, just as the original 240Z outclassed its competition of the time, the 280ZX Turbo exhibited a combination of performance, economy and reliability that was nigh-impossible to beat at the time.



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