Thursday, November 20, 2014

8k: McDreamy: 1975 Datsun 280z

You know the saying: "A good man S30 is hard to find." You want one that's strong and dependable without issues or a past, and one that can play nicely with the kids - but isn't too much of a snooze. Am I right, ladies?! They're either too uncouth, trashy, or diesel-y, or way out of your league. Except for McDreamy here and his steely blue, uh, paint job. Find this 1975 Datsun 280z in Auburn, CA for $8,000 via craigslist.

The 280z carried over the 240z's basic shape, plus electronic fuel injection and a bump in displacement reflected in its revised model name (how novel! Someone tell the Germans). It carried its extra weight well, in the form of beefier sway bars, a stronger differential, and sound deadening. Except for the heavy bumpers that stick out like love handles, and thankfully weren't available on this first-year 280z. Along with its year-old paint job and otherwise untouched classic profile, it's instantly likable. Just like Patrick Dempsey.

Ample parts commonality between model years makes for an all-you-can-eat buffet of familial customization. Porsche owners do the same thing, but at two or three times the cost of these Z-cars. This one has an attractive combination, both mechanically and visually, borrowing the wheels, engine block, clutch, 5-speed manual transmission, and differential from a 280ZX. The result is a more powerful, durable, and tractable engine/transmission combination than earlier carbureted, 4-speed 240s, with an overall package a few hundred pounds lighter than a 280ZX.

For $8,000, you get a completely rust-free, damage-free Z with bunch of recent steering-related maintenance and sound mechanical components. The aftermarket steering wheel is a little tacky, but it allows a great view of the deeply recessed gauges that Nissan insist be continued in perpetuity inside Altimas and Maximas. Just like the subtle ducktail spoiler that S13 fanboys insist be continued in perpetuity on their 240SX drift toys. Hey, it's okay to dream a little.

See a cheaper S-chassis in good shape? Email us at

PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.


  1. I love these crazy crop - circle wheels.

    1. They call them "swastika" wheels, and they came on the S130's. Every time I see them, I think "S130" and when I think S130, I think of Black Gold.

      *Disclaimer - I know the 10th Anniversary "Black Gold" cars came with "Iron Cross" wheels.

    2. I am not Dr. Freud, but I sense some erotic overtones in the black gold commercial.

    3. @AndrewLiss I had exactly the same thoughts. But thanks to RyanM for sharing that bit of 1970s awesomeness!

  2. As a '75 Z owner, I'm pleased to see the prices going up, though nowhere near the 240Z. Note that 1975 280Zs did indeed have the big bumpers. This owner, like me, removed them. I replaced them with replicas of 240 bumpers front and rear, but this seller's leaving off of the rear (along with filling of all holes) is a common concept, as are the aftermarket valance and rear spoiler (which I skipped on mine).

    Mechanically, this one is a lot like mine, what with the 5-speed and 3.9 R200 diff upgrades, but note that those go as a package deal due to a higher-ratio (numerically lower) first and second gears in the 5-speed. The only real improvement there is the very nice addition of overdrive for the highway/freeway. My advantage is 3.1 liters via the Maxima diesel crank and a bit of overbore. :-)

    1. Ah yes. In my '72 240Z I kept the 3.54 R180 from the former auto-trans and paired it with the a ZX 5-spd out of a later N/A car... I can hit 65 in 2nd gear. I have neither the driving ability, nor the track upon which to seek out the redline-limited top end of 3rd but I assume it's somewhere north of 100mph.

      The "roll pan" (shaved) look out back is somewhat better than the 5mph bumpers, inasmuch as gonorrhea is better than herpes, but I'd rather they carried the 240z look around to the back end... I mean, if they were going to be filling holes anyway why not drop a 240z rear bumper back there? Personal preference, I suppose.

    2. That's what I would do. Carry on the theme and add the 240 bumpers


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