The Datsun/Nissan Zs are some of the finest Japanese sports cars still around. The maker revealed its 2021 Z Proto Concept recently that looks like a rebodied 370Z. The new Z is likely to be called the 400Z, and it strikes a mean side profile. The Proto Z’s rear light kit is inspired by the 1990s-era 300ZX twin-turbo coupe. The 300ZX is so awesome it was even named Motor Trend‘s 1990 Import Car of the Year. Tune in to Wheeler Dealers with hosts Mike Brewer and Ant Anstead to discover why it’s now a collectible classic. In this episode, Brewer travels to Oregon to score a deal on a sweet one that he likes to call ZedX. Why? Well, blimey, because that’s the way he says it.
The Nissan 300ZX was sold in the U.S. from 1984 to 1996, and the all-new version—codenamed Z32—was reintroduced as a 1990 model. Nearly 90,000 cars were made during its run and only about 18,000 came with twin turbos. If you comb through used-car sites, you are likely to find plenty of affordable options, but the twin-turbo is the one for serious sport-car enthusiasts. Back in the day, I could only afford a drift-happy Nissan 240SX, which was plenty of fun, but I always pined for a 300ZX.
Powertrain options included a 3.0-liter V-6 that was good for 222 horsepower and 198 lb ft of torque or the same V-6 with a pair of Garrett turbochargers that boost it up to 300 hp and 283 lb-ft of torque. The twin-turbo coupe can sprint from zero-to-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, which was really good for its day. It was mated to a coveted five-speed manual transmission or a less desirable four-speed automatic.
Naturally, the ZedX in Aztec red paint Brewer scored a deal on came with gobs of aftermarket goodies, including a performance kit, fancy Nismo racing wheels, and a new booming exhaust system that’s larger than most rain gutters. After a quick test drive, our host notes that the suspension has been lowered and even kisses the pavement on the road. The cool coupe also has a broken speedometer, and the power steering is as stiff as molasses—but seeing a diamond in the rough, Brewer buys it anyway.
Back at the SoCal garage, Anstead grins excitedly when he first sees the 300ZX, but nearly blows a gasket when he learns that Brewer wants to bring it back to stock. Our happy host wants to make it a proper car that he can get top dollar for by selling it in California. That means putting not one but four catalytic converters back on it so it can pass an emissions test. Also, it means sacrificing at least 50 horsepower for the sale.
The twin-turbo models were only available as a T-top in the U.S.—which is old-school cool. It also featured sport front bumper inlets, a spoiler, upgraded brakes and suspension, and rear-wheel steering. Aside from the T-top, my favorite bit is the slender rear light kit that still glows like a modern one today.
Master mechanic Antstead definitely has his work cut out for him (30 man-hours), but if you are already a fan of the show, you know he makes wrenching look easy. First up is pulling the massive V-6 that looks like it was lifted out of a truck and not a sports car. Also, Nissan’s HICAS (High Capacity Active Suspension) four-wheel steering system is displaying a fault as well. Meanwhile, Brewer is on the hunt for the original exhaust system and turns to racer Steve Millen, the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona winner, who took the pole in a 300ZX twin turbo that year.
Does Brewer’s decision to make a slower car pay off? Eventually, the Wheeler Dealers team takes the restocked Nissan to Willow Springs to test the 300ZX on the track. Brewer can feel its oodles and oodles of grip on the track and says, “It just pulled my face off,” as he attempts to make it drift. Tune it now to see if he can make that happen and if he scores a sweet profit or not.