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Used Nissan 300ZX review: 1989-1996

The Nissan ‘Z’ legend began in 1971 with the stunning 240Z, and was carried on by a series of great models. One of the best of them was the beautiful 300ZX, which was sold here between 1989 and 1996.

The 300ZX was a well built high performance sports coupe that has aged wonderfully well, so much so that it is a popular used sports car today.


The Japanese car industry underwent a sea change in the late 1980s. For years Japanese carmakers had built affordable and reliable cars for the masses, but in the late 1980s they became obsessed with technology and took on the world.

Among the many great cars that came from Japan in that era was the 300ZX sports coupe Nissan launched in 1989.

The 300ZX was more a high performance grand tourer than a light and nimble sportster as the original ‘Z’ car was, but it was nonetheless a very competent sports car.

Even today its sleek shape and smooth lines are sexy. The last 300ZX was sold here in 1986, there was a special 25th anniversary model that recalled the birth of the ‘Z’ and temporarily marked the end of the line, but it looks just as good now as it did then.

There was a short wheelbase two-seater, and a turbocharged engine option, sold in other markets, but the model sold here was a long wheelbase 2-plus-2 model with a normally-aspirated 3.0-litre V6 engine.

With a perfect 50:50 weight distribution the local model had a balance the others never had. And with two rear seats it could accommodate a couple of kids, or adults at a pinch, which made it a more usable all-rounder than its smaller foreign cousin.

The fuel-injected V6 engine was a silky smooth unit. With four overhead camshafts and variable valve timing it was quite advanced for its time.

Power was put at 166 kW, torque at 270 Nm, which was dulled slightly by the 1490 kg it was expected to propel. Even so it could reach 100 km/h in a respectable seven seconds, the standing 400 metres could be dispatched in a little over 15 seconds, and it would reach a heady 235 km/h if asked.

Just imagine the same car with the turbo under the bonnet and 224 kW, and 398 Nm, surging down the drive line.

Having been designed to take the turbo power the chassis was more than capable of handling the more modest non-turbo power.

The 300ZX, with independent suspension at both ends was wonderfully balanced, and progressive in its response.

Nissan offered the 300ZX in manual and auto form. The manual was a smooth shifting five-speed unit, the auto an electronically-controlled four-speeder.

Brakes were powerful discs all round, there was ABS, and a viscous coupling in the rear axle for added safety.

There were few changes over the eight years the 300ZX was sold here. Air-con became auto climate control in 1992 along with velour trim, while a driver’s airbag was added in 1994 together with CD sound and a rear spoiler.


The 300ZX was well designed and well built which means they stand up to the rigours of life on the road quite well.

With little protection the body is left exposed to minor dings so look for repaired and repainted bumpers, which may not be a good colour match. If not painted properly the paint can blister and peel.

While the trim was of a high quality any car that has been well used, or left in the sun, will be showing the signs of ageing. Heavy wear in high traffic areas of seats is likely, dashes can be cracked.

The V6 engine is a sturdy unit and gives little trouble, but remember they are likely to have been driven hard over the years and could be suffering as a result. Major services at 100,000 km intervals require cam belt changes, platinum tipped plugs and other important items and are thus expensive. Make sure they’ve been done.

Gearboxes are rugged and give little trouble, wear in drive line joints and centre bearing isn’t uncommon.

For more information on the 300ZX it’s worth checking with members of the Australian 300ZX Owners Association or go to the website:


A driver’s airbag was added in 1994, which makes those cars produced after that the safest bet.

Add to that a responsive well balanced chassis, four-wheel discs, ABS and you have a solid primary safety package.


Nissan only sold the normally aspirated 300ZX here, but back in Japan there were other more potent models on offer. Most notable was the turbocharged model, several of which have been brought in over the years by private importers.

These so-called ‘grey’ imports offer high performance at an affordable price, which makes them an attractive buy. Indeed they can be, if you do your homework and buy carefully after doing the research.

Talk to owners and seek out a reputable dealer before parting with your hard earned cash.


Angela Sykes has owned her 1990 300ZX import for a year and loves it. Its lines are slick and it sits low on the road. It has a lot of room, and on sunny days the roof can be taken off and put in the very roomy boot. On the down side it is heavy, and thirsty, and the 100,000 km service was expensive.

Tim Garland has owned an Aus-spec 1990 Nissan 300ZX manual since March 2004, and is thoroughly delighted with it. It has done 212,000 km, and for a car with such mileage it runs beautifully, Tim says. There have been a couple of relatively minor issues with it since he’s had it, but Tim’s main complaint is the cost of parts having just done the 200,000 km major service.


• Sleek timeless styling

• Engine and gearboxes give little trouble

• Lovely balanced handling

• Silky smooth engine a delight

• Parts are expensive

• Major service costs are expensive


Great looking high performance sports car if you afford the cost of parts and service.




Year Price From Price To
1996 $7,150 $11,220
1995 $7,150 $11,220
1994 $7,150 $10,560
1993 $7,150 $10,560
1992 $7,150 $10,560
1991 $7,150 $10,560
1990 $7,150 $10,560
1989 $4,840 $10,560

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Targa 3.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $5,060 – 7,480 1989 Nissan 300ZX 1989 Targa Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist


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