Is the Nissan 300ZX Z31 a car I can drive daily?

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Answered by: Luke, An Expert in the Classic Car Facts Category
Retro is definitely in: from HD re-releases of classic films and games to retro chic clothing and accessories, more and more people are trying to go back to the 1980s. But there is one area where people seem not too interested in going retro: their car. This is easy to understand, as most gearheads look back on the 1980s with disdain. Small displacement engines, hobbled by then-new environmental regulations, were put inside of boxy vehicles built by struggling automakers still recovering from the energy crisis of the 70s. But that doesn't mean that all cars from the decade were bad. Indeed, one vehicle stands out above all others: the Nissan 300ZX Z31.

The original Nissan Z-Car of the 1970s was intended to compete with the likes of Corvette and other domestic two-seater models, and by its second generation it did, earning Motor Trend's Car of the Year in 1979. Cheaper and more reliable than the competition, it soon proved a favorite with both critics and owners, who were happy to finally have access to a sportscar that they could spend more time driving than working on. To this day it retains a vibrant enthusiast community, albeit more in Japan than the United States.

In 1983 Nissan decided that the Z-Car needed an update and introduced the Nissan 300ZX Z31, which in addition to then-current and now-retro styling, had the latest technology that could be found in the car. While the optional digital gauges certainly didn't catch on, the advanced steering column, with appropriate buttons located on the front and clearly visible, is similar to modern designs in theory, if not style. Additionally, the large turbocharged engine offers what is still considered to be more than sufficient power, and the interior styling, while distinctly 80s in appearance, still holds up well. There are no garish colors, no strange design accents and, most importantly, nothing which looks out of place in a modern car - except for the tape deck.

This is what makes the Z31 such a fantastic car for a modern enthusiast who wants something with retro style but without retro hassle. Nissan prided itself in reliability, and as such the Z31 is very well constructed, with most needing nothing more than regular maintenance to be kept on the road. The popularity of the car, and the fact it shares many components with the younger Z32, means that parts are widely available and inexpensive. Nissan also intended for this car to be a comfortable everyday vehicle in addition to a performance sports car, and the comfortable seats, easily manipulated transmission, and abundance of creature comforts makes the Z31 something that most enthusiasts can drive daily.

The Z31 is also not that hard to find. Over 300,000 cars were produced, with many ending up in the hands of the sort of yuppies who took good care of them. As such, high quality, low mileage examples are abundant, and more worn versions even more so. The fact that the Z31 never caught on with the modding or track day community means that most of these cars haven't been "messed with," and retain both their retro styling and their Nissan-level reliability. With pristine examples selling for less than $15k, the Z31 is the best car from the 1980s which looks the part without reminding you why most gearheads pretend like the 1980s never happened.

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