Throughout automotive history, cars have always come and gone. Of course, some cars do have a longer run than others, and still other cars can achieve the badge of “classic”, and still others become an ingrained part of popular culture, remaining on the minds of generations to come. However, it takes a truly special automobile to enter the realm of “legendary”. Few cars make it to this lofty pedestal, for few manufacturers are willing to put the time and effort into making a car perfect. This is not to say, though, that legendary cars and lines of automobiles do not exist. In fact, a perfect example of a car line which has become legend is Nissan’s “Z” car. Built to outperform and outlast cars costing twice as much, the Z has become a legend in all it’s incarnations. Doubtlessly though, the crown jewel of the Z line, the car that represented the pinnacle of Nissan’s engineering and performance was the Z32 300ZX.
Those who know about Z’s know that the 300ZX represents two generations of automobiles, compromising those produced during the 1980’s, being the Z31, and the radically redesigned Z32, available in America from the 1990 to 1996 model years. While the Z31 did indeed have its difficulties, and never saw widespread acceptance as a daily driver in the United States, the complete redesign that has become the Z32 is now a thing of legend. The cars are coveted by fans of imported automobiles, and while the car was in production, it made number one spots in every magazine, television show or anything of the nature. There was no debate regarding the 90-96 300ZX, however, the question does remain as to what makes the car so special.
From the second that one approaches a 300, something different can be sensed about the vehicle. Maybe it’s the radical design of the body, which looks at home with the new cars of today, the recessed, two tier headlights, the wide powerful stance, the dual exhaust pipes. Virtually everything about the car screams performance and style, with just a dash of luxury thrown in. In fact, it may very well have been the body design that allows the 300 to retain the popularity that it does today. In no way does the 300 ever represent the fact that it was a car whose model year began almost eighteen years ago. However, there is much more than to admire than the exterior of the car.
Opening the door of the car and stepping inside is truly an experience beyond compare. In twin turbo models, equipped with incredibly high quality leather bucket seats, even sitting down just feels “right”. The driver is perfectly aligned in the car, and the lack of rear seats only furthers this belief, it takes only a couple seconds of sitting in the car to truly feel as if one has become part of it. The clutch perfectly melds with the left foot, and the gas pedal yearns to be put down, the shifter feels at home in the hand, and hungry to go through the gears. Of course, it is worth mentioning that some adjustment of the seats may need to be made for smaller drivers, although the power seat controls quickly take control of any discrepancy that may occur. Another noticeable feature is that despite the 300 being a sports car, drivers will not feel the usual cramped feeling that comes in sitting from one. The glove box and center console are in places where they make sense, although one may not want to use the 300 as an ideal place to sip coffee and snack on donuts on the way to work, the car is not meant for such trivial matters, and a simple turn of the ignition makes that perfectly clear.
Of course, no car can be properly judged just by sitting in it, and the area where the 300ZX twin turbo truly shines is actual driving. From the second it turns over, the highly tuned VG30DETT motor roars, letting the driver know it’s ready for action. After getting the car on the road, it no longer becomes a mystery what has made it so popular for so long. The car is a driver’s dream. Everything is perfectly aligned, perfectly tuned, perfectly set up. Hearing the twin turbo system spool up, feeling the overwhelming push that comes from a 300 horse power car, hanging on as the car glides perfectly around any corner thrown at it, all of this becomes such an enjoyable part of driving the 300 that it soon becomes a matter that is forgotten, the only thing left being the actual experience of driving. Pushing the clutch and throwing the short throw shifter through the gears at the redline as the blow-off valves discharge and the engine screams is truly an experience that no other car can compare too. The 300 was designed to be a sports car, and it meets that achievement in every way. Despite being based on a rear wheel drive platform, the twin turbo models received a brand new idea from Nissan known as HICAS, a new system designed to turn the back wheels of the car at high speeds, in effect acting as a constant four wheel drive system. Although the HICAS unit may not always be noticed, the driver can feel the difference when changing lanes on the highway or taking corners, it is a system that moves the 300ZX beyond rear while drive, placing it into a category of its own, a category that any true driver will appreciate.
The 300ZX is one of those rare examples where a car company simply “got it right”. Few changes differentiate the 90-96 models, and, indeed, few need to. The 300ZX may very well be one of the finest production cars ever made, and any who have ever experienced one will be the first to agree.