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The Datsun 280z doesn’t have the panache or pedigree of the 240, but it’s still a smoking hot Japanese sports car with better reliability than you’d expect. However, it isn’t without a couple of minor trouble spots, and values are on the cusp of a spike, so it’s good to know what you’ll be getting into.

The Datsun 280z is a functional classic sports car

A lot of guides like these are focused on problems. And don’t you worry, we’ll get to those in a minute. But first, it’s important to know what kind of classic sports car you’re dealing with in the Datsun 280z. Unlike a lot of 1970s-era sports cars, the Datsun doesn’t need you to treat it with kid gloves.

So long as you know how to operate a manual transmission and stay ahead of potential rust, this Japanese sports car is ready to road trip to your heart’s content. Like we’ve come to expect from automakers across the Pacific, Datsun delivered a quality, functional product with the 280z. It’s not as flashy or complex as a Jaguar E-Type or even a Ferrari Dino, but it delivers 80 percent of those experiences with just 20 percent of the headaches.

Old Japanese sports cars are rust-prone

As reliable as the Datsun 280z and 280zx can be, it isn’t immune to the same problem that befalls most ’70s cars: rust. The thin metal and bare underbody make the 280z especially prone to corrosion. There are also bends near the door sills and bumpers that can collect moisture and rust away if left unchecked.

That said, rust repair is often part of a restoration, so this isn’t outside the scope of most older cars. And with the advent of rust-proofing solutions and at-home detailing tools, you should be able to keep the rust at bay. Just be sure the car you’re buying isn’t beyond repair.

The transmission can be sensitive

Datsun 280z from the side
10th Anniversary Datsun 280ZX | Nissan

The manual transmission in the Nissan 280z certainly isn’t sharp by modern standards, but the steel synchros were considered a performance component at the time. However, the steel transmission synchros demand precision and a light hand on the shifter. They don’t hold up to abuse over time, and can cause thousands in repairs when they go bad.

Failing synchros can cause grinding and can even make it impossible to change gears in extreme cases. This one is tough, as you can’t always test drive a classic car before you buy, especially if you’re buying from an online auction. But whenever possible, get behind the wheel of a 280z, because this is one repair bill you don’t want to be on the hook for.

How much is a Datsun 280Z worth today?

While a Datsun 280z is far from a high-priced collector sports car, values have begun ticking upward in recent years. Prior to 2019, the 280z averaged $20,000 on Bring-a-Trailer. Now though, that average is edging toward $30,000, with low-mileage examples going for over $60,000.

Datsun 280z values continue to rise

With values looking up, a Datsun 280z in good condition is an excellent first car for a burgeoning collection. Its relatively low selling price puts it below a new Miata or Toyobaru GR-Z, but with much more personality. And while the 240z has skyrocketed in price, the 280z is still affordable, but with a big ceiling on future value.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but 280z values should continue to rise as prospective buyers are priced out of the 240z space. Considering the similarities between the two cars, getting into a 280z while prices are good could make it a good investment in the long run. And in the meantime, you’ll have a drivable, comfortable classic sports car that will get second looks everywhere you go.

Is the Datsun 280ZX worth it?

Simply put, the Datsun 280z is one of the better collector car deals going on right now. With the iconic style of the 240 at a much lower price point, it’s hard to ignore. And thanks to its reliability, this is one legendary sports car you can actually drive.


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