1 June 2016

OUR CARS: Matt Nelson’s 1996 Nissan 300ZX

Matt Nelson isn’t your typical car guy. The Baltimore native and Michigan State graduate didn’t grow up tinkering with automobiles, didn’t relentlessly pursue his dream car and never expected to work at a car-focused company. But here he is nonetheless, in his fourth year at Hagerty and now the proud owner of a modern classic – a naturally aspirated 1996 Nissan 300ZX. “This is the first car I’ve ever driven that wasn’t a Suburban,” Nelson admitted. Prior to joining Hagerty, Nelson said his hobby background could be summed up in five words: “Absolutely no experience with cars.” Like many people bitten by the car bug, however, that is no longer the case.

Employee: Matt Nelson

Title: Financial Services Analyst

Years at Hagerty: 4

Car: 1996 Nissan 300ZX NA

Why did you choose a 300ZX? About two months ago my boss, Steve Haas, sent me a link to an eBay listing in Florida. I thought the car looked good, as ’90s cars go. After I looked up how much my monthly payment would be and Steve saying how great the 300ZX is, I made an offer. So in 40-50 minutes, I went from not even searching for a collector car to owning one.

Repairs and Modifications: I’ve already replaced the window molding since it was all baked off from the Florida sun. The car was previously a daily driver, so there are a lot of stone chips in the paint, and I plan on re-spraying it. Anything I’ve done or will do is mostly cosmetic stuff, as the car runs flawlessly.

Hobby activities: Just started attending Hagerty events like the Cars and Caffeine get-togethers on Friday mornings.

Favorite Drive: So far, the Hagerty cruise up to Northport (on Lake Michigan).

Best and Worst Moments: I had the car shipped to Detroit, and I flew down to drive it back to Traverse City. I learned to drive a manual for the first time on that trip. Pretty nerve wracking.

My girlfriend, Alex Bower, and I picked up the car and stopped for gas and snacks. We decided earlier not to buy crumbly snacks or anything that would dirty the newly detailed interior. While I filled up the car, she went inside to get something to eat. She clearly forgot about our discussion because when she got back into the car she was chewing on one of those strawberry sugar wafers. She saw me looking at her, stopped and gave me a curious head tilt, like asking “What?” I said, “Really?” She looked down at the wafers, realized what she had done and burst into laughter, which showered the entire car in tiny flecks of edible pink cardboard. It was then that I divested myself of any pretentions that this car would be babied. I’m having fun with it now and I’ll worry about the detailed restoration stuff later.

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Ken Florida June 8, 2016 at 16:54
    Great story!!! I am from Michigan State and now live in Florida. I can relate to Matt's story with the exception that I have always been a car guy.
  • 2
    Haig Haleblian Illinois June 8, 2016 at 17:35
    Ha! I recently purchased a 1993 300 ZX Slickback same color (no t top) 120,000 mi in San Diego. Original paint, the car still looks new. Took a week to drive 2500 miles back to Chicago. 80-90mph 24.5 mpg, used no oil. Most comfortable car I've ever driven long distance. Never got tired. Owned a 90 Twin Turbo from new, but sold it in 95. Actually like this non turbo better. Please beautiful to view. Yes, it's insured by Hagerty.
  • 3
    Carl Beck Clearwater, FL June 8, 2016 at 18:26
    Good for you Matt - Great Car. Any girlfriend that will go with you to pick up a Sports Car - that you don't know how to drive - is a Keeper. If you get to Florida, I'll tell you about my girlfriend going to Miami with me to pick up "restorable" 70 SS396 El Camino...(we've been married now for 25 years).
  • 4
    Marc Gottlieb Levittown, NY June 8, 2016 at 18:50
    You can't just have one. Start thinking of your next Twin Turbo or Convertible. Two problematic areas to look for. 1 make sure the Timing Belt was replaced and 2 use fuel injector cleaner. Good luck with the car and welcome to the club.
  • 5
    Jerry Des Moines Iowa June 8, 2016 at 20:28
    I too have a Z, a 2005 350Z Touring with 15K original miles, a fun reliable hobby car we only take out on special occasions

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