$90,100 Nissan 300ZX puts a big price on nostalgia

1996 Nissan 300ZX Turbo Coupe 2-Door

How much would you pay for the end of an era?

Wait. Stop. Before you answer the question, check out this 1996 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo Commemorative Edition, the last year of the mighty Nineties Z-cars. As denoted by the enormous stickers on the side windows, it is that year’s Final Edition, one of the last 300 ever brought to America. In fact, as denoted by the shiny plaque on the center console, it is the very last Commemorative Edition, number 300 of 300. As denoted by the seller, whose words we’ll have to believe, it was once showcased at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. And as denoted by, well, the odometer, it has just 528 miles on it.

So we ask again, how much? One fortunate soul paid close to $100,000 for the privilege of whisking this black-and-tan dreamboat to a secret warehouse garage, never to be driven again. Why would they? Because you’re only 528 miles young once.

Private Collection Motors
1996 Nissan 300ZX Turbo Coupe 2-Door

Car collecting has always been a blend of art and science, according to Hagerty’s Brian Rabold, editor of the Hagerty Price Guide. There are always auctions that have the power to surprise, he says, ones that signify an overwhelming tide of popularity,. And there are also flukes. “We have a team of analysts who look at the market data, and we step back and ask ourselves, ‘Is this a real signal or do we need to wait for more transactions at this level? Is it a guy who had to have that car and paid whatever he had to for it?’”

Ironically, 1996 was not a great year for the 300ZX. In ’96, emissions regulations killed the 300ZX’s variable valve timing, eating 20 horsepower from its nice, round 300-figure output. By then the Twin Turbo model weighed the most it would ever weigh, a massive 3,500 pounds. It also stickered for $45,422—equal to over $70,000 today.

Of course, that’s just a stone’s throw away from the $90,100 bid that drove this car home. The back-to-youth nature of nostalgia, a 20- to 30-year delay, means folks are getting wistful about the 300ZX, and values have been increasing accordingly. Final editions always represent something more special. To collectors they are the last of what they love, something worth holding onto, even when that importance is artificially generated by marketing departments or numbered plaques, as it almost always is. (In Japan, the 300ZX wouldn’t go out of production until 1998.) Last year, a similar 300ZX with 920 miles went for $69,900 on eBay after two owners moved the car from one side of the garage to the other for 20 years.

Fortunately, there’s one more example that’s being preserved for posterity: Nissan’s own Commemorative Edition 300ZX, which resides at Nashville’s Lane Motor Museum. A few years ago, your humble author was fortunate enough to drive it. It had only 192 miles on it.

We’ll keep saying variations on this theme, but no, your 150,000-mile non-turbo 300ZX is not suddenly worth $20 grand. However, with bidders willing to pay big bucks for preservation cars like this one, it’s clear the 300ZX has officially arrived on the collector market.