Toyota Supra vs. Nissan Z values: How the older generations stack up
Over the course of the last 45 years, Japanese brands have brought forth a wide variety of sports coupes to the American market. Mitsubishi and Mazda wowed with the 3000GT and the RX-7, while Toyota and Acura brought mid-engine performance to two vastly different market segments with the MR2 and NSX. Today’s new car lots offer far fewer choices, with all of the aforementioned models driving off into the sunset. Two that remain are the ever-present Nissan Z and the back-from-retirement Toyota Supra. These long-lived nameplates haven’t always been direct competitors, but the six-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive two-seaters did square up from time to time. Let’s see how collectors are treating these Japanese sports cars with a head-to-head look at the Z and Supra markets.
1979 Toyota Supra #2 (Excellent) condition: $19,900
1979 Datsun 280ZX #2 (Excellent) condition: $31,900
The first time both cars were available in the United States was 1979. The Supra, based on a Celica with a stretched wheelbase to fit its inline-six engine, was more of a grand touring car packed with luxury features. Contemporary reviews from the era, including this one from Car and Driver, compared it to Chevrolet’s personal luxury car, the Monte Carlo. Datsun’s 280ZX, on a new, larger platform than its predecessor, was more comfortable than before, and also drew comparisons to American personal luxury coupes. But it was also more powerful than its Toyota counterpart, with a 135 hp 2.8-liter inline-six compared to a 110 hp 2.6-liter inline-six for the Supra.
Despite the Supra’s value climbing 25 percent and the Z’s price dropping by 17 percent over the past year, the two-seat Z is the fan favorite here. The 2+2 version of the Z is less desirable, with a #2 (Excellent) example coming in at $25,700, still besting the nascent Supra.
1985 Toyota Supra Mk II #2 (Excellent) condition: $30,200
1988 Nissan 300ZX Turbo (Z31) #2 (Excellent) condition: $29,500
1990 Toyota Supra Mk III Turbo #2 (Excellent) condition: $41,600
When the Z31 chassis debuted in 1984 it dropped the inline-six configuration it had used since its inception and switched to a V-6, which every successive Z has used since. It also ditched the “Datsun” name and was branded as a Nissan. On the design front, pop-up headlights were new for the Z, a feature that Toyota added to the Supra for the Mk II models that debuted for the 1982 model year. Nissan’s Z31 battled both the Mk II Supra, which still had Celica roots, and the more sophisticated Mk III which severed all ties with the more affordable Celica sports coupe and was its own beast entirely.
Here is where you see the Supra start to pull away, as the more desirable Supra turbo shows a significant price increase over its also-turbocharged Nissan counterpart. The Mk III Supra had a 200 hp 3.0-liter naturally aspirated engine at first but was soon bolstered by a turbocharged option that boosted output to 232 hp. In addition, a semi-active TEMS suspension firmed the ride for sporty driving. Nissan, meanwhile, improved its 3.0-liter V-6 for 1988 and 1989, the last two years of the Z31 generation, to produce 205 hp, up from the previous 3.0-liter’s 200-hp output.
1995 Toyota Supra Mk IV Turbo #2 (Excellent) condition: $181,000
1995 Nissan 300ZX Turbo #2 (Excellent) condition:$38,200
Now things really go off for the Supra. Even though the market shows plenty of love for the 300ZX Turbo, with prices that are close to its older brethren and not too far off from the current Z, they have fallen 23 percent over the past year. Mk IV Supra Turbo values, on the other hand, are up almost 17 percent on the year, widening what was already a massive gap between these two competitors. What gives? Well, Supra has a perfect storm for collectibility. It has stunning looks and was a solid performer from the factory. However, that’s only half of the story. Their reputation for taking in massive amounts of boost on even the stock internals and spitting out four-digit horsepower figures has given the 2JZ engine and its iron block a nearly mythical status. Add to that the car’s appearance in popular films and video games, and a sizable portion of the collector car market grew up idolizing these twin-turbo beasts. The Z32 300ZX has plenty going for it, but there’s another Nissan, the GT-R, that dukes it out with the highly desirable Mk IV Supra Turbo in the top echelon for collectors of Japanese sports cars.
Out of the seven generations of Z and Supra here, odds are you’ll be able to find one you could appreciate. Or perhaps you’re more into the later models. We’ll have to wait to see if the current Supra and its BMW-derived chassis and engine will be able to keep the trend going, or if Nissan’s return to V-6 turbo power and retro looks will keep future enthusiasts excited.