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.




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    Supply and demand. There are few of these left in good shape and they are expensive and difficult to restore.

    Prices will be up on the best examples but the rest are parts cars at least the non rusted parts.

    This is becoming true on many modern cars.

    MK1 Supra vs. 280Z – Neither, I prefer the 240 or 260Z
    MK2 Supra vs. Z31 300ZX – Stock I narrowly pick 300ZX Turbo but modded I pick motor swapped 1JZ/2JZ Mk2 Supra.
    Mk3 Supra vs. Z31 300ZX – MK3 Supra
    Mk3 Supra vs. Z32 300ZX – 300ZX Turbo but I do like a motor swapped MK3 with a 1JZ/2JZ again.
    Mk4 Supra vs. Z32 300ZX Turbo – MK4 all day as I own one.

    I own a 89 Toyota Supra 7MGTE turbo manual car that I purchased a couple of years ago. Going to do a lot of upgrades to the 7mgte rather than 2j swap it. Looking to get around 500 rwhp out of it and still be reliable. It came with some vintage Enkei98 three piece 16×7 wheels on all corners!(minus the waffles and screw-on center caps):( Lovbee20 is going to stagger them with new polished lips and barrels and make them into 18’s. Shout out to them for doing what other companies said couldn’t be done. Mercedes Brimbo big brake upgrade in works for the front. Bowmex fiberglass front bumper and wale tail plus louvers for the back and side windows to keep the 80’s theme I’m going with. Going to do the bodywork, interior work and paint it red. I’m naming it Gossamer after my favorite looney tunes character. Going to be a fun project and will be a monster after I’m done with it. Pun intended;)lol.

    Still available at a fraction of the price: The Lexus 93-2000 SC300 with the lauded 2JZ motor, along with stunning looks and rock solid build.

    In the past I’ve owned a 1995 300zx twin turbo. I loved it. I currently own a 1984 MKII, 1985 MKII and 2023 MKV, A91-MT. You know my vote.

    These are great examples, no doubt. I’d like to find a decent example of the first new car my wife and I purchased shortly after being married. It was a 1977 Celica GT liftback. It was not the big power horse, but a truly fun car. We gave it to a nephew in 1984 who proceeded to destroy it. I’ve been looking for a decent example for years, to no avail.

    Never really got the draw of the MkIV Supra. The front end styling just seems so bland. And now that they’re so rare, you dare not modify one to your liking lest you adversely affect the resale value tremendously. A MkIII with a 2JZ or 1UZ swap would be a fun driver, with better reliability (no head gasket issues).
    Not really a Nissan guy, but the 300ZX has nice lines. As for the NIssan nameplate, I’m pretty sure the Datsun name was dropped in ’81. Bought a Datsun 200SX brand new in ’80, and the very next year that same car was a Nissan.

    Randy B, I’ll bet that liftback Celica had a lot of space to use. My sister had a ’74 Celica coupe (GT, I think – manual 5-speed). She called it “Lewis the Wonder Car”, as it got her through at least 6 seasons working at a ski area near here.

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