What’s hot and what’s not for these 9 vintage Nissans and Datsuns
Japanese sports cars from the ’90s are all the rage right now, especially among younger buyers. Leading the charge is the long-lusted-after Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R that became legal to import from Japan in only the last few years. Look past the GT-R, though, and Nissan has a rich history going back to the earliest days of Datsun splashing onto the sports car scene in the 1960s and early ’70s. And from the purity of the ’63 Datsun 1500 roadster to the advanced technological trickery of the 1990 Nissan 300ZX, there’s plenty to enjoy at a price just about any collector or enthusiast would find reasonable.
Here’s the scoop on what’s hot and what’s not in the world of Datsun and Nissan.
|NOT: 1975–78 Datsun 280Z
Hagerty Valuation Tools #3 condition median value: $7700
Arriving just a couple of years after Datsun’s Z car was neutered by emissions controls during the oil crisis, the 280Z that arrived in 1975 was a return to form for the Japanese marque. Bosch electronic fuel injection and an available five-speed manual gearbox gave this car the 240Z-like performance and reliability it deserved (in spite of the heavy bumpers), representing the sweet spot of the ’70s before things once again took a turn for the limp with the 1970 280ZX. The market, nevertheless, has gone somewhat cold for these 280Zs. Quote activity is way down compared to this time last year, and prices have been totally flat during the same period. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying a car like this on the track, as we mentioned previously.
|NOT: 1978–83 Datsun 280ZX
HVT #3 condition median value: $5800
Many contend that by the time the 280ZX came around, Datsun had lost the plot with its once-sporting Z car. A softer approach and added weight did little to win the hearts of the car’s former fans. Datsun at least threw everyone a bone during the last two years of production with a turbocharged 280ZX, plus upgraded brake and suspension components.
As with the earlier 280Z, these cars are still cheap and hardly in high demand. Quote activity is in the dumps, and prices for #3-condition (Good) examples haven’t gone anywhere in several years. There aren’t any indicators that’s changing anytime soon, either.
|NOT: 1990–96 Nissan 300ZX
HVT #3 condition median value: $7400
Nissan’s second-generation 300ZX, following the earlier 1984–89 model, incorporated forward-thinking computer technologies as well as optional four-wheel steering in the coveted twin-turbo version. With its 300-hp 3.0-liter V-6, the 300ZX Turbo actually delivered on the promise of its wedge-like shape and sleek lines.
Despite its obvious merits, activity on most 1990–96 ZXs is relatively small (save for significant growth concerning #1-condition, concours-quality examples like this one). Quoting activity is similarly stable, indicating we aren’t likely to see much movement for these cars in the near future. That being said, it’s a lot of car that—for now—is still decidedly affordable in Good, or even Excellent condition.
|LUKEWARM: 1970–73 Datsun 240Z
HVT #3 condition median value: $18,200
The sports car that put Datsun on the map in the U.S., the spritely 240Z was both elegantly styled and designed for driving fun. Simple, light, and boasting a smooth 2.4-liter straight-six engine, the affordable 240Z took sports car fans by storm and caught European manufacturers sitting on their hands.
While prices are significantly up over the last year, quote activity and interest among Hagerty clients is on the slide, which muddies the view into our crystal ball. We’ll keep an eye out to see if prices level off going forward, but for now the outlook is unclear for Datsun’s original Z car.
|LUKEWARM: 1974 Datsun 260Z
HVT #3 condition median value: $8250
Offered only in 1974 as a placeholder between the carbureted 240Z and the later, fuel-injected 280Z, the 260Z bridged the gap by retaining much of the 240’s styling and dynamics. Under the hood loomed a larger, 2.6-liter overhead-cam straight six, albeit with 11 fewer hp (for a total of 140) due to lower compression ratio necessitated by emissions restrictions.
Prices for the 260Z are up even more than for the 240Z, in all conditions, particularly since September 2017. At the same time, the situation is similar in that quote activity and interest among clients is still relatively insignificant.
|HOT: 1963–70 Datsun 1500/1600/2000 Roadster
HVT #3 condition median value: $13,350
Known as the Fairlady in Japan, these adorable-looking roadsters are fun, durable, and still available in solid running condition for those on a budget. Most versions here in the U.S. were sold either in 1500 or 1600 trim, powered respectively by 85- and 96-hp four-cylinder engines. The rarer 2000 model, which arrived in mid-1967, practically blew the doors off of the cute two-door with 135 hp and an available factory tuning package. The downside? Parts are a lot harder to track down compared to the much more popular MG MGB.
While many ’90s Japanese sports cars are popular among the younger cohort, these Roadsters are more in the Baby Boomer wheelhouse among Hagerty members (55 percent of quotes from that demographic). Prices are slightly down after a jump in late 2016, but overall interest is red hot, with quote activity up 23 percent in the last year.
|HOT: 1968–73 Datsun 510
HVT #3 condition median value: $7400
Interestingly, the boxy 510 has found a following among Millennials. Perhaps riding the wave of popularity we’ve seen for the BMW 2002, the 510 is once again competing against its German counterpart to win the hearts of enthusiasts in need of baseline practicality. That said, the 510’s independent rear suspension and plucky SOHC four-cylinder engine proved a successful combination for many a club racer as well, helping cement its reputation early on as a fun and capable little sport sedan.
Prices for the 510 were up a startling 25 percent as of January this year, but a good driver in #2 (Excellent) shape can still be found for roughly $10,000. While enthusiasm for Datsun’s upstart box might not last forever, the iron is still hot for the moment.
|HOT: 1984–89 Nissan 300ZX
HVT #3 condition median value: $5850
Dubbed the Z31 according to internal Nissan nomenclature, the first 300ZX was heralded as the car that pushed the Z-car formula forward for a new generation of enthusiasts. It was the beneficiary of Nissan’s first widely-available V-6 engine, a 3.0-liter mill that made 180 hp in base, naturally-aspirated form. Turbo versions, launched for the 1985 model year, tacked on an additional 20 hp along with electronically adjustable shocks. The more angular styling and digital dashboard also told the story of a sports-car nameplate that was keen to keep up with the times.
Baby Boomers are, surprisingly, the driving force behind the Z31 300ZX’s recent hotness, as 43 percent of quotes come from people in that generation. That, along with higher prices and additions to policies since January, point to rosy prospects for the reliable and plentiful Z31. Just keep an eye out for thrashed and/or aggressively modified versions, of which there are many.
|HOT: 1989–94 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R
HVT #3 condition median value: $30,000
Reigning king among its flock of predecessors and compatriots, the hallowed Skyline GT-R is—to put it mildly—having a moment. Godzilla might be adored among younger buyers for its role in video games like Gran Turismo, but it continues to reward modern drivers with its deliciously smooth and responsive 2.6-liter straight six. Official specs indicate an output of 276 hp, but largely accepted lore put that figure at north of 300 hp. All that said, the GT-R might be even more noteworthy for its innovative all-wheel drive system, taut chassis, and comfortable ride.
Thanks to extremely high quote activity and the considerable number of examples being added to existing Hagerty policies, we’re confident that the craze for Godzilla is not over any time soon. (More and more examples are being imported from Japan, where they are relatively common, to feed the frenzy.) According to Hagerty information analyst Jesse Pilarski, Skylines are currently the ninth-fastest-growing vehicle by insurance quotes over the last few years, with the number of examples added to policies up 34 percent in the last year alone. Popularity among Millennials is a good sign of future health, and 88 percent of quotes for Godzilla come from that demographic. Read our definitive buyer’s guide and drive review for more.