The Datsun 240Z was a game changer when it debuted in late 1969. Reliable, fast, and a bargain, the Z instantly redefined what a sports car could be. For British and Italian competition, it was like the comet that killed the dinosaurs. Like anything else, however, all good things must come to an end and by the late 1970s the original concept was beginning to run its course. The 280Z was essentially a 240Z with big impact bumpers and fuel injection. Datsun needed something newer and flashier.
Enter the Datsun 280ZX in 1978. Sports car purists who watched the Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) Datsuns clean up were horrified. The ZX was a GT for the disco era with two-tone paints, T-tops, velour seats, and fancy stereos. It was certainly softer and less sporting, but it filled a niche well and like the 260Z and 280Z was available in a 2+2 body, which the ZX seemed to fill out better than the previous cars. Ironically, the 280ZX was raced successfully too in some cases by actor Paul Newman.
With added weight, performance predictably suffered. In order to deal with this, Nissan offered a turbocharger option starting in 1981 that raised power output from about 140 hp to 180 hp. Brakes and suspension were subsequently improved in 1982 making the last two model years of the turbo the most performance oriented of the 280ZX.
As of yet, collectors have had trouble seeing beyond the 240Z in terms of collectability, which has made the barrier to ownership low. Very nice examples of the 280ZX still turn up for sale (often at big collector car auctions) for very affordable prices. The last two years of the turbo in particular can be terrific cars for the money.