Russ K

She got away for quite a few years but, I found her again.

So as a graduate of ECU one day realized, I finally have a job back in 1981 I went to the local Buick Datsun dealer in Greenville NC. I drove junks in college to survive, vans, rust buckets, motorcycles in the rain and cold. I wanted to begin with a new sports car. I had driven A 240Z back then a friend had and really liked the power and style, the no frills but I heard Datsun was coming out with a Turbo Z in 81. In 1980, I had gone and looked at them but thought I would just wait. So, a friend said that there was a black and gold Z with a turbo at the dealership. I rode my motorcycle there as soon as I could.

When I pulled up I could see the Z cars in a row all parked nice and neat in the lot so I walked down the rows of cars to find the Black Z car. It wasn't on the lot, I saw other Datsuns as well, but nothing was black in color. A guy walked out of the showroom and asked me what was I looking for. I told him I heard they had a black Z that had come in. He told me to follow him. Once inside the showroom, there she was sitting in the middle. Clean as a pin with gold badges, gold snowflake wheels and pinstriping. Tan interior, a real beauty. I looked under the hood and it was equally clean. The next question, how much. The salesman told me that one was not for sale as it was already sold. The sticker said 17 thousand which was high in 1981 compared to most cars. I still asked if he could find me one. He said he would try but there were only about 50 to ship into the country so he doubted I would. He later told me there were no more of that color but he found a copper colored one in Virginia Beach. I wasn't that interested in that color of car. I decided to get a car later.

I watched the cars zip by in the 80s and eventually bought several Z cars, White 79, Dallas Cowboy Blue and Silver 80 and a couple of others but was always looking. Eventually, I was driving the Blue and Silver to a party for a radio disc-jockety's house and he saw it. He was a avid Dallas fan and this was his car. He wrote a check for it there that day. I now needed to find another car.

So going through the car for sale adds I looked, bargain traders....by now these cars are over 20 years old with really high miles so I wondered what I would run into and what kind of condition I would find. I looked at several versions including the 300 zx Turbo and others but I just like the older round headlight buckets of the original type Z. At this point in my life, I could buy a brand new Z off the lot but with the experience I had with this type Z, I knew I could bring one back and save it, just wanted to start with something to build from. These cars were notorious for rust.

So I find a car in Jacksonville NC, home of the Marines. Its an 81 Turbo ZX and it says runs and drives fine. Reason for selling it, wife has too many speeding tickets. They want to sell quick as they are also moving, he got out of the service, time to go home.

So I drive there and take a look at the car, rough but runs fine, turbo spools but its painted gold with gold wheels. The owner didn't tell me the color but I see a touch of black under the hood. Here is the funny thing. I ran the vin number at the Nissan dealer and it told me nothing other than it was a Z, Turbo, that was it. Mystery one. I made the guy an offer on the car but he said he wanted the asking price, you know the deal. I am on the way back home and my bag phone rings, its the seller. He decided to take what I offered. Its now mine.

I get the car home and do even more looking at the condition, no rust, amazing. I find the paperwork from the original owner. A female navy officer Florida bought it in Pensacola. She had sold the car 5 years before with only 27 thousand miles on it. It had been garage kept until she sold it to the owner I got it from. He drove it for years and gave it to his wife. They added 80 thousand miles to it. That was the history.

I took it apart and checked it out thoroughly, replaced suspension and built the engine again although it was in really good shape.

At this point, I thought the car was originally black, it was and in sanding the paint I found the car was indeed once black. When I pulled the pinstripe tape back, there was gold under it. Was this one of the 50? I found the original window sticker under the carpet in the rear hatch area and the paper for the dealer in Florida.

I looked up the dealer in Florida where the car was purchased. Luckily the owner was still there and remembered the car and a little history about it. It appeared the young lady who bought it, had it trucked from Greenville to the dealer in Pensacola. Sound eerie? The dealer told me she was killed on active duty in Iraq and her parents kept her car in their garage for years. They never drove it I was told.

So, I finished doing everything on the car in 2000 and showed it for years. It is the original 50 Black and Gold Turbos from the day with far more history than I can post here but its unique as only the dealers and hard core Z guys would know anything about the Z that Datsun denied making.

The dilemma is now, my baby had a fire under the hood that caused a lot of damage. I had meant to look into collector car coverage but I took it through my local coverage. I do regret that, they gave me nothing. I spend thousand going after the insurance companies on the matter of principle but it was in vain. The fire was pretty bad and the work once again goes on, it may take years to get back to the glory you see in the picture but I will get it done. In the meantime, I picked up another 280zx Turbo and restored it just before the fire. I will feature this car soon. Reminds me of Forrest Gump, Jenny came home sick, got better then died but this Jenny can run again.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Alexa Hughes United States February 17, 2014 at 08:52
    My parents had a silver 280zx when I was in grade school! Not the most practical for a family with three kids, but we still managed to cram ourselves in the back "seat" to ride around town. (Pretty sure that wasn't legal!) Loved that zippy little car -- too bad I was too young to drive!
  • 2
    Will Ontario Canada March 14, 2014 at 00:58
    Do you mean to say there were only 50 black with gold pin stripe 1981 280zx turbos made? Or if not, do you know about the paint production numbers.
  • 3
    RuthieB Louisiana (Swamp) April 22, 2015 at 16:44
    Bought my 300zx 1985 in 84...Still got it and she still screams... and looks good doing it!
  • 4
    Rick Colorado April 22, 2015 at 17:22
    I am the third owner of a '72 240z. Simple car, easy to work on, parts fairly easy to find, and inexpensive. I drive it about once a week and always get a great response. I have learned to account for additional time when I am out with the car. People approach me all the time with their stories about their Z car experiences. Lost count how many times people have offered to buy it!
  • 5
    Dirk Las Vegas, Nevada April 22, 2015 at 18:33
    We owned a 1976 280Z which was well maintained. One day the producers from the movie "Lucky You" that was being filmed in Las Vegas saw our car and came into the office to buy it for the movie. I told him everything was for sale at the right price. The producer offered several thousand dollars and I turned him down. He came back the next week and asked again and I up my original price by a thousand dollars. He said that the price had gone up and I replied the money hasn't hit the mohagany (lawyer referrence to payment). Making a long story short he came back three more times and finally paid the original price plus $4000. It is in the movie and Warners Brothers studio in their car stable today.
  • 6
    Tom Ohio (originally Wis.) April 22, 2015 at 21:05
    My sister, Bernie, saw the new 240Zs when they came out in 1970 and had to have one. She went to the dealer in Milwaukee and found there was a waiting list. She put her name on it and every once in a while the salesman would call and offer her one. She turned down two or three white Z cars because, as an X-ray technician, she wore a white uniform every day and that was enough white for her. She turned down a couple of brown ones because she saw too much crap on the tables (the result of certain X-ray procedures). Two years go by and it's 1972 and finally the color she wanted -- silver -- came up. She grabbed it and loved it. She had only one problem with it: The cable for the manual choke broke and the dealer wanted too much to replace it, but she got the engine to start anyway. Until winter set in, that is; during one sub-zero snap she had to wake up twice or three times each night, go out to her Z-car which hadn't quite cold-soaked, start the engine and let it warm up, then turn it off and go back to bed. I don't think she ever got the cable replaced, and she traded it in that way. I don't remember on what.
  • 7
    Nathan Peoria AZ April 22, 2015 at 21:38
    Great Automobiles, I had a 79 80 and 81. The 79 was a great Z car so I purchased a 80 10 th Aniv car and still have it in service. The 1981 Black and Gold trim was a automatic and I did not keep it for over three years. I have restored the 1980 10 Aniv Car and enjoy using it every day.
  • 8
    Dennis English Stanwood, WA April 23, 2015 at 13:34
    I have an "83" 280ZX. For 25 yrs, I wanted another sports car. My first car and love was a "59" MGA. If someone had told me that I would have a sports car with power windows and air conditioning, I would have said they were crazy. Like other "Z" owners, I had looked around. Then, when you see it, that is the one. Absolutely great car, with a bullet proof engine, all it does is start and run when I turn on the ignition. I sill think it has the best looking hood this side of a Jaguar XKE. It sits in the garage and looks like a penned up sports car ready to run!
  • 9
    Gary Wyatt Waxahachie, TX April 30, 2015 at 16:47
    I bought my wife a new '86 300ZX when we lived in Northern Indiana. Just could not find any in the region and flew into DFW Bankston Nissan had 50 in stock. Ended up I drove it most of the time, she couldn't handle it in the long winters with snowy roads. Finally sold it in 1994 after our second child was born and the salty roads were begining to take a toll on the body. In 2008 I found a '84 300ZX that had been a one owner in Oklahoma with only 88,000 miles. Have enjoyed it ever since. Still a very fun drive and great looker!!!

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