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Can you go home again?

by Jim Taylor, Editor  MACS ACtion Magazine
Where were you in 1979? MACS accountant Craig Firestone was a young newlywed when he bought his Nissan 280ZX. He doesn’t recount too many details of life with the car, but it certainly made an impression on him.
Thirty years later, the bug resurfaced and now another ZX is in Craig’s driveway.  Craig says, “Now that my wife and I are empty nesters, it was time for a little self-indulgence and I had wanted another two-seater. I had looked at an older BMW Z3, but felt the car was too small. I had the feeling that you were strapping the car on rather than getting into it.”
But getting the second Nissan home wasn’t nearly as easy as the first time—the first one was ready to run at the time of purchase.

A little history’s in order here, for all the youngsters that don’t have a clue why any of this matters. The Nissan 280ZX was a follow-on to the company’s very successful series of 240Z and 260Z cars, the ones people stood in lines to buy.
Following the trend of longer-wider-faster-etc, the completely redesigned 280ZX brought a larger engine (2.8L-six) and the availability of a four seat version as well as the original coupe design. This car also marked the beginning of the transition from the name Datsun to that of the parent company Nissan, and both names appeared on these cars. Don’t be confused if you see “Datsun 280ZX by Nissan” on a fender.
The American version of the 280ZX appeared in 1979, although it had been out in Japan for the previous year. In the home country, it was know as the Fairlady Z. In both U.S. and Japanese trim, the car was easily capable of meeting it’s advertised top speed of above 120 m.p.h.

Datsun (or Nissan) immediately polished the car’s performance credentials by developing various homologated (recognized for racing) versions. With the factory’s help, Bob Sharp Racing took the car to the 1979 C Production National Championship, and Electramotive Racing campaigned their 280ZX to the IMSA GTU-class championship the same year. Not bad for the car’s first year in the market!

Sporty, comfortable and reliable, the new car met its sales targets almost immediately, but never became the must-have item in the manner of its predecessors. By the standards of American cars of the era however, the ZX was quite sophisticated. A new one came with fuel injection, MacPherson strut front suspension, and aerodynamics developed in a wind tunnel—a first for Nissan.
So, with that history in mind, here’s Craig Firestone in his own words:
“The car is a 1979 Datsun 280ZX, 2-door coupe with a 5-speed manual trans and a 2.8L, 170HP six cylinder engine. The car was the first of the Z series to have fuel injection. It had approx 205,000 miles when I got it. The car had been badly treated. It had been in Massachusetts for the last 20 years and had been exposed to all of the salt and bad weather up there.

“The entire exhaust system was rotted through, the engine was completely rewired and the radiator had been replaced. The front valence was too far gone and was replaced with a fiberglass air dam. All four quarter panels were replaced. The car also needed new frame rails which were fabricated in the shop doing the restoration. The fuel tank was leaking, and had a rubber bladder installed. The driver’s door was also replaced. The car was then repainted, with all dents repaired. 
“The interior required new a new headliner, new driver and passenger seats, new carpeting and the console was recovered. The entire project took 11 months from the day the car was transported from Massachusetts to the shop in Souderton, Pa. The mechanical work was done by S & W Sales & Service in Souderton and the interior work was done by Rayco of Trenton.”
MACS says: You’ve got a keeper, Craig. Good luck with it.
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0 responses to “Can you go home again?”

  1. Stephen Petit says:

    My friend’s dad had a 240Z, and my buddy and I would hound him for the keys just so we could sit in it and pretend we were drivers (we would have been 7 or 8 at the time.).
    Tell Craig he made the right choice with the 280ZX. It has character, and I hope he feels a lot satisfaction out of bringing it back to life. And if he really feels the bug, he can probably drop a small-block V8 in there, stiffen up the suspension, and have a pretty decent drift car. Woo-hooo! 😉

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