1 Dec 1989
In the late 1980s Japan was reaping the rewards of its boisterous bubble economy, and its car-makers in particular were investing heavily to make their products better and more upmarket.
Nissan went down that road with the extremely handsome fourth generation Z-car that – name excepted – shared virtually nothing with its disgraced predecessor.
Now shorter but wider and more aerodynamic, the 1990 300ZX was a true Porsche rival, offering buyers a new non-turbo 3.0-litre quad cam 24-valve V6 (VG30DE) with variable valve timing that helped it to develop 166kW of power and 269Nm of torque.
With the help of a viscous-coupling limited slip differential, it could reach 100km/h in 7.2 seconds, while four-wheel multi-link suspension and anti-lock brakes helped provide excellent handling, road holding and braking abilities.
So while the 300ZX Mk2 wasn’t quite the affordable sports car of its illustrious 240Z ancestor, it was right up there for performance and driver enjoyment.
Its weight also remained the same but it was significantly stronger and more rigid, despite retaining the targa roof configuration.
A tasteful, comfortable, ergonomic and well-appointed two-plus-two cabin also helped justify the $65,000-plus price tag, which was less than half that of Porsche’s 155kW 944S2.
Dynamically at least, the real spirit of the original Z-car was back.
But for the crippling worldwide recession of the early 1990s, the last 300ZX may have even made a bigger impact.
But Nissan was (once again) gazumped by Mazda, whose MX-5 roadster released at the same time was purer in its form, function and abilities and cost less than half the price.
The MX-5 is the 240Z of today while the 300ZX, despite a minor trim and specification update from November 1992, was left to languish until it was withdrawn from sale locally in early 1997, a few months after production ceased in Japan in mid-1996.
By then Nissan was sinking underneath a quagmire of spiralling debt and freefalling market share that eventually saw it on the brink of extinction until Renault bailed it out and turned it around spectacularly.
To great acclaim, a cheaper, faster, rawer and rortier Z-car returned as the Z33 350Z in February 2003.
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