Our Fairlady “Z” – The Z31 Years (1984-1989)

Sold from 1983 through 1989, the Z31 300ZX name followed the numerical convention initiated with the 240Z, put forth by Yutaka Katayama, the one time president of Nissan Motors USA. The “X” designation had debuted with the previous generation Z car, the 280ZX, to signify the presence of luxury and comfort oriented features. Contrary to popular belief the Z31 model of the 300ZX (1983-1989) was actually the most popular in terms of total sales, selling over 100,000 more units than it’s Z32 successor.

The Z31 generation featured 5 different motor packages. A turbocharged dual over head cam 2.0L straight six (RB20DET, found in 200zr), a turbocharged single over head cam 2.0L V6 (VG20ET, found in 200Z/ZS/ZG), a naturally aspirated single over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30E, found in 300zx), a turbocharged single over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30ET, found in 300zx Turbo) and a naturally aspirated dual over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30DE, found in 300zr). Pictured above is an American market 1985 N/A Z31 300ZX with the VG30E engine.

The Z31 chassis designation was first introduced in 1983 as a 1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX (the hatch lid had both a Datsun badge and a Nissan badge) in the US only. The 300ZX, as its predecessors, was known as a Nissan in other parts of the world. This continued in the US until the 1985 model year when Nissan standardized their brand name worldwide and dropped the Datsun badge. A note can be made that all publications for the Z31 chassis 300ZX and its predecessors were copyright Nissan North America. Designed by Kazumasu Takagi and his team of developers, the 300ZX improved aerodynamics and increased power when compared to its predecessor, the 280ZX. The newer Z-car had a drag coefficient of 0.30 and was powered by Japan’s first mass-produced V6 engine instead of an I6. According to Nissan, “the V6 engine was supposed to re-create the spirit of the original Fairlady Z.

The 1984 Datsun/Nissan Z31 300ZX Turbo

This new V6 (2960 cc) Single overhead cam engine was available as a naturally aspirated VG30E or a turbocharged VG30ETproducing 160 hp and 200 hp respectively. The engine was either a type A or type B sub-designation from 1984 to March 1987, while models from April 1987 to 1989 had a W sub-designation. The W-series engines featured redesigned water jackets for additional cooling, and fully floating piston wrist pins. The 1984 to 1987 turbo models featured a Garrett T3 turbocharger with a 7.8:1 compression ratio, whereas 1988 to 1989 models featured a low inertia T25 turbocharger with an increased 8.3:1 compression ratio and slightly more power—165 hp naturally aspirated and 205 hp turbocharged. Finally, these engines were equipped with self-adjusting hydraulic valve lifters. The transmissions were a 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed automatic (contrary to popular belief, all Z31 automatics were the E4N71B equipped with torque-converter lockup INCLUDING turbo models.) All Z31’s were equipped with a Nissan R200 rear differential, April 1987 and later turbo models received an R200 clutch limited-slip differential except 1988 Shiro Special’s which had a Viscous-type limited slip. There were three trim models available: SF, GL and GLL. The SF model was only available in Canada.

1988 US Market Nissan Z31 300ZX Turbo

Perhaps the most comical aspect of the Z31 was it’s introduction of  Electronic Voice Alert on the 1984-1986 Z31 GL and GLL models. This “voice warning system” has been lovingly labeled “Bitchin’ Betty” by Z31 collectors and enthusiasts.

The Z31 300ZX’s digital instrument cluster, modern by it’s time but almost comical in retrospect.