Nissan Z31 is First Produced
The Z31 chassis designation was first introduced in 1983 as a 1984 Datsun/Nissan 300ZX. This continued until 1985 when Nissan standardized their brand name worldwide and dropped the Datsun badge.
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."
This new V6 (2960 cc) Single overhead cam engine was available as a naturally-aspirated VG30E or a turbocharged VG30ET producing 160 hp (119 kW) and 200 hp (150 kW) respectively. The engine was either a type A or type B sub-designation from 1984 to April 1987, while models from May 1987 to 1989 had a W sub-designation. The W-series engines featured redesigned water jackets for additional cooling, fully floating piston wrist pins, and more power—165 hp naturally-aspirated and 205 hp (153 kW) turbocharged. 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. Finally, these engines were equipped with self-adjusting hydraulic valve lifters.
On the home market, the Z31 came with either a 2.0 liter or 3.0 liter motor. The 200Z, 200ZG, and 200ZS used the VG20ET motor while the 200ZR had the RB20DET. The only factory Z31 variant to use the VG30DE engine was the 300ZR. The Japanese 300ZX Turbo made the same 200 hp (149 kW) as the USDM VG30ET, outperforming the 3.0 liter Z31s as their engines only made 210-219 hp. This was to "make the most of the local taxation laws."
The Australian & European models made 230 hp (170 kW) in turbo form due to a better cam profile, also known as the Nismo camshafts. Some models were also equipped without catalytic converters. All European turbocharged models received a different front lower spoiler as well, with 84-86 models being unique and 87-89 production having the same spoiler as the USDM 1988 "SS" model.
The Z31 chassis was based on the 280ZX, but improved upon it. Although the newer chassis had the same wheelbase and MacPherson strut/semi-trailing arm independent suspension, it handled and accelerated better than the 280ZX it replaced. Turbocharged models, except for the Shiro Special edition, had an additional innovation: 3-way electronically adjustable shock absorbers.
Nissan manufactured two special Z31 models. The 1984 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition, released to celebrate Nissan's half-century, was a fully-loaded turbocharged model with a Silver/Black color scheme. All 50th Anniversary Edition came equipped with a digital dash including MPG and compass readouts, in-car electronic adjustable shocks, Bodysonic speakers in the seats, cruise and radio controls in the steering wheel, mirrored t-tops, embroidered leather seats, embroidered floor mats, sixteen-inch (406 mm) aluminum wheels, rear fender flares, different front fenders, and 50th AE logo badges on the body. The only option available to the 50th Anniversary Edition was the choice between an automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission. Notably, 1984 also marks the last year of turbochargers cooled entirely by oil. 1985 turbo models are equipped with coolant passages to ensure turbo longevity. In 1988, the turbocharged Shiro Special debuted with pearl white paint, stiffer springs and matched shocks, heavy-duty anti-sway bars, a unique front air dam, paint matched wheels, Recaro seats with matching door panels, painted bumperettes, white painted doorhandles and a viscous, limited-slip differential. No other options were available for the Shiro, meaning all Shiros were identical. It was the fastest car out of Japan, capable of 153 mph (246 km/h) speeds, as tested by Motor Trend with the electronic speed limiter disabled. A total of 1002 Shiro Special Z31s were produced for the US market between January and March 1988
The Z31 body was slightly restyled in 1986 with the addition of side skirts, fender flares, and sixteen inch (406 mm) wheels (all directly from the 1984 50th Anniversary Edition). Many black plastic trim pieces were also painted to match the body color, and the hood scoop was removed to provide a sleeker look. The car was given a final makeover in 1987 that included more aerodynamic bumpers, fog lamps within the front air dam, and 9004 bulb-based headlamps that replaced the outdated sealed beam headlights. The 300ZX-titled reflector in the rear was updated to a narrow set of tail lights running the entire width of the car and an LED third brake light on top of the rear hatch. The Z31 continued selling until 1989, more than any other Z-car at the time. Over 70,000 units were sold in 1985 alone.