Rodrez: On this episode of Wheeler Dealers, host Mike Brewer takes a risk on a twin turbo, 1991 Nissan 300ZX that, not surprisingly, has been modified. It's a common occurrence with Nissan's early '90s icon which, at the time, shook things up in the Japanese sportscar market considerably. The twin turbo powerplant, world-class handling and luxurious, sporty cockpit made for a lethal combo. In addition, the updated body style marked a huge step for the brand's Z-car line which, up to that point, had relied on a similar shape since its genesis, highlighted by a cabin positioned far back from its lengthy hood. The new Z was wider, more stout, and pushed the badge into a higher tax bracket.
Ed Tahaney: The Datsun/Nissan Zs are some of the finest Japanese sports cars still lurking your local streets. Recently, Nissan unveiled their 2021 Z Proto Concept recently that looks similar to the outgoing 370Z but with some touches of retro flair. The new Z is likely to be called the 400Z, and it strikes a mean side profile and highly controversial front end. The Proto Z's taillights are unmistakably inspired by the 1990s-era 300ZX twin-turbo coupe. The 300ZX is so awesome it was even named Motor Trend's 1990 Import Car of the Year. Tune in to Wheeler Dealers with hosts Mike Brewer and Ant Anstead to discover why it's now a collectible classic. In this episode, Brewer travels to Oregon to score a deal on a sweet one that he likes to call "ZedX." Why? Well, blimey, because that's the way he says it.
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The Nissan 300ZX was sold in the U.S. from 1984 to 1996, with the completely reworked version —codenamed Z32—introduced as a 1990 model. Nearly 90,000 cars were made during its run and only about 18,000 came with a twin turbo set up. If you comb through used-car sites, you are likely to find plenty of affordable options, but the twin-turbo is the one for serious enthusiasts unless you're planning an all-out build-up with the often relied upon RB-swap. Back in the day, I could only afford a drift-happy Nissan 240SX, which was plenty of fun, but I always pined for a 300ZX.
Powertrain options included a 3.0-liter V-6 that was good for 222 horsepower and 198 lbs-ft. of torque or the same V-6 with a pair of Garrett turbochargers that boost it up to 300 hp and 283 lbs.-ft of torque. The twin-turbo coupe can sprint from zero-to-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, which was very good for its era. It was mated to a coveted five-speed manual transmission or a less desirable four-speed automatic.
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Naturally, the ZedX in Aztec red paint Brewer scored a deal on came with gobs of aftermarket goodies, including Nismo racing wheels and a new booming exhaust system. After a quick test drive, our host notes that the suspension has been lowered and even kisses the pavement on a few occasions due to bottoming out. The cool coupe also has a broken speedometer and the power steering is as stiff as molasses—but seeing a diamond in the rough, Brewer buys it anyway.
Back at the SoCal garage, Anstead grins excitedly when he first sees the 300ZX, but nearly blows a gasket when he learns that Brewer wants to bring it back to stock. Our happy host wants to make it a proper car that he can get top dollar for by selling it in California. That means putting not one, but four catalytic converters back on it so it can pass the stringent emissions test. Also, it means sacrificing at least 50 horsepower for the sale.
The twin-turbo models were only available as a T-top in the U.S.—which is old-school cool. It also featured sport front bumper inlets, a spoiler, upgraded brakes and suspension, and rear-wheel steering. Aside from the T-top, my favorite bit is the slender rear light kit that still glows like a modern one today.
Master mechanic Antstead definitely has his work cut out for him (30 man-hours), but if you are already a fan of the show, you know he makes wrenching look easy. First up is pulling the massive V-6. Along the way he finds that the Nissan's HICAS (High Capacity Active Suspension) four-wheel steering system is displaying a fault as well. Meanwhile, Brewer is on the hunt for the original exhaust system and turns to legendary driver Steve Millen, the 1994 24 Hours of Daytona winner, who took the pole in a 300ZX twin turbo that year.
Does Brewer's decision to make a slower car pay off? Eventually, the Wheeler Dealers team takes the restocked Nissan to Willow Springs to test it on track. Brewer can feel its incredible grip on track and says, "It just pulled my face off," as he attempts to make it drift. Tune it now to see if he can make that happen and if he scores a sweet profit or not.