Specifications for a 1981 Datsun 280ZX

by Teri Olcott
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The Datsun 280ZX was a sports car manufactured by the Nissan Motor Company from 1978 to 1983. The 1981 model year marked the year the turbocharged 280ZX was introduced. Able to go from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, the 1981 280ZX was the fastest Japanese import car on the American market. A non-turbo charged engine was also available, but lacked the horsepower of the turbocharged model.


Engine choices included a new turbocharged L28ET rated at 180 bhp at 5600 rpm and 203 lb.-ft. at 2800 rpm. The L28ET used a single Garrett AiResearch TB03 internally wastegated turbocharger. Boost was limited to 6.8 psi. A 2.8-liter non-turbo charged L28E engine was also available. The engine was a carryover from the previous year, but featured flat-top pistons and a high quench head that raised the compression ratio to 8.8:1. The engine also include a higher volume oil pump and an oil cooler on automatic transmission models.


Turbocharged 280ZXs were equipped with three-speed automatic transmissions only. The additional torque from the engine was a concern for Nissan's five-speed manual transmission. Non-turbocharged models could be ordered with a manual or automatic transmission.


The turbocharged 280ZX was capable of a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.5 seconds and could reach a top speed of 130 mph. At the time of its release into the U.S. market, the 280ZX Turbo was the fastest Japanese import in the American market. The normally aspirated 280ZX wasn't far behind the turbocharged model with a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.8 seconds.


The 1981 280ZX was an aerodynamic, two-seater sports car designed for high-speed stability. T-bar roof panels could be removed and stored in the back of the car.


Trim levels choices were a basic package and a Grand Luxury (GL), which included a number of options, including leather seats. Standard on all 280ZXs were power windows, four-speaker stereo system, electrically remote-adjustable door mirrors, cruise control and velour upholstery.


The 280ZX was a second generation Z-car, replacing the Datsun 280Z. The 1981 models saw a revised suspension with MacPherson struts in front and semi-trailing arm independent in the rear. The wheelbase measured 91.3 inches with an overall length of 174.0 inches. In response to previous year road-test complaints, rear brakes were switched from drums to discs. Two types of steering were available: manual rack-and-pinion or power-assisted recirculating ball.

Production Figures and Price Tag

A total of 73,177 280ZXs were manufactured in 1981. A well-equipped 280Z turbo sold for $16,999.

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