Nissan Z: From ’69 to Now and Rankings

While I’m not particularly a Nissan know it all, I still like their “Z” cars that have served as solid sports cars for half a century. Known to be fast yet affordable, today we’re diving into the history of what has brought us our modern 370z.

The Olden Days

On a crisp fall day in 1969, the first of many Nissan “Z” badged cars were released to the public. Named the Fairlady Z in Japan and the 240z in the US, it was a large success in both countries. Minor engine and part changes were applied to the car throughout its life cycle. In recent years there has been an uptake of people trying to get a hold of the car, as less and less are being found on the market. This article from Automobile goes more into the subject. If I had to rank the different generations of Z cars, this would get a respective second place, for starting a long lasting group of sports cars, and for its unique looks.

Following the success of the 240z, the early 70’s held the same gen successors, starting with the 260z. The power had to be lowered by US regulations, but other countries received a better engine within. Shortly after rolled out the 280z, making minor improvements.

Building off of the sales from the first three cars, the second generation 280zx arrived. While it appeared very similar on the outside, almost every feature of the car was made to feel more luxurious, and a T top model released alongside it. There were multiple engine configurations, one including a new turbocharger. I rank this car sixth, for looking nice on the inside but ultimately for not changing performance or looks too drastically.

End of Century Zs

The year ’84 yielded the new 300zx with its completely redesigned sheetmetal and bigger, better engine. I’ll say that I personally do not enjoy the look of this car. It looks a little too much like the 70’s Rx7, and its front just juts out like the ’91 Camaro. While it was greatly praised by its performance and even became the fastest Japanese car at the time, I can’t get over its looks. It gets fourth because the sale and performance numbers don’t lie; it was a truly amazing car in its time, despite looks.

Nissan transitioned into the 90’s with a completely remade 300zx, with a slightly better engine and smoothed out body. I give it first place because the looks this time around are my favorite by a mile. New engines made it stronger in performance later in its life cycle as well. Out of all the car people I’ve asked, no one really likes the fourth gen 300zx. I’m not sure why it appeals to me so much, it just does. It was highly praised like its predecessor, but inflation in price at the end of its life cycle substantially dropped sales.

The “Out of it” Z

While the Z series is known to have six generations as of now, I’m adding this car to the rankings as it stood out as a sort of sore thumb, and didn’t exactly belong to a specific generation. There was a short period in the late 90’s where Nissan stopped sending Z cars to the US, as their focuses lied elsewhere. As a drastic measure to have some sort of resemblance of a sports car at their dealerships, Nissan took many old 240zs and restored them to what I believe to be an unremarkable vehicle.

It’s almost as if Nissan took a 240z and softened its looks, muted its engine, and made it appear as a regular coupe. It was cast aside after a couple of years and never sold from dealers again. I give it seventh place, because of everything in this paragraph.

The Zs of Recent

After the 240z restorations, a new concept came out, the “Z Concept”. Renault had taken leadership of most Z related things, and this concept was definitely a step in a new direction, as far as design. In 2002 the Nissan 350z debuted, priced at a lower point than the late cycle 300zxs, using the engine within the current Skyline. This generation greatly improved everything from the 300zx, and multiple variations were released, including a powerful Nismo edition and a 35th anniversary model. This car gets third place from me, for not only improving the aspects of the 300zx, but for also being my favorite car at one point.

In 2008 the first 370z was released, becoming the fastest unmodified Z car Nissan has ever produced. It brought minor improvements and sharper looks to the table. It’s a great car and looks good, but the problem here is that it has overstayed its welcome. While the other generations of Zs lasted for a little under a decade, the 370z is approaching 13 years on the market, with little visual change. It gets fifth for being a decent improvement, but for not seeing any major changes throughout its extended lifetime. There is, however, a teaser for the new Z car, which looks promising enough.


The Nissan Z generations have always been some of the most successful Japanese cars on the market and most likely will continue that way, as long as they move to a new generation soon. Also if you didn’t read the article here’s the final results of my ranking lined up.

1st: 300zx: Looks amazing in my opinion, performs exceptionally.

2nd: 240z: The one that started it all.

3rd: 350z: A new look and better driver.

4th: Initial 300zx: A very popular sports car, blowing all of the competition away.

5th: 370z: A refined 350z, starting to overstay its welcome.

6th: 280zx: Basically a luxury 240z, little additions in other areas.

7th: 1999 Nissan 240z Concept: An under powered 240z with unremarkable looks.

Image Credits

350z GT-S Concept: Nissan, Mad4Wheels

280z: Mason B., on Unsplash

300zx: Nissan, Mad4Wheels

370z: Nissan, Mad4Wheels