Do you remember these classic Nissan sports cars?

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 03 September 2019

Celebrating 50 years of Nissan’s iconic Z and GT-R sports cars.

Few nameplates stir up as much emotion in the automotive world as Nissan’s iconic Z and GT-R sports cars. Both have been around in some form for decades and while they are vastly different machines, both have equally passionate fans. 

To mark 50 years of both the Z cars and the GT-R, Nissan has launched 50th-anniversary special-edition versions of the performance pair. And to highlight their long history, Nissan gathered some of finest examples of classic GT-Rs and Zs in the country at Queensland’s Norwell Motorplex raceway.

Each classic car was accompanied by its owner – all of them proud and passionate enthusiasts keen to share their knowledge and experience of the cars.

Slides: Nissan 240Z, 280ZX, 240Z and 370Z, and 300ZX

Among the group was Russell Treeby who brought along his Nissan 300ZX 25th-anniversary edition from 1995. Russell says he’s been a fan of the Nissan brand since he was young.

“My father was a Toyota man for life,” he said. “And we all know the Toyota-Nissan rivalry. It’s like Ford and Holden. He’s a Toyota man, I decided to be something different. I like the Nissan stuff, the reliability of the old Nissans, it was just very good. I’ve just sort of grown into the Nissan-Datsun stuff.”

While he’s always been keen on Z cars, Russell said it was his wife who made the final decision about buying the 300ZX.

“When I was 18 or 20 we used to play around with a lot of old Datsun 1600s, we used to race them at speedway. Then I fell in love with the Z car, the two-door sports car. I had always wanted one and I had various old cars over the years. Then about two to three years ago I realised I loved the Z31 shape (1983-1989). My wife said, if we are buying a Z car, we buy her preferred shape, which is the later model, the Z32.” 

Reece Murphy owns a 1993 R33 Nissan GT-R that he bought about three years ago. He said the heritage of the car – affectionately known as Godzilla – was what appealed to him initially.

“It’s the flagship car of one of Japan’s most iconic car brands and there is a lot of prestige behind the name,” he said. “Everyone knows what a GT-R is. Even if they don’t know what one looks like, they know what it is. And once I had driven one, the feeling of driving one is just... you don’t get it with many other cars. The sound of a straight six for one.”

Blue Nissan R32 and silver R35 driving on road

The Nissan R32 and R35 go head to head.

All of the owners who took part in the drive day were part of a local car club. Reece said his experience with the Brisbane’s BNE BNR Club had been nothing but positive, while Russell spoke glowingly about his time in both the Queensland Z Car Club and the Datsun Sports Owners Association. 

The owners generously allowed a group of motoring journalists to sample their babies under controlled conditions at the track.

We kicked off our day in Reece’s R33 GT-R and while it is showing its age, it’s still an impressive machine.

I was nervous about driving the next car, the 1999 R34 GT-R, given its reputation as something of a handful, but it turned out to be one of my favourites of the day.

The iconic Bathurst-winning 1990 R32 GT-R was next before jumping into a bunch of Z cars.

The raw nature of the original 240Z from 1972 highlighted how far automotive technology has come, but it was one of the most charming cars of the day.

Next up was a striking example of the 1981 Datsun 280ZX with flawless maroon velour trim and all the mod cons one would expect in a car from the early ’80s, including a retro chrome tape deck.

A 350Z from 2005 was unquestionably more modern but lacked some of the charm of the older cars.

We ended the day in Russell’s beautifully maintained 300ZX 25th-annnniversary edition that was one of just 40 produced. Of the 40 just 16 were manuals and only 12 of them were red, making it a rare beast.

Russell says the 300ZX has had no modifications and he has no intention of making any alterations.

“I bought the car because it was original. I would like to keep it that way. But part of that is, when those cars get modified, they tend to become unreliable. So to keep it original keeps the reliability that Nissan produced into it and that’s what I would like to keep. And by keeping it original, in years to come I think it is going to become quite difficult to find.”

As one of your correspondent’s childhood dream cars, it was a real thrill to drive this car. The sleek late-’80s design and flowing interior layout is as flawless now as it was when it was released. It’s a cruiser rather than a bruiser, but that’s how Russell and his wife prefer it. I’m with them.