East Coaster of the Day: 1978 Datsun 280Z – or is it a 350Z?
Peter Hylands grins knowingly at the confusion he must cause with his racing green 1978 Datsun 280z. There are a couple of badges on each front fender that read ‘350Z’.
The answer is under the hood. There lies a Chevy 350 small-block V8 engine that Peter found at a junkyard (in a 1987 Pontiac Firebird) and rebuilt. Ah, now the 350Z makes sense.
Peter’s son found the 1978 Datsun 280Z in Calgary and drove it home to Nova Scotia. Then it sat for 10 years.
Peter started working on it in 2007. It took him four years to complete it.
Nissan built the Datsun 280Z, marketed as the Nissan S30 in Japan. It’s the third generation of the Z series, one of the most successful sports car lines ever produced, starting with the 1970 240Z, which debuted in 1969.
The sleek 240Z was meant to compete with the established sports car brands of Europe – Jaguar, BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo. Priced within $200 of the cost of an MGB-GT, the Datsun was easier to get and maintain, compared to the Europeans.
The 240Z was followed by the 260Z, then the 280Z you see here. The elegant vehicles had four-wheel independent suspension, front disc and rear drum brakes as standard equipment.
The Datsun Z cars proved their racing chops with many successes in Sports Car Club of America (S.C.C.A) racing and are credited with starting the U.S.-Japanese import performance parts industry.
Peter has a fine-looking 1978 Datsun 240Z ‘350Z’. And it must go like stink.
*Special thanks to Mike Breen for the lead photo.