300ZX is the name given, in much of the world, to the "Z31" and "Z32" generations of Nissan's Z sports car. Like all other versions of the Z-Car, it was sold in Japan as the Fairlady Z, regardless of model year.
Sold on the Japanese market from 1983 through 2000 and in the United States from 1984 through 1996, the 300ZX name followed the numerical convention initiated with the 240Z, put forth by Yutaka Katayama, the one time president of Nissan Motors USA. The "X" designation had debuted with the previous generation Z car, the 280ZX, to signify the presence of luxury and comfort oriented features. The Z31 model of 1983 through 1989 was the more popular model, with over 100,000 more units sold than the Z32.
The Z31 generation featured 5 different motor packages. A turbocharged dual over head cam 2.0L straight six (RB20DET, found in 200zr), a turbocharged single over head cam 2.0L V6 (VG20ET, found in 200Z/ZS/ZG), a naturally aspirated single over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30E, found in 300zx), a turbocharged single over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30ET, found in 300zx Turbo) and a naturally aspirated dual over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30DE, found in 300zr). The Z32 came with 2 different motor packages, a naturally aspirated dual over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30DE) and a twin turbocharged dual over head cam 3.0L V6 (VG30DETT). All Z31 and Z32 motors carried electronic fuel injection (EFI), and were mounted for a rear wheel drive set up. All models came in either right hand drive, or in North America, they came in left hand drive respectively.
Two Special Edition versions of the Z31 generation model were produced; a 50th Anniversary Edition celebrated the company's semi-centennial in 1984 and boasted additional luxury features, and a "Shiro Special", released 4 years later, boasted performance-oriented upgrades. The Z32 was virtually entirely new at the time of its release, with nearly nothing being carried over from the Z31. One of the most significant and obvious changes was the redesigned body, which had a wider footprint, a rounder profile with fewer hard edges and a reduced drag coefficient of .31 compared to the Z31's .30. Twin Turbocharged Z32s also featured a then-new active rear wheel steering systems called "Super HICAS", which was actuated hydraulically until 1994 when Nissan switched to an electric actuator. Nissan designated the final 300 units earmarked for North American sale in 1996 as "Commemorative Edition" cars, although nothing new or exclusive to the model was actually present; In fact, 1996 model years vehicles did not feature Nissan's NVTC variable valve timing system, which had been present on all Z32 generation models prior to that point. Production continued in Japan until August 2000, with styling updates and the addition of HID headlamps in 1998.
In racing trim, the 300ZX achieved several notable victories, including wins in the 1986 Trans Am series and 1994 24 Hours of Daytona. However, auto sports politics and a GTS-1 class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that same year prompted the International Motor Sports Association to declare the twin turbo engine illegal for future competition. The 300ZX also holds the E/BMS land speed record of 419.84 km/h (260.87 mph) from the 1991 Bonneville Speed Trial.
The Z32 300ZX was the first car to be sold following the introduction of a 280-hp power ceiling imposed by JAMA that remained until 2004.
Unlike its predecessors, the Z31 featured a V6 engine in the 200Z/ZS/ZG, 300ZX and 300ZR, and the only Z31 to come with a I6 was the Fairlady 200ZR which was only available in Japan. In its time it was a popular car that sold more models than the latter Z32, and followed the old S30 pricing of an affordable sports car for the middle class. The Z32 300ZX changed that, though. It was praised by critics and journalists during its lifetime for its performance, styling, comfort and use of technology, but was priced ever higher each model year, damaging sales. Car and Driver placed the car on its Ten Best list for 7 consecutive years, meaning it made the list during every year of its availability in the United States, and Motor Trend awarded it as the 1990 Import Car of the Year.
The Nissan 350Z, officially the Z33 generation Z-Car, succeeded the 300ZX in 2003.