If you’ve been a car nut for at least the last quarter century or so, you’ve probably noticed a disturbing little phenomenon called model bloat. While it might sound like something that would drive people who walk up and down the runway for a living to try and touch their tonsils, it actually refers to the steady upward creep in vehicle size and weight as each subsequent generation of a nameplate has been released. One extreme example: a new Honda Accord sedan is 32 inches longer and almost twice as heavy as a first-generation Honda Accord sedan. Thankfully, model bloat doesn’t always lead to blander, less engaging cars; just look at Nissan’s fourth-generation Z-car.
Codenamed Z32, the new 300ZX debuted in 1989 as a ‘90 model. Though actually shorter than the car it replaced – the Z31 series 300ZX – it was also about two-inches wider and 400 to 500 pounds heavier. However, the new Z hadn’t completely morphed into a boulevard cruiser. All Z32s were fitted with a 3.0L DOHC V6 in either normally-aspirated or twin turbo form. The atmospheric version was rated at 222hp and 198 lb./ft of torque, while the spectacular Twin Turbo version (the first production Z-car powerplant with multiple turbos) was rated at a nice, round 300hp and 283 lb./ft of torque when coupled with the 5-speed manual transmission (Twin-turbo cars equipped with the 4-speed automatic made due with 280hp and the same amount of torque.) Two body styles were initially offered: a two seat coupe and a 2+2 coupe with a 4.7-inch longer wheelbase, the latter only available with the normally aspirated engine in the U.S. Both coupe body styles came standard with T-tops (though a few fixed-roof “slick top” 2-seaters were built) and, in 1993, a convertible – the first factory-built droptop Z – joined the lineup but was, like the 2+2, not available from the factory in Twin Turbo form. A mere 3,556 convertibles were built, making it by far the rarest of the three body styles. Tech toys included an electronically-controlled four-wheel steering system called Super HICAS optional on the Twin Turbo, variable intake camshaft timing (except on the ‘96s), four-wheel ABS, automatic climate control, and Bose stereo systems.
Project cars in need of a little TLC can be found for less than $5k, while really nice stock ones seldom top three times that number. Show-quality cars with mountains of modifications have been known to command prices deep into the five-figures. Potential trouble spots can include fuel injectors on pre-1993 normally aspirated cars and pre-1995 Twin Turbos, oxygen sensors, and some electrical issues. The resources listed below are definitely worth checking out if you’re considering becoming a Z32 owner, and as always, be sure to go over any car you look at as thoroughly as possible, including looking at the service history. Follow those guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to owning one of the best GT cars of the last 25 years.