5 Red Flags to look out for before buying a Nissan 300ZX
As the market price for Z32s continue to rise and more hit the market for sale, there are several things experienced enthusiasts should keep an eye out for before pulling the trigger.
Here are five specifics for any potential Z32 buyer to inspect to ensure you get the most for your money - both up front and over the long haul once your restoration project begins.
1. Correct Placement of Directional OEM Wheels
The OEM wheels for the Z32 Nissan 300ZX are designed to draw in cool air towards the brake rotors. The directional design of this feature combined with the staggered sizes of the OEM Twin Turbo wheels mean that every corner of the car has a specific wheel. It is not uncommon to see the wheels on backwards and in some extremely cringe cases seeing the wider rear wheels placed on the front. Is this a deal breaker? Absolutely not. However, to enthusiasts of this platform many see it as a potential red flag of an inattentive owner.
2. Exterior Details
When looking over a Z32 there are some quick ways to spot whether or not its been repainted or repaired. For the entire exterior perimeter of the car the Z32 features a channel to accentuate the body lines. Within this channel the car came with a charcoal colored accent stripe. Often when a bumper is replaced or a panel is repainted the accent stripe is either not re-installed or is painted over.
Another red flag that many owners notice immediately is the presence of the "Mustache" on the front bumper. 1990-1994 model years feature a matte black mustache that runs horizontal in line with turn signal indicators. Lack of this feature on 1990-1994 Z32s is a red flag that the bumper has been replaced and warrants a deeper look into the components beneath such as the lower radiator core support, AC components and radiator. Additionally, the 1990 Model Year came with a NISSAN decal on the front bumper on the left side. It should be expected that low mile, well cared for Z32s will still have this decal in place.
The mirror bases of USDM models came in a gunmetal black metalic color (1999 Jspec have color matched mirror bases). If you see a USDM 300ZX with body colored mirror bases it is a sure sign that the car has been painted.
3. Low Quality Aftermarket Components
As in many collector car markets the more original the car is, the higher its value. Although the presence of tasteful and subtle aftermarket components aren't necessarily a detractor. Many enthusiast understands that over the life cycle of this aging vehicle some updates or upgrades can occur. However, the presence of cheap and low quality aftermarket components will immediately draw negative attention to a otherwise well kept car. Examples of these type of modifications are Ebay turn signals, tail lights, Non-OEM coil packs, spark plugs, and hardware store keys. Ask yourself, would you want to buy a Z32 from someone so cheap that they wouldn't spend $15 on the OEM key?
4. General Maintenance
The VG30DE/VG30DETT Engine found in the Z32 Nissan 300ZX is known as an interference engine. An interference engine is a type of 4-stroke internal combustion piston engine in which one or more valves in the fully open position extends into any area through which the piston may travel. Simply put, if for some reason valve timing is lost on a VG engine, the valves and pistons will meet each other and result in a lot of mechanical carnage. To keep this in check Nissan uses a strong rubber timing belt.
Nissan recommends to replace the timing belt and associated components every 4 years or 60,000 miles to avoid a mechanical failure.
It is not uncommon for owners of low mileage Z32s to never change this belt as they assume it is based on mileage. As many 300ZX specialists know this assumption is DEAD WRONG.
When buying a 300ZX the lack of records of 60K or 120K Timing Belt Service should be a huge point of negotiation in the price. A 30 year old rubber timing belt and hydraulic tensioner is ticking timebomb.
Other maintenance items worth mentioning are the presence of original rubber hoses and wiring harnesses. These components are well past their expected life spans and are the cause of many frustrations for Z32 driver.
5. Panel Alignment
The Z32 is a difficult chassis to hide body damage. When checking for front end damage pay special attention to where the nose panel between the headlights meets the hood. The gap should be small and symmetrical along the hood line. If it appears that the hood is slightly ajar it is likely due to damaged radiator core support due to either improper jacking or collision. Also on the front end pay attention to the symmetry of the head lights and where the fender meets the front bumper.
Along the sides of the vehicle a common place of damage is the front fender pinch welds. Although the Z32 incorporates a lifting point along the frame rail many inept owners wrongly jack from the pinch weld. As a result the fenders often bow out away from the chassis and the seam along the fender and door is noticeably distorted.
Along the rear of the car a prospective buyer should be on the lookout for stress cracks on the taillights and rotting or warping of the rear spoiler.
While this list isn't all inclusive it does offer a head start for Z32 buyers at any level to make informed decision.