A Rusty Datsun Z Brought Me into the World of Classic Cars

I always liked cars. Discarded Hot Wheels often carpeted the bedroom of my childhood, and muscle car books from Barnes & Noble filled my bookshelf. For many years, classic cars were simply things I read about in books. I had memorized all the famous big blocks of the pre-OPEC era, but in my young mind, cool cars stopped being made in 1974 and they definitely weren’t made by the Japanese or the Germans. But when I was 17 years old, I underwent a bit of a metamorphosis.


I was 17 when I bought my first car. I trawled online listings for classic cars while bored in high school to see what my meager $2,000 budget could afford in the way of cool cars. I didn’t care about manual transmissions, locking rear differentials, or racing pedigrees; I just wanted something cool and old to drive around in.

One day I found her. Suzy was a metallic blue 1983 Datsun 280ZX with T-tops, two seats, and an oh-so-’80s silver and blue interior. At the time, I did not know what a Datsun or a Z car was, but this was a reasonably priced good-looking car, and I wanted it. The previous owner (who was about 35 years old) bought it used when he was in college and had kept it ever since.

When I pulled up at his place, his M3 and Mercedes SUV were parked outside while the Datsun sat in the sole garage space under a cover. The owner said he saw his old college self in me and without any negotiating on my end, he actually offered to lower the price from $3,000 to $2,000 to make it more affordable for me. It was hard to say no to a deal like that, so I found myself driving home in a shiny 280ZX.

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