Datsun 280ZX vs. Mazda RX-7

In the early days of the Japanese automotive invasion of the United States, it targeted market segments that Detroit ignored, such as economy cars and small trucks. And as Mustangs, Camaros, and Firebirds roamed the streets, Japanese automakers brought in Z-Cars, RX-7s, and others to cut up the sports car segment with simpler, cheaper options. This edition of Auction Dilemma examines two such examples. A 1981 Datsun 280ZX was auctioned at Auction Hunter and a 1983 Mazda RX-7 auctioned at Bring a Trailer.

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1981 Datsun 280ZX

Auction dilemma: Datsun 280ZX vs. Mazda RX-7


This second generation Z-car dates back to when the Datsun name was still popular in the US (it switched to Nissan in 1986). Finished in black, this imperfect 280ZX two-seater has blemishes that are not uncommon for a 126,000-mile car. But despite these imperfections, there is still an attraction to this Datsun. The vehicle history report shows an accident-free background, but a speedometer discrepancy is detected.

Power comes from a naturally aspirated 2.8-liter in-line six-cylinder engine rated for 138 hp and 149 lb-ft of torque (a turbo version was also available). Power goes to the rear wheels and is managed by a five-speed manual transmission. Sources for 0-60 times are everywhere, but 9.3 seconds is an average.

Auction dilemma: Datsun 280ZX vs. Mazda RX-7


The cabin has seen better days too. Four decades of scrapes and scrapes are particularly noticeable on the center console for a particularly long time, but the light brown vinyl seats appear in good condition. The equipment includes a T-roof, a factory audio system with cassette, electric windows and air conditioning.

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1983 Mazda RX-7

rx7-1Auction dilemma: Datsun 280ZX vs. Mazda RX-7

Mazda has a tradition of being a little different from other Japanese automakers, and one way to stand out has been through the use of the rotary Wankel engine. This Renaissance Red Metallic RX-7, while not perfect, appears reasonably clean for a vehicle with 96,000 miles on the clock. No accidents are shown in the vehicle history report.

The 1.1 liter rotary engine (when new) is rated for 101 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque. A three-speed automatic controls the power transmission to the rear wheels. It reports a 9.4 second time for the 0-60 dash, which is almost the same as its Auction Dilemma counterpart (despite the lower output specifications).

Auction dilemma: Datsun 280ZX vs. Mazda RX-7

The very clean interior looks more like a time machine thanks to the red fabric seating and matching cabin components. Additional features of this two-seater include a removable sliding glass roof, electric windows and mirrors, a Pioneer audio system and cruise control.

Are you visiting the 1980s museum?

Auction dilemma: Datsun 280ZX vs. Mazda RX-7

Traveling back 40 years has never been easier thanks to two classic Japanese sports cars from the 1980s. With five days remaining to bid, the Datsun 280ZX has a current best offer of $ 3,500. There is only one day left for the Mazda RX-7 auction; the current highest bid is $ 2,600.


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About the author

Dave Goldberg
(167 published articles)

Dave Goldberg is a lifelong auto enthusiast and holds a BA in Journalism from George Washington University. While leaning towards European bikes for his personal riding, Dave enjoys everything from Acura to Zagato.

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