The Nissan Z cars were offered outside of Japan, including in the United States, under the Datsun brand, and they are now considered priceless classics by car collectors. One of the most coveted models among classic car enthusiasts is the Datsun 280Z ZAP Edition, which was produced in 1977 as a "special decor package." The ZAP cars all boasted Sunburst Yellow livery with black stripes along the sides and hood and multi-colored graphics at the front. They also featured dual racing mirrors, rear window louvers, and special badging.
The increased interest in this car model is obviously due to its scarcity. Only about 1,000 Datsun 280Z ZAP cars were offered in 1977, and an original unit has just come up for auction.
The Z series, which started with the Datsun 240Z (also known as the Fairlady Z in Japan), would sell like hotcakes stateside in the '70s, though the cars didn't have the power of American muscle cars of the era. However, they offered equally fast experiences, better handling, and more up-to-date styling, so the public fell in love with them. Their gorgeous shape, long nose, and affordability also played a crucial role in their popularity.
The lineup became so iconic that it stayed in production for decades under various forms. The most recent iteration from the Japanese carmaker is the Nissan Z (RZ34), which was unveiled in 2020 and takes styling cues from the original Datsun Z cars.
Built on a steel unibody platform and boasting independent front and rear suspension, the ZAP edition models took power from a 2.8-liter inline-six. Moreover, it was fitted with the then-new Bosch L-Jetronic Fuel Injection system.
This particular unit that came up for auction is one of the finest Datsun 280 ZAPs still in existence. It has gone through a restoration process, but it is still finished in code 411 Sunburst Yellow paint, with all the original decals applied in the right spots throughout its body. The rear window louvers are also present, while the interior is finished in all-black vinyl upholstery and black carpeting.
There is something else about the Datsun 280Z ZAP that makes it a special car in automotive history. It is the first model that was part of a car/video game cross-promotion. Putting cars in video games is nowadays a billions-worth industry, but back then, it was something completely new.
The branded arcade game it was co-released with was fittingly called Datsun 280 ZZZAP (also known as Midnight Racer) and was designed by Jamie Fenton and released by Midway Manufacturing. As you might expect from a 1970’s game, Datsun 280 ZZZAP featured very simple graphics and gameplay. Obviously, it involves piloting a Datsun at night at up to 200 miles per hour (320 kph). The player had to drive their Z car as far as they could until the time limit expired.
This 1 of approximately 1,000 produced 1977 Datsun 280Zs with the ZZZAP special decor package is set to go under the hammer in mid-August with a price guide of $50,000 – $75,000 USD. No details on mileage or previous owners is provided in the listing.