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This Highly Original 1979 Datsun 280ZXR Covered Just 15 Miles Since New

In the automotive world, there are car models that turn into instant icons and then go on to become classics in every sense of the word, and models that aren't immediately embraced by the general public and remain largely unknown. The Datsun 280ZXR falls into the latter category.
This 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original condition 17 photos
Photo: Mecum Auctions
This 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original conditionThis 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original condition
Introduced by Nissan Motors in 1979 as a limited-production version of the standard 280ZX, the Datsun 280ZXR is only remembered by a select few in the automotive community. This model was developed with a specific purpose - to homologate a new and relatively large rear wing for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for Production Class competition. The car would also race in IMSA competition later on.

The example you see here is one of the 1,009 examples of the 1979 Datsun 280ZXR ever built, and it could very well be the lowest mileage unit still in existence, with its odometer showing just 15 miles (24 km) since it was new.

The car is essentially a standard 280ZX coupe with a huge molded rubber rear wing and an upgraded design. Said rear wing was actually the reason the Datsun 280ZXR was made.

This 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original condition
Photo: Mecum Auctions
In 1979, Datsun top class driver Don Devendorf, who raced for Electromotive Racing, won the IMSA GTU Championship in the under 2.5 liter class behind the wheel of a Datsun 280ZX. But like most cars, the 280ZX developed lift at high speed, so Devendorf and John Knepp of Electramotive helped shape a high-downforce "whale-tail" rear spoiler to press the car into the track while racing.

The addition proved highly effective, generating 370 pounds of downforce at 100 mph (161 kph). As a result, the Electramotive team won nine of the 15 races in the GTU class in 1979. It also served aesthetic purposes and helped differentiate the new model from its predecessor.

As per the racing rules, which require a certain number of production cars to be built and offered to the general public in order for a car version to enter racing competitions, Nissan had to make at least 1,000 units of the new model with the rear wing. The car manufacturer obliged and produced 1,009 examples of the special model.

Compared to the standard 280ZX coupe it was based on, the ZXR model came with a Silver Mist Metallic paint scheme, a special decal package consisting of a two-tone blue and black tape stripe down each side and on the hood, and large large "Datsun ZXR" logos on the front fenders, as well as that huge rear spoiler, which remained unpainted.

The carmaker didn't introduce any performance upgrades with the new cars, and all the units produced were exactly the same, with the only option offered being air conditioning.

This 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original condition
Photo: Mecum Auctions
As such, in terms of tech specs, the 280ZXR is the same as the standard 280ZX. It takes power from a 2.8-liter inline-six cylinder engine capable of producing 135 hp and 144 pound-feet of torque. This is a fuel-injected mill with a single overhead cam and two valves per cylinder. It sends power to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission and propels the car to approximately 120 mph (193 kph).

The Datsun 280ZXR was only available for the 1979 model year and cost an additional $399 USD compared to the 280ZX. The molded rubber spoiler was also offered separately by Nissan Motorsports via the Datsun Competition Parts Catalog.

Since only a little over 1,000 units were ever produced, the ZXR is rare to begin with, but few original units are known to still exist today. One of the surviving examples is the one presented here. It was delivered new to St. Yves Motor Sales in Berkley, Massachusetts, in 1979, and it has never been sold since then. That's because it became a permanent part of the St. Yves Collection, which explains the low mileage. It most likely only accumulated the delivery miles.

This 1979 Datsun 280ZX is in highly original condition
Photo: Mecum Auctions
This particular Datsun 280ZXR is set to go under the hammer in January via Mecum as part of the St. Yves Collection. The car is in pristine condition inside and out, boasts the same Silver Mist paintwork it had on when it left the factory and is still equipped with the original Bridgestone white letter steel-belted radial tires.

The original 2.8-liter inline six-cylinder engine sits proudly under its hood, and the car's interior is all black, from the vinyl upholstered seats and door cards to the carpeting throughout, the steering wheel, and the dashboard. Other noteworthy features include bucket seats, tinted glass, and an AM/FM radio. What's more, the sale also includes a spare OEM stripe kit and a dealer information sheet.

Though this is a lesser-known Datsun model, it checks all the boxes for collectors - it is rare, it's a low mileage example, and it's in unrestored condition, original right down to the Bridgestone radials. Moreover, it is available with no reserve, so any Z Series fan could end up getting it for a bargain.
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About the author: Ancuta Iosub
Ancuta Iosub profile photo

After spending a few years as a copy editor, Ancuta decided to put down the eraser and pick up the writer's pencil. Her favorites subjects are unusual car designs, travel trailers and everything related to the great outdoors.
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