The 300ZX Turbo was the embodiment of brains and brawn. Introduced in 1989 as a 1990 model, the fourth-generation turbocharged car received rave reviews from the automotive media and sent Corvette designers scrambling to meet the Nissan’s 300 hp.
Although the twin-turbo Z sales were initially strong, approaching 40,000 units in 1996, in its final year of production, it’s estimated that less than 4,000 units made their way into garages across America.
Despite being out of production for seven years, the twin-turbo Z still looks great, the technology was topnotch and the aftermarket continues to pay homage to the model. Nicely preserved 300ZX Turbos aren’t hard to find, and prices have come within reach of most enthusiasts. Use this guide to find yours.
Even now, the fourth-generation car’s appearance is both fine and refined. At its introduction, it was noted the third-generation’s boxy shape and pop-up headlights that screamed "ChiPs" at primetime were gone. The new look was low and wide with smooth lines and a rounded roofline. The twin-turbo Z also had staggered wheel and tire sizes—wider in the rear than the front—which gave the car a menacing stance.
Bodywork for the twin-turbo, which was only available as a two-seater, was essentially the same as the normally aspirated Z, which was available as a two-seater and a 2+2; however, there were a few differences. The Z wore a small rear spoiler, which grew larger in 1994, and three small slat-like grille openings on the corners of its front spoiler. Also, the label Twin-Turbo, albeit small, can be found on the right rear of the decklid.
The 3.0-liter 60-degree V6 of the third-generation Z remained—in title only. For the fourth generation, Nissan kept the iron-block and aluminum head configuration, but the block was redesigned and the crank, intake and exhaust manifolds, heads, valvetrain, electronics, and boost system were changed.
The rumored six-speed never came to fruition. Five-speeds, along with automatics, were offered all seven years of production. The five-speed is controlled by a perfectly placed short throw shifter.
The ABS stock brakes were big for the time, with 11-inch, four-piston discs in front and 11.7-inch, two-piston discs in the rear. These brakes are still sufficient for street use, but fall short on the track. According to Mitchell, the brake calipers switched from aluminumto cast iron in 1993 in order to solve a warping issue.Brake pad upgrades to semi-metallic or carbon-metallic are a good idea, along with changing to stainless-steel brake lines. A better brake fluid with a higher boiling point is also recommended by many weekend racers.
Steering and Suspension
If the Nissan 300ZX Turbo’s suspension was a crude DVD, it would be "Nissan Engineers Gone Wild." All Turbos came with four-wheel independent suspension, two-position cockpit adjustable shocks and Super HICAS four-wheel steering system, which tosses out a dose of opposite steering in the rear, immediately followed by same-direction rear steering.
Below 20 mph and above 75 mph, the system is inactive, but between 20 and 75 mph, it moves the rear wheels up to 1 degree, depending on vehicle speed, steering wheel angle, and the speed the steering wheel is turned. Turn the wheel quickly, and you get more of a response.
Until 1993, HICAS was electro-hydraulic, but for the 1994 model year, the system was changed to an electric rear rack for a small weight savings. Today, most die-hards disable it for track use.
The adjustable suspension had Sport and Touring settings. Additionally, the suspension geometry in the rear discouraged any squat at drag starts; in fact, it could produce a bit of annoying wheel hop. Stiffer lowering springs help.