The Datsun 280Z has seen a pretty significant rise in value over the past few years, primarily driven by the huge rise in price in the 240Z. The 280Z featured a few key differences, such as the 2.8L engine with fuel injection and a handful of cosmetic differences, but the essence of what made the 240Z special remained intact with the 280Z. While the 240Z has seen this massive increase in price, the 280Z is just now starting to gain some attention from vintage car collectors and hobbyists. This makes the Datsun 280Z a possible investment prospect, but also makes it difficult for a potential buyer to accurately value a 280Zs for sale. With this guide, we hope to help clear the air with 280Z prices and make it easier for you to assess value and price.
Concours Condition – $35,000 and up
A 280Z in this category is becoming very rare to find for sale as the 280Z hasn’t quite attracted restoration attention — most Datsun enthusiasts will understandably prefer to restore a solid 240Z if they spend a considerable amount of money on a Z-car restoration. With classic cars, restorations do not become popular until the value of the car as a category reaches a point where it makes sense, and currently it only makes sense to restore a 240Z due to their price. This is not to say that no one has ever restored a 280Z, but rather it is more likely to find a 280Z that has survived in impeccable condition than a 280Z that someone has done a fantastic restoration on.
Cars in this category will likely have original paint in good condition or better, or a high-quality repaint in the original color. In this category, originality matters probably more than anything. While retrofitting a set of 240Z bumpers on a 280Z is popular in the Z-car community (and it looks great!) with this category, the car should be sporting it’s original 280Z bumpers. 280Zs as a category seem to be popular with those who want to modify the car cosmetically and in performance, but a ‘Concours Condition’ 280Z should be almost entirely stock. Some really tastefully modified 280Zs do achieve big price-tags similar to Concours-level 280Zs, but in general this is unlikely. We’ll talk more about modified 280Zs later on in this article.
Finally, the one non-negotiable in placing a car in this category: the car should have no rust or signs of major rust repair. If you do find a 280Z in this kind of ‘Concours’ condition, it would be extremely smart to hold on to it for a while. When the 240Z experienced it’s drastic price-rise, cars in this category received the largest price gains.
Excellent Condition – $12,500 to $35,000
The ‘Excellent Condition’ category for the 280Z comes with a rather large price range as truthfully, there are quite a lot of 280Zs that fall into this category on the market right now. The 280Z attracted a lot of buyers (and then second-owners) who simply drove and maintained their car and overall, enjoyed owning their 280Z. Cars in this category should be low miles (under 80,000, as a general guide) and should have most or all of their original parts intact.
Extreme modifications (difficult/expensive to reverse) such as aftermarket sun roofs, fender flares, or bolted-on spoilers should immediately qualify a car from this category and price range. The interior should be in good condition with maybe a few imperfections such as a ripped seat or some missing carpet pieces, but nothing overarching. In terms of paint, you should be looking for original paint, and the next best thing is a high-quality repaint in the same color. However, a high-quality repaint in a different color should not disqualify a 280Z from this category, although ideally it is repainted in a more desirable color than the original.
Good Condition – $4,500 to $12,500
A ‘Good Condition’ 280Z is a pretty large category, similar to ‘Excellent Condition’ but has a lot more tolerance for unoriginal parts and modifications. A car in this category should still definitely be largely rust free and rust-repair free, but at the lower end of the spectrum (under $5,000) you may start to see some signs of repairable rust. If you are wondering whether you should be tolerant of rust in your 280Z search, I would probably recommend you should actively search for ones without rust — at this point, it almost never makes financial sense to buy a 280Z without rust. This would be different if sellers were more likely to reflect their rust problem in their price, but too often, a seller underestimates the amount of rust they have on their 280Z and is asking several thousand dollars more than the true value of the car. What I’m trying to say, is that most 280Zs with a rust problem are likely not worth more than $2,500, but an extremely small amount of sellers are willing to reconcile with that fact. This general misconception is mostly due to the recent rise in 240Z value.
Overall, in this category you may start to see those more obtrusive modifications such as fender flares, fender mirrors, and aftermarket sun roofs and that’s fine. A lot of cars in this category have aftermarket wheels and hubcaps which is also fine for this price range, especially if they include the original wheels/hubcaps with the sale.
This is a huge category currently and it is honestly priced attractively for the buyer who is willing to do some mechanical repairs, cosmetic restorations, etc. There are definitely cheap (under about $7,500) 280Zs for sale that need some parts returned to stock, new suspension, brakes, etc. but it actually makes sense to make these changes as it will really increase the value of the car more than the cost of the labor and parts.
Poor Condition – Under $4,500
A 280Z in the ‘Poor Condition’ category is probably highly rusty, with both surface rust and structural rust, and everything else in between! This level of rustiness generally means that the car was kept outside for a large period of time, which also means a damp, smelly interior, missing parts, and mechanical issues such as rotted brake lines and it probably won’t even start. Needless to say, if you are interested in buying a car in this category, be prepared to tow the 280Z from its resting place and that’s just the beginning of your work — you will need to do a lot of repair work to get it safe, running, and looking good.
While, as I discussed before, rust repair can make sense with a 280Z, you really need to make sure you correctly assess the extent of the rust problem. Structural rust is extremely difficult and costly to fix, and in most cases doesn’t make financial sense with a 280Z. At the current market for the 280Z, extremely rusty 280Zs probably only have value as a parts car.
Highly Modified – $5,000 to $35,000
The highly modified category has a very broad price range because this category of 280Z is very broad and diverse. The strongest price determining factor for cars in this category is how tastefully the car has been built. Of course, this comes down to preference – a Z with fender mirrors, flares, a big spoiler and RS-Wantanabe wheels may not look great to you, but to the right buyer it looks better than the original “all-stock” look or any other kind of modified 280Z. These cars are often priced towards the upper end of this price range because the seller will have put a lot of money and time into their build and is willing to wait for the right buyer who appreciates their taste.
Lots of cars in this category have completely different engines which is attractive to, again, the right buyer, but makes it even more difficult to price!