Home Acura NSX Z-Cars With T-Tops: 1984 Nissan 300ZX vs 1986 Spartan II

Z-Cars With T-Tops: 1984 Nissan 300ZX vs 1986 Spartan II

Z-Cars With T-Tops: 1984 Nissan 300ZX vs 1986 Spartan II


Welcome to your mid-week Shitbox Showdown! All right, before anyone says anything, yes. Today’s contestants are wildly disparate in price. But wait until you see how similar they are in damn near every other regard. First, however, let’s take a look at the results from yesterday’s bad-hair Fords:

Screen Shot 2023 08 22 At 6.49.09 Pm

As expected, a comfortable win for the Lincoln, fake convertible top and all. You guys realize that’s not just cloth, right? It’s a whole fiberglass shell shaped like a convertible top, with the cloth stretched over it, and the car wears it like a hat. But hey, if that’s how you wanna roll, don’t let me stop you.

Continuing with the theme of strange things automakers do to the roofs of cars, today we’re looking at two cars that started life as Z31-chassis Nissan 300ZXs, both with T-tops. One was wrecked and rebuilt, and then left to sit and fixed up again, and the other – well, just take a look.

01111 Awdmqhrtv2h 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Odometer reading: 140,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs great!

What we have here is the least-desirable of Nissan’s Z car: the Z31 series 2+2, non-turbo, with an automatic. But it’s a funny thing: Even an “undesirable” 300ZX is still a pretty cool car. And actually, looking at it now, I think I prefer the 2+2 roofline of this generation. It looks more balanced. As for the automatic, maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but I’m fine with it. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

00v0v Bpgoo9i8awm 0ci0lm 1200x900

This car has always been a 2+2, but from the sound of it, it didn’t start out with T-tops. It was wrecked and repaired early in its life, and came out the other side with a salvage title, and a shiny new open-air roof. It later sat in storage for ten years, before the current owner revived it, and did a ton of mechanical restoration to it. It now runs and drives great, and if that weren’t enough, the top of the intake manifold has been signed by none other than bass guitar god and Primus frontman Les Claypool. Apparently the seller did some work on Les’s Bronco, and asked him to sign the Z’s engine. I mean, personally, I would have had him sign my bass, or maybe my copy of Pork Soda, but an intake is good too, I guess.

00909 G6vo1j2wppi 0ci0t2 1200x900

It looks pretty good outside, except for a decent-sized ding in the left rear corner, and some peeling clearcoat. We don’t get much in the way of interior photos, but from what I can see, it’s serviceable. The seller notes slow window motors and a fussy turn signal switch, but those aren’t deal-breakers. And in addition to the T-tops, it has the all-important rear window louvers. No Japanese ’80s fastback is complete without them.

00x0x Kxaydeduwj4 0ci0t2 1200x900

It also includes all the service records since new (amazing for a 39 year old car), as well as photographs of the repairs. Yeah, a dinged title is a downer, but if you can see what it looked like before, and how it was repaired, that’s a plus. Oh, and the original wheels are included as well, if you prefer them.

00x0x Fxfzh7dcwte 0q00jv 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Claremont, CA

Odometer reading: 53,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes, but has old tires

Neoclassic cars are one of those weird automotive subsets that I really appreciate, but have absolutely no desire to own. At least, I don’t think I do. All right, maybe once in a while I wonder if life would be better gazing down a long hood, seeing the world zip past a pair of fender-mounted spare tires, finding a convenient empty Costco parking lot in which to execute a three-point turn. But most of the time I just admire them from afar, thankful that I don’t have to try to parallel park one.

01313 B9jqpl4rs3s 0q00jv 1200x900

This baroque beast is one of only 300 of its kind, built by Spartan Motorcars of San Marcos, California. Information is hard to find, because there are two other car companies and a motorhome manufacturer called Spartan. It gets confusing really quickly. I did find photos of an earlier version, based on the S130-chassis Datsun 280ZX; those are apparently even rarer than this Z31-based car.

00z0z 76zfygqyezk 0q00jv 1200x900

It’s not a great name anyway; “Spartan” is not an adjective I’d use to describe this car, particularly on the inside. It’s all standard Z-car fare, but with the luxury turned up a notch, with crested leather seats and what may or may not be real wood appliqués on the dash and center console. It’s all pretty damned opulent for a Datsun. And even better, it’s in great condition.

00s0s F1qdzp67woc 0q00jv 1200x900

The seller says this car runs and drives, but the tires are out of date and need replacing before it can be driven any distance. The air conditioning also “needs a recharge,” which we all know is just a euphemism for broken. But the great thing is that it’s just a 300ZX underneath, so it could make a reliable daily driver if one were so inclined.

Now, I realize this isn’t a fair comparison, with the massive price difference. But you understand, it had to be done: Two of the same car, one with an engine signed by a rock star, and the other looking like it raided Liberace’s wardrobe. I can’t ignore that. So let’s just pretend that you have the funds to buy either one. Which one could find a home in your garage?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here