Home » Datsun Awful Lot Of Red Paint: 1986 Nissan 300ZX vs 1992 Nissan Atlas

Datsun Awful Lot Of Red Paint: 1986 Nissan 300ZX vs 1992 Nissan Atlas

Sbsd 12 19 2023

Good morning, Autopians! First let me say that I don’t feel sorry about the terrible headline pun at all. As you can see, today we’re looking at two crimson-hued Nissans, one of which is likely familiar to you. The other one probably isn’t, unless you hang out with a bunch of Japanese firefighters. (And no judgment if you do.)

Yesterday, we looked at a funky Pinto and a dead-in-the-water Fiat. I honestly thought this one would be closer; I didn’t expect the Pinto hatred to run so deep. For what it’s worth, I kinda like the wagons, especially the Cruising Wagons, and I think it would be a fun project. The price is a little steep, but the answer to that is just to let it sit a while longer, then offer what you think it’s worth.

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However, the little green Fiat 850 won the day, and of course it’s the right choice. I mean, it’s like Kermit the Frog in car form. You just can’t hate it. Also, a shout-out to reader Forbestheweirdo for identifying the seats in the Fiat as NA Mazda Miata seats. That was my first impulse, but something looked wrong about them. Then I remembered that my own NA Miata had leather seats from an NB Special Edition in it, so of course they didn’t look the same.

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All right; moving on to today’s toys. A lot of the buzz around Japanese domestic market imports centers on the most popular cars: kei vehicles, Skylines, Pike Factory cars, things like that. But just like here, all sorts of wheeled contraptions ply the streets of Japan doing all sorts of jobs, and just like here, they eventually end up on the auction block. Some people choose to import some weird stuff, like, for instance, a diesel 4×4 fire truck. But for other enthusiasts, seeking out a good example of an interesting US-market Japanese car is enough of a thrill. We’ve got one of each. Let’s check them out, and you can see which camp you’re in.


1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo – $3,500

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Norwalk, CT

Odometer reading: 158,000 miles (not original)

Operational status: Runs and drives great


I’ve featured Z31-generation Nissan 300ZXs here before, but they’ve usually been compromised in some way: automatic transmissions, 2+2 body styles, that sort of thing. I am pleased to announce, however, that this time, we’ve got a good one. It’s a two-seater, a stick, a turbo, and it has T-tops. Unfortunately, it is red, but maybe some of you like that.

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It also has a rebuilt title, sadly, but the seller says they did all the work, and can presumably tell you the whole story. Whatever happened, it happened in 1996, and the car has been fine ever since. The engine was rebuilt in 2010, and the car hasn’t been driven much since then. The timing belt and water pump were just done, presumably to make sure it’s good and roadworthy before the sale. The car also comes with full documentation dating all the way back to 1996. If ever there was a branded-title car that felt like a good deal, this is it.

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Cosmetically, it’s not perfect, but it’s also not terribly expensive. The driver’s seat could use reupholstering, and the paint is a bit faded, but it’s the nicest-looking $3500 300ZX I’ve seen in a while. And torn leather or not, I love the ’80s-ness of this interior: a digital display, big silver buttons on the steering wheel, and that fancy stereo? I mean, come on. I’m dying to know what cassette is poking out of the player. In fact, my entire interest in this car might hinge on what that cassette is.


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The seller loves his ’80s coupes, that’s for sure. I imagine some of you might prefer the 944, but there’s no word on whether that one’s for sale. And it looks like they already took the “My Other Car Is A Porsche” bumper sticker off the Nissan.

1992 Nissan Atlas 150 fire truck – $4,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.7 liter diesel overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD

Location: Renton, WA


Odometer reading: 76,000 kilometers

Operational status: Runs and drives fine

The Nissan Atlas appears to be something like the Ford F-series, in that there were so many variants available for so many years that you really have to know all of them to understand what you’re looking at. Unfortunately, I don’t, and this is neither the time nor the place for such a deep dive into an old Japanese truck line. So I’ll just stick with the information in the ad, and if I get something wrong, I’m sure someone will tell me.

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This appears to be an F22-chassis Atlas, which if I’m understanding it right, is the lighter-duty version. I don’t know what the 150 means exactly.  This double-cab truck is powered by a 2.7 liter naturally aspirated diesel four, backed by a five-speed manual, driving all four wheels on demand. It’s set up as a fire truck, but it looks like they removed all the firefighting equipment before export.


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Right-hand-drive vehicles are difficult to maneuver in a left-hand-drive environment, especially big ones like this – which explains how the seller managed to hit a bollard at a gas pump and scrape up the left rear door. It’s been straightened and primed, but it wants paint, and the fancy pinstriping will have to be redone. The seller says they “know a guy.”

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Unfortunately, the interior has been disassembled in an effort to install sound-deadening, which strikes me as auditory lipstick on the cacophonous pig that this truck must be on the highway, but if it makes them feel better, then that’s fine. The seller says the dash is easy to reassemble; they were just too lazy to do it, which to me says it isn’t all that easy.

Okay, so neither of these is exactly a show car. I only said they would be running and driving, and according to both sellers, you could hop in either of these and drive off. Where will you go? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
3 months ago

Would have taken the Atlas until I saw that interior.

Ward William
Ward William
3 months ago

Amusing but not really comparable so I did not vote but here is my two cents worth. They can keep the crappy Z car. If it is not a 240 or 260, no way Jose or Hose B. But that fire trucks keeps appearing as an interesting and cheap RV conversion in my head. You could nearly buy what you Americans call a trailer (used) and we call a caravan down under, and just plop that puppy right there on the bare frame after removing all the fiery crap behind the cabin.

Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
3 months ago

Red is absolutely a positive. No fifty shades of grey for me. Also a Z with stick, and in running condition? Yeah, sign me up. I know a guy who can replace that leather…

Not The Ford 289
Not The Ford 289
3 months ago

This one is hard, but I’m going to have to go with the fire truck. I’ve always been around 4x4s and I have always loved the RHD Japanese trucks.

Henry Smith
Henry Smith
3 months ago

I’ll take the fire truck so I can swap its engine and gearbox into my London Cab. It has the same engine but an auto box.

Myk El
Myk El
3 months ago

I’ve never owned a Z or a firetruck. But I think I’ll have an easier time with the Z.

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