1989 Nissan Maxima

My grandfather had purchased a couple of Maximas over the years. When the new and much sportier 1989 version was announced, I (firmly convinced of my twenty year old hipness) just assumed that he would not go for it. I was wrong: within a year, my grandfather was driving a new Winter Blue Metallic Maxima. A somewhat instructive lesson for this young man.

“Big enough to hold a meeting. Fast enough to keep it short.”

New for 1989, the third-generation Nissan Maxima was a big change toward a more sporty image and reality, with attractive new styling and an independent rear suspension. Nissan named it the “4-Door Sports Car” (even putting 4DSC decals on the car), but I remember wondering if they had moved too far away from their previous conservative designs for their market. They hadn’t—the 1989 Maxima sold quite well, despite the fact that the station wagon version had been eliminated.

The Maxima’s engine, a version of Nissan’s VG30E 3.0 liter multi-port fuel injected V6 (closely related to the standard engine in the Nissan 300ZX), was slightly upgraded for 1989 to 160 bhp and 182 lb.ft of torque.

As they had in previous years, Nissan sold two differentiated Maxima models for 1989: the luxury-oriented GXE and the significantly more sporty SE.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment for the $17,499 (about $33,100 in today’s dollars) GXE included rack and pinion steering, keyless entry (a GXE-only feature), and 205/65R15 tires on 15-inch alloy wheels. Inside, you got air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, and a rear window defogger. Fuel economy with the standard four speed automatic transmission was decent at 19 mpg city/26 highway by the standards of the day on premium gasoline (17/24 by today’s standards).

Moving to the $18,549 SE added a five speed manual transmission (the four speed automatic was optional on the SE), four wheel disc brakes, wider wheels, and a spoiler, along with stiffer springs and sway bars. Inside, a moonroof, a Bose stereo, leather steering wheel, and white-faced gauges with black markings were all included. With the five speed, 0-60 mph came in a little under 9 seconds and fuel economy (also on premium gasoline) was 20 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (18/24 by today’s standards).

Options available for the Maxima included a sonar suspension system that adjusted damping based on road conditions, a fairly primitive heads-up display, and anti-lock brakes (SE only).

People seem to remember these cars with affection and I (and others) think the exterior styling has aged rather well, but I don’t see a lot of collecting, at least not yet. Nissan Maximas of this era only occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—you do see them a little more often on eBay Motors. Make mine my grandfather’s Winter Blue Metallic, please.

1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX

“Every move you make, every turn that you make confirms you are in the most technologically advanced Z car ever made.”

This Nissan/Datsun 300ZX is not the one with all the glamor—that 300ZX was the one that followed in the 1990s. For 1984, Nissan moved from the inline 6 of the 280ZX to two V6s, one naturally aspirated (160 bhp) and one turbocharged (200 bhp). The styling was completely and controversially revised for the first time in the history of the Z car—a massive revision akin to that of the Chevrolet Corvette for the same year. Base price was $15,800 for the base coupe and $18,200 for the turbo.

The 300ZX to have in 1984 was definitely the 50th Anniversary Edition (released to celebrate Nissan’s half-century) which was an absolutely loaded turbocharged model with a Light Pewter Metallic and Thunder Black color scheme. All Anniversary Editions came equipped with in-car 3-way electronically adjustable shocks, Bodysonic bass speakers in the seats (individually adjustable for driver and passenger from the console), mirror-finished t-tops, leather seats, sixteen-inch aluminum wheels, and flared front and rear fenders. Other equipment included a digital dash with MPG and compass readouts and steering wheel controls for the cruise control and the radio.

The only option available on the Anniversary Edition was the choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission.

1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition, courtesy of Mercennarius at the wikipedia project.

5,148 out of the 75,351 300ZXs produced for the US market were Anniversary Editions at a non-trivial list price of $26,000 (about $58,800 in 2014 dollars).

300ZXs make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though you have to be careful to check under both Datsun and Nissan. As I write this in November 2013, there’s a 50th Anniversary Edition with 86,000 miles for sale in Hemmings for $9,000.

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