My Barnfind: One Mint Condition Nissan 300ZX 2+2

Every “car guy” dreams of a barnfind. I found mine.

The backstory

The first owner of this 1991 Nissan 300 ZX 2+2 received it as a gift from her husband, a physician, on her 60th birthday. She drove it for 2 years before she was unable to drive any longer, and parked it in a garage on her property. It sat in the garage until after she passed away. That was approximately 6 years.

The guy I bought it from was the second owner. Don was also in his 60s and was a local Nissan collector. When the first owner’s son was liquidating her estate, he contacted the Don to come over and give him an idea of what, if anything, the car was worth.

Don ended up buying it on the spot.

Don cleaned the car up. Nothing major. Just making it serviceable after sitting for so many years. He replaced all the hoses, the tires, and the fuel rails. He clay-blocked the car. And then he gave it to his wife for her 65th birthday. She drove it a bit and then parked the car. She felt it was “too nice” and she preferred driving her Saab convertible. Don took the car out for a drive around the block once a week to keep everything in working order. After a while, he wanted some space in the garage for another car, and he put it up for sale.

I’d wanted a 300ZX forever. Or at least since the first time I’d laid eyes on one. I’d been casually looking for about 5 years and then one day, this 300 ZX 2+2 popped up on Hemmings. The ad said it had been discovered in a barn in Oregon sometime in 2012 with a mere 18K miles on it as part of an estate sale.

The ad got my attention.

A barnfind like this doesn’t show up every day

I called Don. Several times. He sent me copies of all the service records (which, by the way, is critical when you’re evaluating a car that’s 3,000 miles away from you). After about a month of negotiating, I finally decided to pull the trigger. I put up an ad for my NA Miata on Friday, sold it on Sunday afternoon.

The sale of the Miata went smoothly – except for the point where my wife overheard the conversation about selling the Miata.  I’d neglected to tell her it was for sale. Oops. Anyway, by Tuesday morning, I was on a plane to Portland, Oregon, certified check in hand, to pick up my 300ZX.

My first look

Don picked me up at airport, and we drove about 45 minutes to his place in the country.  I’d seen the photos and I pretty much knew that I was going to love the car regardless of what I saw at Don’s place, but I wasn’t prepared for the actual unveiling.

First glimpse: The cover coming off of my 25 yr old 1991 Nissan 300ZX 2+2 with 28K miles

The car was brand new.  Not “like” brand new.  Brand new. It had 28,600 miles on it but this car had never been in the rain. It had never been smoked in. It had never even been in an automatic car wash. In fact, no one had ever even sat in the passengers seat until Don brought it home for his wife. To say it was immaculate would be an understatement.  It was as close to brand new as a car that age could be.

And it was mine.

Since the ZX was bigger than the Miata and had 2 rear seats for the dogs (both things my wife didn’t like about the Miata) I reasoned that my wife would like it. Or maybe I convinced myself that she would like it. Either way, I was wrong.

To be fair, her opinion probably had something to do with the fact that I didn’t tell her I was planning to buy the car and drive it home. She thought I was only flying out there to look at it. She found out about my cross country drive when she called me the day she thought I was coming home to ask what time my flight was landing.

“I’m not sure – I’m in Boise.”

My wife didn’t see the humor, and didn’t speak to me until 4 days later when I got home. Despite that, I thought she’d come around. I was wrong again. My wife actually liked the 300ZX less than the Miata. She rode in it one or two times and that was enough for her.

First place, Japanese Marques, Sunday in the Park Car Show at Lime Rock Park
My favorite trophy. 1st place, Japanese Marques, Sunday in the Park at Lime Rock. Got the award from Bob Sharpe personally.

I loved that car. It took 1st place in each of the four Concours events I entered it in.

Sadly, the love affair with my 300ZX didn’t last.

The thing about a show car like that is that it is so nice you’re afraid to drive it. At least I was. And track it? Out of the question. I was constantly worried that someone would bang their door into it, or that a rock would fly up from the highway, or that a bird would drop a kidney stone on it. (Do birds even have kidney stones?). Anyway, I missed taking the car to the track, and after about 18 months I put it up for sale.

I didn’t really want to sell it, so I asked way too much money for it. After about 3 months of lukewarm interest, a guy from Boston called me on the phone and asked if I still had it. I was sure he was going to offer me less than what I was asking, but his only question was, “Did I have all the service records?” When I told him I did, he bought it sight unseen. Paid my full asking price. It turned out that the guy was a mechanic who had worked for Briggs Cunningham in the ‘60’s. He wanted an Arctic White 300ZX 2+2 to go with his other two Arctic White 300ZX’s (a slick top non 2+2 turbo and a convertible).

I wanted something else that I could drive with out worrying about it.  And what kind of car is that?  Why a Miata, of course. Remember what they say: Miata Is Always The Answer.

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