This is an original 1977 Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition, just 1,000 were made and it might have been the first car in history that was co-released with a branded video game to help promote it – the arcade game was called Datsun 280 ZZZAP.
The Z Series Datsuns, starting with the 240Z and followed by the 260Z and 280Z had become the darlings of the affordable sports car world by the late-1970s. For 1977 Datsun decided to spice things up a little, and so they released the limited edition Datsun 280Z ZZZAP.
Fast Facts – The Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition
- The Datsun 280Z was released in 1975 and sold until 1978, it was the successor to the Datsun 260Z which was itself the successor to the 240Z. The model number of the cars indicated their engine displacement, the 240Z was powered by a 2.4 liter engine, the 260Z by a 2.6 liter, and the 280Z by a 2.8 liter.
- Much like its predecessors, the 280Z featured elegant styling that was said to have been influenced by the Jaguar E-Type and the Porsche 911.
- The car was built on a steel unibody platform, with independent front and rear suspension, and power was provided by a straight-six with a single overhead cam sending power back to the rear wheels.
- The Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition was a limited edition car, with just 1,000 made. It was essentially little more than a decal package but the really interesting thing about it was that Datsun paired it with a driving video game called “Datsun 280 ZZZAP.”
The Importance Of The Datsun Z Series
There can be little argument that the Datsun Z Series is one of the most important families of cars in Japanese automotive history. When the Datsun 240Z was first released in 1969 much of the world still viewed Japanese cars as an unknown entity, but just ten years later this had all changed – the affordable, fun, and well-built Datsun Z Series sports cars had worked their magic, sold in vast numbers, and helped establish Japan as a major automotive manufacturing powerhouse.
Of course, there were more cars that helped with establishing Japan in the eyes of the car buying public, but the 240Z and its descendants were among the most significant.
When the 240Z was released in 1969 it was targeted directly at the MGB, in fact the price was just $200 different, yet the Datsun offered more power, more speed, and more up-to-date styling.
The car is said to have been strongly influenced by the Jaguar E-Type and the Porsche 911, both wildly popular sports cars in the late 1960s when the vehicle was being developed in Japan by the team at Nissan’s Sports Car Styling Studio headed up by Yoshihiko Matsuo.
The original idea for the 240Z is said to have come from Yutaka Katayama, the President of Nissan Motor Corporation U.S.A., who saw the potential for an affordable sports car to sell in vast numbers both in the United States and in western markets around the world.
As it turns out, Katayama was on the money. The 240Z sold out almost instantly and long waitlists began to form. Here was a new sports car with impeccable styling, independent four wheel suspension, sharp handling, and a 2.4 liter straight-six with a single overhead cam offering 151 bhp at 5,600 rpm and 146 lb ft at 4,400 rpm – good figures for the time.
The Z Series model family became so iconic that it remained in production in a variety of forms from 1969 through to the year 2000. It was then brought back in 2002 when the Nissan 350Z was released to broad public excitement.
More recently the Nissan Z (RZ34) was unveiled in 2020, with styling cues taken directly from the original Datsun Z cars – the 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z.
The Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition
The Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition was released for 1977 as a limited edition model, just a 1,000 were offered and they all sold quickly.
While special edition cars with performance enhancements can often be highly desirable the 280Z ZZZAP Edition was more of a decal special. The drivetrain was entirely stock, but the car did come in bright Sunburst Yellow paint, with some cool decals and rear window louvres.
“Decal Specials” are nothing new, manufacturers have been using the concept for decades to sell cars, inflate prices, and generate a little additional interest in a model line.
What was special about the Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition was that it might have been the first time in history that a car was paired with a video game for promotional purposes.
The Datsun 280 ZZZAP Arcade Game
The game was originally called Midnight Racer, it was an arcade game released by Midway Manufacturing and designed by Jamie Fenton. It’s not known exactly how, but Datsun and Midway got to talking, and a branded partnership was launched – they rebranded Midnight Racer to Datsun 280 ZZZAP and used it to showcase the new limited edition version of the car.
1976 was well before the time that most people had gaming consoles in their homes. The world’s first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, had only been released in 1972. Atari’s Home Pong console would appear in 1975, this was the console many from this era recall playing for the first time.
Due to the fact that playing video games at home was still an idea in its infancy most people played games in video arcades on classic arcade cabinet-style machines.
Kids would pump quarters into these machines just as fast as their parents earned them, and any new game machine arriving at the local arcade would be greeted with much enthusiasm, as people competed to see if they could achieve local fame by getting their name at the top of the “High Scores” list.
The Datsun 280 ZZZAP arcade game featured the same incredibly simple graphics as other games from the era, as you would expect, and game play centered around piloting your Datsun along a road at night at speed of up to 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) all while watching out for sharp turns, aggressive competitors, and the countdown clock to the next checkpoint.
Today the Datsun 280 ZZZAP arcade game is largely lost to history, though there are a few surviving examples of the Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition still around – though far fewer than the 1,000 originally made.
The 1977 Datsun 280Z ZZZAP Edition Shown Here
The car you see here is the finest of the small number of Datsun 280 ZZZAPs we’ve seen come up for sale over the past few years – likely as it’s been through a restoration.
The car is an original Datsun 280 ZZZAP according to the seller, it’s wearing code 411 Sunburst Yellow with all the correct decals applied in the right locations – one on either side and a stripe that runs from the hood over the roof and down the rear.
It also has the correct rear window louvers fitted. Inside the car you’ll find a black vinyl upholstery and black carpeting as far as the eye can see, all appearing to be in good condition. Power is provided by the correct fuel-injected 2.8 liter L28 inline 6-cylinder engine which should be producing somewhere in the region of 170 bhp at 5,600 rpm and 177 lb ft at 4,400 rpm – the numbers it made when new from the factory.
Power is sent back through a 5-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels, and the car is fitted with power disc brakes up front with drums in the rear.
If you’d like to read more about this car or register to bid you can visit the listing here on Mecum. It’s due to roll across the block with them in mid-August with a price guide of $50,000 – $75,000 USD.
Images courtesy of Mecum
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.