1983 Datsun 280ZX

The ZX of Doom

Nino Karotta acquires a splendid new Datsun 280ZX for peanuts.

People surround Nino Karotta’s new Datsun 280ZX

Two people fixing a broken-down BMW with the Hungarian Parliament as a backdrop

“If you perform a search for used Datsun Z’s,” Nino Karotta says in the stuffy, booming cabin of the car trailer, “the cheapest ones are listed for about a hundred thousand Hungarian forints (600–700 U.S. dollars). Were you to look at the attached photos, you would find that such cars are not happy sights to behold.”

As we pick our way through the afternoon congestion, passing a remarkable string of broken-down cars, he adds:

“The 280ZX I am about to buy is listed without a picture.”

The village of Sóskút sits nestled below a rock mine on the outskirts of Budapest. We arrive at six-thirty, light already leeching out of the April sky. The only road into the valley is a precarious, sloping affair. Tom, our driver, decides to leave the truck on the hilltop. We clamber out of the cabin.

The ZX’s owner approaches. We follow him down the dirt road to his house to see for the first time his magnificent example of Japanese engineering.

Nino Karotta’s new Datsun 280ZX surrounded by people

The front yard is littered with trash, construction debris and a Datsun 280ZX, somewhat offset by an apricot tree in bloom. We shuffle about, vaguely uncomfortable.

One of the wheels on Nino Karotta’s new Datsun 280ZX

“I used to work as a salesman and the ZX was my daily driver,” the owner says. “Five years ago, I parked it here,” and he points to a dying patch of weedy lawn. “I used to fire the engine up every year or so.”

Parked on tires which have begun merging with the earth, discarded circuit boards for company, the Datsun sits twenty feet from its previous spot. The owner claims the car had moved there under its own power.

Stranger things have been seen by man, I suppose.

One unused to abandoned, hopeless Datsuns might at this point decide to run for one’s life and sanity, but Nino Karotta has seen his share of rust. His lovely white Datsun Gloria—which you may have seen leave its garage in this video—hadn’t exactly been a prom queen either at purchase. Besides, he has no plans to restore this car: it is meant as a donor vehicle for his 260Z, about to be transformed into a mean road racer.

He says the straight six engine could be scavenged. The transmission, too.

Tom motions me over for a quick word in private. “The state this car is in, the guy should pay and thank us to tow it from his property.”

I open the passenger door. It is musty and damp inside, littered with chewed-up bits of trash.

“Squirrels,” the owner says.

“How do you know?” I reply.

“Walnut shells dropped on the ground. They had made their home in the engine bay.”

Nino proceeds to buy the car.

Tom fetches the truck, only to find that front-wheel drive and a Datsun stuck in the earth on deflated tires equal wheelspin. A neighbor drives up in a 4×4 and hooks the car up. The Datsun begins to inch out of its neglected home for the last time.

People surround Nino Karotta’s new Datsun 280ZX

Up on the hill, the ZX is detached from the 4×4. The heavy car is proving the be a bitch to load on the trailer bed. Men keep trickling in from the village to lend a hand. Kids follow. Then wives.

After ninety minutes of heaving and winching, the ZX is trailered and ready.

We say our goodbyes. Sóskút recedes in the rearview mirror.

Nino Karotta stared transfixed into the engine bay of his new Datsun 280ZX

“Did you pay actual money for your new Datsun?” I ask.


“Let me guess—ninety thousand?” Tom offers a counterpoint:

“I sincerely hope no more than fifty.”

“It was originally listed for three hundred thousand,” Nino begins and we burst out laughing. “He had reduced that to one fifty. I offered him fifty. And we agreed on—”

Tom and I prepare for the worst.

“—seventy-nine thousand forints.”

The three of us crack up.

“Why seventy-nine?” I ask.

“I so didn’t want to pay eighty thousand.”

As we prepare to stop for food and gas, he adds:

“If the engine and the transmission are fine, it’s not such a bad deal.”

Not to mention the potential for squirrel jerky production.

People surround Nino Karotta’s new Datsun 280ZX

Published on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008


Good buy. Squirrels and a car… Squirrels are cool though

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

By omm:

79 000 is really not a bad price for the working engine and the transmission. if it really works.
but, correct me if i wrong, Nino buy an RB25 for the Z, so what he want’s to do with this one?
anyway, the Z still remains a hell of a car, even with squirrels and rust.
keep up the good work chaps!

oh, btw: what the fuck happend with Nino’s hair???

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

By edington:

A good ZX is never bad. Inluded nuts also.
Maybe you now it, but if you don’t, let me intoduce the 1980 Datsun 280ZX 10th Anniversary Edition commercial. via jalopnik


Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

so what he want’s to do with this one?

This was for a previos version of the restoration project. He won’t be using the engine, but may scavenge bits and pieces.

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

By miluman:

good old Datsuns, its a pity that it will be only a donor…

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

By omm:

be realistic, it’s nearly impossible to fix that car.
but maybe it lives on in a new one.
hope he can make it :)

OP: thx

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

By baowah:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uiYp8xKjLM – Squirrel Nut Zippers
and of course the datsuns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWVxGFIpPB8

but where are my bilsteins for my panda, arghh ? :)

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

By nak:

i feel so sorry about that nice datsun, however, the awesome photostory makes me feel better, i love these shots especially:


Posted on Friday, July 4th, 2008

By rognork:

it’s not necessary to fix that car but save for the future. every bits are too important to throw them out. i think without having this 280 he could manage his original project with the – almost – brand new engine. to have a perfect body nobody can imagine an old car as a donor. so i cannot see any other future.

Posted on Friday, July 4th, 2008

By vese ferenc:

… there is one also in the neighborhood ;)


Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2008

By omm:

yeah ferenc.

it s there since 2006.
i m already sent that to karotta, but he sais “it s hopeless”.
maybe not, but take in mind, that those photos are 3 years old now :)

Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Edington, thanks for linking that ad! Just watch that check panel! The colors, the macho porn-king with bristle-like moustache, grabbing the gear-lever the way only a real man can do… Karotta, get a moustache! And maybe you should put on the wig you wore as Michael Knight…
Anyway, this particular car does not look hopeless, it might be restored, but of course pictures do not let you see everything. But the price is just right, no matter if it’s a donor or a project car, the parts you can use from it are worth more, a lot more than 79.000,- Good Hungarian Forints(if you buy them at the scrap yard, or on e-bay, or anywhere else, not to mention shipping costs, etc.) And when you need a single screw or bolt, or just want to check something, all you have to do is go to the car, and your problem is solved.

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2008

By Zsolt Csikós:

That last pic about the Datsun. Maaaaan…


Posted on Sunday, July 13th, 2008

By EM:

Salesman, yeahh! What a life this car had before…
I guess the black and white pohotos help a lot to show up a better face, better condition than the reality is. I mean it’s not look that bad regarding to your pictures.
Anything can happen with this car in the future that’s already better than to be eaten by rust on a sealsman’s yard. Karotta has a plan and saved a “life”. That’s it.

Posted on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

By oPal:

It’s not the Devil’s Z but I’m sad, and feel pity for this lady :S

Posted on Thursday, July 24th, 2008