This is not some random sports car I am obsessed with (there are plenty of those). Instead, there’s a real story behind this infatuation.
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: This is Unc’s Z. Not mine, not my fathers, but Unc’s.
See, I’m getting ahead of myself already.
In the 1980s, my Uncle Robert bought several Nissan Z cars and my parents brought me into this world. Uncle Robert started in 1970 with the Datsun 240Z, skipped the 260Z, and then bought one of the first 280Zs produced, in 1975. He continued to drive Z cars (as they developed) as summer cars.
In fact, we became a “Datsun/Nissan” family, as a 610 wagon and then several Maximas joined the “Feder Fleet.” Fast forward to 1989, when my Uncle Robert special-ordered a blue-on-blue 1990 Nissan 300ZX. He ordered it with every option and waited for his new baby to be built and shipped to the local Datsun (later Nissan) dealership, FM Auto Mart in Fargo, ND.
Many ask me why this car is not a twin-turbo. In fact some have pooh-poohed it for not being one. My uncle wasn’t after pure speed; he planned to use it as a grand tourer. Thus he chose the 2+2 configuration for its longer wheelbase, with the small rear seats for nieces and nephews. I was one of those nephews.
My uncle was a successful attorney. He fought for what was right, and fought for justice. He was well respected and I looked up to him like no one’s business. He was the definition of ”excellence” in every way. After losing a battle against cancer in 1997, his passing left a void in all of us, as well as the community.
He drove the 300ZX only during the summer months and stored it during the winter under the OEM car cover. Most of the miles were put on by going between his house in Fargo and his cottage in Detroit Lakes, MN, a 45-minute highway drive.
When Uncle Robert passed in 1997, his 300ZX had a little more than 38,000 miles. During the next 11 years, my aunt put a mere 4,000 miles put on the car. The rest of the time, it sat in storage, just as my uncle had left it.
Why Unc’s Z? When my older cousins were children and just learning to talk, they couldn’t say “Uncle Robert” at first, and it was then that he became “Unc.” To an extent, my “Uncle Robert” was somewhat larger than life to all of us, and that’s how he became “Unc”
My father and my Uncle Jerry installed a new Interstate battery and pumped up the tires. When the original titanium key (yes, The 1990 300ZX came with a titanium key) was inserted, the injectors pressurized and the car fired instantly. No cranking required, just ignition, and it was running.
We had most of the rubber in the engine checked or replaced to insure against problems, and we had the timing belt changed. The wiring harness looked like new, so we decided not to pull the engine. We had the rest of the car’s drivetrain checked to make sure it was mechanically safe and sound.
All the fluids were flushed; they came out sparkling clean, except that the coolant was dirty, so we spent extra time flushing the cooling system. Red Line fluid was installed in the transmission and differential, along with blue racing brake fluid.
The car is mostly stock with the exception of a few tasteful upgrades such as HID headlights, and upgraded brake lines.
I have memories of riding in that tiny back seat with my uncle to the local store to get the newspaper. I remember watching my uncle hand-wash the car up north at the cottage. I remember my uncle’s love for his Z.
Almost everything is original, though there was an, ahem, incident a few years before my father bought the car. My aunt drove it to the cottage one weekend and a huge storm rolled through. Before anyone could move the car to safety, a branch fell onto the hood. It wasn’t ruined, but the hood definitely suffered minor damage, which we had repaired and repainted. Except for the hood, the paint is factory-original.
The original front brake rotors and pads were just replaced in 2010, as they had finally worn out.
There are now three blue-on-blue 1990 300ZXs in the Feder family. No, I’m not joking. My other uncle bought and restored two cars that are now duplicates of Unc’s. He gave one to my cousin and he still has the other one.
We try not to drive the car in the rain unless necessary, and it is not driven during the winter. This past summer Unc’s Z clicked over 52,000 miles. The engine compression is still at factory specs and the car drives terrific. With only a few thousand miles put on a year (if that) I can only hope the car will last long enough for me to hand down to my son.
As many of you know, I now live in Portland. The car does still live in Minneapolis with my father. After some intense discussion, it was determined it was best if the car stayed in Minneapolis for now.
I have a ridiculous emotional attachment to this car. Karen and I drove away from our wedding in this car. The license plates and floor mats say “Uncs Z” (yes, we still have the factory blue “Z” mats, in perfect condition, in storage). This always has been, and always will be Unc’s Z. I think of him every time I drive it.
This isn’t just another sports car. It’s not the fastest thing in the world, it’s not the lightest thing in the world, but it is Unc’s car—and that’s something you can’t put a price on.