The Z31 chassis designation was first introduced in 1983 as a 1984 model and the third-generation Datsun/Nissan Z-car. The car was designated as a Datsun/Nissan 300ZX in its 1984 premiere, but the Datsun badge was dropped in 1985 when Nissan standardised their brand name worldwide. The car was designed by Kazumasu Takagi and his team of developers, and featured a new, more aerodynamic body than its 280ZX predecessor. It also had a more powerful line-up of V6 engines instead of the old I6 used in the 280ZX. According to Nissan, "the V6 engine was supposed to re-create the spirit of the original Fairlady Z." (Datsun 280 Nissan 300ZX, p.65) This new V6 (2960 cc) SOHC engine was available as a naturally-aspirated VG30E or a turbocharged VG30ET producing 160 and 200 horsepower respectively. The engines were either a type A or type B series engine from 1984-1986 and later a W series from 1987-1989 which produced 165 and 205 horsepower. On the home market, the list of models included the 3-litre 300ZX and the 2-litre Z, ZG, ZR, and ZR II spec. The 300ZX in Japan was not subject to tough emissions regulations as in the US therefore producing 230 horsepower . The 2-litre models used either a VG20ET or RB20ET engine and developed between 170-180 horsepower . This was to, "make the most of the local taxation laws." (Datsun 280 Nissan 300ZX, p.69) The chassis remained somewhat similar to the 280ZX, with the same 91.3 in (2319 mm) wheelbase and MacPherson strut/trailing arm independent suspension, however the 300ZX both handled and accelerated better than the 280ZX it replaced. All turbo charged models (except for the SS special edition) featured 3-way electronically adjustable shock absorbers. There were also two special models produced. In 1984, the 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition was released in celebration of the company's 50th anniversary. In 1988 Nissan released a pearl white 300ZX "Shiro Special" (SS) with stiffer springs, matched shocks and no available options. There were no stellar differences setting the SS apart from a regular 1988 model 300ZX Turbo except for the pearl white paint, front air dam, wheels, Recaro seats, suspension and a viscous limited-slip differential in place of the clutch type. Due to its quickly aging design, the Z31 body was slightly restyled in 1986 with the addition of side skirts, and removal of the hood scoop for a much smoother look. The old fiberglass spoiler was replaced with a more durable plastic one, and a third brake-light was incorporated within the unit for safety. The car was given a final makeover in 1987 that included more aerodynamic bumpers, fog lamps within the front air dam, and replacement of the sealed beam style headlights with more modern 9004 bulb based lights. The "300ZX" reflector in the rear was replaced by a narrow set of tail lights running the entire width of the car, and a 3rd brake-light located on the top of the rear hatch. A few minor engine changes were made which consisted of a smaller T25 turbocharger, a compression ratio of 8.3:1, and an R200 limited slip differential for quick response. The car continued selling until 1989 and sold more than any other Z car made to date with over 70,000 units sold in 1985 alone. In 1990, Nissan replaced this very successful car with the Z32, and was a complete redesign version of the Z31. It was also called the 300ZX because it retained the 3-litre engine and 2960 cc displacement.
In 1984 to 1985 showroom stock racing, the 300ZX (Z31) was a potent competitor and captured wins on numerous occasions. The car scored their only Trans Am win in 1986 at Lyme Rock by Paul Newman for Bob Sharp Racing From 1985 to 1987, the Electramotive-developed GTP ZX-Turbo was raced in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) GTP class using a Lola T810 Chassis and a production-based VG30ET engine. A series of crashes attributed to tire blowouts combined with difficulty of working on the T810 chassis caused less than stellar performance both seasons. From 1988 to 1989, the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo dominated in IMSA GTP racing. Additional factory endorsement, combined with a new chassis, gearbox and more reliable Goodyear tires contributed to the team's success. The new Electramotive (later to become NPTI) chassis was easier to work on, more robust and technically superior to the T810. The VG30ET was making upwards of 800 hp, with a power band that extended from 4000 to 9000 rpm. From 1990 to 1995, the 300ZX (Z32), who was campaigned by Clayton Cunningham Racing was championed by Steve Millen in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and its GT and GTS classes. He was ranked as the #1 Factory Driver for Nissan for 7 years, as well as two IMSA GTS Driving Championships and two IMSA GTS Manufacturer's Championships.