The Japanese car industry has long been known for its unique take on motor manufacturing. Small kei cars are synonymous with the country, though Japan has evolved into a world leader in the automotive field. Over time, Japanese manufacturers learned how to adapt to the western market, developing vehicles that had beauty and high performance. Perhaps the best known example of this kind of car is the Nissan Fairlady Z. We’re looking into the development of the car to see what made it so important.
A step towards greatness
Nissan started out as a small manufacturer when it entered the international market in the 1960s. The company partnered with Yamaha to update the Nissan Fairlady. Executives wanted a halo car that would improve Nissan’s standing in the eyes of its customers. But by 1964 Nissan scrapped the project because the Yamaha DOHC engine wasn’t meeting expectations.
President of Nissan USA, Yutaka Katayama understood the significance of an international sports car that was affordable. The American version of the car, the Datsun 240Z, was released in 1969. It came with a 2.4-litre inline-six engine, which produced 151 hp. The car had a sporty look that went over well with the public and 45,000 Datsuns were sold in the first year.
The Datsun continued to sell well, leading to an updated model coming out in 1974 called the 260Z. This version came with a 2.6-litre engine and 2+2 body.
Second generation and more
By 1975, the second generation of the Nissan had been released. Badged as the 280ZX, the new car had more luxurious features than the previous model, including climate control, two toned paint, gold alloy wheels and leather seats. The 280ZX sold over 86,000 units and earned the distinction of the 1979 Import Car of the Year by Motor Trends. This version favoured looks over performance.
The third iteration involved a complete redesign. Released in 1984, Nissan revamped the 300ZX to include a 3.0-litre V6 engine. It came with razor-edge styling and pop up headlights. The 300ZX became the second most popular Z car in history, selling over 70,000 units.
In 1990, the fourth generation was released, with it featuring major changes in terms of style and power. Not only did the car look impressive, it could output 220 hp.
The Z car will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest cars of all time.