JANUARY 18, 2018
SKYLINE 2000 GT-R TO SILVIA SPEC R AERO, AND BEYOND
The legacy of Nissan sports cars has been built over more than 50 years by more than 40 models. From the original Nissan Skyline to the modern GT-R, and the historical Fairlady Z to todays' 370Z, Nissan (formerly known as Datsun) has earned its reputation of being strong contenders on and off the track.
Known for their distinct styling and reputation for power and performance at a competitive price, the Nissan Z-Cars have made their mark on the global sports car industry. The history of the Z-Car has taken an exhilarating road from the Datsun 240Z and Fairlady Z in 1969, through the 80s with the 300ZX, and into tomorrow with the 2019 370Z®.
For more than 45 years Nissan (and its predecessor, the Datsun nameplate) and its Z-Car have been converting drivers into lifelong fans that extend across models and years. On the track, the original 240Z was popularized by the Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) and Bob Sharp Racing (BSR) Teams. By the mid-1980s, the 300ZX became the car of choice for Hollywood superstar and BSR racer Paul Newman, the star of films like Cool Hand Luke and The Hustler, whose performances behind the wheel are as legendary as those on the screen. The 300ZX partnered with another pair of Hollywood superstars in the 1987 film Blind Date, appearing throughout the film alongside stars Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger.
The 350Z has made appearances in number of films and television shows including Crank: High Voltage and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It can also be seen in several of the mega-successful Fast and Furious franchise movies including Fast & Furious in 2009 and Fast Five in 2011. A modified Fairlady Z33 (the Japanese name for the 350Z) is prominently featured in The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift as the ride of “The Drift King.”
Every year Datsun and Nissan Z enthusiasts and clubs from around the world celebrate the Z-Car at ZCON, an annual convention that was first held in 1987. ZCON is a celebration of all things Z whose success goes to show that the Nissan Z-Car are timeless classics that continue to excite even after they are no longer in production. Learn more about this year’s convention at the ZCON website.
The Z-Series began in late 1969 (for the 1970 model year) with the Nissan Fairlady Z in Japan and the Datsun 240Z in the US. Its introduction was the culmination of 3 years of research and design that successfully looked to create a modern-styled, two-seater 6-cylinder coupe for the North American market.
Launching in November of 1969, the Fairlady Z premiered the first generation of Z Cars in Japan. Manufactured for 9 years, the Fairlady Z earned international acclaim when it worked with its U.S. counterpart, the Datsun 240Z, to sell over 520,000 units – a record for sports cars within a single model.
The Datsun 240Z came in high demand when it arrived on American soil in 1971. 2 years after its Japanese counterpart hit the roads, the 240Z brought with it a win in the 19th East-African Safari Rally and a price tag more than $1,000 less than its Volvo, Chevrolet, and Jaguar competitors.
The next of the Datsun Z-Cars to launch was the 280Z in August 1978. The new styling attracted interest, featuring the traditional long nose and short deck blended with sharper lines and a grille-less front end for a unified look. The 280Z was available as Z-L and Z-T, the latter equipped with standard air conditioning, power windows, and aluminum wheels.
Ten years after the initial Z-Car release, the Datsun 280ZX was introduced. Resembling its predecessors' exteriors, the 1979 Z-Car sported a new chassis and a markedly luxurious interior. The 280ZX offered a spoiler and unique design of the race inspired ZX-R. In 1980, it added an available T-top roof that was commonplace by the end of the year.
The winning car of the 1985 All Japan Rally Championships, the Nissan 300ZX, was introduced to American markets in 1983. This third-generation Z (Z31) car brought with it standard air conditioning, leather upholstery, and offered an affordable entry point for sports car enthusiasts similar to its’ predecessors.
The fourth-generation model, 300ZX (Z32), was launched in July 1989 and remained in production until 1996. It was both bold and beautiful with its wide, low-proportioned styling, distinctive front mask featuring headlights slanted at over 60 degrees, a lively silhouette, and the short overhang that accentuated its excellent maneuverability.
The Nissan 350Z kicked off production for the 5th generation of Nissan Z-Cars in 2002 and ended the 6-year production hiatus in the US. Originally only made in a coupe, the 350Z roadster premiered for the 2004 model year. 350Z, with its’ sleek redesign of 240Z DNA, helped rejuvenate Nissan’s market presence going into the latter half of the decade.
Informed by historical Nissan Z-Cars, the Nissan 370Z available in coupe and roadster models brings the legendary Z into the future. The 6th-gen sports car began production in 2009 and remains in American markets as a staple of the Nissan brand even 10 years later. Join the Nissan Z-Car Legacy by finding your 370Z.