Pages of history. Nissan Z-series sports cars are 50 years old
Pages of history. Nissan Z-series sports cars are 50 years old

Pages of history. Nissan Z-series sports cars are 50 years old

In October 1969, Nissan introduced the Fairlady Z sports coupe. The car was exported to the European and U.S. markets as the Datsun 240Z and caused a revolution in the sports car segment. A good, affordable, reliable sports car from Japan that could also be used on a daily basis, which was unheard of at the time.

Lady in Zet. Datsun 240Z, Fairlady Z


The design of this handsome, stately Japanese sports car is often attributed to the German Albrecht Goertz, who had something to do with creating the coupe. But in fact it was Nissan’s own designer, Kumeo Tamura, who officially owns the design rights to the Fairlady Z or 240Z.

Datsun 240Z

Yutaka Katayama, president of Nissan’s American division, was obsessed with British classic cars. This couldn’t help but affect the alphanumeric designation of the models as well. The numbers stood for engine displacement, and the letter Z…

Katayama himself said that “zet” can mean a lot of things in different languages, for example, zenith. And it sounds very good in any language, zzzzzzzzz-et.

Datsun 240Z
Yutaki Katayama lived to be 105 and died in 2005

Albrecht von Goertz was a German count who emigrated to America, soon joined Studebaker and became an independent designer from 1952. Goertz designed the BMW 507 and was involved in creating models for other car manufacturers. Between 1963 and 1965, he designed a sports car for Nissan, but the company’s management didn’t like his design. It was the Nissan Silvia Coupe CSP310, unveiled at the 1964 Tokyo Auto Show. Here it is.

Nissan Silvia Coupe CSP310
Nissan Silvia Coupe CSP310

In truth, the influence of von Gertz on the design of the Japanese coupe can be disputed, but it is up to automotive historians to dot the i’s in this saga.

After that, Nissan’s design department began to develop the body of the two-liter sports car on its own. It appeared in 1969 as the Nissan Fairlady Z in Japan and as the Datsun 240Z in other markets. For years there was a debate as to who designed the car. It wasn’t until the eighties that Nissan ended the discussion with an official letter to Hertz. Nissan stated that the 240Z was not designed by Hertz, but by Nissan’s own designers.

Datsun 240Z

At any rate, the Datsun 240Z was a hit, selling more than 40,000 units in 1970. The two-seat coupe with a third door had a compartment body and was equipped with a 2.4-liter inline six-cylinder engine and independent suspension of all wheels. The price played a significant role. The car cost $3526, which was almost nothing compared to the coupe from Europe. Until 1973, Nissan sold more than 156,000 copies of the 240Z.

A Ferrari for the Poor


In 1973, Nissan replaced the 240Z with the 260Z, which, as the name implies, had a 2.6-liter engine. The 260Z units were later used to build a version with a longer body (plus 300 mm) with a rear seat. The 280Z was introduced exclusively to the American market in 1975, with a larger engine. Production of the Datsun sports car ended in 1978.

Datsun 280Z

The successor was the 280ZX, which was produced from 1978 to 1983. The car still looked like its predecessor, but only the 2.8-liter engine (97 kW/132 hp and 195 N∙m) and a five-speed transmission were taken from the previous model.

The car was slightly larger and more luxurious, from 1980 it was available in a targa body, and from 1981 it received a turbocharger. With options such as leather-upholstered sports seats and a hi-fi audio system, the Nissan sports car moved further and further away from the principle of a sporty and economical coupe that the Datsun 240Z originally was.

Datsun 280ZXIn 1984 came the all-new Z-car 300ZX with a new 3.0-liter V6 engine, un-supercharged (125 kW/170 hp) and turbocharged (168 kW / 228 hp), in a shorter 4410 mm and a longer 4610 mm version. This third-generation Nissan Z-series had a more utilitarian design, looked less flashy than before, and was again given more luxury options. It had better traction, more power improved dynamics, but it was now more Gran Turismo than a lightweight coupe.


In 1986 and 1987 the car was constantly updated, with wider wheel arches, body-color bumpers and other exterior and technical changes. During the same period, the company stopped using the Datsun brand name, so that the new Z-cars were already branded as Nissan.

In 1990 came the second generation of the 300ZX, or fourth generation of the Z-series. The coupe was completely redesigned and equipped with a three-liter V6, now with a 24-valve head. Among other things, the twin-turbo version has been fitted with a full chassis. The 300ZX generation also appeared as a roadster in Japan and America in 1993. Nissan discontinued production of the 300ZX in early 2000.

In 2003, after several years without a Z-series, the Nissan 350Z was introduced. This all-new Z was based on Nissan’s revolutionary FM (Front Midship – with front but shifted engine location to the rear) platform. As the type name suggests, the 350Z was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with 211 kW (287 hp) and 370 N∙m of torque. Since 2005, an upgraded version of this engine produced 220 kW (300 hp) and 353 N∙m. And in 2005, the output was increased to 306 hp. In 2004, Nissan introduced a convertible version of the 350Z.

Nissan 350Z

In 2009, Nissan increased the engine capacity of the 350Z to 3.7 liters and therefore changed its name to the 370Z. Not only the power has changed, but also the design has changed, which is reflected in a more sloping stern. A year later, the 370Z-powered roadster was introduced.

Nissan 370Z
370Z 50th Anniversary Edition, which was released in the fall of 2019

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