In Nissans early North American life they were known as Datsun, mainly a tactic by Nissan to separate the N American division from the parent company in the event of failure. In October of 1969 the Fairlady Z was brought to the US as the Datsun 240Z. With a 0-60 slightly faster than 8 seconds, but with a $3600 price tag it could outperform anything in its price range and compete with cars that couldn’t match the price. Within just a few short months the 240Z was out of stock everywhere and dealers couldn’t get them fast enough. A true sports car for the people, it was so affordable just about everyone could buy it and it was so reliable anyone could maintain it.
Nissan Z Heritage
In 1974 the 260Z would replace it, the 260Z had a larger engine but with an unfortunate drop in horsepower due to rising emissions standards. It did become considerable more comfortable and luxurious but that had the effect of moving it further away from its original market. It would, however, almost immediately be replaced in 1975 with the 280Z, a north American market only vehicle, which was primarily a facelifted 260Z after sales came in lower than expected.
In 1978 Nissan moved the Z platform even further in the direction of tourer away from sportster with the release of the 280ZX. Which was all new, except for the main drivetrain components, meaning due to the extra weight it got slower, again. Critics called it sluggish, which makes sense considering it now took 11 seconds for the 280ZX to make it from 0-60, and the price jumped quite a bit to almost $10,000 for the base model. Somewhat of a revival would occur in 1981 when a turbocharged version was offered, encouraging car and driver to call it the most sporting Z car since its release.
In 1983 Datsun retired along with the 280ZX for the new Nissan 300ZX. When it reached America in 1984 it introduced a new engine, a 3L V6 with a turbo option. The 300ZX was 80’s all the way, angular and boxy looking on the outsize with a teched out and still plus interior inside. Consumers loved it, the new 200 horsepower engine propelled it 0-60 in 7.3 seconds reaffirming its sport car heritage.
In 1990 the 300ZX would get a new chassis and be completely redesigned, this time being one of the first vehicles to be designed with CAD software. The new 300ZX would become an instant legend with a sleek and beautiful silhouette. On top of the looks Nissan stuffed a twin turbo 4 valve V6 capable of launching the car 0-60 in 5 seconds flat. An impressive feat for a heavier and even more luxurious Z than before. Nissan would even add a convertible option in 1993. However, with the continually increasing price and decreasing demand for sports cars, the Nissan was pulled from the North American market in 1996. Thus began the Z dark ages.
Nissan Z Dark Ages
In 2002 Nissan released the 350Z, it was much anticipated after multiple concepts and it truly lived up to the Z name. With a base price of $26,000 the 350Z made the Z car affordable once again, and a convertible option was added in 2004. Dropping the X from the name should not be mistaken as insignificant. The 350Z was back to Z car roots, dropping the luxury for a pure sport feel. This had an incredible effect on the Z car, it became so popular among amateurs and pros that NASA, national auto sports association, created a 350Z class for only 350Z’s to compete against each other.
In 2008 Nissan came out with the 370Z.
The Nissan 370Z was almost completely new from the previous 350Z. It was incredibly good looking and now had a massive 3.7L V6 under the hood, all while retaining its relative affordability. Keeping the Nissan 370Z in production to this day, it is however showing it’s age, and is no longer worth the $30,000 starting price especially when take into account that there is no turbo or high performance options like previous Z cars, learn more about what our readers had to say about the Nissan 370Z here. The Z car however is poised to change once again.
New Z Concept
Coming in this October Nissan will debut a concept for the next generation Z. All kinds of rumors are floating around from hybrid drivetrains to 400+ HP. All of which are incredibly enticing in many ways. The thing is, almost all of these rumors break from the Z’s true heritage, I’d rather see a Z car that has a strong and reliable V6 with a turbo option and a car that is light as a feather, skipping on the luxuries of ultra-modern cars. The Z need to go back to its heritage and reclaim the spot as an incredible introductory sport car from the BRZ and Miata. To me heritage is the key to keeping a name like Z alive. Give the GTR a hybrid drivetrain, for over $100,000 that’s what I would want, but for a Z? No way. Simple and pure, invite the aftermarket to go wild and these things will fly off the lot.
What do you think the new Z car should be and what do you think it will be?