The best-known sports car series from Nisan is the Z car. The first ever Z car was sold as the Nissan Fairlady Z in Japan in 1969. This export was known as the Datsun 240Z in other markets. It was eventually sold in various names and models, including the 260Z, 280Z, 300ZX, 350Z, and 370Z. Sports car enthusiasts had great things to say about this series. Most people loved its reliability and performance. It also had the looks of a real sports car even if it was sold at a lower sticker price compared to its American and European counterparts. With its undeniable charm and irresistible appeal, Nissans Z became one of the top-selling sports car series in the world, with millions of units sold.
1960s: How the Nissan 240Z was conceived
When Nissan entered the international market in the '60s, it was just a small automaker. To come up with a sports car prototype, it worked with Yamaha for updating the Nissan Fairlady. People from Nissan saw the big potential from this project and hoped they could enhance the company's image and branding through the prototype. However, when Yamaha presented the DOHC 2.0L engine, Nissan had to cancel the project, thinking that the engine didn't meet its initial requirements. The completed prototype of Yamaha was then presented to Toyota, which used the design for its 2000GT.
However, even with the failed attempt for a sports car prototype with Yamaha, a new sports car model from Nissan still found its way into the market, thanks to then Nissan USA president Yutaka Katayama and his vision to create a more affordable sports car. Back then, Nissan had already produced a range of Fairlady roadsters that rivaled English and Italian roadsters. And soon, a new line of GT cars was conceptualized. The lineup would feature stylish cars that would run fast and still be innovative. However, they would be inexpensive compared to their counterparts. This plan was made possible through the use of interchangeable parts with other Nissan vehicles. With the automaker's engineering experience and product development expertise, the Nissan 240Z design project was born.
Sales of the original Z car started in 1969 for the 1970 model year. Two versions were released. One was for the Japanese market and the other for the US market. While the Japanese Fairlady Z came equipped with an SOHC L20A inline-6 engine, the US version 240Z was powered by a 2.4L inline-6 with twin Hitachi SU-type carburetors that could produce up to 151 hp.
1999: What the Nissan 240Z Concept was all about
In the US, the Z car had to go on hiatus from 1997 to 2002 as the Japanese automaker shifted its focus on SUVs and dealt with some financial crisis. Later on, Nissan thought of purchasing and restoring the original 240Z in 1998. These would then be resold at dealerships. The 240Z Concept was later unveiled at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. The concept car was designed as a bright orange two-seater. It had a classic swept-back styling and came equipped with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder KA24DE engine that could generate 200 bhp and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. However, the running concept was not deemed a fit successor to the line.