In the world of sports cars, the Z car would have to be Nissan’s most popular bid. This series of sports car has earned the respect of car lovers around the world. Its charm comes from its modest good looks, reliability, dependable performance, and attractive sticker price for a sports car. With over 2 million units sold, the Nissan Z car is among the top selling sports car series. Z cars sold in Japan are known as the Fairlady Z, while those sold in other markets are known as 240Z, 260Z, 280Z, 280ZX, 300ZX, 350Z, and 370Z. The Nissan 280Z was introduced in 1975 under the first-generation S30 in North America. It’s through the 280Z, and other models and generations of the Z car, that the US has come to love a Japanese sports car. In the racetrack, first generation Zs, including the 280Z, enjoyed great success. They won SCCA/IMSA championships and had successful rally and baja races.
1969: The arrival of the Z car
The sales of the first Z car began in 1969 for the 1970 model year. Back in the 1960s, Nissan was a small player in the international automotive market. It forged partnership with Yamaha for the design of a sports car prototype that would be an upgraded version of the Nissan Fairlady. Unfortunately, the DOHC 2.0-liter engine of Yamaha failed to match Nissan’s standards—the project was then cancelled in 1964. Yutaka Katayama, Nissan USA president, then thought of creating a more affordable sports car that would be marketed internationally. Instead of the Fairlady roadsters that were designed to compete with popular Italian and English roadsters, the team thought of creating a new line of GT cars. These cars would have speed, style, and innovation, but unlike other sports cars, they would be more affordable. The low price was made possible by using interchangeable parts from other Nissan vehicles. With engineering and product development experience, Nissan pursued the project and came up with a design concept.
A version of the Nissan Z car was released separately for the Japanese market and the US market as sales for the Z car started in 1969. Under the hood of the US 240Z was a 2.4L L24 inline-6 with twin Hitachi SU-type carburetors that could generate 151 hp. The 240Z drew attention from sports car loving fans because of its good looks and strong performance. Through the 1971 model year, the first Z car sold over 45,000 units. Another stunning feat was when it sold more than 50,000 units in 1972 and more than 40,000 units in 1973. In 1974, another Z car was launched under the first generation S30, the 260Z, with increased engine displacement (2.6L) and longer wheelbase for the 2+2 model.
1975: The launch of the Nissan 280Z
Year 1975 marked the unveiling of the 280Z in North America. This new model received some upgrades, which included the use of Bosch fuel injection instead of the SU carburetors used in older models. This led to a power gain of 170hp despite the added weight from additional luxury features and a bigger bumper that complied with the US Federal regulations. Its engine displacement was also increased to 2.8L. Earlier generations of the Z car, which included the Nissan 280Z in the S30 lineup, were equipped with a Straight-6 engine. The succeeding generation of the Z car, the S130, introduced the Nissan 280ZX, known for its elevated comfort and performance levels.