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A Look at the Z-Car Over Time

01.18.17 - Nissan 370Z NISMO

The Datsun/Nissan Z-Car has been one of the most iconic cars to come out of Japan in the history of the automotive industry. This is a car series that we’ve loved, lost and loved once again. There have been Z-Cars all over the map and this car has developed from a simple love of design and performance into a car that offers us the ride and power we want in a sports car that can handle the challenge of being pushed hard and fast when we need it to be. Let’s look at the history of this car and enjoy what it once was and what it’s become.

Before the Z – The first two seater sports car that came from Nissan/Datsun was the Sports 1000 roadster. In Japan this car was called the Fairlady 1000 and it was powered by a 1.0-liter four-cylinder engine at the time. As the engine grew, so did the name as the car became the Sports 1500 with a 1.5-liter engine that produces 85 horsepower and was a sporty car to drive.

The First Z – The original Z car was the 240Z and it was built and looked like a true Japanese sports car. With side mirrors mounted near the center of the hood on the fenders and a long front end the car was gorgeous. This was sold in Japan starting in 1996 as the Fairlady Z and it was powered by a 2.4-liter straight six-cylinder engine that produced 151 horsepower.

Sales Beast – This car was the perfect example of a sports car we wanted to drive as proof by the numbers which were sold during the time of the 240 Z’s existence. This car was produced from 1969-1973 and it sold 16,215 units the first year which grew to an astonishing 46,282 in its final year in production; healthy numbers for a two-seater.

The Second Model – The second version of the Z-car was the 260Z and it came out in 1974. This car used a 2.6-liter straight six-cylinder engine that should have performed perfectly, but the emissions controls that were starting to take effect in the automotive world caused the power to only be 139 ponies from under the hood. This car was even fit with a rear seat which didn’t seem right.

Adding Velour to the Interior- Even the 280ZX wasn’t able to avoid the crushed fabric of the disco era. This car in 1979 had velour on the seats, a digital dashboard and a suspension that was too soft. You could also have this car with T-tops to give you a finished appearance of a car that was easily from the era of mirror balls and big hair.

An Ordinary Z – Unfortunately the disco version of the Z, the 280ZX was not what many wanted. This car looked like the 280Z it was built from but the only familiar components were the 2.8-liter straight six-cylinder engine and the manual transmission . Other than that, this car was heavier and slow compared to the car that has been loved up to that point.

Going Backwards – By 1983 the Datsun name died and so did the 280ZX, but the successor wasn’t much better at all. The new 300ZX for 1984 became a forgettable model that offered up only 160 horsepower from the 3.0-liter V6 engine. The styling had changed to be squared off in similar style to mane of the cars of the dark days of the automotive industry.

Entering a New Decade – In 1990 there was a huge change in the 300ZX and the new Z32 version showed up with a provocative style that offered curves in the right places and a longer look that just made you want to get in and drive. Once you did, you were impressed with the twin turbocharged engine that was perfectly balanced with the steering to give you a quick and fun car to drive.

Gone and Back Again – From 1997 until 2002 we didn’t have the Z car on the market in the US, but in 2003 this car came back as a 350Z finally dropping the X somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. This car came in with a gorgeous look and used a 3.5-liter V6 engine and plenty of impressive upgrades that could be had on this now returned prodigal son from Japan.

Today’s Model – The Z car we have now is the 370Z which uses the power it has to reach sixty mph in 5.1 seconds while giving you the ability to run the quarter mile in only 13.7 seconds at 106 mph. This is a car that you’ll love driving on any road or track and it has a history that has brought us to this car that can rocket down the road in style.

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