American-owned since new, JDM Fairlady Z is a proud dual citizen
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Kirk Towner loves the Nissan Fairlady Z. The right-hand-drive sports car, the Japanese-market version of the similarly designed Datsun that Americans fell in love with in the 1970s, is much harder to come by on this side of the Atlantic. Yet Towner has owned three.
His newest addition, a 1970 model, is among the rarest of classic Nissan Zs, simply because it has been American-owned—exclusively—for 52 years, despite spending its first three decades in Japan.
The original owner, Kirk explains, was Don Davis, who purchased the Fairlady new while stationed at Misawa Air Force Base. After a three-year stint in Seoul, South Korea, from 1975–78, Davis returned to Misawa until 1980, when he left Japan and brought the Z home to Omaha, Nebraska (the 25-year import restriction wasn’t established until 1998). Davis, and the car, later lived in San Francisco and Alexandria, Virginia, but in 2001 he decided to let it go.
Davis didn’t sell the JDM gem to just anybody; it went to Eric Jolley, who had served under Davis while in Japan. Jolley and his brother Jason restored the car and tucked it away in a barn in rural Pennsylvania, but when Jason died unexpectedly, Eric lost interest in it. He offered it for sale on ClassicZCars.com, and Kirk reached out in February 2017.
“I was the only person to take the time to make the trip,” Kirk says of the drive from his home in Lakeshore, Maryland, to Eric’s house in Utica, Pennsylvania. “Similar to Eric, I loved this car, and he could tell. We shared dinner and few brews the night before I saw the car. He brought all the original paperwork from 1970 and a limited-edition framed poster signed by Mr. K (Yutaka Katayama, considered father of the Z car). We hit it off and made a handshake deal, and he handed me the keys with no deposit.”
Davis and Towner still remain in touch, and through the years the original owner has provided photographs and two Japanese license plate, which hang in Kirk’s garage. The 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z carries Mr. K’s signature on the back of the rearview mirror, and he also signed in a hidden spot for identification, in case the car is ever stolen.
The car (VIN S30-03814), originally painted Sunshine Yellow but now wearing Chrome Yellow paint, is powered by a 2.0-liter, straight-six, SOHC engine that’s mated to a five-speed gearbox. It also has a race clock and has competed at Sears Raceway (Sonoma, California), Bonneville Speedway (Wendover, Utah), and Summit Point Raceway (Virginia).
“Driving this car is awesome,” Kirk says. “This is my third Nissan Fairlady Z, so I’m used to driving (while) sitting on the right side, but passing on a two-lane road is challenging.”
Since Kirk bought the Fairlady, he has managed to score a Nissan 2000 OHC valve cover and mesh grille from a contact in Japan.
Although Kirk jokes that his wife, Michelle, comes along to car shows only if they’re going somewhere cool (“like Toronto”), he never has to ask his 16-year-old son, Jake, twice if he’d like to go.
“Jake has been involved with Z cars since he was a young boy,” Kirk says. “He enjoys the car as much as I do, and someday it will be his.”
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