The Nissan 240Z changed the reputation of a whole country | Revelations with Jason Cammisa - Hagerty Media
On the heels of the 2023 Nissan Z, it’s worth looking at the history of the original Nissan Fairlady Z — sold in America as the Datsun 240Z, 260Z and 280Z.
And, in particular, the Fairlady Z432.
This S30-generation Z not only changed the definition of “sports car” from a 2-seat (British) roadster to a 2-seat enclosed coupe but changed the reputation of Japanese automakers around the world from manufacturers of curious cars to world-class automakers.
The 240Z was powered by the L24-powered, a somewhat-Mercedes-derived straight-six that gave it performance on par with Ferrari Dinos and Porsche 911s, at a fraction of the cost. But with all the looks of Ferrari’s front-engine V12-powered coupes.
The 240Z had waiting lists for years in America. It was such a runaway success that credit for its design became hotly contested, leading to a threatened lawsuit by Albrecht Goertz, a German aristocrat who had been hired by Nissan to consult on the project — which was originally a collaboration between Nissan and Yamaha.
That collaboration was for a closed two-seater sports car large enough to fit two Americans comfortably. It was not coincidentally the size of a contemporary Porsche 911, since Goertz had worked on that project also. Ultimately, Yamaha’s A550X concept was born from this project, but Nissan turned it down.
So, too, did Toyota, but who viewed Yamaha as a potential partner for its own sports car. That became the Toyota 2000GT, and its success spurred Nissan to continue work on its own sports car to replace the Fairlady, called Datsun 2000 Roadster in America.
The result was the Fairlady Z, sold in the US as the Datsun 240Z. And it was a revelation.
Featured in this episode is a Japan-only Fairlady Z432, which is a Z with the DOHC 24-valve S20 Prince racing engine from the Nissan GT-R. It cost double as much as the base Z in Japan, so it was largely unsuccessful, but Jason postulates that may be the best-sounding six-cylinder of all time.
Listen to it scream on a POV run up a mountain and perhaps you’ll agree.