The Nissan Z cars hold a special place in enthusiasts hearts. These fun-to-drive sports coupes provide a perfect mix of superb handling and power, backed up by Japanese engineering and affordability.
With a new Z just around the corner, we take a brief look at all the Z's. From the Nissan/Datsun 240Z that started the sports car's legacy to the upcoming 2023 Nissan Z with 400HP and a 6-speed manual gearbox.
The First Z: S30 (1969-1978)
The "Z" was the brainchild of Mr Yutaka Katayama, then President of Nissan USA. Considered a "Rebel" in Japan, Katayama was sent to the US as something of a punishment, as back then Nissan (known to the rest of the world as Datsun) cars sales were struggling there. However, He soon managed to turn things around and realized there is a large market in America for a small, reliable and affordable sports car. It took him a while to convince Nissan Japan to commit to the project, but eventually, he got his way.
Designed by Yoshihiko Matsuo, the Datsun 240Z (Called the Fairlady Z in Japan) was a two-seater sports coupe with beautiful lines and a timeless look. Powering the car was a 2.4-litre inline six-cylinder engine, sending 150 HP and 145 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The car proved to be a major success in the US, selling around 150,000 units from 1969 to 1973. During its production, Nissan would go on to update the engine to a 2.6 and later 2.8-litre, Creating the 260Z and 280Z respectively.
Gaining weight: The S130 (1979-1983)
The second generation of the Z car saw a major change in the Z car's identity, as it grew from a plucky little sports car to a bigger and heavier gran tourer. The interior also got nicer as a result, featuring leather upholstery and a plethora of creature comfort. Initially, the new 280ZX carried over the 2.8-litre from the 280Z. Which due to strict US emission regulations, made only 135 HP and 144 lb-ft of torque. The problem was solved in 1981 with the introduction of the Turbo-ZX, which increased the figures to a much better 180 HP and 202 lb-ft of torque.
Datsun no more: The Z31 (1984-1989)
Nissan dropped the Datsun badge for their export cars in 1986, meaning the third generation 300ZX was the first Z car to have its global debut under the Nissan badge. With the new generation came a new engine, the 3.0 litre VG30E, hailed as Japan's first mass-produced V6. The naturally aspirated version of the motor made 164 HP and 174 lb-ft of torque while the turbo variant bumped those figures to a whopping 225 HP and 246 lb-ft respectively. Being an 80's car, the car had the period-correct boxy design, a quirky and novel LED tail lamp and of course, pop and up and down headlights.
Technological marvel: The Z32 (1989-2000)
Designed with the help of a Cray-2 supercomputer, the fourth generation was loaded with tech. Advanced features included four-wheel steering, variable timing control, powered seats, and many more. Powering the car was a twin-turbocharged V6 with a double overhead cam setup, producing 279 HP and 277 lb-ft of torque. The upgraded motor accelerated the car from 0-100 in 5.9 seconds, which is amazing considering it weighed a little over 1.6 tons.
As great as the Z32 was, it was also the generation that went away the furthest from the spirit of the original Z. It was large, expensive and costly to maintain, a far cry from the simple and affordable design of the original.
Back to basics: The Z33 (2002-2008)
The deviation from the original concept was noticed by Nissan as well, who in 1999 began testing a back to basic concept Z dubbed the 240Z. Three years later, the concept was succeeded with the fifth generation 350Z, which brought the Z car back to its original formula. Gone was the complicated and heavy four-wheel steering, focus was put on the new 3.5 litres DOHC V6 which produced 287 HP and 274 lb-ft of torque. The performance put the car on par with many European luxury brand options, while being offered for a lot cheaper. Overall, the 350Z is well remembered for being the Z car that finally shook off its gran tourer baggage and brought back affordable performance to the hands of the average joe.
Stagnation: The Z34 (2009-present)
Times got tough for Nissan at the end of the 2010's, which reflected on the Z34. The sixth-generation 370Z was largely based on the Z33 chassis, with the wheelbase being shortened by four inches. The engine was bored out to 3 .7 litre, giving the car a new power figure of 326 HP and 270 lb-ft of torque. 0-100 was down to 5 seconds and the interior was improved over the processor. Although a well-received update on its debut, financial problems at Nissan meant the Z34 had to shoulder on far longer than its intended lifespan. The 370Z is now hopelessly outdated compared to the likes of A90 Supra and BMW Z4 and has to wait till the end of this year before it can finally retire.
Resurgence: The 2023 Nissan Z
After what seemed like an eternity, Nissan finally unveiled the next generation of the Fairlady Z. The 2023 Nissan Z, dubbed the 400Z by enthusiasts, pays respect to its iconic forebears. The overall lines of the car are largely based on Matsuo's timeless design, with the rear taillights taking inspiration from the 300ZX. Powering the car is the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged VR30DDTT V-6, sending a staggering 400 HP and 350 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox. The interior is elegant and driver-focused and also takes multiple design inspirations from the beloved 350Z.
With all these amazing features, combined with a sticker price of "around $40,000", the new Z seems to be set to bring a new lease of life back to the Z brand. Now the only question is, how many of them will end up in Bangladesh?