BY CODY FACTEAU
Although I am big on American muscle, there is something inside of me that really likes Japanese sports cars. They are the complete opposite of American muscle. The typical American muscle car is big, fast and loud and intended to do all of that in a relatively straight line. This is great by me! That's what they are meant to do. By contrast, the Japanese sports car is small, nimble and quiet and great on cornering. Out of all of the Japanese sports cars out there, my favorite is the Nissan Fairlady Z.
Nissan was a small company when back in the 1960's it partnered with Yamaha to design a new sports car prototype. By 1964 Nissan realized that Yamaha's engine was not meeting their expectations and the project was scrapped. Nevertheless, Nissan realized the importance of an affordable sports car. Nissan had already produced a successful series of Fairlady roadsters that competed mainly with English and Italian roadsters. They envisioned a new line of cars that would be stylish, innovative, fast and relatively inexpensive through the use of interchangeable parts with other Nissan vehicles. Production of the Nissan Z car started in October 1969, with two separate versions: one for the Japanese market and one for the U.S. market. The Japanese Fairlady Z featured a SOHC L20A inline-6 producing 130 PS (which stands for Pferdestarke in German, and means horse strength and is widely used in most European countries as a measure of power). The U.S. Datsun 240Z featured a 2.4 Liter L24 inline-6 with twin Hitachi SU-type carburetors that produced 151 horsepower. Combining good looks with powerful performance, the 240Z sold over 45,000 units through the '71 model year.
My favorite of all the Fairlady Z's is the 350Z. It is from the fifth generation of production, which ran from 2002 to 2008, and is also known as the Z33. I like the later years of production because they upgraded the engine slightly. It's nicely rounded, has smooth lines and a nice V6 engine and it is actually one of the few cars I would like to personally own, with my preferred color being a dark copper-y orange. The car is practical, it's economical, sporty, the typical bachelor's car. It really is all you need.
In my eBay searches for cars, which I do on a regular basis, I actually ran across the perfect "first car" for myself. It was a 280ZX, located not too far away, a great silver gray color with a T-top and within my limited teenager budget. Needless to say, as I am still car-less, it proved a failed attempt to convince my mom that a purchase was required.
The first generation of Z's proved to be very successful in many forms of racing (which is perhaps why my mom nixed the great eBay find). The S30's won many SCCA/IMSA championships and even became quite successful in rally and Baja races. The most notable driver associated with the car was actor Paul Newman, who raced with the Bob Sharp team. He also helped promote the car, even starring in a series of television commercials.
Nissan Z cars currently hold the record for the best selling sports car series of all time with over 2 million cars sold. Every Z car has been sold in Japan as the Fairlady Z and elsewhere under the names 240Z, 260Z, 280Z, 280ZX, 300ZX, 350Z and 370Z. Enthusiasts praise the cars for their looks, reliability, performance, and affordability. No matter what you call it: Datsun or Nissan, the Z car has stood the test of time and is still around to poke fun at American muscle.
Cody Facteau is a 17-year old homeschooler from East Burke. He enjoys anything to do with cars, particularly the Classics. He loves Le Mans racing, his favorite TV shows are Gearz with Stacey David and Top Gear (BBC), and hobbies are Lego's and Xbox 360. Cody is also a cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force Auxiliary. Check out Cody's Car Talk on Facebook. Career goals? What else, cars!