Back in the 1960s, Nissan was still having an identity crisis shared with Datsun, a brand which it finally killed in 1986. Apart from that, they were also just beginning to be reckoned around the world as a serious car manufacturer. Nissan/Datsun's model lineup back in those days wasn't much compared to that of more established brands, so one of their plans for growth included the addition of a halo line of cars.
Their earliest plan was to build an affordable competitor to the British roadsters, which were pretty much ruling over the convertible sales in those days. Nissan/Datsun had already been building the humorously-named "Fairlady" series of cars in the 1950s, but they needed something with a little more punch for the decade to come.
They first tried to partner with Yamaha as an engine supplier in creating a new sports car that could run with the big boys for a relatively low price. For some reason, after a couple of years and a prototype later, Nissan decided not to go with the Yamaha proposal – which, in turn, took the project at Toyota, resulting in the famed 2000 GT model.
After this somewhat of a dead end, they decided to start work on a completely in-house made sports car at the request of Yutaka Katayama, who was the president of Nissan USA at the time. The car was to be named the "240Z" on most international markets and still the "Fairlady" in Japan. The final design was penned by Yoshihiko Matsuo, who was leading a team of just a few interior and exterior designers.
A bit European-like, the 240Z/Fairlady design was essentially a pretty cool-looking mix of British and Italian themes. The long engine hood and short rear overhang were part of a now-classic roadster/coupe proportion, which the latest 370Z is also trying to keep. After the original "Z" conquered the United States market, its next generations became a Japanese cultural icon all over the world, but mostly in its home market (where it remained known as the Fairlady Z) and in the United States.
Approximately 41 years later, the "Z" line of cars is at its sixth generation and it still uses two types of bodies: coupe and roadster. Launched in the summer of 2009, the new Nissan 370Z Roadster tries to blend an array of both old and new design cues, with the result being just a tiny bit controversial from some points of view. We took one equipped with the optional seven-speed automatic transmission and limited slip differential for a spin. Read on if you want to find out our different takes on the car.Continue reading