In my never-ending quest to hunt out some of the most interesting and unique car culture Japan has to offer, I normally spend hours on end building up a vast network, reaching out to people, sifting through some pretty atrociously designed websites, and looking for clues on when the next meet might be.
Due to the engineering nature I still have bottled up inside, I have all these things nicely categorized on a spreadsheet to try and help me organize my thoughts and plan out the most effective use of my time.
One cell, however, contains information that doesn’t pertain to one of the many parameters that I use, but a word to remind myself not to be overly constricted by planning to he nth degree – flexibility. Being flexible, and just going with the wind sometimes, is a very important aspect of Speedhunting, and it’s led to some rather interesting adventures and experiences.
Ending up at the 2017 Z-Fest was one of those occasions.
When Chris, a member of the Skyline Syndicate group, received a personal invitation from Hiroshi Tamura, chief product specialist for the Nissan GT-R and Nismo, to attend Z-Fest and graciously extended an invitation for me to join him if I was free, I made sure my schedule was flexible enough to take part in the festivities.
With nothing more than an email from Tamura-san saying we were allowed to enter Nissan’s Oppama Grandrive test course in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa, we arrived to find a small but diverse collection of Fairlady Zs all arranged by generation.
Even in Japan, you don’t often see S30s around, so I was immediately drawn towards the 240Zs, 260Zs, and 280Zs in attendance. The most common approach to modifying these cars is a recipe that includes bolt-on overfenders, a subtle suspension drop, and nice set of period correct wheels.
Some owners go one step further to ensure their engines accurately reflect their cars’ more aggressive looks. The golden spiral velocity stacks on this L-series engine are to die for.
The Z432-R is one of those unicorn cars that you normally only read about online – even more rare than the rare Z432. Created for racing homologation, the R version was equipped with the legendary S20 engine, which was more commonly found in the KPGC10 Skyline GT-R, but tuned to race specification.
The owner of this particular Z432-R was happy to talk about his prized possession with the small group and give everyone a sample of the S20’s soundtrack at 7,000rpm.
The second generation of the Fairlady Z, otherwise known as the S130, saw the introduction of more luxury options and features in an effort to meet the demands of the marketplace. As a result, the 280ZX went on to set sales records and received high praise for its comfort and performance levels.
The third generation, the Z31, continued the Z’s trend of walking the fine line between grand tourer and sports car. The 300ZX was completely redesigned and hosted even more luxurious features to go with its radical ’80s styling.
This was also the Z model that saw the Datsun name being dropped in favor of Nissan.
The fourth generation, the Z32, was a game-changer when it hit the market. The 300ZX was one of the first production cars to be designed with CAD software, which allowed Nissan to add a host of technological advancements. Dual overhead cams for the 3.0-liter V6, twin Garrett turbochargers and dual intercoolers for the turbo variation, and the option of four-wheel steering were some of the model’s key features.
Revolfe S.A., who are known for their Wangan monsters, specialize in the Z32 platform, and as such brought a few of their cars along to the small gathering. This particular example wearing Mid Night club insignia belongs to Revolfe’s founder, and is apparently good for 600whp.
I think I’ll have to make a special visit to Revolfe’s HQ in Yokohama in the very near future to find out more about the company and take a closer look at this build…
In stark contrast to the sleeper-ish appearance of the Z32 I’ve just shown you, we have this build. Thanks to the custom wide-body kit, the rear end takes on a whole new look, with a little added Ferrari flair courtesy of the taillights and turn signals.
The Z32 was an instant success for Nissan when it came out, but the ever increasing cost to produce the car and the dire economic situation in the mid ’90s ultimately spelled disaster for the 300ZX.
The fifth and sixth generations of the Fairlady Z, the Z33 and Z34 respectively, are models that many Nissan enthusiasts turn to in order to satisfy the itch for a relatively cheap, rear-wheel drive, manual sports car.
In Japan, a secondhand Z33 is an absolute performance bargain right now, and the sheer number of them at Z-Fest was an accurate reflection of this.The Nismo Experience
Z-Fest wasn’t just a static show though; Nissan took the opportunity to showcase the Z34 Nismo’s capabilities.
In turns of three, Nissan test drivers chauffeured attendees around the proving grounds at high speed, taking in the large bowl at the end of the straight. After seeing the look of utter amazement and terror on the faces of those who took a ride, I couldn’t resist experiencing it for myself.
Truth be told, I thought everyone was overreacting about how hard the test drivers were pushing the cars, but my driver wasted no time extracting every last nth of performance out of the VQ37 3.7-liter V6.
I glanced over at the dash and realized we were traveling much faster than the warning sign for the bowl recommended. No worries, there was still plenty of time to slow down…
Except my driver didn’t slow down. By this point we were still travelling at a great rate of knots.
At the very last second, he jumped on the brakes and attacked the bank. Even with my camera in spray and pray mode, this was the best picture I could manage. The lateral Gs that you experience can only be compared to the rapid increase after a plung on a rollercoaster; you involuntarily grunt as your body copes with the forces, and hold on for dear life.
Remarkably, through it all the driver was telling me factoids about the car that I couldn’t even began to compute due to the current situation at hand. After the bank was another large straight until you reach the back end of the proving grounds which has elevation changes and obstacles that create small and large chicanes along the track.
I’m sorry everyone, but I had to put the camera down at this point; there are some things that you just need to experience with your eyes and not through a lens.
With the ride over and my brain thoroughly fried, it was time for those who had brought a car out to Z-Fest to experience the facility for themselves.
During the car parades I’ve previously seen in Japan, owners barely get above a crawling pace on track, but that wasn’t the case here.
While the banked bowl section was off-limits, there was plenty of room for owners to stretch their vehicles’ legs behind a pace car.
At the opposite end of the parking lot, a skid pad with a small slalom course was set up. The day’s participants could try it out in their own cars, or take a passenger ride in a Z34 driven by Nissan’s head test driver.
With the winter bringing darkness upon Japan at around 4:00pm at the moment, the event wrapped up early and everyone neatly filed out of the proving grounds.
After a day like this, who wouldn’t leave the event not wanting to buy a Fairlady Z? I know it gave me some ideas…