We are now just hours away from the next chapter in Nissan’s Z story.
The Japanese automaker has done a good job of keeping our interest in the new car piqued, the latest ‘Z Proto’ teaser video showing that Nissan will offer the Z with a manual transmission, something that enthusiasts are obviously ecstatic about.
This is a company that just the other month was telling us that their future will largely be EV-based, but if there is one thing you can say about Nissan, it’s that they know their place in the sports car market. They have always been pioneers of technology and have always put emphasis on making fun driver’s cars – something not easy to do when you pretty much make every type of vehicle.
So, while we can expect many EV offerings from Nissan in the future, they know not mess with halo cars like the GT-R and the Z. And the Z has represented so much for Nissan since 1969 when the S30 was launched.
So here I am, the day before the new car’s official unveiling, thinking about what all of this means. Helping me out is the massive Speedhunters archive, which features a huge number of Zs from over the years.
I’ve included a bunch of those cars in this retrospective, which I hope will spark a conversation. I want to know what the Z, in any of its generations, means to you, as well as what you hope to see in the latest Z being presented Wednesday morning Japan time.
Design-wise, there’s a lot that has been pulled from the not-so-dark silhouette image doing the rounds first in the Nissan Next: From A to Z video, then in the latest teasers.
The above video from a few days ago shows us even more, as well as a very visual confirmation of the aforementioned manual transmission, plus a new ‘retro’ Z logo. The roof line seems very reminiscent of the 240Z, and the taillights have been confirmed in a sketch that the Senior Vice President for Global Design, Alfonso Albaisa, released, to have been inspired from those used in the 300ZX.
Yes, I am a GT-R guy through and through, but I’ve always had a deep love for the S30 and 300ZX. The S30 especially is a car that I’ve driven in so many guises, each with their own distinct flavor – like the Z432 above used to capture audio for Need for Speed.
This TA Auto restoration was one of my favorites. It’s so well executed, a ton of fun to drive, and with just the right amount of modern touches so as not to take way its true vintage feel.
In fact, here is a little video from that drive. Just listen to the L-series scream; so intoxicating.
The Z is, after all, one of those cars that was very much at the beginning of the Japanese tuning revolution. Right along with GT-Rs and other kyusha from the same era, they were the first to be used in works racing, and then those race cars were emulated on the street through tuning shops and parts manufacturers.
To this day, the style still captivates.
And it goes right around the world, as the 240Z was pretty much Nissan’s first global sports car. It came out of nowhere and stormed the market, especially in the US where it went head to head with popular domestic and European sports cars of the time.
The S30 boasted a sleek and sexy design and came with a glorious-sounding straight six. It was fast, reliable, and soon found a following, one that’s only grown stronger through the generations that have followed.
Much like the GT-R, the Z has evolved over the years, and at times reinvented itself. There’s been one constant though: it’s always stayed true to that initial honest, obtainable, two-seater sports car recipe.
When it comes to the Z32, nothing beats the old PentRoof demo car, built for track and fast road use. At the time I featured it, the Z boasted a very healthy ‘600PS’ according to PentRoof’s Kitabayashi-san, but after a fast-paced run on the Wangan, I estimated it to be way over that. It was a rocket; so responsive and so much torque at low RPM it made GT-Rs of the same power feel positively lethargic in the low range.
Eighteen years ago, the Z33 started a whole new modern evolution of the model. Again, it stayed true to the Z’s original recipe, but Nissan tried to align the car the to then-modern trends and market expectations. I have to say, I never felt much of an attraction to this fifth-gen Z in 2002, but for some reason it’s really appealing to me now.
The Z34 built on what the Z33 started; the chassis remained the same and the design was given a refresh in and out along with a slightly more powerful and larger version of the VQ engine. As we wait for the dawn of the new car, we can certainly make some educated guesses…
With the rumored VR30DDTT under the hood, which in the 400R I drove earlier in the year felt impressively explosive, I’m going to say the new car will become the best Z of modern times. A (tuneable) turbo engine to play with, looks that pay homage to the best of the older gens, and the ability to spec a manual transmission are all attributes we had hoped for. If Nissan is smart and prices the Z below the Supra, they will surely have a winner on their hands.
Let me know what you think about it all. I’m keen to hear your opinions and expectations, so let’s continue this below in the comments section…
Dino Dalle Carbonare