Let’s Talk Nissan Z…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 youas 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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To this day, the style still captivates.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare
dino@speedhunters.com

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50 comments

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1

I'm most excited about the overall design language of this car. Since the Z33 was released. I've always said it's was way too big to represent the cool sports car the original Z was.

I'm so happy they've gone back to the classic silhouette of the s30. Albeit with the modernized headlights and z32 inspired tail lights. The manual and engine combination is the icing on the cake. Going to be an epic machine for sure.

Author2
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I think so too, not so much the size of the Z33/34 but the roundness and height of that rear. Plus the headlights never seemed to have been linked to anything that has come before.

3

Dino, your back!

4

Ow, his back!

Author5
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I come and go ;)

6
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

The Z33 never appealed to me either. It looks bloated, while the Z34 is just perfect. This new 400Z though... it's intriguing me.

7

Next to the original Z, the Z33 looks plenty bloated

8

That's funny; I love the Z33's styling and feel that the Z34 looks bloated.

Author9
Dino Dalle Carbonare

They are both bloated lol

10
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Ouch. Hahaha!

11

I would like to see a 2+2 option in the future z I think Nissan should call it a 390 because it goes 240, 260, 280, 300 then skip to 350, 370, and said 390, 410 or if Nissan that said 410 a 420 instead to switch the 2 and 4 in original 240 as a representation of honor and commemorates before moving on to the next generational change to the 460, 480, 500, 520 in commemorates of the and so on and so forth to forever produce top of the line Nissan performance technology 570, 590, 610, 630 in commemorates of the original s30 or (240/ fairlady) just my thoughts

12

with the names previously going with displacement i think switching to power figure will start getting outta hand after this 400Z...maybe the nismo could bump it up to 432 for that nostalgia factor....2023 Nismo Z432 would be pretty cool. but going forward maybe they should go back to the JDM naming and just call it the Z (kind of a shame the Fairlady Z didn't really catch on globally). I mean it's worked for the nearly every other manufacturer M3, C63, supra, ZR1 etc

Author13
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Don't hold your hopes up for a 2+2. Nissan makes one already, it's called GT-R

14

350z's aged so well..... My local dealer wants to offer me basically what I owe+ on my current vehicle because of the state of used car availability right now. My irrational side wants to buy something rad like that.

Author15
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Z33s are dirt cheap here in Japan.

16

I'm hoping that all the info we have so far on the Z is right particularly on the engine because for me the biggest issue i've had with the z has been its lack of power. Doesn't have to match the GTR in power but it certainly wouldn't have hurt to give the Z33 & Z34 more muscle to go with the chassis. I would love the Z35 to be a sort of Z32 & S30 love child, relatively small and nimble but with power (& potential) to match the supra the manual gearbox is definitely an awesome development. My heart always sank watching BMI/hot version videos knowing that either the Z33/4 was going to lose out cause it was too heavy or underpowered against its rivals. Still i'm very excited to see the new Z

Author17
Dino Dalle Carbonare

So true. The VQ series can't be phased out quick enough.

18

It must be well under the Supra price tag considering the supra was a GT-R competitor historically wise, even though the new supra stills a sports car while the R35 is a step below super cars.
From my side, i'm still waiting for the S16 specially after Toyota and Subaru joined forces a couple of years ago and came out with the 86/brz to compete with Mazda. Or maybe a FR kei car?

19

The Supra was a GT-R competitor? Tell me more about that please.

20

The C7 vette is a competitor at half the price, why shouldn't the Supra be labeled as such?

21

The C7 vette is a competitor at half the price, why shouldn't the Supra be labeled as such?

22
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

He said "historically wise", not today.

23

I was here for 350z

24

I’m only 13, but a car nerd. I know o bunch about cars and stuff and love them. My favorite out of all the zs is definitely the 300zx cause it’s design was just nice. It doesn’t look like any other z. But it still kept the z fashion in a way. I was happy when I heard the 400z will have 300zx tail lights.

25

13 as well i consider myself a car fan for the least

Author26
Dino Dalle Carbonare

300ZX is one of my favorite Nissans of all times

27

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.


The Z departed from its original recipe long ago. The original 240Z was a truly affordable lightweight driver's car. However, with time it started to turn more into of a grand tourer with more luxury and less focus on the driver. 280zx was already very fram from the original. By Z32, the Z was nothing like the original car-a pure grand tourer. The we have the price-the original 240z started at 25k usd in todays money, while z32 twin turbo would cost you 66k current usd in 1990, and even more-73k in 1996. And dont forget the 2+2 models, which signified the shift from original's car purpose when they appeared. Yeah, z33 adn z34 are more of affordbale cars for drivers, but they are still kind of too pigfat to be true successors to the og z. So, overall different Zs are completely different cars and the Z has never stayed true to teh orginal. Comparing, say z31 to s30, is like comparing bmw m6 to toyota 86

28

I think you're boxing the original vehicle to tightly and missing the point. He didn't say they were staying true to there initial design concept of an affordable, entry level, lightweight, driver-centric, 2 seater, NA engine, FR layout, sports coupe. It has not stayed true to that strict of an initial design. They have stayed true to an affordable, 2 seater sports coupe portion of it. The 300ZX did balloon out on the affordability side and with the brief 2+2 departure, though it was still a coupe.

29

Well, "2-seater coupe" is a really broad term really, a lot of completely different cars can match it. It's not just about staying true to the original, it's about what each generation of the z car was about. Compare the 280zx, z31 and z32 for example. 280zx turbo in 1979 and 300zx turbo in 1984 both costed around 47k usd when brand new in todays money I believe. This is well...not particularly affordable but not complete unobtanium either. Compare that to the price of z32 when new and youll see that those are cars from completely different price categories, one of which is anything but affordable. Plus if we look at the 280zx and the z31, I reckon the 280zx was regarded as that lazy personal luxury car without much sportiness, while the z31 was more of a balance between comfort and sportiness. 240z and 260z were cheap, not that powerful yet light and nimble true sportscars (although 260z started showing signs of turning into a softer car), 280z was already more like the 280zx and nothing like the original Z I belive. And speaking about power and straight line speed, in contrast to the earlier cars, 280zx, z31 and z32 had pretty good specs for their time I think. Z33 and Z34 were...well...not particularly low on power and not particularly lightweight, but closer to the original z in terms of pricing and purpose. Lastly, idk if thats a valid point, but the 280zx-to z32 cars had various engine which could change the character of the car drastically (especially the z31), while everything before adn after them stuck to one engien option. See-all Zs were very different cars, belonged to different price categories and had different purpose, different main features. That's why I think it's not really right to say that they all had the same recipe-they were all just way too different. The Z has been everything-from an affordable lightweight drivers car to a luxury high-power grand tourer. Also, the z32 did have 2+2 and 2-seater versions just like the earlier cars did. And as for the new Z, if all the rumours are true, it will be more like a modern incarnation of the Z31 Turbo 2-seater in terms of specs I think. It's just hours until the reveal, lets see if my prediction is right or not.

30

Id like to know why you think the 280z was any different than the 240/260z, other than having slightly larger bores

31

It's much heavier. Also, as far as I'm concerned, was overall a much softer car than it's predecessors-it was more of a cruiser than a true sportscar I guess

Author32
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah I did mean it stayed true to a 2-seater concept. All the rest of the things you mentioned were Nissan reacting and positioning the car for the tastes and expectations of the times.

33

Well, as I said, "2 seater sportscar" is way too broad of a term which can describe completely different cars, it doesn't take a lot of important features into account.

34

The 280 was fuel injected, but smog bound (and those awful bumpers) so performance is a slight improvement on a 280. A bit heavier, but the 280 had a 5 sp. 240's are easy to modify. this old dude will keep my 73 on the road and get envious looks from 400z owners, always

35

I have a 280z with triple Weber's and early bumpers, it's just as easy to modify as the 240z

36
Michael Mccloskey

91 300zx all time favorite, still have one

Author37
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Good for you! Don't let her go!

38

Man the pic of both the grey 240z and the front view of 350z are insane

39

The 240z is what got me into cars. I'm glad we get another z car and I've liked something about each of the generations. I know some models over the years were quite expensive, but I'm afraid this new one will just be a toy for old retired guys.

I understand the sports car market is tough and few young people with limited resources are buying cars, let alone sports cars, but I'd really like to see something truly simple and inexpensive. The price creep is real with every sporty car now. Even a GT86 is starting close to 30k.

I don't expect to see a lot of these. Just like the supra, it will be bought by a relatively few pretty comfortable people. I hope I'm wrong though.

40

Your first paragraph is dead on, but not because it will be expensive to buy - it will be expensive, specifically not worth the costs, to afford (to run).
It's based on the 370z platform. Heavy, obsolete, and too much basic steel in an age of composites. You know lotus elise go for $30k and Alfa 4c hit as low as $40k? This won't be an effective sportscar, and to even be marketable, will need that 400hp. Pricetag for a 400hp engine? Five digits starting with a mid to high 3. Add some really standard features, and you're dangerously close to $50k. A used Porsche (for example... there's SOOO much out there now) will sweep this plastic-steel camel.
Nissan lost the plot over a decade ago, and their financials, what unethical crap their execs have to do to even get paid, show it. Also, in the US, nissan drivers are the bottom barrel worst, as per insurance companies. All in all, this car better bring the magic, or Nissan can keep being brass on the Titanic, taking a quarter of Japan's vehicular heritage down the drain with it. Shame.

41

you can buy a 450hp v8 camaro for 34k, there is no reason a 400hp engine being shared across multiple platforms should be more than that. You have no clue what this will cost to run nor do you know what it will weigh so its hard to take any of what you just said seriously. Nissan is the one who kickstarted the resurgence in high performance cars with the r35, I don't see why they couldn't do it again with this sports car.

42

No clue?
Experience, kid. Costs come in levels, and this car is/will be designed under these parameters.

Sorry I crushed your dream(?), But reality is that this new Z is just a lifestyle product. The platform is the platform, and new regulations and fuel laws will see this weigh 3k+ lbs. Blah blah now, but when it comes out and costs $30k+, weighs 3k lbs, and a cherry manual C7 corvette goes for $29k for more performance... Don't blame me.
Experience, kid. Reality isn't as fun as delusion.

43

Lmao, you claimed high 30s and now you back pedal and try to compare it to the used market. Keep making assumptions though, it shows how "experienced" you really are.

44

Here's another Z for the comments

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45

The Z car has always had a huge impact on the car scene especially the import scene and this is going to be an exciting one for sure

Author46
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Tuners will go mad over it

47

Would like the name to stay = to displacement. But this being a turbo base model, I think 300ZT is fitting, With 300ZT-R as the up level model (like NISMO)

Author48
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I think we are all wondering what Nissan will end up calling it.

49

The 350z and 370z was a turn in the wrong direction.

I don’t think the new one will be any better. Too fat and too slow.

The 300zx had twin turbo and it’s own styling. I will give that modeL a pass.

I would prefer a backdate to the 240z. As I just bought a 72.

Let’s see what they got for us. I will tune in. But I might just wait for the r36 instead. It’s fat but fast

But I can be hopeful.

50

What's not to love about the Z. I've owned my 1973 S30 240z for 10 years and have been longingly and lovingly restoring it as time and money will allow. It is to the point now where it is drive able and I have put around 3k miles on it ( albeit, in unfinished, missing trim and interior condition) but what an absolutely lovely car to drive. Infact, I have driven many vehicles as I am a mechanic, and few captivate me such as the S30 Z. I love the aftermarket support for these cars and always enjoy seeing the capabilities and builds people do with them, but even in relatively stock guise like my car, they're still a hoot to drive and handle superbly. And my car is on 14 inch kidney bean slots and 195 tires!!! The engine noise is serene, especially with a 6 to 1 header and 2.5 inch exhaust, the shifter feel is perfect, the pedals are perfectly aligned for heel and toe, although they are a little clunky if I'm being honest. And let's talk about the lines. I find my self constantly staring at her as I walk away. In fact my girl friend makes fun of me whenever we go out to eat and I have to grab a window seat just so I can stare at my car. The S30 240z is absolute driving perfection if you ask me. It checks all the boxes!!!

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