The new Nissan Z is a fantastic car – compact, powerful, and nimble, perfectly fitting the modern sports car stage. But it wouldn't even exist without the original Fairlady Z – the first sports car from the Z series, launched by the automaker in October 1969. It was the predecessor of everything good that was to ever come wearing the Z badge and it was sold in slightly different versions for the Japanese and American markets.
A pristine condition Fairlady Z recently visited Jay Leno’s Garage and the writer, actor, comedian, and most of all car enthusiast met with the owner of this particular machine, who bought it in 2015 but couldn’t start restoring it until five years later. It was finished last year and is currently comparable to a factory-new vehicle. It is a 1971 model with four-lug wheels and drum rear brakes – a pure Japanese automotive royalty, as Leno describes it.
There were differences between the Japanese and US models, however. In this video, the owner of the car explains some of those differences, including the fender mirrors, orange turn lights, all the emblems, no rubber components for the bumpers, no wheel covers, and others – all these features were unique to the Japanese market.
When Nissan first sent the vehicle to the United States – despite the thorough marketing study – the company wasn’t completely sure it will have success and that’s why it put it a Datsun badge. The sports car was an instant hit, however, and Nissan quickly realized it needs to have the Z model back in its own lineup for America. In 1983, the Z returned to Nissan’s model range.
Sophisticated yet simple, affordable yet valuable, powerful yet efficient – those were some of the original Fairlady Z’s selling points in the United States, which made it a very strong seller for the company. In the video at the top of this page, Leno and his guest talk about many more interesting facts and stories surrounding this classic Japanese beauty.