Home » Why The Nissan 240Z Still Looks Fantastic A Half Century After Its Debut

Why The Nissan 240Z Still Looks Fantastic A Half Century After Its Debut

Dgd Datsun Z Ts3
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“East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” An oft-quoted saying that Rudyard Kipling wrote as the opening line of his poem “The Ballard of East and West”. Taken out of context it seems like a trite comment on the intractability of Eastern and Western cultures. What the poem really examines is enemies learning to respect each other and recognizing their common virtues. Wanting to take on British sports cars in America, this is something Yutaka Katayama, father of the Nissan Z car, would have understood. Pour some sake, it’s time for Damn Good Design.

The original 240Z wasn’t a straight Japanese copy of the E-Type I covered last week, but in terms of design and mechanical arrangement, you can draw a line between the two cars. I criticized the E-Type for not totally subscribing to what we would now consider ideals of form and proportion, but really my issue is subjectively what it represented. Considering how the Z adheres to the E-Type template, it’s remarkable that it represents something very different: the end of the E-Type was an interregnum in the Jaguar sports car linage, whereas the Z was just the beginning of Nissan’s (author’s note: Datsun was the name used by Nissan in export markets, until it was phased out in 1986. This piece will use both names as appropriate, but they refer to the same company).

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In 1959 Datsun reclothed their Bluebird sedan with two-seater fiberglass bodywork to create the S211. With a sub 1 liter engine it was a half-assed cross between a Corvette and an MG Midget, and according to Wikipedia they sold the grand total of twenty. Displaying a level of agricultural engineering that would make even MG do a double take, the follow up Datsun SPL213 was based on the 223 pickup truck. In an early example of the Japanese predilection for cultural whimsy, it was named ‘Fairlady’ after the Broadway musical My Fair Lady. Then a few months before the release of the visually similar MGB, in 1961 Datsun revealed their first genuine sports car for mass production – the SP310 or 1500; the first Japanese car to challenge the hegemony of the British sports cars in the US market, and crucially to building the image of Datsun, on the track.

240z4
This thing looks like Noddy and Big Ears should be driving it. Datsun SP213 Fairlady.

Call Mr. K, That’s My Name. That Name Again is Mr. K

Yutaka Katayama, or Mr. K as he became known was a Datsun executive who didn’t fit well within a Japanese corporate environment that prioritized the collective effort over the maverick individual. According to his obituary in The New York Times, in 1960 his superiors punished him by sending him to the worst Siberia they could think of – Southern California. My plan is to annoy The Autopian management so much they’ll punish me the same way.

Anyway, hardly any Japanese cars were being sold stateside due to cultural resistance and being seen as an inferior product compared to American cars of the time. Recognizing that to sell Japanese cars to Americans, they had to be designed to appeal to Americans, he insisted US versions of the 510 sedan came with a larger 1.6-liter engine. By 1969 sales had taken off to 60,000 units a year. Mr. K built up the west coast Datsun sales from nothing and became the president of Nissan’s U.S operations in 1965. Recognizing the potential of the 1500 in club racing, he gradually ramped up Nissan’s involvement in SCCA races to the extent of total domination. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.

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240z8
Datsun throwing some subtle shade in Triumph’s direction. Image Nissan via Datun.org
240z5
1967 Datsun 2000

Although the 1500 started off as a better built Japanese MGB, by 1967 it had evolved into the 2000, with a two liter engine and a 120mph top speed, blowing the decrepit B into the weeds. But the Japanese, like any country trying to get a fledgling car industry off the ground was still in its ‘copying and learning’ phase. Having humiliated the MGB, for their next sports car they were setting their sights a bit higher up the British sports car food chain, and Mr. K was instrumental in its gestation.

Priced within $200 dollars of the by now very-out-date MGB GT and released in Japan in late 1969 as a 1970 model, the Fairlady Z had a two (2.4 for US-bound cars) liter straight six with twin single barrel carburetors, a four or five-speed box and independent strut suspension at all four corners. According to a letter from Mr. K to the Z Owners of North California written in 2005:

“I wanted the car to have a beautiful rear view and be affordable to young professional people just out of college. I was not at all irritated when the car was called “Poor man’s Porsche” or “Poor man’s Jaguar”. I knew I was providing first class sports car performance at an affordable price. Nissan forced me to put the name Fairlady on the car, but I insisted with 240Z, a simple but unforgettable name, and it still survives after 35 years of its introduction”.

A British Sports Built By Japan For America

Disliking the Fairlady name given to the car back in Japan, according to The Reckoning by David Halberstam, Katayama’s importers simply pried the badges off the cars landing on the docks and replaced them with the ‘Z’ moniker. Katayama said at the New York launch:

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“The 240Z represents the imaginative spirit of Nissan and was designed to please a demanding taste that is strictly American… We have studied the memorable artistry of European coachmakers and engine builders and combined our knowledge with the Japanese craftsman.”

240z10 2
Yutaka Katayama (Mr. K) and American dealers with the new 240Z

Mostly through his own self-promotion (a trick he learned from his mentor Raymond Loewy), the debonair Albrecht von Goertz long had his name associated with authorship of the 240Z. The actual designer of the car was Yoshihiko Matsuo. After his success designing Nissan’s first performance sedan, the Bluebird SSS, he was promoted to head of Studio No.4. He would be a willing ally in Mr. K’s efforts to convince the timid Nissan management to build a new sports car for America.

I mentioned earlier one of Katayama’s big insights was realizing Japanese cars needed adapting to appeal to the unique demands of the US market. Something you should understand when designing a car (or any other consumer product) on a fundamental level, is what is your car’s purpose and who is going to buy it? Impending legislation (that never happened) meant Mr. K wanted the new sports car to be a hard top. Raising the Z’s roofline and giving it a proper rear hatch immediately made it a roomier prospect than the Jaguar for well-fed Americans over ration-stunted Brits.

Why The Z Is Such A Good Design

Having a healthy dash-to-axle ratio, being a shorter, taller car means the Z’s proportions work better than the E-Type despite their superficially similar layouts. You never want one characteristic to overpower another. The deeper bodyside gives the car more visual heft, making it diminutive but not dainty. Sports car aggression comes from its detailing – the scooped-out headlights, wide flat grill opening and blacked out spoiler and rear fascia. Whatever the extent of von Goertz’s involvement, there’s a hint of his trademark glitz in the use of chrome and C pillar badging, and the overall cab rearward proportions.

240z

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240z2

240z9

It basically defines the layout for the modern small sports coupe–solid, balanced and elegant–not disjointed like a Spitfire or dated like the MGB GT. Despite the unholy mix of American, Japanese and British influences the Z isn’t a pastiche. It combines the American ideal of the open road, the accessibility of a British sports car and an integrity and thoroughness that is purely Japanese.

The standard chintzy wheel trims are a bit endearingly tin-plate toy from Japan, but this is a car that is resolutely confident in its identity. It became a glitz t-top boulevardier in the malaise era, a pop-up headlight transistorized neon grid runner in the eighties and a supercar touching technological terror weapon in the nineties. More recently it’s gotten back to its affordable fun origins, although I have my issues (because of course I do) with the design of the current 400Z. It knows exactly what it is and who it is for, and this is what has allowed the Z to adapt and flourish over several generations.

It sounds simple when you break it down like this, but sometimes it takes an external pair of eyes to really see what’s needed. Which is why it’s baffling to me I’m not a highly-paid design consultant. It took the Japanese to improve and reinvent the British sports car. Do you know what Gaston Glock’s company made before it revolutionized the market with its simple and rugged handguns?

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Curtain rails.

All images unless otherwise stated courtesy of Nissan Media

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Robert Russell
Robert Russell
22 days ago

Great article. I’ve managed to hang on to my 240Z since the day I bought it new in 1973. Back then we knew (thanks to Road&Track and Car&Driver) what a “super bargain” the Z was. Personally I think it is closer in appearance to the Ferrari Daytona of the times and the Jaguar was not as sleek. Carl Beck, on his great Zhome website, makes a compelling case that Pininfarina (coach designer of the Ferrari 275GTB) and Yoshiko Matsuo’s Nissan design team were the key influences of the 240Z design. (And additionally, thoroughly debunks the Goertz myth) In any case, those of us fortunate to own a 240Z today are grateful to Nissan for the wonderful Z.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
26 days ago

The 240Z will forever be in my very indecisive list of “maybe THAT’s my dream car, I guess”, alongside the Fulvia, A110 and 246 Dino, in order of attainability.

Ace King
Ace King
28 days ago

I just took my ’71 for a nice cruise today in the Colorado foothills. What a joy to drive.

Adrian, come take a look at the full restoration process, plus see some great tips and tricks for any Z owner, at Ace240z.com

James Carson
James Carson
28 days ago

I still pine for my 72 240. Of all the cars I’ve owned, it was the best. It was reliable fast enough a doddle to work on. Sady it succumbed to rust and finances. I would love to try to rescue one, and restore but that ship sailed many years ago. Maybe if I could find a nice example for a reasonable price.

James Carson
James Carson
28 days ago
Reply to  James Carson

The 240 had a timeless design imo. It still looks great even after all these years have passed. To my eye it should be up on the same pedestal as the lamborghini 350 gt, muira, and alpha romeo stradale. It’s peer competition that i had experience with, was not even close. I owned a tr6 and 71 lt1 corvette, both harsh mistresses. Crude and tawdry compared to the 240.

Slower Louder
Slower Louder
28 days ago

Every so often, someone comes into the comments to remind us what a fine thing the Autopian is. I am bringing that reminder today.

I followed the comments on Adrian’s piece about the Z yesterday and came in this morning to catch up and found myself reading the whole thing again. What fun to read all the opinions about the design and all the personal recollections about the car and what it has meant. And all with generosity–even Adrian’s fake grumpiness is generous, as is his hanging about in the comments, which really livens the discussion.

So thanks to everyone who contributes to the Autopian. Uncle Adrian, you are hitting your stride.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
28 days ago

Yutaka Katayama was a great man (a veritable titan in Japanese automotive history in my opinion), but his influence on the genesis of the Z is greatly exaggerated. The fact is that – far from ‘conceiving’ it – Katayama *attached* himself to the ‘Maru Z’ project after it had already begun. The idea that Nissan would NOT have followed up on the Fairlady roadster lineage with a new unibody coupe without Katayama is for the birds.
Katayama was not an engineer, designer or stylist and he had no mandate within Nissan’s corporate structure to be conceiving, commissioning or specifying new models. Sure he could lobby, and he did, but the Z was going to happen with or without him. It was inevitable. Sure his enthusiasm for the Z (“I can sell this!”) was a great asset to the project, but it was encouragement from afar.
And please, all the stories of Katayama being “banished”? This is pure Katayama-Lore, and something that he was extremely good at. The fact is that he was ‘banished’ to Nissan’s largest potential Export market at a time when all the holes in the cheese slices were in the process of lining up for him. He was the right guy in the right place at the right time. The other ‘Mr K’ – Soichi Kawazoe, who was in the USA before Katayama and built up the East Coast market – deserves a mention in dispatches too.
Something to consider about Katayama’s influence on ‘The 240Z’: His philosophy was to pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap. The result of that was penny-pinching and de-contenting. The USA/Canada market HLS30-U ‘Datsun 240Z’ was effectively dumbed down and softened up for the perceived tastes of the majority in that market, made LESS of a sports/GT car than those offered to the rest of the world.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
26 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

‘Promoted sideways’ would have been a better description. He was put in charge of Nissan’s West Coast operation, a very important market for Nissan at the time. Katayama’s family connections made him virtually immune to fates that would have befallen others had they tried playing the same anti-union games.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
28 days ago

Ah, another article about ‘The Datsun 240Z’. AS thought it was ONE thing.
Nissan’s ‘270 Kaihatsui Kigou’/’Maru Z’ project was for a *family* of variants which would be given the ‘S30 Series’ moniker. So often we read about ‘The 240Z’ as though it was the only child, but it wasn’t. Right from the beginning – Teiichi Hara’s project directive in March 1967 and Hajime Suitsu’s project development plan the following month – the project included no less than SEVEN variants for both Japanese domestic and Worldwide export sales. All of these variants were designed and engineered in parallel. So, at launch in October 1969 the ‘S30-S’ Nissan Fairlady Z, ‘S30-D’ Nissan Fairlady Z-L, ‘PS30-D’ Nissan Fairlady Z432, ‘PS30-SB’ Nissan Fairlady Z432-R, ‘HS30’ RHD Datsun 240Z, ‘HLS30’ LHD Datsun 240Z (European market) and ‘HLS30-U’ LHD Datsun 240Z (North American market) models could have lined up side-by-side at Nissan Shatai’s Hiratsuka plant.
When discussing concept, design/styling, engineering and production it would be more correct to refer to the whole SERIES (‘S30’) rather than just the ones that happened to wear ‘240Z’ badges which were added pretty much at the last possible moment before launch.

Mike TowpathTraveler
Mike TowpathTraveler
28 days ago

Datsun 240Z- the car that helped kill the Opel GT. I was but a kid back when Road & Track did a sports car comparison shootout of all the affordable sports coupes of the day. Not surprisingly, the Datsun was the winner. As a young boy who fell in love with the Opel GT in that time period; to today as a long time owner of a ’73 GT, I can imagine the buyer test driving the GT and then going to the nearby Datsun dealer for a test drive in the new 240Z. One wonders how many sales were lost to the 6 cylinder Z.

But it was more than that. There were the people behind both cars. Bob Lutz was an early champion of the GT and we all know the story of Mr K and his Z. Lutz left Opel and the GT simply stagnated until production was terminated. Just as it is with today’s Mazda Miata, you have to have the true believers fighting for the car behind the corporate scenes in order for it to live on. Mr K was that champion for the 240Z.

AlterId
AlterId
28 days ago

Well, the Nixon Shock and the collapse of Bretton Woods, which had kept mainland European currencies undervalued against the dollar, didn’t help.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
29 days ago

I would’ve loved to see more sketches of the lines that work and the ones that don’t, like you’ve done for the E-Type, but I guess showing every line and writing “perfection” next to it isn’t very informative.

The 240Z is the most beautiful car ever penned (to my eyes). Keep your Ferraris, Alfas, Jags and Porsches, I’d rather go in my garage and stare at my half disassembled Datsun.

David Traver Adolphus
David Traver Adolphus
26 days ago

I’m still Team Miura for the sheer drama of the thing, but the Z really is timeless.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
25 days ago

I can’t afford to live the Miura!

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
29 days ago

Katayama-san never wavered in his belief in the original 240Z concept: small, lightweight, inexpensive.
I was privileged to attend a talk he gave not long after the Z32 300ZX had stopped production because of its dismal sales, and there was no sign that Nissan were thinking of replacing it. The 240Z was roughly the same size, weight and inflation-adjusted price as the NA Miata; the 300ZX was a 1.6-ton, 3,000cc, twin-turbo, 2+2 GT.
He told us that he had asked a Nissan executive what they thought they were playing at by abandoning the sports car market. The executive replied, “But, Katayama-san, the market has changed.”
“No it hasn’t, the Z has.”

Last edited 29 days ago by SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

True, and it was one of the stars of the too-brief Golden Era of Nissan design of the late ’80s/early 90s.
I think Katayama-san’s problem with the Z began with the gradual bloatification (2 golf bags etc.) that started with the 260.
The focus of the Z was always the USA, and the burst of the Bubble had no relation to the collapse of sales of the ZX there. He admired the MX-5 and Mazda’s refusal to succumb to clinic-based product planning.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

How much influence do you credit Yutaka Katayama with on the S30-series Z car? What exactly was his role in specification, styling and engineering?
The S130-series outsold the S30-series, so was Nissan moving in the ‘right’ direction, or the ‘wrong’ direction?
It would be nice to see a few people consider some of the reasons why Nissan Japan’s management might have had problems with Katayama other than painting a picture of them begrudging ‘his’ success. All that is pure Halberstam. Makes a good script for a soap opera, but it’s nothing like the whole story.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
26 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

But again, this is placing too much emphasis (and importance) on Katayama’s role in decisions that had much wider implications than in his sphere of interest/control. All the people talking about Katayama this and Katayama that never seem to consider what was going on in Japan, what was important to Nissan Japan or even plans for markets other than North America.
You cite Miki Press’ ‘Fairlady Z Story & History’, but – again – that version of events is as-told by Katayama, with Nissan Japan painted – again and again – as the guys wearing black cowboy hats while Katayama’s was white. To get closer to the truth you have to accept that Katayama’s version of events is simply his version (the screenplay written by Halberstam), but that there were others just as valid.
There’s always this narrative that Katayama had somehow unique ideas or insight and yet nothing could be further from the truth. There were any number of creatives, engineers and planners in Nissan Japan during that period and their stories have had to sit in the huge shadow of Katayama lore.
Possibly Katayama’s greatest success was creating and fostering the ‘Mr K.’ story. Much of what he is credited with would have happened anyway.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
25 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

For the Nissan S30-series Z’s backstory, I highly recommend Mr Hitoshi Uemura’s book ‘Fairlady Z Kaihatsu No Kiroku’ (tr: ‘Fairlady Z Development Record’) published by Tokyo Tosho in 2014 with ISBN 978-4-86223-747-7 C0053.

Uemura san was the chief engineer on the project. It’s in Japanese, but Mr Yuichiro Motomura has published an English translation titled ‘Datsun 240Z Engineering Development: The Journey From Concept To Reality’ (note the skew to perceived audience). It is a somewhat bowdlerized version as it substitutes ‘Datsun 240Z’ and ‘240Z’ where the original author often meant the whole Domestic and Export version family, but if you can see past that it is a valuable resource which names many of the personnel involved. Ideally you’d compare both the original Japanese version and the English ‘translation’.

Of course, it concentrates on the engineering side of the story. For the exterior & interior styling/design (I think your main interest?) you will need to track down the witness accounts of at least two key players: Mr Fumio Yoshida and – subsequently – Mr Kumeo Tamura. Yoshida modelled the car and Tamura refined that modelling. Pretty much every important line and curve on the body of the S30-series Z car, as seen at launch in October 1969, was from their hands. Yoshihiko Matsuo was their studio chief and – even though I counted him as a dear friend for several years – I have to say that the S30-series Z is only ‘his’ in the sense that he oversaw the work of his team.

Yoshida san is still with us, but doesn’t often accept interview requests. Tamura san passed away a few years back but left us some valuable insight into his work. Worth tracking down. The DEFINITIVE story is yet to be written…

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I have no idea what is going on at Nissan now but in the 1990s/early 2000s I was told by people who knew Nissan well that its management was hidebound and hierarchical even by Japanese standards, so that makes sense.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
28 days ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

“The focus of the Z was always the USA”.
For volume sales, yes. Same as it was for many other sports/GT manufacturers of the period. However the North American market got a variant of the Z that was less sporty and less sophisticated than all its other markets did.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
27 days ago
Reply to  Alan Thomas

That itself was probably a stone in Katayama-san’s shoe!

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
26 days ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

So you think that Katayama was this car’s much-vaunted and fabled ‘father’, but at the same time he had little to no control over its content in the North American market?
The truth is that Katayama’s philosophy was a one-size-fits-all single spec for initial sales of the HLS30-U in the North American market because that helped the pile-’em-high, sell-’em cheap plan (even though the individual dealers started scalping on the price element) and content was pared down to suit. The first North American market cars didn’t even have carpets.
No, the de-contenting and softening up of the HLS30-U was the result of its artificially low RRP and the (arguably mistaken) perception of the sophistication of its market. Either Katayama had control over that, or he didn’t. Both options change the accepted narrative.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
28 days ago
Reply to  SonOfLP500

By the time the Z32 came out, Nissan also has the Silvia (200sx, 240sx) at a lower price point (and had for decades), which allowed the Z to increase in weight and price without abandoning that market. It became a matter of positioning the Z in the lineup between the Silvia and skyline GT-R

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
27 days ago

Good point. However, the Silvia (except perhaps the S13) and SX never had the out-and-out (quasi-European?) sports car appeal of the 240Z and, probably more importantly for Katayama-san, were not his babies.

Last edited 27 days ago by SonOfLP500
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
29 days ago

I’ve got nothing but love for the 240Z.

About it, I have no harsh opinions to spout.
The derided drive train I couldn’t care less about.
It’s a dream of body design.
One of my favorites since age nine.
The swoops and curves are all correct.
A childhood star that gets me…
(Cancel poem)

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
29 days ago

My first real job was while in college from around 1973-1978. I commuted from home -> school (UC Davis) -> downtown Sacramento job at a pharmacy. We were a small pharmacy in a medical building, so mostly patients of the building. The building was an old concrete building designated as a bomb shelter with parking in the basement. We had a delivery door in the basement, so I used it often to take out garbage, and pull in deliveries. There were two 240zs in the garage, one belonging to my pharmacist boss, and the other to a psychiatrist. One was green and the other was gold. Lovely lovely cars.

Jeff Gorvette
Jeff Gorvette
29 days ago

Loving these as always. Now I need to know Adrian’s thoughts on the 2000gt to complete this series.

Last edited 29 days ago by Jeff Gorvette
ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
29 days ago

I have absolutely no claim to any academic or vocational design credentials, but as a long time admirer of cars and guy who thinks about these things a lot I will weigh in anyway. When the Z came out I was about 9-10 and just becoming more aware of cars and their significance. I had been noticing cars for a long time, but when the Z came out I was also aware it was new, and that it came from Japan, which at that time, in my place, was not considered a place where things we coveted came from.

But covet it I did, and apparently a lot of others, because they sold in huge numbers, supply couldn’t keep up with demand, dealers took deposits and marked up prices, all that fun stuff.

This has two results, one it was the start of the decade long death march for British sports cars in the States. The GT6 was lauded as the cheapest car of its type you could get with a six and a pretty good deal. Along come the Z, $200 more, 50% more power, a decade ahead in styling and engineering (probably more accurately the Triumph and other mainstream British offerings were a decade behind). The GT6 was gone in a couple years, the TR6 lived on by virtue of a convertible, a good chunk of torque, and historical good will from anglophiles.

The second interesting bit, relating to the styling, is the circle of desirability life many cars go through. Seen as a gorgeous styling statement when it came out, then as many were sold and became used cars, clapped out examples more common than pristine originals, and newer shiny things coming out, it was gradually just another old sports car that kids bought cheap and did nasty things to and in. It was no longer generally perceived as a beautiful design or a rarity.

Then, many years later, when the number of nice, original cars has made them a rare site, you (me anyway) look and really appreciate the beauty of the design again, and apparently I am not the only one, given the prices clean examples bring these days.

And yes, I acknowledge, you can trace that same arc with a lot of cars, but it seems to be more exaggerated or extreme with the Z than with most other cars.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
29 days ago

I’d never have guessed the G.B. Shaw connection, even if it seems obvious the moment I read it. Some years ago I saw a telecast of a wonderful production of ‘Man & Superman’ with Ralph Fiennes in which at one point Fiennes ‘drives’ an XK150. To have used a Z instead would have been a delicious little joke.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
29 days ago

You’ve got the source entirely wrong.

The 240Z is not at all an E-type copy. It never was. Not even close.

It is more descendent of the Triumph GT6 design. And that’s why it looks so nice. They were inspired by the best British sports car design.

The 1970s era press called the Datsun “the poor man’s Jaguar”, but mainly because the Triumph was much less well-known. And it’s really hard to call a Datsun a poor man’s Triumph when the Datsun 240Z was actually about $200 more than the Triumph GT6. No one heard of Datsun, and writers needed something well-known and more aspirational to compare it to, so the Jaguar filled the need.

The 240Z is also more similar to the size of the GT6; both are smaller than an E-type.

Nissan may or may not admit it, but the real masterful design that the 240Z “copies” is definitely the GT6. I find it shocking that a British author wouldn’t recognize this.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
29 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I think my phone is starting to melt from this sick burn…

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
29 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

And I find it shocking that a professional car designer can’t see which two cars are more similar, but yes, we are here indeed.

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
29 days ago

As others (like me) have noticed, this particular writer doesn’t accept criticism / other opinions very well (to put it mildly).

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
29 days ago
Reply to  Kurt Hahn

On the other hand, I don’t mind at all, as long as I feel certain that neither of us takes any of it too personally.

A sharp personality with strong opinions makes for much more interesting writing.

I don’t mind being called out and “burned” in the comments, especially when I’m right. 😉

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

The marketing scope of Nissan is certainly not proof of the design inspiration. Marketing and design are independent disciplines. Interrelated and work together, yes, but they are not one and the same.

You’re discounting Giovanni Michelotti’s nearly identical product out of hand because it doesn’t suit your narrative.

I can tell you’ve never seen the three side-by-side-by-side, because two are fraternal nearly-identical twins, and the other is a Jaguar.

Michelotti deserves credit for designing a nearly identical car, years before Nissan did. Nissan HAD to have known and seen the prototype; it won its class and placed 13th overall in 1965 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I wouldn’t say Nissan copied the design, but they definitely saw it and made small changes that improved it.

As a designer, I would think you of all people should pause before discounting Michelotti’s obvious influence so casually. Look at the cars, not the automotive journalists who responded to the 240Z, and certainly not Nissan’s marketing department.

You have great training, and great insight. But you mistake your years of training and studio work to hone your design sense for infallibility. All the expertise in the world doesn’t prevent you from being wrong occasionally.

Finally, I have no clue why you think I have an axe to grind, but if I were the type, maybe I would in response to But I don’t put up with semantics from the cheap seats from people with an axe to grind.”

It’s like you actively want me to hold a grudge against you. Trust me, I don’t. It’s simply not in my nature. You could throw insults all day and it wouldn’t bother me any longer than the echo lasts.

My cheap seats are plenty comfortable, and I honestly think we would be fast friends if we met in person.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
28 days ago

Nissan’s chief engineer on the ‘Maru Z’/’270 Kaihatsu Kigou’/’S30-series Z’ project – Mr Hitoshi Uemura – has stated quite clearly that Nissan’s styling section used the Ferrari 275 GT as their key reference point and inspiration, but certainly not to ‘copy’ it.
Yoshihiko Matsuo told me the same story, but also said that he and his team were avid readers of Japan’s automotive magazines and pored over reports of what the big Italian design houses were up to. He cited cars like the Ghia 1500GT, Ghia G230S and Touring’s Aston Martin DBSC as being along the same lines as what they wanted to do, but they were stunned when they saw photos of the Maserati Ghibli as it chimed so much with what they had already come up with for the Z.
Nissan also used an E-type Jaguar and a Porsche 911 for reference points to do with ergonomics. They found the E-type awkward to get in and out of…
Yes, I’d say the Triumph GT6 is a good candidate for an example of synchronicity in compact sports/GT styling of the period.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
25 days ago
Reply to  Alan Thomas

Thank you for contributing your expertise and knowledge regarding this.

The Ferrari certainly deserves credit as inspiration and reference. I didn’t intend to discount that even slightly. It should have been mentioned prominently in the article, yet somehow the E-type is mentioned and the 275 GT is absent.

Michelotti’s GT6 could be discounted as pure synchronicity if not for the fact that the prototype for the GT6 was made in 1964 and already racing in 1965. And Michelotti had previously worked for many major Italian studios that Nissan was referencing, as well as later having his own.

While there’s not an acknowledged clear and obvious GT6 to 240Z connection, most of the dimensions, proportions and design elements are very similar, and so are most of the mechanical elements.

The Jaguar design cited in today’s “Damn Good Design”? Merely a precautionary “don’t do this” in the development of the 240Z and had little to do with the final product.

This article could have been a photo gallery of mostly Italian Kammback sport Coupes and 2+2 cars of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The question of the article is why the Nissan still looks fantastic 50 years later. And the answer is that it is a carefully simplified, blended version of many cars Nissan’s designers were exposed to at the time.

Last edited 25 days ago by PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
25 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

To explain, I wasn’t going to respond to you in this article anymore, because you stopped talking about design and started arguing on related tangents instead.

There are plenty of valuable discussions available here that don’t involve you directly.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
26 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

In an article titled “Why The Nissan 240Z Still Looks Fantastic A Half Century After Its Debut” you’re claim you’re “not discounting Michelotti at all, he’s just not relevant to this story”.
You say “There is a superficial visual resemblance but that’s it.” In an article about how the 240Z “Looks Fantastic” fifty years later. In your series “Damn Good Design”

You’re saying it “looks fantastic”, but somehow is it not at all about the appearance? “In terms of construction and engineering” is now somehow more important? Is this Damn Good Design, or Damn Good Construction and Engineering?

You’ve already mentioned the Datsun 1500 and 2000 racing SCCA. That it raced there against the Spitfire, and the mechanically similar MGB GT.

Yet not one single mention of the GT6, a car present at the same races, that like the 240Z, came with an I6, independent suspension and a four or five speed manual transmission. The very car the 240Z was patterned after. Wow.

Somehow the 240Z was magically patterned after a Jaguar E-type, despite being a near identical mechanical and visual improvement of the Triumph GT6 that was often found alongside the Datsuns of the era.

You can retcon this to be about construction, engineering, refinement and marketing all you want, but it’s still like you didn’t even read the title or the series title of your own article. You’re still stealing from Giovanni Michelotti to give credit to Malcolm Sayer, and I have no idea why.

If you had full-responsibility credit for a car design so blatantly ripped off by a competitor, you’d be furious to see credit assigned so casually to another completely unrelated designer. Not only that, now you claim he’s “not relevant“. There is no axe to grind: only the absurdity of a professional designer not giving a much more senior designer the credit they deserve.

Last edited 26 days ago by PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
26 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Now you’re talking about racing, as if that’s the measure of success in your column titled “Damn Good Design”. And you’ve completely disregarded design by saying it’s about what the E-type “represented”. To me that sounds like an excuse not to address the points I’ve made.

When Nissan released the Fairlady Z, they had no idea what Triumph and MG were working on. For all they knew, British Leyland could have been working on a killer 2.6 liter straight 6, or a small displacement V8 or even turbocharging that would’ve put them both back ahead of Nissan. No, Nissan didn’t know, so they built the best they could, and it turned out to be far better than it needed to be. But even that side of the coin is engineering, production and quality control, not design.

“Damn Good Design” can be all about astrology and snail biology from now on, as far as I care. It’s obviously not really about design, otherwise you’d give at least a passing mention where full credit is due for the design that Nissan improved to get the 240Z.

Nissan saw the GT6 (and the MGB GT) every weekend in racing and in sales reports for years before the 240Z was even produced. It’s obvious that they were making a better version of those cars. And their primary design inspiration was clearly the GT6. If they were really after the E-type, they would’ve made something with a much larger engine, because that’s what the E-type was selling.

Anyway, if you have any further comments, I’ll read them but not respond. At this point, I don’t feel like you’re actually talking about car design.

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

But the Nissan 2000GT project *didn’t* ‘become’ anything, much less the MF10. This is just people in the past putting two and two together to make five, and now it is set in stone.
Yamaha simply showed what they had done for Nissan to Toyota as an example of what they were capable of. The MF10 Toyota 2000GT brought nothing over from the Nissan/Yamaha project.

Loren
Loren
29 days ago

Fiberfab Jamaican, in clay in CA in 1967. Nissan was said to have dropped by.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
29 days ago
Reply to  Loren

The Fiberfab Jamaican was modeled in clay in 1967, and introduced in 1968.

The Triumph GT6 was prototyped as a Spitfire fastback by Giovanni Michelotti in 1963, already racing in that form in 1964, and the GT6 itself was first produced for sale in the 1966 model year.

I would suggest that the Jamaican was another derivative of the same popular fastback design.

The differences among the three are very small indeed, and all three have distinct differences from the E-type.

The differences from the E-type are especially noticeable in the grille, windshield design, location and rake, the door openings (Jags use 1950s style knee knocker A-pillars, while the others don’t), hood profile and length, body shell sculpting (especially down along the rocker panels, where the E-type is very unique), passenger cabin (where the E-type is bulbous and the others not), and the tail panel and tail lights (again, Jag is curvaceous while the others are not nearly so).

Myk El
Myk El
29 days ago

Seeing a good 240Z out and about always makes me smile. They were still fairly commonly seen on US roads when I was young.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
29 days ago

Hmm. “Do you know what Gaston Glock’s company made before it revolutionized the market with its simple and rugged handguns?”
Certainly a take to put something like that in an article ostensibly about good design as seeing how some people argue that “if a thing is designed to kill you, it is, by definition, bad design.”
https://deardesignstudent.com/in-praise-of-the-ak-47-a24cc8a46c13

Last edited 29 days ago by Collegiate Autodidact
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
29 days ago

It’s not designed to kill YOU, it’s designed to kill whatever is in front of you.

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
29 days ago

Well that is certainly a take. The author of the article comes off as a pretentious fuck-waffle who’s extremely comfortable life is enabled and protected by people carrying guns and yet remains so far divorced from reality that he is utterly ignorant of it. A brief glance at his bio reveals no actual design portfolio or projects of note. A few books about ethics, and lots of consulting about… something? Humanist design? Dunno. I am utterly unsurprised to see a SF address. City is full of people who talk all about doing but never actually do.

Conclusion: his opinion is the product of a deranged mind filled with warped synapses. The opposite conclusion has a much greater chance of being true.

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
26 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Hah, you at least have actual design takes to disagree with, rather than a bunch of “I took a philosophy course in college” ramblings about ethics. It’s the most damning of all critiques- he’s not even coherent enough to be wrong.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
29 days ago

According to his obituary in The New York Times, in 1960 his superiors punished him by sending him to the worst Siberia they could think of – Southern California. My plan is to annoy The Autopian management so much they’ll punish me the same way.

Be VERY careful what you wish for! SoCal isn’t all fancy LA and San Diego. You might end up in Trona or Needles or slowly baking in Slab City:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trona,_San_Bernardino_County,_California

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Needles,_California

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slab_City,_California

(Of course any of those places would still be a significant upgrade from the UK…)

Last edited 29 days ago by Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Look for a place in the hills. You might get lucky and find an abandoned mine, a perfect starter cave for the aspiring hermit.

Plus if was a proper mine it should have a level floor, drainage and some kind of road leading inside for the Ferrari.

Lots of wide open desert roads around, lots of dry lakes for high speed runs, What’s not to love?

Last edited 28 days ago by Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Still works!

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
29 days ago

One of my all time favourite designs. And! The best transition from a two seater to a 2+2. Ever.

The 2+2 is every bit as elegant and attractive. I can’t think of another car that is true for

Cerberus
Cerberus
29 days ago

So, this is funny. Just checked Wikipedia to confirm some of my ancient knowledge and there’s a pic of a ’71 with “rare blue upholstery”, which my white 240 had. I believe it was discontinued midway through ’71. There’s also a pic of an “early 1974” 260Z with slim bumpers in avocado green, like my 260Z.

Someone commented below about changes to the marker lights and Wikipedia does show several cars with tacked-on lights on top of the bumpers instead of the ones underneath. I don’t know if that’s a non-US standard or what, but one has some Euro plate, so I suspect it was non-US. I had never seen that before and every US car had the under-bumper markers except for those with big impact bumpers that had them incorporated into the grille above the bumper. The ones with the tacked-on markers still have the lower front valence panel indents for the under-bumper marker lights, where US models with the grille-markers had a smoothed-out panel.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
29 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Those tacked on blinkers are on every French Z I’ve seen. It’s probably a regulation thing.

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