Fairlady Z family meets the new Z Proto

Nissan’s take on “Cars and Coffee”: An inclusive event where Z owners and car enthusiasts got to meet the new Z Proto.

31w ago

2020 has been the year of safety becoming synonymous with social distancing. Consequently, there has been a sharp increase in anything that could be done online to be done online but the truth is, things did not translate so well. Online meetings and events were new and fun while it lasted but this lack of true connection often made these online moments a little… dull.

Automakers got creative to find their own creative ways to introduce their latest models to the world. Some relied on Hollywood movies, some on influencers and some solely on online presentations. With COVID-19 cases decreasing and safety regulations easing up, a small window of opportunities opened up. In Japan, Nissan jumped at it and organized a small-scale, open-air event to showcase their latest model, the Z Proto allowing Z fans and car enthusiasts to come and have a closer look at their latest creation.

This isn’t Nissan’s first time presenting one of their models in Daikanyama’s T-Site parking lot, a parking lot known for its book store featuring a large collection of automotive-related books and magazines. Organized with the help of Daikanyama Cars, Nissan exhibited their new Z Proto in a similar way they had organized their GT-R Italdesign event in this exact location two years ago. Though not a large parking area, the Daikanyama T-Site parking is Tokyo’s trendy and cozy corner that creates space for a lively first-hand experience.

Oftentimes, events that involve prototypes have a tendency to be exclusive and invitation-only and all you get to see is invited celebrities’ Instagram stories or reports released by magazines. Instead of following this pattern, Nissan organized a small, inclusive event catered to their Nissan family and Z fans. Senior vice president for Global Design for Nissan, Mr. Alfonso Albaisa was there himself alongside Chief Designers to present their masterpiece and Fairlady Z owners were invited to exhibit their cars.

Carried away from its main stage in Nissan’s brand new Nissan Pavillion, the Z Proto had arrived in Daikanyama before dawn. By 6:00 AM, Z owners were lining up by the parking lot entrance and then guided one by one an hour later to their designated parking spot. By 8:00AM, a small crowd of Z enthusiasts had finally gathered and the cover protecting the Z Proto from the mild rain was finally taken off.

With the complete Fairlady Z family tree attending, there was a lot for JDM fans to feast on. If the JDM world isn’t your field of expertise, the Nissan Z storyline may not be the most evident. Let us briefly walk you through each of the Z eras.

Grouped together in Daikanyama, the S30 generation comprising the 240Z, 260Z and 280Z represented the 1969-1978 years, the starting decade of Nissan’s Fairlady Z. Though proudly called the Fairlady Z in Japan, this first gen’ Z was exported as the Datsun 240Z to foreign markets. Japan is well-known for its boxy, lightweight ‘kei-cars’ but things were not so different half a century ago. Breaking away from this image, the Fairlady Z was built to compete with established European sport cars. With a sleek E-Type like silhouette, a 2.4L inline six-cylinder engine delivering 151 hp and a reasonable price tag attached to it, this new Nissan recipe proved itself successful. Within the S30 line, the 240Z evolved into the 260Z and later into the 280Z, respectively 2.6L and 2.8L engines.

Parked next to the S30 row were the next generation Z31 and Z32. North America was once again an important market for this new Z. “Datsun” was no more and the Japanese Z31 Fairlady Z was named the Nissan 300ZX. With its square shapes and a more pronounced GT silhouette, the 300ZX took a jump from the elegant 240Z lines to take on a full 80’s look. Launched in 1983, this Fairlady Z abandoned its inline-six to welcome Japan’s first mass-produced V6. As for the engine size, it is yet again as hinted from its name, 3.0L.

In this chapter, the Z31 gave way to the Z32 in 1989, saying forever goodbye to pop-up headlights, amongst one of the most noticeable changes. With the twin-turbo version, the Z32 was capable of achieving a 0-100 km/h in about 5 seconds. Quite the accomplishment at the time!

Amidst the modified 300ZX with coloured lights and daring sets of new rims, we were also graced by the presence of two 50th Anniversary editions - models released in 1984 to celebrate Nissan’s half-century. In the case of this exact special edition 300ZX Turbo in front of us, the silver from this two-tone look revealed some subtle pink undertones. The car was equipped with a T-roof and the mandatory anniversary badge on its side.

Continuing with the Daikanyama parking tour, the smaller sized Z33 lineup was parked closer to the event’s entrance, facing the Z Proto. The Z33, more commonly referred to as the 350Z abroad, was manufactured from 2002 to 2008 before being replaced by the Z34 later that year. This model was symbolic in many ways as Nissan and Renault joined their forces to revive the Fairlady Z. Not so long after its launch, the model was fitted with a Nismo package which added about 20 hp more to the standard 287 hp. As for its engine, the Z33 hosted a naturally aspirated 3.5L V6.

Last but not least in the Z lineup is the Z34, more commonly known as the 370Z in foreign markets. We have had time, 12 year exactly, to get acquainted with it since its launch in late 2008. In comparison to the previous model, the Z34 was more daring in its shapes and kept on increasing its engine size to 3.7L while sticking to its V6.

Amidst the 370Z crowd was parked one Heritage Edition, recognizable by its black stripe on the bonnet contrasting with the Chicane Yellow body paint and the Heritage Edition badge.

There is of course a lot more to each Z generation, each with their own addition to the Z legacy and each leaving their own mark in the automotive history. The Z Proto marks the birth of a new Z chapter but despite its new engine, it stays faithful to its roots: still a V6, still manual. Hopefully, the Z Proto will stay true to its identity, as the affordable Japanese sports car we’ve known it to be. This purified new look brings in a fresh breeze into the Z history. Cleverly designed, the Z Proto stays incredibly faithful to Z codes through its leaf-shaped headlights, its square grille and a back-end design that is a true homage to the S30 and Z31.

Having built a meaningful legacy over the past decades, Nissan played it right by organizing this inclusive and genuine event around the Fairlady Z. That Sunday morning in Daikanyama was the Z Proto’s very last day in Japan and we trust it is currently doing well in the United States as we speak. The new Z, which should not look very different from this prototype design, is projected to appear on the streets of Tokyo sometime in 2021. Though this exact limoncello-like yellow paint won’t probably make it to production, we can be assured that the new Z coming to us is one good thing on the list for next year!

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Comments (23)

  • Nissan really needs the Proto to be a smash hit. Looks like they nailed the formula. Let's hear how it drives.

    Great write up Claire. Very enjoyable read.

      7 months ago
    • Thank you so much David! Really glad you enjoyed the article! We agree about the Z Proto. When the pictures of it were first released on the internet, the front grille felt surprisingly big and square for many (including us), but seeing the...

      Read more
        7 months ago
  • Z32?

      7 months ago
    • Yeah, I have an S30 but if I were to pick a newer Z it would be that one.

        7 months ago
    • Same here but vice a versa. I would be tempted to put a VG30DETT in the S30 though. They are such a beautiful car, great lines.

        7 months ago
  • I owned one of the first Z cars in all of Canada...a blue 1970 240 Z with white racing stripes. It was prone to rusting in the harsh Quebec winters, but it was my daily driver for two years and so much fun to drive.

      7 months ago
    • Really!? We are imagining white racing stripes on blue, that must've been so good looking! Weather can be really harsh on cars, but we're glad you have these memories to keep! Driving this as a daily in Canada must be pretty unforgettable.

        7 months ago
  • How did you miss adding Z32 in the favorites pole at the end? I feel robbed of my opportunity to put in my 10 cents.

      7 months ago
  • This is why I love Japan. Modifying stupid amounts of power, BIG WANGS, body kits, drifting, straight line speed, and more

      7 months ago