The Fairlady Series
Edgar Gonzalez's Fairlady S212 ,see his more about this model at SPL212.org
Why would anyone build a roadster? Their production numbers are low, they take
additional engineering to make, and they lack creature comforts of every kind.
The answer to that question is simple, if you put it in perspective.
Why does Chrysler build the Viper? All the same problems apply to it.
Chrysler makes the Viper because it attracts attention.
Nissan built Roadsters for the exact same reason, to attract the attention of
car buyers. A hundred B210s could drive by in a row and nobody would notice.
Everyone notices a Datsun Roadster, even if they don't know what it is.
The roadster story goes way back. If you really want to be precise, the first
Datsun roadster is the 1917-18 "Datson", the two seater derived from
the Type 51 DAT. Nissan/Datsun also produced roadsters through the 30's, 15,000
being produced in 1937 alone. These cars were usually derived from other
models. The roadster produced between 1935 and 1937 had a variety of engines,
from 495-747 cc's, was derived from the first generation Datsun type 10 car of
The first post war roadster appeared in 1952 as the DC-3. It wasn't very
powerful or technologically advanced, with a 860cc engine, 3 speed non
syncromesh tranny, and leaf spring suspension even worse, it's top speed was
just 43 mph with a good tail wind. Some historians say it resembles a chopped
top 1930 model A Ford. It was mechanically similar to the pre-war Datsuns,
sharing the same basic mechanics as the Datsun DB2 "Thrift". If you
look at the DC-3 next to the prewar cars, you'd assume that it was built in the
1957 pre 200 series roadster
built between 1958 and 1960- don't know much about this car
Between the DC-3 and the next real generation of roadsters, Nissan built a few
limited run or prototype roadsters, some with striking similarities to the
Figaro retro car Nissan launched in the '90's.
The first new Datsun roadster was introduced in June 1959, the S211 model.
The Sports 211 roadster was based on the earlier 210 sedan platform, a car that
had recently proven itself in an Australian Rally. It featured a fiberglass
reinforced plastic body, seated 4 and had a top speed of 70 mph. Under the
hood was a 34 horsepower 988cc C engine. It seems to have taken its styling
cues from Austin-Healey roadsters.
The S211 continued until January 1960 when the SPL212 roadster took over. This
was a sleeker looking model, still a 4 seater, but with coil springs up front,
and side skirts. It featured the Bluebird's 1189cc 48 horsepower E series
engine and retailed for $1996 in the US.
The roadster became the spl213 in October 1960, with a stroked 55hp E motor and
a whole host of new features. Its next evolution, the Fairlady, appeared that
year at the Tokyo auto show to much critical acclaim. Only about 500 of the
Sport 200 series roadsters were produced, with sales of the model continuing
till early 1963.
The new Prototype roadster became the all new Fairlady Sports 1500 sp310 in
October 1963. It was a redesigned 3 seater, that became a 2 seater halfway
through the '63 production run. The SP310 had a 1488cc OHV 4 G engine that
initially put out 75 horsepower with a single SU(61-63), then 85 horsepower
when twin SU's(64-65). Production of the SP310 1500 Fairlady continued till
April 65, with the total number of cars produced reaching 6905.
For those wondering, the Fairlady name is rumored to have come from then Nissan
president Kawamata, who had seen the musical "My Fair Lady" while on
a trip to America.
The CSP311 1500 Silvia Coupe bcame out in 1965 and was sold primarily in Japan
with a few cars making it a far as Hawaii. Production was discontinued in 1968
with only 550 cars being produced. It is a remodel of the Fairlady 1500
roadster done by Nissan staff under the guidance of Albrecht Goertz.
Albrecht Goertz signed on as a consultant with Nissan in 1963, staying till
1965 primarily to help develop a 2000gt sportscar in a joint venture between
Nissan and Yamaha. The project was scrapped after Yamaha's engine didn't live
up to its billing, but if you look at photos of this car, its pretty easy to
see where the design inspiration for the 240z came from. Goertz is also said to
have introduced Nissan engineers to the idea of full scale clay mock-ups, the
csp311 being the first car designed that way.
The new 1600 Fairlady SP311 arrived in May 1965. It had a 96hp 1595 cc type R
engine, front wheel discs, and lots of trim and interior changes. It would
continue in production until late 1970.
Then in 1967 Nissan tweaked the 1600 and introduced the 2000 roadster, or the
SR311. This car was basically the same as the 1600, but with an all new U20
engine. This was a pure amalgamation of Prince's technology with the existing
Nissan engine. The new combined engineering team at Nissan put a Prince
Mercedes based head on a modified and stroked Austin based roadster 1600 block
and came up with a SOHC engine capable of 150 horsepower, but in reality the
figures were probably as low as 120. It also received a much needed 5 speed
gearbox. Production of the SR311(and SP311) continued on, with small changes in
October '67, and September and November 68.
The 1600 and 2000's were by the far the best roadsters Nissan produced. The
old joke is that the Datsun roadsters were just MG rip offs. The punchline is
that, unlike the MG, the Datsun roadsters kept their oil in the engine at
night, not all over the garage floor like the Brit cars.
Both Bob Sharp and Pete
Brock of BRE were racing roadsters by the end of the 60's along with a handful
of privateers. Nissan went so far as to set up an official competition
department in the US to supply parts for the team's that were racing roadsters.
Nissan/Prince combined speed shops were also instituted in Japan. The roadster,
along with 410sss and 411sss Bluebirds, were the backbone of Nissan's rally
efforts in Monte Carlo. Roadsters and their drivers have actually racked up
quite an impressive number of racing
victories, including several SCCA titles.
By the time production ceased in 1970, over 40,000 1600 and 2000 Fairlady
Roadsters had been built. The 240z was destined to replace the Roadsters as
Nissan's "Flagwaver" marquee model. The roadster technology was
getting old, as was that of most of its competitors. Within a few years, very
few roadsters would remain in production as the GT style cars took over. The
Roadster turns heads to this day, displaying a certain classic elegance that
few other Japanese cars do.
There is no roadster site on the web with better information, pictures, and
complete coverage of the car than
The Origins of the Fairlady Z
For a car that had such a distinct impression on the world of the automobile,
its amazing how long it took to be developed. The original Z is actually the
Fairlady Z, an extension of the Datsun roadster line, and has its roots in
another Nissan project.
Roadster hard top prototype by Goertz
Way back in 1963 Albrecht Goertz signed on as a consultant with Nissan. He was
there primarily to help develop a 2000gt sports car in a joint venture between
Nissan and Yamaha. The project was scrapped after Yamaha's engine didn't live
up to its billing, but if you look at photos of this car, its pretty easy to
see where the design inspiration for the Fairlady Z came from. Geortz left
Project was shelved in 1965.
The finished 2000gt prototype, next to a roadster for scale, as Geortz left it
clay mock up, front view and rear view of the 2000gt Prototype, its not a Z,
but the resemblance is there
Before he left, he did a couple of important things. The first was getting
Nissan designers to build their cars using full scale clay mock ups, and to get
them to think about design in an international context, not just for Japanese
buyers. The second thing he did was help design the Nissan Silvia Coupe CSP310
1600 of 1964. The Silvia was the showpiece of the Tokyo Auto show that year,
and is cited as another inspiration for the Z.
Enthusiasts hotly contest who actually designed the Z, but Nissan did issue a
letter to Goertz in 1980 giving him credit with the concept of the Z, if not
the actual design.
By the mid sixties, Nissan was really starting to make headway with its cars in
foreign markets. As a result, models were being redesigned and retrofitted to
meet the unique demands of each foreign market, but what they weren't doing was
building specific cars for those markets. The Z would change that.
A major development in the ability of Nissan to design the 510, and then the
240Z, was the acquisition of Prince Motors. Prince, unlike Nissan, was a very
race car oriented company. They had their own testing track, had begun the R380
series cars(see racing history), and they had a lot of car enthusiasts in the
mix, something that Nissan was lacking.
Geortz was gone by the time Nissan pulled the idea of a GT car back off the
shelf in '67. Mr. K had never stopped pushing for the development of the Z,
even while the project had collected dust. He and Kawasoe, unlike the other
Nissan execs, had to watch Americans speed along their highways in Mustangs and
muscle cars and imported European sports cars, like Alfas and Triumphs. They
needed a sports car, and the Roadster wasn't going to cut it.
The roadster was good car for what it was, but it had an old design, older
technology, and had no room left to improve. What Mr. K decided, with Kawasoe's
was that Nissan Needed a GT coupe that looked good, was safe, and could go
fast. And that's what he told the new design team that was responsible for the
resurrected GT project.
Under the supervision of Teiichi Hara, a new design team was formed. Yoshihiko
Matsuo, chief designer; Akio Yoshoda, exterior designer; Sue Chiba, interior
design; Eiichi Oiwa and Kiichi Nishikawa, design assistants. Engineering was
the responsibility of Hidemi Kamahara and Tsuneo Benitani. The biggest single
influence on the whole design from beginning to end was Yutaka Katayama, and
quite rightfully, he deserves the title as "father of the Z".
Katayama had had a very close relationship with Nissan designers for a number
of years, ever since Nissan had sent him to America to try and sell cars
designed for Japan to Americans who drove under much more demanding conditions.
Kawazoe, Mr. K's counterpart on the US East Coast, had much the same
relationship with designers, and was an engineer himself. They had input on
every aspect of the Z's design. They demanded American scale performance, not
just Japanese performance, they wanted comfortable interiors with room for
bigger American drivers, with the refinements that Americans got in their
The design criteria set forth for the Z were;
1. A coupe design for safety and comfort.
2. A style that would set it apart from other coupes, something
completely lacking sedan looks.
3. A design that allowed parts to be shared with other models to keep
4. Innovative use of design and new technology.
5. It had to be functional, and fast.
The car that would help pave the road for the Z was the 510. The '68 510 was
still a car designed for both the Japanese and American markets, but it
incorporated a lot of the ideas that Katayama and Kawazoe had been asking for
in a car, most importantly
a 1600cc engine. Mr. K was in love with 2 cars in the pre-510 and 240z days.
The first was the BMW 1600, which was the benchmark he set when discussing the
new 510 with the designer's back in Japan. The other was the Jaguar XKE, which
he saw as the epitome of the sports car. Both these cars he considered to be
the ideal for each of their respective classes. The 510 showed Nissan that
America would accept its cars, and lots of them.
The 510 contained most of the main ingredients used in the 240z: L Series
overhead cam engine, MacPherson struts, and independent rear suspension. It
also contained a lot of accessories not usually found on economy cars. The 510
also had the dimensions required for success in America, and was slowly gaining
ground with American buyers. While Z enthusiasts will deny to the death that
helped lead to 240z's success or influenced its design, there's no escaping the
cars engineering similarities.
The Z was supposed to have it all; style, speed, technology, and a bargain
price. As drivers and critics alike would discover, the 240z was all that, and
more. There were actually 2 different Z's, the Japanese market 2 liter
Fairlady Z(S30), and the US 2.4 liter 240Z(HS30). The Japanese market two liter
Z had a
twin cam engine like the one in the Skylines, designed to meet FIA European
racing specs. The 240z HS30 that America got had a bigger 2.4 liter engine that
not at all been designed with racing in mind. Europe was the land of prestige
racing, where Japan saw the US as the land of the Dirt Track; thus no one
considered that the Z would be seriously raced there.
The Fairlady Z went into production in October 1969, with 2 versions. There was
the Japanese market S30 Fairlady Z with a twin cam L20 6 cylinder producing
130hp. And there was the HS30 240z with a L24 SOHC 6 cylinder with twin SU's
that produced 151 hp. A third Z, the 432Z(PS30)Shared a performance version of
the S20 engine with the Skyline GT-R.
In October 1971, yet another version of the Fairlady was added to the line up,
the slant nose 240ZG. This car was mainly used by racers.
Z's after arriving from Japan
Despite Mr. K's protests, the 240z Actually arrived in America with Fairlady
badging. He didn't let any SU dealer have a single car until he had replaced all
Fairlady emblems with handcrafted 240z ones. After that, Nissan got the hit and
started sending the cars over
with 240z logos from the factory.
On October 22, 1969, The 240z was launched in America. Where the 510 was the
poor mans BMW, the 240z was the poor mans Ferrari. The nice green showcar had a
fully independent suspension, a 2.4 liter inline six with dual SU's that
delivered 150+ horses, and was a truly beautiful car to look at. Nissan USA
billed it as a "personalized 2 passenger fastback" whose "sleek
low lines are complimented by a roomy luxurious interior". That was a
slight understatement. The 240z was loaded with luxury sports car features,
far too many to list. It was everything that the long touted GT cars of Europe
were, except at a fraction of the price.
A Fairlady RHD 260z 2+2 GS30
Its dimensions were pretty close to that of the Porsche 911. It had unit body
construction as opposed to the roadsters frame set up. Rack and pinion steering
was used instead of the recirculating ball system found on the 510.
1970 was the first true sales year for the Z in the States, and the last year
for the 2 roadsters. While the 510 was the beachhead of the Japanese Auto
invasion, the 240Z was definitely the car that broke through to American
buyers. 33,000 z cars were sold in 1971, 52,000 in 72, and 45,000 in 73. Thus
began a wave of Japanese auto sales that would cut deep into the American auto
industry, cuts that would take nearly 2 decades to recover from. The Z alone
sold a million cars in just over a decade, something the Corvette took 25 years
Getting the Checkered Flag
The 240Z was introduced to US racing way before it was supposed to be, all
because on an unfortunate, or for Bob Sharp, fortunate event. Bob had gone to
see the New Z car at the New York auto show well before it became available for
sale. He fell in love with it and called up Mr. Kawasoe and asked him if he
could have one for racing. He was told, "none were available, unless a
salt damaged one shows up". The Car went on to the Toronto Auto Show.
While there, a model sat on the roof and put a rather large dent in the car.
It was immediately pulled from the publicity tour. Sharp got a call from Mr.
Usami, who told him to come pick up the damaged car before Nissan execs changed
their minds. Pete Brock and BRE would have to wait a couple more months to get
their first Z car. Both teams would have 2 240z's each on the track by the end
Bob Sharps original Z , the first Z in America
Datsun had already set up a competition department to satisfy the demands of
enthusiasts for aftermarket performance parts for their 510's and roadsters,
and a lot of that knowledge was now transferred to the Z's. But it wasn't just
a one way street. Datsun supported race teams, Brock Racing Enterprises and Bob
Sharp Racing, soon became the testing ground for 240z performance parts. You
have to remember that the Japanese Z had a different engine, a twin cam 2
liter. BRE and BSR got to find out all the problems with the inline 6 L series,
including an unbalanced crankshaft. Unless a Z part had been developed as
roadster performance part, it's durability was basically unknown. As a result,
BRE and BSR's experiences with the L series crept their way back to Nissan
design and into future production. Balanced Z cranks came about in exactly this
240Z'S had an incredible amount of success in racing, and not just on the
track. In addition to SCCA C Production championships, and IMSA championships,
240z's also won two Safari Rally's and one US rally Championship. For more
details, see the racing history and rally history pages.
Beyond the 240Z
Production of 240z continued until late 1973. Based on the success of the 240Z,
the 510, and to a lesser extent, the pickups, Road and Track declared that
Datsun "would establish a market of its own, one which will force other
makers to come up with entirely new models to gain a share of it".
A Z car racing in Japan in 1970
The 260z replaced the 240z in November 1973, and featured a new 2.6 liter
A 2+2 GS30 (2 front plus 2 rear seats) version was introduced in January 1974.
engine, due to design changes to meet tough new emission laws, would not rev as
high at the L24, leaving it a little short of power expectations, the carbs
were also switched to the flat top version of the SU's. The stretch needed to
create the 2+2 also took away from that models styling a bit.
The 260z was phased out for the North American market in mid 1975(1978 in other
markets) and replaced by the 280z. The 280z came
with a new 2.8 liter engine, and with Bosch L-jetronic fuel injection instead
of the hard to tune
SU's. The 280z lasted until August 1978 when the 280zx S130/GS130 was
The 280zx(S130) is a completely different car than the 280z. The suspension is
different in design, the body is much more of a luxury car than a sports car,
and the interior is much more elaborate. It initially came with a L28 engine,
with a turbo inline 6 becoming available in November 1980. The 280zx was
discontinued after the 1983 model year.
A BSR race prepped 280ZX
The first of the 300zx's, the z31 version, was sold under the Nissan brand in
1984, sales continued until 1989, with standard and 2+2 versions available. You
also had two engine choices, both the new VG30 v6, but one being a turbo
version putting out 205hp.
1990 was the beginning of the end for the Z, with the new body style Z32
version of the 300zx. The VG30 became the VG30DE putting out 222hp, or you
could have the turbo VG30DETT, with twin turbos that jumped the horsepower to
300. Standard and 2+2 versions were also available.
The 300zx was discontinued in 1996 due to lackluster sales. In the end it was
the Z's own success that probably killed it. The Z car had gone from a simple
well designed sports car, to a huge high performance luxury sports car. No one
could afford it anymore, and everyone in the Z's high price range was buying
SUV's by that point. The Z had become far too big a monster for the enthusiast
that originally made it a success.
The Z story is a truly amazing one. The car that was initially launched with
modest expectations went on to sell a million units in just over a decade,
something the Chevy Corvette took 25 years to do. The Z cars have won a huge
number of racing victories, including the safari rally in '71 and '73, three
straight Japanese Grand Prix's, and 10 consecutive SCCA C Production titles.
The 240z and the 510 were both declared among the "Top 100 cars of the
Century" by a Road and Track magazine survey of car critics and
An unsuccessful attempt to revive the original Z was launched in 1997 with the
"Z Store" program. Nissan restored 240z's back to better than original
condition, and sold them to the public. The new price tag was more than most
people could rationalize, and the project was eventually scrapped.
The Z story isn't over. Nissan launched a new Z in 2002, the 350z, to rave
reviews. Nissan's sales are up, and the new Z has already been adopted by
Tuners as the new car of choice for modification. Many Auto experts consider
the new 350Z to be the spearhead of a new
era for Nissan, one full of excitement.