The Fairlady Series

Edgar Gonzalez's Fairlady S212 ,see his more about this model at

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 1932.

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 30's.

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 after the Project was shelved in 1965.

The finished 2000gt prototype, next to a roadster for scale, as Geortz left it at Nissan
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 input, 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.

1970 240Z
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 cars.

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
costs down.
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 the 510 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 had 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 to do.

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 of 1970.

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 way.

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 engine. A 2+2 GS30 (2 front plus 2 rear seats) version was introduced in January 1974. The 260z's 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 introduced.

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 enthusiasts.

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.

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