The Japanese may have gotten things started by remanufacturing licensed European runabouts, but once the steam train started rolling, there was no stopping the giant from the Far East. It set its course for the US market to live the American dream. If a car manufacturer made it there, it was pretty much set for life.
Trouble was, hardly anyone except the Yank domestics ever made it there. Other than European exotica, the buyers lapped up Detroit Iron and nothing much else. Sure, you'd see an MG every now and then, but that was slow, unreliable and expensive in the first place. It also became outdated sometime in the late Fifties, which is why in 1966 Nissan cleverly recognised the need to fill a niche. Something affordable was required, with lustrous sportscar lines, performance to rival American V8s, and that would start in a Michigan January, unlike the ‘Princes of Darkness' emanating from the UK.
With the resulting 240Z, Nissan hit the spot that kept coining it until, well, today basically. The Z car nameplate originated with a perfect design, the driver sitting over the rear axle (all the better to anticipate the inevitable slide) and his eyes edging across a vast bonnet housing a raspy straight-six.
Compared to its European rivals nothing could touch the Z's power and handling, while the local stuff couldn't compete on price despite the ‘Datsun's' import tag.
People woke up to the impending oil crisis and ditched their V8s in favour of the Japanese shark. It helped too, that for once Japan didn't blatantly copy an existing Western design, although the Z undoubtedly had a whiff of E-Type about it. It was honest and simple, and that made it loveable.
Averaging 50,000 sales a year in the US, Nissan had arrived, and brought with it the most successful sportscar franchise in history.
- Car 1970 Datsun 2407
- Engine 2.4-litre straight-six making 161bhp and 198Nm of torque, later growing to 2.8 litres
- Transmission Five-speed manual, RWD
- Performance 0-100kph in 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 201kph
- Weight 1,025kg
- Fuel Twin SU carburettors