I saw my first Nissan Fairlady 280Z during my first duty station with the navy in Angeles City, Philippines from 1985-1986.
Following the Philippines, I spent two years in Misawa, Japan from 1987-1989, which is when I purchased my first car ever a 1979 Nissan Bluebird 4 door sedan. I always liked the Datsun 280ZX, but did not know when I would get one. When I was about a year from moving from Japan to London, England my 1980 Fairlady Z came up for sale. I just had to have her, so off to the bank I went to secure the funds to purchase her. I did not know the first thing about differences between Fairlady Zs and Fairlady 280Zs. I bought her thinking it had an L28 engine, turns out the engine was an L20. The wheels are Techno Racing Phantoms from Japan and are very rare.
For the 79-83 line of cars, if a Fairlady has an L28 engine, it is a Fairlady 280Z. If a Fairlady has an L20 engine, it is a Fairlady Z. The descriptive "ZX" was not used for the homeland version Z. The other major differences between the North American version and the Japanese version are the fender-mounted mirrors up to 1983 and the location of the steering wheel. Japanese regulations required fender-mounted mirrors on cars in different tax classes based on their physical size. By fitting the mirrors to the fender, you can make a car with a wider passenger space fit inside the same maximum width of a given tax class. In 1983 Japanese laws changed concerning mirrors on the fenders.
I shipped my Fairlady Z to London, England in 1989, but it went to Iceland by mistake, which caused a delay in its arrival in England. She fit right in during my stint in London 1989-1991 as they drive on the left side of the road. England was my first exposure to a group of Zed enthusiasts, which are now known as the Z Club of Great Britain. I knew she would be coming back to the states with me, so I was able to obtain an EPA hardship exemption letter, which exempted me from emission requirements. Two stipulations were 1) could not sell her for three years, why would I want to sell her. 2) Could not register her in California or Hawaii, not a problem, she did live in San Diego for three years 1992-1995 with Florida plates. Prior to departing London, I had to arrange for her shipment back to the states, the military shipping office tried to tell me that I could not ship her. Fortunately, I knew they were in error as I had shipped her from Japan and did not purchase her on the English Economy as they assumed. I knew the government-shipping manual like the back of my hand, which was a good thing or she would still be in England.
I had to hire ICI International to post bond on her and provide transport from Cape Canaveral to Orlando, Florida where the DoT conversion was completed. DoT conversion included reinforced doors, bumpers, and changing speedometer from KPH to MPH. I got off easy with a $1276.00 bill, which could have been a lot worse if I did not already have DoT approved safety glass and tires. I spent 6 months stationed in the Fort Meade area in 1991, which missed the establishment of the Maryland Z Club by two years.
Following Maryland, I transferred to the USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) home ported in San Diego, California. I was associated with a number of Z Car Enthusiasts in San Diego 1992-1994, but we mostly cruised the beach as there were no Z Car Clubs in the Southern California area then.
Following San Diego, I transferred to Pensacola, Florida and took a stab at starting the Emerald Coast Z Car Club in 1997, but transferred to Naples, Italy in 1998 prior to anything coming to fruition. I gave all my documentation to a fellow Z Enthusiast as he also had intentions of starting a Z Car Club. I would like to think that our efforts played a role in the establishment of the Panhandle Z Car Club.
My Fairlady Z was stored at my parent’s house in Flagler Beach, Florida for the next two years as I was not taking her to Naples, Italy. If you have ever experienced Italian driving styles, you would understand why. The Neapolitan's will turn a two lane road into eight and slapping mirrors as you pass is common practice, “ciao”.
Following Italy, I went to Victoria, British Columbia, which is on Vancouver Island. During my tour I got involved with two Datsun and Z Car groups. First was the Vancouver Island Datsun Enthusiasts (VIDE) and the second was the parent club British Columbia Z Registry. While residing in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 2000-2003, I came across a 1984 Fairlady 200ZG for sale in Seattle (Redmond), Washington. Greg Macaulay VIDE founder, and myself drove down to Seattle to pick her up from Trevor Elston. The range for the Japanese market continued to list a 2-liter engine to make the most of local taxation laws. On the home market, the Z31 also came with a 2.0 liter motor. The 200Z, 200ZG, and 200ZS used the VG20ET motor while the 200ZR had the RB20DET. Other than the 300ZX, the only other factory Z31 variant to use the VG30DE engine is the 300ZR. The Japanese 300ZX Turbo was not subject to the tough emissions regulations found in the US, allowing it to produce 230 hp (172 kW), outperforming not only its North American counterpart, but the 2.0 liter Z31s as well--their engines only made 170-180 hp. The 1984 Fairlady 200ZG has the VG20ET engine, which is rated at 170bph, only 60bhp less than the 3-liter equivalent. The Z31 series was the last of the 2-liter versions, as Japanese taxation laws changed in 1989. Differences between the North American version and the Japanese version are: pressure sensitive device on hood to activate wipers, different mirrors, side turn signal lights between front wheel and door, no turn side turn signal lights on rear fenders, and rare hardtop with turbo engine. The 2-liter version differences are: no injector fan, no battery gauge in dash, 4 vice 5 lug bolts, and smaller window washer reservoir. The 1984 Fairlady Z had about 8 coats of burgundy paint on her, so I had to strip her down to bare metal and had the original factory paint scheme put back on in blue-black metallic with silver accent and painted on pin stripes. As I was living in Canada, it was easy to obtain Fairlady Z parts directly from Nissan Japan through the local dealer. Do not understand why we cannot walk into a dealer here and get parts directly from Nissan Japan. Someone recently mentioned US Customs was the problem, but I am here to tell you Canadian Customs is no joke. I ordered some parts from Australia and went through an ordeal taking the ferry over to Vancouver and processing the required forms. A little history on the ownership of the 1984 Fairlady Z, Reginald Alston shipped her from Tokyo, Japan to Sanford, North Carolina and sold her to a New Jersey auction. A car dealer in Brooklyn, New York purchased her from the auction. Trevor Elston purchased her from the dealer in New York.
I found out I was going to get stationed in Maryland for my retirement posting, so I looked up the Maryland Z Car Club, contacted Mark Lambert, and joined in February 2003. I traded the 1984 Fairlady Z to Erik Kidwell for making my 1980 Fairlady Z engine look the way it does.
My 1980 Nissan Fairlady Z burned up in a shop fire, total loss. I bought the car back for $70 and parted out what was left. I purchased a 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z from the 2nd owner.
Z you around!
"Love Cars, Love People, Love Life" Mr. Yutaka Katayama, "the Father Of The Z Car"
Cheers, Kirk Towner