My first exposure to a Datsun Z was in 1972, when my cousin Kathy purchased a blue Datsun S30 240Z with white interior. I acquired this car from my cousin and parted it out as the frame rails and floorboards had rotted away from sitting in the Upstae New York winters for years. My high school Art Teacher had a 1983 Datsun 280ZX Coupe, which I fell in love with. I saw my first Nissan S130 Fairlady 280Z during my first duty station with the U.S. Navy at Clark Air Force Base in Angeles City, Philippines from 1985-1986.
Following the Philippines, I spent two years at Misawa Air Force Base in Misawa, Japan from 1987-1989, my first vehicle was I ever owned was a 1979 Nissan Bluebird 4 door Sedan. This car was top of line in its day! When I purchased the 1980 Nissan Fairlady Z. I was not aware of the differences between Fairlady Zs and Fairlady 280Zs. I bought the car thinking it had an L28 engine, turns out the engine was an L20.
For the 1979-1983 line of cars, if a Fairlady Z has an L28 engine, it is a Fairlady 280Z. If a Fairlady Z has an L20 engine, it is a Fairlady Z. The descriptive "ZX" not used for the homeland version Z. The other major difference 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.
Following Japan, I shipped my Nissan 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. These guys were awesome, we did some drives around England north and east of London. I shipped the car from London, England to Cape Canaveral, FL in 1991. 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 $1,276.00 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 circa 1991, which missed the establishment of the Maryland Z Club by two years. That Maryland State Trooper is probably still looking for the blue sports car that disappeared from the area.
Following Maryland, I transferred to the USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) homeported 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 California, 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 intended to start 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 Napolitano’s will turn a two-lane road into eight and slapping mirrors as you pass is common practice, “ciao.”
Following Italy, in 2000 I moved to Victoria, British Columbia, which is on Vancouver Island. During my tour there, I got involved with two Datsun and Z Car groups. First, being the Vancouver Island Datsun Enthusiasts (VIDE) and the second was the parent club British Columbia Z Registry (BCZR). I came across a 1984 Nissan Z31 Fairlady 200ZG for sale in Seattle (Redmond), Washington. Greg Macaulay Founder, VIDE and myself drove down to Seattle to pick up the car.
The range for the Japanese market continued to list a 2-liter engine to make the most of local taxation laws. The Fairlady ranges of vehicles for the Z31 body style were 200Z, 200ZS, 200ZG, 200ZR, 300ZX, and 300ZR. The 1984 Nissan Fairlady 200ZG has the VG20ET engine, 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.
As I was living in Canada, it was easy to obtain Nissan 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 U.S. 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 Nissan 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 traded the 1984 Nissan Fairlady Z to Erik Kidwell for putting a new engine in my 1980 Nissan Fairlady Z.
Following Canada, in 2003 I moved to Lake Shore, MD and joined the Maryland Z Club. it was a sad day in 2016 as my 1980 Nissan Fairlady Z that I owned for thirty years burned up in a shop fire. A car that had a head-on with a deer decided to catch on fire after two weeks while at Jim’s Body Shop in Pasadena, MD. Jim’s Body Shop failed to disconnect the battery on the source of the fire that took out my Nissan Fairlady Z and four other cars. The police thought they heard gunshots as they drove up to the shop. Turns out the loud bangs were the car tires popping from the heat! The Nissan Fairlady Z was a total loss. I bought the car back for $70.00 and parted out what was salvageable.
My 1970 Nissan S30 Fairlady Z was for sale on ClassicZCars.com In 2017; I contacted the second owner Eric Jolly and arranged a trip to Utica, Pennsylvania to look over the car. I was the only person to take the time to make the trip. Similar to Eric, I loved this car and he could tell. We shared dinner and a few brews the night before I saw the car. Eric brought all the original paperwork from 1970 and a limited edition framed Z Car poster signed by Mr. K. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. K at ZCON 2003 held in Nashua, NH. Eric and I hit it off and made a handshake deal as he handed me the keys with no deposit. I borrowed a car hauler from my good friend Dan Banks and picked the car up a couple of months later. I engage regularly with the original owner Don Davis who resides in Alexandria, Virginia. Don provided me with some pictures of the car over the years and two Japanese License Plates (export and transport). The Japanese License Plates were hanging in Don’s garage for thirty-three years. Don Davis had a friend Michael Luken put up the funds to purchase the car new from Aomori Nissan near Misawa, Japan. Don owned the car for thirty years. Second owner Eric Jolly worked for Don at Misawa Air Force Base. Eric eventually purchased the car and owned it for seventeen years. Eric and his brother Jason restored the car and tucked it away in a rural Pennsylvania barn. Eric lost interest due to the unexpected death of his brother in a four-wheeler accident.
1970 Nissan Fairlady Z History: Misawa, Japan 1970-1975, Seoul, South Korea 1975-1978, Misawa, Japan 1978-1980, Omaha, Nebraska 1980-1983, San Francisco, California 1983-1984, Alexandria, Virginia 1984-2001, Utica, Pennsylvania 2001-2017, Lake Shore, MD 2017-present. The car raced at the following speedways: Sears Raceway Sonoma, California, Bonneville Speedway Wendover, Utah, and Summit Point Raceway, West Virginia. Throughout its life in Japan, South Korea, and fours states as the car had two previous owners. In 1997, the White Rose Z Car Club in York, PA hosted the ZCCA International Z-Car Convention. Mr. K was present and signed the rearview mirror, another inconspicuous place in case of theft and on the owner’s manual. Mr. K also wrote “69 model year” on the original purchase documents. I was able to get some rare parts from a contact in Japan via Yahoo Auctions. Examples: Nissan 2000 OHC valve cover and mesh grille.
I smile when I walk into my garage and think to myself, I own a 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z.
Z you around!
"Love Cars, Love People, Love Life" Mr. Yutaka Katayama, "Father of the Z Car"