This year, as the 2009 Nissan 370Z is set to be unveiled next week at the LA Auto Show, marks nearly 40 years since the first Z car's simple origins as the 1969 Datsun 240Z. Since then we've seen the Z go all over the place, from tech-heavy with the 1991 300ZXTT and just plain heavy with the outgoing 350Z. But big was still beautiful, and each iteration of the itty-bitty Nissan, including the final one, has retained many of the simplistic design elements from the original '69. But now there's a new Z car. Will the design stack up with what's come before? Hit the jump to find out.
The Original ZThe biggest single influence on the original Z was Yutaka Katayama, affectionately referred to as the "Father of the Z". In the pre-Z years, Katayama fell in love with the Jaguar XKE and viewed it as perfect; the epitome of the sports car. Fueled by Katayama's passion and the acquisition of the Prince Motor Company (a small company of enthusiasts who birthed the Skyline) in 1966, Nissan put the Z into production during October of 1969. Badged as the Datsun Fairlady Z in Japan, this small GT gained huge acclaim for both its design and performance. When it came time to sell the Z in the U.S. the cars were shipped wearing the Fairlady badges, but Katayama felt strongly against using the Fairlady name in America and shifted to the numbered designation that we know today (the Fairlady name is still used in Japan). Despite this small discrepancy between the two markets, the Z quickly gained cult status here in America.
The New ZFast forward to today and you'll see that same kind of passion in the new-for-2009 Nissan 370Z. The five-point design criteria for the original Z car was:
1.) A coupe design for safety and comfort. 2.) A style that would set it apart from other coupes. 3.) A design that allowed part sharing for lower development costs. 4.) An innovative use of design and technology. 5.) It had to be functional and fast.The outgoing 350Z was a great attempt to rebirth these original design philosophies, but the car was portly; something the original Z was most definitely not. It appears Nissan's attempted to combat this, shortening the 370Z significantly and returning it to the 99-inch wheelbase, long regarded as the "perfect" sports car wheelbase. This cut in length translates into a lighter, more taught Z; the added horsepower doesn't hurt either. Katayama would be proud.