In the 80’s, I took a sabbatical from marketing and propaganda, and managed a record distribution company in the U.S. My warehouse manager was Rick, a redheaded bear of a guy who also could have been Master at Arms of the local Hells Angels chapter. Come to think of it, he managed the parts department of a motorcycle store before I hired him. The love of his life were a motor cycle and his Z Car. Rick would have suffered a heart attack, would he have known that his manly Z was a ladyboy. At home in Japan, the Z had a girlie name : The Fairlady.
The first Fairlady was the Datsun SPL212. Only a few hundred were built of the 47 hp roadster from 1960 through 1962. The car received its fairy moniker from the hit musical My Fair Lady. The car was made for the export market only, and in the U.S., the Fairlady name was ignored.
The Fairlady had sisters in rapid succession. In 1962, a more serious sports car followed in form of the Fairlady 1500, a roadster with 85 horses, and a transistor radio as standard equipment. On the way to the U.S., the lady had a sex change, and went to market as the Datsun 1500.
The Fairlady 2000, or its more manly pendent, the Datsun 2000, was a more serious matter. With the competition package, the 2 liter engine could produce 150 hp, and the car hit 140 mph on a good day or on the SCCA racetrack.
The car rose to worldwide stardom when the Nissan Fairlady Z was launched in 1969. Again, there was a metamorphosis on the way to the U.S., and instead of a Fairlady, a Z Car rolled off the boat. The car was made in several versions and with several engines. With over 2 million cars sold, it holds the record as the best-selling sports car of all times. It also maintained an important tradition: Fairlady at home, no lady elsewhere.
Likewise little known is the fact that the metrosexual car spawned another revolution: The female product specialist. Tokyo started to buzz when it was selected for the 1964 Summer Olympics. Japan’s post-war economic miracle went into high gear.
The gallery concept influenced flagship showrooms the world over. The tower idea found its way to Germany. When Volkswagen opened its Autostadt in 2000, it had two towers.
To attract visitors, Nissan used a tried and true technique: Beautiful women. Except this time, the ladies had to do more than just stand around and be beautiful. The ladies received product training.
A competition was held, and after several rounds of interviews, five candidates were chosen as the first class of Nissan Miss Fairladys. Were the ladies named after the car, or the car after the ladies? We’ll never know.