The Truth About Cars » Nissan Z The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Nissan Z Nissan IDx Will Be Produced, But What About The Z? Wed, 15 Jan 2014 20:16:40 +0000 Conceptz (1)

With Nissan product boss Andy Palmer confirming that the IDx concept car will go into production, the auto world is rejoicing over the prospect of another affordable sports car. But Palmer also let slip some interesting news about the next Z, which will also see a reduction in engine size.

According to Autocar, the next Z will have a downsized turbocharged engine, likely a 4-cylinder, though Palmer didn’t discount a V6 powered Nismo variant. Hopefully we’ll see get a reduction in curb weight and footprint as well, wearing the historic badge but transitioning into the S16 Silvia that never was.

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Generation Why: The Skyline Fades From The Rear-View Mirror Mon, 14 Oct 2013 12:30:05 +0000 Nissan_Skyline_R33_GT-R_001

It’s not just oil, water and other precious resources that we’re running out of here on planet earth. Apparently, we’re a little short on automotive nameplates too. If you believe the reports in industry trade pubs, we’ll eventually be overrun by obscure alphanumerics as the number of trademark-ready monikers gradually thins out. Scarcity isn’t the only factor behind it either. Frequently, nameplates get retired, and an all-new version of the previous car is re-introduced with another combination of numbers and letters – just like Nissan is planning to do with the Skyline after 56 years of production.

Members of the Playstation Generation that still care about cars (yes, we exist, we are legion and we are too saddled with debt to even think about buying a new car, thank you very much) revere the “Skyline” name like a person of faith reveres the Tetragrammaton. It is an ineffable, unknowable bit of four-wheeled technology that we were never privy to, and therefore, it’s reached iconic status among North American car enthusiasts, who were only exposed to the car via Gran Turismo or the Fast and Furious franchise.

Like most instances where the grass is greener on the other side, it turned out the grass was a little less lustrous and colorful once you got over the fence. Canada’s flexible importation laws meant that older Skyline GT-Rs have been flooding the nation’s streets for some time. Driven today, they aren’t terribly remarkable cars, neither particularly fast or involving. I found my friend’s Toyota Celica GT-FOUR (another piece of all-wheel drive turbocharged forbidden fruit, albeit one closer to a rally special than a Grand Tourer) to be a much more compelling way to spend $10,000 and inconvenience oneself with right-hand drive. The breathless Ray Hutton and Don Schroeder reports telex’d from Japan are not congruent with our current reality. I am sure that in the early 1990′s, this car was certainly something compared to the C4 ‘Vette, but there’s a reason why Nissan never sold them here.

The idea of paying between $60,000-$100,000 for a car with the interior from a B13 Sentra and the sex appeal of Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a recipe for commercial ruin.  The 300ZX on the other hand, had the Z car heritage, as well as the rectum-puckering performance, plush interior and removable T-Tops demanded by mustachioed 1990′s sports car buyers. Besides, the Skyline name meant nothing to most consumers.

But it means something to me, and to most readers who got their licenses right around the time the Skyline ceased to exist as we knew it. The introduction of the V35 Skyline, aka our Infiniti G35, brought an end to the familiar Skyline formula, with its naturally aspirated and turbocharged straight-six engines and its rather anonymous salaryman packaging. The V6-powered V35 shared its underpinnings with the Z car – something true Skyline enthusiasts would regard as blasphemy.

The Skyline was originally a Prince product, and legend has it that when Nissan absorbed Prince in 1966, Prince’s products, Skyline included, were regarded as orphans. The Skyline’s racing pedigree was apparently considered both unremarkable and enough of a threat to the homegrown Fairlady Z that they were never imported to America. Within Nissan, the two cars were always regarded as distinct entities, with the Z being the sports car for Nissan. Only when the forces of industry economics were brought to bear on Nissan, in the form of Carlos Ghosn, did Nissan take advantage of any synergies between the two cars.

Now that Nissan is planning to sell the Infiniti brand in Japan, the assimilation is complete. The Skyline nameplate will die alongside the V36 Skyline/G sedan (no word on whether the current G Coupe will carry on the name), and the new Infiniti Q50 will carry that name in Japan as well.

The fatal blow to the Skyline nameplate was delivered when the R35 GT-R divorced itself from the Skyline range upon its 2009 introduction. Without the GT-R, the Skyline is just another anonymous commodity car in its home market, just as the Chevrolet Impala is a rather unremarkable car when the hot SS versions aren’t around. But the reality is that the conditions that helped foment the “golden age of Japanese sports cars” have been absent for a long time now, and we’re now feeling the hangover after years and years of non-stop good times. Combine that with the relentless pressure for greater profits derived via increasing economies of scale in a cutthroat global auto market, and the decision to axe the Skyline name in favor of promoting the “Infiniti Brand” and the Q50 shouldn’t surprise anyone. But it does leave me a little dewey-eyed.


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Curbside Classic: The Revolutionary 1971 Datsun 240Z Tue, 26 Jan 2010 06:25:19 +0000

The Datsun 240 was as a true revolutionary, smashing the long-stagnant sports car market of the sixties into smithereens. It was long overdue too; folks were getting cranky for the messiah: a truly modern sporty two seater with four-wheel independent suspension, a zippy OHC six engine, dazzling styling, all served up at a reasonable price; say $3500 (about $20k adjusted). The hole in the market for such a car was begging to be filled. And Datsun stepped up and delivered, with a grand-slam home run. But like most revolutionaries, the Z was anything but truly original. But then neither was Che nor Lenin; they studied Marx. And Datsun? They took their studies seriously too.

Prior to 1970, the sporty two-seater segment was over-ripe for change. The creaky and outdated British roadsters were rolling relics begging to be put out of their misery; the superb Porsche always was pricey and quickly getting more so; the attractive but none too cheap nor reliable Italians were barely hanging on by virtue of their pretty faces; and the Corvette wasn’t exactly budget-priced and was entering the long dark decade of the seventies.  Nissan took note and sent its Z right at the bulls eye of that target market. And where did their inspiration come from? How about another famous Z?

GM’s John Z. DeLorean saw the same market hole: something below the ‘Vette in price and yet smashingly more attractive than the MG or Triumphs. And he saw it years earlier. The 1964 Pontiac Banshee concept had the formula nailed: Pontiac’s new OHC six wrapped in a delicious and highly advanced bod. It’s styling foreshadowed the ’68 Vette, but without the exaggerations. The nearly production-ready Banshee was nixed by the timid GM brass, fearing the market wasn’t big enough for it and the Corvette both.

An iffy speculation? Perhaps, but the story of the 240Z’s origins and paternity is endlessly intriguing and rife with rumor, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw another ingredient into it. In the early sixties, Nissan wanted an image-mobile to spicy up its stodgy rep. Albrecht Goertz, a protege of renowned stylist Raymond Loewy, went to Japan around that time to help Nissan develop their clay modeling expertise. Nissan and Yamaha entered into a development project for a sporty coupe using a Yamaha engine, and Goertz did the design. To be called the Nissan 2000GT, the project was still-born, and a restless and eager Yamaha took it to Toyota.

In need of some image polishing themselves, Toyota bit and the result is the stunning and legendary Toyota 2000GT. Toyota claims their own designer Satoru Nozaki did the final work, and that may well be. But Goertz’ influence on both the Toyota and the 240Z is undeniable. But the expensive production GT was much more of an image-mobile in the mold of today’s Lexus LFA than what the Banshee promised and the 240Z finally delivered.

The Z may have numerous claims on its parentage, but a few are too obvious to discount, in lieu of DNA tests. The Datsun 510, a revolutionary car in its own right, and the subject of a recent CC, was a key genetic donor, in that its new OHC four sprouted two more cylinders to make the Z’s six. And given that Yatuka Katayama (Mr. K) had helped shepherd that into its final form, and that he fought successfully for a renaming of the Z’s Japanese Fairlady moniker, he certainly can take a bow.

The Datsun 1800 donated its front suspension, and other pieces from the corporate bin were used wherever possible. The rear suspension was new, but so similar to the Lotus’ that it is rightfully called a Chapman strut. And then there is that body that wrapped it all. John DeLorean would have been proud; it’s decidedly un-GM-esque in detail, but the long flowing hood, the clear lines, the well set-back cockpit, the bulging  hood, the delightfully resolved tail; there’s just not a bad angle, line or detail on this Z.

I mean that generally and specifically; this particular car was a nice find, because it’s hard to find one of the early Zs that is as clean, untampered with, and shows off its designer’s intent as well as this one. They tend to look too fussy, burdened with too much trim and emblems. But this one, having lost its hood ornament, looks as good as as any Z I’ve ever seen. It has almost a concept car’s purity, and every angle is a joy to behold. I’d forgotten just how terrific and timeless a design this car was until I stumbled unto this one.It was hard to stop shooting and walk on.

Of course, things went only down hill after the first few years of Zdom. It’s a depressing tale; I know there are fans of the later cars and its successors, but for me there will only ever be the early 240Z  to speak its brilliant intent and execution. Light, lithe, with a motor that still had some genuine Zing in those last days of pre-smog choked dullness and crankiness. Yes, the 240Z was far from perfect, its handling exhibiting some of the same twitchiness at the limit like its 510 little brother. Nissan would soon take care of that all too well; it slowly morphed the Z from a poor-mans XK-E into a bloated Camaro wanna-be.

But the Z’s decline into plushly upholstered boulevard cruiserdom was soon exploited by Mazda with their gem, the RX-7. Taking the original Z formula (minus the IRS but with a rotary), and keeping it tight and light, the RX-7 carved out as nice a chunk of the market as it carved canyon curves. Of course, the RX-7 lost the way too eventually, until the Miata reclaimed it for good. It’s taken a while, but it was inevitable that someone would eventually find the sweet spot and stick to it as religiously as a warm tire on a hot back-road curve. Just imagine if the 240Z had been available as a roadster too, and stuck to its mission: revolution would have become orthodoxZy.

More new Curbside Classics here

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