A Pictorial History: The World's First Metrosexual Car. Fair Lady At Home, Mister Z When Away

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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 1600 underwent the same transformation from 1965 through 1070: Lady in Japan, 1600 elsewhere.

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.

At the Ginza in downtown Tokyo, a tower went up, and in the tower was the Nissan gallery.

Nissan’s tower, left. Volkswagen’s tower, right

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.

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  • Rcousine Rcousine on Aug 08, 2012

    Did the "Fair Lady" branding actually parallel a women-centric marketing effort? Or were the buyers mostly men in Japan?

  • Schmitt trigger Schmitt trigger on Aug 09, 2012

    That Nissan/Mitsubishi tower is pretty iconic of the Ginza in particular and Tokyo in general. The hallways appear to be quite narrow, though...I guess you could not show a Hummer there...

    • Silverkris Silverkris on Aug 09, 2012

      Absolutely correct - the cylindrical building is a Ginza landmark and I believe it was/is called the San-Ai Building. It's not surprising that Nissan (and probably other Japanese corporations) would choose the Ginza to be its showcase, due to its high visibility.

  • Johnds Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.
  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.
  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.