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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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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.

  • Dartdude Having the queen of nothing as the head of Dodge is a recipe for disaster. She hasn't done anything with Chrysler for 4 years, May as well fold up Chrysler and Dodge.
  • Pau65792686 I think there is a need for more sedans. Some people would rather drive a car over SUV’s or CUV’s. If Honda and Toyota can do it why not American brands. We need more affordable sedans.
  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.