By on April 18, 2016

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I wonder how many of the Best and Brightest have been watching, waiting for this column to descend once again upon a subject automobile that has had a truly mystical device bestowed upon it by its creator. I’m talking about the equipment that blew the expression right off your neighbor’s face when showing off your new purchase in the driveway. A true novelty lost to time. Something that probably should be capitalized on currently by automakers in an updated form in this age of “let’s fill this humorless pod full of unusable gadgetry so it doesn’t look like a rolling flip-phone.”

I’m talking, of course, about a little thing called voice warning.

You see kids, something magical happens when that speaker chimes in to apprise you of things you probably already knew about. And while we’re on the subject of cars so equipped, why not focus on something with … soul?

What can be said of the Z31 300ZX? Quite a lot, actually.

Relatively fast and hideously expensive, this was one of the cars that made Nissan great — at least in image anyway. I’m fairly confident that every mustachioed male who watched “Rocky IV” in the theater purchased one of these cars between 1984 and 1989 on their way to buy a Members Only jacket. If this thing was any more ’80s, it would come with sweatbands and a mirrored horizontal surface with a matching gold-plated Nissan razor blade; upon twisting the key, the cluster would launch into a wireform montage as Stan Bush’s You’ve Got The Touch would play.

In any case, Paul Newman liked it, so you should too, lest your “Man-card” or even “Lady-card” be revoked.

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I’ve avoided these Z31 finds in the past. I know a few things about them, so bringing one to life has seemed all too easy.

Three of them should be enough of a challenge.

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Naru was a 1987 Nissan 300ZX 2+2.


“He’s been in there awhile. I wonder if they’re gonna kick him out again,” thought the sentient Naru electronically.

An apparition of heat danced over her custom-colored sheetmetal. Across the parking lot, the sliding doors of the Mitsuwa Japanese marketplace opened. Out stepped Naru’s most decidedly un-Asian owner.

At 28 years of age, 6’5″ tall, and 190 pounds, Jeff’s “awkward phase” was running a bit long. He stopped in the middle of the entryway, just long enough to provide moderate annoyance for the other patrons and the Mitsubishi air curtain. Excitedly, he fished out his American-sized 50-ounce jug of Calpico Water and took a long swig as if he was the only one on the planet. A white-gloved security guard walked up to the man, and spoke broken English.

“Euh, ex-cusesuh-me sir. Please,” he said, gesturing away from the flow of the many people with detached expressions.

Jeff turned to the guard and bowed as if delighted. “Oh, sumi masen!”

The guard said something to the effect of “yes” and humorlessly walked back into the supermarket. Some of the other customers reached Naru’s parking spot first, speaking in Japanese, “People like that are the reason they closed down the toy store.” Naru sighed, leaking some droplets of oil from her valve cover gaskets. The rubber was hardened, much like her resolve. The 10W-30 fell onto the exhaust manifolds to burn off later.

Jeff pulled the door open and fell into the cockpit. Naru chimed away happily.

“Oh, did you get a new manga?”

Jeff slid his twenty dollars worth of almost-newspaper comic strip out of the bag. Naru read the kanji next to the nearly naked … robot on the cover.

“Kōkaku no Pandora-what the fuck?”

Jeffrey’s t-shirt was already pitted out, and his funk swirled through the hot cabin. He turned to his folded bookmark halfway through, and started the car without diverting his gaze. The air conditioning kicked on automatically, and vintage R-12 went to work. Jeff stared at the image of the female robot on the page longingly. In the place of the robot’s private area was something resembling an open mailbox. He suddenly put the reading material away and selected first gear.

“Are you thinking of her?” asked Naru. “Don’t … don’t do that.”

Soon, the Z was heading out of the dusk at the I-90/I-294 interchange. The scuffed size-13 New Balance on the gas pedal lifted.

“Noooo. Come on. Don’t-” Suddenly, Naru was prodded. Her VG sang a throaty bass riff for the downshift into third. Jeff had timed the shift perfectly to induce a squat at a precise point of the ramp. Had the circumstances been different, she might have enjoyed that. Instead, she voiced her displeasure in the form of a loud buzz from the aspirator fan in her roof.

She knew exactly where they were headed. All 180 horses were summoned as the GT negotiated the awkward junction inexplicably placed just before the toll plaza. Naru’s derriere dipped on each shift, her exhaust flange barely clearing the pavement. She responded in protest with a loss of vacuum source, resulting in a sharply contrasting blast of humid spite from her vents.

“Ughh,” Jeff moaned, switching the A/C off.

He then jammed his index finger firmly into the window switch to get some relief. The shredded remains of the headliner fluttered into his ear, giving his car a distinct detail of disproportionate shittyness.

“Why?” he complained.

Naru sighed, leaking a single drop of fuel from one of her many ethanol-rotted rubber hoses. It flashed on the hot intake, and breezed inside the car. The vapor startled Jeff for a moment, but the murmur of the V6 lulled him into a complacent state once more.

“Must be another car.”

Naru had finally relented. Expansion joints clapped rhythmically under her turbine wheels. Jeff wedged his forearm into the t-bar, allowing his yellow stain to air out in the slipstream. The summer day had burned off, replaced with a cold front, and a grey blob that hung menacingly over the expressway. Like a switch flipped, rain suddenly hammered the windshield.

“This is good,” thought Naru. “He’ll never go through with it now.” With the windows rolled up, she was able offer her opinion with a 550 hz clatter of fan right into his earhole. Jeff shot an irritated look up at the map light. He silenced her with a twist of the Alpine.

konna repurika wa iranai
honmono to yoberu mono dake de ii
sagashi ni yuku kara kimi o

“Such a delightful song to work yourself up to. Well, let’s go embarrass yourself. DOOT, FUEL LEVEL IS LOW,” said Naru, adding “…along with any self-respect.”

The structures of Six Flags Great America sprouted on the horizon, and the Z exited. It prowled around Gurnee Mills Mall to the place where Hot Topic employees took their smoke breaks. There, it waited in the rain. Naru’s three liter idled dubiously on flaky electrical circuitry, humidified, and humiliated.

Jeff glanced at the green clock: 7:03. Sam appeared at the loading dock as usual, and lit up. Naru could only watch as a Jeff pulled up next to the dumpster. He silenced the engine and got out. Sam’s purple pigtails shook back and forth, annoyed.

“Shit,” she exhaled.

DOOT, LIGHTS ARE ON,” cried Naru.

Jeff stood in the rain with the door open while he pleaded his case. It was a tacky gesture. “Was it another guy? Just tell me,” he whined.

Sam laughed, “We broke up a year ago! I’m not discussing this with you again.”

DOOT, LIGHTS ARE ON.” 

Jeff could hardly think of anything to say. He just continued pleading “Sam…”

A young man in a Bass Pro shirt appeared for a smoke. Sam suddenly no longer appeared rushed, and stoically enjoyed the remainder of her cigarette.

DOOT, LIGHTS ARE ON.”

The three (four?) of them quietly stood there a few minutes, watching Jeff get very wet. The Bass Pro boy shifted his gaze back and forth, mildly entertained.

DOOT, LIGHTS ARE ON.”

Finally, Sam jettisoned her very burnt cig in Jeff’s direction. The hot cherry arched into the night, and ended near his feet in a puddle with a consonant Ssst. Sam left the loading dock with “Get the fuck outta here you goddamn weeaboo,” then she disappeared through the metal door.

DOOT, LIGHTS ARE ON.”

Jeff’s sorrowful manner suddenly turned to one of rage. He channeled his inner oni, shooting his arm out in dramatic fashion, and yelling at the closing door.

“I’m not ready for this relationship to be over!”

DOOT, LIGHTS ARE ON.”

Bass Pro broke the awkward silence that followed, saying, “Hey, you left your lights on.”

M.O.V.E. was now playing through the stereo, adding a comical element to the strange scene. Jeff shot a fiery glance at the boy, and then lowered his sodden mass into the car.

“Well, that pretty much takes care of that,” thought Naru.

Jeff silenced her pleas at a Shell station amid the din of expressway versus standing water. Her lights motored up once more.

“You just let your Naru take care of you. It’ll be you and me like old times. There will be others, you can count on it.”

Her digital display shut down completely, and Jeff placed a couple of soft open-palmed blows to the dash hump. A classic returned on the MP3 disc.

“We should go for a drive.” Her digital compass went dead, the arrow vanishing in the instrument. “We won’t be needing this,” she said coyly.

I say
Try me take a chance on emotions
For now and ever close to your heart
I say
Try me take a chance on my passion
We’ll be together all the time
Don’t stand so
Don’t stand so
Don’t stand so close to me

The throttle was pinned. Naru belted up the ramp. She laughed at the rev limiter, with her axle hopping through second gear. Jeff guided her stiletto shape through the sheep on US41, and cracked a wry smile. He exited onto Belvidere Road at the limit of adhesion.

“Hayai,” said Naru nervously.

She noticed Jeff was sobbing. The Z formed up on the descending spiral I-94 ramp at 90 mph. Suddenly, a Focus, not expecting the hurtling missile, darted into the lane. Jeff stabbed the brake pedal, and traction was lost immediately. They were going to crash. That was a certainty, but into what exactly, was up for grabs. The Focus simply stopped. Jeff flailed at the wheel, and selected the sign displaying 94 EAST TRI-STATE TOLLWAY INDIANA for destruction. The sign filled his entire windshield as Naru blasted through its right leg. Jeff screamed. “Whamarrrglll!” The low-slung car passed under the large, collapsing structure like a parlor trick as it crumpled to the side.

The lady in the Focus left after enforcing her opinion of Jeff’s driving skills. Steam was still rising from Naru’s exploded radiator. Her owner attempted to form the bumper back into shape as if it were made of Play Doh, crying loudly. He got back into the dinging Nissan and waited in the quiet cabin for the tow. The familiar drops of water fell from the roof joint. He calmly watched them splat onto his thigh.

A loader carried Naru carefully to row 213 where workmen set her on stands. She met a familiar face.

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From one row over, she was assailed by a rude comment.

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“Oh perfect. Another fat-ass.”

“Knock it off, Red,” said the four-seater with a thick southern accent. “Well, we’re gonna be here awhile, so I guess I should introduce myself. My name’s Betty.”

The turbo chimed in again, “Betty. Such an original name.”

“You best shut it up, or you’ll find out what the rest of muh name means. Eh, mouse turds?”

“I’m Naru,” she introduced herself sheepishly. There was a pause.

“Naru? What the hell kinda name is that?” asked Red.

Naru recalled her namesake, a large-chested anime character, and said nothing to the other Zs. She realized there was no more oil left in her to leak. Then, she noticed something strange about Betty.

“Where … where are your tops?”

“Never seen that before, eh?” she laughed. “Well, if that gah with the sawzall come calling again, I’ll end up just like you.”

A man who looked to be in a hurry descended on Naru. He whipped her door open, grasped the door card near the speaker, and forcibly wrenched it up. Within moments, her Infinity Plates were gone. She began to cry, sensing her impending doom in this place. Not far away were the sounds of an automobile, sans exhaust, being flogged to death. Concealed by the noise, Betty whispered to Naru.

“Shhh, we’ve got ta keep it together. It’ll set Red off. She still thinks she’s goin’ be restored and hit the track. Trust me, you don’t want that. Old man 280ZX turbo was right where you was, and tried to get her to make peace. Told her the track wasn’t everything life entails. She flipped shit. Cryin’ for days, making fake turbo sounds, and ripping into everyone about how folks ain’t sportin’. Then that fella came past with the saw. He stripped her of her spoiler, and special smoked tails. Then I think she was just in shock after that, and she finally come down.”

“Shit.”

“Yeap. Anyway, you’re likely to be here a year. Plenty of time to cry about the end of the road … or track. Anyways, things could be worse … ”

The source of the noise, a battered 2000 Camry blatted past, stuck in first gear. A large acetylene tank was rammed through the back window, its rear suspension buckled under the weight of a load well exceeding the limits set by the sticker in the door jamb. It seemed like clattering death would come to it at any moment. A filthy young man ran up to Betty. He looked around distrustinged, then tossed a Chinese coilover onto her seat.

“Oh hell YUH. Gonna come back tomorrow for the other one,” he said to his saggy-panted companion.

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“Honda enthusiasts,” said Betty as they scampered off.

As the days turned cold, little Naru was coming to terms with what little remained of her existence. The man with the saw extracted her tail lights with the greatest of care. Then, two boys looked over the three Zs excitedly.

“Oh man, they have a turbo. You could do NA to T.”

“What I need is this window. Perfect trim … yes yes yes.”

They extracted Naru’s quarter window as if diffusing a bomb.

“NononoNONONO! It slides back!”

With the freed part in hand, they stared at Red’s engine bay.

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“Meh. It looks fucked. Got this blowoff valve though … ” one said before dropping the hood. Then they looked Betty over a final time.

“Oh man, it’s a slick!”

One of them pulled out the tail bar panel laying on the console.

“It’s got the … ! -awww!” he moaned after inspecting it. Then, he tossed the article back inside.

Naru made a cheerful remark at their departure. “At least I know my parts will go to a good place when I’m gone.”

“Yeah, when you’re gone they can go to me when I get a front end conversion. What a sec, nevermind, you’re a compromise in every possible way,” said Red with a hint of demonry. She continued like this for nearly an hour.

“I bet nobody has ever even had sex in you!”

Naru was caught off guard. She thought of the handful of times Jeff and Sam actually used her back seat to the fullest, most awkward extent. She mentioned nothing of it though, as it was such a strange topic of discussion for a car to have. It was just totally random, and immaturely inconsequential.

“Fit any good cargo back there!?”

Far in the distance, an old Maxima yelled.

“Shut her up! Shut that turbo bitch up!”

Naru had reached her breaking point.

“You sure are a loud little slushbox aren’t you?”

“What?”

“You heard me. An 86 turbo may be the best example of a Z31 you can possibly find, but the absolute worst Z31 is any automatic one.”

“I-I would destroy you in a drag-”

“You wouldn’t even be able to keep pace with a Cobra Mustang. Not the fast ones, no, the really shitty ones with the big snake painted on the hood.”

Naru couldn’t tell if it was a shocked expression on Betty’s face, or someone just forced her retracts up. As if on cue, a jubilant man trotted up to Red, and rammed an axle shaft through her headlamp. A soft, satisfied grin formed as a result of his treachery. Red cried for the next two days.

One blustery day, a man came by with a camera to take their pictures. He rushed over to Red, and opened her hatch, searching for something. He pulled the light bar from Betty with glee, then upon turning the part over, tossed it back inside with exasperation. The yard’s scavengers cleared out, and a dusting of snow covered the damned. Tomorrow was culling day.

The loader came for Red first. It lifted her off the stands. Naru and Betty were surprised by her final moments.

“I want you to know that I always considered you sisters.”

They wept. When the loader backed down the row, she began to sing a familiar tune. It sounded proud, beautiful.

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So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There’s vultures and thieves at your back

The storm keeps on twisting
Keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack

The loader rolled down the lot. Speak-n-spellian voices rose from the crowd.

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“Jesus… Your door is ajar.”
“Your door is ajar.”
“Your door is ajar.”
“Red… Left door is open. Lights are on.”, said Naru.

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