Yoshihiko Matsuo, a man that I'm pretty sure a lot of Nissan fans heard of and know about.
he was the head of Nissan's design team, as well as the brains behind one of Nissan's most famous cars, the Fairlady Z (or the 240 Z as it was known in America), but he also designed the Daihatsu midget, a very popular mini truck in Japan and perhaps one of the most vehicles to drive in GT4 (seriously, if you haven't driven in GT you should for at least one time, it's a fun and hilarious ride XD).
in July 2020 this year, news had surfaced the Yoshihiko had tragically passed away on the 11th (tragically enough July 11th also happens to be my birthday, so he died on my birthday which makes it even more sad at least for me cause we're talking a fellow car guy here).
so as a tribute to him, I'm dedicating this review to telling the story of the Nissan Z series cars as well as telling a little history about Yoshihiko Matsuo.
so if you're ready for perhaps one of the greatest rides through time?, let's all head back in time to twentieth century Japan, this is the history of the Nissan Z cars and the story of Yoshihiko Matsuo.
to properly tell the story of the Nissan (Fairlady) Z cars, we'll have to go all the way back to where it all began, the late 1950's with the introduction of the Datsun Fairlady in 1959.
the Fairlady was Nissan's answer to the European sports roadsters the were likely coming into Japan or Nissan was wanting to just tap into the European sports car market, probably more likely both, MG, Triumph, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo sports cars were hot sellers because of their affordible prices, back then you could own an Alfa Romeo sports car without having to even take out an extra mortage, it's market strategies like this are why we have popular iconic roadsters like the Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto, Fiat 124 Spider, Triumph TR7, and even the MG MGA's.
Nissan wanted to tap into that market with their own little roadster, and in 1959 they introduced their first (though not really their first) roadster, the Sports 1000 S211, or just S211 for short.
built under their Datsun name, Nissan only produced 20 of these cars making it the rarest model of all the Datsuns ever built, and they were powered by a 988CC motor making only 36 horsepower, the S211 was based on the Datsun 211 sedan and had badges that said Datsun 1000 and was designed by Yuihci Ota (who was also the designer of the Datsun DC-3, Nissan's actaul first roadster, as well as the designer of the prototype to the S211, called A80X).
both the A80X prototype and the S211 had fiberglass bodies (likely influenced by the first gen Chevrolet Corvette).
Datsun's next little roadster was the SPL's 212 and 213, introduced in 1960, this was the first Datsun sports car that was imported to the United States and was one of Nissan's entries into the North American market, in fact the letter "L" in the name model name SPL means "left hand drive".
unlike the S211, the SPL's had steel bodies and they were both produced in a higher volume meaning that total production of these two cars outnumbered total production of the S211, total 1961 model year production of the SPL's was 288 cars.
the SPL212 was based on the Datsun 223 pickup truck and it had a 1.2 liter E-Series inline 4 making 47 horsepower and was mated to a 4 speed manual transmission.
it also had an A-arm suspension, with tosion bars mounted in the front, and drum brakes were used all around.
this was the first car to use the Fairlady name, and the badge on the trunk lid was the same badgeused used on the 223 truck, and the name Fairlady was in reference to the Broadway musical "My fair lady" which sounds pretty cool that Nissan chose to name their sports car line after a Broadway play.
the SPL212 and it's later counterpart the SPL213 were sold only on the export market in America, they were named for their engine displacement.
in 1960, Fairlady production was moved from Yokohama to Nissan's Shatai plant in Hiratsuka.
today these cars are quite valuable, one example of how valuable they really are is that in 1996, a set of unrestored SPL Fairladies sold for whopping $100,000, while that doesn't sound like much compared to other near priceless classic cars out there but that's still a lot of cash.
the SPL213 produced from 1961 to 1962, is very similar to the SPL212, the main difference is the dual carburetor E-1 engine which can make 59 horsepower, a large increase in a very small lightweight roadster.
like the SPL212, the SPL213 was based on the Datsun 223 pickup truck, only 217 examples of this car were ever built.
Fairlady 1500 SP310/SPL310 series:
this is one many Nissan enthusiest would probably consider to be the first true Datsun sports car.
if the names SP and SPL identify two versions, SP for the original right hand drive model for the Japanese market, and SPL standing for the left hand drive model for other markets such as North America.
the SP310/SPL310 series was based on a modified Datsun Bluebird 310 sedan rather than their truck platforms like in earlier models, so the status of being Datsun's first true sports car is actually pretty legit.
it was powered by a 1.5 liter four cylinder G-15 engine that made 85 horsepower inherited from the Nissan Cedric but modified with a single SU carburettor.
only 300 SPL310's were equipped with the single carb and these first few only had about 77 horsepower as opposed to 85 horsepower from dual carb versions built from 1964 to 1965.
a four speed manual transmission was the only option you could have for this car and has a non-syncronised first gear,
(quick little tid bit: A non-synchronous transmission is a form of transmission based on gears that do not use synchronizing mechanisms. They are found primarily in various types of agricultural and commercial vehicles).
the rear axle also used parts from the Nissan Cedric, shafts, differential both came from the Cedric.
the car was well equipped, it came with a transistor radio (and some out there who know about Japanese transistor radios know how well worked, seriously how do you make these work, they're wierd), other features included a tonneau cover (or they could've just called it a top because that's essentially what it is), map lights (not sure what that is but I'm pretty sure they mean reading lights), and also a clock (very nice).
the first SP310's built from 1963 to 1964 also had a unique sideways third seat in the back (how they managed to fit that in a roadster?, I'm not quite sure).
Nissan's marketing strategy for this car was quite clever, at the it came out?, the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo were starting, and Nissan had the idea to set up a gallery on the second and third floors of the San-ai building located in the Ginza of Tokyo.
and much like in typical automotive showcase fashion, they even used beautifully dressed showroom attendents and even held a competition of who could qualify as the first class of so called Nissan Miss Fairladys, modeled after Datsun demonstrators from the 1930's who introduced cars.
Miss Fairladys became the marketeers of the Datsun Fairlady 1500.
Datsun 1600 SP311/SPL311:
a lot of changes were made for the 1965 model year, though the 1.5 liter SP310 continued production through January, a new larger 1.6 liter R-16 powered SP311 was introduced as well as an SPL version.
the new SP311/SPL311 models were unveiled at the 1964 Tokyo Motor Show but didn't go into production until March 1965.
the restyling was done in part by Count Albrecht Goertz (who also responsible for designing the BMW 507 and 503 and the Toyota 2000GT), and would later involved in the design work of the Nissan S30 series Fairlady Z.
marketed as the Fairlady 1600 or Datsun Sports 1600 in many export markets across the globe including North America, it featured 14 inch wheels and minor exterior changes.
the SPL311 was also known in the United States on the west coast as the "Roadster" (wait a second, that's stupid, of course it's a roadster, it has two seats).
it has an independent front suspension, utilizing coil springs over hydraulic shocks, rear suspension was a common leaf spring design, also dampened with hydraulic shocks.
The 1600 SPL311 came with a pair of SU carburators, the engine made 95 horsepower, the R-16 was a four cylinder overhead valve engine.
early SPL311's came with a high compression engine that had three main bearings, hydraulic lifters, a cast iron block and head, the distributor timing could easily be adjusted to reduce pre-ignition knock and therefore tuned for questionable quality gasoline.
engines in the later SPL311 versions had 5 mine bearings and this addressed a design weakness, top speed for the SPL311 with 91 octane gasoline was 105 miles per hour, the axle gearing suffered from design limitations and Datsun's performance parts division offered a cooling system as a retrofit.
steering utilized a worm gear design. The hood badge said "Datsun" in individual letters, the rear badge said "Datsun 1600", and the side badges said "Fairlady" (Japanese market) or "Datsun 1600" (export market).
the SP311 continued in production through April 1970.
another car, the first generation Nissan Silvia, shared the SP311's platform, it was called CSP311.
the CSP311 Silvia had an R-16 engine that made 96 horsepower and used a modified Fairlady chassis.
the Silvia was fitted with Nissan's new R engine, the R engine was a further development of another engine, the 1,488CC G engine (an earlier Nissan engine).
early in 1968 the 1600, just as the bigger 2000, was updated to meet new safety legislation, toggle switches, a padded dashboard and padded center of the steering wheel were new inside, the door handles were flush fit lifting units, while the windshield was taller with a top mounted internal rear view mirror.
last in this generational line of early Fairladys, the car's id name would change from SP/SPR, to SR/SLR.
the introduction to the SR model in 1967 saw a major update.
manufactured from March 1967 to 1970, the SR311 was powered by a 2.0 liter H-series U-20 engine, and it came with a five speed manual transmission (which was something completly unexpected in a production car at the time).
the first year cars (known as half year cars) are hightly sought after as there were fewer than 1,000 cars ever made that are unemcumbered with the 1968 model year emmissions and safety changes.
the U-20 four cylinder engine had a cast iron block and an aluminium alloy head.
the new single overhead cam engine can make up to 133 horsepower, and with the addition of the optional Competition perforamcne package which comes with dual Mikuni/Solex carburetors, a special B model camshaft boosting power up to 148 horsepower, plus higher limit gauges, and a license plate surround (if you don't what they mean by that?, I think they mean it comes with a special license plate frame).
in Australia, there were no emmission restrictions and all 2.0 litre powered cars were fitted with the Competition package as standard (Australia is such a cool country ;3).
but back in Japan, Japanese versions of 2.0 litre cars were regarded as expensive, specialized sports cars due to Japan's annual road tax obligation.
the Datsun 2000 was lauded as a bargain sports car. It was raced by John Morton, Bob Sharp and others, it's sticker price was lowest in its class, but it won its class in C Production (Mikuni-Solex carburetors) and D-Production (Hitachi-SU carburetors), in SCCA racing on a consistent basis even after production stopped.
for the 1968 model year the entire line was updated with a new body featuring a taller integrated windshield with an integrated rear-view mirror, a padded dashboard with non-toggle switches, built-in headrests, and lifting door handles.
this version was first shown at the 14th Tokyo Motor Show in October 1967 and was developed to meet the new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
in the US the engines were also fitted with new emissions controls, and the lesser 1600 continued as a companion model through the end of production. Australia had no such emission controls.
photo of HotWheels Fairlady Z was shot by me and was shot in front of a photo of Yoshihiko Matsuo on my computer screen as the background for this photo