The Nissan Z first came to the U.S. in the late 1960s as the Datsun 240Z, but in Japan this first-generation model (code-named S30) was known as the Nissan Fairlady Z. On a recent episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” Z specialist Jay Ataka shows off an early example of the version sold in Japan.
While sold in both markets, the 240Z was designed with the U.S. in mind. Yutaka Katayama, then head of Nissan’s West Coast operations and known as Mr. K to Z car fans, pushed for the car and, concerned that Americans wouldn’t like the Fairlady name, advocated for the 240Z name instead. Like other U.S.-market Nissan models of the period, the sports car was also badged a Datsun.
The car shown here is easily identifiable as a JDM model by its fender-mounted mirrors, a common feature on cars sold in Japan. It also has covered headlights, grille-mounted turn signals, and, because this is a base model, plain steel wheels without hub caps. This car also has a locking gas cap, which wasn’t offered in the U.S. as a factory option.
The U.S.-spec 240Z launched with a 2.4-liter inline-6 producing 130 hp, but that was later downgraded to 125 hp partway through 1971. However, Japanese-market base models like this car left the factory with a 2.0-liter version of this engine, and also started production a bit earlier, in late 1969. This car features an upgraded head that boosted output to 125 hp, with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Japan also got the 2.4-liter version, as well as a special Z432, which had a twin-cam version of the 2.0-liter inline-6 shared with the Nissan Skyline GT-R sold at the time. The S30-generation Z was relatively affordable in Japan when new, Ataka noted, but most still went to the U.S.
The 240Z is still a common sight in U.S. classic-car circles today, with multiple examples appearing on Jay Leno’s Garage over the years, but this JDM Fairlady Z provides a rare look at the Nissan Z’s early history. Watch the full video and check it out.