PROFILES: The lost Datsun 240Z Sport Wagon

At this year’s Z Car Club of America’s annual convention, a unique 240Z was unveiled. The Datsun 240Z “Sport Wagon” was borne from the mind of Yoshihiko Matsuo, the original stylist of the Datsun 240Z. Though it was never put into production, this one-off custom has made his vision a reality nearly 50 years since he first put pen to paper.

Back in the 1960s when Matsuo was a young designer at Nissan, he was tasked with styling what would become the Fairlady Z, one of most important cars his company ever built. But, Matsuo-san didn’t just envision the Z as just a single model. There was a whole family of cars, including the fixed roof coupe we’ve come to know and love, a targa-top, and this, a shooting brake style longroof with opening rear hatch.

Nissan saw things differently, and the resulting car became the legendary S30 Z. This one-off custom was built by Jay Ataka, a Z restoration expert and owner of JDM Car Parts. You might recognize his award winning white 240Z that’s always displayed at car shows with mirrors underneath it to show off its immaculate undercarriage.

Jay had told us that a very special Z designed by Matsuo-san would be coming to ZCon, and naturally we assumed it was the targa. However, when we arrived at the car show to see the silhouette of the car we knew we were in for a surprise.


The official unveiling took place during the judged car show at ZCon last week, where Jay and Matsuo-san were on hand to introduce the car.

Jay conceived it as a tribute to Matsuo-san, an idea that came about during their trip to Phoenix for ZCon 2012. The base car is a 1978 Datsun 280Z 2+2, but Jay combined three rusty shells and a whole lot of custom fabrication to create this Z. Datsun Freeway even sent their chief mechanic from Japan to help.

Called the Phantom Z, the shooting brake body style is reminiscent of the custom wagons that were popular in the Seventies. Everything from Ford Mustangs to C3 Corvettes were getting the treatment, so the Phantom is apropos of its time.

The craftsmanship is excellent, and the beautiful blue color was closely matched to that of Matsuo-san’s original illustration. The fender vents, too, were part of Matsuo-san’s original plan. In addition, a custom emblem engraved with Matsuo’s signature sits on each fender.

The Phantom has an automatic transmission, which is a sin for most Zs, but strangely enough feels appropriate for the wagon.

It’s subtle, but the rear side windows are larger and shaped differently than those of the stock Z, with a lower edge following the curves of the rear haunches. The sloping roofline bends nicely into the rear hatch.

The cargo area doesn’t really have that much more space than a stock Z, but the trunk floor at least has tasteful wooden slats for that true shooting brake style. For the show, Jay and Matsuo-san packed it with a period correct accessories ready for an afternoon in the country.

The above video tells the full two-year story of the Phantom Z’s development and its many ordeals.

Ultimately Nissan probably made the right call. As much as we love wagons, the Z became a worldwide sensation specifically because of its purity of purpose. History recognizes the Z as a sports car that changed the meaning of sports cars, and additional body styles would have diluted its mission.

Nevertheless, it was heartwarming to see Matsuo-san, creator of one of the world’s most iconic automotive shapes, reminisce about his early days at Nissan. No one could have predicted the scope of the revolution that would result, but it is because his masterpiece is so beloved that we admire every line that flowed from his pen and hold week long conventions in honor of his work.

We’ll have more coverage of 2014 ZCon soon. Stay tuned.

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21 Responses to PROFILES: The lost Datsun 240Z Sport Wagon

  1. DesignerD said:

    BEST
    Z ARTICLE
    EVER

  2. j_c said:

    “Ultimately Nissan probably made the right call. As much as we love wagons, the Z became a worldwide sensation specifically because of its purity of purpose. History recognizes the Z as a sports car that changed the meaning of sports cars, and additional body styles would have diluted its mission.”

    Agreed. Z fans have enough trouble accepting the 2+2, this would have been the further unloved sibling.

  3. madfaber said:

    Never liked the 2+2 and the wagon is even more of a eye sore. not a fan. But I am glad there is at least one :)

  4. mister k said:

    you need to watch the video first in order to appreciate the car

  5. Censport said:

    Great story, great tribute to Matsuo-san, and amazing talent to actually build it.

    • +1!

      It’s not the most beautiful car in my opinion but the Story behind it makes this one a really Special car. Especially whit the guys like the original designer and some japanese mechanics involved. Great find and nice article!! :)

  6. Ken S. said:

    Bahh.. this whole time I thought this was a original Nissan prototype of some sort, didn’t realize it’s just a 3rd party shop recreation?

    Now I have trouble believing how much of the lines are as intended, vs. the fabricator’s interpretation of it. Not to mention this makes it less special, not anymore than Straman Z’s, which probably qualify more as a Nissan/dealer models, than a custom body shop project.

    • coltspeed said:

      you’re a mean one mister grinch

      • Ken S. said:

        hahaha, ok maybe that was little too cynical, but I saw it driving around with all the hype, and just had a way different idea of what it really was. Not trying to shoot down the craftsmanship.

      • slade s said:

        hey now…….if were gonna hate on anything Nissan or even “bahh” at it (appropriate for sheep only).

        lets continue to be upset at the lack of cross flow heads:)
        ohhhhhh I love my 18rg lol.

  7. Michael McDonald said:

    Conceptally, this is on a par with the 1954 Corvette Nomad Station Wagon show car [Yes, there was a 1954 Corvette station wagon, and a later one off design study with side opening "windows" to get access to the rear storage compartment]. At least the 1954 Corvette Nomad was actually built by Chevrolet, and it’s design cues showed up in the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad Station Wagon.

    • mister k said:

      michael i’ve read and re-read your post and it pains me to tell you there’s no mention of 410/11 anywhere, so you need to rectify that immediately

      • Michael McDonald said:

        We are talking about prototype, and even show car versions of vehicles that never made it to the market! 410 and 411 vehicles were sold around the world, so what the hell is your rant all about?????????? This posting was about about a non existent version of the 240Z in case you missed the whole subject!

  8. Ray Wallace said:

    My brother bought a ‘ 64 “Stingray” coupe new in ‘ 64. He still has it, and has driven it over 400, 000 miles, so far. It wouldn’t be long before is grand kids start asking questions, i.e.;
    “Gran-pa when can I drive it?”

  9. Kris said:

    Well didnt see this comin…so this is a 240z shooting brake basically…its unique and i like it

  10. LB said:

    I love it!! It’s beautiful in design and execution.

  11. Randy said:

    DUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuude! That is awesome!

    Obviously I disagree with some of the above, BUT bear with me:

    Rather than thinking of it as the dilution of a sports car, how about looking at it as the hottest wagon around? Yes, it would slot in below the 2-seater in performance, but how many wagons ya see at the track? This one could even carry its own track tires TO the track.

    I was/am a fan of the 2+2 models, and this just adds to the “family cred,” as in an expanded market. With this model, somebody with a significant other and maybe a kid or two can STILL have their sports car, and the wagon version can haul the groceries, too.

    Do it in the next Z; I already have the commercials tearin’ around in my head.

    It was nice to read that they used 3 RUSTY shells, rather than chopping up any nice ones.

    It may have been here, or on another site, but the Sube version of the 86 was shown as a Shooting Brake concept, and it looked GOOD. Same idea.

    The only weak spot I can see in the above Z, the Mustang, or the ‘Vette (didn’t go to the C&D site) is that the hatch didn’t go down far enough. Open it down to the bumper, and we’re good to go (SHOPPING)!

  12. Schneller Kerl said:

    Maybe lost was best.

    Its a Ying and Yang thing.

    The Universe is still in balance, as the production 240Z kept us all safe from destruction.

  13. Dchil said:

    To be honest this just isn’t a Z to me. It’s just too out there and unusual. The roof line of the S30 doesn’t work in a wagon and this shows that (IMO).

    The only thing I would like to know about it is what the colour it is. I always picture a Z in that colour (Wangan Midnight is to blame) and I have never researched the paint codes.

  14. cesariojpn said:

    3 less Z cars to go around cause of this car.

  15. econobiker said:

    cesariojpn,
    Actually 3 less rusted out to almost nothing Z’s sent to the metal shredder.

    Until you actually view what winter road salt (and salt air) did/does to Z’s you would not appreciate it. Even decades ago (1986) a 10 year old 260 was Swiss cheesed with rust holes on the East coast of the USA. If thicker sheet-metaled Detroit-made cars succumbed to termite-like rust, the thinner sheet metal Japanese vehicles went 1/3 faster.
    This was the same build era in which VW bugs would have no floors after 10 years.

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