For Nissan, it was supposed to be a huge year. 2019 marked the 50th birthday of not only two nameplates iconic for Nissan, but for the automotive kingdom as a whole, the GT-R and the Z. However, Nissan is also having a terrible year, with two presidents ousted on financial impropriety, and plunging sales. What should have been a glorious, golden anniversary celebration was just alright. Thank goodness for the fans.
As for the GT-R, Nissan showed its 50th Anniversary R35, also unveiled earlier this year in New York (read more about this car here). It was the first time we had seen the car in the brightness of the California sun, and the revived Bayside Blue color shone brilliantly.
Officially, the Z was represented by two cars bookending its lineage. The white and silver Datsun 240Z was built by BRE founder Peter Brock himself (read more about this car here) as potential line of street cars, while the 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition paying tribute to Brock’s accomplishments debuted earlier this year at the New York Auto Show (read more about this car here). Unfortunately, as far as Nissan’s exhibit goes, that was about it.
Instead, it was the dedicated owners who provided the immense Nissan presence, and they were legion. There were more Z-cars that we could reasonably count or photograph, in a multitude of styles ranging from bone stock to heavily modified.
Jerry Rosenblum is only the second owner of his stunning 1970 Series 1 240Z, a time capsule with period slot mags. Even the paint is said to be mostly original.
Terry Wilkinson’s blue 1973 appeared mostly stock, but had a fully built L28 with forged internals, baffled oil pan, T5 Borg Warner transmission, a full T3 suspension, and a custom stainless steel exhaust — a true sleeper.
Migel and Luis Armas’s 1972 240Z is famous in SoCal for its extreme fitment, thanks to a one-off AirRunner suspension. Its presence is powerful as it is unique.
Barry Golings is the third owner of this this Japanese street style 1971 240Z, with bronze Watanabes and Fujitsubo exhaust. Under the hood, though, was a Rebello stroker. Beside, it, Luis Lopez’s red Series 1 was restored from a shell.
We enjoyed Henry Otero’s 1978 280Z, built with many parts from the MSA catalog and proving that you don’t need to mortgage the house for a mean street fighter.
Jay Ataka displayed his immaculately restored 240Z and his one-off Phantom Z, built from a a sketch done by the Yoshihiko Matsuo, lead designer of the original Z (read more about this car here). Ever the showman, Jay was awarded Best Display thanks to this carpeted floors and model train set circling the cars.
Like the Brock Z above, Vince Corry’s 1972 240Z is a rare Camel GT Coupe built by Bob Sharp of BSR fame. In essence, the one-off car was like pilot car for what could have become a series of road cars built by Bob Sharp Racing. It’s full of period Datsun Competition parts, has IMSA-style flares, and a BSR valve cover sits atop a .040 over L24. It has won multiple first place awards from the National Z Car Club of America’s ZCon.
According to owner Michael Dalpoggetto, the license plate “TRBUTEZ” is a show of gratitude for all the $3,000 Zs that got him through life as a starving student. Now able to create his dream Z, Michael silver 1972 is a modern street build with an RB25DET good for a claimed 485 horsepower at the rear wheels.
Michael Wilson’s orange 1972 240Z was purchased from the original owner in 1991. Thought it runs a Series 1 RB25DET currently, Michael says the original engine is still sitting in his garage in case the car goes back to stock. By contrast, Tom Clark’s lime yellow car is an original owner time capsule we have lavished much praise on from its previous appearances.
Robert Russell is the original owner of his blue 1973 240Z. It is a second place winner at ZCon, and aside from the wheels and tires has been kept bone stock.
The Zs of PCH Midnight, a club of Japanese Z owners living in SoCal, never fail to impress. The cars would look right at home cruising the Wangan to Daikoku Futo or along the sunny shores of California.
Even the Yokohama Tires booth paid tribute to the almighty Z, with stunning matching orange 240Zs at their booth.
Of course, the enthusiasm for Nissans doesn’t begin with the Z. The first boom came from the Z’s predecessor, the Datsun Fairlady Roadster. Again, a wide-ranging selection of these open-top runabouts could be seen, from well-put-together 1600 SPL311s to early 3-seater SPL310s 1500s.
Michael Anderson’s historic SCCA 2000 Roadster was once owned and raced by Rock Vest. The car was a regional champion in GT3 and EP classes multiple times and went to the SCCA Runoffs national championship race five times, according to Michael (read more about the car here).
Edgar Sierra was incredibly humble, describing his white 1970 1600 as a work in progress. “It might not be a show car to some, but to me it is the perfect car,” he said. Perhaps it was a surprise to him, then, that he went home with the second place prize in the Roadster category.
Karen Desirello won first place in the Roadster Category for her 1966 in Lexus Matador Red. She and her husband Bart have matching S14 SR20-powered roadsters, both with 300ZX front brakes and RX-7 rear ends.
You may know Josh Kreat as Datsmo, a seller of all things Datsun. Just look for the burgundy 2+2 that he built with his father and you will find a bunch of new and vintage items for Datsun cars.
2+2s get a bad rap sometimes, but one Luis Rivera’s 1975 260Z on SSR Copros and custom flares was one of the most distinctive and stunning Zs from this year’s show, period. It’s no wonder he went home with second place in the Late 70s/Early 80s Z class.
David Jones’s 1980 Black Gold 10th Anniversary edition 280ZX won first in the Late 70s/Early 80s Z category for it dead-mint condition and fastidious presentation.
Bill Bennett purchased a 240Z in 1971 and owned it for 25 years before it was cruelly stolen. This 1973, which he calls the Screamin’ Yellow Zonker, perhaps a reference to Peter Brock’s own yellow 510 built in the 1970s and featured in Motor Trend magazine.
Bill’s car’s list of modifications reads like many other Zs — modified L28 with triple Webers, Wilwood brake system, OS Giken diff, modernized seating with Miata buckets, Momo steering wheel, Koyorad radiator, and Panasports. However, with a fully stitch-welded chassis, media-blasted to bare metal paint job, powdercoated suspension, and rotisserie restoration, it is the execution that won Bill first place in the Best 240Z category.
There are probably more Nissan and Datsun cars than those of any other marque at JCCS, and the the Z alone is better represented than some entire brands, like Subaru or Mitsubishi. Nissan would do well to embrace their fans and their history in a bigger way. For now, though, it’s the owners that carry the torch.
To be continued…