I purchase books fairly infrequently thanks to libraries. Automotive books are the exception. Information in high-quality books on cars tend to be less immortal than, say, the words of Shakespeare. Sales and circulation tend to be limited, and photos and schematics make digitizing more difficult. Thus, automotive enthusiasts who are so inclined may feel the need to collect such books. In these occasional book reviews, my hope is to share interesting and valuable books that you might enjoy reading and perhaps owning.
A category of automotive literature that I particularly love is the development story. Many car books have sections on or at least elements of this, but there are certain Japanese models that have had entire titles dedicated to chronicling their behind-the-scene creation stories to painstaking detail. The subject of this post, Datsun 280ZX, focuses on the iconic S130.
Published by Nissan in 1978, the book was reportedly sent out as gifts to those who pre-ordered the S130 Z-Car. Curiously, it does not have an ISBN nor a listed author, and as such may be considered more of an ultra-glorified brochure. I assure you, however, that this is a substantial volume on how the S130 came to be (albeit one that toes the company line). Printed in Japan on high-quality stock, it features numerous and often giant color photos. Its design and look feel quite late-70s, thankfully not in a nauseating way.
Hairdressing aside, the text in this book is quite informative. The chapters encompass the S130’s design and various aspects of vehicle engineering, from powertrain and driving dynamics to comfort and durability. The logic and philosophy behind the decision to develop the Z-car into a GT — a criticism many level at the 280ZX — are discussed along with the engineering measures required to accomplish this.
This provides a glimpse into what Nissan perceived the sports car to be evolving into at the time. The details are vast, often accompanied by specification tables, schematics, and diagrams. Some of the details may even be too minute for all but the most ardent S130 geeks, an example being three pages of diagrams illustrating how the molding and other body designs ward off liquid accumulation and corrosion. Even interior equipment such as the sound system is discussed.
If all this above sound a bit dry to you, the book also chronicles a brief history of the Fairlady line and, perhaps most excitingly, the Z-Car’s racing history. This latter section contains some cool photos of the Z participating in various forms of competition, from the Safari Rally to Daytona to the Bonneville Salt Flats. Last but not least, road tests by Road & Track and Motor Trend are also reprinted, along with driving impressions of the S130 by former racing driver Masahiro Hasemi, whose company fielded a team in JGTC/Super GT until recently.
The 70s has its quirks, automotive or otherwise, and the 280ZX is often overshadowed by its 240Z predecessor. As a kid, I adored the 280ZX (let’s not forget that the turbo model could be rigged to quite the high speed cruiser). Yet despite my fond memories of it, I do feel these days that the 280ZX has not aged as well as, say, the first generation RX-7. Reading this book, however, has given me a better understanding and appreciation of the S130.
If you love the Z-Car, especially if you gravitate towards the 280ZX, this book is a must-read. There is perhaps no single volume that examines the S130 quite as comprehensively. Even if you are critical of the model, there are enough cool photos to make this a fun coffee table book. As of writing, Datsun 280ZX can be found for reasonable prices at certain major online retailers where used goods can be purchased.