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.