Nissan’s next restoration will be a Z31 Fairlady Z NISMO rally car

With the restoration of its WRC Pulsar GTI-R complete, the next project Nissan will tackle is a third-generation Fairlady Z rally car. The Z31 claimed the All-Japan Rally’s 1985 championship, despite missing the first two races of the season. The restoration will once again be carried out by a team of volunteer Nissan employees on their off hours.

Motorsports-wise, the Z31 is primarily known in the US for its IMSA road racing exploits. Famously, actor Paul Newman drove one and collector Adam Carolla has acquired several ex-Newman cars. In Japan, the Z31 was sent into rally racing, its 3.0-liter V6 modified to generate 230 ps (227 horsepower) and 246 lb-ft of torque.

The Z threw its hat into the 1985 season of the All-Japan Rally at Round 3, missing the first two points-accumulating opportunities of the year. It finished in 5th place in its inaugural race against rivals like the Mitsubishi Starion and Cordia, Toyota AE86 Corolla Levin, and SA22C Mazda RX-7.

With most entrants equipped with smaller-displacement four-cylinders that maxed out at 2.0 liters, the VG30ET-powered and rather large by comparison Z31 was seen as an unusual choice for a rally car. Nevertheless, driver Masao Kamioka and co-driver Yoshimasa Nakahara soon found their pace, taking consecutive first place wins in Rounds 6 and 7. After finishing 4th in Round 8 and nabbing 3rd in Round 10, the team had gathered enough points to take the championship. Like the Pulsar, the Z31 was put away wet, with dirt from its last race still covering the car.

Notably, Nissan Motorsports, established in 1984, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. That’s why the team chose to restore the Z31, as it was the first production Nissan modified for competition by NISMO. The restorers believe that they will be able to finish the restoration by the end of the year, likely for a debut at the NISMO Festival.

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6 Responses to Nissan’s next restoration will be a Z31 Fairlady Z NISMO rally car

  1. Lee L says:

    This exact car is my favorite car of all time. I’ve always wanted to build a tribute car!

    Hopefully there is some video shot of the process!

  2. steve says:

    Back in 1984, Kaz Kastner called me back and asked “how would you like to rally a 300ZX?” I remember that day clearly. That car ran two years in The SCCA Pro Rally Production GT class and like the car noted in this article, didn’t start the season until a few rallies were already contested. I never knew about this car rallying in the Japanese series, and although this one is a turbo, and my car was a NA 160hp V6, it sure would be nice to follow this rebuild of their car to see what modifications were made to the suspension and mechanical components.

    The “big and heavy” 300ZX was an extremely reliable rally car, only once failing to reach the finish on a mechanical issue, and won quite a few rallies that Nissan USA published in their full page advertisements, which was fun to see. It is a bit overlooked here in the US, however the SCCA Pro Rally championship(s) were very competitive in the 80’s and had a lot of manufacturer support, along with BFG and Bridgestone tire services at the events.

    The car we ran was primarily stock other than suspension and safety/protection elements built into the car. It was a slicktop with air conditioning that worked, and was fast enough to win the championship in 1985.

  3. steve says:

    Lee, I had to make something fit as the car was brand new to the market…so I think I used Tokico or Bilstein 280ZX front inserts that had to be shimmed up slightly for the front. The springs were stock for the first part of the first year of competition, eventually Suspension Techniques made some rally springs for me front and rear. In the rear, if I remember correctly I used a Supra rear shock with some modifications, it was a Tokico unit, I think PN 1505. It was 3/4 inch shorter than the Nissan OEM rear shock according to some notes that I found.

    Ben, I have a lot of good photos, professional and “in the moment” shots of the car. Some of the build but mostly competition shots. I also have the comps for the adverts that were placed in Autoweek and a few other press mags. I haven’t really put them up online for viewing, suppose that I should…

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