QotW: What’s does the Fairlady mean to you?

Sixty-five years ago today, My Fair Lady opened on Broadway. The play would go on for a run of 2,715 performances, and as the legend goes, in one of those performances, sometime in 1959, in the audience sat then Nissan president Katsuji Kawamata. He was so impressed with the performance that when the 1960 Datsun roadster was unveiled it became the first car to wear the badge Fairlady. The rest is history.

Over the years the Fairlady has become an icon of the JDM and JNC scenes. For good or for bad it’s Japan’s Corvette, the go-to car for the question when non-car people ask “What’s an example of a classic Japanese car?” and the prime example of an oddball JDM name. But there’s no denying the impact and influence the Fairlady has had, even if you think it’s overblown.

What’s does the Fairlady mean to you?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your favorite automotive game?

This was a good group of answers, ranging from the solid to the obscure. Of course the heavy hitters were mentioned, like Chet Manley‘s decree for Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, XRaider927‘s nostalgic reliving of Gran Turismo 2, and Rotsun‘s nomination for Auto Modellista. We recalled long-forgotten arcade classics with the help of Oli B.’s vote for the wraparound screens of Ferrari F355 Challenge, or Curtis‘s choice of Daytona USA and Initial D. And Jim Daniels brought us back to reality with a wink towards non-digital games.

We enjoyed having our eyes opened to games we’d never heard of. Ridgeway Burns‘ praise for Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA has piqued our curiosity despite its very bad 90s-era graphics. Tom Westmacott‘s description of Grand Prix Legends doesn’t necessarily sound fun but the game still seems worth checking out as a technological achievement. F31Roger‘s pick of Racing Lagoon, a cross between Tokyo Xtreme Racer and an RPG definitely merits a closer look. And for the truly old school, there’s James‘ Mille Bornes card game.

One game is something we’ve never heard of because the commenter made it up himself. But winner Mark Farrell-Churchill‘s Punch Baja the perfect update to a classic game that we are definitely going to try out:

I enjoy Dirt2 and GT5 as much as the next bloke, but my favourite automotive game is decidedly non-commercial: Punch Baja. It’s essentially Punch Buggy but for a family of Subaru drivers. Whether we’re on the road or walking through a car park, whoever is first to spot one of Subaru’s distinctive utes gets to punch his or her companion on the arm. (In our area at least, Bajas are encountered about as frequently as old-school Beetles, so no one is getting beat up too badly.) Now I’ll admit that having originated the game, and as the most enthusiastic enthusiast in the family, I am usually the one dealing out the playful violence, but I love it when my wife or daughter beats me to the punch—it means they’ve got their eyes open for ‘rus! From time to time when we’re not together I receive a text message reading simply “yellow one!” or “silver one!” and I am to consider myself punched virtually. Great fun. But once my daughter spotted the Baja’s predecessor and hit me despite knowing full well it was outside the rules…the little BRAT.

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15 Responses to QotW: What’s does the Fairlady mean to you?

  1. Banpei says:

    I was completely ignorant of the Japanese name for the Nissan Z-cars until I played the original (Japanese) Sega GT game in 2000. I played Gran Turismo 2 by this time, but this game was localized to the PAL region and named 240Z and 300ZX. For me a whole new world opened up with all sorts of strange unknown cars carrying funny names: Fairlady, Gloria, Toppo and Pleo. Who could sell cars carrying these insane names outside Japan?

    So the name Fairlady reminds me of fobd memories playing JDM games.

  2. Alan-T says:

    It always strikes me that people talk about Kawamata’s choice as though it was less thought-through than it actually was.

    Here’s the thing. ‘My Fair Lady’ was of course based on George Bernard Shaw’s stage play ‘Pygmalion’ (in Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with one of his sculptures and – in doing so – he brought it to life) but Lerner and Loewe’s adaptation gave us the figure of Phonetician Henry Higgins attempting to transform a simple working class, downtown London flower-selling girl into an upper class, uptown London ‘Mayfair lady’. There it is. That’s the pun. Flower seller Eliza’s working class accent mangled ‘Mayfair lady’ to sound like “Myfair lady”…

    Transposing this tale into the world of cars, we have Nissan playing the part of Henry Higgins and rising to the challenge of passing their new ‘sports’ car off as something that can proudly rub shoulders with the products from established sports car makers. Maybe something of a reach when the ‘Fair Lady’ emblems were pinned on the SP212, but by the time it was attached to the SP310 it could be argued that the model was indeed punching above its weight and was the equal of sector and price point contemporaries from the likes of FIAT, Renault, Triumph, Austin-Healey and MG et al.

    So, humble Fair Lady – with the right clothes, the right accent and the right manners was easily good enough to run with the Mayfair Ladies. Quite a neat little back story if you think about it, and certainly a lot more thought-through than the name’s detractors usually seem to understand. Typical bonehead reaction: “it’s gay”… and this from people happy to ride around in Mustangs, Camaros, Chargers and Barracudas, as though a car cannot be feminine.

    Yutaka Katayama didn’t like it, but he hated Kawamata and probably would have hated any name chosen by him. Choosing to draw a line between Japanese domestic models and export models by not using ‘Fairlady’ for export markets was certainly more divisive than necessary. My cars wear their original ‘Fairlady Z’ and ‘Fairlady 240Z’ emblems as badges of honour. Its very likely that anyone who gives them the stink eye doesn’t know the back story.

    • dissolute_dog says:

      Well said, Alan-T. Both of Nissan’s “Fairlady” and “Skyline” names have always been my favorite names among all sports cars, as they each evoke a very definitive feeling to me about what a nice car “is” and where it “takes you”.

      It’s a real shame to me that the Fairlady name was never used worldwide for the Z. I understand that Nissan’s decision was the expedient choice business-wise because too many people — like you said — scoff at the name Fairlady as “too feminine”, but to me it’s a fantastic name for a sports car.

      Sailors have long referred to their beloved ships as female. The Mustang in the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds” is named Eleanor and is referred to by the characters as if it were indeed a female. Fans of automobiles can often be heard referring to a nice car as “sexy”. The appearance of the Proto Z is arguably the most “feminine” out of all Z generations so far, and Alfonso Albaisa refers to the upcoming car as a “dance partner”. Considering all this, I really wish people would stop dancing around the idea of accepting a car as “female” and just embrace it — and embrace the Fairlady name for the Z.

  3. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    When I first saw a Fairlady Z in the parking lot of the Navy Exchange store in Yokohama (right across the street from the present day Mooneyes store in Honmoku), I thought it was some untouchable exotic car. Fast forward 8 years or so, I was driving my own (240-Z). I got a great deal on it (for the time). The seller’s German Shepherd absolutely demolished the interior & it stunk of, well, dirty German Shepherd. I carefully cleaned it out & the most important thing about that car was my late mother hand made an entirely new, pro looking interior. Her stitch work & the car saw me through my college & early career years.

  4. dankan says:

    So, correct origins of the name notwithstanding (and thanks to Alan for his quick history of it), the mental image I always got whenever the name ‘Fairlady’ rolled through my head was floppy hat, summer dress, effervescent personality. So the roadsters absolutely lived up to the name, in my view, as essentially Haruka Ayase in car form. The Z though, was significantly more Sophia Loren than that, in all its generations. Not a bad thing in any way, just a very different personality. So to me, the Fairlady in my head is always the roadster, what comes after always just the ‘Z.’

    I realize others would feel very differently about that, and regardless, I think it’s actually a great name for a sports car, but there you go.

  5. Nigel says:

    Because of Fairlady I met a few more nice girls like… Gloria and Laurel.

  6. Sam says:

    Fairlady to me means hope. I’m a senior in high school going to college soon, and I have my eyes set on a dream car of mine- a 1972 280z 2+2. It’s a beautiful car that’s cheaper than the rest due to people calling it the ugly duckling, it has more room with the extra seats for when my girlfriend and I start a family, and it has enough charm and quirks for an entire lot of cars. A car like this means hope to me that maybe I can have that dream car and dream life of mine much sooner than I thought I would, or even at all.

  7. Mark F Newton-John says:

    Ehhh, just a Toyota 2000GT knockoff.
    (I keed, I keed! 😉
    Donning flame proof underwear…)

  8. Lee L says:

    It’s a representation of my childhood and my introduction to the cars I now love.

    When I was a kid my grandfather had an S130 2+0 N/A. It was two-tone blue and silver and I used to ride around laying down in the hatch. This car single-handedly made me fall in love with sports/sporty cars and japanese cars. He passed away when I was 13, but whenever I see a Z car, hear about a Z car, drive a Z car, or hear the name “fairlady” it brings back childhood memories of time spent with him and my Dad riding around in that fantastic car.

  9. cesariojpn says:

    Easy: The Devil Z from Wangan Midnight.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwPvvWQJFXQ

  10. Angelo says:

    People might think of it as a brute on the Wangan, a technological marvel by the time the Z32 came out, but I beg to differ.

    The Fairlady for me is an elegant car, one that brings you the sense of freedom. The freedom where you just feel at one with the car, no worries. There’s also the sense of nostalgia from each generation, where you imagine yourself reliving the days when a particular model of the Fairlady went out of the showroom

    And from my perspective it was meant to be seen that way, as a turn-key solution to the wide open roads where it truly shines, a gateway to memories you might never have even encountered.

    The Fairlady, therefore, is an experience.

  11. My_Fairlady_ZFG says:

    The Fairlady nameplate to me represents a lot of things. There is of course the legendary and iconic looks, performance, and affordability. The Fairlady came at a time of spiking gas prices and shortages, and it came at a price that fell in more people’s price range. It was economical both out of the dealers lot and on fuel. American dealers even tracked on goofy add-ons to jack to the price a bit and make some more profit. It is funny that Nissan was still using the Datsun name out of fears of their American market flopping. The S30 as well as the S130 really seem to have cemented their confidence in their ability to appeal to American buyers. The Fairlady name plate changed the world.
    The design of every Fairlady from the roadster to the 400Z are very visually appealing. I personally think the lines of the S30 chassis are legendary and the pinnacle of design. The sweeping rear quarter panel behind the door windows is so dope, the way the lines slide down and curve inward, uuuuhhhhhhhhergidergiderg. I find it difficult to describe with words, it’s really something you have to run your hand over and feel for yourself.
    Now I want to talk about what Fairlady means to me personally. After my 10th grade year of high school, my school closed down. That summer I had to decide where I wanted to go from there. About 2 weeks before school started in the fall, I chose where I wanted to go. That year’s assigned summer reading was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I read Pride and Prejudice, but wasn’t able to get very far into a Tale of Two Cities before school started. When I met my new English teacher, Mr. P, I explained the situation and he very graciously said don’t worry about, and gave me a shorter book to ready instead, the book Pygmalion. Pygmalion is the book that the show My Fair Lady is based on. I think I read it over the course of a few days. I absolutely loved it. It is a very heartwarming and happy story, a story of love and learning. I think Mr. P had me write an essay on it or take a quiz afterwards. So that was my introduction to My Fairlady, but probably more importantly, to Mr. P. I had Mr. P for my final 2 years of high school. Over the course of those two years I learned a lot from Mr. P and the things we read, and my classmates and I had many positive and memorable experiences. I really saw and still to this day see Mr. P as someone I can go to not only for writing advice, but also to confide in, and as a source of wisdom and friendship.
    When I bought my 1973 240Z a couple years ago, it was immediately apparent that the car’s name had to be Eliza, a play on the Fairlady Z nameplate. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Eliza is the “Fair Lady” of My Fair Lady, and by extension, of the book Pygmalion. I loved that book very much, and to have my dream car be named after it is really cool, so the name is really a match made in Heaven. The book is also a reminder of the amazing times I had in Mr. P’s class and in high school in general, the times with my friends, hanging out, messing around, riding bikes, going to record stores. It’s a throwback to recent history and a period that really shaped who I am as a person.
    Coming back to the present, my 240Z, or Eliza, represents to me self-competency. I’ve worked on cars before, and I’ve had help from my dad here and there with projects, but from the beginning, I wanted Eliza to be MY project, MY issue, and MY responsibility. Once I get it running and driving, I’ll be able to look at it and say I did that. That was ME. I can do things. Right now I can look at the rebuild SU carbs off a ‘72 and say “I did that“. I know how they work, I know how they go together, I know what goes where, I know how to clean them. I learned a lot from rebuilding them, about maintenance but more importantly about how the car works mechanically as a whole. And it’s a really satisfying feeling.

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