The Nissan Fairlady Z stunt driver almost didn’t survive one of Japanese TV’s most insane automotive leaps

Over its five-year run Seibu Keisatsu was known for its share of crazy car chases, but there was one stunt that stood out from all the rest. Episode 104, “Rush to Glory”, is remembered for an insane jump in which a Nissan Fairlady Z flew 98 feet across a Tokyo canal. In the show the car is seen driving off on the other side with no issues, but in reality the driver nearly died. This leap year, let’s take a look behind Japan’s most famous automotive leap.

“Rush to Glory” originally aired November 1981. In the episode the Seibu Keisatsu team is investigating a string of robberies that involve a bank and jewelry store. The scofflaw Akimoto turns out to be a skilled driver whose weapon of choice is the S30 Fairlady Z. The episode contains two different car chases and Akimoto drives a different Z in each one, first a white example and then a silver.

In the climactic second chase, the heroic Sgt Daimon personally pursues Akimoto in his black C210 Skyline Turbo. While the crook seems to out-drive Daimon initially, the Sarge gets the drop on Akimoto by using an an Isuzu box truck as cover. With the fuzz closing in, Akimoto makes a desperate ploy by driving up a conveniently placed ramp at a construction site, launching his Z across Shibaura Canal.

Observers will note a few inconsistencies. For one, the silver Z changed from a 2+2 to a regular 2-seater between scenes. More glaringly, the Z almost didn’t clear the canal and when it landed rear end-first into the vertical wall of the opposite side, the impact instantly bent the car into a U-shaped piece of scrap metal.

In the story, clever editing showed Akimoto’s Z gently landing without a scratch and driving on. This bit movie magic was common in the era. As a kid, I thought the General Lee was indestructible, but The Dukes of Hazzard pretty much wrecked a Dodge Charger every time the Dixie horn blew.

Seibu Keisatsu‘s Z landing is in reality a harrowing crash. According to retired journalist Kunihiko Narumi, the run-up to the ramp was too short and stunt driver Chihiro Mitsuishi couldn’t get the car up to the proper speed. The car got vertical while in midair so the underside of cargo area was the first to make contact with the stone wall of the canal, obliterating everything aft of the rear wheels.

The impact snapped the car forward, nearly flipping it tail over nose and crunching the front end. Mitsuishi, known as a fearless “kamikaze” stuntman, was hospitalized for 40 days with a spinal cord compression fracture. Many thought he would never be able to work again, but as soon as he was released he continued to perform death defying action sequences.

However, the Z leap left an indelible mark in the memories of fans. People have drawn illustrations, traced the path of the original chase, recreated the jump in video games, and filmed a scene-for-scene stop-motion version using diecast cars. The jump was so memorable that from Episode 109 on, a clip of it was included in Seibu Keisatsu‘s title sequence.

Today Shibaura Canal is still there, and you can see the large apartment complex from 1981 on the on the left bank in Google Maps. As it happens, in the 42 years since the canal has been narrowed quite a bit, with well-groomed pedestrian walkways on either side. Mitsuishi passed away from liver failure in 2005, but he would’ve had no problem making that leap in the Z today.

This post is filed under: News.

7 Responses to The Nissan Fairlady Z stunt driver almost didn’t survive one of Japanese TV’s most insane automotive leaps

  1. Crown says:

    Had he been going any faster to clear the wall, the car would have flipped over backwards from all the air being caught on the underside.

  2. James M. says:

    Im sure not the only stupid thing done in a Z.

  3. chet manley says:

    I love that the rear just about came off then it shows the car driving off like its no biggie.

  4. A great way to celebrate Leap Day. Thanks for taking us behind the scenes.

  5. Ray says:

    Wrong calculation on the weight. Should have remove the spare tire.

  6. Fashion Victim says:

    I am always amazed at those times when real stuntwork was done in front of a camera instead of just virtual created images.

  7. pete240z says:

    good thing it was a 2+2 they toasted and not a standard Z…………..I KID, I KID……..

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