1966 – Nissan Motors identifies a market for a new kind of sports car. Its product planners envision an agile, compact GT, whose performance and comfort would outrun its price. Nissan engineers begin work on a prototype, which would become the 240Z.
1969 – The 240Z goes on sale in the U.S. on October 22, 1969. It features a 2400cc , 2.4 liter in-line OHC six-cylinder with two side draft SU carburetors, the engine produced 150 horsepower engine, and delivers a 0-60 time of under nine seconds. The only transmission offered was a 4 speed manual. The brakes consisted of solid front discs and rear drums — all for a price tag of only $3,526.
1970 – Less than a year after its debut, demand for the 240Z is so high that the Kelly Blue Book rates the value of a used Z at $4,000! Bob Sharp and Pete Brock take the Datsun 240Z to the racetrack in SCCA competition — driver John Morton wins the C-Production national championship for Brock Racing Enterprises.
1971 – Prompted by vibration problems on the racecars, the crankshaft was redesigned. The transmission and differential were improved. A Jatco 3 speed automatic became available. The rear quarter panel and hatch received new styling also.
John Morton wins his second straight C-Production national title.
1972 – The combustion chambers shape was altered lowering the compression ration from 9.0 to 8.8:1, effectively lowering emissions and power. Automatic seat belt retractors were installed and the rear window defroster lines were now run horizontal.
Bob Sharp drives a 240Z to the first of his two consecutive C-Production national championships.
1973 – Carburetors, manifolds and cylinder head were changed to meet emission standards. Intermittent windshield wipers were added as standard equipment. Tinted glass, 3 point adjustable seat belts, collapsible steering column, fire retardant interior and racing seats were introduced.
At the close of the 240Z’s fourth and final model year all-time sales reach 116,712 units.
1974 – The engine displacement of the 1974 model is increased to 2.6 liters, and the car is renamed the 260Z. Due to stricter emissions requirements, horsepower is down to 139. 1974 also brings the introduction of the “2+2” body style, which accommodates fold-down rear seats. In its only year of existence, the 260Z sets a single-year Z-car sales record at the time, with 63,963 units sold. Walt Moss extends Datsun’s Z-car dominance by claiming the C-Production national championship.
1975 – Needing increasingly complex technology to meet even tougher emissions regulations, Nissan boosts the Z-car’s displacement to 2.8 liters and adds a version of Bosch’s L-Jetronic fuel injection, creating the 1975 280Z. Horsepower rating is increased to 149. Front and rear bumpers are enlarged to meet Federal 5 mph standards. 280Z model was only sold in the U.S.A.
Sharp moves up to the IMSA GTU racing circuit, winning eight races and capturing the championship. He also wins his third SCCA C-Production title.
1976 – A voltmeter replaced the ammeter in the center console.
1977 – A five-speed manual overdrive transmission is added to the 280Z and horsepower climbs to 170. 1977 is also the Z’s highest sales year to date (at the time), with 67,331 units sold.
1978 – Black Pearl edition introduced on coupe models featured a black pearl metallic finish with red and silver striping.
1979 – An all-new, second-generation Z-car is developed, debuting as the 280ZX. Only the engine, transmission and differential are carried over. The 280ZX offers a higher level of luxury to meet the growing demands of the sports car customer. Named Motor Trend’s “Import Car of the Year” for 1979, the 280ZX sets the all-time sales record for the Z line with 86,007 units sold. The Z-car captures its 10th consecutive SCCA C-Production national championship. Don Devendorf wins another IMSA GTU title for Datsun.
1980 – A new T-bar roof option is introduced on the GL model. Leather upholstery was optional. 3,000 10th Anniversary edition models were built featuring two-toned paint, gold emblems, gold tone alloy wheels, headlamp washers and automatic climate control. Cumulative American Z-car sales reach 500,000 units.
1981 – A turbocharged engine is offered for the first time on the 1981 280ZX producing 180hp with a 3 speed automatic transmission in coupe models only. Engine changed and a three-way catalytic converter raised horsepower to 145 on the non-turbo models. Sales remained brisk through the 1983 model year.
1982 – Turbocharged engine became available in the 2+2 models. Power rack and pinion steering became standard. All hoods received the NACA scoop. Voice warning system added.
Devendorf, and his Electromotive racing team, win Datsun’s first ever IMSA GTO championship.
1983 – Suspension was identical on normally aspirated and turbocharged cars. A leather and digital option was offered that included leather trim, digital dash, automatic climate control, mirrors defogging, automatic rear defogger and bronze tinted glass.
1984 – The third-generation Z, the all-new 300ZX, makes its debut. The 300ZX offers sleek new styling and a powerful new 3.0-liter V6 engine, elevating the sports car’s performance image to even greater heights. The normally aspirated 300ZX produces 160 horsepower, while the turbocharged version offers 200 horsepower. The 1984 model becomes the second-best selling Z ever, with 73,652 units sold. Turbo models have a small drivers-side hood scoop
1985 – T-Tops become standard. Two-tone paint is an option on turbo models. Leather trim option is offered without the electronic package.
Paul Newman, splitting time between the SCCA’s professional Trans-Am series and the amateur ranks, sets 10 track records in his 280ZX Turbo and leads the national championship race wire-to-wire to win his third title.
1986 – The hood scoop was removed from the turbo models. T-Tops become an option. Body colored side molding is introduced. Rocker panel extensions and chin spoiler become standard. High mounted third brake light introduced.
Newman wins his second straight SCCA GT-1 national crown.
1987 – Significant body changes produced better aerodynamics.
1988 – Scott Sharp, son of the legendary Datsun racer Bob, wins his second straight SCCA GT-1 national championship, and his third title overall.
Late ’80s – Toward the end of the 1980s, the overall sports car market faces a downturn due to a significant increase in consumer demand for multi-purpose vehicles such as minivans and sport utilities. Back-to-basics is the name of the game when it comes to sports cars, and for Nissan, it means a return to more of a performance orientation during the development of the next generation Z-car.
1990 – In response, the fourth-generation Z — the dramatic 1990 300ZX — takes on tighter proportions and a much more aggressive stance. The all-new DOHC 3.0 liter engine offers increased output of 222 horsepower for the normally aspirated model, and an incredible 300 horsepower for the 300ZX Turbo. The 1990 300ZX Turbo is named Motor Trend’s “Import Car of the Year”. Motor Trend also names it, “One of the Top Ten Performance Cars”. Automobile Magazine honors the 300ZX/300ZX Turbo as its “Design of the Year”, and names the 300ZX Turbo to its “All Stars” list. Road & Track names the 300ZX Turbo “One of the Ten Best Cars in the World”. Car and Driver names the 300ZX Turbo “One of the Ten Best Cars”. American Z-car sales reach the one million sales mark in the 1990 model year, making it the all-time best selling sports car.
1991 – The 300ZX Turbo is named to Car and Driver’s “Ten Best” list, and is once again one of Automobile Magazine’s “All-Stars”.
1992 – For the third straight year Car and Driver names the 300ZX Turbo one of its “Ten Best”, and Automobile Magazine names it to its “All-Stars” list.
1993 – First year a convertible Z is offered, available in non-turbo models only, adding 210 pounds to the car.
For the fourth straight year, the 300ZX Turbo is named a Car and Driver “Ten Best”, and one of Automobile Magazine’s “All-Stars”.
1994 – Keyless remote entry system became standard. Rear spoiler on turbo models was raised from the rear deck lid.
A race-modified Z wins both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours at Sebring. It goes on to win the GTS Class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, making it the only car ever to accomplish such a record within the same year. And for the fifth straight year, the 300ZX Turbo is named to the “Ten Best” and “All Stars” lists by Car and Driver and Automobile Magazine, respectively.
1995 – Marks the 25th Anniversary of the Z. It also brings another award from Car and Driver, as the publication names the 300ZX Turbo to its “Ten Best” list for the sixth straight year. Nissan, working with Steve Millen Sports Cars, produces a limited edition 25th Anniversary 300ZX Twin Turbo, the SMZ featuring a 365hp engine, larger wheels, bigger brakes, upgraded suspension and a large rear wing. According to Nissan, in recent years, the 300ZX/300ZX Twin Turbo has outsold the Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra, and Acura NSX combined.
1996 – Regrettably, 1996 signifies the final production year of the Z-Car. Nissan will sell the 300ZX in 1996, despite 1994 sales of just over 6,000 units, and 1995 sales reported to be even fewer. In 1998, especially with the opening of the Nissan “Z-Stores”, rumors abound about a “next generation” Z-Car.
2001 – January 8, 2001 marks the much-anticipated official announcement of the newest generation Nissan Z Concept! Thankfully, the Z-Car heritage and tradition live on.
2002 – The legend returns with 5 models to choose from (Base, Enthusiast, Performance, Touring, and Track) all featuring the V-6, 3.5 liter DOHC 24 valve engine with 287hp and 274 ft/lbs of torque. A six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with manual mode (Ent. And Touring only) is offered. Track model includes Brembo brakes.
2003 – The fledgling 350Z is named one of Car and Driver’s “Ten Best” for 2003!
2004 – Nissan introduces the 350Z Roadster convertible, featuring a power-operated cloth top, with a glass rear window.
2009 – Nissan introduces the latest Z, the 370z with a larger 3.7L 332-hp engine. Additionally, special partner, Autech creates the “NISMO” (Nissan Motorsports) edition with special suspension, seats, body kit, dampeners, structural reinforcements, forged wheels, Nissan Sport brakes and other touches.
2010 – Nissan introduces the 40th anniversary 370Z. Limited edition. Endless exhilaration. Featuring unique 40th Anniversary Graphite paint, smoked wheel finish, red brake caliper finish, 40th Anniversary badge on rear deck lid and on engine bay front strut tower brace, specially fitted car cover with 40th Anniversary logo, red leather/synthetic suede seats with debossed 40th Anniversary logo, red door panel inserts, red accent stitching throughout interior, embroidered floor mats with 40th Anniversary logo and 40th Anniversary commemorative plaque between seats.
2015 – Nissan introduces an aesthetic update to the (final) 370z NISMO model. New body elements, color schemes are added. The new NISMO version is no longer produced by Autech.