50 Years of Z

by Michael Satterfield

When Nissan pulled the cover off the 50th Anniversary edition of the 370Z, it was met with a mixed reaction from the Z-Car community, many were hoping for an all-new chassis, or a 700hp super Z, instead the car that celebrates five decades of the Z is a call back to the car that changed the sports car world forever, John Morton's championship-winning Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) 240Z.

John Morton and Peter Brock met and worked together for legendary road racer Carroll Shelby, Brock as a designer and John as a driver. John would go on to campaign his own Lotus throughout the mid-60s before joining BRE. Brock hired John in 1968 as a full-time driver for BRE's SCCA campaign of the new Datsun 510 and 240Z. From 1969-1972 the team dominating both SCCA C Production with the 240Z winning national championships in 1970-71 and the 2.5 Trans-Am with the 510 winning championships in 1971-72.

So when Nissan invited me out to The Mitty at Road Atlanta to drive the new 50th Anniversary model of the 370Z and see the BRE championship car, I, of course, said yes. The Mitty is the Historic Sportscar Racing organization's annual vintage road race held in Georgia annually attracting some of the most significant historic race cars from around the US, including a lot of classic Datsuns.

After spending the morning in the pits and checking out the John Morton car I headed up to the Nissan display where they hand me the keys to one of just fifty white and red 370Z anniversary editions. Needless to say, I was going to be extra careful on this drive.

The 50th Anniversary car keeps the tradition of past Z anniversary models the 10th Anniversary the Z, the 50th Anniversary of Nissan as a company, the 35th, the 40th, etc... all were appearance packages produced in limited numbers. For this special edition, Nissan has released two versions, the black and silver which is reminiscent of the 10th-anniversary models and will be produced in larger numbers, and the red and white which is limited to just 50 cars.

The 2020 370Z Anniversary Edition is the same 370Z we know and love, it comes with the same 332hp V6, same suspension, same brakes, but you do get a lot in the $2,600 Anniversary Package. Including the two-tone paint, side and 50th decals, 50th Anniversary badging and rear spoiler delete. Inside you are welcomed by an Alcantara®-wrapped steering wheel with a red center mark; embossed leather seats with contrast stitching, more 50th Anniversary badges, and special kickplates.

All of these little details together make for a nice package that really highlights what the Z car always has been, an inexpensive, well-engineered, well-made car. In 1969 it was these ingredients that made the first Z so successful. A the time the most popular sports cars were all British or Italian, with the best selling one being the outdated MG MGB. The 240Z offered two more cylinders, modern engineering, and was just a few hundred dollars more than the aging MGB. Within just three years the car went on to win two championships in sports car racing launching a racing legacy that continues to this day. 50 years later not only has it outlived nearly all of its original competition, its outlived many other car companies.

Driving the around the winding country roads of Georgia reminded me why the Z has survived, it is balanced, smooth, fun to drive, and above all else, it has stayed true to its mission. It still has the spirit of the original car that you see in the subtle design cues, the driver-focused cabin, and classic sports car layout. When other manufacturers are turning old performance nameplates into SUVs and others are abandoning cars altogether, Nissan has kept the Z DNA. If you do buy an Anniversary Edition just know that it draws a lot of attention from people. Everywhere I went the two-tone livery had people flashing thumbs up, waving, and coming up in parking lots to ask questions and look at the car.

Wrapping up my drive, I headed back to Road Atlanta, handed back over the keys to the Z and got back in my Nissan Rogue SUV for the drive back to the airport. The Rogue is nice, but country roads just aren't the same when you are driving an SUV. After getting through security, I settled in at a table to get some work done while I waited for my flight. An older gentleman saw that I was editing photos of the Z on my laptop and strikes up a conversation, telling me all about his 260Z that he drove in college and he wishes he never sold. The Z is so ubiquitous, that it is one of those cars that everyone has a story about, they had one in college, their best friend owned one, or they had a crazy uncle who road raced one back in the day. It is a testament to Mister K's vision for what a sports car could do for Nissan's image in the USA and birthed one of the most successful sports cars of all time.

For more on the 50th Anniversary Z visit NissanUSA.com