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It’s hard to imagine that Nissan’s Z-series has been around for 40 years. But what’s even more difficult to fathom is the fact that it actually came close to never materializing in the first place. It turns out, Yutaka “Mr. K” Katayama was the first one to broach the idea of the car back in 1969, and after a lengthy debate regarding the viability of the car, Nissan eventually relented and introduced the very first Z car: the Nissan Fairlady Z.

Now, 40 years later, Nissan’s Z-series is one of the most revered car lines in Japanese auto history and to commemorate the monumental occasion, Nissan is releasing a limited-edition Nissan 370Z Coupe, which, from what we’ve heard, will go on sale in the spring of 2010. The limited-edition 370Z was molded from a Touring version of the 370Z Coupe with the standard 3.7-liter V6 engine, which is capable of producing as much as 322 horsepower.Despite carrying the same engine, Nissan added a few kinks for the special-edition car, including the brand’s trademark Synchro-Rev automatic rev-matching function to complement the car’s six-speed manual transmission.

Likewise, the 40th anniversary 370Z was also supplied with bigger brakes than those in the standard version and to top it off, Nissan also provided the car with bigger – and reinforced – 19-inch Rays forged wheels. As far as the styling of the anniversary 370Z is concerned, Nissan gave it a royal red treatment with red leather trim as well as red stitching throughout the car’s interior. If that wasn’t enough to signify the importance of the car, Nissan also gave the car a special “40th Quartz” paint scheme to commemorate the Z-series’ 40th year.

Nissan will produce 1000 Examples of the 40th Anniversary Z priced at $38,860 each.

Updated 02/10/2010: Nissan today unveiled new images of the special edition 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition. Check them out!

Press release after the jump.

  • 2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition
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Press release

The 25th anniversary is silver, the 50th is gold. And the 40th? Another precious metal, or more correctly metal, rubber and glass – the Nissan Z®. Forty years ago, on October 22, 1969, the Datsun 240Z arrived in North America, heralding a new era in sports car design.

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition High Resolution Exterior
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Where previous sports cars were primarily a.) imported from England or Germany b.) expensive c.) fragile or unreliable or d.) all of the above, the new import from Japan offered the performance of a Porsche, the looks of a Jaguar and the price and reliability of, well, a Nissan. The 240Z was a revelation to the automotive world – an affordable sports car that could be driven every day and was accessible to anyone with the $3,626 base price.

And though the price of a new Z® might have changed a little in the past 40 years, its unmatched value, style, performance and segment leadership remains stronger than ever. To celebrate, Nissan has created a special, limited production version of the current 2010 Nissan 370Z Coupe, the 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition. It will be available at select Nissan dealers nationwide beginning in spring 2010.

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition
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“Throughout the history of the automobile, a rare handful of cars stand apart as vehicles that not only capture the imagination of the world but also embody the essence of the automaker’s brand, engineering and ideals. The Z® is just such a vehicle,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc.

Changing Times – Literally

When the original Datsun 240Z debuted as a 1970 model, its design and performance were considered state-of-the-art: a 150-horsepower 2.4-liter single overhead cam inline 6-cylinder engine, 4-wheel independent suspension, 14-inch wheels, choice of a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission, and a quarter-mile acceleration time of 17.1 seconds at 84.5 miles per hour. The 240Z was conceived as a closed coupe body, rather than the typical open-top sports cars of the age, to enhance body rigidity and, therefore, improve handling and durability.

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Needless to say, a lot has changed. Today’s definition of state-of-the-art, as expressed in the sixth generation Nissan 370Z, includes a 332-horsepower 3.7-liter dual overhead cam V6 engine with VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift), lightweight 4-wheel independent suspension with extensive use of aluminum components, available 19-inch super lightweight forged alloy wheels, choice of 6-speed manual transmission with innovative SynchroRev Match™ or refined 7-speed automatic and independent quarter-mile acceleration times of 13.5 seconds at 106.6 miles per hour. And today, the recently introduced 370Z Roadster – with its automatic-operation fully lined cloth top, offers nearly the same body rigidity and performance as the rock-solid 370Z Coupe.

Also, where the 240Z offered what many considered “luxuries” in a sports car – including roll-up windows and radio, today’s 370Z is offered with items such as Nissan Intelligent Key™ with Push Button Start, Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, XM® Satellite Radio and an advanced Nissan Hard Drive Navigation System with touch-screen, XM NavTraffic® Real-Time Traffic Information and NavWeather® (XM® subscription required, sold separately), Zagat® restaurant guide, 9.3GB Music Box hard drive for digital music storage and playback and a USB fort for iPod® connectivity.

About the Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition High Resolution Exterior
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The 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition starts out as a 370Z Coupe Touring model equipped with manual transmission and Sport Package (including SynchroRev Match™, front chin spoiler, rear spoiler, Nissan Sport Brakes, 19-inch Rays forged aluminum-alloy wheels and viscous limited-slip differential) and adds a premium “40th Quartz” exterior color and red leather-appointed interior. -

Additional exclusive equipment includes a high-luster smoke wheel finish, red brake calipers and 40th Anniversary badges on the rear hatch and front strut tower brace. Inside, along with the red leather-appointed seats are red door panel inserts, 40th Anniversary seatback and floormat embroidery, red stitching on the center stack, shift boot and kneepads, smooth leather steering wheel with red stitching and a plaque of authenticity. Every 40th Anniversary Z® also comes with a commemorative premium satin car cover.

Pricing of the 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition will be announced closer to its on-sale date next spring.

A Brief History: Six Generations of Z®

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition High Resolution Interior
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The journey from the original 240Z to the current 370Z, of course, made a number of interesting stops along the past 40 years. Interestingly, the 240Z might not have made the journey to America in the first place, if not for the efforts of one man.

Though many, many people were responsible for the design and engineering of the first generation 240Z, its success in North America can be attributed to Yutaka Katayama, who was president of Nissan’s U.S. operations at the time. Known affectionately as “Mr. K,” he was convinced that the company’s new sports car design would be a hit in the U.S. There was just one problem – the vehicle’s name: the Fairlady Z (which is still used in the Japanese market today).

With a name change for this market to “240Z” and some aggressive marketing, including early motorsports success, the Z® became an instant hit – bringing attention and buyers not just to Z®, but also to the entire brand.

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition
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After overseeing Nissan’s growth in the U.S. in the ‘70s, Katayama returned to Japan and remains, to this day, linked to the Z®’s success here and around the world. On September 15th, 2009, Mr. K celebrated his 100th birthday and received cards and birthday greetings from Z® lovers everywhere.

In 1974, as the engine displacement climbed to 2.6 liters the name changed to 260Z. The 2+2 model with an extended roofline and tiny back seat also appeared. In 1975, engine size increased again to 2.8 liters and the name changed to 280Z. Z® cars continued to dominate on the racetrack, with Pete Brock, John Morton, Bob Sharp and P.L. (Paul) Newman among the many talented drivers.

Z® sales continued to climb with the introduction in 1979 of the new second generation 280ZX. Now priced at just under $10,000, the 280ZX was named Motor Trend “Import Car of the Year” and sales passed 86,000 units. T-tops and a turbocharged engine followed in the early ‘80s.

In 1984, Z® engine displacement increased again, with a 3.0-liter V6 replacing the classic Z® inline-6, and the 300ZX was born. Also, a specially equipped model celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary and priced at $25,999 was introduced. The 1984 Z® was the best selling sports car in America.

The next breakthrough in Z® history came in 1990 with the arrival of the totally redesigned, fourth generation 300ZX. Offered in two-seat and four-seat 2+2 models, it offered an unheard of 222 horsepower and a top speed of 150 mph. A few months later, the 300ZX Turbo followed – with 300 horsepower, a 160-mph top speed and a $33,000 price tag.

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition High Resolution Drivetrain
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The 1990 300ZX captured the Z®’s second Motor Trend “Import Car of the Year” award, along with a spot on Car and Driver and Road & Track “10 Best” lists. The 300ZX also captured Automobile’s “Design of the Year” and the first of four “All-Stars” awards.

By the mid-‘90s, however, sports car sales in general were slowing and the Z® had lost its “affordable” sports car positioning. With Z® sales declining sharply and the core “value” positioning no longer part of the “Z® DNA,” sales of the Z® in the U.S. slumped and sales were stopped following the 1996 model year. The last 300ZX imported into the U.S. was inducted into the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition
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The next chapter of the Z® history came just before the end of the century. In 1999, Nissan and Renault formed what has become the highly successful Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Mr. Carlos Ghosn was assigned by Renault to head the new management team. Among his first tasks was not just to look at the business aspects, but to find the “soul” of the company. In interview after interview, people inside and outside the company brought up one model to him, one letter: Z®.

Development of the new Z® began later that year, with the return to the values of the original 240Z – a car that sports car enthusiasts would look forward to driving everyday; quick, inspiring and affordable.

2010 Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition
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In summer 2002, the Z® was reborn with the introduction of the 2003 350Z. It was delivered, as promised, with an MSRP of under $30,000.

Following the 350Z’s unprecedented success, the sixth generation Z®, the 2009 370Z was launched last December. Now the little sports car that could comes full circle with the announcement of the 370Z 40th Anniversary Edition.

“It’s almost inconceivable that it has been 40 years since the original 240Z changed the course of Nissan and the concept of affordable, everyday sports cars,” said Castignetti. “In a year, 1969, marked by the first man to walk on the moon, the 240Z made a remarkable first step of its own. Happy anniversary, Z®.”

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  (449) posted on 01.31.2011

I like everyone else was impressed when Nissan introduced the new 300zx in 89, which recaptured everything we loved about the original 240 but managed to keep its creature comforts intact.

  (613) posted on 01.31.2011

The 370z is a great car but it will never connect with the original 240z. watching the z evolve has been an emotional roller coaster ride for many of us. Starting life with the attractive lightweight peoples racer reminiscent of the jag E-type and then evolving into the horrible 1984-88 300zx that was more of a grand tourer than a no nonsense sports car.

  (938) posted on 12.6.2010

Z is a factual dwelling legend like the GT-R, nissan does keep the 50 50 heaviness circulation of the Z’s, that’s why Z’s is one of the best choose wander car.

  (380) posted on 04.19.2010

As the year change, the style and the performance of each cars specially this 370z, little by little the performance of the car is upgrading.

  (1332) posted on 02.10.2010

Pretty expensive for a sports car. The competition such as Evolution, GT-R and Focus range from 19 to 32 grand. At most at 40 grand. But this car, which is almost the same in performance with those cars, or at least some of them, is already at 38 grand? Mmmm, it will be a tough competition because of the price.

  (534) posted on 01.27.2010

his 370z Nissan is really a kicka**. It has very unique design and performance engine that can lift the car up.

  (182) posted on 10.18.2009

Impressing 40 years. But they still have a long way to go. I know their market position is as an affordable supercar but I guess there’s nothing wrong with improving its performance as if its a real supercar. But my sincere congratulations for the Nissan Z series team.

  (180) posted on 10.17.2009

Congratulations to the Z series. I’m a huge fan of yours.

  (183) posted on 10.17.2009

While I’m a great fan of Mazda’s Miata, the Z series is also good car investment. Tough looking but efficient. Cheaper but has almost the same performance as the supercars. Good thing that Mr. K thought of naming the beauty with the Z series instead of the Fairlady Z.

  (182) posted on 10.17.2009

Has it been that long? 40 years? Kudos to you Nissan! And to Mr. K for your genius ideas. The limited edition definitely looks tougher, more masculine. I like it.

  (177) posted on 10.17.2009

Congratulations to Nissan on this milestone! Kudos. The Z series is definitely one of the best coupes there is. Not as fast as the supercars but definitely, has the character and attitude that has survived the tough competition.

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