Nissan 350Z Concept Cars

Reviving the Nissan Z Tradition

The Nissan 350Z testing program included the Mid Sport concept (foreground), a 350Z test mule (center), and a 350Z prototype.
The Nissan 350Z testing program included the Mid Sport concept (foreground), a 350Z test mule (center), and a 350Z prototype.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

When Nissan Chairman Yoshikazu Hanawa agreed to let design work proceed on a new Z in the spring of 1999, the intent for reviving the Nissan Z tradition was there, but all the basic research that normally preceded the production of any new vehicle had yet to begin. However, his approval really represented concurrence that a new Z should be in Nissan's lineup.

At this point, the new Z was just a "gut car," one that a great deal of people both in Japan and the United States knew would be an important symbol of a resurgent and vibrant Nissan.

The problem was that money was tight and Nissan was in the midst of executing its alliance with Renault. The existing 300ZX (Fairlady Z in Japan) was too expensive to produce and priced too high for the market. And there were no funds available to build a new Z-specific platform.

The MS mid-sports concept that John Yukawa (principle product designer for Silvia at the time ) and his group put together in 1996 addressed the need to lower the cost of any Z replacement to increase its market acceptance and volume sales. And the mid-ship front-engine and rear-drive configuration showed great promise in terms of balanced sports-car handling.

Four-cylinder power, however, was seen as unacceptable because Zs have always been powered by six-cylinder engines. A V-6 wouldn't fit in the MS engine bay.

So some other solution would be required, one that moved toward a new-generation Z and synthesized Nissan's sports-car tradition with innovative design and cutting-edge technologies. One that also embodied the great Z heritage of performance, design and value in a package relevant to the wants and needs of today's buyers.

And frankly, as Chief Product Specialist John Yukawa was proud to point out in a marketplace filled with German offerings, "a real Japanese sports car. Perhaps not the fastest car in the world, or the most exclusive, but one with a balance of qualities today's buyers are seeking. One with distinctive design, gobs of easy power and great handling, but also with hatchback practicality and interior thoughtfulness. A car sports-car enthusiasts could live with every day. A car sports-car enthusiasts would look forward to driving every day."

For more on Nissan Zs and other great sports cars, check out: