Scott Lear
Scott Lear
10/8/08 10:56 a.m.

Flip on the TV these days and the odds are pretty good that you’re going to take a trip down memory lane with a show that encourages you to hearken back to the good old days.

The Speed Channel is rerunning NASCAR and F1 races from decades past, and automotive manufacturers have been getting lots of mileage out the word “retro” in their product releases.

Haven’t advances in automotive technology been significant enough that cars should stand on their own, to be regarded fondly from the future for what they have contributed today? Or have we come so far with cars that we need to wrap ourselves around to the past? Mazda was on to something in the early 1990s with the Miata, a car that followed the age-old recipe for a ragtop sports car. However, in recreating a traditional ragtop, Mazda gave it a distinctly modern flair.

Volkswagen fired the first overtly retro shot with the New Beetle, a car that has almost nothing in common with its predecessor except that very distinct, cute shape. Retro cues began to abound in cars: Chrysler offered the PT Cruiser, which does pretty well stylistically with a collection of nonspecific retro references. BMW’s MINI did an excellent job capturing both the look and the lightweight, nimble fun of the original Mini, but in all honesty, most of America doesn’t remember the old Mini.

Then we have Nissan. Datsun’s (now Nissan) Z cars were a fixture on the American automotive landscape from the 240Z’s 1969 debut through the final 300ZX imported for the 1996 model year.

Through several generations, the Z cars retained the same basic approach: a low-slung, stylish GT sports car with a six-banger up front driving the rear wheels. Nissan played with the formula a bit, exploring straight and V6 engine configurations, allowing the roof to come off in a T-top and, eventually, in a full convertible, and pressurizing the engine with both single and then twin turbochargers.

Suspensions became more sophisticated, carburetors gave way to computers, and power climbed from 150 horses in the 240Z to 300 in the last 300ZX Twin Turbo.

Early Z cars were affordable, starting with a sticker at $3526. But with each new generation and increase in complexity came a more substantial price tag. The final 300ZX cars sold north of $40,000 before Nissan pulled the plug on the Z’s North American market. A price tag of $40,000 is hard to call affordable, even accounting for inflation. Still, more than a million cars wearing the Z badge have been sold in America, making it the all-time best-selling sports car, according to Nissan.

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bangorgreg None
10/25/10 6:59 p.m.

Loved my 73 and wish that still had that red car!

reflexr New Reader
2/17/11 11:05 a.m.

I had an Orange 73, it was a gem, injected 175 horse, 5 speed, 3.91 gears, urethane suspension(ahh the old P-S-T days), and KYBs. Loved it!

gearheartshirts Reader
7/27/11 10:17 a.m.

I'll be damned if this isn't perfect timing for this story to come up again... I just put a shirt like this on sale :)

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