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THEY came sporting stickers in their cars with a simple message proclaiming a love and devotion for a Japanese marque with certificates of appreciation on show under their windscreens and a particular Z…est for one model in particular.
The passion was clear to see as devotees of classic cars gathered outside the Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons’ Nissan & INFINITI dealership in Sitra for the staging of the second edition of a popular motor show with music booming out and food being distributed.
All original interiors and exteriors without a scratch were earnestly displayed although some boasted special artwork painted on the inside of the bonnets, one paying homage to the late, great Bahraini singer Ali Bahar and his Brothers band.
Once upon a time the global sports car market was dominated by British manufacturers with MG, Triumph, Healey and Jaguar ruling the roads. Their domination was being challenged by Italian giants Alfa Romeo and Fiat but inroads suddenly came from the place where the sun rises – Japan.
Japanese car manufacturers started wooing folk with perfectly-priced economic and reliable runners and Bahrain was no different but then they started pursuing a higher degree of respect from the West and Middle East by building a world-class sports car.
The first to accomplish that mission was the 1969 Nissan Fairlady Z, which was known as the Datsun 240Z overseas.
The birth of 240Z was driven by Yutaka Katayama, the boss of Nissan US then and now known as ‘the father of Z-cars’. The story goes that he visited the research and development department in Japan, persuading the chief engineer and designer to develop a stunning sports car instead of continuing making cheap economy cars forever.
His words moved them, the project got the green light and project code ‘Z’ was born. Four years later, the production car went on sale. It was called the Fairlady Z at its home market following the tradition of Nissan sports cars (note: Nissan had been building the unremarkable Fairlady roadster series since 1959). But Mr K preferred a stronger name for export market and called it the 240Z instead, where the number represented its engine displacement.
The Z-car was beautiful. Its styling was probably influenced by an earlier study prototype penned by Albrecht Goertz, who was renowned for BMW 507 and then had a short stint at Nissan until 1964 – and that led to the speculation that it was designed by Goertz. However, the car was equally inspired by the contemporary Ferraris and Jaguar E-type
Anyway, it was by no means a copycat. Nissan created a car that looked not only original but far more modern than its nearest rivals, and would be compared to the more expensive Jaguar and Porsche offerings.
The upmarket look was supported with modern technologies, such as all-independent suspensions, front disc brakes, five-speed gearbox and an SOHC straight-six engine producing 151 gross horsepower. It was capable of 0-60 mph in eight seconds or so, and reaching a top speed of 125 mph.
The 240Z was also praised by road testers for not only good performance but also good handling and road-holding.
The passion for the car remains evident today. Mechanic and shop owner Anwar Shaar, 26, for Seef, owns a 1973 version and said: “I love it. Every time I sit in the driver’s seat I appreciate what a very special car this is.”
Stables owner Jassim Salman, 33, from Adliya, proudly drove off with second-place and a BD500 prize in the highly-competitive Batelco Motor Show with his beloved 1982 280ZX Turbo which he imported from the US at a cost of BD6,000 six years ago.
A good investment too, as it’s now worth around BD8,000. And, although he drives a BMW for the daily commute, nothing quite beats this beast and it’s not just what’s under the bonnet either. “It’s hard to put into words,” he admitted, “but there’s something wonderful about this car.
“Somehow, it feels like family. My father drove a Datsun when I was a child and I still get a wonderful sense and smell and warm memories as soon as I open the car door. Those early days sort of rubbed off on me and I just knew I needed to have one. This is my baby, my lovely car.”
Although come 1986, and with the Datsun brand firmly established across the world, Nissan decided it was about time it marketed its cars under the parent brand’s name plate.
No matter the name the following continues to grow. In Bahrain the marque boasts a Z Club, GT-R Club, Datsun Club, Patrol Club and an INFINITI Team … plus, the love affair with the Z continues unabated.
Sitting stylishly in the showroom was a 370Z gathering glances of admiration from the visitors. As long as there’s been a Nissan Z, there has been a soulful six-cylinder leading the way and this one will cost you just short of BD40,000.
For more details visit www.nissanbahrain.com or call 17734218.