At the car’s introduction in 1969, Nissan’s president, Yutaka Katayama, emphasized that the Z “was designed to please a demanding taste that is strictly American.” The later company chief Carlos Ghosn praised its “European styling, American muscle, Japanese quality and global desirability.”
Rob Sass, an expert is classic-car pedigree (and owner of four Zs through the years), said, “It was a groundbreaking car that gave Japanese cars credibility for the first time in the United States.” (Mr. Sass is an occasional contributor to the Wheels column.)
A parade of Z cars has marched through showrooms over the decades, from the 240 (actually born as the S30 in Japan) to the 260, the 280ZX, the more exotic 300ZX and, from 2003, the 297-horsepower 350Z.
The 50th anniversary 370Z edition, an example of the sixth generation of the model, emerged in red-and-white racing livery at the recent New York auto show, and, unlike its ancestor, it’s stuffed with bells, whistles and Bose audio. The colors of the special edition mimic those that decorated the motorsports legend Peter Brock’s BRE 240Z.
Pricing starts at just above $37,000 for the birthday model, and, yes, a six-speed manual is offered.
While Mr. Sass suggests that the Z car “may have run its course,” he remains a fan. “Remember that without the Z, there’s probably no RX-7, no Honda S2000, no Toyota MR2,” he said. “It set the future for a whole wave of Japanese sports cars.”