ZCon Los Angeles
Z Fans Came West
Once a year, in some place of the country, the Datsun/Nissan Z brotherhood congregates. This year, they flocked to Los Angeles for the 36th edition of their convention, or ZCon for short.
By Hector Cademartori
Mon, Oct 23, 2023 09:52 AM PST
Photos by Héctor Cademartori.
This article is a part of
ZCon 2023 - Los Angeles
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Back To California
It wasn’t the first time the event came to California: In 2004 it took place in Los Angeles and in San Diego in 2014. In every case a local club is the host of the event and this time Group Z, the oldest Z car club of the country, was in charge supported by other local Z clubs.
Even though Los Angeles was mentioned on all the promotional materials, Group Z’s board made a very wise decision and the event took place, in fact, in the city of Ontario, about 40 miles east of LA proper. For those of us who live in this area, we know what “Los Angeles” means in terms of traffic, rules, regulations, and all the obstacles that ZCon would have had to face in terms of logistics.
The event had its HQs in the Double Tree hotel with other hotels around, the 10 Freeway two blocks away and a mile from Ontario Airport for those who wanted to fly in. Besides, the Ontario Convention Center where the car show took place is located behind the hotel. Perfect.
ZCons also include drives around the area, visits to museums and on track activities, thus, the convenience of a place far from the congested (to put it mildly) metropolis of Los Angeles.
Originally, the organization planned to conduct on track activities at the nearby Auto Club Speedway (another advantage of coming to Ontario) which had the road course and room for auto cross and drag racing. Unfortunately, the magnificent facilities of the 2 mile D-shaped superspeedway with the road course in the infield “a la” Daytona, was sold for development and will become a ½ mile oval - therefore, it was not available. It opened in 1997 and it’s sad to see it unceremoniously coming down, but that, fellow race fans, that’s another story…
Therefore, Group Z moved the auto cross and drag racing to Irwindale Speedway, a beautiful half-mile paved oval not far from Ontario, and to the fast Willow Springs Raceway for the road course action.
Willow Springs is far away, about 2 and ½ hours north of Ontario in the high desert city of Rosamond, but an easy drive if you go at the right time of the day. The legendary track opened in 1953 and has been active ever since, more recently it was used in the movie Ford vs Ferrari with very little production to re-create racing scenes from the 60s. ZCon participants were able to experience the very technical course and some of them realized very quickly why many experienced drivers respect it. A great time was had by all.
Ontario had a strong link with the Z car. A few blocks from the Double Tree, on the other side of the Interstate 10 freeway between Archibald and Heaven, from 1970 to 1980 existed a fantastic race track, the Ontario Motor Speedway; a 2.5 mile oval replica of Indianapolis, with a road course in the infield (that Indy didn’t have at the time), and room for 180 000 racing fans. Datsun signed up as the official pace car and the 240Zs in white and blue livery (and sometimes a 510) did the job. The track was taken down and, once again, that’s another story that our friend Michael Allen will tell in his upcoming book about OMS. We look forward to it.
About 20 years ago, the ZCCA (Z Car Clubs of America) realized that organizing every ZCon from scratch became a difficult task for clubs which had to figure out how to put together their events without previous experience, thus, ZCCA provides a template for every ZCon. Chris Clark, its President, and his team, has successfully supported the local clubs with the know-how and a bag of proven tactics which make the conventions an enjoyable experience instead of the proverbial Chinese fire drill routine.
There is a group of Datsun/Nissan legends who show up at the conventions and ZCon participants have the privilege to meet and greet them. Peter Brock and John Morton are the usual suspects, but this time we had a chance to visit with others such as designers Trevor Harris and Chris Willes (who wrote a great book about the design and development of the 300ZX IMSA GTP car), Casey Mollett (a privateer who raced Datsuns for most of his career), and Hiroshi Tamura (Nissan Chief Product Specialist for the Z and the GT-R). The list is long and included SEMA President Mike Spagnola, who along with his son, Mike Jr., are big Datsun/Nissan fans and some suspect that they’re trying to corner the market of Zs and Roadsters.
Something worth mentioning is the number of young people attending the convention. Perhaps because Nissan’s revival of the Z dynasty, with the 350 at the beginning of the century followed by the 370 and now the Z, brought new people to the game. As an example, we met Josh Lyman, President of the Ozarks Z Club in Branson, Missouri who runs a very successful ZFest and now is also a member of the ZCCA’s board.
Lyman and his team of ZFest are all in their 30s. The same goes for the local SoCal clubs that Group Z’s President Jeff Agner mentions in his accompanying article. The trend is very encouraging and will insure that the Z fire stays lit for many years to come.
Next year, ZCon will go East, to Florida.
2024 ZCon Chairman Gary Savage, gave us some details: “The 37th annual Z Convention will be in Tampa on September 9-14 and will follow the traditional template for the event with a Judged and People's Choice car show, HPDE at The Motor Enclave, cruises and social events. The last time ZCon was in Florida was in Daytona 2007, so we are excited to have it back in the Sunshine State and to bring some of the flavor and culture of the area to all the attendees. Also of note, it's a joint hosting job by SunCentral Z, Central Florida Z and SoFlo Z clubs. I just stood up to make it happen and those groups are excited to bring it here. Just as we had 15 Datsun 510s at ZCON SoCal People's Choice Show, it's looking like we will have a nice contingent of Roadster owners joining in 2024, as well. It's really grown to a full Datsun/Nissan/Infiniti family event that is Z centric, but open to all. However, the Judged Show is Z only. It's going to be a blast!”.
Regarding The Motor Enclave, their website states that it is a 200-acre new development in Tampa - including a 1.6 mile circuit designed by Hermann Tilke, a 2-acre Vehicle Dynamics Pad, a 100-acre off road experience with miles of purpose built trails, 37,000 square foot Corporate Event Center, and the largest private garage community in the world with more than 300 privately owned garages.
ZCon attendees should have a lot of fun at The Motor Enclave. See you there!
About The Author
Hector Cademartori honed his racing art in Buenos Aires. In 1983, he left his job with Corsa Magazine in Argentina and moved to Southern California to specialize in motor racing art. Today, you can find Hector’s art on Indianapolis 500 Yearbook covers, Laguna Seca Raceway, Auto Club Speedway and Carrera Panamericana posters, the NHRA, foreign and domestic automobile and motorcycle magazines, motorcycle manufacturers, Toyota Motorsports, TRD and Lucas Oil. Hector races his 1973 Datsun 240Z “Ferratsun” around the So Cal circuits, and a 1991 Volvo 740 Wagon with the 24 Hours of LeMons.