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artist rendering of a 1975 Datsun 260Z with bright blue, red, and white colors and yellow wheels.

The Iconic Bob Sharp

the front cover of the book "Nissan Z - 50 Years of Exhilarating Performance" with a top-down image of an orange Datsun Z on a black background.

50 Years of Exhilarating Nissan Z Performance

LACar ExtravaganZa - The Last Lap

a home garage - albeit very large - full of at least six Z-cars from Nissan/Datsun.

Celebrating all Z-fans and enthusiasts!

As we wrap up our ExtravaganZa, enjoy this final installment, which celebrates the fans and enthusiasts of the Z Car with a special peek into a real Z-garage.

By Guest Author: Christopher Karl

Sun, Nov 15, 2020 04:52 PM PST

Story and photos by LACar guest writer Christopher Karl, ZCCA Executive Director

This article is a part of

Nissan Z ExtravaganZa

Click to see the collection and all the included articles!

What we know as the “Z Car” has been with us 50 years and has enthusiasts numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  Let that sink in for even the briefest of moments. How many other marques have vehicles that can say the same?

The Datsun and Nissan Z Car saga began in the 1960s. The story is a distinctive story, spear-headed by the efforts of Yutaka Katayama (considered the “father” of the Z) and Yoshihiko Matsuo (the design-team leader), amongst others.  Note, this short article is not that describing the story of the Z’s inception (that tale’s been told). However, as a lifelong Z enthusiast it would be inappropriate to not mention their names with my deepest respect and honor their memories.

Spectacular turnout at the Z Nationals at Road Atlanta
The Z Car Club Association, among other things, works to promote and grow the enthusiast base. In this image, an impressive group of Zs at the iconic Road Atlanta circuit.

The unique intent of their creation, the Z, was aimed to allow “everyone” to afford a chance to enjoy true driving pleasure. The cars have inspired awe with their designs, performance and continue to shatter perceptions even today as the world awaits the “Z Proto” prototype to be sculpted into a production-ready Z.

In North America, our Z Car community is thriving – through sanctioned (formal) clubs, informal ones and social-media based communities. Over fifty sanctioned Z car clubs exist across North America and that number is growing steadily. Formal Z Car Clubs started forming in the ‘70’s as enthusiasm grew around the 240Z. They became more organized with the launch of the “Z Car Club Association” governing body which works to support and grow the enthusiast-base and be a unified voice to Nissan. Community figures like “Mad Mike” Taylor created the groundswell support for the early Z clubs and garnered support and integration from Nissan corporate.

Clubs offer members a structure of support, social-belonging, and a feeling of being an “extended family”. Clubs vary in their focus and activities, but commonly partake in a variety of regional events (i.e. Branson Z fest, NISMO Fiesta, Midwest Z Heritage, East Coast Z Nationals, ZDayZ, Z Nationals and others). The largest annual Z-focused event is one that was created by the ZCCA and Nissan – the “International Z Car Convention” (dubbed ‘ZCON’). 

 ZCON just celebrated its 33rd Annual event in Nashville, TN.  Guests of the 2020 event were treated to a historic new-model prototype reveal which Nissan and the ZCCA orchestrated to occur during ZCON week (intentionaly scheduled on Mr. K’s birthday - September 15, 2020). The six-day ZCON event included motorsports events (i.e. track day, autocross, group drives…), a judged concours style car show, people’s choice car show along with a variety of social events.

The author and his supportive wife love the Z Car community
Karen and Chris Karl with their 370, 350 Nismo Zs and a garage full of Datsun/Nissan memorabilia.

The Z Proto (prototype) reveal was organized in drive-in movie style format and guest master-of-ceremonies Adam Carolla led the evening’s festivities with hundreds of ZCON guests honking and flashing headlights as a signal to a global live-streamed audience.

ZCON is enthusiast-driven with the ZCCA and club member volunteers donating their efforts to keep the richness of history integrated into the format.

For 2020, that charge of celebrating 50 Years of the Z included a closing ceremony toast with a nod to those who couldn’t join the event. Special guests attended the event like a star-studded movie-premier - Peter Brock of BRE, Adam Carolla, ZCCA founder – “Mad Mike” Taylor, Mr. K’s secretary - Johnnie Gable, and the hosts of the popular JDM Legends TV Show (Eric Bizek, Josh Martin and Mauricio Rosales) all took time to participate in the festivities. Over 500 enthusiasts came out for the historic event with over 40 Z car clubs in attendance.

The Z Car Life has become a part of my life starting at 16 years of age when I fell in love with my first Z - a ’83 Datsun 280ZX. I grew up with people that were affected and infected by the “Z bug”. During high school, the iconic ’90 Nissan 300ZX was released and was another game-changer for Nissan. Fast-forward to 30 years later – life, and a very supportive wife, have contributed to our “Z garage” growing to 10 cars.

Mr. Karl's Z garage has grown to 10 cars
The Karls’ garage has a definitively slant towards a certain marque and model. Let us guess…hmmm…Datsun/Nissan Zs?

As time and family permitted, I have hosted cross-country Z driving adventures and been involved with the ZCCA and the ZCON event since 2007.  I believe that the Z community is uniquely different from other car communities…while sharing many core commonalities that make car culture captivating and pervasive. “Z people” are down to earth, friendly, and extremely helpful - despite where they live or status in life. It is inevitable that machines break, and “Murphy” causes drama for all of us. Having witnessing enthusiasts struck by bad luck at the track or getting to an event it’s filled my heart with joy seeing people that may not know one another come cross-country to render help. In my personal travels across the country meeting fellow enthusiasts, this has been a consistent and commands the greatest of respect from any car person.

Z community life has also afforded my family experiences like nothing else I could have envisioned. The events and gatherings of the Z community have taken me to all but one of the “lower 48” United States…to Canada…to Japan and other countries.

The love for the Z and our clubs inspire adventure and the love of life (to borrow part of Mr. K’s tagline).  Z’s are synonymous with adventure – or at least I feel they should be. My personal adventures have taken me to the Salt Flats at Bonneville, Z camping with friends around bonfires, eating Chili and Margaritas at ZCONs, driving up the California coast, honing my driving skills at race tracks across the U.S….gripping my Z’s steering for dear-life in an unexpected snow-storm in Yellowstone…to toasting a thousands of enthusiasts for the Z’s special anniversaries. There are far too many stories to be shared in course of this article, but sufficed to say these experiences have shaped my life.

About The Author

Christopher Karl

Guest Contributor

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