Hard to believe, but the Datsun (now Nissan) Z-car turned 40 last year. It’s hard to imagine a world without Japanese sports cars now, but the Datsun 240Z (or Fairlady Z to our friends overseas) was the car that really put Japan on the map for something more than transportation appliances. Over those four decades and change, the Z car has acquired a fanatically loyal following in every corner of the world, and going to a Z-car show is perhaps the best proof of this.

The Triangle Z Club held their fall show on October 30th, 2010 at nearby Crossroads Nissan in Wake Forest, NC. The turnout was huge, with everything from the first Z-car imported for sale in the US (yes, seriously) to the latest and greatest 370Z models. I went out with camera in hand to take some pictures. Check them out, and leave a comment below if you like!

This wild, custom Z-car was the first thing that greeted me as I walked in. I think it’s based off of a 260Z, but honestly at this point it’s hard to tell. Most of the body work is custom- check out the massively flared rear fenders to clear the wide rear tires – and the paintwork was deep enough to swim in. There was some sort of heavily-cammed large V8 under the hood, but he never tilted the clamshell forward, so it was hard to tell. It’s a bit over the top, but different strokes for different folks!

Here’s one that never came from the factory: a 280Z with no roof. There’s a solid roll bar (presumably to negate some of the rigidity lost with the loss of the roof), and without a top (and faired-in headlights) the Z car takes on a bit of a Jaguar E-Type look. I kinda like it.

This Z was looking a bit rough, but it’s worth taking a look under the hood…

Ford and GM V8 swaps in old Z-cars are becoming pretty common these days. This is a Ford motor, most likely a 302, with an Edelbrock manifold and a big carb on top. It’s probably not much heavier than the original L-series OHC straight 6, and it’s got a lot more power. This one was actually pretty quiet, too. Sleeper, much?

Ahh, a 280ZX 2+2 Turbo. Back in the early 80′s, this was one of the flat-out fastest cars money could buy. The single-cam fuel injected turbocharged L28 straight-six put out 180 horsepower, and it’s approximate 7-sec0nd 0-60 time meant it could keep pace with 911′s and Corvette’s of the era. This model would be an ’82 or ’83, because when the Turbo debuted in ’81 it was only available with a 3-speed automatic. ’82-’83 cars got a Tremec T-5 5-speed manual transmission capable of dealing with the power. How about those 80′s-tastic 4-spoke wheels! Check the engine out: how’s this for a vacuum line nightmare?

I believe this one had an aftermarket intercooler installed, judging by the piping. Factory 280ZX Turbos weren’t equipped with one. It also had high-output MSD ignition components; one wonders just how much power this old Z is making these days.

Another aftermarket convertible conversion on a 280Z. The Panasport alloys are a pretty standard choice on classic Z-cars. The bright yellow is not. I dig it!

Now here’s a rare site. It’s called “Lucky Number 13,” and it’s the first Z-car imported to the United States for public sale. The first twelve were just for testing purposes; this one was sold at a dealership in North Carolina in 1969, and changed hands a few times before the owner realized how important it was. It’s undergoing restoration, but it’s in remarkably good shape. This is where it all started.

This is most all of the old-style (240, 260, 280Z) cars lined up. You can really see how much of a departure the (Z31) 300ZX was when it replaced these.

Here’s a really clean triple-carb’d L28. Just gorgeous motors, so little junk on them back then.

A tracked-prepped Z. Check out the race slicks.

A car that’s been enjoying more love in recent years is the first-generaton (Z31 chassis) 300ZX. There were a few Z31′s in attendance, ranging from mild to stripped out track cars.

The 300ZX’s VG30 engine was the first V6 used in Z-cars; all previous Z cars used a derivative of the L-series straight six. This is the VG30ET in the 300ZX Turbo, a single-cam two-valve single turbo V6 with an intercooler. Back in the day, it’s 200bhp made it one of the most powerful cars you could buy. Times change, eh?

This all white 300ZX was showroom-floor immaculate, with about 7,000 miles on the odo. You could eat off the dashboard. Or the cam covers. Insane!

I’ve never seen such a clean Z31 in my life.

Moving on to newer Z’s, there were no shortage of Z32 chassis (1990-1996) 300ZX’s in attendance. The 300ZX’s engine gained twin-cam four valve heads, and the naturally aspirated model actually had more power (222bhp) than the old Turbo. Of course, the sophisticated 300ZX Twin-Turbo was the star of the show, with it’s Corvette-baiting 300bhp back in the day. What a nightmare these must be to work on.

I don’t know if all the chrome, carbon-fibre, and red silicone hoses make more power. But the JWT upgraded turbos, Nismo injectors, free-flow exhaust, custom tune, and a huge long list of other aftermarket parts probably do.

Still a timeless shape, 20 years after it debuted. What a gorgeous car.

Like I said, lots of Z32′s. Side note: that distinguished looking gentleman in the sunglasses is my dad, who came along in his G35 6MT sedan to check out the Nissans.

Another shot of the 300ZX’s.

Another 300ZX Twin-Turbo engine bay. The VG30DETT was an extraordinarily sophisticated engine for it’s time, and they’re capable of making huge power.

Finally, moving on to the lastest generation of Z-cars: the 350Z and 370Z. There was no lack of love for these “revival” Z-cars, to be sure. Check out this Nismo-slathered 350Z.

Another Nismo- tuned Z-car here as well. And here’s an interesting modification…

I apologize for the over-exposure on this shot, but that was a lot of chrome and a lot of sunlight. This is a 370Z fitted with a Stillen Supercharger kit, which is mounted via a complex bracket off to the side of the motor for space reasons. There was another 370Z at the show with this same kit, which sadly I didn’t get any pictures of – it was remarkable because there was nothing on the outside to differentiate it as anything but a regular 370Z. Stock wheels, body, suspension, brakes… just a Still exhaust was the only hint it was anything but a regular Nissan. Pretty neat.

And finally, I’ll end this post with a preview of things to come.

This is a friend’s 240SX, with a bit of a Frankenstein’s Monster under the hood. It’s massively powerful, quite trick, and you can look forward to a full feature on it coming soon on CarThrottle. Until next time, friends.