Nissan Z Proto: Inspired by the past but looking to the future

The Z car concept gets upgraded powertrain including manual gearbox

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Nissan Z Proto
Nissan Z Proto is a design study for the next generation of the famed Z car series | Nissan photos

In Yokohama, Japan, Nissan has unveiled the Z Proto, “signaling the company’s intent to launch a new generation of the legendary Z sports car,” the automaker said Tuesday. 

The launch event was simulcast to Nashville, Tennessee, where the 33rd International Z Convention was taking place with hundreds of the sports cars’ owners and enthusiasts.

Nissan said the prototype vehicle shows a new design inside and out as well as an upgraded powertrain with manual transmission. However, it added that the Z Proto “is a development study vehicle and does not confirm or reflect production-model specifications.”

“The Z represents the joy of driving in its purest form and has helped shape Nissan’s DNA as a passionate, innovative challenger,” said Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida. “Ever since the first generation, it has captured the hearts of car enthusiasts all over the world. That’s why we’re so excited today to be able to say to them: ‘Yes, the next one is coming!’”

Z Proto is one of 10 new vehicles that Nissan is showing for the American automotive marketplace in 20 months. 

“The United States is home to one of the most devoted and enthusiastic Z communities in the world, with nearly 1.35 million total sales over the model’s 50-year history,” noted Mike Colleran, Nissan’s US-based senior vice president for marketing and sales.

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“With new models like Sentra and Rogue opening new eyes to our brand, Z Proto is our loudest statement yet that Nissan will continue to bring vehicles that thrill to U.S. showrooms.”

Unveiled in bright yellow pearlescent paint – Nissan said it was a tribute to a popular paint scheme on both the first-generation 240Z and the 300ZX – the Z Proto design combines elements of previous generations while also projecting futurism, said Nissan design head Alfonso Albaisa.

“Our designers made countless studies and sketches as we researched each generation and what made them a success,” Albaisa said. “Ultimately, we decided the Z Proto should travel between the decades, including the future.”

“The LED headlights have two half-circles that hark back to the Japan market-only 240ZG of the 70s,” Albaisa explained. “The ZG has clear dome lenses over the headlight buckets, which under light give off two circular reflections over each headlight. We liked that unique characteristic and discovered that it naturally fit with the Z’s identity.”

Nissan said the link to the original Z is “most striking when viewing the Z Proto from the side. The roofline flows from the nose to the squared-off rear to create a distinctive first-generation Z profile whose rear edge was slightly lower than the front fender height giving the Z its unique posture. The signature transition from the rear quarter glass to the low-slung position of the rear tail adds to the effect.”

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The interior is “designed to fit driver and passenger like a glove,” the automaker said, adding “the Z Proto’s cabin seamlessly blends modern technology with vintage Z touches.”

With professional racing drivers as consultants, the Z Proto has touches such as a tachometer places so its redline shift point at the 12-o’clock position.

“Z is more than just powerful and agile,” said Hiroshi Tamura, chief product specialist for the Z Proto. “It is designed to create a connection with the driver, for the car to be a ‘dance partner’ for their on-road adventures.”

That means a twin-turbocharged V6 engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Engine displacement and other details were not revealed.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful, but delete the bright trim from door top aft to rear quarter, should be body color along with the roof and then would be outstanding .Love the interior as is. Nice, analog look. Unique among a sea of digital dashes that I personally don’t like.

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