Yoshihiko Matsuo, the designer for the famed Datsun 240Z, has died on July 11.
Matsuo created his name heavily on the 240Z — known in Japan as the Fairlady Z — after working on a lesser-known Datsun compact, the Bluebird 410. Once on the project for the 240Z, Matsuo made multiple decisions in its design and production which helped merge performance with a low affordable cost. The initial 240Z used a 2.4L inline six-cylinder engine that made 150hp with a 7000rpm redline. It’s sleek, sporty exterior along with the high, racy engine note was accented by the consumer-friendly original price of $3,500 USD — equivalent to approximately $23,000 USD in modern day pricing.
The 240Z existed in a time of heavy rivalry within the automotive industry for sports cars of similar style, with the Jaguar E-Type and the Ferrari Daytona most closely associated to the Z’s long hood and swooping fast back design. Their high costs however allowed the Fairlady Z to exist in its own market of enthusiasts looking for performance and style without essentially breaking the bank. The first Z eventually hit stateside in 1969, but helped usher in generations of Z cars for Nissan to this day with the newly-teased 400Z. Modern cars aside, Matsuo’s original 240Z is heralded within the community as a sports car classic, and mint condition examples command large asking prices.
Yoshihiko Matsuo was 86.