Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

In the late 1960s, Nissan began development of a closed sports car to replace their popular Datsun 1600 and 2000 roadsters. Under the direction of Yutaka Katayama, the president of the Nissan Motor Corporation in the U.S. (known as “Mr. K” and the “Father of the Z-car”), renowned German designer Albrecht von Goertz was hired as a consultant on the project. He and the Nissan styling staff would develop the initial design, while Yamaha would engineer the drivetrain and build the prototype. Ultimately, Nissan and Yamaha didn’t come to terms, and the project was temporarily shelved.

Undeterred, Nissan continued to develop the new car in-house. Chief Designer Yoshihiko Matsuo, along with Assistant Designer Akio Yoshido and their team, created the car we know today as the 240Z. It was introduced in October 1969 and was an immediate success, as it offered striking styling, strong performance and exceptional build quality — all at an affordable price.

Although the Datsun 240Z was targeted primarily at the American audience, Nissan produced an exceptional version of the Fairlady Z strictly for their domestic market. Since their merger with Prince, Nissan had developed their formidable S20 straight six into a competition colossus, culminating with the launch of the indomitable Skyline GT-R. This is the same race-derived drivetrain, with the upgraded close-ratio 5-speed gearbox and heavy-duty limited-slip differential that would be fitted in the Z-car, creating the ultimate production variant, the Fairlady Z 432.

The Z 432 offered here is possibly one of the finest examples to come out of Japan. It is incredibly rare, as only 420 total examples were produced, with many having met their fates on the racing circuit or having been heavily modified over the years. Therefore, any highly original car such as this is rarer yet, as well as highly sought after, as few are seldom found outside of their homeland.

This car was imported from Japan in 2013 and had been acquired, incredibly, from its first and only owner. At the time, the Nissan was still registered on its original Shinagawa license plates from September 1970. Save for one repaint in its original color, it has never been taken apart, and it remains in remarkably original condition throughout. Everything continues to function as it did when it left the factory, including the original radio, clock and heater. Additionally, the car includes its original Nissan tool roll, spare tire and footwell flashlight, and it also features the optional rear spoiler and desirable factory magnesium wheels.

An RM Sotheby’s specialist, himself very familiar with these cars, has test-driven this Z 432 and reports that this willing, high-revving machine provided a thrilling ride. The solid feel of an excellent, unrestored car cannot be overstated, but the bottom line, as he relates, is that “it runs like a scalded cat!”

As with the Hakosuka GT-R, the Z 432 is a legend at home, and it has a growing following amongst enthusiasts in the West. Despite its recognizable good looks, this limited-production, high-performance car should never be confused with a Datsun 240Z. This is the “holy grail” of all Z-machines, and as such, the opportunity to acquire an example as wonderful as this is unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Nissan Fairlady Z 432
Years Produced:1970–73
Number Produced:420
Original List Price:$5,132
SCM Valuation:$150,000–$200,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$14
Chassis Number Location:Right side firewall
Engine Number Location:Right side inner fender
Club Info:Classic Z-Car Club
Alternatives:1970–72 Porsche 914-6 GT, 1967–72 Mazda Cosmo, 1968–76 Ferrari Dino
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 175, sold for $253,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction at Amelia Island, FL, on March 14, 2015.

Japanese cars of the 1960s and early 1970s continue to set high-watermark prices this year, and the market is moving to embrace these cars even more quickly than we expected. In February of this year, we reported on a new best price of $40,700 for a standard 1970 Datsun 240Z (SCM February 2015 “Etceterini Profile,” p. 68, SCM# 256254). This followed last summer’s best-ever sale of a 1973 Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R at $242,000 (SCM# 247736) and a string of big sale prices on other Japanese performance models of the era.

What is a Fairlady 432 anyway?

The Fairlady 432 is a lightly modified Z-car. The Fairlady Z 432 was a special homologation model, and only 420 were ever made, all right-hand drive for Japanese domestic sale. The car was meant to be used for rallies and racing, and the FIA did not require mass production in that era. Most of the Fairlady 432 production disappeared early, so comparable sales are extremely rare.

What makes a Fairlady Z 432 is simply the twin-cam engine and drivetrain from the Skyline installed in the standard S30 Z-car chassis. Like the Skyline, the Z-cars offered independent rear suspension and responded well to Nissan’s hottest straight six of the day — a twin-cam, 24-valve hemi crossflow 2.0-liter engine with triple-Mikuni carbs and a dual exhaust. The name “432” was derived from the engine design, featuring four valves per cylinder, three Mikuni side-draft carburetors and two camshafts.

That 2.0-liter engine was good for 160 horsepower, and it was mated to a 5-speed gearbox and a limited-slip differential. However, apart from the drivetrain and a few other unique elements such as the grille, the 432 was an ordinary 1970 Fairlady Z.

Is the 432 really special?

The value judgment on the 432 is always going to be controversial. Consider that a stock 240Z built for the U.S. market offered 151 horsepower from the single-cam 2.4-liter engine. The 240Z was offered with a 4-speed manual transmission and an open differential, which gave the car a top speed of 125 mph and a quarter-mile time of 16.9 seconds.

In contrast, the 432 offered 160 horsepower and a 5-speed with limited-slip diff. That car tops out at 130 mph and did the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds. So, you’re not buying a great deal of extra performance with this car. What the buyer is getting for all that money is the rare JDM racing edition, and you’ll have to decide if that’s worth more than six times the going price for a nice 240Z.

Sales history

Because so few of these cars were made — fewer were licensed for the street, and very few ever left Japan — there are no other North American auction results to compare against. In 2010, a 432 was advertised through a Japanese specialty auto dealer for about $100,000. Prior to that, the only available data point is that in 2001, a car represented as a 432 was advertised for sale in Burlington, VT, for just $5,500. There’s no way to check provenance on either of those two cars, so we’ll just leave that information on the table for what it’s worth.

Taking a broader view, this sale is consonant with last year’s GT-R sale, and with the top sale of a Mazda Cosmo (SCM# 245010) for $264,000 last summer. A less-attractive Cosmo just changed hands for $110,000 in Scottsdale this year (SCM# 256951), but that price is still higher than previous Cosmo sales.

All this leads to the conclusion that the moment is now for select Japanese cars to experience a tornado for the balance of this year. The recovering economy and a new generation of buyers who weren’t in this market in the heady years of 2006–07 are combining to find the value in rare and collectible Asian imports.

Bringing it back to this sale, it’s likely that this buyer made a smart purchase — at least two people were bidding the price up above the expected levels, so there’s good reason to think that the car will hold this value. Before we’re certain, though, we’ll have to see the results when other 432 Fairlady Zs come out of hiding and cross the block, but a sale like this has got to have some longtime owners thinking about cashing out. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)


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