Most Z car enthusiasts have heard by now that Yutaka Katayama has passed away. The many stories posted online conflate the truth with various fictions and inaccuracies.
He became the president of Nissan U.S.A. when Nissan did not have products geared for the American market. He had to build a dealer network and convince Nissan to build products suitable for America. He built up Nissan in North America with products like the 510 and 240Z. He didn’t design them, but he made sure they could be sold. Legend had it that he arranged for the Fairlady Z badges to be removed from the hatches of the Z cars when they arrived in North America. Somehow it’s more believable that he convinced Nissan that it would be smarter to use the engine displacement in this market.
There is a saying that starts off with “Success has many fathers.” That is true with the Z car. Mr. K. was one of the fathers that ensured the Z car would become part of the enthusiast community in America and elsewhere. I have read that in 1975, the 65-year-old Mr. K. was ordered back to Japan where he retired in relative obscurity. Even without him at the helm of Nissan North America, the Z car lineage continued to thrive with the 280Z, 280ZX, and both generations of 300ZXs. However, eventually a strong yen drove up Z car prices, and looming emission and safety standards meant costly modifications, so Nissan pulled the plug on exporting the 300ZX with the 1996 model being the last to land on American soil.
The Z wasn’t going to be forgotten easily in the U.S. The design was solid. The styling aged well. Mad Mike Taylor went to Japan in 1995 to visit Mr. K. and try to get Nissan to stop destroying N.O.S. Z car parts. At least Nissan was smart enough to pay attention that Mr. K. was a growing legend in a major market. The Nissan Dream Car Garage and other commercials in the mid to late 90s paid homage by usuing Dale Ishimoto to represent Mr. Katayama. Nissan also had some 1970 to 1972 240Zs refurbished. This enthusiasm Mr. K. helped engender helped to contribute to the rebirth of the line in 2003 with the 350Z.
Mr. K. remained a fixture in the Z car community for the rest of his life. He visited Z car events in America several times, including the 1995 convention in Atlanta. It was at that convention that The History Channel did much of its filming for the Z car episode of the series Automobile. I have seen many proud Z car owners with Mr. Katayama’s signature on the dashboard or roof. Even when he got too old to travel, Mr. K. would make appearances via Skype. I got to witness one of the Skype appearances at the 2011 ZCCA convention. My wife could not believe that he was almost 102 years old.
Of course, no one lasts forever, even a legend. Yes, myths and other inaccuracies have mixed in with the facts of the life of Yutaka Katayama. It doesn’t really matter. That’s what legends are made of.
Posted in 240Z, 260Z, 280Z
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I had an exhaust leak in the 260Z. Click on the picture to read the details on what I did to fix it and the other work I did while I was under the hood.
With the new wheels & tires, the 260Z picked up a rub in the driver rear tire. While the root cause is the heft of the driver, contributing factors included old springs & struts. Considering my relative lack of experience with the Z concerning struts, I took a friend up on an offer to help. Little did he understand the curveball I was throwing at him. While I had typical KYB struts, I planned to replace the springs with springs made for a Chevette.
Tim showed me a few tricks and tips along the way. Unfortunately I was too busy helping him to document the tips thoroughly. The first thing he did after removing the tires was to notch the bracket that holds the brake line. After notching the bracket, he folded the ends out of the way a little to allow the steel line to pass through. This allowed us to remove the calipers from the spindles and pull the struts without breaking the lines open.
In short order the struts were removed, and the old springs were off. Then we hit the first snag. The gland nuts folded when we tried to remove them from the struts. They were rusted on tight. Fortunately, Tim’s neighbor happened to have a spare pair of spindles. We were back on path.
In one of those “While we’re at it…” moves, I bought new ball joints to replace the old, dead ones. We also scraped off about 40 years of grease. Soon the new springs and struts were on.
We lowered the car. The nose sat about 4 inches higher than stock, and the front tires were resting on their outside edges. NOW I understood what the online posts meant about cutting the springs. We removed two and a half coils from each spring and remounted the struts. The nose still sat just a little high, but it was drivable. Our work window closed, so I drove home like that.
In preparation for the next round, I already cut 3 coils from the other pair of springs. Those will go on the front, and the springs now on the front will go to the rear. Soon, the car will have a firmer ride, even at a relatively stock height. That should reduce the rub.
Many months ago, I splurged on bumpers from Group Harrington for the 240Z & 260Z. I installed the rear bumper on the 240Z a while back, and I finally finished installing the front bumper on the 240Z.
While the back bumper was an exercise in simplicity, the front bumper was much more involved. The North American 1973 240Z has a front bumper different from the earlier 240Zs. It was the first effort as complying with new crash-resistance requirements in the United States. This included a different (and MUCH heavier) bumper bracket. After I removed the bumper and trim cover pieces, I took off the three bolts holding the left mount in place. That is when I discovered that the valence was in the way. I loosened the right side and middle of the valence and removed the right bumper mount. I re-attached the right side of the valence and loosened the left. I pulled the old bumper mount free. Now I had to figure out how to install the older style mounts.
I looked at the thin pieces of metal and realized they did not attach anything like the heavier bumper mounts. Fortunately, I was able to take pictures of a friend’s 240Z. I then located the proper mounting points for the brackets. I purchased some new M10x1.25 bolts to attach the bumper mounts. Next I did a dry fit. I realized that the sides of the bumpers needed to be pushed away from the fenders. I looked for the stock parts online, but on the the right side is still available. Next, I thought I would try nylon spacers. Those didn’t look right. I searched for spacers on McMaster-Carr’s website. I happened across door bumpers, specifically part number 9540K782. They were black rubber and the right size.
The next challenge was figuring out how close the bumper should come to the car. I tried two nuts on each post, a single, and nothing, before deciding that one washer would work. Next came lining up the sides. I struggled with getting the bolt to line up and thread into the bumper. Fortunately, my neighbor was willing to help. He suggested doing a fitting without the rubber spacer in place. That gave us the angle we needed. We did the right side first. After some pulling on the bumper, we finally got the bolt threaded. Next we did the test fitting on the left. After trying out various strategies unsuccessfully, my neighbor pulled on the bumper while I tried to thread the bolt. Finally it worked. I tightened the front bolts down and admired our work. It is an improvement over the 41 year old bumpers.
I’m thinking that when I go to convert the 260Z to the earlier bumpers, I will pay someone to fabricate front brackets for me, since the 260Z lacks the mounting points for the front bumpers used by the 240Zs.
Here are some pictures from taking apart and cleaning a 77/78 280Z turn signal switch.
Before I worked on it, the switch was covered with lots of dirt trapped in the grease. I took off all of the screws to get to the switch parts. I then degreased the internals of the turn signal switch and the cancellation mechanism. I cleaned the copper parts with metal polish and sanded them lightly with 1000 grit sandpaper. I put dielectric grease on the moving parts of the cancellation mechanism and on the contacts.
When it was all back together, I checked the high/low beam switch and the turn signal switch with an ohmmeter to ensure the switches functioned properly.