We kinda can’t get enough of Nissan’s mouth-watering Z Proto, especially now that we’ve seen it in person during a private viewing Nissan set up recently in Los Angeles. While Nissan didn’t provide any more details about its twin-turbocharged V-6, updates to its rear-drive platform, on-sale dates, or future convertible and/or NISMO variants, it was a great opportunity to take in the car’s many design cues, some of which are continuations from the outgoing model—the double-bubble roof, for example—while others are highlighted in a side-by-side gallery we recently put together. It was also a chance to go on an Easter-egg hunt for gems of hidden Z-ness that you might not see at first or even second glance. Here’s what we found:
Visual History of the Nissan Z
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Respect of the Silhouette
While the Z Proto’s long-nose, sloping-roof silhouette is not as extreme as the original Z’s dramatic “baseball cap” proportions, certain aspects of the new car’s profile are meant to “communicate respect” to the original, as Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa puts it. The most important among them, Nissan feels, is the termination point of the roof-to-tail arc, which plunges down to a point lower than the front fenders.
New Z Compared to Past Models
From 10 paces away, the Z Proto’s grille appears to be a large, rectilinear opening much like that of the outgoing model. But step a little closer, and one will notice that the space is bisected laterally and contains not just one but two styles of detailing. The upper area contains 24 radius-cornered rectangles highlighted in a dark chrome, while the lower area is more open, with no such brightwork and just two larger rectilinear details, all in gloss black. If you have to ask why, they you’ve never owned an early 240Z or 260Z, the upper grille of which might be dolled up with horizontal slats or mesh insert, while below the bumper is a second opening generally left devoid of such frippery—the better through which to gulp fresh air.
For Font Fans
The stylized, struck-through Z found on the C-pillars, steering-wheel center, and elsewhere on the Z Proto—including on those custom, unlikely-to-see-production white-letter Dunlops—appears exactly the same as it has on the fenders, hoods, and/or C-pillars of Z models for years. Similarly, the name Fairlady Z, which Nissan still uses.
Another gem hidden within each headlamp assembly is the stylized Z found on the outer sides of the headlights. Viewed from the side, though, the dazzle from the aforementioned LED running lamps can obscure it from view whenever they are illuminated.
You don’t see too many humans getting tattoos touting their birth years, especially once they pass 50, but Nissan wants to remind anyone gazing into the black abyss of the Z Proto’s hatchback glass that its Z cars have been bringing smiles to drivers’ faces since 1969. Nestled oh so discreetly near the bottom of the rear window glass, the Z Proto’s gray-on-black, small-print message is comparatively subtle, a proper Easter egg, next to those planted in those bouncy off-roaders from Toledo that have been around since, when was it again? Oh yeah, since 1941.
Flat Y–Shaped Hood Bulge
Nothing on a car says big power like a long hood with a big bulge. Indeed, save for the relatively flat and featureless hoods of the recent 350Z/370Z models, every Z made during the first 30 years of its existence brandished some form of bulging hood. The most distinct and, in our opinion, best-looking bulge design for Z cars is the flat-Y style used by the original. Happily, it appears to have bulged its way back with the Z Proto. As for exactly what hardware is resting beneath it, we expect to find out soon. (For what it’s worth, the looping instrument cluster animations depicted an engine being revved, with green-yellow-red shift indicator lights appearing at high revs and the needle repeatedly bouncing off what appeared to be a 7250-rpm rev limiter.)
G-Rated Running Lamps
While the chunky curving lighting elements in the Z Proto’s headlamps represent a subtle nod to the big round lamps of the first- and second-generation Z-cars, the decision to split them into separate upper and lower arcs was inspired by the light patterns reflected within the protective clear headlight covers of the pointy-nosed Japan-market 240Z G (for Grand) models built by Nissan for Group 4 homologation in its Z’s early years. Arcs of light caught in the dome-shaped headlight covers of a car made a half-century ago are an esoteric design reference, to be sure, but they will undoubtedly be considered one of the sixth-generation Z’s signature visual features. Bravo.
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