Super Street Network

 |   |   |  Yutaka Katayama, Father of the American Z , Passes Away at Age 105
Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter

Yutaka Katayama, Father of the American Z , Passes Away at Age 105

RIP the legendary Nissan marketer that gave the brand its USA performance focus.

Karla Sanchez
Feb 23, 2015

The man widely regarded as the father of the Z car, Yutaka Katayama—"Mr. K" to his fans—has died at age 105. The former Nissan exec passed away Thursday of heart failure in Tokyo, according to the Associated Press.

Yutaka Katayama with Datsun 240Z Photo 2/24   |   Yutaka Katayama With Datsun 240Z

Even though Katayama is no longer with us, he will always be remembered as the man behind the Z's success here in the U.S. and around the world. If it weren't for his efforts, the Datsun 240Z may not have made it here to America in the first place. Katayama, who served as Nissan's president of U.S. operations from 1965-1975, fought to ensure that the 240Z would be a two-seat, fixed-roof sports car, not the convertible grand tourer Nissan's management in Japan initially wanted. Katayma was convinced the company's new sports car design would be a hit in the U.S., and when the car finally arrived in 1969, his predictions were correct. The car was an immediate success, and dealers found themselves with a backlog of orders.

That's because the 240Z, which is still known as the Fairlady in its home market, was the first reasonably priced Japanese sports car, combining Corvette-like performance with the newfound Japanese reliability. Katayama described it as "an exotic, high-performance car exclusively for America."

1971 Datusn 240Z front three quarters Photo 6/24   |   1971 Datsun 240Z

The 240Z won American consumers over with its natural good looks, with its long nose and fastback profile, and relatively good performance thanks to a 2.4-liter I-6 producing 151 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, sport suspension, and four-speed manual transmission. In our 40th Anniversary issue, we said the 240Z was perfectly suited for its time, offering Jaguar E-Type-derived styling and genuine sports car performance at a fraction of the price.

Excerpts from our original Datsun 240Z Road Test in March 1971 demonstrate just how fond we were of the little sports car. "Next to comfort, the 240Z's forte is straightline performance, and it has plenty of that. Despite recording excellent acceleration times for a sports car (quarter mile of 16.45 at 83.7 mph), the 240Z still showed good fuel economy by registering an astounding average of 20.2 mpg," said former Motor Trend associate editor, Chuck Koch.

"Datsun has created a real sports GT, which, with very few exceptions, combines good performance with the maximum of comfort," he said.

Sales continued to climb in 1979 with the introduction of the second-gen 280ZX, which was named Motor Trend Import Car of the Year.

Yutaka Katayama and Edward Loh Photo 10/24   |   Yutaka Katayama Interview

It's no wonder then that Katayama's son told the Associated Press that his father was "happily zooming around in the Z in heaven, no longer worried about gas, police or traffic tickets.”

Mr. Katayama is survived by his wife, Masako, two sons and two daughters, 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Source: The Associated Press

Photos: Brian Vance and The Manufacturer

Yutaka Katayama photo 04 Photo 17/24   |   Yutaka Katayama Interview
1971 Datusn 240Z rear three quarters Photo 21/24   |   1971 Datsun 240Z
By Karla Sanchez
29 Articles

BROWSE CARS BY MARKET

MORE FEATURES

The one car that caught our attention the moment we stepped into VIP Fest 12 and not only held it, but had us coming back for another visit (or three) as the day continued
RodrezNov 9, 2018
Sam always thought MX-5s were cool cars but he never thought he'd ever own one until he spent a few days behind the wheel of an 2019 MX-5
Sam DuNov 7, 2018
Earlier this year, Subaru announced the WRX STI would get a 5-horsepower boost for 2019. No, it wasn’t much, but at least the STI would no longer be outgunned by the turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang. Subaru’s latest special edition STI, however, comes with a much less underwhelming boost in power. It’s called the WRX STI TC 380, and
Collin WoodardNov 6, 2018
Evasive Motorsports' S2K sat front and center in the Mackin Ind. booth during SEMA week doing exactly what it was supposed to do: wowing show goers while pulling them in for a closer look at all that Mackin has to offer
RodrezNov 6, 2018
We're proud of Ryan Hoegner for actualizing a pretty cool car guy fantasy—namely getting his 1982 911 SC, featured Eibach Springs' SEMA booth
Bob HernandezNov 5, 2018
Sponsored Links

SEARCH ARTICLES BY MAKE/MODEL

Search
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS
TO TOP