I have always been interested in cars, especially those with high quality engineering. In the 50s, I became fascinated with the European sports-racers and like everyone else, "lusted" after the Ferrari, Porsche and Jaguar. The Ferrari 250GTO was one of my all-time favorites and it was the design similarity that attracted me to the 240Z. I had a Porsche 911 when the Z first came out and it didn't take long for me to make the switch.
My first Z was purchased late in the fall of 1969. Not only did this car have stunning good looks and excellent performance, it had a heater that actually worked! In Colorado, that was a big plus. It was comfortable and what more could one ask of a daily driver, a car that looked like Ferrari with the comfort of a Buick! My 1970 Z car was the first of 15 over a period of two decades!
Why so many Z-cars? It was a father-son "thing!" When my son was a teenager, we formed a restoration business and I taught him what I knew about autobody [ based on my experience working in a shop during my college years ]. We used to buy Zs that were easy rebuilders; then we would fix them up with used parts and sell them for enough profit to buy another. By adding custom paint and ground effect components, we were able to get considerably more money for these "customs". Rebuilding only Z-cars gave me the experience that I eventually passed on to readers in my two publications. Over the years, my son and I won 23 trophies in cars shows!
Writing has always been fun for me and the dissertation for my PhD (1981) was easier than the academics [aerospace]. In 1983, I started research on my first Z book, the Z Car Enthusiastís Guide. During this period, I had the good fortune to meet and become friends with people like Peter Brock (BRE), Larry Shinoda (Corvette design), Eric Cutter (Kaminari), Jim Wolf, John Morton (BRE) and others in the Los Angeles sports-racing scene.
I spent three summers researching and finally, in 1985, Eric Cutter and I formed a company called the Benton-Cutter Press, and our first publication was The Z Car Enthusiastís Guide.
At the end of my final summer of research for this book, I was having lunch with Jim Wolf, and the topic of car clubs came up. He asked me if I belonged to a club back in Colorado and I told him that I did. He said, "You ought to create a national convention, you know, like Corvette, Porsche, etc. There should be one to bring together all of the Z car clubs!" While driving back to Colorado, I spent the long hours jotting down notes and thinking how we could stage a national event. At the next meeting, I put the idea in before the Z Car Club of Colorado. A motion was made to have two people in charge and I was made co-chair along with Bob Rapparlie, the club President.
In the summer of 1988 it happened, Colorado hosted the very first National Z Car Convention in Aspen. I was responsible for events and Bob was in charge of marketing. It makes me feel really old when I'm introduced as the "Father of the Z Car National Convention," but it was my "15 minutes of glory".
In 1993, I was asked to sit in on a meeting, in California, with a gentleman by the name of Don Hazen. He told me that he was planning on publishing the first Z car magazine and wanted me to help launch the project. I agreed and eventually "our baby" was printed, the first issue of Z Car Magazine. My dubious title, again attached to my age, was "Senior Editor." The magazine did reasonably well, but eventually it took a toll on Don's health. He and his wife, Venita, really put their heart and soul into the venture, but he ended up selling the publication.
Over the years, I've written over 700 magazine articles and a total of 11 books. Two of those were about the Z. But, all good things must end and last February, my wife and I finally sold our Z number 15. I don't know if I made a "step up," but Iíve always had a passion for the Acura NSX and, after saving for a long time, bought a '94. It drives like a Ferrari and is as easy to keep as a Buick! I think I''ve been down this road before!
For a long time, I have been a strong supporter of the Z car and really enjoy meeting and sharing "car" times with other owners. In 1991 and again 1993, I was invited to attend two international conventions, one in England and the other Australia. These were the two "highlights" of my Z "career." I used to enjoy the club "scene" in the USA, but politics dampened my enthusiasm. Finally I just distanced myself from my beloved national conventions and focused on my profession, aerospace education.
Over the years, I can say that my involvement in the "evolution" of the Z car has been an experience I will never forget. Now, I just savor the pleasant memories and smile when I see some young person drive by in nicely restored Z. It's still a beauty.
Dr. Ben Millspaugh, author, aficionado