From Datsun 240-Z to Nissan 350Z

Gleaned in part from the Nissan Motors home page, the following chronicles the history of the Datsun/Nissan Z-Car legend... - This is not the official NISSAN version.

This has been edited and additional comments added where I felt it was useful, or needed in order to give a more complete account.
Carl Beck IZCC# 260
Late Updated: 10 March 2003

1966 Nissan Motors identifies a market for a new kind of sports car. Its product planners envision an agile, compact GT, whose performance and comfort would outrun its price. Nissan engineers begin work on a prototype, which would become the 240-Z.
1969 The 240-Z goes on sale in the U.S. on October 22, 1969. It features a 2400cc six-cylinder, 150 horsepower engine, and delivers a 0-60 time of under nine seconds -- all for a price tag of only $3,526.
1970 Less than a year after its debut, demand for the 240-Z is so high that the Kelly Blue Book rates the value of a used Z at $4,000!
Bob Sharp and Pete Brock take the Datsun 240-Z to the race track in SCCA competition -- driver John Morton wins the C-Production national championship for Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE).
1971 John Morton wins his second straight C-Production national title with BRE.
1972 Bob Sharp drives a 240-Z to the first of his two consecutive C-Production national championships.
1973 At the close of the 240-Z's fourth and final model year, all-time sales reach 116,712 units.
1974 The engine displacement of the 1974 model is increased to 2.6 liters, and the car is renamed the 260-Z. Due to stricter emissions requirements, horsepower is down to 139.
1974 also brings the introduction of the "2+2" body style, which accommodates fold-down rear seats. In its only year of existence (in the North American Market), the 260-Z sets a single-year Z-car sales record at the time, with 63,963 units sold.
Walt Moss extends Datsun's Z-car dominance by claiming the C-Production national championship.
1975 Needing increasingly complex technology to meet even tougher emissions regulations, Nissan boosts the Z-car's displacement to 2.8 liters and adds a version of Bosch's L-Jetronic fuel injection, creating the 1975 280-Z. Horsepower rating is increased to 149.
Sharp moves up to the IMSA GTU (Grand Touring Under 2.5 Liter Engines) racing circuit, winning eight races and capturing the championship. He also wins his third SCCA C-Production title.
1977 A five-speed overdrive transmission is added to the 280-Z and horsepower climbs to 170. 1977 is also the Z's highest sales year to date, with 67,331 units sold.
1978 The first Z to be painted black is sold - The Black Pearl Edition. This is also the last year of the first generation body style.
1979 An all-new, second-generation Z-car is developed, debuting as the 280-ZX. The 280-ZX offers a higher level of luxury to meet the growing demands of the sports car customer. Named Motor Trend's "Import Car of the Year" for 1979, the 280-ZX sets the all-time sales record for the Z line with 86,007 units sold.
The Z-car captures its 10th consecutive SCCA C-Production national championship. Don Devendorf wins another IMSA GTU title for Datsun.
A special edition 280ZXR is sold to the public.
1980 A new T-bar roof option is introduced. Cumulative American Z-car sales reach 500,000 units.
1981 A turbocharged engine is offered for the first time on the 1981 280-ZX. Sales remained brisk through the 1983 model year.
1982 Devendorf and his Electromotive racing team win Datsun's first ever IMSA GTO (Grand Touring Over 2.5 Liter) championship.
1984 The third-generation Z, the all-new 300-ZX, makes its debut. The 300-ZX offers sleek new styling and a powerful new 3.0 liter V6 engine, elevating the car's performance image to even greater heights. The normally-aspirated 300-ZX produces 160 horsepower, while the turbocharged version offers 200 horsepower. The 1984 model becomes the second-best selling Z ever, with 73,652 units sold.
The 50th Anniversary Edition 300ZX is sold to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of NISSAN MOTORS OF JAPAN (1934)
1985 Paul Newman, splitting time between the SCCA's professional Trans-Am series and the amateur ranks, sets 10 track records in his 280-ZX Turbo and leads the national championship race wire-to-wire to win his third title.
1986 Newman wins his second straight SCCA GT-1 national crown.
1988 Scott Sharp, son of the legendary Datsun racer Bob, wins his second straight SCCA GT-1 national championship, and his third title overall.
Late '80s Toward the end of the 1980s, the overall sports car market faces a downturn due to a significant increase in consumer demand for multi-purpose vehicles such as minivans and sport utilities. Back-to-basics is the name of the game when it comes to sports cars, and for Nissan, it means a return to more of a performance orientation during the development of the next generation Z-car.
1990 In response, the fourth-generation Z -- the dramatic 1990 300-ZX -- takes on tighter proportions and a much more aggressive stance. The all-new DOHC 3.0 liter engine offers increased output of 222 horsepower for the normally-aspirated model, and an incredible 300 horsepower for the 300-ZX Turbo. The 1990 300-ZX Turbo is named Motor Trend's "Import Car of the Year". Motor Trend also names it, "One of the Top Ten Performance Cars". Automobile Magazine honors the 300-ZX/300-ZX Turbo as its "Design of the Year", and names the 300-ZX Turbo to its "All Stars" list. Road & Track names the 300-ZX Turbo "One of the Ten Best Cars in the World". Car and Driver names the 300-ZX Turbo "One of the Ten Best Cars". American Z-car sales reach the one million sales mark in the 1990 model year, making it the all-time best selling sports car.
1991 The 300-ZX Turbo is named to Car and Driver 's "Ten Best" list, and is once again one of Automobile Magazine's "All-Stars".
1992 For the third straight year, Car and Driver names the 300-ZX Turbo one of its "Ten Best", and Automobile Magazine names it to its "All-Stars" list.
1993 For the fourth straight year, the 300-ZX Turbo is named a Car and Driver "Ten Best", and one of Automobile Magazine's "All-Stars".
1994 A race-modified Z wins both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours at Sebring. It goes on to win the GTS class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, making it the only car ever to accomplish such a record within the same year. And for the fifth straight year, the 300-ZX Turbo is named to the "Ten Best" and "All Stars" lists by Car and Driver and Automobile Magazine, respectively.
1995 1995 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Z. It also brings another award from Car and Driver, as the publication the 300-ZX Turbo to its "Ten Best" list for the sixth straight year.
1996 Regrettably, 1996 signifies the final year of the Z-Car. The heritage and tradition, however, lives on...Although the 300ZX does not meet the safety and emissions standards for the U.S. Market, it is still being built and sold in other countries around the world...
1997 Rummors of a new fully redesigned Z Car begin to be heard.
2003 History repeats itself. Much like AMC in the mid 60's chopped their Javelin down into the AM-X; Nissan chopped and channeled their Infiniti G35 sedan down and re-badged it as a Z Car. The resulting 350Z is brought to the US.