UNITED STATES—Which exotic super car did you post proudly on your bedroom wall during your adolescence? Was it some Italian masterpiece capable of draining a gas tank almost as fast it drained the average flash-in-the-pan celebrity’s wallet? Was it a quirky German engineering marvel designed to showcase why the Autobahn is where it is? Maybe it wasn’t a car at all. Maybe it was a supermodel or a 100-foot mega yacht. This question got me thinking about how priorities and even desires change as we mature. In fact, if I were to plaster the walls of my bedroom with posters today, what would be on them? What would be on yours?
Being a rather nostalgic fellow, I tend to long for things that were desirable, yet realistically attainable when I was a newly licensed driver back in the 1990s. And, yes, I am a gear-head, so my posters would surely feature something on four wheels. The 1990s were an exciting time in the automotive industry. Gas was still affordable and the dollar was still strong. This was a great time to be an enthusiast of affordable sports cars. It was, therefore, a great time for Japanese car makers. Some enthusiasts endearingly refer to this era as the Japanese invasion.
Thanks to market-conscious companies like Nissan, the idea of possessing Porsche-challenging performance for roughly $30K became a reality. It all kicked off (pun intended) in a certain controversial ad that ran during Super Bowl XXIV.
Because Nissan execs feared the ad would promote street racing, they ordered it be pulled shortly thereafter. It would never air again. Fortunately, the seed had been planted in the minds of driving enthusiasts. They wanted this car. What was to commence from this point on could be considered nothing short of an all out performance war between the Japanese car makers. Mazda, Toyota, even Mitsubishi wanted to stake claims in this potential gold mine. To prevent things from getting out of hand, a sort of gentleman’s agreement emerged to which the major Japanese manufacturers agreed to a maximum horsepower limit of 276 hp. In Japan all contestants “officially” adhered to this arrangement. In the U.S., it was a different story.
Nissan was the first to break the 276 hp barrier. With an even 300 hp, the 1990 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo (Z32 chassis) could outperform the Chevy Corvette and the Porsche 911 Carrera (a car costing roughly $20,000 more). As if the phrase “Twin Turbo” wasn’t already indicative of the cutting-edge marketing and engineering going on over at Nissan headquarters, the “higher ups” decided to pull out all the stops. The new Z featured electronically adjustable dampers and a performance enhancing four-wheel-steering system called HICAS (High Capacity Active Steer). It was Japan at its finest. Packed to the T-tops (look it up) with tech. But unlike the Twin Turbo’s predecessor (the Z31 chassis), this latest sports car was not overwhelmed by the weight of all those computer processors. It was a performance phenomenon. Capable of 0-60 runs in as little as five seconds flat, a top speed electronically limited to 155 mph (who knows how fast it could have gone unlimited?), the twin turbo Z was a no-nonsense performance machine. In its first year of production, Nissan sold over 39,000 of them in the U.S. It was named the Motor Trend Import Car of the Year. It easily made Car & Driver’s “Ten Best” list and remained there every year of its seven-year production run. It was untouchable.
Today, one could look back and argue that without the 300ZX Twin Turbo, an entire culture would not have existed. The Fast & Furious franchise would never have been conceived. The fact that pristine examples still fetch $20-$30K 20 years later is a testament to this car’s historical impact.
Now nearing mid-life, I’ve decided that I need to own a Z. My desire has not yet reached crisis levels, but my mind is often consumed by thoughts of driving my Z. Nissan’s marketing department of the time doubtfully understood just how powerful and lasting their ads would be. I still find myself using the catch phrase, “If I had a Z…”
So, you’ve read my story. You know what would be on my mid-life crisis poster (and hopefully in my garage soon). It isn’t the most expensive car ever made. It isn’t the fastest car ever produced. It isn’t even a new car. Yet here I am dreaming of “Z”nnie.
What poster would be on your bedroom wall if you could relive your teenage years? Let us know below in the comments section.