Yoshihiko Matsuo, designer of the Datsun 240z, passes away at age 86

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

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RIP Yoshihiko Matsuo in car RIP Yoshihiko Matsuo in car
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RIP Yoshihiko Matsuo clay model RIP Yoshihiko Matsuo clay model
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RIP Yoshihiko Matsuo design rear RIP Yoshihiko Matsuo design rear

His creation’s impact on the sports car market is legendary and lasting

Yoshihiko Matsuo, the lead designer of the original Datsun 240z, passed away on July 11, one day after his 86th birthday.

Born on July 10, 1934, in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture, Matsuo is said to have begun sketching cars as a child.

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According to Japanese Nostalgic Car: during high school, Matsuo designed a small three-wheeled concept commercial truck whilst working at Osaka Textile Industry Co, owned by Daihatsu.

He went on to study at Japan’s Nihon University College of Art, during which he helped design the breakout Daihatsu Midget.

READ NEXT: DATSUN 240Z WITH 34,000KMS SELLS FOR AU$463,00

After graduating university, Matsuo went straight to work for Nissan and was enlisted to inject new life into the struggling 410 Bluebird. A sporting car fan at heart, he convinced the brass to produce the 411 Bluebird SSS, the brand’s first real sports sedan.

After the Bluebird’s success, he was placed in the head chair at Nissan’s 1st modelling department in 1966 where the iconic 240z would be created.

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Widely credited as the lead designer of the 240z (known domestically in Japan as the S30 Fairlady), his role wasn’t merely playing with pencils. Today, his role would be more likened to product planning as it was his responsibility to decide on the target market, price point, packaging and even deciding on standard and optional equipment.

READ NEXT: MEET THE MILLION-DOLLAR DATSUN 240Z

Not even Matsuo predicted how popular his game-changing two-door sports car would become.

It changed the sports car market, amidst the pony car era of the 60s – the humble Japanese coupe made sports motoring more widely accessible than ever.

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In Australia, it was one of the few genuine 125mph cars you could get, short of shelling out for one of the ‘Big Three’ muscle cars, or a far more expensive Italian supercar.

At just $4567, many believed it to be the best-value sports car with real performance merit; able to outrun the more expensive Triumph TR6s, Alfa 1600s and Capri V6s.

By 1972, Matsuo’s 240z had become the world’s fastest selling sports coupe, with over 540,000 produced during its lifecycle.

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Matsuo left Nissan in 1973, but the 240z never left him. He spent many of his retirement years travelling all over the world to actively take part in Z-car enthusiast and owner events.

READ NEXT: 50 YEARS OF Z - A TIMELINE OF NISSAN'S BREAKOUT SPORTSCAR

His creation birthed a lineage that would extend over 50 years, and as Nissan’s upcoming 400z – the next in the lineage – looms on the horizon, all intel indicates that Matsuo’s sublime design will faithfully live on.

From one Nissan fan to another, thank you and godspeed Yoshihiko Matsuo.

1934-2020

 

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