Police responded to gunshot-like sounds near Jim’s Auto Body Shop in Pasadena, Maryland. When they had arrived on the scene, they discovered the sound was tires popping from the heat of a fire in the shop. Investigators determined the cause of the fire was a battery that had not been disconnected on a car that had suffered a head-on collision with a deer.
The fire claimed five cars, one of which was Kirk Towners 1980 Nissan Fairlady Z.
Towner had initially bought the car while he was stationed in Misawa, Japan in 1987. During his 30 years of ownership, the car had traveled with him from Japan to England, got lost and turned up in Iceland, toured Italy and Canada, made its way to the states and drove around Florida and California, before settling in Maryland.
Towner was first exposed to “Z car culture” by the Z Club of Great Britain while he was stationed in England. Throughout his adventures, he met many other enthusiasts and dabbled with the formation of car clubs, but it wasn’t until he moved to Victoria, British Columbia, that he really got involved with two Datsun and Z Car groups. First, is the Vancouver Island Datsun Enthusiasts (VIDE) and the second was the parent club British Columbia Z Registry (BCZR).
After the fire, Towner was able to repurchase his Fairlady for $70, and he parted out what was salvageable, such as the Fairlady Z hood badge, fender emblems, and Techno Phantom Wheels.
In February 2017, Towner saw a listing for a 1970 Fairlady Z that had been created in June 2016 on ClassicZCars.com. “I contacted the owner, Eric Jolley, and arranged a trip to Utica, Pennsylvania to look over the car. I was the only person to take the time to make the trip,” Towner said.
“Eric could tell I loved the car. We hit it off, shared dinner and a few brews, and made a handshake deal as he handed me the keys with no deposit.”
According to Towner, all the original paperwork from 1970 came with the car as well as a limited edition framed poster signed by Mr. Yutaka Katayama, also known as “Mr. K,” the Father of the Z Car.
The 1970 Fairlady was purchased by Don Davis with the help of a friend, Michael Luken, who put up the funds to buy the car from Aomori Nissan near Misawa, Japan. Jolley worked for Davis at the Misawa Air Force Base and eventually purchased the vehicle from Davis restored it with his brother. Upon completion, it was tucked it away in a rural Pennsylvania barn. Jolley lost interest in it due to the unexpected death of his brother which allowed Towner to buy it on April 22, 2017.
“I regularly engage with the original owner Don Davis, who resides in Alexandria, Virginia. Don provided me with some pictures of the car over the years and two Japanese License Plates (export and transport). The Japanese license plates were hanging in Don’s garage for years” Towner said.
Throughout its life, the car has spent time in Japan, South Korea, and four states. In 1997 it was signed by Mr. K at the ZCCA International Z-Car Convention. His signature is seen on the rearview mirror, the owner’s manual, and Mr. K also wrote “69 model year” on the original purchase documents.
According to Towner, the car was “very solid” when it was purchased. He has been able to get parts for it from Japan, like the Nissan 2000 OHC valve cover and mesh grille.
“There were some issues with the car not running right. Ignition points are sensitive, so I converted it to electronic ignition. The Pertronix setup would not mount to the stock JDM distributor, so I obtained a Datsun 240Z distributor,” Towner said.
He added that the gas tank seal leaked and was in need of replacement. “I found this out after my 12-year-old son Jake said, ‘you should fill the gas tank dad.’ The tank would only take half a tank. This is a 48-year-old car and things are bound to go wrong.”
Despite losing his Fairlady after 30 years of ownership and the challenges he faced with the 1970 Z, Towner says “I smile when I walk into my garage and think to myself, ‘I own a 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z.’”