Volume VIII, Number 4

Tomica Datsun Fairlady Z432

A variation collector's paradise
by Bobby Moscovitch

I love the Datsun 240Z, and I have ever since it was released in 1970. Unfortunately, I never got to own one until I was over the age of 40. Oh, I could have bought one many times over the years, but rarely did I ever see one that was worth the wait. The internet allowed me to find my dream car in 2001, and through my countless searches, stumbled on, and inadvertently became infatuated with, all the stunning diecast examples that have been produced over the last 30 years.

However, until I came across my first Tomica examples, I had no direction for my new-founded collecting prowess. While there are many more elaborate castings of this model in a slew of scales, none seemed to me to capture the "essence" of the toy car better than the 1:64 scale Tomica version. The Datsun 240Z or Fairlady Z432 (as it is called in Japan) was and continues to be one of the most beloved automobiles that the country has ever produced. Who better than a Japanese diecast car company could possibly produce the best small scale examples in the world? The answer is nobody. Tomica did it best, and possibly without any notion of what they were doing when they were doing it, produced an incredible richness of variation to keep collector's interests for decades!

From 1970 to 2005, Tomica produced no less than 49 variations of the Fairlady Z432. They also produced a second Datsun Z casting based on the modified home market ZG (rally) version. This example had flared fenders, a rounded nose and very cool headlight covers. No less than 87 different variations of the ZG have been produced since 1974! Wow! If you like variation collecting, try hunting down 136 different total examples, the bulk of which are decades obsolete and prohibitively expensive. Not to mention rarely available outside of Japan. A daunting task. However, it was a task I was up for!

For the most part it is easy to spot diecast variations because the bulk of them are obvious. Wheels, body and interior colors and tampos stand out in a crowd. However, what do you do when a diecast car company makes 12 variations in a row, all of them the same color (ivory on red), and none with tampos? Thankfully there were a couple of obvious wheel variations. Add to this the fact that the only reference guide book available had been out of print for 15 years, and was published entirely in Japanese.

What I had to do was buy every ivory colored example I could come across, seek the out of print book, and then figure out a way to cross reference my own observations with recurring symbols in the variation charts of the book. It helped that I found a Japanese collector who put together an amazing collection of Datsuns and put up tons of photos and other information on their website. It also helped that I made friends with another Datsun lover who helped me with the endless hours of deciphering and forensics.

Tomica has a rather uncomplicated numbering system in place to distinguish models and variations. The Datsun Fairlady 240Z was the 6th model in Tomica's original diecast lineup. As the number 6 was reused during periods when the Z432 wasn't in production, a second digit was assigned. Hence the Fairlady became the 6-1 model. Of course, a third digit was put in place to designate the variation. So, if you are lucky to own the first example ever produced (red), you are in possession of a (very valuable!) 6-1-1.

The first ivory colored Fairlady was the 4th variation or 6-1-4. Easy to spot this example, because it was made exclusively with the first wheel Tomica produced, the venerable 1A wheel. To see one is to want one, no matter how badly the car was abused by its previous owners. From 6-1-5 through to 6-1-15, the task of spotting the variation difference is not so easy.
If not the body or interior color or the wheels how else can we tell the variations apart? The answer is both easy and difficult at the same time. Easy if you look at the base. The base holds a lot of clues as to the evolution of the production. Firstly, the bases on the 6-1-5 through to the 6-1-11 all show a scale of 1:65. Since the scale was actually 1:60 (the box always had the correct scale!), it seemed obvious that a correction was in order. The 6-1-12 through 6-1-15 all have 1:65 on the base. Then how do we tell a -5 apart from all the others up to -11?

When Tomica started to produce this model, they did so by coupling together the body and base without a rivet. It stayed together admirably well, but I guess that it was determined to be a weakness. So the 6-1-1 right through to the 6-1-7, which included the first 4 ivory variations among them, have no rivets on the base. The 6-1-8 through to the 6-1-11 have the same base with a rivet, but for the following models (-12 through -15) the copyright symbol, and the year of copyright (1974) were added in as well.

Simple? Not really. The 6-1-11 and the 6-1-14 have different wheel designations, yet they are in fact the same wheel! Thankfully, one has the 1974 base, and one doesn't or else they would be endlessly confused. As for the other wheels, at first glance they would all appear the same, but simple forensics show that they are not! Three different wheel variations share the same hub, but not the same tread design. Some changes were for verisimilitude, and others were to make them faster on tracks. Some were produced in such small quantities that they are harder to find than some of the older examples.

I have managed to capture 11 of these 12 variations for my collection, and thankfully, I understand it quite well now, but it wasn't easy. Fortunately for most collectors, variation depth isn't as important as model depth. It is really much easier to try and get one example of every model produced, instead of every variation of one model produced, but I can't say that it is more satisfying at the end of the day. I now boast 131 of the 136 Datsun Fairlady Z and Fairlady ZG models ever produced. And that doesn't include the police car variations! Check out my online presentation at www.zsource.ca