Yutaka Katayama, the father of the Datsun 240Z has died at 105
Known as Mr K, Yutaka Katayama led Nissan’s operations in the US during the 1970s and is considered the father of the Datsun 240Z.
KATAYAMA JOINED Nissan, or as it was in Japan, Datsun, in 1935 first in publicity and then advertising. His vision, love of cars, and ability for promotion saw him make one of the first colour films of a Datsun on Japanese roads, later filming motor sport races across the world.
Indeed, in 1958, Katayama was a team manager of two Datsun 210s entered into the Around Australia Mobilgas Trial (16,000km circumnavigation of Australia) – the sixth and final rally. One of the Datsun 210s finished first in Class A while the second vehicle came in fourth – it catapulted the brand onto the world stage. At that time the US was mostly importing full-size cars, but the successs of the Datsun 210 in Australia created enough buzz in the US that it laid the foundations for Nissan (Datsun) exports to the US.
Then, after speaking out about Japanese unions, Katayama was dispatched to the US in the 1970s. Far from being the exile he thought it would be, Mr K became instrumental in building the Nissan brand name in the US and put together the key concepts for the Datsun 240Z. Mr K retired from Nissan in 1977 but remained a thorn in the side of the brand with its rebirth of the Z car with the 350Z and the 370Z, calling them “so-so cars”.
Born in 1909, in what is now Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Mr K sat down with Nissan Glabal Media and filmed a three-part interview about bis 80 years in the car business. They’re in Japanese, but you can click the YouTube ‘CC’ button for English subtitles.
Retiring in 1977, he was later inducted into the American Automotive Hall of Fame in 1998 for ushering in a generation of vehicles that redefined the American car market, as well as the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame for pioneering deeds on both sides of the Pacific.