Racer X: How a Turbo Z inspired a Billion Dollar Movie Franchise
"A black Nissan 300ZX and a white Mitsubishi Starion pull out of the pack and creep up to the starting line. As the sun dances on the nearby river, the sound of honking horns and screaming drivers is drowned out by the sonic blast of the two engines revving for takeoff. A stocky Latino dude in a blinding yellow shirt stands in the middle of the highway and raises his hands. Both cars lurch and halt like chained pit bulls, their wheels spitting out black smoke. The hands drop."
-Excerpt from Racer X , Vibe Magazine 1998
In 1998 Vibe Magazine wrote an article about illegal street racing in New York City titled Racer X. The opening sentences set the stage, and our beloved Z is the belle of the ball. As fate would have it, a young movie producer by the name of Rob Cohen read the May 1998 issue of Vibe and decided to check out his local import racing scene in Los Angeles. Cohen then went on to use his experiences to create Universal Pictures highest grossing franchise The Fast and the Furious. No Black 300ZX in sight, just a couple black Hondas.
Those who know about the Racer X article being an inspiration for the movie wonder why the Z32 was not used as the hero car as opposed to that other orange car... That may be a story for another time. In any case it is pretty amazing that the Z inspired a film that got so many in my generation (late 20s-early 30s) into the import car scene. The Fast in the Furious films had me combing the internet or reading Sport Compact Car, Super Street, Turbo, and my local AutoTrader classifieds dreaming for the day that I could have a "Japanese Corvette" of my own.
It's a shame to see what the franchise has become compared to the original F&F, but if box office sales are any indication I'd expect to see these movies hitting theaters for at least another decade.
Fast & Furious 9 was set to release on May 22, 2020, but with the ongoing COVID-19 the silver screen debut will be later this year.
Here is a look back of some obscure shots of Z32 throughout the the F&F Series:
The Fast and the Furious:
2 Fast 2 Furious:
Fast and Furious (2009):