A New Era: Nissan & Datsun Take Over Laguna Seca at the 2018 Rolex Reunion
The annual Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion at Laguna Seca is always one of the greatest events of the year with its endless vintage race action and incredible displays, but the 2018 event proved to be even more special than usual—especially for fans of Nissan and Datsun.
With Nissan taking center stage at the event, it was the first time ever that a Japanese automaker was the featured marque at the Reunion, and the festivities did not disappoint.
Naturally, Nissan corporate itself had a strong presence at the event, and the selection of historic, factory-owned cars included some from both Nissan USA's archive, and a few cars that were shipped across the Pacific from the company's massive Japan-housed collection.
When it comes to the cars from Nissan's American collection, few are more important than this one: the legendary #46 BRE Datsun 510 that won the 1971 SCCA Trans Am Championship and helped put the Datsun brand on the map in the US motorsport scene.
Of course, not only was the world famous car on hand, but so were its builder, the world-renowned Pete Brock, and its driver, the ultra-talented John Morton. Both were on hand to tell stories about the glory days of BRE and how they helped the relatively unknown Japanese automaker battle its European-branded rivals on the racing circuits of America.
Straight From Japan
As for the selection of Nissan-owned machinery that made its way over from Japan, things were no less impressive. Representing the racing side was the 1969 R382 race car which used a radical V12 engine setup that wasn't unlike two S20 DOHC straight sixes attached to each other.
Perhaps even more exotic was the striking R390GT road car, a one-off production vehicle that was built in order to homologate the R390 GT1 race cars that were campaigned at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It packs a mid-mounted twin turbocharged V8.
Representing the more modern side of the Nissan brand was the freshly-debuted GT-R50, an R35 GT-R that has been completely re-imagined and restyled by the visionaries at Italdesign. Word is there might be a limited production run of these things, and that would be awesome because it looks even cooler in person than it does in photos.
Massive Personal Collection
Nissan also hosted and displayed a number of other historic machines from private owners, including several owned by comedian and podcaster Adam Carolla, a longtime Datsun/Nissan fanatic and avid vintage racer.
Among the cars on hand from Carolla's collection was this BRE-prepared Datsun Roadster—the car that proceeded the 240Zs and 510s and truly made BRE the stuff of legend.
Carolla has a large collection of Nissans that were raced by Paul Newman during the '70s and '80s, including this turbocharged 300ZX 2+2 from 1987.
Adam could also be found on track with his Paul Newman-driven GT1-Championship winning 300ZX from 1984. This was the first Paul Newman race car that Adam purchased, and this event marked the first time the car had been back on a race track in over 30 years.
So Many Race Cars
Elsewhere, the event's race groups were filled with Datsuns and Nissans of all types, spread among several different race categories spanning the late 1960s to the mid 1990s.
There was the under 2500CC GT class, which was packed to the brim with Datsun 510s and Datsun Roadsters that filled the hills of Laguna Seca with the sound of screaming four cylinder engines and side draft carbs.
Then there was the big showing of larger displacement 240Zs, 280Zs and 280ZXs, which were running in the massive Group 5A category against 1970s era Porsches, Corvettes and other high-powered machinery.
Finally there was the GTO and GTP group, which featured cars like Steve Millen's famous Z32 300ZX and other more obscure machines like a VG30-powered race machine wearing S13 240SX bodywork.
Every Nissan and Datsun
Along with the dozens of Nissan and Datsun race cars that were competing in the event, the Rolex Reunion also included a special display area for Nissan and Datsun owners.
This area turned out to be a pretty special show in itself with everything from factory original Fairlady Roadsters to heavily modified 300ZXs and freshly imported Skyline GT-Rs. The owners were even given a chance to parade their cars around the track as part of the Nissan celebration.
It was all this and more that made the 2018 Rolex Montery Motorsport Reunion one for the record books, and we hope the event will consider doing other Japanese featured marques in the future. How cool would it be to see Toyota or Honda given this same kind of love?
For now though, Nissan and Datsun fans can look back on this year's event with some major satisfaction. Be sure to check out the attached gallery for even more action.