"Mad Mike" Taylor
Learning that Nissan planned to kill the Z car, enthusiast Mike Taylor traveled to Japan to change some minds. He succeeded.
Earliest Nissan involvement: 1979, when he bought a 1971 240Z
Role: Longtime enthusiast and Z Club official
Key influence: After Nissan killed the Z car in 1996, Taylor lobbied company officials to bring it back.
His mission: Persuade the company to keep the faith with Z car nuts and someday bring it back.
Taylor, head of a Z car enthusiast club, went to Japan to offer a surprise birthday greeting to Nissan's venerable Yutaka Katayama — better known as Mr. K, the father of the Z.
That surprise contact with Mr. K opened doors at the company for “Mad Mike,” widely known among car guys in the United States for his free-spirited road rallies.
When the 240Z debuted in 1969, the car captured the hearts of thousands of young enthusiasts. Taylor worshiped the car — even though by the mid-1990s, it had morphed into the overpriced, overweight 300ZX.
Taylor was an early member of the Z Club of Texas in Dallas and Fort Worth. He edited its publication, organized conventions and built grass-roots support for the car.
“We were able to provide enthusiasm and feedback to Nissan directly,” he says.
In Japan, it was hard to miss Mad Mike, at 6 feet 4 inches and more than 260 pounds. He was born and raised in the borough of Queens and still speaks with a New York accent.
Taylor credits the Z's rebirth in 2003 to Carlos Ghosn, the Renault executive who took command of Nissan Motor Co. in 1999.
Says Taylor: “Ghosn listened and he signed the check.”