[google5c69d2d86a1bf98c.html] Autos, Test Drive, Noticias y mucho más.: Yutaka Katayama Birthday - Congratulations Mr. K 104 years


jueves, septiembre 26, 2013

Yutaka Katayama Birthday - Congratulations Mr. K 104 years

Meet Mr. K
Yutaka Katayama
The Father of the Z Car

Renown as Nissan's founding father in America, Yutaka Katayama is responsible for the success of Datsun in North America. The man known to all as Mr. K is considered the father of the Z- car for his involvement in developing a sports car for the US market that became the Datsun 240Z. He
also helped build Nissan’s storied reputation in motorsports, having pushed for racing programs that built a strong following. Yutaka Katayama, Mr. K, is the one that made it all happen.

Yutaka Katayama was born Yutaka Asoh on September 15, 1909. He married Masako Katayama in 1937. Since she had no brothers to carry on the family name and he had two brothers to carry on the Asoh name, he decided to take on her family name, Katayama.

Young Yutaka’s father had several automobiles prior to World War II, so the boy grew up around classic cars. After the war ended Yutaka had a deep desire to find a classic car; some say he became obsessed with finding one. He loved cars so much that in 1951 he started the first Japanese car club after the war; it was called the Sports Car Club of Japan.

Mr. K went to work for Nissan in 1935 right after graduating from Keio University. He was not an engineer or a designer. He didn’t work on the assembly lines. However, his influence helped to transform an automobile manufacturer from being viewed as a joke, to being known as a reliable and powerful international icon of the automobile industry. Yutaka wanted more than anything to see Datsun succeed. He was not one to care for unions; in fact several times he was asked to run for union office and he refused. His refusal caused him problems throughout his career but he never let it slow him down. He wanted to build and drive cars, not unions.

In 1958 Yutaka read about a 10,000-mile race over rugged terrain in Australia. He knew Nissans were tough, and he believed they would be perfect for this race. After much resistance, a Datsun was placed in the race. Everyone was amazed (except Yutaka) that the Datsun won the race. Mr. K returned home a hero to a land that was starving for attention from the automotive industry.

Nissan began thinking more about exporting cars internationally. In 1960, Nissan sent Yutaka to the United States to do market research. When he returned to Japan, he convinced Nissan to set up an operation in California. They chose Yutaka Katayama to oversee it. He became known as a rebel in many circles because of his anti-union stance; at that time, standing-up for the worker and standing with the unions were strong principles. Although being sent to the United States may have been partially as an exile, he took the move as a reward for his ideas instead; and it was something that he would use to make Datsun a success.

In 1925 when Yutaka was about 16 years old, he saw a 1918 Smith Motor Wheel (Briggs & Stratton bought this company in 1920). The young Yutaka never forgot what he has always referred to as “the Buggy.” It was a single

cylinder one horse-powered buggy. “Since seeing this, I envisioned a lightweight, two-seater sport vehicle. When the Buggy started it went bop-bop-bop and a cloud of blue smoke went up.” Twenty-five years later in 1950 Yutaka was working for Nissan. On the side he had a supplier assisting him in building his car. It was built on a Buggy platform. The Flying Feather was built in secret on the second floor in a private location. The problem was, when it was completed, they had to have a crane go through the wall, pick up the Flying Feather and lower it to the ground.

Once Yutaka showed Nissan what he had designed, they built 300 of them. Still Yutaka was not completely satisfied with the design. In 1967 he took his design to Yamaha’s design department. Yutaka’s design did not have the body sitting on a frame as Yamaha was doing; Yutaka’s design had the body on a Buggy-style platform. Yamaha had no idea what to do with this design, so they took it to Toyota. Toyota took a shot at it and handcrafted the Toyota 2000GT. Only about 300 of these were made and only 30 made it to the United States.

The GT was used for racing and it soon failed due to the difficulty of getting in and out of the car. Yutaka once again went in secret and began having his design redrafted. This time he had Nissan’s designer, Yoshihiko Matsuo, working with him. Mr. Matsuo had perfectly designed Yutaka’s two-seater sports vehicle, and the Datsun 240Z was born.

By 1969 Mr. K was the President of Nissan Motors USA. At the introduction of the new Datsun 240Z he said, "The 240Z represents the imaginative spirit of Nissan, and was designed to please a demanding taste that is strictly American. It meets all the requirements of sports-minded drivers, fulfilling their desire for superb styling, power and safety, and provides them with the most thrilling and enjoyable ride available in any car."

Yutaka did not stop pushing for success once the 240Z was introduced. Unlike other automotive executives at the time, Katayama was out among the people, talking with them on planes and in airports, finding out what made them buy cars. He was obsessive about providing exemplary service to Nissan's customers. He believed that, "A car sale doesn't stop at payment or delivery; that is simply the beginning." Johnnie Gable, Mr. K's personal secretary to this day says, “His success should be attributed almost solely to his love for people.”

Due to Yutaka Katayama’s drive for perfection, his love of cars and of people, Datsun became a giant in the automotive industry, enjoying huge success in the United States. Yutaka’s success in the United States led to a challenge in his relationship with Nissan headquarters in Japan. In 1977, Nissan retired Yutaka Katayama to his dismay. In 1984 the Nissan Corporation began phasing out the Datsun name on all of its vehicles, replacing it with the corporate name NISSAN.

Yet to this day, Yutaka still promotes the Nissan product. In 1998 at the age of 89, Mr. K was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. In addition, he was recently inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame at the age of 99. In this picture Mr. K is reunited at the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame ceremony with Yoshihiko Matsuo, lead designer on the 240Z project.

Johnnie Gable, Mr. K's former personal assistant, recalls, “When Mr. K retired in 1977 and moved back to Japan, he gave me his personal, yellow Z car.” Today, Johnnie still owns that car and can be seen at many events in southern California. 

The legacy of Mr. K lives on through all the Datsun owners and the websites that help to keep the Datsun heritage alive. To capture all of who Mr. K is would take volumes to publish. Perhaps some day a full length motion picture will be made. Until such a time, you can try to get a copy of the book he’s written: Mr. K and The Z Car.

On September 15, 2009 when Mr. K turned 100 years old, there were centennial birthday celebrations going on all over the United States and Japan commemorating the father of the Z Car. On September 19th of the same year, a Commemorative Car Show was held at the former Datsun Heritage Museum in Southern California.

Mr. K, a friend of the Southern California Datsun Roadster Owners Club, signed dash plaques in 2010 commemorating the 10-year anniversary of keeping the Datsun legacy alive. Today he lives in Japan and maintains his love of the Datsun. Mr. K hopes many will continue to promote the Datsun legacy for years to come.




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