A classic Nissan Z returns home

A classic Nissan Z returns home

When this Nissan plant employee sold his beloved 280Z, he never expected to see it again; his wife had other plans

Thomas Lesieur is an engineering manager at Nissan’s Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant in Tennessee and a self-proclaimed Z enthusiast. Both Thomas and his wife, Tara, work for Nissan and live with their two children in a small town called Bell Buckle near Nashville.

Thomas shares his story about his beloved 1975 Nissan 280Z – and the birthday gift that made his wife a legend:

"I've been a fan and owner of classic Z cars since 1997. After searching all over my hometown of Tampa, Florida, I found a well-worn 1980 280ZX that I bought and was so proud to own. Fast forward to later in my adult life and I was finally in a position to restore a classic Z the right way. I had attempted to restore too-far-gone 1972 and 1973 models in the past, but those ended up only being good for parts.

"In 2011, shortly after starting my career with Nissan, I finally found the perfect candidate for a real restoration. I drove to Atlanta and picked up a 1975 280Z. It was not running. The interior was gross, and the paint was well past its prime, but it was almost 100% rust free. Over the next three years, I restored that car to the way I wanted it.

"I had the body and paint fixed by a professional and took on all mechanical and interior restoration myself. This was finally the car I had dreamed about all those years.

"I showed my 280Z around town and frequented the local cars and coffee events. I even helped organize a tribute to Nissan Legend Mr. K (Yutaka Katayama, who many refer to as the father of the Z) in 2015. That event ended up getting a lot of attention in the greater Z community.

"In 2016, I made the tough decision to sell my car. I didn't regret it at the time, but in the years since I really missed that car. I never mentioned it to my wife, or anyone really.

"I went to ZCON in 2020 and attended the Z Proto reveal event. Being around so many passionate Z fans, prominent owners and world-class restorers made me miss that car more than ever.

"Tara must have had some funky mind reading ability that I was not aware of because when I reached a milestone birthday in 2021, she hatched a plan to get my car back. She found old emails between me and the buyer from 2016, cold-called him, and began a process that led to her bringing the Z back home where it has been given a second life.

"When I saw that car again in the seller's driveway, it was like seeing a ghost. The gentleman who took care of the car those five years didn't touch a thing, except for some professional service. He only put 200 miles on it! It was my car, as I left it, coming right back home. This Z isn't going anywhere now."