Z Man was produced around 1956 by a long defunct company. One of the regulars on Alphadrome put together great information including the original patents. Yes, patents. Programmable toys were something new and different in 1956.
So, how did he work? If you flip down his visor, you find this:
|Timing Switch Assembly|
|Rear Wheel with Timing Gear Shaft|
This toy came in several variations, primarily with different front end grill treatments. Based on the fact that mine looks like the patent drawing (no grill) I would guess he is from an early production run. Z Man is very much a product of the Space Age and is a valuable part of the household robot and space toy population.