Datsun 240Z | Buyer's Guide

Photograph Courtesy Nissan

The Datsun 240Z has long served as a value buy. If you can’t afford an E-type, how about a Z-car instead? Well, those days are over.

Top Z-cars have pushed through the six-figure barrier–Bring a Trailer famously got $310,000 for one–with even good examples now fetching at least $25,000. You’ll still pay more for the Jaguar, but a 240Z no longer sells for entry-level money. 

But that interest comes with good reason. Not only did the 240Z help usher in the modern sports car, but it’s just a very usable machine. It’s quick, it handles well, and the top (likely) won’t leak. 

Need to carry something bigger than a breadbox? Open the hatch. And if you’d like to run with today’s highway traffic, a five-speed gearbox is a bolt-in swap. 

The 240Z also became a legend on the American motorsports scene thanks to our own Peter Brock’s BRE team–which earned two SCCA national titles right out of the gate–as well so many others, from countless privateers to Hollywood legend Paul Newman. 

[Datsun Rising: Peter Brock on the BRE Datsun 240Z]

Even today, half a century after its release, the 240Z continues to shine at SCCA autocrosses, club races and vintage events. Take one to a cars and coffee gathering and suddenly you’re in the front row. 

The 240Z only ran from 1970 through 1973–units built through the middle of 1971 are now referred to as Series 1 cars–but Nissan continued to develop the car into the later 260Z, 280Z and even 280ZX models, taking the original basics all the way through 1983. Combine those good bones with a strong production run, and you get a healthy aftermarket ready to deliver almost anything.

One more thing that makes the 240Z and its successors rather newsworthy today: Have you seen the forthcoming Nissan Z? It looks a bit familiar, doesn’t it?
–David S. Wallens

Why You Want One

  • Rev-happy engine, cool gauges and an airy interior.
  • A strong aftermarket awaits, whether you’re building a V8-powered hotrod or restoring one back to stock.
  • You don’t have to fold yourself in half to get behind the wheel.
  • When people ask if it’s an exotic from Europe, you can reply that it’s a Datsun–and then you get to explain what a Datsun is.
  • Not rare enough? How about the Japanese-market, twin-cam, four-cylinder Z432 or Z432R models? Budget nearly a million for the latter.
  • Lots of wheel choices, from slot mags and four-spoke alloys to Japanese icons from Watanabe and Kobe Seiko.

Datsun 240Z Shopping Advice

Our Expert:
Rob Fuller
Z Car Garage

The Series 1 is the lightest and simplest Z-car. The cars get more complicated and heavier as the production date goes on. It’s all the same foundation. However, you can get into a 260Z or a 280Z for a lot less money than a 240Z.

If you’re pining to have the most complete, perfect, restored Z-car, some parts are getting hard to get–items such as emblems, the choke lever, and ashtrays in the Series 1 cars.

You can get some of those hard-to-find things through aftermarket companies, such as Z Car Parts. At Vintage Dashes, you can get a reproduction dash for your Z-car. JDM Car Parts has replacement stuff, such as hatch struts. Precision makes the weather strips for them. KF Vintage has 240Z sheet-metal body replacement parts.

As far as keeping the car mechanically sound and on the road, there are plenty of aftermarket parts available.

During the ’80s, there was nothing more reliable than a Honda. Datsuns have that kind of feel to them. As long as you stay on top of your fluids and safety items and don’t let them sit for seven to eight months, they do well. Datsuns are meant to be driven.

Just about everybody has a Datsun story that goes like this: You’ll find this car that’s been sitting around for 10 to 15 years. You go through it, do the hydraulics, clean out the gas tank, get fresh oil in it, and it comes alive. They are so well built that as long as they haven’t been in the elements, they’ll do the gig.

Make sure you get a car that has rust repair that’s not above your budget and time. Look at the floor pan, battery box, and below the battery by where the tension compression rod mounts to the chassis. If there’s rust in the rear hatch area and spare tire well, you’ll be breathing in exhaust.

A lot of these cars, because they were so inexpensive, got cheap paint jobs in the 1980s. 

Datsun Z-cars are beautiful and you can actually keep them on the road. There are a lot of European cars that are sexy, but it’s a bear to keep them driving. Whereas with a Datsun, once you got everything in good working order, you can enjoy that thing. I drive a Datsun 240Z every day.

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Datsunfan
Datsunfan Reader
9/18/22 3:32 p.m.

When it comes to these, Rob and the folks at ZCarGarage have seen every flavor, every factory nuance and range of parts bin variation, every botched repair.

His advice speaks volumes.

A friend loaned me his for a weekend, a ‘72 240 that had been up-tuned with cam, exhaust, tuned SU’s, the right rubber and sway bars.

At every freeway on-ramp it became a “911 hunter”, as I found I could rip along with (and more often past) any that stepped up to the challenge.

Irreseponsible?  You betcha.

Hooligan61
Hooligan61
9/18/22 6:32 p.m.

Having had an S30 for 28 years, and through a few upgrades , I'd wish to correct the reference to the 432 Z mentioned in the article.

the 432 designation was assigned to the 2.0 inline 6 that had 4 valves per cylinder, 3 carburetors, and 2 cams.  And yes I'd love to have had one of those cylinder heads on the L28 that I had in my car.

Unfortunately, loss off covered parking, and north east weather took its toll. God rest her soul. A truly fun track day car, that taught me that momentum and cornering speed could nag a car with twice the power to eventually let me by.

God, I miss that car!

 

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