Window Shopper: Datsun 240Z

Our sports car world can be divided into two epochs: before and after the arrival of Datsun’s 240Z. Before the 240Z arrived stateside for the 1970 model year, small-bore sports cars came from Europe and sported wire wheels. Most asked their occupants to sacrifice some comfort and convenience for style and performance.

Japan’s release of the 240Z pushed us into modern times with its practical hatchback shape and contemporary driving position. It was reliable, too, and looked more expensive than it was. The genuine wood shift knob perfectly rooted the car in its day.

Oh, and the 240Z could perform, too. Peter Brock’s BRE team quickly established the 240Z as the car to beat in SCCA C Production racing, further putting the European establishment on notice. In the hands of privateers and other factory-supported efforts, the 240Z continued to perform well. (Brock even took the 240Z Baja racing, too.)

Our glasses haven’t been rose-tinted by hindsight, either. Road & Track’s original road test praised the new release: “The basic list price of the 240Z is $3526 and at this price it is a super-bargain, with a combination of styling, performance and handling far ahead of anything else under $4000.”

The 240Z retained its basic body nearly all the way through the ‘70s, with Nissan renaming the model as engine displacement increased: The original 2.4-liter 240Z was eventually replaced by the 2.6-liter 260Z for just 1974, followed by the 2.8-liter 280Z the next year.

With increased displacement came increased weight, though, so those original 240Zs command the most interest. The first cars, those built before June 1972, also came with the desirable SU-style carburetors. Their replacement was the flat-top Hitachi, a carb that won few fans. Fortunately, intake setups can be easily backdated.

Which one to buy today? As usual, first-year cars command the biggest premiums. Hagerty says that a No. 1 example is now worth $58,500, with good and excellent cars worth somewhere between the high-teens and mid-$30s. The 1971 cars are worth a few grand less; by the time you get to 1974, values are cut by more than half.

Prices have been moving upward, too, so while some of the higher-end Japanese classics have experienced some turmoil, perhaps the Z is the one to get and enjoy.

Shopping Advice

Les Cannaday, owner of Classic Datsun Motorsports, knows the 240Z inside and out. The 240Z doesn’t enjoy quite the parts support of the MGB or TR6, but replacement parts can be found. Plus, more are coming to market as interest increases.

These cars can rust, especially around the battery. Check the battery box as well as the stuff beneath it, meaning the right frame rail, floor and passenger footwell. While you’re there, also look for poor repairs. Check the frame rails for jack damage, too. If the rocker panels are going to rust, it’s by the rear wheels. The sheet metal above the taillights can rust, too.

Many owners have complained of exhaust smells inside the car. If the tailpipe doesn’t run out past the rear bumper, this will happen. Torn taillight seals and worn hatch seals can also let smells into the cabin. To find out if your rear hatch seal is tight enough, close the hatch on a piece of notebook paper. If you can just barely pull out the paper, then the seal is good.

Nissan is running out of some original parts, but the good news is that people are starting to make stuff. Vintage Rubber, for example, offers new taillight lenses, bumper trim and body seals. Kip Motor Company also makes new taillight lenses and track rod ends.

The stock brakes are effective but not wonderful. A popular setup includes the four-piston calipers from an early-’80s Toyota pickup, 1984 Nissan 300ZX rotors, Datsun 280ZX 15/16-inch master cylinder and Design Products custom hubs. This setup fits inside a 15-inch wheel.

Because 14- and 15-inch tires are getting harder to find, 16×7-inch Panasport wheels have become popular. A ⅞- or 1-inch front anti-roll bar is enough. Anything bigger can rip the sheet metal.

The 2.8-liter L28 engine found in the 280Z and 280ZX fits inside the 240Z. ZTherapy can help you retain the period-correct SU carbs. The 280ZX’s five-speed gearbox is also a welcome upgrade, although the rear ends needed to complete the swap are getting rare.

Air conditioning was a dealer option. Classic Datsun is experimenting with a modern setup that uses a lightweight, modern compressor.

“The 240Z pushed us into modern times with its practical hatchback shape and contemporary driving position.”

This story ran in an old issue of Classic Motorsports. Want to make sure you're reading all the latest stories? Subscribe now.

Resources

Parts & Service

Black Dragon Automotive
(888) 789-3746
blackdragonauto.com

Brock Racing Enterprises
(702) 558-3374
bre2.net

Classic Datsun Motorsports
(760) 940-6365
classicdatsun.com

Kip Motor Company
(888) 243-0440
kipmotor.com

Motorsport Auto
(800) 633-6331
zcarparts.com

Vintage Rubber
(714) 882-0591
vintagerubber.com

Community

Z Car Club Association
zcca.org

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Comments
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racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
6/8/17 2:22 p.m.

You need to stop it, now! I still regret selling my '71 a few years ago. It's probably the car I regret the most, and that escalates as the days go by. It's certainly not a perfect car, but there's just something raw and entertaining about the way they drive.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/8/17 3:15 p.m.

Agreed ^^^

I also miss mine---- I just miss looking at the darn thing. It was a great highway car-- long legs and pretty comfy. The steering, shifter, and overall feel is delicate and light. I sure wouldn't want to be T-Boned in one though. Those doors feel like they have as much protection as a wet paper bag!

I'll take another in Orange--- loved that car!

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
6/8/17 7:07 p.m.

And don't forget the sound. Mine had a header and stainless exhaust, well, and a nice cam too. It sounded awesome! It was silver, but I too would have preferred orange. Its funny, I've been new toy shopping for the better part of a year now. I've almost pulled the trigger on a Boxster, NC Miata, Z4 M Coupe, and a S2000, but I think I really want another 240Z. The problem is I want a really nice one this time, and they are getting pricey and hard to find.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/9/17 9:30 a.m.

^^ Follow your heart, and get another! All the "experts" say they are going to jump in price, but they've been saying that for a long time now. Good examples can still be found for less than $20K, but that is likely to change, as ratty examples get restored, and the "middle ground" cars begin to disappear.

You are totally right about the sound! Love me some straight six! Here's my old car----and Olaf the wonderdog. As much as I miss that 240z.....I miss the pooch even more.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
6/9/17 12:47 p.m.

Looks great Joe! I feel you on the dog, I lost mine about 5 years ago after 17 years.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/9/17 12:57 p.m.

17 years? That's a heck of a run!

Yep, Olaf was one of a kind, made it to 13. He could open the fridge, cabinets, screen doors--- the most intelligent dog I've ever seen. He even had a showbiz resume, as he was in the "Busted" show that used to air on the Animal Planet! He played "dog in cage".....improvised too....he was a natural!

The car lives on, but unfortunately dogs are only here temporarily.

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