By on January 26, 2010

The Datsun 240 was as a true revolutionary, smashing the long-stagnant sports car market of the sixties into smithereens. It was long overdue too; folks were getting cranky for the messiah: a truly modern sporty two seater with four-wheel independent suspension, a zippy OHC six engine, dazzling styling, all served up at a reasonable price; say $3500 (about $20k adjusted). The hole in the market for such a car was begging to be filled. And Datsun stepped up and delivered, with a grand-slam home run. But like most revolutionaries, the Z was anything but truly original. But then neither was Che nor Lenin; they studied Marx. And Datsun? They took their studies seriously too.

Prior to 1970, the sporty two-seater segment was over-ripe for change. The creaky and outdated British roadsters were rolling relics begging to be put out of their misery; the superb Porsche always was pricey and quickly getting more so; the attractive but none too cheap nor reliable Italians were barely hanging on by virtue of their pretty faces; and the Corvette wasn’t exactly budget-priced and was entering the long dark decade of the seventies.  Nissan took note and sent its Z right at the bulls eye of that target market. And where did their inspiration come from? How about another famous Z?

GM’s John Z. DeLorean saw the same market hole: something below the ‘Vette in price and yet smashingly more attractive than the MG or Triumphs. And he saw it years earlier. The 1964 Pontiac Banshee concept had the formula nailed: Pontiac’s new OHC six wrapped in a delicious and highly advanced bod. It’s styling foreshadowed the ’68 Vette, but without the exaggerations. The nearly production-ready Banshee was nixed by the timid GM brass, fearing the market wasn’t big enough for it and the Corvette both.

An iffy speculation? Perhaps, but the story of the 240Z’s origins and paternity is endlessly intriguing and rife with rumor, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw another ingredient into it. In the early sixties, Nissan wanted an image-mobile to spicy up its stodgy rep. Albrecht Goertz, a protege of renowned stylist Raymond Loewy, went to Japan around that time to help Nissan develop their clay modeling expertise. Nissan and Yamaha entered into a development project for a sporty coupe using a Yamaha engine, and Goertz did the design. To be called the Nissan 2000GT, the project was still-born, and a restless and eager Yamaha took it to Toyota.

In need of some image polishing themselves, Toyota bit and the result is the stunning and legendary Toyota 2000GT. Toyota claims their own designer Satoru Nozaki did the final work, and that may well be. But Goertz’ influence on both the Toyota and the 240Z is undeniable. But the expensive production GT was much more of an image-mobile in the mold of today’s Lexus LFA than what the Banshee promised and the 240Z finally delivered.

The Z may have numerous claims on its parentage, but a few are too obvious to discount, in lieu of DNA tests. The Datsun 510, a revolutionary car in its own right, and the subject of a recent CC, was a key genetic donor, in that its new OHC four sprouted two more cylinders to make the Z’s six. And given that Yatuka Katayama (Mr. K) had helped shepherd that into its final form, and that he fought successfully for a renaming of the Z’s Japanese Fairlady moniker, he certainly can take a bow.

The Datsun 1800 donated its front suspension, and other pieces from the corporate bin were used wherever possible. The rear suspension was new, but so similar to the Lotus’ that it is rightfully called a Chapman strut. And then there is that body that wrapped it all. John DeLorean would have been proud; it’s decidedly un-GM-esque in detail, but the long flowing hood, the clear lines, the well set-back cockpit, the bulging  hood, the delightfully resolved tail; there’s just not a bad angle, line or detail on this Z.

I mean that generally and specifically; this particular car was a nice find, because it’s hard to find one of the early Zs that is as clean, untampered with, and shows off its designer’s intent as well as this one. They tend to look too fussy, burdened with too much trim and emblems. But this one, having lost its hood ornament, looks as good as as any Z I’ve ever seen. It has almost a concept car’s purity, and every angle is a joy to behold. I’d forgotten just how terrific and timeless a design this car was until I stumbled unto this one.It was hard to stop shooting and walk on.

Of course, things went only down hill after the first few years of Zdom. It’s a depressing tale; I know there are fans of the later cars and its successors, but for me there will only ever be the early 240Z  to speak its brilliant intent and execution. Light, lithe, with a motor that still had some genuine Zing in those last days of pre-smog choked dullness and crankiness. Yes, the 240Z was far from perfect, its handling exhibiting some of the same twitchiness at the limit like its 510 little brother. Nissan would soon take care of that all too well; it slowly morphed the Z from a poor-mans XK-E into a bloated Camaro wanna-be.

But the Z’s decline into plushly upholstered boulevard cruiserdom was soon exploited by Mazda with their gem, the RX-7. Taking the original Z formula (minus the IRS but with a rotary), and keeping it tight and light, the RX-7 carved out as nice a chunk of the market as it carved canyon curves. Of course, the RX-7 lost the way too eventually, until the Miata reclaimed it for good. It’s taken a while, but it was inevitable that someone would eventually find the sweet spot and stick to it as religiously as a warm tire on a hot back-road curve. Just imagine if the 240Z had been available as a roadster too, and stuck to its mission: revolution would have become orthodoxZy.

More new Curbside Classics here

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

57 Comments on “Curbside Classic: The Revolutionary 1971 Datsun 240Z...”

  • avatar

    I was wondering when the 240z would make the CC. These are fantastic cars. Easy to work on, reliable and bullet proof. Not to mention that they accept all sorts of engines (many a LSx are stuffed under their hoods).

    My personal 240z…..nothing that 400 wheel ft-lbs of twist won’t cure.

    • 0 avatar

      I worked for a guy who stuffed in a Chevy 350. It was a hatchet job, but he thought he was a genius. It never ran reliably, and sounded ghastly. It seemed like a lot of wasted time and money, instead of getting the original motor to run sweetly.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Martin

      My bother-in-law bought a brand new 240-Z from Bob Sharp Motors in Connecticut in 1970. I enjoyed driving it, except in traffic. The carbs were constant velocity and had immediate throttle response, generally a good thing. But it appeared that the throttle linkage suffered from “sticktion”. For about the first half inch of accelerator travel-nothing Then BLAM! The CV carbs came on like early turbos. Not pleasant.
      I drove a 280Z at the Bondurant School in 1980. No worry about traffic, especially since the school cars were fuel injected. But the cars, even with their beefed-up suspensions, were truly pigs. The only way to get around the track with any speed was to use the school’s trail braking technique. Once I learned that, driving the car was fun. At Sears Point Raceway, once you got going, you used only second an third gears. 5000 rpm was about all the engine was good for. Although redlined at 5500 rpm, above 5000 it just made noise.
      i also drove Formula Fords at the school. After that experience I was able to formulate this maxim: Good race cars don’t make good street cars, and good street cars don’t make good race cars.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a ’72 240Z, same carb issues. Looking at the linkage, I always wondered if the geometry had been a little different if it wouldn’t have been so sudden, but I never got around to trying to modify it.

        I also raced a 280Z showroom stock for a while. I particularly recall a race at Charlotte where on the second lap of practice, while attempting to brake for the entry into the infield, about the only response I got was a puff of brake dust from the front wheels. We were supposed to use stock type brake pads but they weren’t up to the challenge. I also remember only making two shifts per lap, one from fourth to third going into the infield, and one from third to fourth on the banking.

        • 0 avatar

          Hi FormerFF,

          The carb “problem” was due to the ratio of the linkage arms, and was a deliberate design: it was done so the car had the appearance/ illusion of having more low end power than it really had. Made a lot of cars appear more “peppy” than they really were. The worst example of this “accelerated” linkage was on the Mercury Capri For imported from England.

          As for the brake problem: it wasn’t the calipers: it was the solid rotor that couldn’t dissipate any heat, so it overheated the caliper and “cooked” the brake fluid. These brakes were marginal at best on the 240s (normally weighing less than 2500 pounds), but were totally inadequate on the MUCH heavier 280Z.

  • avatar

    His name is Yutaka Katayama, and he is still among the living! (born 1909)

  • avatar

    I didn’t even notice the missing hood badge till I read the text. Sure does look cleaner without.

    My brother-in-law treated himself to a new Z-car as a college graduation present. His was a 260, though, not the 240. (That should tell you when he graduated.) I spent a lot of time riding under the hatch when he came to visit my sister. Sadly, it was traded for an Olds Cutlass when the kids started arriving. Now that they’re through college themselves, he may be looking for another.

    I personally prefer Toyota’s answer to the Z, the early-80’s version of the Supra as featured in another CC – but I wouldn’t try to argue that the Supra is a better car than the Z.

  • avatar

    Gorgeous car, but I’d still rather have a Vette of this vintage. At the price this competed at, is there any documentation that Chevy considered it a true Vette competitor? I remember back when the ~MY2000 Camaros were out and so close to Vette performance, someone from Chevy adressed it to the effect of “no one who really wants a Vette is going to buy a Camaro.”

  • avatar

    That’s a fine-looking specimen of the 240Z species, but I’m not so sure about those wheels…

    • 0 avatar

      I love those wheels! Some of my favorite “cheap a$$” chrome wheels. They usually look better on larger cars (big American coupes and sedans of the 70s and 80s) but on the Z I think they look very Ninja.

    • 0 avatar

      Most of those I saw in the 70’s were wearing those slot mags that were popular back then. I had a set of American Racing Vectors on mine.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I’m pretty sure Mr. K is still alive.

  • avatar

    There were indeed groundbreaking cars, and seemed to fly in the face of what the competition was doing, as the original 240Z was relatively light, carefully crafted and well detailed.

    Does anyone else remember when, in 1998, Nissan USA sold a limited number of manufacturer-authorized restored examples of the 240Z? It was between the time when the 300ZX was pulled from the US market (1996) and the introduction of the 350Z (2002), so it seemed to be an attempt to keep the Z’s spirit alive during this hiatus.

    And Jordan, I think you’re correct…Yutaka Katayama is still with us, having celebrated his 100th birthday last September. But as long as we have the Z, won’t a little bit of him always be alive?

    • 0 avatar

      Hey BuzzDog,

      Yes I remember this attempt by Nissan. It was a great idea, but ran into lots of problems. The first was trying to find virgin cars to work on. People that had such cars weren’t going to “give them up”, and Nissan ended up paying premium prices for the ones they did get. Then “restorers ice-water reality enema” struck when the SoCal shops contracted to do the restos found out that the finished products were going to cost around $15K and up to do a litigation free car. From what I understand, Nissan had to sell the cars for close to $30K, and they didn’t even break even at that price. Hence, the end of a good idea. However, those people that DID get one of these restos go a GREAT bargain.

  • avatar

    Great find. The early Z is a stunningly gorgeous car when left relatively unmolested. Nissan got a lot right with these.

    I’d love to have one if the climate I lived in wouldn’t cause it to rust out from under me.

  • avatar

    When I was in grade school, the big brother of one of my friends had one of these. It was soooooo cool.

    To me, the styling is practically ageless. Couldn’t you imagine Datsun rolling out this same skin now? I think people would go for it in a big way.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      It would have to be 6 inches longer on each end, and 400 lbs heavier (airbags, etc.)

      In short, in the nanny state, such beauty, such balance, such elan as this design is near impossible. Somebody might hurt themselves…

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the same thing. None of the 240Z’s successors have come close. Nissan could do what Ford did with the Ford GT. Build a modern “replica” scaled up 110% to house super-sized Americans with room for all the safety equipment. Update the headlights to multi-reflector projector design, but with the exact same “sugar scoop” shape. Upsize the 14 inch wheels to 17 inch. Keep the classic dashboard too, with the trademark 3-pod on top of a trapezoidal center stack. Stuff the V6 way behind the front axle for 50/50 distribution. It will electrify the enthusiasts far more than the rather cartoonish 370z.

      And leave the “Datsun 240z” name alone. Just call it Nissan “Datsun 240z 3.7” like Mercedes used to do (450SEL 6.9)

    • 0 avatar

      I’m hoping the new Subaru RWD coupe is even more practical with its four seats, but similar in concept to early Z. I hope I like it so I can have it as a midlife crisis car.

  • avatar

    These cars had serious rust problems (like nearly all Japanese cars of that time). A friend had plates welded underneath the driver and passenger floorpan. I never drove one, but it must have been a pretty floppy chassis with all that structure corroded.

    • 0 avatar

      You’ve got that right, my brother picked up a used one (converted into a street racer) and when once he had to slam on the brakes he shoved his other foot into the floor to brace himself and it went right through.

      And yes something was lost in the 260 and 280, friend’s dad had the talking one, god that was annoying. The 300 hit it though, even today that is a beautiful (timeless) car and the turbo (twin?) version is amazing, the the 350 blah….

  • avatar

    Even in that era of rusters the 240Z distinguished itself in the rustbelt as a terminal ruster. It was almost Italian that way. One of the car shops where I live did a nice business welding 240Zs together from salvagable pieces from rusted out cars that were sold for scrap value because they couldn’t pass the safety inspection. I owned one put together from a floorpan, suspension, fenders and who knows what else taken from 2 or 3 cars. Even when brand new the chassis had about as much rigidity as an egg carton. The rear suspension housings intruded into the interior just behind the seats where they creaked, rustled and thumped nonstop on anything but glass smooth roads.

    It was a landmark car that euthanized the British and Italian sports car industries (in North America anyway). That 6-cylinder sounded wonderful with a Stebro exhaust. But nostalgia for this particular old car doesn’t survive an actual encounter with one. It was flimsy and dangerous, characteristics that are hard to ignore after exposure to modern cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Bruce from DC

      “Flimsy and dangerous” could properly be applied to any of the sportscars of the 240Z era (at least in comparison to modern equivalents), with the possible exception of the Porsche 911 . . . which wasn’t particularly flimsy but was certainly dangerous to any driver who lost his nerve in a corner and got off the throttle or — heaven forbid — used the brakes. In my opinion (having driven most of them at the time), the 911 was the most dangerous, because of the huge rear weight bias. Other cars with IRS were, in varying degrees, a bit squirrely at the limit, because they all used some sort of trailing arm/swing axle rear suspension. Those without IRS had more predictable handling — other than when encountering a bump in a corner — but a more punishing ride.

      Occupant protection was pretty much of a foreign concept for any car of that era.

      I always considered the 240Z sort of a modernized version of the Austin-Healy 3000 — not a bad thing.

  • avatar


    Absolutely brilliant writing.

    Perfect depiction of where the Z began to its premature burnout.

    Because of my excess youth at the time, I missed the opportunity to own an original 240Z. By the time I wa$ ready, Datsun was firmly into the pimping process, which yielded autos, 2+2’s, and T-tops. Almost floopy hat material.

    Personally, I think the Datsun’s original formula (not that their idea of an affordable 2 seat sports car was that original) was best continued by Honda’s S2000. At least Honda had the decency to kill it before it morphed into crossover convertible.


  • avatar

    Fantastic cars – only marred but amazingly ugly hubcaps. One sporting its origional wheels is a rare one indeed. I don’t care for these wheels but easily changed.

    That 1964 Pontiac Banshee concept has got to be one of my all time favorites for styling. Shame it wasn’t produced.

  • avatar

    A friend in High school had one, we would drive it from Cedar Falls Iowa up to Minnesota to go Skiing, and felt like rally racers flying sideways on snow covered two lane, should have crashed, never did, great memories of a great car. BTW didn’t that 6 cylinder design originate with Mercedes and was sold to Datsun?

    • 0 avatar

      Nissan just copied the Mercedes SOHC layout for the four cylinder. As was stated earlier, the six was just the four from the 510 with two addtional cylinders. Twin Hitachi SU-style carbs gave it more of a British sports car look under the hood. As an aside, I knew a guy who did put a Datsun OHC four in his early 1960’s Mercedes and it fit quite well. What Paul didnt mention is that there were Datsun roadsters sold in the USA before the Z, a 1600 and 2000 as I recall. I drove one and it seemed at the time like a winning formula, British-like style with Japanese reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      It wasn’t sold to Datsun per se. A Japanese automaker called Prince had previously built the Mercedes inline-six under license, and their L-series engine was essentially their homegrown knockoff of it. Nissan bought Prince in early 1966, when the L-series was new, and so four- and six-cylinder versions of it went into the 510, Fairlady, and other Nissan products. (Incidentally, the Skyline was originally a Prince model that predated the Nissan purchase.) But it does have a definite, non-coincidental relationship to the Benz engine.

  • avatar

    I almost bought a mothballed Z of this vintage that was owned by an old lady who lived in the same apartment building as me. Apparently it did run when it was parked, but had sat for a long, long time after she lost her license (she was in her late 80s and hadn’t driven in a decade). My wife talked me out of it, probably wisely, since having a project car when you haven’t a garage is asking for trouble.

    You’re right that Nissan went off the rails with this car, but it couldn’t really be helped: the market wanted power, space and (relative) comfort, and it wasn’t until the pseudo-recession at the end of the 90s and SUV boom killed the market that this was evident, though the Miata’s success should have been a warning.

    I preferred the 1990 300ZX, myself. I still see a few on the road and they’re a good-looking car to this day. The 2+2 was better looking, I thought, but I don’t think you could get it with the turbo.

  • avatar

    I had a ’72. As much fun as it was when it ran well, keeping it running was a PITA. Might as well have been Italian for the fussiness. It had those dual side-draft carbs (Mikuni?) that I could never keep balanced and in tune. I finally got frustrated and gave up, and sold it for a song.

  • avatar

    Breathtakingly beautiful…a fact that got lost as Nissan bulked up successors and first-gens were rodded and hooned into extinction. A clean one today is rare and always brings a smile to my face.

  • avatar

    Great CC. I’ve always loved these cars, and this is a really nice example.
    A friend of mines father bought one new in 1972. (?) He turned it into a road racing car in the late 70s.
    When my friend was born (early 80s) the car went into storage. We pulled it out a couple of years ago and he’s been slowly working on turning it back into functioning, vintage-legal race car.
    The patina of being an original owner former race car really adds something to the lines as it lurks in his garage on it’s jack stands.

    Oddly enough, in our local club racing series (total of 30 or 40 cars in the region), we have another 240Z and 3 Datsun 510s.

  • avatar

    I have owned both a 1973 240Z and a 1970 510, both of which I bought used and modified. I removed all the emblems and the tiny porthole from the Z, fitted real Minilite wheels, Mulholland suspension goodies, 1972 carburetors as well as a pair of disappointing, as I discovered, seats from a British manufacturer, a momo steering wheel, a moon roof, and Goodyear Wingfoot radials. Then the Z was fun to drive and looked pretty good, too. I liked that car, but not enough to keep it. My 510 received similar treatment, less the moonroof. Neither car was well made; the body, fit and finish were cheap and prone to rust. Ever see a 240Z after a fender-bender? It crumpled as though it had been made of Kleenex. The 510 was noisy, noisy, noisy. I believe that Datsun’s OHC engines were made under license from Mercedes-Benz. The two cars were not great cars, but value-engineered knock-offs of European design. As I had owned a BMW 2002ti—not the 2002 tii—I experienced the difference. The Japanese cars were generally reliable, but cheesy. The BMW was painfully unreliable, but sturdier.

    Last autumn I visited a local Nissan dealer to check out the 370Z. The 240Z was elegant. The 370Z is so awkward, both in form and in function.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I have seen what happens when a 240Z gets clobbered by an S-10 in a low speed parking lot accident. Not pretty. My first car was a 1973 240Z also outfitted with the Mulholland suspension and genuine Minilites. By the time I got it it was on its second engine (the first one succumbed to a cracked head). Just as well because the ’73s were highly prone to vapor lock on hot days. The replacement engine came from a ’72 with the SU carbs. No vapor lock. However, the much lower Mulholland suspension made speed bumps and automatic carwashes a no no. Plus the ride was incredibly punishing and tended to harvest new rattles daily. Supremely fun around corners despite the 70 series rubber and loose steering. Idiosyncracies? Rust especially around the rear fenders, cracked dashboards, broken choke levers. As mine was a high mileage example it made for an interesting first car experience. For example, the starter ground wire (already looked like a squirrel had been chewing on it) came loose on the Interstate. The dashboard immediately lit up, the tachometer spiked and then started smoking. The car died. Some electrical tape and 15 minutes later we were back on the road sans the tach. I later took the tach apart and soldered a new resister in from Radio Shack. Who knows if the rev readings were accurate but it was a fun project. I also learned how faulty voltage regulators can chew up new batteries. Oh, let’s not forget the heater core hose that blew coolant all over the legs of the two females I had wedged in the passenger seat. Plus, coolant all over the inside of the windshield — fun to drive when you can’t see where you’re going. Those girls never asked for a ride again. Always wondered the fate of that car. Last seen in New Hampshire/Massachusetts area. Brown with tan interior. Let me know if anyone has seen it.

  • avatar

    I had the use of one of these for about 6 months when I was in high school. It was a fabulous car, and my true introduction to sports cars. It was a few years old and had a ratty interior, but it was bone stock and would do 80 in second gear.

    I also used a Datsun 2000 roadster (the “Fairlady” in the Japanese market) which was also a fantastic car much superior to many of the British roadsters of the day. The 240Z was a substantial improvement in power and for touring–they were completely different cars from a driving perspective as much as appearance. Both cars were prone to rust and are hard to find today in decent condition.

  • avatar

    Great work Paul – I had a blue 240 throughout most of the 80s and it was probably my favorite car ever. The Zs slow slide into plush irrelevance was tragic but there is always a new sports car for a new generation of enthusiasts. I’m sure that 20 years into the future someone will look fondly back on their first gen Genesis coupe and lament how heavy and soft the 2030 model is.

    • 0 avatar

      odd question, but I’m a fiction writer giving the 240 a cameo role in one of my scenes . . .  Do you recall the sound of the 240’s horn?  Would it be fair to call it “nasally” or would you describe it as “bigger than one would expect” from such a small car?

  • avatar

    By 1976 the body style was the same, but the car had morphed into the 280Z. Ours had serious problems: it would “die” unexpectedly due to electrical module issues; the lovely British racing green paint lasted a few years and then crackled like and egg shell, the interior vinyl seats yellowed and began tearing at the seams, the foam dash developed large cracks. It was rather heavy for a sports car, and not particularly fun to drive. However, it looked very nice, when new. A few years later it became the ZX, and all pretensions to sport were abandoned.

  • avatar

    What a beautiful car! You don’t see too many nice 240s on the road anymore, much less a junker that’s one dead battery away from the boneyard.

    I’ve had the fortune of spending far too much time with the 240Z thanks to our 24hrs of LeMons team, and these cars are great, even if they don’t win the durability portion of the test. The I-6 has plenty of power, the suspension is sorted, and dirt-cheap brake upgrades from the 280Z make it more than competitive. This is a screamer of a track car, only surpassed by the size and suspension of Spec Miatas. But Miatas don’t have Z-levels of power and torque.

    But I can’t believe how badly these things rust outside of the Rust Belt. Even ones that live in Houston rust out like mad. It’s a shame.

    One more thing: the 240’s motor is damn near a carbon copy of a Mercedes Benz I-6 from the 1950-60s. Supposedly the Datsun head bolts to the Benz short block, and many Datsun parts are an upgrade because of superior metallurgy found in the 1970s.

  • avatar

    In GM’s defense, you could go buy an Opel GT at your Buick dealer during this time.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      With a none-too-smooth 102 hp four cylinder that cost exactly the same as the 240Z. No wonder it didn’t sell. Never mind the lack of IRS.

    • 0 avatar

      I still remember being 12 yrs. old back in 1970/71 and visiting both the Opel and Datsun showrooms. My dad had decided that one would be his next car. After driving both, it really was no contest between the two.

      We ended up driving out to a Salton Sea Datsun dealership (yes, 140 miles from home and in the freaking middle of the desert just down the street from nowhere)to pickup my Dad’s new Z; in the Los Angeles area there was a 6 month+ waiting list.

  • avatar

    While I agree that the 510 was cheesy and noisy compared

    with the 2002, it only cost about half as much, so didn’t really

    compete with it. Though the 2002 felt sturdier as a daily driver,

    the 510 actually possessed a far stiffer platform(chassis). Check

    out the comments in the CC of the 510, but suffice it to say there

    were sound reasons why the 510 became such a legendary racer.

  • avatar

    I bought a ’73 240Z new- it was at the height of the mania and I had to put a deposit down to get on a waiting list for one. Ended up taking an automatic ’cause if I turned it down I was in for another wait. Paid full list +- if you even tried to bargain they’d laugh you out of the showroom. This was in Central Illinois- the dual carbs were very finicky and I remember you had to let the car warm up for a while before driving. Very prone to vapor lock in hot weather- the dealer wrapped all the fuel lines in insulation to try to fix it, but it was always a problem. As I recall, the service people were very snooty- acted like they were doing you a huge favor by deigning to work on your car.
    Bottom line- I loved that car! It was gorgeous!

  • avatar

    My dad had a white ’72 240Z with a red interior. It could be a family car when I stuffed myself into the rear hatch area. (The early seventies were a great time to be unrestrained child.) Sadly the car was smashed up before I was old enough to drive it, but at the rate the rust was eating away at the exterior it wasn’t going to last much longer. When I moved to California in the mid-eighties and saw pristine vintage 240Zs everywhere I realized that this car was never meant for a winter climate. So if you’re considering one, keep it away from road salt at all costs.

  • avatar

    Meh, a Datsun Cedric (aka 240K) with no rear seat and an awful paint job sold to the easily impressed.

    (BTW, I do like Datsuns).

  • avatar

    Thanks for this. There may be a Jungian collective consciousness thing happening with these. I’ve been considering a classic car, and I remembered how much I liked the old Zs, and they’re comparative bargains to other classics.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    It is pretty easy to see why, in retrospect, the birth of the Miata was so earth-shattering. Can you imagine a sports car that doesn’t rust, doesn’t leak, doesn’t break, is Toyota reliable and dependable, yet can still more than hold its own competitively against cars costing six times as much? Don’t get me wrong, the 240 was an amazing car, one that strongly influenced my automobile addiction. Can you imagine two large high school seniors riding around under the rear glass of one of those things like pheasant under glass?

    Yet the Miata wasn’t just an impressive sports car: it called in a revolutionary paradigm shift.

  • avatar

    Wonder why the Toyota 200GT failed miserably? I take is the pricing, it was a few hundred shy of a 911, so as the 914/6 too.

    Nissan was smart as it was about 1/2 of what a 911 was then, so they sold like hot cakes.

  • avatar

    My father purchased his Silver 1971 240Z which I got when I turned 16 in ’75. That car was my first love and was just too much fun for a SoCal kid to drive. I had it up to 1981 when I had to sell it for tuition; I was studying in Japan and needed the money(ironic I know). Got drunk, called my dad in the US and told him to sell it. Sad day in my life when I got the funds wired to me. Man I really felt guilty….seriously!

    Played basketball in high school and I’d drive my friends home in my Z. Tallest one was 6’10”. One time I moved seats all the way up, had two friends behind each seat, and one with his legs hanging from the rear bumper. Yes, 4 passengers in the Z.

    Notice that the Z in the Photo doesn’t have the chrome hood guard (or whatever it was called) that attached to the front bumper. Took mine off like I guess many people did. Couple of years ago I found mine in my parents garage. I still have it and sadly that is all that remains of my Fairlady Z”ette” (what the car was called in Japan).

    I never had any major problems at all in the 10 years it was in our family. Tune ups, brake jobs, tires, and a couple clutches (probably me) was about it. Had a Japanese Mechanic who took care of it for us.

    Great car & great memories.

  • avatar

    My best friends father after serving in vietnam, was shipped off to japan to finish out his service in the army, and bought a 240Z and shipped it home, where he stored it in a garage, and basically never drove the car, when we were freshman in highschool, (1974) we used to sneak home at lunchtime and drive the car around the neighborhood a few times then put it back in the garage and go back to school, I got hooked on these cars the 1st time i drove it. now , 36 years later, im 49 years old, and have owned 5 of these great cars, luckly i grew up in So. Cal. so there are some nice examples still on the highway. of course i have “daily drivers” or regular cars i use day to day, but i still cant wait till saturday, when i can hop in my Z and take her for a spin !
    here is a picture of her taken at a recent datsun ge-together in moreno valley ca.
    mine is the blue 240Z with the black rims.
    about 2 years ago I did a “refreshening” paint, suspension, engine, trans, interior etc. so she runs better than new.

  • avatar

    I owned a ’72 240Z. Although I had to weld a passenger-side floorpan onto the car because the rust had literally eaten through the original steel, and even though a huge split cracked open the center of the dash, I loved the car. It was quick for the time, was a hoot to thrash around, and saved my life when a pissed-off, drunken girlfriend grabbed the steering wheel and pulled it violently toward her (in the passenger seat), while I was doing about 65………on a bridge.

  • avatar

    A beautiful car and I remember one of my co-workers buying one of the first Z’s in California. What a car! Unfortunately, I also recall the ’73 Z that my mother owned… a car that used to percolate the fuel when air temps got over 90F and leave her stranded wherever she had driven it.

    Although her car was an automatic, it was fun to drive in the twisties. But not nearly as fun – or reliable – as my beloved ’74 Fiat X1/9. I put nearly 100K on that car and only had to replace the passenger side window regulator (twice), the brakes once and the tires twice before selling it, besides normal maintenance.

    I now split my commute between my ’07 350Z and a cherry ’81 X. I enjoy the Z, it’s a great car (despite the disparaging comments about the model that I’ve read on this blog), but the X is more fun, hands down.

    Oh… and I bought a ’92 Miata SE for my son (graduation gift) and that’s a great car, but doesn’t ride as nice as the X.

  • avatar
    Marty S

    My wife and I bought a new 77 280Z the year we got married. We had a lot of fun using it on trips. I always thought of it as more of a GT car than a sports car. By that time, it had gotten a little heavier and more substantial, with the bigger engine and fuel injection. It had the original body, with some nice touches like XKE type hood louvers, and improved hubcaps, although the dealers were still doing a big business with replacement wheels. The body, as discussed in the other posts, was really beautifully proportioned. I think it also owed a lot to the Maserati Ghibli. The next generation was quite different and more of a luxury car. The 280 did not have power steering, for example. We kept the car for eight years and had to replace rusted rocker panels with readily available fiberglass parts. I believe the vinyl instrument panel also split, but there was a replacement part for that. There was a place called the Z Club in New Jersey that specialized in such repairs.

    No major mishaps with the car, except for one incident when I slid on gravel and hit a curb with the right rear wheel, damaging the suspension. Replaced the wheel and the suspension part, but I don’t think it tracked exactly right after that. Very embarassing. At 90,000 miles it started to develop electrical problems and I got stuck at night in rural areas a couple of times, and decided it was time for the car to go. But it was a really pretty car. It was my first Japanese car, followed by a number of much larger American cars, but I now drive a Lexus IS.

  • avatar
    Jeff Segan

    Mr. Niedermeyer is obviously a talented writer, and weaves a good story. For the most part I enjoyed reading it. He just as obviously has a good eye for beauty. No question that the Datsun 240Z is of timeless beauty – aka a Classic or “Modern Classic” post 1946 if you like. The Datsun 240Z is one of main reason Mr. Katayama was inducted into the Automobile Hall Of Fame in Dearborn circa 1998.

    Mr. Niedermeyer also correctly points out that the true DNA of the Z Car is found in the Datsun PL510, the first car from Nissan to reflect the direct influence of Mr. Katayama’s desire for cars more suited and thus sales in the USA.

    I have to voice my complete disagreement however with Mr. Niedermeyer’s statement; “But Goertz influence on both the Toyota and the 240Z is undeniable.” In fact Mr. Goertz had nothing to do with the design of neither the Datsun 240Z nor the Toyota 2000GT.

    The men responsible for the design and development of the Datsun 240Z, Nissan Fairlady Z-432 and Nissan Fairlady Z:
    Mr. Teiichi Hara, Manager Nissan Design and Development
    Mr. Kazumi Yotsurnoto, Manager, Passenger Car Styling Section

    Mr. Yoshihiko Matsuo, Chief of Design, Styling Studio #4
    Mr. Akio Yoshida, Assistant Designer (Exterior Design)
    Mr. Tamura – Clay Modeler – Final Form / Detail Body Surface Styling
    Mr. Sue Chiba (Interior Design)
    Mr. Eiichi Oiwa and Mr. Kiichi Nishikawa (Styling Studio Assistants)
    Mr. Hidemi Kamahara and Mr. Tsuneo Benitani, Design Engineers
    (engineering everything under the skin).

    Production Engineering:
    Mr. Hitoshi Uemura, General Supervisor, Construction Plan Division
    Mr. Hirod Miyate, Vice Chief, Nissan Auto Body Construction Division

  • avatar

    Very nice write-up, Paul. This one seems to be a early 1971 or very late 1970. It has the optional side protection strips, and the bumper stand-offs, but is missing the front and rear over-riders. I wanted to buy one when they first came out, but the knife-fights to just get on the waiting list to be ripped-off weren’t worth it. So, in 1976, I bought a beautiful 1971 from the original owner. She had the foresight to order all the extras and the four speed, AND have the undercarriage completely undercoated, so there have been no rust problems. My charming wife insisted on driving the car exclusively for the first year. Unfortunately, she had two things going against her: very pretty and an enormous right lead foot. Instant ticket magnet. So, after a lot of wailing and tears, I took over care of the car. We still have it, but it isn’t stock (or is that redundant?): L-28, 5-speed, R-200, Eibachs, Konis, shock tower braces, chassis stiffeners, roll bar, 4-wheel discs. But, sooooo much fun to drive. Yes, I agree that these cars were very flimsy compared to the new cars today that have nearly 100% torsional rigidity, however, I can give a updated comparo: I also own a ’99 Boxster, and it rattles, pops, creaks and bounces just like the 240, but just it with a bit more “sophistication”. The reality? Small, light, fast cars that handle like demons do not ride very well and will tend to loosen your fillings on any road other than mirror smooth. My take: sit back, heel & toe and enjoy the ride.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • ToolGuy: Re: XJ Cherokee This individual (current CEO of Amazon) has a net worth of something like $400 million and...
  • olddavid: I agree. I live where most electricity is generated by hydro and/or nuclear at Hanford. In my travels I see...
  • RHD: Yaffle, dear readers, means an armful, or a green woodpecker. Maybe what the author could have written was...
  • Inside Looking Out: If DeLorean had 14 billion $$ and if he did not betray original engineering team and did not twit...
  • Inside Looking Out: And Saturn.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber