By on November 30, 2015

1972 Datsun 240Z

I was turning sixteen the autumn of my junior year in high school, and if I wanted to get a job, I needed a car. Ideally, I’d have begun working at 14 and saved up myself, but I lived several miles from anywhere a teenager could reasonably expect to find gainful employment.

Dad took pity on me and offered to give me a car. Not just any car, mind you, but a pristine 1973 Datsun 240Z that he and I had done a mechanical restoration on. However, the Z had never seen snow, and I told my dad that it would be a crime to subject the Z to an Ohio winter.

So he sold it, and used the proceeds to buy me an ’85 Nissan Maxima. I’m still kicking myself.

Clearly, the collector value of the 240Z has risen a bit since the early ’90s. Back then I’d be surprised if dad got more than $4,000 for his car. These days, it would likely pull between $15-20k easily, like the 1972 Datsun 240Z featured today. The Z is the OG Japanese sports car. While they were built in large numbers, few clean original examples remain today due to the dual threats of rust and tuners.

This one, like most clean Zs, is in California. Cali cars tend to have great sheetmetal, but sun-baked, cracked interiors. This one looks pretty good on both fronts, though it has been repainted. The seller hasn’t posted any photos under the hood, but mentions that a later 2.8 liter block has been fitted, as well as a five-speed transmission which will help a bit on long highway cruises.

I don’t love the polished slot mag alloy wheels, but they were such a common dealer add-on to replace the ugly factory hubcaps that they still look right. I’d either fit Panasports — like we did to the ’73 that got away — or VTO replicas of the American Racing Libre wheels that ran on the BRE race cars.

I will own a vintage Z someday. This one is not far from being perfect, and I keep looking around the house for things I can sell to afford this. Anyone need a spleen?

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36 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 1972 Datsun 240Z...”


  • avatar
    seth1065

    Great car that brings back memories I had a beat to hell 72 in 1986 , it was way past its time but still the magic was there. If I went down that road again and I would love to I would have to pass on this one, I would want one as Datsun made them, 4 speed and the correct engine, God what great cars they were and still are.

  • avatar
    mason

    I wonder what the engine came out of. To my knowledge there weren’t any carburated 28 series engines in the Z line up? Unless perhaps it was an E series from a later 280 with carbs retrofitted.

    I never owned a 240 but have had a few 280zs, my favorite was the first gen 78. No power steering, no AC. Manual windows, locks, etc. Very basic but fun car to drive. The 240 is at the top of the Z car list to own but I’d take another clean 1st gen 280 if the opportunity was there.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris Tonn

      Likely a retrofit. The L28 was the same basic block as the L24 originally installed in the 240Z, just with a longer stroke and bigger bore. Very common to put an older head (E31 casting code IIRC was the hot head for racing, I think it yielded higher compression, though the E88 was a close second) on a big bore L28.

      For those who want even more, Nissan used the same basic dimension for a diesel LD28. The longer stroke crankshaft from the diesel could be used (with some work, natch) on the gas L28 block to get close to 3.1 liter displacement. I’ve heard of 3.1s with plenty of headwork and triple Webers putting out 300+ hp.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      This brings back memories of my 1977 280z (5-speed manual, fuel-injection, McPherson struts at all four corners). Loved that car, but the multiple transmission rebuilds (due to bearing failure) started eating me out of house and home.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Needz moar LS swap!

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      As popular as they are an LS swap ruins these cars IMO. I’d rather build on the existing power plant and maintain the cars balance, but that’s just me.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The LS weighs under 100 lbs more than the L24 when fully dressed. It also weighs less than 50 lbs more than the L28 that is in this car.

        LSX FTW

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          That’s not including the gear box. Ive heard of the stock gear box surviving for a while behind a stock small block but to do it right another gear box is needed, which adds more weight. Then you have to address the cooling system, fabricate a driveshaft, mounts, etc. I’ve ridden in a few when I ran my car at Nelsons Ledges and they felt heavier in the corners than my car.

          For the money you would spend on an engine and everything associated with the swap, you can build a real screamer out of these inlines. Unless one does it for drag racing purposes which is not what these cars were purpose built for,the LS1 swap just doesn’t make that much sense.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I just want to LS swap all the things. It’s a sickness.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            All true. My C4 auto was heavy, it’s bell housing forced the block forward, the 3 core radiator added weight even further forward, and yet, it still insisted on lifting the fronts whenever I launched with slicks and occasionally on street tires. I would have wrecked it if it were stock; it sure didn’t survive the way it was.

          • 0 avatar
            mason

            Say no more! I understand perfectly, although my sickness generally comes in the form of compression ignition engines.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          If my experience with a 351W in a 72 z is relevant, the weight ends up too far forward with the V8 swap. It was a pig. A 10 second pig. DAMN I miss that car.

  • avatar
    Boff

    FAST!

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Save your spleen.

    Waaay back in the early 70’s when I was just about to get my license, my father agreed to buy me a used economy car. I didn’t really like that idea all that much, so I sold the motorcycle I’d bought with money I’d saved doing odd jobs, added it to the money he was going to spend on my car, and bought a new Opel Manta. The Manta had a nice interior, great chassis and brakes, and no power. In other words, it was perfect for a teenager. I drove it until 1975, when my father pronounced my car as having “no class”, at which time he took it back and provided me with a used 1972 240Z. The Z car was faster, but that was about all that it did better. The interior was not as nice as the Opel’s, with this odd quilted vinyl covering much of the interior, and a pretty substantial rip in the seat despite only being three years old. The throttle had this kind of odd hair trigger response point where it would go from barely open to about half open over a very small range of pedal movement, and it was a challenge to start on cold mornings as well. By the time it had 40,000 miles the springs had sagged and the struts needed replacing, along with the steering rack bushings.

    Mine had the stock steel wheels, which we replaced with a set of American Racing Vector wheels, which I think are a better look than the near-ubiquitous slot mags that this car has.

    There’s really not much collectible from this era that’s reasonably priced. The desirable long hood 911s and 914-6’s are too expensive, the Corvettes of this era are boulevardiers rather than sports cars, and most of the muscle cars had gone extinct.

    • 0 avatar
      CliffG

      i have to second this comment,my friend had one and it seemed crude compared to some of the other stuff out there, keeping in mind the deterioration factor of almost everything made at that time moved at light speed. It was faster than most, and certainly well priced, but if you had a GTV or 2002 you had a nicer car.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I’ll take the counterpoint on this one. A ’73 with a new engine might be great, but the ’73 240Z was one of the rare POS that Datsun had. Down 25 Hp compared to the ’72 model, the ’73 also ran hotter and had an interesting routing of fuel lines near the block. Vapor lock anyone?? I, and several friends, had this model. Mine did not run for 30 consecutive days in the 14 months I owned it. Those who stuck it out longer, eventually had some sort of Datsun fix for the problems, but the rapid shift of Datsun to the 260Z and then the 280Z, showed that the fix was a poor stop gap. I had insulated the fuel line and changed the thermostat to a 165 degree unit, but this only ameliorated, not solved, the problems. Living in Los Angeles, there were random smog checks streetside, so I was loathe to put major dollars into a new fuel system. Otherwise the car was great both in handling and styling. The bigger fuel injected engine (280Z) solved the problem, but added some weight (along with the new mandated bumpters) to a great car. Clearly the OP’s modifications led to a car seriously improved from the factory stock.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      You are 100 percent correct, the ’73, if it has the stock engine and emissions, was the least desirable of the series. My father made it a point to find a ’72 model for me.

      • 0 avatar
        Chris Tonn

        ’73 (and the ’74 260Z) got the flat-top carbs, rather than the SU-knockoffs found on the early cars. We yanked the emissions stuff and fitted the early carbs to the ’73 mentioned in the article.

  • avatar
    JMII

    It’s a Z and it’s orange? +100 internet points for you today :)

  • avatar
    Lythandra

    There was a very nicely restored one (240) by me not long ago. Saw it on CL and I took a few days to research it but by the time I went back to CL to send the guy a message the ad was down.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Now that is a real Nissan. Not this crap Nissan/Infiniti has been putting out for the past 10 years. G for gspot. Qx for crossdressing. I also don’t remember Nissan transmissions blowing up after 40k miles like current Nissan products. Or putting 15-30 percent on the hood to sell their cars.

  • avatar
    Jeff G 78

    The BRE 240Z’s ran American Racing LeMans wheels, not the Libre wheels. Otherwise, great article. VTO sells both LeMans and Libre.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris Tonn

      D’oh. I knew that..thanks for the correction.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff G 78

        My very first Datsun was an orange ’72 240Z with slot mags. I bought it in 1984. Unfortunately, it was pretty rusty and wasn’t worth restoring. I saved what I could and scrapped the rest. I still run the SU carbs from that orange ’72 on my 260Z endurance race car in place of the boat anchor flat tops.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    This is the car I am currently longing for.

    I use the word longing because I don’t know if I actually want one…but I do want one..

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I never cared much for these myself; too much before my time. As for a collectible, the one to get is the Z432 (leftover S20s from the GT-R program), but you’ll pay through multiple orifices for it.

  • avatar
    lon888

    I bought a 73 240Z in 1976 for my first car. I loved that car because it was so simple and basic. I drove it for many and finally sold it 1986. I wish I had it back. If I could get it back I’d drop in a twin turbo engine and gearbox from a JDM Skyline. It would be an almost 240ZG. Adding the ZG nose and miniltes would be the finishing touch.

  • avatar
    ktm

    I own a 1972 240z that looked *just* like the one pictured, down to the color and the slotted mags. I say looked as the car is far from stock now.

    As my sig states on the forums I peruse for the Z, only the shell is stock. I painted it Audi Solar Orange, and it sports (of note) an LS1, built 4L60E, vented front discs, rear discs, 3.70 LSD, and 16×8 wheels with 245 Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 tires (200 treadware). The actual modification list is extensive.

    The car is great stock, but a bit wallowy (compared to modern cars) in the corners due to the low spring rate. The L24/28 engines are music to any enthusiasts ears and I never tire of hearing one wound up in the RPM band.

    The cars have one notable issue, though, that affects daily driving them – exhaust smell. Due to the aerodynamics of the car, a large vacuum is created right behind the tail lights. Unless the seals are perfect, you tend to pull the exhaust into the car with both windows down. There are a few fixes for this, but most 240zs smell like gas and exhaust on the inside. Nothing that can’t be remedied though.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff G 78

      Love your car KTM. The exhaust smell is a Z thing for sure. Everybody knows that you have been in a Z. Your clothes have that famous Z smell and you have a stupid grin on your face. Then again, the grin could be from the fumes.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    One of my WORST automotive moves EVER- trading my 280Z for a Merkur XR4Ti

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’m probably the only person out there who would rather have a 280ZX than a 240Z, but, well, it’s true.

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