Are you a huge fan of Japanese sports cars? The Datsun 240Z stands among popular classic cars as the defining vehicle that established the new-to-North America manufacturer as a valid competitor against Detroit muscle.
A Japanese Sports Car Designed to Take On the 1970s European and American Market
While the Mustang and Camaro were stealing the hearts of North American sports car enthusiasts back in the 60s, Nissan struggled to gain serious traction in California showrooms. Dr. Sakuri developed the Datsun 240Z as an affordable two-seater that not only delivered a spirited ride but featured a unique appearance unlike any other in its segment.
Sold in Japan as the 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z, the savvy marketing team knew that giving the compact sports hatch such a feminine name would kill its sales potential for the horsepower hungry buyers across the Pacific. Instead, they dropped the name and awarded it the Datsun 240Z moniker.
For just a little over $3,500, you could take home the athletic machine that looked a little like an Aston Martin or two-door Jaguar while spending only $200 more than the 97-horsepower MGB-GT.
Its youthful appearance, sporty engineering, and low-price thrilled drivers. More than 16,000 vehicles sold in its first year. By the end of the run for the 240Z in 1974, nearly 100,000 could be found in garages across the U.S. and Canada.
The Specs that Make the Datsun 240Z Something Special
The magic of the Datsun 240Z by and large happened under the sheet metal. Design-wise, its engineers did not bother trying to include enough room to fit the kids. A pair of sport bucket seats took care of the driver and a passenger. The hatch gave you access to the spare tire and enough room to stow a small bag of tools and a briefcase. Its sole purpose was to explore winding roads.
Under the hood sat the 2.4L inline six-cylinder engine that churned out 151 horsepower, which offered 30 hp more than the Ford Mustang four-litre six. You could order your 240Z with a four-speed manual transmission or a three-speed automatic. But if you wanted to really drive, the manual took full advantage of its 146 lb-ft. of torque.
The suspension and steering responded beautifully to winding country roads with independent front struts with coil springs. The shock absorbers use telescopic technology. Rack and pinion steering was standard. The rear suspension featured lower wishbones and an anti-roll bar.
Braking was fairly standard with rear drum and front discs, but that was to allow for the easy installation of the required parking brake.
From the moment that you slid behind the wheel and hit the accelerator; this machine revved its way into every enthusiast’s heart.
The Datsun 240Z and Its Crowded Trophy Case
Of course, if you want to successfully market a sports car, it needs to build a reputation on the track to support its growing popularity on the streets. Nissan sent its Datsun 240Z across the world to gather trophies. It scored an overall, class, team, and manufacturer’s trophy at the 1971 East African Safari Rally. Back home in Japan, it won the 1,000 km Suzuka race. In America, it racked up the ribbons with an SCCA championship for 1970, ’71, ’72, and ’73.
By the time the Datsun 260Z hit the showrooms in 1974, the Z was firmly ensconced on the podium with other European and American sports cars as a serious competitor and fun ride for young drivers.
Shopping for a Collector 240Z Today: What Will You Pay?
How much will you spend to add a Datsun 240Z to your classic car collection? While one pristine 240Z sold for more than $300,000 in May of 2021 at Bring a Trailer and another rolled off the block for $124,000, this ride remains one of the more affordable sports cars on the market.
The NADA Guide says the average 240Z will sell for around $30,000 and one that needs some TLC can be picked up for just $15,000.
In the end, if you want to know why there is so much buzz surrounding the launch of the 2023 Nissan Z, you only have to look at the 1970 Datsun 240Z. It is still known as the popular classic car that permanently placed Nissan in the North American market for practical commuter cars and exciting but affordable rides.