Saturday, May 19, 2012

1971 Datsun 240Z
Restoration World
Review #5

The sports car that 
made us rethink the 
Japanese import

Datsun 240Z

Like my old Willys Jeep, the Datsun Fairlady - or 240Z - is a real conversation starter. Pull up to the gas pumps in nearly any antique vehicle, and people are going to talk to you. 

They'll have stories, oh, do they have stories...'I used to drive one of these in high school'....'my dad had one of these'......

And that's all right. I like talking to people. 

But the car today is extra special.

The 240 was actually my very first car, and you always have a certain love for your first car. Mine was Coca-Cola brown, a factory color, and I wrecked it in under two weeks. 

Then I moved on to antique Volvos. I know what you are thinking. There is nothing lamer than a Volvo, but I think the old ones are cool.

Anyhow, the 240 is a special car for several reasons. It is affordable, beaters starting at $3,000 - and going up to $10,000 for a really good one. 

The history of the Z car is well documented, so we don't need to go into that. Shamefully, however, Nissan denied the original designer's involvement until threatened by lawsuit. Albrecht Goertz, the man behind the BMW 507, finally got his due.

And we all know what a massive hit the 240 was once it came to the states. Extremely well priced, extremely fast and extremely good-looking. It was inevitable, really. The Z was an instant collectible. This is good news for us, because the massive amount of aftermarket parts make the old 240 easy to take care of.

I have worked on the 240 from front to back, and they are blindingly simple beasts. The electrics are straight-forward, and the motor is a bullet-proof 2.4 liter overhead cam inline six with either two or three SU carbs that are easy to tune. 

The tranny most available is a four-speed, stay away from the auto version. Air-conditioning came on some, get rid of it, along with any smog equipment. You don't need that crap slowing you down at the track.

The right exhaust can make a big difference, as can tuning the suspension - especially the anti-roll bars and Chapman struts. Upgrade the rear brakes to disks if you get the chance.

Datsun got this one right

The 240 is a superb track car, and tough as nails. Unlike English track cars, there are tons of ways to improve 240 performance via the aftermarket. The interior is easy - get the seats recovered, order a carpet kit and a plastic dash cover and it'll look good as new.

Rust was a problem with the 240, so check the door sills and foot wells. I personally believe that you get a lot for your money with a decent 240.

The 240Z is very much comparable to the Acura NSX in it's day....a supercar without the supercar price. 

As earlier readers know, I have decided to implement the 'Joy Osmanski Factor' to determine if a old car is worth fixing up. 

Basically, will it be cool enough for Joy to go for a ride in?

Joy had this to say: 

"I would have given the Datsun 240 five stars, but I couldn't find the Blue-Tooth connector anywhere! So, four and a half stars."


What is your favorite 
Japanese import? 

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