Driving Project: 1971 Datsun 240Z

It’s funny how we can go for months here at Barn Finds without seeing a particular model classic, but then a couple will arrive on our desks in rapid succession. Such is the case with the Datsun 240Z. I hadn’t had the opportunity to write about one for months, but this is my second in a little over a week. This 240Z offers its buyer some intriguing choices, but they will be commencing their restoration with a car that runs and drives. If one of these classic Japanese sports cars has been on your radar, you will find this one located in Auburn, Georgia, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding currently sits at $3,550, and given the potential value that is locked away in this car, I’m not surprised that this figure is short of the reserve.

If I consider every version of Datsun’s iconic Z-car range, the 240Z has always rated as my favorite. I know that later models offered more power, comfort, and refinement, but they all came lumbered with extra weight. The 240Z was far closer to the definition of a classic sports car because it was light, nimble, and the driving experience was more “raw” and involving. This ’71 model is a complete classic, but the tired nature of its original Lime paint is an indication that the buyer will face some work if they want to return it to its former glory. The panels wear a few dings and dents, but these all look repairable. All of the trim is present, but some will require a trip to the platers to achieve an as-new appearance. The glass generally looks good, although the hatch glass is only sitting in place. The buyer will need to reinstall this, but the seller includes all of the seals required to achieve this. That inevitably brings us to the question of rust. This little Datsun hasn’t avoided this problem, and it has grabbed all of the usual areas. These include the rear quarter panels, rockers, floors, and the area around the rear hatch opening. None of the problems are severe, and all are repairable. That is where the options begin to broaden for potential buyers. The seller’s business specializes in producing reproduction pieces for Z-cars. It appears that they could be a ready source of replacement steel that would address these problems. It would be an option worth investigating because it could represent a one-stop option for whipping this body back into a factory-fresh state. It would also be worth exploring whether the seller may consider a package deal of the car and parts, which could save some money on this restoration. It would be worth asking the question because the worst that they could say would be no.

One of the 240Z’s weakest points has always been the interior. It doesn’t respond kindly to UV exposure or extreme heat, and deterioration can be epic. That is the case with our feature car, and it will need nothing less than a total restoration. The dash is badly cracked, and while a reproduction will cost the buyer $800, a restored unit will add an eye-watering $2,500 to this project. The upholstered surfaces are toast, with the seats needing covers and foam. While the dash will cost a pretty penny, returning the rest of the interior to its original splendor could be an affordable undertaking. I located a company that produces kits on a made-to-order basis. Their quality looks pretty promising, and their kits appear to be in the correct materials, colors, and patterns. They retail for under $1,200, although this price doesn’t include seat foam. These will add a further $400 to refurbish both seats, which isn’t that bad. Leaving the dash out of the equation, the rest of the interior would look as-new for around $1,600, which looks competitive compared to other classics of the same age.

This 240Z is a numbers-matching car that features a 2,393cc OHC six-cylinder engine and a four-speed manual transmission. Pumping out 151hp, that motor could propel the 2,350lb “Z” through the ¼ mile in 16.5 seconds. These L-Series Datsun engines are amongst the most bulletproof to emerge from the land of the rising sun. About their only weakness is the occasional blown head gasket, although I’ve seen them remain untouched for 200,000 miles with nothing more than factory-specified maintenance. The owner says that our feature car runs and drives and that he has recently treated it to a new clutch master and slave cylinder. He has also installed new plugs, plug wires, a distributor cap, and terminals. He indicates that it will take little more than some minor tuning to return the car to a roadworthy state. That offers the possibility of the buyer enjoying this Datsun immediately and undertaking the restoration work as time and circumstances allow.

For years, the Datsun 240Z was a sleeper in the classic market, and it was possible to find some pretty nice examples for around $10,000. Today, buyers need to adjust their expectations because those same cars now fetch around $30,000. If a buyer seeks automotive perfection, the price can easily double. Values continue to climb to the point where they could move out of the reach of mere mortals. That’s why this 240Z is worth a closer look. It needs some work, but it may represent one of the most affordable ways to get a foot in the door. It has already generated plenty of interest, so it will be interesting to see if any of our readers are tempted to join the bidding party.


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  1. Gary

    It will be swiss cheese like after a trip in the stripping tank.

    Like 4
  2. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    There’s a lot more rust here than meets the eye initially. Good of the seller to show the underside with the hole in the floor. The rear deck is a different color than the rest of the car by at least one hue. There’s clearly bondo work around and under the gas filler. The rockers are crusty and the left door is either not closed or doesn’t close. The engine bay looks clean and the interior would be the least of my worries if I were the buyer. The prices quoted don’t account for recovering the seats and creating a new carpet from scratch as a DIY. I just did the seats in leather, created my own carpet, and replaced the top on my 1989 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce for less than $1000. It’s the rust that some cheesy paint is covering that I’d be worried about. If you can buy one in decent shape for $25-30K, you’ll be into more than that putting this one in shape. Gary is right…the stripping tank or soda blaster will not be your friend.

    Like 1
  3. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    SOLD for $7,300.


    Funny, back in 1984, I bought a 72 240Z for @$1700. Kinda a salmon orange. Automatic wA/C. Redid the interior, rebuilt carbs, head gasket, recored radiator, resealed engine, resealed transmission, new struts, door and hatch gaskets, new exhaust,ball joints, brakes, did all the bodywork, primed and painted Chevy Hugger Orange, wet sanded and buffed. Installed chrome bullet racing mirrors. It was really stunning. Ended up selling it for $2800. Good times.

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