One Year Only: 1974 Datsun 260Z

For many years, Datsun’s Z-car range remained a sleeper within the classic car scene. It wasn’t that long ago that potential buyers could wander out with $10,000 in their pocket and drive home in a pretty tidy example. Today, that same money will generally secure a car that is pretty ratty and rusty. Our feature car is a 1974 Datsun 260Z that is neither ratty nor rusty and appears to be ready for some enjoyable classic motoring. Adding to its appeal is the fact that it is the coveted two-seat version rather than the less desirable 2+2 version. If all of this seems to be ticking the right boxes on your Wish List, you will find the 260Z located in Menomonie, Wisconsin, and listed for sale here on eBay. Some relatively solid bidding has pushed the price along to $13,100, although that figure remains short of the reserve.

While the 260Z remained on sale in international markets for five years, Datsun only offered it in the US for the 1974 model year before the 280Z superseded it. That makes cars like this a relative rarity, although a few gray imports have popped up on occasions. This one presents superbly in Emerald Green Metallic, a shade that the company only offered across their entire passenger car range for two model years. It isn’t clear whether anyone has treated the car to any restoration work, but the is nothing obvious to suggest this in the supplied photos. It shines beautifully, and the pale pinstripe offers a subtle contrast. There are no blemishes or marks worth mentioning and no evidence of dings or dents. However, the best news comes when we reach the subject of rust. It is no secret that it is one of the greatest enemies of these gems and can consume rockers, lower rear quarter panels, floors, and the area surrounding the rear hatch opening. However, this car has suffered none of those problems. It appears to be rock-solid, and I can’t spot any obvious areas that have been treated to previous repairs. The wheels might not be to everyone’s taste, but their style is in keeping with a vehicle of this type and age. The trim and chrome are in excellent order, and there are no visible problems with the glass.

When we turn our attention to the Datsun’s interior, we are confronted with plenty of good news tempered by one sour note. The vinyl upholstery is generally in good condition for its age, although there are a couple of minor imperfections in the driver’s seat. These are not large enough to justify replacing the cover at present, but a canny buyer should probably consult an upholsterer to see if they can be blind-patched before they deteriorate further. The unique quilted vinyl on either side of the transmission tunnel appears excellent. This is significant because finding replacement material can be a battle. The carpet looks fine, and the only aftermarket additions that I can spot are a Sony radio/cassette player with speakers cut into the rear cargo area. For those who like their comfort touches, the original owner ordered the Datsun with factory air conditioning. The plastic has avoided the type of deterioration and crumbling that can be common, but that leads us to the one aspect of the interior that could cause heartache for potential buyers. These early Z-cars can be prone to cracks developing in the dash top, and this car is no exception. I can spot a couple of pretty large ones, which will leave the buyer with some options to consider. The first would be to ignore it and hope that the problem goes away. Since this is an unlikely scenario, the buyer could invest $100 in a cover to hide the issue from prying eyes. The next rung up the ladder would be one of those glue-on caps. They are available in plastic, approximating the original finish, although some companies also offer a leather version. Prices range from $200 to $500. If neither of those options thrills the buyer, reproduction pieces are readily available for $800. These are the sleeper in the field because they look surprisingly similar in texture and appearance to the real thing. I haven’t found anyone who has had one of these long-term, so I don’t know how they survive when they cop extended UV exposure. The top of the ladder brings us to the restored originals, which can make your eyes water. Potential buyers would need to have around $2,500 to secure one of these, which is not a cheap investment. Still, that should give potential buyers plenty of options to consider.

It appears that this 260Z is a numbers-matching car that a previous owner treated to a few performance upgrades. The 2,565cc OHC six-cylinder engine would have produced 139hp when it was new, and this found its way to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. If the driver pointed the car at a ¼ mile, the journey should be over in around 17.5 seconds. The seller admits that the vehicle has received a few performance upgrades but that the previous owner performed these. The twin Hitachi carburetors have made way for a new intake and a four-barrel from the good people at Edelbrock. The original cast iron exhaust manifold has gone the way of the dodo, and there are tubular headers in its place. Unfortunately, the previous owner didn’t include the removed parts in the sale, so if the buyer seeks originality, they may have to hunt for the factory components. I had no trouble finding good secondhand carburetors with the intake and air cleaner assembly for around $400, so returning everything to factory specifications will not break the bank. The owner indicates that he currently uses the vehicle for car shows but that it runs and drives well. It seems that if the buyer isn’t fussed about the upgrades, this is a turn-key classic that is ready to be enjoyed immediately.

I mentioned that these earlier Z-cars are strong performers in the market, which was an understatement. Enthusiasts have developed a strong affection for these classics, and that has seen values across the board virtually double in the past five years. You will struggle to find an original and respectable example in today’s market for under $20,000, while spotless cars regularly change hands for more than $50,000. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bidding on this one went beyond $20,000 before the hammer falls. It is a gem of a car, so if one of these is on your Wish List, it might be worth keeping an eye on this auction.

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    Car presents nicely. The 260 used to be a relative bargain compared to the original 240Z but that no longer seems the case. I’m not sure if the single carb conversion gives up any power over the original set but that air cleaner has to be restrictive so that would be the first to go if it were mine. Also I was just talking to another automotive nut who owned a 74 260Z. He said the carbs were sealed and not adjustable and that it took a specialist to modify them like the 73 and earlier carbs so maybe that’s why the originals were removed. In addition they used coolant to heat the carbs and there was a bunch of special coolant hoses that were dealer only back in the day.

    Like 5
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Confused on ‘they used coolant to heat the carbs’ comment alphasud. Can you help me out?

      Like 2
      • CraigR

        It seems to not make sense but routing coolant near or through carbs was done to prevent carburetor icing in winter.

        Like 5
      • Paul T Root

        On the MGB with the ZS, the coolant was routed for the auto choke. Not sure it that’s the case here.

        As to the carb not being adjustable, they might have been set I the factory and then capped so they weren’t messed with, fairly common at the time.
        Rebuilding them is probably expensive, like SUs.

  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    K & N Filters makes several air filters that are larger and would fit in that space. Never got to drive a Z with the 4 barrel conversion but met an owner with one and he said there was a noticeable difference in power and torque. Never been large on green cars but his one is a great find.

    Like 6
  3. MrBZ

    Back in my Zcar.com days, the word was that the 4bbl swap was the way to go for the 260’s, both for power and reliability. Haven’t been able to drive one, yet!

    Like 4
  4. mel surbrook

    Have a fully dressed 1983 280Z motor in my garage that I bought in 1984. Has 12,652 miles on it and has the 5 speed trans, drive shaft and ECM with it. would like to sell it if anyone was interested. The mileage is what was on the damaged car’s odometer. Pistons have been oiled and turned each year. Would need to be picked up in east Tennessee.

    Like 1
  5. DRV

    The original carb set up caused my brother to put a 350 in his when new. The kit was very popular at the time .

    Like 1
  6. kebbiker

    my future wife owned a 260 Z and it was a great little car and a blast to drive. i’m happy as heck to have read all the comments regarding the carb situation on them as it was the one and only complaint i eve had as long as we owned that car. every time it was hot out like about 80-85 and we’d be out the car would vapor lock and there we’d be sitting on the side of the street or road waiting for everything to cool off. whose idea was it i wonder to run cooling hoses near or through the carbs in the first place? absolutely worse idea i ever heard of and now i completely understand the reason for the problem we constantly had.

    Like 1
  7. Greg ray

    Put the holly on in 1986. Solved all my problems

    Like 1
  8. Frank Rizzo

    Yep, I had one (a 1974) and it would vapor lock horribly in So Calif heat. The 73-74 carbs were more emission control devices than carburetors.

    Never seen a 260 with factory air, most were dealer installed. The emissions label under the hood specs a “1976” model year….thats odd.

  9. bog

    I was a former member of the “Windy City Z Club”, and the board had to have a special meeting to allow my membership, as I was the first to apply as the owner of a brand new 280ZX. Several of them had the opportunity to thank me later that Summer, as I was the trail driver in the “convoy” going home from Road America. I carried a huge ice chest and it still had plenty of ice and left-over refreshments. Several of the 240s and 260s got vapor lock at the various toll gates on the way back, and my “stash” of ice came in handy. Never knew the older models had that issue until those trips.

    Like 2
  10. Gary

    My uncle had a turbo 280? Z he bought new, I’m not sure what year. It ran really well and he liked except the front fender rotted through in about 18 months. They warrantied the repairs and he traded it off for Audi. I drove a Rx7 with a 750 Holley, electrical fuel pump and a header. That car would really move.

    Like 2
    • JMB#7

      As much as I love the Z cars & have fond memories of rallys in one.. I currently still own a 1982 RX7.

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