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Original Paint: 1974 Datsun 260Z Survivor

Datsun needed a hit when the 240Z landed on American shores in late 1969.  Called the Fairlady Z in their home market, this handsome sports car with a silky smooth inline six under the hood was the right car for the time.  Four years later, Datsun had steadily improved the car and gave it an updated name.  This 1974 Datsun 260Z for sale on Craigslist in Indianola, Indiana is a very well-kept, low-mileage example of the car that put Datsun, later renamed Nissan, permanently on the map in the United States.  With 62,468 miles on the odometer and all original except for its carburetors and wheels, is this pioneering Japanese sports car worth the $36,500 price tag?  Thanks to T.J. for the amazing find from across the Pacific!

Getting a toehold in the American market was a difficult task for Japanese automakers.  Perhaps the most significant problem was that World War II was still fresh in the minds of most Americans decades after V-J Day.  The Pacific Theater was a slaughterhouse, and few families were untouched by the hostilities.  You also had to consider that the Japanese were a ferocious enemy, and stories of the brutalities of war were told and retold for a long time.  Americans, many still holding grudges, refused to buy any Japanese products and openly browbeat those who did.  In a previous story, I shared an account of my grandfather being cursed out and threatened with a beating for showing up to do some auto glass work in a sixties-era Datsun truck.  The customer had survived the Bataan Death March and was not the forgive-and-forget type.

Another contributing factor was that both Datsun and Toyota were selling cars in North America that were designed for Japan.  Space is at a premium in this island country, and their road system wasn’t as vast, long, and wide as ours.  Like the offerings from Europe, these imports had much smaller engines, and smaller bodies, and didn’t fit in styling-wise with a few exceptions.  On the positive side, the build quality was excellent, and the cars were extremely fuel-efficient compared to American offerings.  With fuel being exceptionally cheap, this wasn’t much of a selling point in America.

That is until oil supply issues turned this country on its ear in the seventies.  The tide did eventually turn in a big way for Japanese manufacturers.  They began to make cars more in line with American tastes and, as people took a chance on driving something different, they started to sell many cars.  One of the most pivotal was the Datsun 240Z.  When this handsomely styled sports car debuted with a price that was only slightly higher than that of an MGB, but with a 2.4 liter inline six under its long hood, sports car fans took notice.  This was a car that sold for low-cost sports car prices but had many of the attributes of much more expensive models from prestigious makers.  Customers flocked to showrooms to pick up a Japanese car that had broad appeal despite their previous misgivings.

By 1974, Datsun was doing very well in America.  Sales of their entire lineup were brisk.  By this time, the bugs had been worked out of the 240Z, and there were ongoing changes due to US safety and emissions regulations.  Despite having a larger 2.6-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, emissions regulations drove horsepower down from 151 to 139 horsepower.  Customers could choose from a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission on what was called the 260Z in 1974 only.  Refinements inside included a new dash and seat trim, a reworked air conditioning system, and the stretching of the chassis to allow for a 2+2 configuration option.  Under the car, the frame rails were stiffened, and an anti-roll bar was added.

As for this 260Z, the seller tells us that the only changes from stock are the aesthetically displeasing mock wire wheels and the carburetors.  In the interest of drivability, the seller replaced the original SU carburetors with Weber 32/36DVGs.  We are told that this remarkable car has been owned by the same family since new and was always well kept, stored in a garage, and never driven in winter.  The paint that you see is original to the car.  Furthermore, it has never been in an accident or restored.  The odometer reads 62,468 miles.

While Z cars were once cheap to purchase, that is no longer the case.  History has a way of rewarding good cars with consistent upticks in their value once they leave the status of used cars behind, and this 260Z is no exception.  Good examples are hard to find due to rust issues and the fact that people just flat-drove the wheels off these cars.  Once they finished flogging these cars teenagers got ahold of a lot of them.  Many a good example met its death this way.  While the price is stiff, this may be a market-correct number.  Even if it is a bit high, just wait.  With inflation making the dollar worth less the steady appreciation that these cars are known for will combine to make it look like a bargain at this price soon.  Buy once and cry once, it seems.

What do you think is a fair market price for this 260Z?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Avatar photo JR

    lol, I was a teen in the late 80’s and beat the snot out of a 260. It got kinda wild over 85mph and the skinny tires were good at peeling out. Girls liked it. For that price should still have the twin, impossible to balance, SU carbs

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo Auric

      @ JR :SU carbs–or the Hitachi SUs used by Datsun–are REALLY EASY to synchronize once you LEARN how. You can use a simple device known as a Unisyn–which tells you when the carbs are in sync–or you can go a cheaper route and merely listen to the hiss of each carb separately through a hose–until you adjust them with a screw driver to have the same pitch. Just because they are not American four-barrel carbs doesn’t mean they are “impossible to balance”!

      Like 5
      • Avatar photo Paul Root

        And if they are worn out, especially the throttle shaft they are impossible to tune.

        Oh, and there is a typo. It’s DGV not DVG.

        Like 0
      • Avatar photo JR

        where were you 35 years ago!

        Like 0
  2. Avatar photo 370zpp Member

    In 1974, my next door neighbor needed a ride to the Datsun Dealer to pick up his new 260Z. He let me drive it with less than 100 miles on it. Unforgettable. nimble, quick, seemingly well made.

    Like 11
    • Avatar photo MrBZ

      I’m jealous, 370. In 1974, my next door neighbor came home with a new red 260Z. I was 14 and fell in love with that car, and I never got to drive it. But it inspired me for decades until I got my 280.

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo Ward William

        I just read your post after posting mine. Similar memories have we young Skywalker.

        Like 0
      • Avatar photo 370zpp Member

        MrBZ, I suppose I was also similarly inspired. In 74 I was lucky enough to have been driving a V6 Capri but later I eventually made my way through a couple of MR2s, followed by a couple of S2000s (03 & 04) after which it was a 350 and then finally a 370Z which I will drive until I can no longer enter or exit it.

        Like 0
    • Avatar photo Peter Pasqualini

      A 1st gen Datsun Z survivor is saying something. Even though this is the least performance, 74, it’s a heck of a nice car.

      Like 0
  3. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    Great cars…styling, engineering and assembly, all top-notch.

    Unfortunately, corrosion-protection, not so much.

    I never had a Z; but I had a PL620 King Cab of that era. It, too, drove better than anything in its class; and it, too, rusted so fast you could hear it.

    It was a long time ago…when men were men, and Nissan was Datsun and made quality cars people wanted…

    Like 7
  4. Avatar photo angliagt Member

    This looks just like one of the Zs that I detailed “back in the day”.
    I think those are the best looking bumpers of the 260/280Zs.
    As the 240s have gone out of sight price-wise,I’d take on of
    these (if the price was right).

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Perry C Dangerfield

      I have a 1973 Zcar, that I can’t restore…it is in storage in my son’s shop. Minimal rust, original engine. It needs some love. I’m 77 and won’t be driving it again sadly.

      Like 3
  5. Avatar photo Timothy K Gallagher

    I brought a new 1972 240Z in that color. Lots of looks while I was driving. Dollar for dollar pound for pound best car I ever had. Unfortunately it was stolen in 1982. I ever hit lotto it will be first thing I buy

    Like 3
  6. Avatar photo justpaul

    Amazing condition for an unrestored Z car. Someone took very good care of this old girl.

    Like 8
  7. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Guess I wasn’t paying attention but I’ve never seen a Z that color. Nice to see one that’s not a rust bucket.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Mark

      I had one I bought new. Great car except for those original carbs. Ran ok in normal driving, but if you wanted to push it, it was a dog.

      Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Ward William

    In Australia when I was 13 in 1974, I met an old retired guy with a showroom condition black 240Z and while I knew him, he soon upgraded to a black 260Z. Love and lust at first sight of the 240Z for me but my love ends at the 280Z, and even then, it had gotten too big and complicated IMHO. I live in Brazil these days so not possible to own one easily but a 240Z or a 260Z for me if I had the chance. And this cool old fella would damn near lick his car clean on a daily basis. Childhood car memories.

    Like 6
  9. Avatar photo Rob

    I had one of these when I was 18 or 19. The carburetor replacement was required. It ran like crap until you did this.

    Mine was also an IN car, and to say that they attracted rust is like saying Oprah likes buffets. If this is actually as it looks, it’s a miracle survivor.

    Like 3
  10. Avatar photo Martin Dooley

    Had a new 260Z from the show room and performed flawlessly. Only annoyance was seat belts inertial wheel would lock unless belt was pulled very slowly and seat belts had to be fastened or the car would not start. This car looks reasonably well preserved but there will be some maintenance like new plug wires to replace the one single red plug wire, leaking engine or transmission oil, possible clutch replacement. Parts are available but not cheap.

    Like 3
  11. Avatar photo BobS

    I believe Indianola is in Iowa not Indiana. I’m not a fan of the silver covers that were added to the rockers. And the dealer logo on the hatch is really ugly.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo bobhess Member

      Rocker cover is cast aluminum. What would you do, paint it green?

      Like 3
      • Avatar photo Rallye Member

        I think he was speaking of the stuff on the rocker panels. Odd there’s not a straight from the side photo.

        Like 1
    • Avatar photo JWK

      Yes, Indianola is in Iowa, been there. I also agree the rocker panel covers are odd. Maybe trying to cover up something? The price on this may be a bit steep as far as I am concerned, but if the long time owner is selling now, its most likely because of the rise is value of these early Z cars…time to “cash in” so to speak.

      Like 1
  12. Avatar photo kebbiker

    My former wife owned this exact car down to the same color and it was a great fun little car exception for on a hot day. And then you might just as well leave it sitting at home because it would vapor lock and leave you sitting on the side of the road until it cooled off. Once cooled off, away we would go, headed for home hoping we’d make it before it would once again vapor lock and spit and sputter to a stop. Finally enough was enough and down the road it went. Who could have known that one day it would have been worth this kind of money?

    Like 3
  13. Avatar photo Neil R Norris

    Great memories of beating my buddy’s 240 … love this one.

    Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Eldomon

    My first new car out of college was a copper colored 260Z. Got mine up to about 125mph when I realized I was no longer steering the Z.
    Paid around 6 grand. Loaded 4 speed with air.

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo J. Graham

    Some good facts about the 1 year only 260Z. But, you are off on couple. The 260Z came in 2 versions for the single model year…an early and a late version. The late ’74 version got the even more improved stiffer chassis of the 280Z. Also, the horsepower was upped to 165hp…more than the 240Z had. Also, the added weight was mainly from chassis upgrades and internal door beams, not because of the bigger bumpers as most people like to claim. Also, there were only approximately 4000 late versions built…pretty rare.

    Like 0

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