Running Project: 1971 Datsun 240Z

There are classics that everyone expected to be collectible from day one and those that people loved but never thought people would be paying huge sums of money for one day. I’d put the Datsun 240Z in the latter category. When these cars debuted, they were a hit. Dealers couldn’t keep them in showrooms. Much of the excitement surrounding the car was just how much performance and good looks you were getting for the money, they really were a steal when you consider that a base model Porsche 911T cost twice as much! While there was lots of enthusiasm for them, most were driven hard until something either broke or rusted away. That means finding a solid project has become a bit of a challenge. This example is entirely rust-free, but it’s better than most of the ones we’ve seen and the worst issues appear to have already been fixed. If you’d love to get one before values climb much higher, you can find this one here on eBay in Lawrenceville, Georgia with a current high bid of $5,000 and no reserve!

Datsun executives knew they couldn’t compete head-on against Germany’s best, but they did know if they could build a much more affordable car that could nearly match their competitors in performance and looks, they could succeed. And so that’s exactly what they did. At the lower end, they offered the 510, which took aim right at the BMW 2002. The 240Z was targeted at Jaguar’s E-Type and Porsche’s 911T. And while their cars did offer great value, it wasn’t until Datsun took them racing that American’s took notice. From the late ’60s on through the ’80s, you couldn’t go to a racing series without seeing at least one Datsun (or Nissan) on the track. This strategy proved incredibly successful for the brand. As a matter of fact, I’m sure there are plenty of you that still associate names like Paul Newman, Bob Sharp, and John Morton with Datsun Racing as a result of their efforts.

The sleek lines of the 240Z are what brought most buyers in to look, but it was the 2.4-liter inline-six that usually sealed the deal. With 151 horsepower, this smooth running engine gave much more expensive cars a run for their money. This one has been given a recent tune-up and is said to run well. It looks tidy in the engine bay, but it looks like a few components are missing. The seller also notes that the engine might need valve adjustment, as there are some slight ticking noises. Datsun’s weren’t known for rustproofing or having the highest quality interiors, but these engines are well known for their durability and quality.

Having experienced early 240Zs, I can understand the appeal of owning one of these. They look great, are comfortable to drive, make a great noise, and are truly fun to drive. At the same time, I can attest that the interior feels cheap, especially compared to a Porsche. And while they are still quite a bit cheaper to buy than a 911, parts aren’t that much cheaper for them. This one is going to need work to be an exceptional example, but it looks like you could actually start driving it with minimal work. Fixing rust will be the biggest challenge, but the price seems right for the condition! So, are you a Z fan or would you rather own one of the cars it competed with when new?

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    If the underside shots are good then this might be worth buying. Rust coming through the A pillars is not a good sign. The really thin metal with no rust proofing on the back side is what kills these cars. I would not touch this one until I used one of the meters that measures paint and metal depth. Welded one of these together for a friend in the early ’90s and could not believe the level of rust on the other side of the paint all over the car.

    Like 6
  2. H5mind

    I had a 260Z which the guy selling assured me only had “surface rust”. What he neglected to mention is it was on BOTH sides of every surface. I wonder if they licked this problem with the factory 240Z recreations they built back in the 90’s to celebrate one of the Z-car’s anniversaries- does anyone remember those? Nissan scoured the world for the cleanest donor chassis and then painstakingly remanufactured them in Japan. Other than some modern finishes, they were 100% OEM. You could buy one for I believe $25,000, which I thought at the time was a steal. They are so rare it seems even Nissan Motors forgot about them, as they are not mentioned in their history of anniversary models. Or am I suffering from the ‘Mandela Effect’?

    Like 3
    • Richard Krouson

      This was back in the late 90’s when Nissan was on the edge of going under. At the time they were celebrating their past because the cars they were selling at the time were not worth bragging about. They had trouble getting good cars to restore. So the program went away. It was the partnership with Renault that saved them.

      Like 4
    • Little_Cars

      Not forgotten, H5mind. There is at least one recreation on display at the Nissan Heritage Collection in Nashville, TN. Unfortunately permanently shuttered due to budget cutbacks and COVID-19. Several dozen showed up for one of the Z-specific shows a few years ago in Memphis.

  3. Robert Thomas

    My Aunt in California had a 280Z, with very low miles that I could have bought for $6,000 back in 1988. Fun to drive, always kick myself for not buying it.

    Like 1
  4. Robert

    well as i stated before on Datsuns i used to work on the z’s with my father in law in Redondo Beach Calif calld Z World on PCH hwy 1 .And idsay this for the z cars not really went wrong with them and the most you ever did was the temp sensors cols start sensor and cold start regualator valve which was a package deal on a tune up on them. The good thing i liked is you can do a in car engine rebuild …yes in car rebuild just like the big deisels now days … so the other thing that went wrong with them is the rear end differential mount would go out and it would slam under the body if you got into the throttle hard.other then that there still good cars but yes they were thin on the sheet metal and they did get alot of road noise .And they can get squirly like the corvettes in the rain or water puddles ..

    Like 3
  5. John Oliveri

    Back in the mid 70s a guy on my block, who had his fair share of muscle cars, including a 396 powered 65 GTO, that got the Chevy motor after blowing up his built 400, and a 68 Camaro, w a 427 in it, bought a used 71 240Z, and loved it, because he could drive it every day, it was dependable and with the stick, it was quick, it had Appliance basket spoke wheels on it, cool car

    Like 1
  6. bowmade

    I wore out Road & Track/Car and Driver magazines reading about these back in the day. Then, back when people still read magazines, there were articles on dropping in a V-8. (That should stir the pot) This is still on my bucket list of cars. $6,300 with roughly 1 hr left in the auction. Worst case scenario, somebody will get a cool hooptie.

    Like 1
  7. Al_Bundy Member

    Total labor of love to do anything with these. I always liked them, now I love them. Always been a Mustang guy. Pushing an age where I couldn’t take on the misery of a Z Car restoration, let alone the maintenance of a driver. If I had the 30k, I’d pull the trigger on one ’78 or earlier. Well written Josh ! 50 years after, they are closer in price with their competition than ever…

    Like 1
  8. TimM

    Listing is gone already!! Nice car I would have liked to see more pictures before I bid on it but she’s going to a new home already!!

    Like 1
  9. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:May 17, 2020 , 6:52PM
    Winning bid:US $6,600.00
    [ 38 bids ]

  10. skody54 Member

    Had a 72 240z. I had bought it used and pulled it off the road for repairs and resto work. I was cruising up to work late due to a dr appt. Bam. Woke up when they pulled me out. An 85 yo took a left into me. Didn’t kill me but killed my car. One of my favorites to this day. What a fun car.

  11. Chris in Pineville

    1972, I was just getting out of the army and went to a Datsun dealer to look at new pickup trucks. $4200 for a new 240Z- might as well have been a million.
    The truck was less than half that and I still coudn’t afford it…….

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