In the late 1960s, the Japanese auto industry had a new sense of confidence as they finally found their stride with uniquely designed and meticulously engineered cars. Earlier in the decade, American buyers saw Japanese cars as novelties or oddballs, cars to be avoided especially for those who still had WWII fresh in their mind. The earliest Japanese sports cars borrowed heavily from their two-wheeled counterparts, particularly Honda with its bike-engined S600 coupe and roadsters. Nissan-Datsun took a slightly different approach in the middle of the 1960s, with their take on the traditional British sports car. The Datsun 1600 and 2000 Fairlady roadsters were aimed squarely at the MGB, Triumph TR4 and Sunbeam Alpine. Datsun held the upper hand thanks to its 5-speed gearbox and beautiful 135hp overhead-cam engine. The British cars felt positively agricultural in comparison. Combined with the mechanically similar 510 sedan, Datusn enjoyed moderate success in the US market, demonstrating the Japanese could build a very capable competitor to the best of the British roadsters. Enthusiasts and club racers knew the Datsun was the superior car, though Japanese cars still struggled against the attitudes in the US. When the Fairlady 2000 was due for replacement, Datsun decided to go all out and design a sports car specifically for the critical North American market. The basic formula for the new 240Z sports car drew inspiration from Jaguar's E-Type. The elegant 2-seat coupe body was designed in-house by Yoshihiko Matsuo at the Nissan sports car studio. A 2.4 liter, overhead-cam inline-six was chosen along with four wheel independent suspension and front disc brakes. The 240Z was very pretty, could punch above its weight in terms of performance, and had a build quality unseen in its British rivals. Yutaka Katayama (known to loyal Z-car fans as "Mr. K") was the driving force responsible for marketing the Z in the North American market. His effort to promote 240Z paid dividends for the Japanese industry as a whole, whole he developed a cult following for his sports car, Nissan, Toyota and Honda all benefitted from a newfound respect and admiration for the quality of Japanese cars. In 1997, with the 300ZX nearing the end of production and the 350Z still several years off, Nissan sought to cash in on the still-vibrant community of 240Z enthusiasts. They bought a handful of solid, original 1970 and 1971 240Zs and handed them over one of three carefully selected restoration shops to be fully restored from the ground up, using as many factory parts as possible. The restored cars were then sold "new" in select Nissan dealers around the country. It was a brilliant move for Nissan, as they reignited the passion for these wonderful cars and helped to boost the value and interest in all other 240Zs. Our featured 1971 Datsun 240Z is one of the finest examples we've ever encountered. This well-documented California car has covered just 200 miles since a four-year, obsessively detailed nut and bolt restoration by Les Cannaday's Classic Datsun Motorsport, one of those select shops chosen by Nissan to restore their own cars. While this car is not one of Nissan's dealer cars, it is no less spectacularly restored to exacting standards by a respected marque expert. Presented in its original color of Orange (code 918) over black interior, it is a stunning and thoroughly correct 240Z. The body fit and finish are superlative, all trim is correct and in as-new condition and the car rides on a set of classic slotted alloy wheels. The paint is beautifully laid down and it even wears a set of the seldom seen optional black stripes on the rockers, a wonderful period touch that is often overlooked in lesser restorations. The black interior is upholstered in factory correct materials and executed beautifully. Likewise, the engine bay and undercarriage are fully detailed with correct decals, tags, braided hoses, clamps and gold-cadmium plated hardware. Rarely do we see 240Zs restored to such a level of excellence and with such meticulous attention to detail. Even the owner's manual is original to this car, down to the matching warranty card. The trunk is properly detailed as well with a full original tool kit including the original wheel chock. The beloved Mr. K, who passed away in 2015 at 105 years old, put his mark of approval on this restoration, in the form of his signature on the glovebox. This is a concours-quality car that also happens to be a fabulous thing to drive; we have tested it on some of our favorite local roads and are happy to report it is simply a joy. Clearly this was a cherished car from day one. As a basis for restoration, this was a very solid, very original and sound example with long-term California history, sold new by Varsity Datsun of Davis, CA. It was never rotted or crashed and the results of the restoration attest to that fact. For show or to drive, one would be hard pressed to find a better 240Z available today. .
The Nissan Z has been a staple Japanese sports car for decades. It’s been something of an icon in the U.S., too, despite disappearing from the market for half a decade. Let’s walk back in time…
Japanese collector cars are kind of a new thing, with some of them making it into the higher echelons at auctions and private sales, and being included in museum collections.
An undervalued darling of the recent run-up in collector car values, the Datsun 240Z has become one of the few mass-produced Japanese cars to gain any notice.
The Datsun 240Z changed everything in the world of affordable sports cars. It offered serious performance, tremendous build quality and striking styling.
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Datsun scored a major breakthrough in the American perception of Japanese cars with the launch for 1970 of its 240Z.
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