Throughout the 1960s, Japanese carmakers were teetering on the brink of a sports car breakthrough. Toyota’s 2000 GT was a beauty, but with only 337 made, it was an exclusive curio. Honda was giving it a try too, with the dainty S600 and S800. As for Datsun, the MGB-lookalike Fairladies were relatively popular in Japan and the United States, but virtually unknown elsewhere.
The revolution came with the Datsun 240Z, which at a stroke established Japan on the world sports car stage at a time when there was a gaping hole in that sector, particularly in the US. It was even launched in the States in October 1969, a month before its official Japanese release, and on a rising tide of Japanese exports to the US it scored a massive hit. It had the looks, performance, handling, and equipment levels. A great value sporting package that outsold all rivals.
The lines of the 240Z were based on earlier styling exercises by Albrecht Goertz, master stylist of the BMW 507.
Trunk-lid airfoil was not a standard 240Z feature in all markets.
Steeply raked windshield aided aerodynamic efficiency.
The six-cylinder twin-carb 2.4-liter engine was developed from the four-cylinder unit of the Bluebird sedan range.
Tacky plastic wheel trim is an original fitment.
This view shows that the engine was placed forward of the centerline, with the occupants well behind it; yet the Z was noted for its fine balance. The large rear window offered the driver excellent rearward vision.
Hood was uncluttered by unnecessary louvers; it later became fussier.
FIRST OF BREED
As with so many long-lived sports cars, the first-of-breed 240Z is seen as the best sporting package lighter and nimbler than its successors. If you wanted to cut a real dash in a 240Z, the ultimate Samurai performance option had what it takes. Modifications gave six-second 0–60 (96 km/h) figures.
MIXED STYLING CUES
As with the recessed lights at the front, there is an echo of the E-Type Jaguar fixed-head coupe at the rear, with a little Porsche 911 Mustang fastback and Aston Martin DBS of 1969.
Cockpit layout was tailored to American tastes, with hooded instruments and beefy controls. The vinyl covered bucket seats offered generous rear luggage space.
The model was launched in Japan as the Fairlady Z, replacing the earlier Fairlady line; export versions were universally known as 240Z and badged accordingly. Non-UK and US models were badged as Nissans rather than Datsuns.
Recessed from light treatment is very reminiscent of an E-Type Jaguar.
Thin, rot-prone body panels were one of the few things that let the 240Z down.
The name Datsun —literally son of Dat—first appeared on a small Dat in 1932.
Sophisticated suspension spec was independent with MacPherson struts on all four wheels.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Datsun 240Z (1969–73)
BODY STYLE Three-door, two-seater sports hatchback.
CONSTRUCTION Steel monocoque.
ENGINE Inline single overhead-camshaft six, 2393cc.
POWER OUTPUT 151 bhp at 5600 rpm.
TRANSMISSION All-synchromesh four- or five-speed manual gearbox, or auto.
SUSPENSION Front: Independent by MacPherson struts, low links, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers; Rear: Independent by MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers.
BRAKES Front discs, rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 125 mph (210 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8.0 sec
A.F.C. 20–25 mpg (7–9 km/l)