Vintage Review: Datsun 240Z. Road & Track. April 1970

The Datsun 240Z (Fairlady) was the second generation of a Datsun (Nissan) sports car.  The first was the Nissan 1500/1600/2000 Roadster, produced from 1961 until 1970 when the Roadster was replaced by its successor the 240Z.  The Roadster also called the Datsun Fairlady in certain markets, for example the home Japanese market.  Despite looking confusingly similar to the MGB, the Roadster was actually introduced several months before the 1962 introduction of the MGB–and was not a Japanese clone of the MGB, as some had thought.

Yutaka Katayama, (famously know as “Mr. K”), while president of Nissan America, where Nissan automobiles were marketed as “Datsun” cars, saw the need for an affordable sports car for the US market and internationally, to be developed from the Nisan corporate parts bin to be competitive with European and Italian medium priced sports cars.

The completed project, the 130 bhp 2.0 liter Nissan Z car, went on sale in Japan in October 1969 as the Fairlady Z. Other more exotic DOHC versions were additionally developed for the home market.

Quickly an export version for the US market (price $3526 US) using a 2.4 liter version of the SOHC inline six was developed with twin Hitachi carburetors yielding 151 bhp, SAE gross.  This is the US export model tested in the Road & Track article of April 1970.

Interestingly in the same R&T issue was the test of the newly introduced 1.7 liter 85 bhp four cylinder Porsche 914 (list price $3595, but with an “as test price of $4047 “with limited options–but not as completely optioned to the standard amenity level of the standard 240Z).  R&T described the 914 as “disappointing”, and the Datsun Z-car was described a setting “new standards in performance and elegance for medium-priced 2-seat GT cars.”

Mr. K hit his design objectives with the Z car, and simultaneously upended the sports car market in the USA, eventually putting the European manufacturers into a continual retreat from the medium priced sports car market.


Interestingly this following Porsche 911 ad was placed to the left,  next to the front page of the Datsun 240Z R&T article.  Funny that the title, “The Almost Perfect Car”, could be applicable to the Datsun 240Z, especially at Z’s price( $3526)compared to that of the 1970 911 ( Base, 125 bph, 4 speed 911T, at $6,430 list, and the higher level 180 bph 911S,at $8,675).  At least with the 911 the purchaser wouldn’t suffer the stigma of  a “lower price”–as if that stigma really mattered to most.  the Z was a performance bargain even compared to the 911.