Partnered: Why the Datsun 240Z Is Collectable

Why the Datsun 240Z Is Collectable

By Petrolicious Productions
April 3, 2014

Photography by Afshin Behnia for Petrolicious

The Collector is a weekly series produced in association with Gear Patrol.

Everyone knows the Datsun 240Z. However, for many, according to Mr. Brian Rabold, Hagerty’s Valuation Services Senior Manager, the Z “redefined what an affordable sports car could be, and in some ways helped seal the fate of British sports cars in the US.” While there is some debate as to whether it was penned by American Albrecht von Goertz or was handled completely in-house, the shape is iconic.

In some ways it’s like the Japanese Porsche 911, except that they were far more affordable when new and enjoyed legendary Japanese reliability. Brian adds, “It is also one of the best looking cars to ever come out of Japan. If it helps, think of it as Everyman’s Toyota 2000GT.” We couldn’t agree more and unlike the 911, the fact that the Z’s shape has changed over the years only makes the original more desirable. When the original was introduced, all models had standard four-wheel independent suspension and front disc, rear drum brakes. Power came from its 2.4L straight-six and used single barrel, variable-venturi side-draft Hitachi carburetors, built under license from SU carbs. And while we’d recommend shifting for yourself, Datsun did produce a small number of automatic-transmission-equipped 240s. Nothing exists in a vacuum though, and the reason that the 240Z enjoyed the success it did was a function of its price and the fun it offered. For Datsun, the car made sense because it gave them a halo car and effectively made the brand relevant to people interested in more than pure economy.

Besides their reliability, the cars are tough too, having won the 21st East African Safari Rally in 1973, in driver Shekhar Mehta’s hands. They also competed in motorsport in all over the world and are perhaps best known due to the BRE Datsuns of the early ‘70s. Brock Racing Enterprises, started and run by the legendary Mr. Peter Brock, campaigned the 240Z in US club racing and wound up dominating, trouncing competition that included BMWs, Toyotas, and Triumphs.

“And while nice 240Zs could be found everywhere in America for less than $10,000 for years, astute buyers have long since recognized the pure value they represented at that price and it is now difficult to find a high-quality example for four figures,” continues Brian, “Zero-mile cars now command upwards of $30K. Prices for the 240Z during the past 5 years have actually ticked down by approximately 5%, but these are likely good purchases for the long-term as cars from the 1970s are gaining interest in the hobby due to shifting demographics. Examples from 1970 are the best bet for appreciation due to their first-year status, followed by 1971 and 1972 models.” As if this weren’t enough, Sports Car International named the Datsun 240Z the number two sports car of the 1970s.

Special thanks to Mr. Brian Rabold and Hagerty for their contribution.


Unfortunately named the Fairlady Z in Japan, the 1971 240Z was barely 2,300 pounds, with 151 horsepower and 146 lb-ft from its inline-six engine making it a great performer in its time; it boasted more horsepower than a Porsche 911 of the same year. Coupled with a 4-speed manual transmission and Hitachi carburetors in the earlier models, the smooth six delivered great performance for a fraction of the price of BMW and Porsche. In one fell swoop, Nissan departed from their universal perception of boring economy cars while still utilizing the mindset of giving more for less.

Written by Amos Kwon of Gear Patrol

Click here to learn more about Gear Patrol’s kit inspired by the 240Z. 

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[…] classic car aficionados at Petrolicious think they’ve found some possible answers. An article from 2014—when this disturbing trend started—said that it’s due to the car’s […]

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter(@fb_787979690)
6 years ago

Here is one of the last Series-1 240Z’s ever built. Build date is January 1971, so although sold as a 1971, it is in fact a series-1. Has headers and a street cam, a few other retro-mod upgrades. But original matching engine and body, nice ride makes me smile each time I take off.

Andy Smith
Andy Smith(@andysplit)
6 years ago

Sean Dezart: a couple things to counter your comments (from months ago). Yes, I am late. First, the 260 and 280’s were mostly sold as 2 seaters despite the 2+2 option. Also, the 240 was compared to the 911 back in the day. They attracted a similar sort of enthusiast and shared many things in common. Even though the Porsche is a 2+2, that doesn’t make the car radically different from the 240. Datsun was indeed setting their sights not only on the MG, Triumphs, and Fiats of the day, but Porsche as well. If you wanted to get very particular, the Z was closely rivaled by the 914, thus closer to the price class of the 240. All in all, the 240 and 911 are fair to rival each other.

You speak of consulting car clubs and the “experts”. With all due respect I’ll bet you that most Z car club members would justify comparisons with the 911……Especially those who remember the introduction of the Z car. The information in this article is legitimate.

Vince Cox
Vince Cox(@vinnyz)
6 years ago

Its always great to see any blog make a post about the venerable S30 Datsun 240-Z’s. Thanks for that! I’ve been restoring these old girls since the late 70’s with joy. There seems to still be a lot of misinformation going around about them but its getting more dialed in thanks in part by aficionado’s like Carl Beck and other enthusiast owners. Thanks Carl! I look forward to the S30 gaining in well done restored and completed themed cars for us all to enjoy and drive. When I see a younger person driving one and obviously giving some care and thought to its execution instead of just using it as a surviving beater, I always give them props and encouragement.

6 years ago

Still an awesome car to this day and a classic in it’s own right. A joy to own and drive. 1971 FairladyZ-L

Pete Brissing
Pete Brissing(@pbandjane)
7 years ago

I have owned an early Series 1 Z for 17 years now and in addition to the accolades of good looking, fast, great handling, etc. mentioned by other commenters, I must add that the car has been ultra reliable. This, in spite of sitting outside for some years, albeit under a good cover, while the Porsche occupied the garage. The P car is gone now and the Z has taken its proper place in the garage and doesn’t look to be moving out any time soon. It is a 44 year old car (engine not yet rebuilt with 132K) that I wouldn’t hesitate to drive anywhere.

Adam Fairfax
Adam Fairfax(@acf321)
7 years ago

i’ve just finished a five year build of my Australian delivered RHD five speed 240Z. Having just sold a 1974 2.7 MFI Carrera, and 911 Turbo Carrera before that, I can say with some authority that the little early Z’s are ‘freaking fast’ and the handling (with a set of Koni sport shocks, and semi slick Dunlop race tyres) absolutely trounces any 911 i’ve owned. In part, this has to do with the fact that factory made 240Z’s with 50/50 weight distribution, and the early models were not much above 2300pd (~1,070kg), which given the online six, did and still does make for a very fast ride. Admittedly, mine now has triple OER’s, but all else is original.

Iulian Maciuca
Iulian Maciuca
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam Fairfax

Hello Adam, do you have any documentation regarding the install of the triple OER carbs? I am thinking about doing the same to my 240Z in Switzerland. I would higly appreaciate if you could share any piece of information about istalling these OER triples. Thank you very much.

Sean Dezart
Sean Dezart
7 years ago

[i]In some ways it’s like the Japanese Porsche 911, except that they were far more affordable when new and enjoyed legendary Japanese reliability.[/i]

And also except that the engine is in the front AND the 240Z is a true twos eter whereas the 911 is a 2+2…like the 260 and 280Z 2+2s !

So in fact, the 240Z is NOTHING like a 911 !

I love that you talk of Zs but please, why not consult the owners the club runners, basically thsoe that know the cars better than most and get the facts right………please !


Mike McKinnon
Mike McKinnon(@chairman_kaga)
7 years ago

I’d actually trade my ’82 GTV6 for a clean 240Z. I have always wanted one, ever since I was a wee monkey.

7 years ago

I think it was 1970 and I was coming over the Hollywood Hills back into the valley when one of these Japanese cars pulled up alongside of my less than year old TR6. He appeared to rev his engine, as if it were some kind of challenge, and I smiled at the temerity of this guy for what I thought was foolish bravado. Well, he revved again and this time I thought I would teach this boy a lesson. The light turned green, I blasted forth and as I slammed it into second, I looked up and I could barely read his license plate………….To this day I always remember that humbling moment whenever I see a 240Z.

7 years ago

As much as it was a bit of a departure and value for the time (as a former 240Z owner) I am amazed at the nostalgia generated for a vehicle that had the steering of a dump truck, interior that was downright uncomfortable and a body that rusted at the mere hint of dampness. Compare that to a Scion FRS/Subaru BRZ (the modern equivalent from a market and price standpoint) and the Z was a hunk of junk. Mind you I loved my Z but have no desire to own one now.

Ruel Spot
Ruel Spot(@ruelspot)
7 years ago
Reply to  Scottq

Everything is relative and subjected, I am sure that back in the day, the 240Z handling was decent compared to its contemporaries. As human, we are always looking back while moving forward. Hence, the attachment to classic automobiles like the Datsun 240Z (Nissan Fairlady Z).

Carl Beck
Carl Beck
7 years ago

1. I thought that by now – that old “Goertz Myth” had been pretty well dispelled. Who is it that is still debating it?

2. The Datsun 240Z won the EAS in 1971 and 1973.

3. The Side Drafts are SU’s built under license by Hitachi.

4. “Every man’s Toyota 2000GT”. Seriously ? Every man didn’t have nor want a Toyota 2000GT.

5. Approximately 12\% of Datsun 240Z’s were sold with A/T. 18,600 or 53 for every Toyota 2000GT sold.

6. “Price & Fun” – Yes, but it didn’t stop there. Styling, Performance, Reliability, and all round Utility. I know why people bought them – I was selling them at the time.

7. “Halo Car” – NO. Just a more modern replacement for the already successful Datsun 1600/2000 roadsters. A world class Competitor for sure but this was no “Halo Car”, it was a mass produced production Sports/GT.

8. BRE trounced – Porsche 911S & 914/6, Triumph and Lotus Elan’s in SCCA’s C-Production – don’t recall any Toyota’s nor BMW’s being competitive in that class.

9. Sports Car International only named the Datsun 240Z number two – because they included a 1960’s Ferrari in the Decade of the 70’s – the 365 GTB/4 Daytona. Even then the 240Z was second because Mr. Brock picked the Datsun 510 as #1 – had he picked the Z it would have beaten the Ferrair for total points.

10. “The Engine Is No Lady”? In 1969 there was no 240Z, no 2.4L 151HP engine for Japan. There were two 2.0 Liter engines, the L-20A and the S20. Fairlady and Farilady 432. Japan didn’t get the 2.4L 240Z until 1971.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

WOW so many great pictures of this lovely little car. I have always said if I was going to have one Japanese car in my collection a 240z would be tops on that list. The reason I believe it is collectable and has many enthusiast is because the car offered so much for so little. You got a rock solid car for a relatively low price that had performance at the time to match most other sports cars. When you bought a 240z you got OHC engine, front disk brakes, IRS out back and a nice comfortable interior to match. Not to mention the clean design of the car as well. You match that with a longhood/ short rear deck style and its hard not to have a winner on your hands.

D Gallo
D Gallo(@davethesaabguy)
7 years ago

in 1987 I had a well used 77 280z 2 seater/4sp, still ran on leaded gas.. Lovely car, even with the 70’s windows louvers. One of the more fun things was watching passengers try to figure out how to open the door since the door release was at the bottom of the doors. It is one of the cars I will always remember