The Datsun Z series, increasingly gaining value, is a highly regarded model from the once-prominent brand Datsun, now largely overshadowed on the global stage. This iconic series includes the coupes: 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z, spanning three generations.

In the Japanese market, this car was celebrated as the Nissan Fairlady Z, identical to the Datsun Z series available globally. Its production ran from 1969 to 1978, transitioning to the launch of the successor, the Nissan/Datsun 280ZX. The Datsun name was used by Nissan outside Japan until 1981.

The Datsun 240Z, launched in Japan in 1969 and introduced to the American market later the same year, presented a Japanese challenge to the American pony car phenomenon. With a smaller engine size compared to the large-engine coupes dominating the US market, Nissan bet on Americans embracing a distinct approach with this foreign model. Their strategy proved successful.

Instead of pushing Americans towards more economical, smaller cars, the 240Z won over enthusiasts with its distinctive styling and superior driveability. Featuring a four-wheel independent suspension—a rarity among American vehicles of the time—the 240Z offered performance comparable to high-speed European models such as the Porsche 911T and Jaguar E-Type, yet at half the cost. Its popularity was undeniable, with sales reaching 45,000 units in 1970 and maintaining similar levels in subsequent years.

1970 Datsun 240Z
1970 Datsun 240Z
© Nissan

While the Datsun 240Z was lauded for many features, it was perceived as lacking in power for the American market. In Japan, the 240Z's 2.4-liter engine and 151 hp were considered robust, but compared to the American preference for V8 engines with capacities of 5 liters or more, it seemed underpowered. It's humorously said that the saying "There is no replacement for displacement" emerged around the time the 240Z made its debut in the US.

By 1974, the model underwent a slight evolution to become the 260Z, featuring an increased engine capacity of 2.6 liters. However, to comply with new U.S. federal emission regulations, Nissan had to adjust the ignition timing and compression ratio, which unfortunately reduced the engine's power to 140 hp in the American market. Conversely, in other markets, the 260Z boasted a higher output of 165 hp.

In 1975, the launch of the 280Z introduced a model equipped with a larger 2.8-liter engine. Datsun's innovative approach to meet stringent emission standards while preserving power was to implement a fuel-injected engine in the 280Z. By 1977, the vehicle was updated with a five-speed manual transmission, an upgrade from the previous four-speed.

The year 1979 marked the arrival of the next generation, the Nissan S130 series, known as the Datsun/Nissan 280ZX in most markets and the Nissan Fairlady Z in Japan. This series introduced a turbocharged engine from the same L-series, achieving 180 hp and 275 Nm of torque.

The 280ZX emerged as the most celebrated model in the Z series, breaking sales records with over 86,000 units sold in 1979, before making way for new models in 1984. Its successor, the Nissan 300ZX, was built on an entirely new platform featuring a completely different engine.

The majority of Z cars, now over 40 years old, find their market in the USA, where they have historically been most popular. Finding one under €10,000 is feasible, and for those willing to invest up to €20,000, well-preserved original models are available. Even Z cars in need of significant restoration due to rust and high mileage might be discovered for less than €5,000.

Securing parts for a Z car is generally straightforward, but purchasing a vehicle that has spent its years in a dry state such as California could mean fewer repairs. Among the series, the 240Z is particularly sought after as it is the eldest, with its value largely influenced by its condition. While there are few special editions commanding double the price, Datsuns with a history in racing fetch a premium over the standard models.


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Dare to Be Different in a Datsun 240Z