When Datsun released the first of the S30 line of cars (known better as the “Z” cars) in 1969 they had a clear goal in mind. They wanted a car closely priced to popular European sports cars such as the MGB and Fiat Dino, but mechanically superior in all departments. To put things simply, with the Datsun 240Z, they achieved their goal to spectacular effect.
The 240Z was immediately lauded by customers and motoring journalists alike for it’s looks and its performance. It cast off the Japanese car-makers’ reputation for producing boring ‘three-box’ economy cars. The Japanese could produce high-quality, high-performance, beautiful cars, and they were here to stay.
The first generation 240Z (released in 1969/1970) featured fully independent suspension, disc brakes up front, and a beautiful, high-revving inline-six-cylinder 2.4 litre engine (known as the L24 engine). The car had 150bhp, and could be ordered with a five-speed manual gearbox. In Japan the car was known not as the 240z, but as the “Fairlady Z” and was more commonly ordered with a less powerful (130bhp) 2.0 litre engine due to tax-constraints in the domestic market.
Datsun also released two very rare “homologation special” versions of the 240z. The first is known as the “Fairlady 240ZG”. This was only available in Japan and featured riveted on wide arches, and a slant nose front end, though mechanically it was virtually unchanged from the standard Fairlady/240Z cars. The second, and arguably more special of the two homolgation cars was the “Fairlady Z432R” which used the 2.0 litre, twin-cam S20 engine from the Skyline GTR. These were again only available in Japan and were made in incredibly small numbers. In January 2020 a “Fairlady Z432R” sold at auction for the equivalent of £600,000!
Shane had a 240Z when he was 21 years old, and like we all do… he sold it and regretted it ever since! When he found this car (a Californian import) he decided he had to have it. It turned out that the “Californian rust free” thing is a bit of a myth because this car needed a lot of metalwork. But Shane is a craftsman and his fabrication skills shine through here. He’s beautifully restored this car and really brought it back to its former glory!
Datsun 240Z (1970)
- Shane had a green 1974 240z when he was 21 and loved it. However (as is often the case) he later sold it, and regretted it every day since! So he decided finally, 25 years later, it was time to get another one.
- This car came up for sale and caught his eye. It was for sale in Bath (which is a fair distance from where Shane is based) however he managed to combine a wedding anniversary stay in Bath with viewing the car… very clever, but we're sure his wife saw right through it!
- This 240Z is a Californian import (so, in theory less rust… but we'll come onto this below). Shane did have the parts to convert it to LHD, however as the car is an early model, and with their increasing rarity, he decided to keep it strictly original!
- Currently the car is almost completely standard/unmodified. Shane wants to keep it original, but is planning to do some sympathetic mechanical upgrades to make the car handle, go and stop slightly better.
Interview with the owner
- When did you first purchase the car Shane?3 years ago!
- What made you buy this make and model in particular?I had a green 1974 RHD 240z when I was 21 and loved it.It was such fun to drive and it's the one out of many cars I wish I hadn't sold. This one was on auto trader at a reasonable price and looked half decent white not my first colour choice, and LHD not really what I wanted but with the blue interior and supposedly California import that was pretty rust free I had to go and have a look.It was near Bath so a fair distance from where I live. It was our wedding anniversary and my long suffering wife agreed to spend our anniversary staying in Bath so I could view the car at the same time. Once I actually saw the car with that blue interior I had to have it. It came with everything to convert it to RHD but as it's such an early car I have stuck with the steering wheel on the wrong side. Since owning the car and doing some research white with a blue interior is pretty rare but then so is a 50+ year old Datsun
- What's it like to drive?It's not bad at the moment but I haven't had it on the road that long enough to really get used to it. It does go pretty well but then it's light compared to modern cars but it's a great feeling to feel all the inputs through the steering and gear change that most modern cars just don't have anymore. Driving a LHD was at first a bit daunting but it's actually easy to get used to. I have fitted 280z 4-pot callipers to the front brakes which should help with stopping it but soon after actually getting the car on the road the brake servo failed and as you can't buy a replacement I have had to get it refurbished which took a while. I will be doing more upgrades to make it handle better a rear anti roll bar for starters in the very near future.
- So the car has clearly been fully (and beautifully) restored, tell us more about that…Buying a California "rust free" import is a bit of a myth, and rarely is this true. It's a Datsun, and that means the rust was built in as I found out. To be fair there wasn't a huge amount but enough to keep me busy for quite a while. The tail gate really is a water trap and was beyond saving once I had removed at least half an inch of filler from a badly repaired outer skin repair. Both sides in the rear arches needed rust repairs.The floors weren't too bad but the front bulkhead above where the battery sits was rusted and had spread under the front scuttle which was very time consuming to fabricate. Also there were rust holes along the front of the windscreen and the rear quarter windows . I have done everything on the car myself including the paint and trimming the inside with the correct blue vinyl which took an age to find stateside but it arrived eventually. My good friend Paul (yellow Porsche RSR 911 ) already featured sorted out the electrics and also rebuilt the gearbox for me.
- So you mentioned you're planning to some upgrades to make the car work a little better for modern roads, what have you got planned?I think I will be upgrading the brakes further and think that the suspension could also do with some more work.I have already poly bushed all the bushes I have fitted a rear strut brace already as these cars do flex the sheet metal they used to build these early cars is so thin.
- Is the car a "keeper" or will you sell it one day?For the right price, anything is for sale.
- Do you own any other interesting cars?Yes, I'm currently rebuilding a Lamborghini Countach replica based on a Mirage shell with a tubular chassis. This will be powered by a Rover V8 with a Renault 5-speed box. It was built in the 80's but never registered so is virtually a complete strip and rebuild as it's been stood for so long. I think an engine upgrade is on the cards also some of the body shell needs replacing as it's not correct to the original Lamborghini. I already have the panels ready to fibre glass in. The rear tyres needed replacing and they were the most expensive tyres I have ever brought and the widest at 345!
- Ok final question – ignoring cost, and assuming you couldn’t go and sell it for profit… what’s your dream car and why?What a question I'm a petrol head there are so many cars I would love to own a real Countach for one but I think it would be a Lamborghini Miura in green or yellow it has to rate as not just a car but a real piece of art just stunning from every angle we can all dream.