Prior to the Nissan Fairlady Z / Datsun 240Z, moderately-priced sports cars were primarily useful as weekend toys and comfortable GT cars capable of handling distance were expensive. The Fairlady Z changed all that by offering performance, handling, comfort and style far beyond its modest price.
The 240Z, along with the 510 sedans put Nissan (then known as Datsun in the US) on the map. First-generation 240Z’s still have an enthusiastic following today, over thirty years after they were made. The Datsun 240Z’s unit-construction chassis had independent strut suspension at all four comers for nimble handling and an inline six-cylinder engine derived from the 510’s four.
The 2.4-liter single overhead cam powerplant made 150hp at 6,0O0 rpm and 146 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm, giving tie 240Z good acceleration characteristics. Power was delivered to the rear wheels through either a four-speed gearbox or the optional five-speed transmission.
Although the fastback coupe body used styling cues from other, mostly much more expensive sports cars, it was well-proportioned and does not look dated today. Early-1970s examples of the Datsun 240Z are the most sought-after.
Increasingly strict American safety and emissions legislation forced later changes in the car that decreased its performance, although engine size increases to 2.6, then 2.8-liters helped preserve its abilities. Even today, the Datsun 240Z is an enjoyable car to drive.