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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/5/18 2:18 p.m.

It’s been almost a half-century since a relatively unknown company from the other side of the planet knocked the sports car world on its ear with a groundbreaking release that Road & Track called “the most exciting new GT car in a decade.”

That new-for-1970 Datsun 240Z had Jaguar-level good looks at an equally appealing price. The Z-car’s sticker of roughly $3500, which undercut the Alfa Romeo GTV by about 25 percent, translates to about $22,250 in modern dollars. That bought buyers an overhead camshaft, independent rear suspension, and a top that didn’t leak-all big-deal features back then.

It was a sales success of the highest order: The July 1971 issue of Road & Track reported that Nissan had anticipated moving about 1600 cars per month, but the market demanded closer to 4000 units per month. This led to six-month waits along with Kelly Blue Book values for used examples topping $4000.

That same issue of R&T featured a five-car shootout for GT machines priced right around $3500. The 240Z solidly took the gold metal, beating the already established Fiat 124 Sports, Opel GT, MGB GT and Triumph GT6.

The new 240Z became a track star, too. At the 1970 SCCA American Road Race of Champions–the predecessor to today’s season-ending Runoffs–John Morton famously claimed the championship in a 240Z prepared by Peter Brock’s BRE team. He was trailed to the checker by two more 240Z drivers, Bob Sharp and John McComb. In their wake were a string of 914-6 Porsches and Lotus Elans. The lone Triumph in the race, a TR6 prepared by Bob Tullius’s dominating Group 44 and driven by the team’s patriarch, failed to reach the checker.

Suddenly there was a shift in the American sports car landscape. Class leaders MG and Triumph would leave the American market a decade later.

Almost five decades after its launch, despite a slight hiatus, changing shopping trends and an oil crisis or two, the Z-car is still here with us. Other reasonably priced sports cars have come and gone–sadly, mostly gone–but the Nissan Z-car has endured.

New ones are as close as your local Nissan dealer, while past generations offer something for nearly every taste and budget. Whether you’re into turbos and twin-cams or louvers and loving cups, there’s likely a Z-car for you.

Today’s Nissan hasn’t forgotten this past, either. There’s a special place where the manufacturer keeps its private stash, and we recently raided it to sample a Z-car from each generation.

Has the original Z been superseded by later incarnations? Depends on what you’re looking for. Whatever your fancy, this exercise did remind us that there are few wrong answers here.

Read the rest of the story

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
1/5/18 2:40 p.m.

It's always the 240z at #1. Lightest, purest, prettiest. Followed IMO by the Z32 TT for the power potential and importance.

 

The rest all have their place but I think those two really made the biggest statement.

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
1/5/18 2:46 p.m.

That was a great article. I really enjoyed it.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse UltraDork
1/5/18 3:04 p.m.

In reply to crankwalk :

Couldn’t have said it any better. For those that would disagree, they haven’t owned a s30 chassis. 

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
1/5/18 3:06 p.m.

Original 1970 240Z hands down. Mostly cause we had one in the family and it is the car I learned to drive stick on and drift before drifting was invented! ( Cause snow eh)

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
1/5/18 3:43 p.m.

Mine?  I may be biased.  I do want to drive a 370 to see if i like them as much as i do the s30.  

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
1/5/18 4:17 p.m.

I grew up with them when my dad placed an order for a new 240z.  There was a 6 months wait and you had to choose a possible 3 colors.  We got the 3rd color choice of white.  I learned to drive in it and a '76 280z.  Later there was a '83zx before the switch to BMWs which the parents still buy.

Personally I've had several Zs including the '83 above, a '71, and a 2011 370.  I loved the 370 and it is much better as a daily, but there is really no competition here, it is 240 all day.  None of the others come close, not even the 260s and 280z's.  The 300's are even further removed, although still nice cars.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
1/5/18 4:25 p.m.

it was an early 260z that scared me silly with it's speed. I came from a ratty Fiat spider and was driving my father's 260 to work as the spider was waiting on some parts. It was an early sunday morning on a freshly repaved road in early fall. This road had no place for the cops to hide and was arrow straight.

 

I looked down to see an indicated 140 and climbing, and the car was just as smooth at 140ish as it was at half that speed. It wasn't the speed that scared me, it was how smooth and unobtrusive it got there. It simply didn't feel that fast

MazdaFace
MazdaFace Reader
1/5/18 5:09 p.m.

Loved this article in the magazine! First mag I've gotten with my new subscription yes

Fitzauto
Fitzauto Dork
1/5/18 6:12 p.m.

Im partial to the 280zx but I also,love a good s30.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
1/5/18 7:49 p.m.
racerdave600 said:

 

Personally I've had several Zs including the '83 above, a '71, and a 2011 370.  I loved the 370 and it is much better as a daily, but there is really no competition here, it is 240 all day.  None of the others come close, not even the 260s and 280z's.  The 300's are even further removed, although still nice cars.

the early 260s are not all that different from the 240. They look almost identical with a bigger engine.

wheels777
wheels777 SuperDork
1/5/18 7:53 p.m.

SR-71D  laugh

crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
1/5/18 8:18 p.m.
mad_machine said:
racerdave600 said:

 

Personally I've had several Zs including the '83 above, a '71, and a 2011 370.  I loved the 370 and it is much better as a daily, but there is really no competition here, it is 240 all day.  None of the others come close, not even the 260s and 280z's.  The 300's are even further removed, although still nice cars.

the early 260s are not all that different from the 240. They look almost identical with a bigger engine.

And terrible carbs, different taillight panel and slightly different interior. My 73 240 came with round top SU factory because the local dealer stopped ordering them with problematic flat top Hitachis.

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
1/5/18 9:19 p.m.
wheels777 said:

SR-71D  laugh

That’s 2nd best on my list 

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
1/5/18 9:34 p.m.
crankwalk said:
mad_machine said:
racerdave600 said:

 

Personally I've had several Zs including the '83 above, a '71, and a 2011 370.  I loved the 370 and it is much better as a daily, but there is really no competition here, it is 240 all day.  None of the others come close, not even the 260s and 280z's.  The 300's are even further removed, although still nice cars.

the early 260s are not all that different from the 240. They look almost identical with a bigger engine.

And terrible carbs, different taillight panel and slightly different interior. My 73 240 came with round top SU factory because the local dealer stopped ordering them with problematic flat top Hitachis.

that I can't comment on. My Father's 260 had webbers, a header, and was cammed. If you got on it too soon in the rev band, it would backfire through the carbs and all sorts of white smoke would billow out from under the hood. Thing was fast though

wheels777
wheels777 SuperDork
1/5/18 9:40 p.m.
Patrick said:
wheels777 said:

SR-71D  laugh

That’s 2nd best on my list 

Ya, ya, ya.... keep it down in the peanut gallery...you need to be working on sharpening the blade in prep for the next duel.

Snrub
Snrub Reader
1/5/18 10:08 p.m.

I tend to think the original 240Z was likely the best.  In the context of it's day, it must have been a complete no-brainer to buy, it had everything; performance, style, value.  It almost had no competition.  I think its style held up over time too.

 

The Z130 and Z31 might be the least well regarded over time, but they sold well.  It's amazing how well sports cars and performance cars sold in the 70s and 80s compared to today.

 

The Z32 certainly looked awesome in it's day and long after, but I think it's starting to look a bit dated  Still, that's a remarkable accomplishement.

 

The 350Z and 370Z are certainly good, but I don't know if they'll be all that remembered 20 years from now.

Tom_Spangler
Tom_Spangler UberDork
1/5/18 10:54 p.m.

I'm the weirdo who still likes the S130.  I know it's not the best, I don't care.  It just has a special place in my heart.

CJ
CJ New Reader
1/5/18 11:03 p.m.

Back in the late '70s, the 'trick setup' in far Northern California was a '71 240z, a 280z block with a 240z head, a 280z  5-speed, and a 280z louvered hood.

Made for a very quick, great looking car

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
1/6/18 7:52 a.m.

and do not get me wrong, I have no love for the z cars. My father's two were fast (260 and 300) but I hated their interiors, especially the digidash on the 300

mikeatrpi
mikeatrpi HalfDork
1/6/18 8:52 a.m.

Great article!  Did I read it right - the 280ZX still has the original tires indecision ?

Nick Comstock
Nick Comstock MegaDork
1/6/18 9:03 a.m.

I've briefly driven a 350z and while I loved the engine note the overall experience didn't really speak to me. 

The choice for me would be the 280zx from the early 80's. It just appeals to me the most.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse UltraDork
1/6/18 10:04 a.m.

https://www.carthrottle.com/post/98x6mqr/

anyone that knows this car, knows just how great the s130 can be. 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
1/6/18 2:31 p.m.

They will remember the 350Z. It was a return the affordable original. The Z32 priced itself out of existence, and the 350 brought back that attainablitty. It was a car that turned heads and made kids dream.

JoeyM
JoeyM Mod Squad
1/6/18 6:51 p.m.
tuna55 said:

That was a great article. I really enjoyed it.

Same here.  It is nice to see some love for the old L-series engines

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