Name: 1971 Datsun 240Z
Year(s) Produced: 1970-1973
Number Built: 33,684
Class: Sports car
Body Type: 2-door hatchback coupe
Engine: 146.1 cui, Nissan L24 Line 6
Power: 151hp @ 5600 RPM
0-60mph: 7.8 seconds
Top Speed: 122 mph
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Length/width/height: 162.8 in./ 64.2 in./ 50.6 in.
Wheelbase: 90.7 in.
Base Price: US$3,596 (NADA)
Highest Price: US$50,000 (Hagerty)
For most of us the phrase, “Japanese muscle car” seems to be a joke that was lost in translation. While there is a grain of truth about the Toyota Corolla being Japan’s national motoring identity rather than a Lexus, or being on the limelight as an affordable mass-market sedan rather than a stomping Italian supercar, those who are part of the enlightened will tell you with conviction that Japan has long produced the kind of cars that can make the pulse pound or the heart ache.
There are in fact a whole lot of cars in this category, from the Toyota 2000GT to the Nissan GTR, but none perfectly fits the title of being the authentic classic Japanese muscle car other than the Datsun 240Z.
In 1969, aware that his company had not kept pace with the changing habits of contemporary car buyers, Nissan’s Yutaka Katayama convinced conservative management to establish a US division and introduce the 240Z to an uninitiated American populace. As the story goes, Katayama took great, even personal care to assure the brand (then known as Datsun internationally) would appeal to the American consumer. It was a firm belief that was burned deep into Katayama’s soul that the Japanese motoring industry has the talent and skills to compete with the big boys of that time. With that, he was credited with the title of being the ‘Father of the Datsun Z”, almost single-handedly establishing Nissan’s secure foothold in the United States, and forever changing the auto industry’s perception of Japanese cars.
The New York Times run a beautiful tribute for Katayama when he died at the age 105 in February 19 of last year:
Perhaps the greatest boost Mr. Katayama gave the 240Z was its very name, which Nissan had intended only as a working model number. In the late 1960s, when the car was first introduced in Japan, a Nissan executive, enamoured of a certain Lerner and Loewe musical, named it the Fairlady Z.
When the first shipment of Fairlady Zs arrived in the United States, Mr. Katayama, judging the sobriquet horrifyingly effete for the American market, stripped the nameplate off each car with his own hands.
Car enthusiasts will forever remember “Mr. K” as the father of the Z-Car, a line that continues to this day.
Unfortunately, finding a good 240Z today is all about finding one that is rust-free. Many, many examples have succumbed to an oxidation affliction, but according to classic car insurer Hagerty, if you happen to find one in fair-to-good condition, that 240Z can be picked up for as little as $7,000 to $15,000. A real showpiece can fetch anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. One excellent example is Korean-American actor and Fast & Furious star Sung Kang’s restomodded 1973 Datsun FuguZ which we featured here in ClassicCarLabs a few weeks ago.
So if you happen to find one, consider it as a rare gem one that has a long and impressive history of Japanese passion and excellence.