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What to look for in a Datsun 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z


#1

Nearly 50 years ago, a small Japanese car company eager to expand its footprint in the United States made the fateful decision to do what no other automaker in its home country had ever attempted: tackle the European sports car heavyweights head on with a model that would not only best them dynamically, but prove to be far more reliable than anything hailing from Germany, Italy, or England.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/10/23/what-to-look-for-in-a-datsun-240z-260z-and-280z

#2

Hi.

Always gratifying to read articles on Zs so thanks for this one. Whilst not a ‘nerd’, may I correct you on two points please :

there is no such thing as a Datsun Fairlady Z - a Nissan Fairlady Z (ie JDM car) yes. Otherwise for us in export markets, it was a Datsun (240/260/280) Z.

And Nissan wasn’t a '‘small’ Japanese car company and had been steadily importing and building up a dealership network and spare-parts supply for years before the Z came out. Luckily so or otherwise our car might have remained a fringe attraction…the point being that it was also due to the countrywide dealerships that the Z sold so well and so fast.

There are many 50yr Z celebrations next year, one of ours will be held at the Spa circuit (Belgium) in May - come along !

Kind regards and ‘bon continuation’,

Sean Dézart
Président, Club Datsun-France

wwwdatsun-france.com


#3

great article! I have a little newer model with antilock brakes, airbag and stability control. It will be a very very very long wait (never) before it is collectible but I enjoy driving it every day.


#4

When it comes to finding more horsepower modifying a FI engine, I respectfully beg to differ. It is possible to get more than 300 bhp from the design, but it takes some considerable tweaking to do it properly.
First, get an F42 block from a 280Z turbo. More internal webbing and stronger.
Second, find a forged steel crankshaft from an I-6 diesel. Scarce, but some are still around. It’s a good match to the stronger block.
Use racing quality bearings from a competition parts supplier.
Bore the block out to 3.1 - a “stroker” with just enough more displacement to handle an upgrade.
Change the heads from the square exhaust port to the round ones, then port and polish to match with an improved intake and exhaust.
Bump the compression ratio up. Don’t machine the head surface too far.
You may have to have pistons machined from a billet. Hard to find ones that will fit on a shelf.
Use connecting rods from a 240Z racing motor.
Change the FI system to a single rail with six barbs. Just a lot simpler to work with and provides a much cleaner look.
Decide how you want to handle the fuel return line. There are several ways to do it.
You may want to have a manually adjustable fuel pressure valve. Mount that on the cowl.
Go with tuned headers, preferably ceramic coated. You’ll want to get rid of that extra heat.
And most importantly, play with an interchangeable EPROM for the computer that runs everything.
You should look at replacing the stock radiator with a larger one – several are available and easily installed.
Put it on a scope or dyno and set everything up the way you prefer.
Depending more on the EPROM than anything else, you should be able to get something like 300+ bhp without too much trouble. Change chips, and dial it back to 250 or so which will improve reliability, and you’ll have a tractable engine that will do you well on the street or on track days.


#5

The rest of the car deserves some attention. Aerodynamics is a big deal, so a front air dam and headlight covers clean up that end. The rear spoiler can be the small modest one used in racing teams of the day. The big ones and whale tails are more for looks than anything else.
Lower about 1" by using progressive-rate springs. Few will notice, but it will matter.
Use 15" tires at least, because they look right and you can get better for performance than the original 14’s.
It’s not just the power – it’s the total package.
Having owned one like that for a decade or so, its a great street rod, very fast and handles beautifully.
And still gets reasonable mileage if driven properly.


#6

@seanz
I have to disagree. You are a nerd…but I mean that in a good way. :wink:

I enjoyed the article too. And casually looking as we speak.


#7

@dhomuth - Interesting parts list for the engine. I’m curious about the I-6 diesel crankshaft. What I-6 diesel interchanges cranks with the 280Z? Never heard that one before.


#8

VO7 crank from a Maxima or Cedric, maybe even a Patrol ?

But stroking and aiming for 300bhp is expensive - a Z flies with less then 200 if the set up is good ;

yes, you can lower and stiffen it but don’t forget the rear anti-roll bar your cars are missing and the front one needs beefing up a bit. A decent set of brakes up front and you’re ready to go.
Aerodynamics ? Keep it low or an airdam up front to prevent nose-lift and why not a modest rear deck spoiler for some downpush and to avoid pulling in the exhaust gas on the over-run.

Signed, The Nerd :wink: !


#9

Mine came from a Maxima.


#10

You are correct - it wasn’t cheap. But my idea was to see just how good I could make a 280Z, and this was how I found out.
The 300+ hp chip was scary – nearly undriveable. I didn’t care for it, and eventually sold it to someone making a track car.
The 250 hp setup was very tractable, and went like a scalded dog.
I didn’t mention the anti-roll bars. I put on both, and then installed a brace across the shock towers front and rear. That really made a difference. Installed vent brake discs and calipers out of a Toyota. Bolted right in.
The air dam is necessary. The front valence is of no help even if you lower the car. I went with a simple smooth design, to match the simple lines of the rest of the car.
The rear deck spoiler was modest – essentially the same as seen on the race cars of the time.


#11

Admittedly I never owned a Z. But a friend did. A rust spot to be watched for is the area behind/around the headlights.


#12

Having owned 3 Datsun 2000 roadsters, but never a Z car, I’m surprised to now learn that the Z didn’t come with a 5 speed gearbox.

One of the delights of the bigger Datsun roadsters was the excellent 5 speed gearbox.

I remember what a game changer the first 240Z was, and how it ended my beloved roadsters.


#13

I owned a 240Z (HLS3002474 11/769) for more than 20 years before the tin worm claimed it.
I cut the sides off the air cleaner cover, advanced the cam sprocket to #3, and put Mulholland 2 1/2 inch exhaust on it was much quicker. Aluminum 7" slotted mags with standard tires gave zero sidewall flex, and with a rear sway bar, it cornered like a rat wearing sneakers. I now have a '90 ZX NA and will likely never sell it.


#14

@dhomuth - Interesting. It is really fun when enthusiasts figure stuff like that out. I had a hard believing it, but I don’t have any reason to doubt!


#15

I had a '74 early 260 and loved the color, power and the look but the car was like a cheap Walmart wallet on the inside. The visors were cheap vinyl and the dashboards were subject to cracking. The seats were so weak that they were tearing within 2 years.

Loved the power and handling but the car was a money pit on the inside. Certainly one of the coolest looking cars before they upped the bumper arrangement mid-year '74. They added some beef to them and they started looking like the bumper cars at the arcade.

Anyhow, that was my 1 experience with a Japanese car. I had one other experience with a Japanese vehicle and that was an FJ45 Toyota Pickup. OMG do I miss that one. :^(


#16

In 1977 and 1978, the 5-speed was an option, and standard on the 78 Black Pearl special edition. The transplant to an earlier 4-speed requires a shorter driveshaft, but otherwise a fairly straightforward conversion.


#17

Quite a few folks ragged on my 78 Black Pearl for the big bumpers. But after seeing so many earlier S30s with the "fat lip"dent on the point of the hood, I just left mine on. So many in parking lots seem to park by ear, especially pickups. Based on the gouges in the rubber bumper guards, the bumpers saved me quite a bit of money over the 39 years I owned the car. Given the power and handling modifications, the extra weight wasn’t that big a deal. They might have added some polar moment of inertia in cornering, but again not so much that it was anything I needed to get rid of. So I just left them on.


#18

I realize that the “Series 1” and “Series 2” designations are probably here to stay but they constitute a black and white distinction that doesn’t actually exist. Unlike the Datsun Roadsters that had a very clear distinction between the short and tall windshield models, the early Z cars had subtle ongoing changes that in many cases were actual improvements. Datsun was constantly refining the breed but early to mid-1971 builds still retained many of the distinct features that tend to be attributed solely to Series 1 cars.


#19

I purchased a new 240Z in Dec 1970. Loved it and wish I still had it. Does anyone know of any sources I could use to try to locate this car. I do know the serial number and know that it was traded in to a car dealer in Vermont. Yes, Vermont with salty roads and all. Probably little chance that it still exists as a whole vehicle. However I would like to give it a try. Many good memories with that car. As an additional note I remember the car having a throttle lever just to the right of of the choke lever. I have looked at a lot of pictures of these cars and have not seen another with this feature. Is anyone familiar with this feature or aware of how rare it is. Long live the Z cars !


#20

It was the very short lived manual throttle that was intended to maintain a higher idle while the car was warming up. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to and dangerously used as a mock cruise control. Unlike the manual throttle on the Datsun Roadsters that was mounted on the vertical console under the dash, the early Z manual throttle was right next to the passenger seat and could be accidentally engaged with disastrous consequences. Consequently it was discontinued very early in the production run. Some early owner’s manuals have that section blocked out with a glued on piece of paper. Good luck with your search. The early Zs have seen a tremendous uptick in value lately.