Nissan’s sports cars always been a success on the Japanese market and not only. So is the Nissan Fairlady Z (name used in Japan) starting its first year of unveiling in 1970 until our days. The Fairlady Z was sold on the US market as Datsuns until 1984. The first model from the Z-Cars series was the 240Z. Next Nissan presented the 260Z, 280Z, 280ZX, 300ZX and last one is 350Z. The Datsuns 240Z was unveiled in 1969 and on the US market was brought in 1970 by Yutaka Katayama, president of Nissan Motors USA operations. The “Z” letter from the name refers to the displacement of the engine: the first model - the 240Z used a 2.4 liter engine; 350Z uses a 3.5 liter engine.
The Datsuns 240Z is the first model from the first series of Nissan Z-cars. Bagged the S30, the first series was produced between 1969 - 1978 and also included 260Z and 280Z. The Z-cars disappeared from the US market with the introduction of the 300ZX Twin Turbo I 1993 and came back seven years later with the 350Z.
On its launch, the 240Z was a spectacular car that could easily compete with the best cars from the American and European market. It was a performance car with a sexy look, at a price (only $3500) that helped the maker to sell over 30,000 units in 1971 and over 50,000 and 40,000 in 1972 and 1973, respectively. Actually, the price was that made the Japanese car to have such a big success on the foreign markets.
The 240Z came in two different versions: one for the American market and one for the Japanese one. The one for the Japanese market was more design into race, while the American model had nothing of a race car in it. It was powered by a SOHC L20 Inline-6 engine with an output of 130 hp, and on the American market came with L24 Inline-6 engine with twin SU carburetors that produced 151 hp.
The engine was actually 510’s 1.6-liter, OHC four with two more cylinders grafted on to make a surprisingly lusty 2.4-liter SOHC Inline-6 with dual SU-like carburetors.
The 240Z also featured a four-speed manual transmission, disc brakes in the front and ho-hum drums in the rear.
The exterior styling was inspired by the Ferrari GTO proportions and the Jaguar E-type nose. Nissan also added delicate bumper and framed by headlights recessed into ice scoop buckets mounted in the front fenders. It had a weight of 2320 lbs.
The interior features high-back bucket seats and instrumentation deeply tunneled into the dash.
The car made the 0 to 60 mph sprint in 8.2 seconds and complete the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds at 86.5 mph. Top speed was 125 mph.
Nissan 240Z Specifications
Engine: 2.4 L (2393 cc/146 in³) I6, cast-iron block, alloy head, seven-bearing crankshaft, single overhead cam, 9.0:1 compression
The first change come in 1974, more because of the new bumper and emissions regulations. The name was changed from 240Z to 260Z because of the new engine’s displacement (2.6 liter). Also a 2+2 seated model was added to the line-up with a wheelbase 11.9 inches longer than the two-seater’s. On the US market it was sold only in 1974, but on other countries was available until 1979.
Even in the engine displacement was bigger, the output was lower, only 140 hp and that was because the emissions regulations forced a reduction in ignition timing and compression ratio. The 260Z was offered with a 3-speed automatic transmission.
Because of its reduced performance, the 260Z wasn’t a success as the 240Z; as a result the company had to lower prices.
Compared with the 240Z, the 260Z came with a few improvements: the climate controls were more sensibly laid out and easier to work, and there was additional stiffness in the chassis due to a redesign of the chassis rails which were larger and extended further back than in the 240Z.
The next changes to the model were made in 1975. As a result of a new engine displacement, the car also took a new name: the 280Z (powered by a 2.8 liter engine). The car finally came with a five-speed manual transmission; the rest the car only had cosmetic changes and a new price: $7,968. The 280Z was only sold in USA. In 1977 Nissan sold 70,000 coupes and 2+2s.
For the 280Z models, Nissan replaced the SU carburetors on all models with Bosch’s L-Jetronic field injection. The output was increased from 140 to 149 hp.
In 1977 the first series Z-Car saw its biggest power improvement: from 150 hp in the original 240Z, it was now increased to 170 hp. Also the models featured a five-speed overdrive transmission.
In 1978 Nissan offered a ’Black Pearl’ 280Z limited edition. All the models (around 850-1500) were offered in black pearl paint with a unique stripe-kit.
In 1979 Nissan unveiled the second generation Z-Cars. The first model, the 280ZX was a more refined and luxurious than the previous generation.
A true sports car with a retro look, the first-series Z-Cars were a real success on the market. Next with its performance, quite good at that time, there was the price, with no other competition on the market, reason why the vehicle an icon of ’70s cool and sophistication. As seen from the statistics, Nissan knew how to have a word to say on the market. They knew their customer’s desires and find solutions to create a car at a price that every one could afford to buy it. And as the history will show, the Z-Cars were and are a big hit on all over world.