Monday June 24, 2019
There are various forms of courage in returning a classic car to its former glory – such as embarking on the refurbishment of a 240Z despite having a background in finance rather than engineering. But that is just what Aaron Britton of Hampshire was determined to achieve – ‘I wanted to buy a project car that would allow me to learn about all aspects of restoration’. To have an idea of the scale of his challenge, when Mr. Britton acquired his US-model 1972 Datsun some two and a half years ago, ‘the floor was like the Flintstones’ car!’
What anniversary is the 240Z celebrating this year?
Not only does the Britton 240Z stun and amaze, but it is also a reminder of the 50th anniversary of one of the most important cars in Nissan’s history. Their first sports car, the 1961 Fairlady Z, was progressively developed throughout the decade and it also raised their profile in such export markets as Australia and the USA. But when its replacement was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 1969, the reaction was one of amazement.
What was the inspiration behind the 240Z?
During the late 1960s, Nissan paid considerable attention to leading European and Japanese sports cars when devising the 240Z, and the result had overtones of the E-Type, the Ferrari 275 GTB and the Toyota 2000 GT. The debut of the last-named car, in prototype form, at the 1965 Tokyo Show, had further stimulated the need for a rival, preferably one that would appeal to youthful American motorists.
The latest Nissan coupe would also have to be within financial reach of a driver in the MG/Triumph/Fiat 124 Coupe income bracket. By the following year, the company agreed that the new “S30” should be offered with a six-cylinder power plant, and the 240Z would feature a 2,394-cc SOHC unit. There was to be an elaborate family of models, but it was the 240Z that served as the flagship Datsun in the UK (the Nissan brand was not used here until 1983) and in the USA.
When did American sales of the car begin?
American sales began in 1970 and a report from Road & Track in that same year must have delighted Nissan’s sales team – ‘The basic list price of the 240Z is $3,526 and at this price it is a super-bargain, with a combination of styling, performance and handling far ahead of anything else under $4000’. That meant the 240Z cost only $200 more than the MGB and R & T expected ‘to see the Datsun establish a market of its own, one which will force other makers to come up with entirely new models to gain a share in it’.
When did the 240Z come to the UK?
By the time the 260Z superseded the 240Z in 1973, US drivers had bought 148,115 Datsuns that was ‘no ordinary GT’, out of a production run of 168,584. Across the Atlantic, matters were slightly different, and Brian Long details in his book Datsun Fairlady Roadster To 280ZX: The Z-Car Story - that there were doubts about a British-market 240Z. Import duties meant that it would compete with the likes of the Marcos 3-Litre, but a car was eventually displayed at the 1970 London Motor Show.
At that time, the marque been established in the UK for just two years but their family saloons were already appealing to former Escort and Viva owners. The older Fairlady had never been officially sold in this country and so an aggressively sleek Datsun fastback with a top speed of 125 mph was an entirely new concept to many visitors to Earls Court. In 1971 Autocar acclaimed the 240Z an ‘excellent sports coupe’ and a Motor Sport test of the following year noted ‘A drawback in Britain is the price, £2,389, within a few pounds of the Reliant Scimitar GTE which has two extra seats and very similar performance, but otherwise the 240Z has very few competitors’.
And for those drivers who exuded confidence and expense account lunches - and who required a Grand Tourer with just two seats - the Datsun was the perfect car. Motor Sport thought it would ‘appeal to an MGB GT owner who possibly wishes to spend a little more money for added performance and prestige’. They also thought ‘The Datsun 240Z is what the MGC GT should have been and wasn't and it seems a great shame that the British industry cannot offer a similar type of vehicle’.
How did Aaron come about owning this Datsun 240Z?
Aaron is a long-term fan of the Zs – ‘I have also owned a 350 and 370’ – while his 240 ‘ has ‘only recently returned to the road’. It is now primed to cause a minor sensation across the Meon Valley and the Solent, for a 240Z has even more capacity to turn heads than it did some five decades ago. Every detail of GVG 811 K, from the door cards to the body panel fit, is a testament to Mr. Britton’s dedication and it must be said that the “Ferrari Blue” paint finish truly suits its lines.
Regarding modifications, the Datsun has ‘the original engine with 85,000 miles on the clock, and I have “beefed up” the suspension with racing coils front and rear. I’ve also fitted an aftermarket exhaust, dual downdraught Webers, an MSD electronic ignition and Japanese racing wheels’. On the road, Aaron describes the 240Z as ‘“interesting” and ‘good fun’ - and its first major role is to be driven to his wedding! Watch this space for further pictures…
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