Ja­pan’s GT stormer

Pro­duced by Nis­san from 1969 to 1978 the 240Z was one of the most suc­cess­ful sports car lines ever cre­ated

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drivetime - Ian John­son

Way back in 1970, the know-it-alls who said that Ja­pan could not make a qual­ity sports car were splut­ter­ing on bits of straw and felt as they rapidly ate their hats. The rea­son was the UK launch of the Dat­sun 240Z - a six-cylin­der per­for­mance car in true GT style.

It came as cul­ture shock be­cause the Ja­panese car mar­ket was in its in­fancy in Bri­tain. We re­garded Ja­pan as we later did some Korean man­u­fac­tur­ers - pro­duc­ers of eas­ily at­tain­able wheels that were not in the same class as, say, a Volk­swa­gen or Peu­geot.

But along came the 240Z and per­cep­tions changed. It sold for three glo­ri­ous years un­til the ad­vent of the 260Z and it won many friends who loved its power and driv­ing qual­i­ties.

I have par­tic­u­larly fond mem­o­ries of the 240Z be­cause it was one of the first ve­hi­cles I ever drove for a road test.

So it was with par­tic­u­lar plea­sure that Nis­san asked me to step back into the driv­ing seat of a beau­ti­fully re­stored 1971 model to find out how the 240Z hacks it in mod­ern traf­fic con­di­tions.

The ex­pe­ri­ence was un­canny. The car, although orig­i­nally sold and used in 1971, felt like new. It had been ac­quired by Nis­san, orig­i­nally Dat­sun, from a spe­cial­ist where it was await­ing restora­tion.

Away it went to the fac­tory and emerged smelling new, look­ing new and driv­ing like new - 33 years af­ter it rolled out of the show­room into the hands of its de­lighted first cus­tomer. Re­splen­dent in yel­low paint fin­ish with black trim, it up­staged the lat­est Nis­san Z-car, the 350Z at a re­cent car event.

On the road, its straight six, 2.4-litre en­gine has the power to im­press, hurtling from 0-60mph in eight sec­onds with a throaty growl and promis­ing an eas­ily at­tain­able top speed of 125mph.

A to­tal head-turner, this car demon­strated the old joys of driv­ing, en­joyed be­fore the ad­vent of anti-slip con­trol and trac­tion aids.

Yes, you have to use its power skil­fully, but the re­wards are great. This is the car that proved the Ja­panese had great sport­ing po­ten­tial. In my view, they have never built a large sports car to equal its spe­cial qual­i­ties.

HEADTURNER Low price, and im­pres­sive per­for­mance struck a ma­jor chord with the pub­lic

TOP PER­FORMER 1972 Bon­neville Na­tional Speed Tri­als

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