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