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MGC V8 Published: 13th Nov 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


What The Experts Say...

Paul Wrangle of the Z Club (www. says that prices for the 240Z are soaring and knows of £40,000 cars (which are Stateside rebuilt examples) and adds that classic pundit Quentin Willson believes the 50 grand Z isn’t too far away. Spares, while not MGC sufficient, aren’t a major problem as this Datsun remains well served in the US but you have to be patient. A fair number in the club (which costs a paltry £15 to join) are fitted with Toyota Supra and BMW straight six engines which fit a treat. Why the 240Z and 260Z remain so welll loved is simple; “It’s like an E-type,” says Paul.

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Both MG and Datsun thought they had the perfect replacement for the old Big Healey – which one should you go for?

Ever since its demise almost half a century ago, the Big Healey has been sorely missed. It may have been primitive in its design, even when contemporary, but what the A-H lacked in finesse it made up in character, a car (without sounding sexist as Pat Moss – Stirling’s sister – was one of its most successful drivers) that sorted out the men from the boys.

MG thought that it had come up with the spiritual successor with its MGC but this six-cylinder MGB received a lukewarm reception and disappointing sales that never matched the Healeys. The MGB GT V8 that replaced it in the 1970s was said to have been the MGB enthusiasts all cried out for yet sales were worse at less than 4000. A case of be careful what you wish for?

While all this was going on, Japan had carried on what it did so well with our motorcycles – studying, copying and improving – and came up with a sports car that was a mix of Jaguar E-type and Big Healey. The result? The best selling sports car of its era with a staggering 622,000 made!

Fast forward almost half a century and both the MGC and the Datsun 240Z have soared in value and new-found respect as rightful heirs to the Big Healey throne. You probably know the MG well enough already but have you ever considered the Datsun – and more to the point, should you?



You wouldn’t credit that the Datsun 240Z and the MGC came from the same decade yet this pair were considered rivals. The Brit was a big-engined descendant of the MGB, itself closely related to the old MGA and the T Type sportsters. In contrast, the 240Z was virtually all new and fairly state-of-the-art for 1969. The styling was not dissimilar to the E-type coupé – small wonder that the 240Z became the world’s best selling sports car, but subsequent later cars, such as the 260Z 2+2, plus the far too Americanised and less powerful 280Z, weren’t as stylish or classy.

The MG’s GT body has always combined both qualities that even rubber bumpers couldn’t ruin. Where the Brit scored was with its hatchback 2+2 configuration, leading to the car being dubbed a poor man’s Aston DB2/4 although it’s debatable how many used the MG as a four-seater. The 240Z and the first 260Z were strictly two-seaters but a 260Z 2+2, with a stretched 12inch wheelbase was offered; like the E-type 2+2 we feature elsewhere in this issue, the price of practicality was spoiled looks yet it outsold the 260 easily. One drawback of the 240Z is that there’s no boot, just a spacious rear compartment with a lift-up glass panel… so don’t leave anything on display!

There’s far more chance of finding an MGC GT or a V8GT naturally and a price gap is growing between the pair in favour of the six-cylinder car, strangely, as the MGC gains new found respect. Twenty grand and over is not unknown for a concours MGC GT, making the later V8 better value although watch for dodgy DIY conversions.

On the other hand, expect Costello cars, which always have a price premium, to rise in value since the sad demise of Ken Costello last month.

The newer the Z car the cheaper they are. Due to their sheer rarity top 240Zs can carry prices nudging the 30 grand mark with a typical good one half this, which incidentally should get you an excellent 260Z (two seater). Later models are worth relative buttons by comparison with a 280ZX (1978-83) worth not much more than £5000 and the similar later 300ZX Turbo worth even less despite sporting almost 230bhp. If you have an eye on future classics then these are the ones to consider buying as their values will surely increase.

With the car being designed for the US market, you can import a lefthand drive model although expect them to be slower due to detox emissions equipment fitted and the obligatory safety bumpers. Don’t ignore grey imports from Japan; they are right-hand drive plus there were versions produced which never made it to these shores such as four-cylinder variants and optional automatic transmission.



Although the Datsun crossed over with the MGC in the late 1960s they are from different generations. The MGC, despite its larger 3-litre engine is more a lazy hacking pony compared to the sharper, swifter 2.4-litre Japanese engine (which was said to be a copy of a Mercedes unit!) yet the difference in quoted power is barely 5bhp. The MGC’s engine was different to the seemingly identical-looking Healey unit boasting seven main bearings. One doesn’t need reminding that the engine started life hauling lorries around, so it’s more of a torquey low-revving unit than a crisp and sparkling high-revver. However, this lusty engine makes the MG a fine motorway car provided it has the overdrive unit which was an option at £61 (big money in ’67). The gearbox was also new with synchromesh on all four gears and found its way into the MGB GT V8. Another option was a B/W three-speed auto at just a touch under £100. Autocar’s test of an overdrive model gave it a top speed of 120mph, but complained of the heavy fuel consumption at 17.5mpg yet found the automatic more suited to the car’s character.

With the 240Z and later Zs, you get a five-speed gearbox with slightly vague gear shift. Also despite an indirect ‘fifth’ overall gearing is quite low making it a rather fussy motorway car as well although 22mpg is a realistic target. The performance from its overhead camshaft 2393cc engine is far more sporting and sparkling with a 0-60mph time of just over nine seconds and 125mph top whack. When the unit was enlarged to 2.6-litres for 1974, mainly to counteract emission requirements, the engine’s character changed for the worse, commented Motor although still performed well albeit not as silent or smooth. MG’s second stab at a buzzier B was much better with the V8 GT despite it using the low compression (137bhp) Range Rover unit and not the 155bhp 3500S. It resulted in genuine pace, better than the Datsun’s, while the lighter V8 ensured that the handling was vastly superior to the nose-heavy MGC, although as we now know this was also due to wrong tyre pressures at launch and a sorted MGC on good tyres handles quite well, even if not as good as the 240Z. Not as heavily understeering as that long nose might suggest – MacPherson strut suspension helping here no doubt – the Datsun delights.

It’s also notable that the Datsun boasted modern independent rear suspension with telescopic damping, resulting in a ride that’s far better than any rival MG.

Overall, the 240Z captures the flavour of the Healey the best, requiring a firm hand to get the best from it yet it’s also a far better cruiser than big engined MGBs thanks to considerably less road and wind noise and a much better cabin environment – even if it is a vision in vinyl!




It goes without saying that the MG is easier to keep. Despite massive sales, spare parts for these Datsuns isn’t as good although it remains highly popular in the US. Mechanically, the Jap shared a lot of common parts with the Bluebird, Laurel, Skyline saloons etc, it’s replacement panels that are a worry because they can suffer from ruinous rot.

Some parts are copies of traditional components. For example, the carbs are copies of SUs and Rover P6 items can be utilised. Other ‘swappables’ include suspension and springs while Subaru Impreza steering racks not only fit but also improve the car. Some earlier Zs may have a later 280ZX engine, or a unit from the Skyline, fitted and larger 16inch tyres (Wolferace were always popular aftermarket rims) due to today’s tyre availability. One well known specialist is Kent-based Fourways Engineering (01732 884288 ) who repairs, restores and race prepares them as well as offers new and used parts. It says interest in the 240 and 260 models is extremely high and owners are now fully prepared to spend large sums on theirs.

Being MG, any owner is driving down easy street and while BMH doesn’t market complete replacement bodies for the MGC, individual panels are available (don’t consider trying to convert an MGB into a C as the front hull and suspension are all different and a major task results). Mechanically, all that you need is available from the respective owners’ clubs and experts, such as MG Motorsport who specialises in MGC care, repair and tuning.


And The Winner Is...

In its day Autocar, along with others, commented that the 240Z was the car that the MGC should have been. You can counter argue this by saying that with certain mods, you certainly can make the MGC the car it should have always been – and more! Selecting an overall winner isn’t easy or clear cut because, with classics, personal preferences always comes into play. What we will say is that the Datsun 240Z was a real gamechanger for Japanese cars and without it perhaps the brilliant Mazda MX-5 might never have materialised. If you’re in the market for an MGC, at least give the 240Z and 260Z a try as well. Later Z cars don’t hold such appeal but their cheap prices make them bargain performance cars with enormous future classic potential, especially the twin turbo 300ZX from the 1990s.

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