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Datsun 240Z

Published: 8th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Datsun 240Z
Tony Fall has recreated the Datsun 240Z which he rallied and now drives on British Championship events Tony Fall has recreated the Datsun 240Z which he rallied and now drives on British Championship events

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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their name on stages and circuits, and still provide a fine drive today

Former works rally driving legend Tony Fall remembers when he first saw a Datsun 240Z: “It was 1970 Monte Carlo Rally, Rauno Aaltonen and I were driving Lancias, and we’d both fallen off the same mountain. We met in the ravine at the bottom and Rauno said, the Japanese want us to test a new rally sports car.” The two drivers repeated every stage of that Monte to test the new car, which Tony described as “a sort of streamlined Austin-Healey”. The verdict was not particularly favourable, and the engineers returned to Japan to put things right. By the RAC Rally, just nine months later, it was a transformed car. Fall’s 240Z did not finish the 1970 RAC, but Aaltonen was 5th and Fall 10th on the following year’s Monte. The same year Edgar Hermann won Kenya’s Safari Rally outright, with Shekhar Mehta second, and Fall won the Welsh International. A second Safari victory came for Mehta in 1973, and the results rolled in. The tough 240Z established itself as one of the all-time rally greats, particularly suited to the more arduous events - the rougher the better. Despite being a bit on the heavy side, but with a tuned engine peaking at a then respectable 250bhp, it wasn’t bad as a race car either, posting numerous successes in SCCA racing in the USA - where Pete Brock’s BRE cars reigned – and in Japan and Australia, as well as the UK. Spike Anderson’s Samuri Racing ‘Big Sam’ (which used two different ex-Safari bodyshells in one season!) was the 240Z to catch on the British circuits, with Brit driver Win Percy winning the 1974 Mod Sports Championship. Nothing about the 240Z was rocket science, but it had the right mix. The 2.4-litre engine was a single overhead cam, in-line, six developing 151bhp, the gearbox a five-speeder, disc brake were fitted to the front, and the suspension was independent all round. It was a modern Big Healey, and the USA in particular took it to heart, making it the best selling sports car of its time. The 125 mph Zed lasted four years, to be succeeded by the plusher and slightly less sporty 260Z, which sold in even greater numbers. Sadly the 280Z of 1978 was a different car altogether. Thirty years on, there’s been something of a Datsun revival. Tony Fall has cloned one of his rally cars, Big Sam has been found, and drivers have posted useful results in the British Historic Rally Championship, Dominic Frattoli being most consistent, and Rob Collinge has repeated history with wins on both the 2003 and ‘05 East African Safari Classic. In the HSCC’s 70’s Road Sports Championship Charles Barter was a class winner in 2006. If you fancy a man-sized sports car with a rock solid pedigree and competition potential, the 240Z could be for you!

Datsun 240Z Summary


1969-1973: 156,000


Engine: Six-cylinder, in-line, with iron block and head. 2393cc, twin Mikuni carbs, single chain driven overhead camshaft
Power: 151bhp
Gearbox: Five-speed manual (automatic on some USA cars)
Drive: Rear wheels
Suspension: Independent, strut-type, all round with coil springs
Brakes: Disc front, drum rear

Claim to fame

Rough, tough, rally winner. Numerous high places on Safari (winner 1971, ’73); Highest Monte Carlo, 3rd in 1972; 1st Welsh and Total Rally (South Africa). Regular race winner around the world, including 1974 British Mod Sports and 1988, ’89 Road Sports championships

Famous names

Rauno Aaltonen, Shekhar Mehta, Edgar Hermann, Tony Fall, Chris Sclater, Martin Birrane, John Morton, Win Percy, Dave Jarman, Mike Feeney, Dominic Frattoli, Charles Barter, Matt Bannister, Rob Collinge

Where to buy

They’re not plentiful, but you can find them. Zed Club website the best, sometimes on e-bay and in magazine classifieds (like ours!). Try importing a rust-free one from the USA: later 260Z built in greater numbers. Don’t be afraid of LHD cars either

What to look for

Rust all over is the real killer. Mechanicals almost bullet-proof and parts are still fairly well available. Several other Datsuns used the same bits, and even some old BMC parts fit!

What to pay

‘Projects’ can be found from £2000, but a good and clean car is more likely to cost £9-10,000 and a concours one in the £15-20K price range. 260’s tend to be a little less


The Z Club:

Classic sport

A good car for historic rally special stages and for the Historic Sports Car Club 70’s Road Sports category. The Zed has even been seen drag racing

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Sport and Performance Tuning Datsun (Nissan) developed competition parts in period and showed the way for aftermarket suppliers. Long stroke conversion makes a 240 (2393cc) into a 260 (2565cc) and 250bhp is very attainable on triple Webers, with 300bhp not unknown. DJ Road and Race (01453 833451) and MJP Auto (01277 374201; will build you a race engine or supply spares

Competitive Rating: 8

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