Datsun 260Z | Spotted

Beauty never comes cheap, right…

By John Howell / Thursday, 15 December 2022 / Loading comments

Wowzers! I know the old “How much?” routine accounts for at least 98 per cent of the comments on PH, but even I am joining in this time. This Datsun 260Z is nearly £100,000, and the advert says it should be 50 per cent more, but it’s in the sale. There’s only one word for that, and I am afraid it’s still wowzers! But the ‘special’ price doesn’t preclude the car from being a bit special, though, and the Datsun 260Z is a special thing, isn’t it? It was a car designed to inject the Datsun brand with a bit of excitement, and it did.

If you’re a new manufacturer, which as far as the western world was concerned Datsun was back in the ’60s, you’ll always sell some cars if you’re punting out basic, cheap, reliable fodder to punters worn down by the unreliability of stuff built by the complacent, old-guard brands. And Datsun was selling cars in the US before the Z came along. It had marketed the Datsun 1000 and 1200, but had only sold 1,500 examples in a decade. Newer, more exciting cars came along, but what Datsun really needed was a halo model to grab some headlines. It needed a hairy-chested sports car.

This being America, to be a successful sports car that appealed to the capacity-mad yanks, it had to have an engine that was bigger than the average American’s lawnmower. That’s what the 240Z got: a 2.4-litre straight six. This wasn’t going to tempt the diehard V8 mob out of their Mustangs, but there was plenty of evidence from Porsche, Triumph, Jaguar et al that you could still sell big with a six.

This was no techno marvel, though. Along with big engines the other thing Americans like is one-plus-one-equals-two mechanicals. Simplicity, in other words. It’s all very well having novelties like mechanical fuel injection to boast about in the sales brochure, and it would be fine if you’re in a conurbation with main dealers around every corner who know how to set it up.

If you’re in the sticks it’s a different matter. The sticks in the US means you could be many, many miles from a franchise dealer, so you’ll need to rely on Old Billybob’s Auto Shop for your everyday maintenance. And if Old Billybob opens the hood to see a load of complicated pipes and injectors he might have a heart attack, or, worse still, inform the village elders, and they’ll turn up and burn you at the stake.

Triumph found this with its TR6. The dealers in America said no to its blasphemous Lucas mechanical fuel injection, so all TR6s sold there ran with good-ol’ carbs. The same was true of the 240Z, which used a couple of Hitachi carbs, which looked suspiciously like SUs, to spit fuel into its pretty meat-and-two-veg alloy head mounted to an iron block. It worked, too. With its handsome, European styling, which had echoes of the exotic Ferrari Daytona, and independent MacPherson strut suspension all round, the 240Z was a solid hit. It was launched in 1969, and by 1972 Datsun was punting out around 50,000 per year in the US.

With the Datsun name now firmly established in American buyers’ minds, and not just for non-nonsense reliability but also desirability, the company was on the road to success. Federal emissions regulations were strangling performance, though, so Datsun increased the capacity of the engine to 2.6-litres, creating the 260Z in 1974. Even so, with its pathetically low compression ratio the power had dropped from the original 240Z’s 151hp to around 140hp. Outside the US, though, things were a little brighter. Without such draconian emissions regulations to meet, the 260Z added a modest power increase to 162hp, while largely retaining the handsome exterior style and classic sports car interior of the original. The 280 ZX was still a way off, yet. 

Whatever you say about the price of this one – and I don’t doubt you’ll say plenty – it does look absolutely stunning. The colour is described as Grand Prix Red, but it looks like burnt orange to me and that’s very of the time, too. And the paintwork appears to be pristine, along with the gleaming, four-spoke alloy wheels. It has a Webasto roof as well, which takes the fight to the TR6 by adding an element of open-air thrills to car that was only ever a hard-top coupé. It’s also reported to have covered just 34k, comes with its original tool roll and jack, plus an extensive history file with its sales invoice, handbooks, sales literature and 34 tax discs. So it’s worth a ‘wowzers’ in other respects, too – not just for the price.

Specification | Datsun 260Z

Engine: 2,565cc, straight six, naturally aspirated
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 162 @ 5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 157lb ft @ 4,400rpm
CO2: N/A
Recorded mileage: 34,000
Year registered: 1978
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £97,500

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