How the 240Z changed Japan’s automotive industry forever
This legendary sports car stunned the motoring world and started a great legacy
I would just like to begin by thanking everyone who has supported me on DriveTribe since I started writing. It's been 2 years already, and I give my gratitude to all the people who have helped me get to where I am now. In celebration of my two years as a motoring journalist, I wanted to write about the Datsun 240Z, and how this Japanese icon changed the world.
Credit: Japanese Nostalgic Car
The late Yoshihiko Matsuo, Nissan's Chief of Design, set to work in 1965 to design the 240Z. His management wanted him to give the new Z-car a more conservative style, but he later stated that "Nissan, and Japan as a whole, needed to build something stunning, something original that would make foreign manufacturers sit up and take notice of us." The design of the 240Z continued to evolve, until Matsuo's final prototype was finished in 1968. And it was brilliant.
Credit: Honest John Classics
When it was released to the public in 1969, the world was amazed. While the 240Z was similarly priced to MG's MGB sports car, this car offered so much more. It was faster, better looking and, above all, more engaging to drive. The combination of high quality and high performance made it a very desirable car, and over 45,000 were sold up to 1971. Nissan had finally proved to the rest of the world that Japan was just as capable at making good sports cars as anyone else.
The reason for the Datsun's superior performance wasn't just down to its light weight or highly captivating aerodynamic styling. To help it reach 60mph in just 8 seconds, Nissan swapped out the inline-4 engine for a larger 6-cylinder powerplant. The 2.4-litre 'L24' sounded brilliant and, with 151 horsepower available, made the 240Z seem like a supercar when compared to most sports cars of the time. So, Porsche 911 performance for the price of an MGB? Count me in.
On top of all this, the 240Z was also an excellent daily driver, with plenty of luggage space and comfortable vinyl seats making it suitable for anything from a trip to the shop to a long drive across the country. Owning a sports car had never been so cheap and so convenient, but the true purpose of owning this Datsun was to have fun. The low weight and 4-wheel independent suspension made sure that its handling was excellent, miles ahead of any other car in its class.
Credit: Motor Authority
Of course, part of the reason we remember the great 240Z is through the legacy that it started. And, to this day, the legendary Z-car lives on. It all began with one car, under the leadership of Nissan USA’s President Yukata Katayama, and with the help of design expert Yoshihiko Matsuo. What started off as an ordinary car soon helped to change the world's perception of Japan's cars forever by giving it an automobile that was better than anything else: the Datsun 240Z.