Something for the weekend – Datsun 240Z

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For so long a student car - especially in the US - it was success in historic rallying that helped people to appreciate the grunty Datsun anew, to finally take a mass-produced Japanese sports car seriously, and subsequently for demand and values to spiral.

As ever, this has polarised the market between those cars that have been fully restored - and wear a price tag that reflects that - and those that desperately need restoration, but will cost far more than they are worth at the end.

Be warned, these are expensive cars to restore properly. Be warned again: there are loads of badly bodged ones that will cost the same as half-decent car and cost the same as a restoration project to make good.

Importing a car from the US is still worth considering, but, even more so than with most classics, this is one you really want to have a good look at before handing over your money.

The reason is rot, lots of it, which has slashed the survival rate from the half a million units built.

Launched in 1969 and in production for a decade, the image-changing Datsun was a roaring success in the States, where it outsold all of the European sports cars.

The appeal lay not just in that silhouette E-type styling (and the battle stil rages over who deserves the credit for it), but in the throaty 2393cc straight-six, which led to period comparisons with the Big Healey.

Performance was impressive: the durable 'six' propelled the sleek Datsun to 60mph in 8 secs and on to a top speed of 125mph.

The 240Z was relatively sophisticated, too, with all-independent suspension, a five-speed 'box and front disc brakes.

C&SC ran a full Buyer's Guide on the 240 and 260 in November 2010 when we reckoned that an average (ie on the road and anything between mint and ropey) car would cost around £10,000, with the very best examples double that and restoration jobs worth less than the trailer you'll be taking them home on.

You can revise that now to £25,000-plus for a minter, £15k for a nice one and and £8000 for a scruffy US import.

On the plus side, there is excellent club and manufacturer (considering the age) support, plus a small but excellent band of specialists in the UK.

So, what's on the market?

This one is in the USA but, given the rot issues and the fact that the vast majority of 240Zs were sold there, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Described as 'an immaculate example', the 1973 car is priced at $27,500 – which translates to under £17,000. And, even though you will have to ship it, that isn't bad. See the full ad by clicking here.

If you want to reassurance of a UK-bought car, then this one is on C&SC's sister site PistonHeads for a couple of grand less. Restored fewer than four years ago, it really does look worth further investigation and is keenly priced for a right-hooker. Overlook the illegal silver-on-black plates, correct a few minor details and we reckon this one could turn out to be a bargain.

Our third example is half the price of the others… with good reason. The much-modified, multi-coloured hot rod is fitted with a Chrysler V8 and is a long way off being a nice original Z.

That said, we would ignore the £8500 asking price and start negotiating (hard) on the £5500 he's offering it for minus engine, 'box and exhaust. If the bodywork is good, and the works are reversible (and we are not so sure about that), you could end up with a very good Z relatively cheaply.

Do a Google search and there are a good few more, but these three sum up the market. If you really want to torture yourself, start watching them on the US eBay site!

Tempted? Then download our FREE Datsun 240/260Z Buyer's Guide here

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