The Datsun 240z Vs. Nissan 370z Legacy
Any comparison between the original 240z and the more modern 370z is probably unfair since they have almost four decades between them. We acknowledge that the technology has improved almost tenfold, a lot that can still be compared between the two beautiful cars.
The Original 240z Story
The 1970 model year Datsun 240z was first offered in the American marketplace in the fall of 1969. The sportscar was designed to take on European models breaking into the marketplace, like the MGB and Jaguar E-type.
To ensure it competed, the automaker priced the car in the same price range as the MGB, at around $3,500. Considering that a Jaguar E was more than two grand more, Americans turned to the 240z, reflecting the long nose and stubby rear that Jaguars had been making for years. Americans flocked to the car, impressed with its precise engineering, low price, and exquisite looks. Sales took off, topping a robust 17k units within the first year.
The 240z would continue production through 1973 when Nissan morphed the car into the 260z for 1974 and 280z for the ‘75 - ‘78 model years. Hampered by increasingly stringent emissions and fuel economy standards, Nissan offered the 280ZX after ‘79 through 1983, but the car never seemed to take off. Nissan replaced it with the 300ZX series, offering a more upscale, higher-priced sportscar that Americans could increasingly not afford.
The 370 Z Emerges
When Nissan introduced the 370z in 2009. The car was a complete redesign of the ultra-popular, affordable 350z. The car was shorter, with a smaller wheelbase, but was composed of lightweight materials (featuring an aluminum subframe and panels). The 3.7L V6 powered the car through its production run until 2020, and for its day, clocking a 4.6 second 0 - 60 wasn’t bad at all.
Nissan gave the 370z a great deal of exposure by featuring it in one of the most popular video games in 2008, The Need For Speed. (It was the first time a car had premiered before its release in a video game). As Americans played the game, they began to experience the joy of driving the car, which created some initial excitement. However, early reviews of the 370z were mixed and sales fell short of Nissan’s expectations. Priced at $29,770 in 2009, the base price hadn’t risen too much by 2020 to only a little over $31k (although the Nismo version was priced in the mid-forties).
Nissan introduced the NISMO (Nissan Motorsports) version of the 370z in 2009 with a new exhaust setup and ECU settings, along with a stiffer suspension and heavier springs and stabilizer bars. The new settings increased the power performance to 355 hp (332 hp in the regular 370z), which only succeeded in making the car that much faster. The addition of the Nismo features helped turn the 370z into a great performer, but the cramped interior turned many potential consumers away.
The 370z was redesigned in 2013 and continued through the 2020 model. Production for 2009 was the best for the US market at over 13k units, but by the time 2020 rolled around, only 1,954 had sold. Nissan discontinued the Nissan 370z while quickly announcing that it was working on a new Nissan “Z” car.
Power and Performance
The Datsun 240z employed a 2.4L (L24) OHC inline-six-cylinder engine that initially produced 151 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. The engine used a cast iron block with an aluminum alloy head, two valves per cylinder, a mechanical fuel pump, and an SU carburetor, creating 9.0:1 compression. The car was paired with multiple transmission offerings, including four-speed manual, five-speed manual and three-speed automatic. As far as speed goes, the car was reasonably quick, with an 8.6 second 0 - 60 mph time.
By contrast the 2020 Nismo 370z has a DOHC 24-valve 3.7L V6 which produced 355 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. The engine has an all-aluminum block and heads with an 11.0:1 compression. The engine translates into increased speed as the 370z can do 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds and a quarter-mile in 13.3 seconds. Nissan paired a six-speed manual transmission with the 7-speed automatic transmission for the 370z’s run.
One of the highlights of the 370z was its ability to match automatic rev on the downshifts. The 6-speed was the first gearbox to do this, saving a lot of heel-to-toe issues for drivers wanting to decelerate with the stick rather than the brake. With Brembo brakes and an upgraded wishbone suspension, the 370z could navigate the curves like a more expensive Porsche, giving it a reputation of being an able-performing sports car worthy of the Z car lineage.
The original Datsun 240z had a length of 163 inches, a width of 64.2 inches, and a height of 50.5 inches with a wheelbase of 90.7 inches. With a weight of 2,302 lbs, it was one of the lighter sports cars on the market.
The 2009 370z js larger than its distant predecessor, with a length of 166.9 inches, a stance of 72.8 inches, and a height of 52.0 inches. The wheelbase is is 100.4. With a weight of 3.400 - 3,600 lbs, it was considerably heavier than the original 240z.
The original MSRP for the 2009 Datsun 240z was just a touch over $29,000 with the NIsmo version being considerably more. Today, a 240z in excellent condition is around $50k, depending on the trim and options, according to Hagerty valuations.
Even in its last year of production, the 370z had a base MSRP of over $30k. (The NIsmo variant was around $46k). While the new Nissan Z is priced about ten grand more, the cars haven’t been around long enough to determine what their value might be down the road.
Considering that so few of them were made, we’re hoping the scarcity might help to boost their value in the years ahead.
While some Z lovers might disagree, we are partial to the old-style Datsun 240z. It might not be as fast, but for its day, it was a quality “Z” car, fun to drive, and best of all, affordable. Collectors still search to find them, and we can see why. The 370z is capable and sets the stage for Nissan’s next generation of the “Z” line, but the car tends to be finicky when driven, and the interior (while better than the 240), doesn’t impress. Here’s hoping the company will take the legacy they have built to heart in continuing to fashion the next Z.