The year is 1974, the oil crisis has come to an end and this bright yellow Datsun 240Z has just rolled off of the production line… Destined for the UK, AWU491K arrived in all of its Japanese glory to its, no doubt, thrilled owner. But those observant readers amongst you will note that today is not 1974, nobody is wearing flared jeans. No, it is in fact 2013 but today I am stepping out of a time machine and right into the driver’s seat of a machine that has become a cult classic. Literally boiling over with excitement I took the keys to what could just be the ultimate in retro motoring.
The Datsun 240Z was the original Z car and its success is directly responsible for Nissan’s past and current Z sports cars. It powered by a 2.4 litre in-line 6 engine up front that sends 161BHP to the rear wheels. The car featured independent suspension and could get from 0-60MPH in 8 seconds flat. This really was a proper performance icon back in its day and sitting in the snug cockpit looking at its dished steering wheel I felt like the coolest man on Earth. It’s old leather seats didn’t do a great job of supporting me, but as I fired up the old girl, none of that mattered. Today I have Millbrook’s Proving Ground at my disposal, today it is 1974.
As the bright sunshine hit the Datsun’s equally bright paintwork you can admire every little detail in its design. The long sloping bonnet and short rear overhang makes the profile of this car extraordinarily handsome. Details such as chromed trim and inset headlights gives the 240Z such character that is rarely seen in todays automobiles.
Setting off you can feel this cars pulse in everything you touch. Thought the wood-rimed steering wheel as its skinny little tyres skip over bumps, the vibration in the pedals, the smell of 70’s combustion at work. The 240Z feels very much like a machine that is alive. It is certainly alive when you decide to stretch its legs! It is still relatively quick by modern standards, but with all of the added drama with this now being a classic car, the sensation of being thrown back into your seat was all the more satisfying. Approaching some of the rather challenging corners I very quickly began to appreciate how far breaking systems have come in the past 39 years. With no ABS super late breaking is somewhat out of the question, however, by classic car standards the stoppers were not all that bad. Clicking down a gear and blipping the throttle is immensely pleasing and once you get over the lack of power steering its instant change of direction makes the 240Z an utter joy to drive. Tickle the throttle upon the exit of a wide corner and you can feel the back end eagerly awaiting to play.
The Datsun 240Z is a very involving car and it requires someone who knows what they are doing to get the most out of it. The communication between car and driver is something very important in a sports car as it is through the car the driver has the connection to the tarmac beneath. If the car could talk it would have verbal diarrhoea an absolute chatterbox. Thanks to this you know exactly what the 240Z is doing and the byproduct of this is not only a huge smile on your face, but also the confidence to push on a little harder.
Taking the key out of the ignition, the 240Z ticked itself to sleep becoming the focal point of peoples camera once more. Looking around I see new 911’s and a McLaren 12C making their way out and onto the alpine track and I thought to myself “wow, performance cars have come a very long way since this was sat in the showroom.” Yet, the 240Z has something that a lot of cars today lack, a real personality. Today isn’t 1974, but I wish it was…