Simple Zed - Revcounter 433

By: Guy Allen

Presented by

datsun z datsun z

Is car development too complex?

Re-engaging with the Datsun 240Z recently does make you wonder whether we’ve really advanced that far when it comes to design, over the intervening half century.

We have a lot more electronics and safety features, and there is no question that when you drive a really good-handling modern car, it will eat something like a 240Z alive. But there is still something about the Zed – and a few other cars of the era – that just doesn’t seem to happen so frequently these days. Maybe it’s the cheap and cheerful simplicity of them.

In the modern era, the car that I reckon came closest to reliving that feeling is the early Mazda MX-5. It’s a similar recipe – not the most powerful engine on the planet, but for its time a good-handling and relatively basic rear-wheel-drive car that’s all about fun.

| Read next: 1970 Datsun 240Z Z432R expected to fetch AU$1.1million at auction

There’s something I read recently, and I’m buggered if I can find it among the chaos that is my life. But the gist of it was the author was asking whether the new generation of drivers coming through are being denied the pleasure of a very basic and therefore very cheap, simple car that’s about driving and nothing else.

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Yes, it said, we need to meet certain safety basics, such as seatbelts, airbags and ABS. Do we really need a whole lot more? If you look at much of the current advertising out there in the automotive world, it’s all about buying a rolling entertainment system and a lifestyle, and absolutely nothing to do with the ‘c’ word. I swear I’ve seen several where the word ‘car’ isn’t even mentioned.

| Read next: 50 years of Z-cars - 1969-2019 timeline

Anyway, our author was arguing there may be a market for a very basic two-seater, stripped back to being a fun thing to drive and nothing more, with just the basic safety nets. He reckoned it would appeal to a young market that didn’t want to throw huge money at driving, and just might bring on a new generation of enthusiasts when they discover how much fun it is.

I suspect you might get a whole generation of older enthusiasts signing up, too, re-engaging with what they’ve been missing all these years.

| Read next: Datsun 240Z resources

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As the wonderful Datsun publicity shot on this page proves, makers marketing lifestyle with a car is anything but new. The idea presumably was to show the 240Z as a desirable thing even among rich folk who can afford to keep nice horses. As someone who has owned and ridden horses in the past, it carries a different message. Both the hay-burners and the petrol-burners are great fun, but you have to treat both with a lot of respect as they both bite. It all depends on your point of view.

You know, a latter-day first-gen Zed just might have me waiting outside the dealer’s door at opening time.

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