1971 Datsun 240Z - Reader Resto

By: Brian James with Guy Allen, Photography by: Brian James with Guy Allen

Presented by

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brian james brian james

With just one owner from new, the story of this car isn't so much a resto as a life-long journey

 

Datsun 240Z resto

I bought this car new and, fortunately, kept it. Was it a big investment for a young bloke? Huge! At that time I had just come out of an apprenticeship and was still living at home – which was probably the only way I could afford it. I took out a loan with the RACV.

The remit was originally priced at over $5000 and this was 1972. The car was about to be superseded and, because of that, I got a 10 per cent discount. But even so it was a huge amount of money for a young bloke. The most expensive Holden at the time was in the 3000s.

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What started this? I went for a ride with a friend of mine in his E-type Jaguar. And I thought, yep, I kinda like this, I reckon this is pretty good.

| Watch the video: Brian's Datsun 240Z resto

I was telling my dad about it. At that time he was manager of pre-delivery at Datsun in the city. He said if you think the E-type is good, you might want to take a run in the Japanese version. He arranged the test drive for me and I was sold – that was it.

This one had been sitting on a showroom floor in Ballarat for quite some time and hadn’t been sold, and they were keen to sell because of the new one coming out. I had no choice in colour, of course, but it was $4700 or so and they shipped it down to Melbourne.

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Dad pulled a few strings at the time. We had Globe mags on the car. That set it aside right from the start. Not only was it a new 240Z, but it had the alloy wheels – at that time it was fairly special and was an interesting experience. It was a head turner then, that’s for sure.

| Buyer's Guide: 1970-1974 Datsun 240Z 

What was it like to drive new? Wonderful. There’s always been a bit of a trick to driving these things. The gear selector is a bit wishy-washy in the early ones. It has a 260 gearbox in it now, which has improved that. At the time, though, it didn’t matter – you adapted to it because it was such a great car and had so many features and went like the wind. Everything a young bloke could want, really.

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Over the years I did everything a young bloke does with a car: I put air horns on it, had front and rear spoilers, put in a wild cam at one stage and went through all those phases.

It’s had several little rebuilds along the way and of course a paint job several years ago as part of a big body restoration. This orange is a more acceptable colour than the original mustard, which was more baby-poo brown according to a lot of people. I got ragged about it, but I didn’t mind the colour.

| 2020 Market Review: Datsun sports 1964-1983  

Along the way it got used for hillclimbs, motorkhanas and sprint meetings. I did a lot of damage to it at the Morwell hillclimb, quite early in the piece. That devastated me. It was repaired, but not very well.

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The engine has been through a lot of phases over time, with different turbos and injection systems. I think we’re now getting it right though and we’re fine-tuning it.

A lot of people put Chev engines in them and I wanted to avoid that. So I decided I wanted to improve the performance and make it a little more modern. Although it had a lot going for it in 1971, the performance was probably still limited.

| Read next: Time-warp Datsun 240Z with 34,000km sells for AU$463,000

It’s still the original 2.4 engine it came with. It runs a late-model water-cooled Garret turbo, and it’s fuel-injected and intercooled. The 260Z gearbox gives me five speeds and exactly the same ratios as the 240. I used the tear the guts out of the clutch, so that’s been uprated. A character called Stewart Wilkins of SW Motorsport in NSW advised on that.

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Brian decided that while the original ‘mustard’ hue was okay, he wanted something that really stood out and still fitted the period. Good choice

It runs an R200 limited slip diff from a Skyline and custom half-shafts, thanks also to Stewart.

Suspension has been uprated. It’s now Koni adjustable coil-overs. As for brakes, it’s running four-pot calipers on the front and discs rather than the original drums on the rear.

| Read next: 1970s Datsuns set international records in Tokyo auction 

All that chassis work has tightened it up a bit and it now has great braking. I think it’s getting up there with the performance of a current car.

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Yep, that’s pretty much a stock standard interior. It was a very special cabin back in 1971

We’re getting about 300hp at the rear wheels and there’s a bit more to be got from that, I think. It seems we have another three or four pounds of boost to play with. In any case it’s a good amount of horsepower in a light car.

It’s still very much in the spirit of the original car. We’re using the original block and it looks much the same, but we’ve brought it up into the 21st century. I was happy to lose the spoilers and so-on as you come to realise that what they put out originally probably looked the best.

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At one stage quite a long time ago I was toying with the idea of selling it, when the finances weren’t good. That was in the late 1980s when we had the big recession and home loan interest rates were up around 17 per cent. Fortunately I resisted.

There are a few other toys in the shed to play with, but this remains the favourite. I could never leave it now.

The resto:

Floored

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Brian breezes over the rebuild. But, as you can see, it was big.

 

Years of ‘character’

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The Zed had about 40 years under its wheels at that stage.

 

Primed

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It seems this was anything but a half-hearted job.

 

Traveller

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Not the most dignified positon for a car, but practical.

 

Cam time

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The Zed has run a couple of cams over time, but the block has survived.

 

Hello there!

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Right, call us psychic, but we seem to be missing something.

 

Better than new

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The advantage of a thorough build is the result should last.

 

Plated

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Yep, every component needs to get the resto treatment.

 

Looking good

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That’s a 260Z trannie in behind the shiny powerplant.

 

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1971 Datsun 240Z

Body: Steel coupe
Engine: 2.4lt SOHC inline injected six with turbo
Power: 300hp-plus
Transmission: 260Z 5-speed manual
Suspension: Koni adjustable coil-overs
Brakes: Discs front and rear, 4-spot front calipers
Wheels: Minilite replicas

 

From Unique Cars #445, October 2020

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