To tell the story of the 260Z would normally be short
and sweet, simply put the 240Z had its engine size enlarged. But that would be too easy, so in the interests of writing
an interesting article let's go back to the beginning.
Datsun started life by assembling Austin cars under licence,
but was able to break into the lucrative US sports car
market in the mid-1960s with its stylish little 1600 Sports
and 2 liter models.
Both cars were thoroughly conventional, however their
shortcomings soon became evident.
The engine may have
been strong and durable, but it was far from being refined,
and the cars perceived lack of roadholding and utilitarian
style soon saw them lose favour with US customers, despite
The chiefs at Datsun knew, however, that there was enormous
untapped potential in the US market and despite their
previous setbacks, decided to set about creating a thoroughly
new and exciting sports car, the 240Z.
It was never intended
that the car compete on performance with the such marques
as the Jaguar E-Type or Italian exotica, rather it had
more traditional British sports cars in its sights, such
as the MGB and TR6.
Classically designed by Count Albrecht Goertz, the "Z"
featured independent rear suspension and a silky smooth
2393cc in line OHC 6 already used in other Datsun models
- able to run effortlessly to its 7000 RPM cut-out
and capable of doing 0-100 km/h in a little under 9
The sleek fastback looks, with lift-up tailgate,
and obviously influenced by the E-Type and Ferrari
275GTB lines - and the world fell in love with it.
The 1970's would see the US tighten its laws on emission
and safety, so much so that many traditional European
sports car manufacturers gradually slipped back, or
pulled out altogether.
This in turn left the market wide open to Datsun, and
the Z-Car. By 1972 it had become the world's fastest
selling sports coupe. Good looks and stellar performance
were soon backed up by two outright victories in the
East African Safari rally, in 1971 and 1973. The original
car stayed in production until 1973, by which time
no fewer than 156,076 240Z's had been built. But as
with any car, the
"Z" needed to be modified to keep the buying public
interested, and so in 1974 the 260Z was released.
Effectively it was simply a 240Z with a larger 2565cc
engine fitted, however now you could order a longer
wheelbase derivative offering extra occasional seats,
logically enough called 260Z 2+2. However despite the
increase in engine capacity, the new "Z" was actually
slightly slower, and less sporting, than its predecessor.
The 260Z remained on sale to global markets for four years,
however in the US, which was its principle market, it
was replaced by the lustier 280Z in less than a year.
As its title implies, the 280Z had a larger 2753cc engine
specifically tuned to meet the latest emission laws, but
the biggest improvements came courtesy of the newly fitted
Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection.
Naturally the fuel injection helped improve fuel consumption,
however the "Z" was rapidly gaining weight and, unfortunately,
it was not winning the battle of the bulge. Heavier and
slower than the original, the allure of the "Z" began
to tarnish, which is why today the 240, and to a lesser
extent the 260, are so fondly remembered by many.