There was once a time in automotive history when American consumers considered Japanese cars, and especially sportscars, to be vastly inferior to their American counterparts. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan were synonymous with “cheap junk” in the minds of most car enthusiasts in the United States. It took one car to change these opinions – the original Z-Car. Datsun released the 240Z in late 1969 and the Japanese automaker never quite caught up with the incredible demand throughout the entire production lifespan of the 240Z. From inception to late 1973 when the last model-year of the 240Z was produced, dealers across the country were sold-out of the Japanese sportscar everyone wanted. Datsun built the car to appeal specifically to the American market – ensuring even a 6’5 American consumer could fit comfortably, and replacing the Japanese ‘Fairlady’ branding with the more American-appealing ‘240Z’ marketing moniker.
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Automakers in the 1960s and 70s did not pay too much attention to rust-proofing their products, and Japanese automakers were the most notorious for this. Unfortunately, Datsun was no exception – the 240Z had no galvanization measures taken and rusted extremely quickly. This is and will always be the number one concern with Z-Cars – the extent of rust damage. Although you will see how popular the 240Z has become in recent years, much of the demand is driven by the fact that so many 240Zs fell victim to harsh climates.
Since then, the Z-Car and especially the 240Z, has had an interesting history in terms of its market and its eventual designation as a collectible automobile. Until the early 2000s, the fervor for the 240Z was only kept alive in small enthusiast groups. Prices were low and due to the unibody design of the 240Z, it wasn’t financially viable to rust repair many of the 240Zs that would need extensive bodywork to be deemed road worthy. However, this did not last long. Until about 2000-2005 you could find a solid 240Z for less than $10,000. After that time, prices began to rise rapidly with the increasing popularity of the Z-Car among classic car collectors and the enthusiast community. For more information on pricing/valuation, check out our guide on that subject.
With that said, it is still possible to find yourself a solid 240Z that has been well taken care of. This guide will serve as a primer on sourcing such a car and what to look for. Note that here at ZCarGuide.com, we have a Datsun 240Z classifieds section and add every car you see there by hand. We even post some of our best finds to a newsletter you can join by filling out the form to the right – and don’t worry, we won’t spam you!
Where to Find A 240Z
Fortunately for you, a good, rust-free 240Z can be found virtually anywhere because so many were produced and many were smart enough to keep their 240Zs out of harsh weather. However, it is obviously much easier to find a solid 240Z in drier climates of the United States.
The hotbed for the 240Z is undeniably focused in one place – Southern California, particularly around Los Angeles. The next best states to look for a 240Z are likely Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. Take a look at the climate map below by the US Department of Energy to get a better idea of where you might find a rust-free 240Z.
While there are many states that had a dry enough climate to compensate for the 240Zs lack of rust-protection, California is easily the best to look for because so many were sold in that region. California dealers often had a waiting period over a month long for new 240Z buyers in the ‘70s! If you regularly check the Los Angeles craigslist, you will see that solid 240Zs pop up for sale often, and are quickly bought. The California (especially Los Angeles) marketplace is highly dynamic for the 240Z but is your best bet for a rock solid 240z.
Inspecting a 240Z for Sale – What to Look For
If it is not already clear to you, your primary concern when you go to look at a 240Z you are interested in buying is rust. Ensure you thoroughly inspect all rust-prone areas and be wary of invisible rust repair, as failing to do so could be a costly mistake. If you need more guidance on this, make sure to check out ZCarGuide.com’s rust inspection guide for information on this process!
One thing you simply can’t always tell with just a visual check is whether or not rust-repair has been done on the body. A car that has had rust repair done is not necessarily a poor purchase, but if the seller is not upfront about this and you end up discovering rust repair, it should be a major red flag. Similarly, a little bit of rust repair in the regular areas is typically fine, but an extremely high volume of rust repair present on the vehicle should also serve as a warning to you.
The question becomes, how can you actually check for hidden rust repair? While some swear by using a magnet to detect any body filler along the exterior, we at ZCarGuide we recommend using a coating thickness gauge to be sure. Using a gauge, you can simply go over any spot you find suspicious and see if the coating thickness matches up to the rest of the car. It should quickly become apparent whether rust repair has been done on the car. In the past, such a tool was a little too expensive to be considered a necessity, but we find them so useful and can now be found so cheaply on Amazon that we strongly recommend you purchase one before ever looking at a prospective Z-car for sale. The Z-car is simply too rust-prone to not check all the boxes on this issue.
Your first question should be whether the car has a clear title. Salvaged or lost titles, while not an outright disqualifier, can certainly be an issue in buying a classic Z. Consider fees and penalties you might incur before making a purchase. In most cases, the seller will be upfront about the title situation of the car on the listing, but if not, this is a good question to ask over the phone with the seller. When you go to look at the car, make sure the VIN matches what is listed on the title. Of course, you are also going to want to check if the engine number matches as well, but note that a decent amount of 240Zs had engine swaps done. For more information on how an engine swap impacts the price of a 240Z, or more information about pricing/valuing a 240Z, check out our price guide.
In terms of the interior, just look for anything that is aftermarket. Many seats have been torn or replaced with aftermarket options altogether, this is normal. Take stock of what will need to be replaced and figure out how much it will cost you at part suppliers like ZCarDepot. Many of these cars have a lot of cracks around the dashboard after years of sun exposure like the image to the right – this is extremely common. Repairing a cracked dash is difficult although possible, and many people cover up the damage with dash covers, so check to see if it is not covered up with one of those. Ask the seller, but also make sure you check yourself. In some cases, a dash cap might be hiding (protecting) a perfectly un-cracked dash, so make sure you take note or ask.
Take stock of the interior instruments. Common issues include: right-side combination switch failure due to corrosion, turn-signal switch failure due to corrosion or stress, general electrical issues. If the car has been fitted with an AC (dealer installed option) check to see if it works and consider yourself lucky if it does. Due to the increase in popularity of the 240Z, many small plastic pieces that you might find missing inside the car are now readily available as reproduction parts. Electrical components are also easy to find nowadays such as the combination switch or ignition switch. Check to see how the gauges function – most of the analog clocks are broken and the oil-pressure gauges are inaccurate or broken altogether due to failed sending units. Most steering wheels on 240Zs will be in poor condition, but they are actually very easy to repair.
With the exterior, take note of the paint – ask if it has been repainted and what the original color was, if it is known at all. Original paint 240Zs are very rare, and original paint in good shape could be one of the quickest indicators of a car that has been taken care of.
With the permission of the seller, start the engine. Take note of operation of the manual choke and the performance of the carburetors. Sometimes sellers will run you through a little “trick” they use to get it started if the choke does not work properly. This is normal, so don’t be too alarmed if this happens. If a Z has been sitting for a while, it will likely need its carburetors cleaned, reinstalled, and tuned. Make sure you ask the seller about the carbs. Take the car out for a quick drive and pay attention to any issues in steering or suspension. Rear strut failure is common, and it is normal to need new bushings and whatnot, but everything you will need in this department is readily available.
Documentation and Extras
Assessing the ‘extras’ that will come with purchase of the car should definitely factor into the decision to buy and valuation of the car in question. In terms of documentation, the build sheet and dealer window stickers are rare to find in a 240Z and if the seller is able to provide these you should consider yourself very lucky. This is especially true due to the increase in all-original 240Zs among car classic collectors and investors. These documents are sought after as they can corroborate claims about the car’s originality.
Some other documents to look for include the sale invoice, the original owner’s manual, warranty booklet, etc. If you are lucky, you might find yourself with things like documented service records and dealer license-plate holders. Things like this can really be a boon to the value of a 240Z for the investment quality of the car.
Although you should certainly keep up with local classifieds in your area newspaper, the best way to find 240Zs today is through online listing services. Even if you are not located in a historically dry-climate area, it may be worth buying a 240Z online that is from such a climate and having it shipped to you. However, you should only buy a 240Z sight-unseen in extreme cases and after a lot of back-and-forth with the seller. In that scenario, you should have detailed pictures taken of every possible rust area. In any event, you are best off taking a look at the car in person or having someone look for you.
Here are a few good places to look for 240Zs for sale:
- Our classifieds section – At ZCarGuide.com we curate Z-Cars we find online and update this section regularly. We also allow users of our site to list directly to our classifieds section. If you are in the market for a 240Z, you may want to sign-up to our email-list on the left of this page, as we send out regular emails about the very best deals we find.
- eBay – eBay is a great resource for this. Solid Z-cars from all over the country are listed for sale on eBay every day. Keep in mind though, this method of finding Z-Cars comes with a lot of competition, so be quick if you are interested!
- Craigslist – Despite the fact that Craigslist is very dated and sometimes annoying to use, it is still one of the best resources for finding Z-Cars. To quickly search multiple regions, check out SearchTempest, it will automatically search every Craigslist region within ‘x’ miles from a given zip-code.
- Autotrader Classics – Autotrader always has lots of 240Zs for sale, but most are restored and being sold by a dealer, so expect to find mostly expensive Zs here.
- Hemmings – Both in print and online, Hemmings is a great place to find high-quality 240Zs.