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1971 Datsun 240Z

Why the Overpriced $300k 240Z Was Actually a Good Deal

For the vast majority of us, paying six figures is something usually done for a house, not a car. And it’s not just high-end luxury SUVs, like the Lamborghini Urus or Porsche Cayenne, that cost that much, either. There’s a 600-hp classic Ford Bronco available for a quarter-million dollars, and air-cooled Porsche 911s have similarly …

For the vast majority of us, paying six figures is something usually done for a house, not a car. And it’s not just high-end luxury SUVs, like the Lamborghini Urus or Porsche Cayenne, that cost that much, either. There’s a 600-hp classic Ford Bronco available for a quarter-million dollars, and air-cooled Porsche 911s have similarly shot-up in value over the years. Recently, though, someone shocked the classic car world by paying $310,000—almost the base price of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan—for a 1971 Datsun 240Z.

Datsun 240Z background

To be sure, the Datsun 240Z is in some ways an important car. It’s the predecessor to today’s Nissan 370Z and offered a compelling alternative to the original Ford Mustang. With independent suspension and front discs, it was also more advancednot to mention cheaper than the Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. It was arguably the car that best-helped change American perceptions of Japanese cars, according to Hagerty.

The original 240Z was sold starting in 1969 as a 1970 model. It lasted until 1973 before it became the 260Z. The 1971 240Z that sold on Bring a Trailer for $310k was a so-called ‘Series 1’ model, built before Nissan revised the 240Z in mid-1971.

Datsun 240Zs are popular with collectors and enthusiasts. Fast and Furious actor Sung Kang, who plays Han in the series, even has one. The cars are easy to modify and keep running, and although Jalopnik reports they are starting to rise in value, they’re still fairly-affordable. And the reason for that is because, as Jason Cammis and Derek Tam-Scott of YouTube channel ISSIMI recently discussed (warning: spicy language), Nissan made a lot of them.

Rarity, in the right circumstances, can drive up a car’s value. But just because you own a truck in an uncommon color doesn’t mean it’ll be valuable. And even if a specific trim or model variant is rare, if an automaker made a lot of the base car, said variant won’t necessarily be worth significantly more.

So, why did a Datsun 240Z sell for so much on BaT?

Other expensive Datsun 240Zs

To be fair, seeing a 240Z go for six figures isn’t unheard of. In the video, Cammisa and Tam-Scott bring up the Z432 ‘Fairlady’ 240Z.

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432
1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432 | RM Sotheby’s

This was a 240Z that, in place of the standard 2.4-liter inline-6, received a modified version of the Hakosuka GT-R’s 2.0-liter inline-6. The ‘432’ in the name refers to the 4 valves per cylinder, 3 carburetors, and 2 overhead camshafts, according to Hagerty. And with that, the Z432 made 160 hp, 20 more than the larger-engined standard car. Hemmings reports it also had a 5-speed manual (up from 4 speeds), limited-slip rear differential, and a rear stabilizer bar.

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432 engine bay
1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432 engine bay | RM Sotheby’s

Only 420 were ever made, and none for the US. However, the highest recorded price for a Z432 240Z was $253,000 at a 2015 auction. More recently, one sold at a 2017 RM Sotheby’s auction for $170,500.

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432R
1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432R | BH Auction

But there is one 240Z that did go for more than the 1971 car. That would be the 1970 Datsun 240Z Z432R that crossed the BH Auction block in January 2020 for the equivalent of $804,600. Japanese Nostalgic Car reports that this makes it the 3rd most-expensive Japanese car ever sold.

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432R interior
1970 Nissan Fairlady Z Z432R interior | BH Auction

And this was a properly rare and special variant. Only 30-50 of these were ever made for rallying homologation purposes. Nissan cut over 200 lbs out of the Z432 to make the Z432R. It came with a black fiberglass hood, acrylic windows, and thinner-than-usual body panels. There was no radio or heater, but the R did get a racing bucket seat and a 60-gallon racing fuel tank. Only 10-15 are estimated to still exist.

The BaT Datsun 240Z didn’t have any of that. But there are a couple of things that do make it special.

The 1971 car’s unique features

1971 Datsun 240Z
1971 Datsun 240Z | Bring a Trailer

This Datsun 240Z is original. And that’s in the truest sense of the word. The paint has not been touched-up. Neither has the interior, which still has some protective plastic wrapping from the factory. Autoblog reports that even the hoses in the engine bay are original—after almost 50 years.

1971 Datsun 240Z interior
1971 Datsun 240Z interior | Bring a Trailer

And the reason we know all this? This car had exactly 1 mechanic throughout its lifetime, according to The Drive. Every single bit of maintenance was documented. Not that the car needed much: it only has 21,000 miles on it.

1971 Datsun 240Z engine bay
1971 Datsun 240Z engine bay | Bring a Trailer

The car is also a bit of a Datsun family heirloom. The 240Z was originally given to James Munson, a Datsun dealer, as a reward for high sales numbers. This explains the car’s green paint: only 240Zs given as rewards like that, roughly 3% of total production, were painted this color. The car was given to James’ son, Ronald, as a present for finishing dental school. Dr. Munson used it infrequently until he passed in 2019.

But as we’ve said before, unusual colors aren’t necessarily valuable. And having low miles is practically a requirement for high-dollar auctions. But for $310k, the buyer could’ve had a Tempero Jaguar D-Type, multiple Lancia Delta Integrales, or even a Pur Sang Bugatti Type 35. And they’d most-likely be less terrified of driving it, for putting any miles or scratches in it.

Why pay that much money?

Why the $300k 240Z was a good deal

Because they wanted it.

1971 Datsun 240Z side
1971 Datsun 240Z side | Bring a Trailer

Emotion and pure wanting impact car-buying decisions more than some might imagine. That’s the case with commodity crossovers, but it’s especially true for classic cars. As Cammisa and Tam-Scott discuss, some old cars are valuable not necessarily because they were rare from the start, but because they’re rare now. And people miss them.

1971 Datsun 240Z rear
1971 Datsun 240Z rear | Bring a Trailer

They have memories, maybe of posters on walls or scenes from their neighborhoods, of certain cars. Cars they may have forgotten about, until they see one on the street or on an auction site, and realize they haven’t seen one of those in a very long time. So, to recapture those feelings, to achieve a long-ago desire, they’ll pay as much as they can for something like a 1971 240Z.

Yes, logically, rationally, paying $310,000 for a 240Z makes very little sense. And I don’t think I’m alone in saying that’s a lot of money regardless of the context. But I bet whoever bought that car is absolutely ecstatic about fulfilling their wish. And believe me when I say that that kind of joy is worth more than just money.

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