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1972 DATSUN 240Z 'GTR’ RHD

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1972 DATSUN 240Z 'GTR’ RHD

Background

Datsun’s goals with the 240Z were lofty: to ape cars like the Jaguar E-Type, MGC, and Triumph GT6 in style and dynamic ability but with an added layer of reliability that would surprise and delight a world of drivers used to waiting for the AA to arrive in a layby somewhere outside Corby. In the rain. In a leaky British sports car .

Given this, it should come as no surprise that the 240Z’s styling was derivative rather than ground-breaking but that’s alright because it is a very good looking car thanks to a long bonnet, a steeply raked windscreen, and a Kamm-style tail, all of which are tried-and-trusted ingredients when you are building a traditional sports car.

As is a dark, predominately vinyl interior with two front bucket seats and a deep-dish steering wheel that takes its inspiration from the Italians rather than the British. Which means the instruments are set deep inside Alfa-esque cowls and the driver is forced to adopt the sort of laid-back driving position that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched just about any car chase scene set in the seventies.

While the general formula might be a familiar one, the Japanese went on to do what the Japanese excel at, populating the 240Z’s steel monocoque with all the good stuff: a 2.4-litre straight-six engine that developed 151bhp and 146lb/ft. of torque; feeding that power through a five-speed manual gearbox; bolting on front disc brakes; and hanging the wheels off an independent rear suspension set-up. Admittedly, none of this was ground-breaking in and of itself but the combination was way more than the sum of its parts.

October 1969 saw the release of the ‘series one’, which can be identified by a rather nice chrome 240Z badge on the pillar and two horizontal vents on the rear hatch just below the glass. The series two cars arrived in mid-1971, and can be identified by the deletion of the chrome 240Z badge in favour of the letter ‘Z’ inside a circular emblem. The rear vents also went AWOL, reappearing in the C-pillar instead. Engine refinement was said to have been improved too, although no-one seems to have noticed much of a difference in reality. 

The 240Z died in 1973 and was replaced by the 2.6-litre 260Z. The 240Z is now perceived to be the one to have and the best investment with later ‘Z’ incarnations commanding far lower prices and significantly less interest.

As with so many Japanese cars of the decade, the 240Z has a well-deserved reputation for returning to its elemental state with alacrity, so few remain in anything like their original condition.

But, if you can find a well-preserved one then they’re a helluva thing… 

The Vehicle

We wrote, a few years ago, that “If you fancy using a 240Z as your everyday hack (and why wouldn’t you?) there are plenty of folk that will upgrade your brakes, gearbox, engine, suspension, and even the wiper motor and linkage to turn your classic Datsun into something better suited for 21st century roads and traffic. This sort of retro-dating suits the car very well indeed and shouldn’t have a detrimental effect on the value.”

We weren’t alone in thinking that, as you can see with our next listing... a wonderfully fettled Datsun 240Z fitted with a Nissan R33 GTR 350bhp engine. 

A rust-free Californian car with one family owner from new, it was expertly converted to right-hand-drive by Z Specialists Star Motorsport, at the behest of its fastidious enthusiast owner who, for the past 15 years, has gone to enormous lengths to protect its core originality whilst providing massively increased power and performance. 

Finished in white with blue tinted glass and a black vinyl and leather interior, the vendor estimates the project has cost him a six-figure sum, which sounds about right; as a trail-blazing car, this was, he thinks, the very first road-legal Datsun 240Z GTR in the UK – and probably still one of the very nicest, even now… 

On the Outside

The owner tells us that there is no evidence of any major welding to the bodyshell and it still has, which many examples can’t boast, the original floors and original spare wheel well. This is important stuff and helps explain the car’s stunning panel alignment and tight shutlines.   

As does the incredible care that was taken in converting the car from left-hand-drive to right. This conversion involved sourcing two donor cars; a RHD (for the bulkhead and RHD ancillaries) and a rust-free original LHD (because there aren’t any rust free RHDs!) then drilling through the spot welds to remove the bulkheads from both cars. The RHD bulkhead was then acid dipped, primed and welded into place using the original spot weld holes. The work was carried out so diligently that he tells us that the bonnet “aligned perfectly first time”.

Of course, all the other right-hand-drive ancillaries were fitted including the wiring looms, the steering column, wiper assembly, dashboard, and pedal box. Even the chassis plates swap has been carried out properly with the old one being seam-welded back into the full new bulkhead to keep the Datsun’s original USA HLS identity.

The white paintwork looks stunning too, and the combination of blue tinted glass, chrome, and black rubber trim works beautifully, being both timeless and understated. It is also the ultimate sleeper, giving no clues as to what lies under the bonnet. We like that.

The front grille is an original part that he has been powdercoated. The front bumper is an American-spec item because the vendor and many enthusiasts think it looks better than the Euro one. Both it and the rear bumper, which has had the over-riders removed for a cleaner look and the original ultra-rare UK rubber protectors fitted, have been re-chromed at huge expense.

The 14-inch alloy wheels were made by 100+ in Coventry. They have been with car for many years, and the huge history file includes an original brochure for them. Unblemished and free of scrapes and scuffs, they’re shod with matching 205/60R14 TourSport tyres, all of which have good tread.

As we will never tire of explaining, our experience shows that matching high-quality tyres are an infallible sign of a caring and mechanically sympathetic owner who is prepared to spend the appropriate amount in maintaining their car properly. Their presence does not, of course, preclude the need for a thorough inspection - something the vendor would welcome, by the way – but it does perhaps give you a shortcut into their attitude towards maintenance.

The 240Z has had 12 litres of German rust proofing fluid applied inside the panels and cavities to ensure its longevity.  This work was carried out by Eagle, well-known for its work converting vehicles to hearses and limousines, a category of manufacturer the vendor believes rust-proofs cars better than any other.

Issues? Well, the nearside corner of the tailgate could do with adjusting to help it sit more neatly but other than the odd stonechip and minor mark the car is still practically unmarked. 

On the Inside

The seats have been re-covered in real leather by a professional classic car upholsterer, so fit perfectly and look fabulous. Importantly, given the car’s performance, they also offer great support.

Period style inertia reel seatbelts have been installed for safety, and the original Nissan rubber pedal covers are still fitted; the owner believes that some aftermarket items are “bad and dangerous” and wasn’t prepared to compromise on this, even though the originals are increasingly hard to source, and even more difficult to fit.

The attention to detail, is staggering. Take, for example, the rear screen. The vendor knew someone who had a contact at the Pilkington Glass factory and they were persuaded to get the original mould out of storage to remake a brand-new rear screen in the correct colour. He believes that it is the only one of its kind and the heated rear elements actually work, unlike the rest you will see advertised and elsewhere that have had the elements rubbed off over the years.

The all-important originality is still there, too: the vinyl sill covers are the original Datsun ones and in a great condition, as are the hardboard side panels in the footwells – and you can still see through the rear-view mirror because the silver is not corroded.

Oh and, remarkable for one of these, all the original instruments are present. Not only are they present, they all work as they should, including the original Datsun rev counter, which works perfectly when almost every one you’ll find in a retromod doesn't or has been replaced by some modern tat. The clock has been upgraded with the later Datsun quartz mechanism but there is no evidence of this externally other than it keeps perfect time.

The original heater motor was very underpowered and it has been updated with a one from a Honda, which the vendor says “is a big improvement”

Work to do is, we are told, limited to popping the bulb for the speedometer housing back in.

NB: while the heater radiator matrix was new and has subsequently been re-cored it isn’t connected. It could be reconnected easily enough but the vendor doesn’t recommend it because water and antifreeze can rot it over the long term and flood the car. Frankly, its hard to see when one would need a heater in this car.

Underneath

Maintained by the well-known Skyline specialist RB Motorsport of Ormskirk, the engine was sourced from an unmodified JDM R33 GTR with just 32,000 miles on the clock. Rod Bell, the grande fromage there, has said that if anyone wants to call him then he is happy to chat about the car.

The engineering is magnificent, comprising:

The engine is a Nissan Skyline GTR RB26DETT 2.6-litre twin-turbo fitted with:

  • Nissmo oil pump
  • Nissmo waterpump
  • Tomi fuel pressure valve
  • High-performance plug coils
  • Apexi FC power controller
  • Skyline GTR fuel system fitted inside the 240z fuel tank
  • Bespoke air recirculation system to keep original GTR recirc valves 

We are told that: “the engine has been mapped to the amount of grip available at the wheels.” We are told the power is in the region of 350bhp and it has a theoretical top speed (tyres allowing) of 209mph, which is enough, surely?

More importantly, it is very tractable; the vendor has seen many triple-clutch monsters that might have massive performance but can’t be used as a daily driver. His car, on the other hand, has been designed and built to be as capable of ambling through traffic as it is streaking into three-figures with consummate ease.

It was set-up, mapped, and maintained by Rod Bell of RB Motorsport in Ormskirk. The owner resisted the temptation to modify the engine and it is still totally stock except for the items you see listed above.

Interestingly, the rev limiter is set to 8,000rpm rather than the factory 9,000rpm in order to protect it. This speaks volumes as to the owner’s mechanical sympathy.

The gearbox is a Nissan Skyline GTST RB25 five-speed gearbox with a:

  • Modified propshaft
  • Nissan R200 differential fitted with a limited-slip differential
  • Solid differential mount
  • Uprated rear halfshafts from a Nissan 300ZXT
  • Uprated Datsun 280Z rear hubs
  • Modified rear anti-roll bar  

Configuring the drivetrain for all this power is no easy matter but this arrangement provides a perfect solution. Power is instantly delivered to the wheels with no lag whatsoever and more importantly absolutely no 'speedboat' style lurching of the front and rear. 

The suspension comprises:

  • Polybush master kit
  • Uprated front and rear antiroll bars
  • Tecno Toys control arms
  • Tokico Illumina adjustable dual gas dampers on all four corners

In addition, full length rally-style frame rails were fitted together with front and rear strut braces to stiffen up the shell. The Tokico Illumina adjustable gas dampers are very effective and easy to adjust. Simply pop a strut tower cap off and turn the adjustment pointer to change the damping settings.

The braking system has been uprated. Obviously. The car is so light weight that a wide variety of options were available. The vendor went for the solid and trusted stopping power of huge 4 pot Toyota callipers mated with 300ZXT vented brake discs which are both cross drilled and slotted .As the owner has remarked “The car stops even better than it goes which is a real surprise to people”. 

The car exhales through a stainless-steel exhaust complete with slash-cut twin tail pipes.

As you can see, this is a proper job and, as the owner himself puts it: “If the above all sounds a simple job then trust me, it really isn't.”

In terms of mileage since the conversions, the owner tells us that: “apart from a small number of longer trips the car has covered an average of less than 50 miles each year.” 

The engine bay is nothing short of magnificent and even includes a working period lamp.

 

History Highlights

The Datsun’s MOT certificate, which is valid until November 2021, was gained without a single advisory point, something it’s been making a bit of a habit of with only 2016 breaking a clear run since 2008.

It has a number of expired MOT certificates plus a huge sheaf of invoices and bills to confirm some of the work that has been done to it over the years along with a photo album of the conversion and workshop manuals and the factory parts department microfiche on discs.

It also still has a separate file of paperwork from its time as a one family-owned vehicle in the United States. This file includes its US title plus the original manual and service warranty book.

The Datsun has been fitted with a new battery and most recently serviced by RB Motorsport in 2019; the invoice is on file. 

The vendor tells us that his annual fully comprehensive insurance policy, with all the modifications declared, costs him around £300.

Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork to support our claim that this car has been modified and maintained to a very good standard.

If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.  

What We Think

The cover star of Japanese Performance magazine in 2009, this is one of the most interesting cars you’re going to see all year - and while retromods might be all the rage, this one’s obsessive engineering and long-term ownership set it apart from almost anything we’ve seen.

Beautifully finished, lightly used, and running perfectly, it’s the ultimate sleeper and a much more interesting alternative to a Porsche 911. It’s also likely to be much cheaper because, despite those at rally specialists Dansport estimating a build of this quality to cost - in their words - 'well over' £100,000, we predict that the virtual hammer will fall somewhere between £50,000 and £60,000, which is a staggeringly small sum for a car with this level of performance. 

And, because the engine conversion is reversible, we think the conversion probably adds value to the base 240Z, so it should do well for you in the long-term – but to think of it solely as an investment would be wrong because we simply can’t think of a better car to punt along your favourite country roads in a pre-dawn blast…

Plus, while our photographer is a talented chap, even he hasn’t managed to do the car justice and we really would encourage interested parties to pop along to our new premised to take a look. This is a car that gets better and better, the closer you look.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance, Classic Concierge for storing your car plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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Seller

bishopsrock

  • Location: Abingdon, Oxfordshire
  • Odometer Reading: 9525
  • Chassis Number: HLS30133459
  • Engine: 2.6L
  • Gearbox: 5 SPEED MANUAL (Skyline GTST RB25)
  • Colour: WHITE
  • Interior: BLACK VINYL & LEATHER SEATS

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