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Monday, November 26, 2012

1971 Datsun 240Z

The 1971 Datsun 240Z cleaned up the asphalt wherever it raced.

Nissan set up shop in Canada in 1964, with its head office in Vancouver. There were zone offices and/or parts depots in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. The cars and trucks were called Datsun and the marque spread across Canada quickly. Eight years later the Nissan Automobile Company of Canada Limited  could brag of having more than 200 dealers from cost to coast and $3 million worth of parts stocked in its Canadian warehouses.

Canadians are a practical people. Looking over the new Japanese cars, they tried them out and took them home. Technology in Japanese cars was on par with or superior to Canadian-built cars of the day. The little imports were thrifty on gas and inexpensive to maintain.

The 1971 Datsun 1200 was practical and pretty.

Stealing a page from Rambler a decade earlier, Japanese cars had the allure of built-in value. A vast array of equipment and options that cost extra on other makes was offered in the base price by savvy Japanese automakers. The 240Z was sold in Canada with standard items that included AM/FM radio, power antenna, rear window defogger and tinted glass, all for only $4,500 at the Datsun dealership.

There were optional items including air conditioning, stereo. racing stripes and a long list of racing components available from the Datsun Competition Department. 

The 1971 Datsun 240Z weighed in at a trim 1 043 kilos (2,300 pounds).

Nissan had wanted to break into the personal sports car market since 1963. Top execs felt that such a car would be a great seller in North America, so that end, they hired automobile designer Albrecht Goertz to create that vehicle.

Count Goertz had immigrated to the United States from Germany prior to World War Two. His design credentials were first class. He had worked for Studebaker before striking out on his own in 1953. 

Count Goertz designed several sharp cars for BMW including the beautiful 507 seen here.

Working with the designers at Nissan it took two full years to develop the new car. Fresh from an assignment at Porsche, Goertz borrowed the two-seater package and Porsche's dimensions in creating the new Datsun.

Dealers in North America gave valuable input as to what they wanted in a new sporty vehicle. When Goertz' contract expired in 1965 Nissan officials laid the sports car project to rest. The plans for a sporty Datsun would have probably laid in a back room gathering dust forever had Toyota not introduced the sexy 2000GT that year.

Only 300 Toyota 2000GTs were built--it was a very limited edition image maker.

Having laid eyes on the stunning Toyota 2000GT at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan officials appointed Yoshihiko Matsuo to be chief designer of the sports car project in November of 1965.

 Numerous proposals were resurrected and studied carefully. A new car began to take shape. Five full-sized clay models were built, each a refinement of the previous. When unveiled the Fairlady Z was a completely original design.

The 240Z (Fairlady Z in many markets) arrived at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1969 and made its North American debut on October 22nd of that same year. Nobody knew what the price should be so top officials declided to let dealers find 'the right price.' To their delight and surprise, the 240Z sold for more than what the boys in the board room thought it would.

Production was calculated at 2,000 units a month. The 240Z was a smash hit and orders were immediately backlogged by six months. Suddenly 4,000 units a month wasn't enough to keep up with demand. The popular Z series would be one of Nissan's main sources of income for decades to come. 

Canada was the second most important export market for Datsun's products--of which the 240Z quickly became the flagships. Calendar year sales of the 240Z in the Canadian market were 1,201 sales in 1970; 3,440 in 1971; 4.020 in 1972 and 2,537 in 1973.

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Copyright James C. Mays 2001
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