It will always be a great deal of buzz when car enthusiasts compare their favorites against fellow enthusiasts’ and experts’ picks. Between brands, displacements, and even pedigree or track record, the conversations will be endless and sometimes it gets personal.
To put it into perspective let’s take the recent debate about the trinity of hypercar flagships. The Mclaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, and Porsche 918 discussion depending on the criteria is almost endless, and really hard to determine which is the absolute winner.
But moving a step further back in history will put us into a niche discussion about a Japanese car in the heart of American driving that started just before the end of the 1960s, when Datsun unleashed the Japanese quality of driving through a new halo car, an affordable tradition-breaker, the Nissan S30.
By the mid-1970s, 260Z and 280Z came as a more updated generation of the halo car. But having the 240Z and 280Z on American roads seemed to have created a worldwide dance of opinion on drawing the line between the big old brother and the new kid.
240Z vs 280Z, which one would you pick if we dare compare? To help out fellow enthusiasts we have here some points to ponder.
At A Glance
Datsun 240Z looks like a serious not-so-mid-size 2-door, rear-wheel drive, front-engine sports car with soft edges on both sides and well-defined front and back ends. The nose dives a bit down allowing a more sporty look as the diminutive bumpers compliment the overall stance as a simple car that delivers.
Datsun 280Z refreshes minor details but the larger bumpers which may induce some awkwardness are most noticeable. This is due to being compliant with new road safety policies implemented at that time. At a glance, there is not much to differentiate one from the other aside from the labeling and the bumpers.
The branding was positioned as the best alternative to so many European brands. A unique person deserves a unique arrival at the party. A seeming smart and humble but very capable when provoked on the road. For some subjective reasons, the car has an inviting visage regardless if one finds it stunning and gorgeous or a bit rebellious. The mixed signals it radiates gives off a sense of enigma and curiosity.
In the era of the context of this article, there is this unspoken standard, a rule that only European brands can make a proper sports sedan or coupe. Now in that tradition, imagine having the audacity to arrive at a party driving a very unique car. It will turn heads and breach traditional beliefs.
An era has been defied and the arrival of a Japanese halo, capable, fast and intriguing sports coupe has taken place. From all the western brands stands unique and bold, a Japanese car, audacious and promising.
Exterior and Dimensions
The 280Z’s body reflects the same genes as its older sibling 240Z with a 2,305 mm wheelbase for the 2-seater and 2,605 mm for the 2+2 configuration. The height is between 1,285 mm and 1,305 mm. The actual length of the body is 4,115 mm for the 2-seater and 4,425 mm for models with additional 2 seats at the back.
Other than the bumper and headlights and/or blinkers nothing much will put a vivid distinction between 240Z and 280Z. Though there is a special version which is the 240ZG which runs a longer body of 4,305 mm.
There is nothing much to be said about the interior, both models fashion 2 large indicators of Kph or Mph and the other for your RPM in front of the driver while on top of the center of the dashboard protrudes 3 other indicators.
Nothing is placed outside of practical reasons for driving purposes. All are placed in optimum areas and no other gauges outstand the essential ones. The usual leather cover on seats and some areas for the top of the line while some paint or body color varies depending on whether you will get an entry-level trim or the top of the line.
Driving Dynamics and Performance
Datsun 240Z’s L24 engine was introduced into the market with 151 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 146 lb. ft of torque at 4,400 rpm produced by 2.4 liter (L24) cast iron inline 6 (6 cylinders) with alloy heads and 2 valves for each cylinder.
Throughout its entire production, the engine was given the option to be mated with 3 kinds of transmissions, a 4 and 5-speed manual and a 3-speed automatic transmission. This engine has a mechanical fuel system, SU-type carburetors.
Datsun 280Z punches with a higher 170 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 177 lb. ft of torque at 4,400 rpm which is produced by 2.8 litre L28E-I6 cast-iron block engine with an alloy head and seven-bearing crankshaft SOHC (single overhead camshaft). The fuel system is updated too, to an electric fuel pump which is bosch L-jetronic fuel injection.
All generations of the S30 (from 240Z to 280Z) have independent suspension for all of its wheels. Datsun used the same MacPherson struts from another Nissan model (Laurel C30) for its front wheels and Chapman struts were used for the rear wheels.
The driving dynamics produced by heart and soul spell the difference between the two and the great thing about this is you can only see and feel the difference if you are a very skilled or capable driver. Within the bounds of personal biases, it would still be a challenge.
The carburetor in the 240Z has an edge compared to the electronic one on the 280Z because this is much cheaper to get. But operational wise people enjoy the fuel efficiency of the 280Z with its electronic fuel injection system in the long term. The US has long winding roads and as drivers enjoy long driving pleasure so too they enjoy the same if they get more miles per gallon.
So Which Is Which?
To break the loop we need to limit the debate with definitive criteria, and in an orderly fashion, performance, efficiency, and durability. We put performance on top of the list for it is the very reason why we purchase 2-seater cars. This clears the smoke and puts 280Z with higher horsepower and torque at the drivers’ capable disposal.
While efficiency puts the electronic fuel injection system on top of the twin-type carburetor system. Durability can provide a stalemate as both generations go through the same system of manufacturing quality from the same company.
Outside the dimension of durability, there is no argument capable of assailing the improvement of human creativity and technological capability in terms of producing more effective and capable automobiles.
Though the span of production years between the 240Z and 280Z does not go beyond 10 years, the hype that 240Z produced ensured a new emboldened Japanese drive to further improve a rather beautifully designed halo car. The fact that the Japanese have a strong work ethic and culture embedded in their craft promise a strong car that can hold its candle against their European rivals.
Even as we drive on the streets today, kin eyes will at some point in time witness a rather humble 280Z parked on suburban streets or rolling downtown for a weekend drive. This model can still be encountered in the many streets of Southeast Asia as a day-to-day car.
And seeing this would still give some feeling of admiration, for these cars roll today not only to transport people but to sing an old song from a strong past composed by the brave and purist engineers, drivers, and pioneers. Some mental drivers drive the Datsun knowing well this is among the few ways left today to make sure the passions of the old days get transported to the present, fast and strong.
Putting a great deal of attention to these siblings, 240Z and 280Z not only gave us a short time jump back in history but also somehow, be immersed into the passions that pioneered the fast acceleration of great cars into the world. Truly remarkable, we are able to witness the developing evolution of the automotive and driving facets of our human ingenuity and creativity.
To our readers, wherever you are and whatever you drive, thank you for sharing with us your time by driving along with us in enjoying the still-strong discussion about the 240Z and 280Z.