Thanks to my friends at Nissan UK, I’ve been lent this very fine Datsun 240Z to feature in an upcoming road test for Classic Car Weekly. Okay, I hear you say, why is Keith boasting about his latest classic car drive (especially when it has been built by those pesky foreigners), when he should be getting on with the business of raking over the Nanjing/MG Rover takeover. Well, the answer to that is quite simple: the news on that front is pretty quiet at the moment, and I don’t want to get embroiled in a downbeat piece about lack of funds and getting into bed with the second best bidder… we’ll leave that to more qualified people such as Michael Wynn-Williams and the good people at MG-Rover.org.
Anyway, the 240Z.
Blatting around in this 1972 sports car, it soon became obvious to me just why the Americans took it to their hearts so readily, shunning the once beloved MGB and MGB GT in significant numbers. It sounds glorious, it accelerates with a purposefulness that would have impressed anyone at the time. It is also dynamically pretty much on the ball for a car of its ambitions in its day. Most importantly, it is a beautiful piece of design, which readily proved that looks were (and still are) vitally important in car design.
One could argue that the MGB and MGC were equally as beautiful (and I’d probably agree with that), but no way could either car come close in terms of fun for the money. The C is far too heavy to drive (the examples I have driven all feel like the major controls are set in concrete), and the B far too slow. Oh, and let’s not forget Japanese reliability. And the lack of oil leaks…
So, was the 240Z the final nail in the MGB’s coffin?
In the cold hard light of day it certainly should have been – and many American buyers fell quickly for the Japanese car’s charms – but the MGB continued to sell reasonably well. More than anything else, the 240Z proved the Japanese could build a world beating sports car – and it probably served as a wake-up call to British sports car designers – ‘don’t rest on your laurels’ was the message of the day.
Luckily for BL and Leonia, the MGB’s continuing popularity in the face of the might of Datsun’s 240Z proved that sports car buyers are an irrational bunch, and that so often, the head truly does rule the heart. And one has to thank the lord that us car enthusiasts are like that – otherwise, I suspect we’d all be driving around in Toyota Corollas.
As for me, despite my pro-British car allegences, I’d take the Datsun… every time.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.