- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

When the Datsun 240Z first appeared at car shows and dealer showrooms, it was an instant success. The sleek little fastback coupe had a stylish, long engine hood and, with a hatchback at the other end, an argument could be make that it was practical as well.

The 240Z was manufactured from 1970 to 1973, followed by the 260Z from 1974 to 1975. The 280Z was built from 1975 to 1978 with the 280ZX following from 1979 to 1983. After that came the first-generation 300ZX from 1984 to 1989. The second-generation 300ZX was produced from 1990 to 1996.

With the original 240Z as the model, Nissan recently introduced the 350Z so the "Z" car legacy continues.

A 240Z left the factory in Japan in February 1971 wearing a coat of "new sight orange." The 1971 model with a four-speed manual transmission had a 2.4-liter (146 cubic inch), inline six-cylinder engine that produced 150 horsepower and it was on the way to the United States.

The car was sold to a Fort Lee, N.J., man who for 31 years kept the car exercised and protected, averaging about 735 miles a year.

A year ago Department of Justice employee Dan Banks decided to obtain the finest example of an original "Z" car that he could find (and afford). He discovered the aforementioned vintage "new sight orange" 1971 Datsun 240Z in exceptionally fine condition still under the care of its original owner who was searching for a good home for his lovingly cared-for Z.

Mr. Banks traveled to Fort Lee at the end of May to inspect the low-mileage, all-original Z. "Especially exquisite in my view," Mr. Banks remarks, "is its original alkyl enamel paint from the Yokohama, Japan, factory."

Mr. Banks purchased the pristine car on Memorial Day. Because the car was essentially undriven since 1980, Mr. Banks explains, "I had my new Datsun trailered for safety reasons to Banzai Motorworks near Andrews Air Force Base."

After a thorough physical examination, during which many ancient original parts were replaced, the Z car was pronounced fit.

On the first Thursday of August Mr. Banks caught a ride to the shop where his Z was waiting to be driven the 26 miles home to Vienna.

Unfortunately, Mr. Banks got caught in bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour traffic on the Beltway in 100-degree heat. "I had no air-conditioner in the stop-and-go traffic," Mr. Banks said, "and I was the only driver with a smile on his face."

Sitting behind the three-spoke steering wheel, Mr. Banks happily survived the traffic ordeal.

After the mechanics at the garage had made the Z safe to drive Mr. Banks set about restoring, he said, "the little bits and bright pieces and showing the car locally."

Sitting in the car is like sitting in a dark cave because of the black vinyl headliner, black dashboard, black door panels, black bucket seats, black console and black carpet. The driver can rest his left foot on a black dead pedal.

"It has a potent little AM radio," Mr. Banks said. The compact interior is flooded by sound from the four speakers. To the right of the radio is the electric switch to operate the antenna on the left rear fender. "It's on its own circuit," Mr. Banks said.

Fuses to that circuit and every other circuit in the car are easily accessible by removing the ashtray in the console. Every fuse can be changed from either front seat.

Before starting the car the choke, located on the console, must be used to prime the engine.

The sculpted dashboard undulates over and around the full instrumentation. In front of the driver is the 160 mph speedometer and tachometer. In the center of the dashboard are three pods. The top half of the left pod registers engine temperature while the lower half notes oil pressure.

The middle pod is also split between registering amperes and fuel level. The pod on the right houses a clock, which works, Mr. Banks reports.

As for the 160 mph speedometer, the owner says the first 120 mph are probably accurate and true.

Front disc brakes and rear drum brakes bring the Z to a halt. True to its sporty heritage, the Z has a dash-mounted map light to accommodate those who rally.

Twenty wires are imbedded vertically in the rear window to keep it clear of fog. Beneath that window is the amazingly spacious cargo compartment. Below that is the full-size 175SR14 Bridgestone spare tire and jack with tire-changing tools. There are two jack ports per side.

The Z emblem on both rear-quarter panels actually disguise the external vents of the flow-through ventilation system.

Mr. Banks marvels at the original condition of his car, a testament to the effort made by the first owner. Even the "D" for Datsun on each wheel hub is still intact.

The six-cylinder power plant is typical in that it requires 5¼ quarts of oil, 17 quarts of coolant and the capacity of the fuel tank is 157/8 gallons.

Mr. Banks is certain that of the 172,767 units built of the 240Z that his, with just more than 23,000 miles recorded on the odometer, must be among the most pristine original cars that survive.

"It's surprising how competent the car is," he observes.

Mr. Banks is the Z Car Club Association historian and is currently involved in the preparation of the national Z car convention in Nashua, N.H., in October 2003.

He suggests that anyone with a Z car or anyone interested in Z cars and their history should contact him at zcarclubnova.org.

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