Original Owner: A Navy sailor returns home to a new Datsun 240Z

Welcome to Original Owner, a series showcasing—you guessed it—people who bought a classic car new and still own it. The cars don’t need to be factory-original, just still in the hands of the first owner and still getting driven. —Ed.

Original owner 240Z Carter with its owner
Carter recently marked a half-century with his 1973 Datsun 240Z. Courtesy George Carter

Twenty-three-year-old George Carter loved driving his 1971 Fiat 124 Spider. He relished its rev-happy four-cylinder engine, five-speed stick, and dashing Pininfarina design. He’d bought it new but soon fell for a something else that had been tempting him since arriving in early 1970: the Datsun 240Z.

The Z became the sensation of the sports car world, beloved for its powerful inline-six engine, fastback coupe body, and well-finished interior. All of that came with an irresistibly reasonable price—about $3600, or $27,000 today—that sent sales zooming.

Carter’s Fiat still had that new-car smell when he negotiated a trade-in for a 1973 240Z from Morris Motors in Charleston, South Carolina. It was December 1972, and even three years after the 240Z debuted, Carter faced a six-month wait for delivery.

He didn’t mind the delay, though, as he had plans to be out of the country for a few months. Or rather, the U.S. Navy had plans for him. Carter was serving as a Sonar Technician First Class aboard the USS Blakely (DE 1072), a newly commissioned destroyer home-ported in Charleston, some 1300 miles from Carter’s home near St. Paul, Minnesota. The Blakely was scheduled to sail for Vietnam in late fall for its first tour in a combat zone.

Original owner 240Z Carter Blakely passing thru Kiel canal
Carter served aboard the USS Blakely. He ordered his 240Z before leaving on the ship’s single voyage to Vietnam, just as the war ended. U.S. Navy

The ship left Charleston for the western Pacific on December 1, 1972, and a final leg from the Philippines to Vietnam began on January 7, 1973. A blessing for all aboard, there would be no combat. Peace talks resumed during their voyage and on January 27, the United States and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords to end the war.

The Blakely was back in Charleston in late March, and Carter took delivery of his 240Z in May. One of his several cross-country trips while on leave was to visit home in Minnesota.

The car served as his daily for many years as well as a weekend autocrosser. Today, following an extensive freshening, it’s strictly a pleasure driver. Notably, Carter’s ’73 240Z was one of the rare ones to leave the dealership with a five-speed manual transmission. Wait a second, didn’t the five-speed debut with the 1975–1978 280Z? Well, some got it a bit earlier.

240Z Carter autocross in the 70s
Carter had the Datsun dealer install performance parts for autocrossing, and he participated in the sport into the 1980s. Courtesy George Carter

Datsun 240Z: Factory basics

Few cars have reshaped a well established market as spectacularly as the Datsun 240Z did with sports cars 54 years ago. Datsun had been part of that establishment with its two-seat roadster, called Fairlady in Japan and simply “Sports” in America, since 1963. The Sports 1600 and Sports 2000 ended in 1970, the latter powered by a 135-hp 2.0-liter OHC four.

Big change was afoot. Nissan took a sharp turn away from the roadster with a Jaguar E-Type-inspired GT coupe. Yutaka Katayama, president of Nissan America and affectionally known to Nissan buffs as “Mr. K”, had suggested that such a car would have wider appeal than a roadster. Toyota’s ultra-limited-production 1967 2000 GT was the right idea but at the wrong price, so Nissan designer Yoshihiko Matsuo took up the challenge to develop a similar kind of mass-produced car.

Original owner 240Z Carter parking lot rear
Among affordable sports cars, the Datsun 240Z triggered a trend away from roadsters to more practical coupes. Courtesy George Carter

The coupe that emerged (model code S30) was called Fairlady Z in Japan, getting its 240Z name in the U.S., its primary target market, from an iron-block, aluminum-head 2.4-liter SOHC inline-six-cylinder engine. The modern six gave 151 hp at 5600 rpm and 146 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm (about 135 net hp.) By comparison, the Triumph TR6 roadster mustered 104 hp from its 2.5-liter OHV six, and Triumph’s Spitfire-based GT6 coupe had a 95-hp 2.0-liter inline-six.

Original owner 240Z Carter engine
The 240Z’s 2.4-liter OHC inline-six gave it a clear performance edge over the British and Italian roadsters of the day. Courtesy George Carter

Everything else in the price neighborhood had a four-cylinder engine, and no car in the category could touch the 240Z’s performance. In its June 1970 road test, Car and Driver recorded 0-60 in 7.8 seconds (two seconds quicker than the TR6) and the quarter mile in 16.1 sec. at 87 mph. Road & Track’s numbers, while not quite as quick, were still better than other cars in the price class.

The 240Z carried speed through the curves, too, thanks to four-wheel independent suspension via MacPherson struts in front and Chapman struts out back, as well as rack-and-pinion steering. Two weak points were its choppy ride and diminished braking performance amid road spray in the rain.

Screaming bargain (and race winner)

That $3526 list price (about $150 more than the TR6) made the 240Z an alluring deal, even if dealers padded the price in response to high demand. Also new to the market, Porsche’s 914, at $3600, offered a mere 80 hp from its air-cooled Volkswagen four-cylinder engine.

Like the Datsun Sports 2000 before it, the 240Z became a racing champ. With factory backing, Brock Racing Enterprises, founded by designer and racer Pete Brock, clinched SCCA C-Production National Championships in 1970 and 1971. Connecticut-based Bob Sharp repeated the feat for 1972-73. Farther afield, a 240Z won the grueling East African Safari rally in 1973.

1972 Bonneville National Speed Trials
In 1972, Datsun’s 240Z even took to the Salt Flats in Bonneville’s National Speed Trials, where Racer Brown broke a class record. The Enthusiast Network via Getty

As it had for many British sports cars, the U.S. became the biggest market for the 240Z, taking 90 percent of the approximately 165,000 built through 1973. Canada took 11,200 (7 percent).

To keep up with more stringent emissions regulations, an engine displacement bump to 2.6 liters turned the 240Z into the 260Z for 1974. The final S30, the 1975-1978 280Z, did a better job balancing performance and emissions with a fuel-injected 2.8-liter version and an available five-speed. By the end of the S30’s run, about 520,000 had been built, most sold in the U.S.

George Carter’s car

Many 240Z owners saw their new sports car as a perfect canvas for Day Two modifications for improved performance and handling, and Datsun dealers and the aftermarket eagerly obliged with plenty of add-on parts. Carter ordered several genuine Datsun upgrades through the dealer including, yes, a five-speed manual transmission to replace the Z’s four-speed. Here’s how he got it:

“I was all about sports cars back then,” Carter tells Hagerty, adding that he planned to autocross the car. “An article I read in Road & Track recommended adding heavy-duty front and rear anti-roll bars, headers, and the five-speed. The only way to get that transmission was to order it through what was then called the Datsun Competition Department.”

Carter ordered all those items, plus the slotted “mag” wheels. All appear on his original bill of sale. He later added the BRE-style front spoiler.

Original owner 240Z Carter bill of sale
Original bill of sale confirms the rare Datsun Competition Department five-speed manual transmission swap by the dealer before delivery. Courtesy George Carter

“A lot of people retrofit a five-speed from the later 280Z or ZX, but I was able to order this in 1973. It turned out to be an ultra-rare transmission. Very few 240Zs have this.”

Carter’s total purchase price came to $5141.75. “That was a lot back then. I remember being chided about paying over $5000 for a car,” he recalls. List price for the car $4235. The five-speed was $400; mag wheels were $200; headers were $200; and the anti-roll bars cost $100. Those were the installed prices.

His initial color choice had been Silver Metallic, but he became smitten with Green Metallic when he spotted a Z in that hue in the dealer’s service area just before ordering his car. “The earlier green was more of a British racing green, but in 1972 they changed it to this. That’s what they had 1973.”

The Datsun dealer gave Carter $1850 for his ’71 Fiat Spider, half what he paid new. He added $2000 cash to the transaction, leaving a loan balance of $1291.75.

Carter recalls one sour note on delivery.

“The Road & Track article claimed that Datsun Competition Parts installed by the dealer would be covered under the new-car warranty, but that turned out not to be the case,” he says. “I recall them telling me something to the effect that ‘Road & Track magazine does not set Datsun warranty terms.’ They even gave me a piece of their letterhead containing that wording, along with a large red sticker centered on it that said, ‘No Warranty.’ The sticker had been attached to the transmission when received from Datsun. I have unfortunately lost that piece of paper over the years.”

Life with the Z

Carter knew the 240Z was rust-prone and would be especially vulnerable in Minnesota winters. When he moved back from Charleston in 1974, he had the car under-coated with rustproofing.

“It didn’t stop all the rust, but there wasn’t much to repair before the car was repainted in the Eighties,” he says.

After two years of driving, Carter decided to store the car over winters. When he bought a Camaro in 1995 and then, later, a Corvette, those cars took up his garage, and the Z spent more time in storage elsewhere. As it turned 25 years old, Carter’s Z got its own two-page feature in Nissan USA’s service news magazine, Tech Talk, thanks to his brother, who was the editor.

“The last time it was in storage for over 10 years,” he says. “I took it out about five years ago and revived it—gave it new brakes, clutch, struts, ball joints, anti-roll bar links, fuel pump, and tires and replaced all the rubber components.”

Original owner 240Z Carter interior
Courtesy George Carter

This past winter, Carter treated his classic Z to new upholstery and carpeting.

“The seats were the only things inside that really showed wear. My dash is original. They usually cracked in sunnier climates. Mine didn’t sit outside, and it has one tiny little crack.”

The car currently stays in Carter’s home garage, while his and his wife’s daily drivers are parked outside.

George’s 240Z memories:

Hagerty: How much did you drive the Z when you got it?

GC: All the time. It was my daily driver. And of course, being on a ship at the time, I just needed that outlet, to get out by myself. I drove it cross-country several times. I visited my parents in Minnesota. And I also drove it from Minnesota out to Rapid City, South Dakota. I put a lot of miles on it when it was new.

Original owner 240Z Carter hatch area
A practical hatchback-coupe body helped make the 240Z wildly popular in the sports car segment. Courtesy George Carter

Hagerty: Was it reliable?

GC: I never had any real trouble with it, but the ’73s had all that smog stuff, and they used a different carburetor than the ’70-’72. Especially being in a hot climate, like Charleston, they had vapor lock problems. You’d take it to the dealer, and they’d install some kit that was supposed to fix the problem. But none of their fixes ever worked well. They even had a hood scoop available if all else failed. It kind of followed the contours of the center hood bulge, with openings on the side. It wasn’t that obtrusive, but I didn’t want it.

Hagerty: Did anything finally work?

GC: The only real fix was to retrofit ’72 carburetors, which I did when I got out of the Navy in 1974 and was back in the Twin Cities. I advertised in the local paper that I was looking for 1972 carburetors. A guy contacted me immediately. He had a set because he was putting triple Webers on his Z. I bought them, and they’ve been on ever since. The ’72 carburetors have a different look. They’re a copy of the British SU carburetor, built by Hitachi. They’re known as ‘round tops,’ while the ’73 240Z and the ’74 260Z used ‘flat tops.’

Hagerty: How was the five-speed on the street?

GC: It worked fine. But it had a higher first gear than the four-speed, which made it a little more challenging pulling away from a stop.

Hagerty: Was the repaint the original color?

GC: No, it’s a similar Corvette color called Elkhart Green used in 1972 and 1973. A friend painted the car. We stripped the car down to bare metal. My friend sprayed on lacquer paint, and then we hand-rubbed it. It has stood up well after 40 years.

Original owner 240Z Carter parking lot front
Carter had his 240Z repainted in the Eighties in Elkhart Green, an early Seventies Corvette color. Courtesy George Carter

Hagerty: What are your best memories with the 240Z?

GC: I would say some of my cross-country trips were really enjoyable. I autocrossed it quite a bit in my younger days, and that was always a lot of fun.

Hagerty: Does the Z still get attention after 50 years?

GC: Occasionally I’ll have somebody honking their horn or giving a thumbs-up. But not everybody knows what it is. Here in the Midwest, they weren’t nearly as common as they were on the coasts. My next-door neighbor asked, ‘What is it?’ He was just young enough that he’d never seen one before.

Hagerty: Was there a point that you thought you’d be keeping this car forever?

GC: Yes, when it was new! As the years went on, there were times I thought, I’m not using that car, I should just sell it. My wife doesn’t want me to sell it, though. She always says, ‘You’ve brought it this far.’ My Camaro and Corvette are gone, but I still have the Z.

Original owner 240Z Carter brand new front
George Carter ordered his 1973 Datsun 240Z in December 1972 and took delivery the following May. Courtesy George Carter


Car: 1973 Datsun 240Z

Owner: George Carter

Home: St. Paul, Minnesota

Delivery date: May, 1973

Miles on car: ~70,000




Are you the original owner of a classic car or do you know someone who is? Send us a photo and a bit of background at editor@hagerty.com — you might get featured in our next installment!


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    A company I worked for had a couple of 240Zs as “company cars” in about 1972-3, and I occasionally got to drive them. Fun cars for the day – I had grown up on American V-8 muscle, and the idea of a nimble sporty car was new to me. I suspect that was what started me on my “nimble sporty car” phase of automotive life.
    This particular car has had a lucky existence in the care of someone who truly deserved it. 👍

    Great story! When I was in the Air Force beginning in 1969, I bought an orange used 1970 Z with a Fairlady 5 speed transmission. I loved that car and my wife swears she could hear me coming home from the flight line at Randolph AFB several miles away. When we had two babies, I sold that Z and bought a green 2+2 for the 4 of us to ride in. I drove that car for nearly two decades but had to fight the rear quarter panel rusting constantly. I sold the car to a lady colleague when it had 217,000 miles and she had it another 10 years or so. I now have my first old corvette but sincerely regret having sold the 1970 ‘Fairlady’ Z! Richard USAF 1969-1978.

    I bought a ’78 blk pearl Z off show room floor 5sp coup. My forever dream car. Let my son have it when he turned ,50 with the promise to baby it forever.
    He kept it a month and traded it for a used truck, with out my knowledge,!!!
    Broke my heart! Will never get over it.
    Even had a picture of it in the “Z” book! It was the CAR” of all cars!!!!

    I wanted to say “cut the SOB out of the will”, but that reflects poorly on you. Should still cut him out of the will.

    I was stationed on Oahu in 72 I found a University of Hi professor selling a 70z with 2800 miles on it all original silver blue black interior 4 speed it was my daily driver my wife Charlie and I loved taking it up H1 to Makaha and open it up I regret selling it to this day the Zs are finally getting the respect they deserve the new Z is ok but not a Datsun

    Amazing parallel. I bought a BRG ’70 Fiat 124 with a tan interior new. It was a great little car that ran a lot stronger than the locals in their MGBs and TR4s, but it was materially a piece of junk. I went through a couple of steering boxes, a couple of starters and had to replace the seats because they sun rotted even though the car was garage kept. I replaced the Fiat with a ’72 240Z in ’73. It was orange with a black interior. Mine was a 4 speed IIRC. I got rid of the stock muffler and replaced it with an Ansa split vertical tip that was wrinkle black with red bands ending in two baloney sliced chrome pipes. My wife also said she could hear me coming home from work a couple of blocks away when I would hang a downshift. 🙂 I got stupid and sold the Datsun after only four years of ownership. I worked for a subsidiary of Ford and I had gotten promoted to rate an executive lease car, so I leased a ’77 German Capri Snow Cat and decided the Datsun was redundant. Big mistake.

    I bought my first Datsun from a friend who was getting married in 74. It was an red with white interior 4sp 72 240Z. I had a 71 MGB which was a piece of junk. That Z was amazing and I drove it hard, pushing it along the California coastal roads and even racing a 911 along Mulholland Drive (not recommended). I totalled it in the British Columbia mountains in 1978.
    I quickly went looking for a new 280Z, but the ZX were out, so I settled on a 78 Blk Pearl with only 3000 miles traded in by a guy apparently going through a mid life crisis. 45 years later and a bumber to bumber refresh in 2004, it’s still a real head turner.

    I am the second owner of a 1977 280Z. I’m pretty sure the previous owner did auto cross and used it as a daily. I bought it in 1996, my senior year in higher school. I used it as a daily driver through high school and actually drove it from Southern California to Alaska when I joined the Air Force.
    I drove it daily until we had our second kid, then it turned into a project with most of the following 18 years spent in the garage. Recently, I started putting it all back together with copious amounts of aftermarket go fast parts. It runs and drives now and is an absolute blast to take out on the country roads around my house. No plans on ever selling it, probably pass it down to my youngest when I get too old to enjoy it.

    General George Carter’s

    Compliment For Your Collection
    Of Car .
    The Best & Grate

    Can you Help Me Please
    I Missed My The best Friend
    Before He Moved Italy When Finished
    Commission With 6ª Flotta

    He Is Frank Holland
    From Arlington
    But I lost The Phon Number
    He Invited Me & My Family
    For Militari Day General At Washington
    January 2001
    And That Moment We Can Not
    Come In America
    Please If You Have More Information
    You Can Help Me
    Thanks Again
    Mehrabi Ahmad
    Sicily Italy

    My dad bought a ’73 Z new and we all loved driving it. We were in Utah in the hot sun summers, and salty snowy winters. In short, terrible for this car. In the summer it never ran due to vapor locking which the dealer never fixed and in the winter it rusted. In between times, the red paint literally turned black and started to fall off. It was a great car to drive, but only in the spring and fall. Had it painted after about two years and repaired some rust. Also the gas strut that held up the hatch door had broken off. The famous Japanese build quality was not really there yet in those days. Perhaps they copied the British a little too closely. Dad gave up and sold it after only 4 years. I wish I had one today, but as a daily driver under those weather conditions it was pretty awful about half the time.

    He got chided for paying 5 grand for a car” people don’t bat an eye now paying 100 grand for a truck.

    I met Mr K at the Nissan Denver Regional Parts Depot at a social event. My dealership owner was there also, and as we walked in the room and up to Mr. Katayama, he said “Hello Ted, how are things in Rapid City? He knew my dealer principal by sight. A small dealership in South Dakota, I found later that they talked by phone frquently. That’s a quality person! ( I had a white 73 Z, raced a hill climb with 3000 miles on it!, should never have sold it! And two years later while working at Nissan National in the Parts ordering section, he came walking through one day, as he walked by, He said: I know I have met you before, although he did not remember when and where. A quality person!

    I first met Mr. K in 1995 at the 25th Anniversary Celebration, Atlanta GA. I told him that I had purchased my 1972 240Z from Paul Jaremko in Spokane WA. He said that was Fred and Pauline’s son and ask how they were!! As I got to know Mr. K over the following years, I found out that he wrote and hand addressed personal Christmas Cards every year, to the first 100 Dealers that had supported the initial growth of Datsun in the USA.

    What a fantastic story! The early Z-cars were really popular here in Ohio, but the 240’s seemed to disappear pretty fast. The 260 never had the acceptance of the 240 or the 280.
    The attention and care the feature car received is unusual, but thankfully the owner had great preservation instincts. Best car ever!!

    Funny, I did the opposite only a bit different. I ordered a 74 260Z in green. $5400.00 waited 6 months. Went and drove a 74?FIAT 124 Spyder and bought it instead. $4200, no regrets. It was a great car for the cost and fun.

    P. S. Purchased a 23 400Z a couple months ago. It’s , nice and quick but it’s a Nissan. trading in on something much more
    Substantial, for a little more.

    I’m a 1972 model year myself. Purchased my step dads 1983 mint condition Russo pininfarina spider (essentially a jazed up fiat 124) At age 17 Only 20k miles. Dad got a 5.0 Surprise Mustang for retirement. Man, you wouldn’t believe the stories involving that car. near a Fl beach town, as a high school kid! Sold it just before graduation to an enthusiast who exported it back to Europe. Bought a nice 77 280Z, a jet ski and still had a pile of cash. Catastrophically crashed that Z in college. Double regretted loosing those two fantastic vehicles. Currently, I have another time capsule 1972 near identical fiat 124 and a 1972 Russo 240z! Life is good regularly driving these cars near same beach town. But, for me, I’ve always preferred the Fiats, however I’d never be comfortable leaving a 20 radius in my Fiat, whereas ld gladly hop in that Z and hit any road anywhere any day. Keep these articles coming!

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