Larry D 1973 Datsun 240Z 2dr Coupe

One car, 41 years. A story of loving ownership

I first became aware of the 240Z in 1971 while in College (Aerospace Engineering). After graduating college in 1972 - and getting my ROTC commission in the US Air Force - I headed off to flight school and headed to the local Datsun Dealer. He told me I could drive off in the silver car sitting on the floor (black interior) and I said "No, I want the metallic blue exterior with a white interior". Mr. Driggers could see I was serious so he told me to come back on Friday. I did and he dialed up the port in Jacksonville, FL and let me talk to the import office and I had my choice of the stock! The dealer installed the ARA Air Conditioning kit and I took delivery a week after the call - $5365 total price with tax title and plate! (Image 01 - 1973 September - Brand New.jpg)

The car itself stayed stock as I went from flight school to F-4 training at Luke AFB, Phoenix, AZ then to my first operation assignment at Bitburg AB, Germany in late 1974. When the original tires wore out at 17K miles, I put a set of 14X6 Appliance "Wire Mag" rims with 195 width tires on the car. Driving around Europe for 2.5 years in the Z was a total blast. (03 - 1976 May - Castel Cochem, Germany.jpg). I would cruise the Autobahns at 95-100 MPH. Most Germans at that time had a Mercedes for long trips, typically a 2.4 to 2.8 L straight 6 powered sedan, and they would cruise at about 80 MPH. Well, they would completely blow their "cool" when passed by an American driving a JAPANESE car (Datsun sedans and wagons WERE being imported by 1974 so they recognized the badge but not the car). They would start to speed up to about 110 MPH top end to pass; however, their big grins would quickly fade when I opened it up and pulled away at 125 or so. We made a trip to Zaragosa Spain by way of Switzerland and the French coast in 1976 which included driving across a bridge built by the Romans … The return trip was across the top of the Pyrenees mountains into Lourdes, Toulouse and Carcosonne (a 700+ year old castle city, complete with moat and drawbridge!), France then up to Freiburg, Germany on the way home.

In German, I put on a white factory GT stripe on the side (02 - 1974 November - Bitburg AB Germany Front Gate.jpg), replaced the original shocks with a set of Mulholland inserts and installed some basic front suspension improvements. The Z came back to the US in 1977 with far too much rust (in my opinion) and the back end bent from a spin-out on a very ICY autobahn during a ski trip. The accident also resulted in a bent steering arm. I discovered that one could ONLY get the 10mm shorter "sport" steering arms in Europe in late 1976; I purchased the “twin” for the other side a few months later. The time in Germany had also put the exhaust system on its last legs.

While in Southern California (on the way to Korea) I purchased a set of "Viper - Bundle of Snakes" headers to replace the exhaust - these are the headers that Clifford designed for the BRE race team.

Back in the states in 1978 with the "shiny" part of the body work repaired I moved to Austin Texas with my Z continuing to be a "daily driver". In 1980, the US Air Force allowed me to become an Initial Cadre member of the first operation F-16 squadron. En-route to Hill AFB, UT, I learned of a good carburetor mod. Seems the HD-6 1.75 inch throat SU carbs from a 1964-1966 Jaguar 3.8S will fit on the stock Datsun manifolds perfectly ... Was I ever glad to get rid of the flat top Hitachis! The engine starts "instantly when warm, is NOT balky when hot and takes a lot less cranking when cold. I also added an Allison (now Crane) breakerless kit and 40KV coil. Shortly thereafter, the Z got a custom plate "VPR PLT" - which it has had ever since.

In 1982, the back of my Z got crunched again so we got the car completely repainted. At that time, SOME of the "hidden rust" got repaired and a DARK metallic blue was applied and I had powder blue pin striping and GT stripes added. I decided to eliminate all the labels and emblems at that time as well (except for the "Z" logos on the vent ducts behind the side windows. On the hood, I had an F-16 silhouette applied in place of the Datsun emblem and a set of pin-stripe come off each side of the tail and frame the hood blister - well, I think it looks cool! I also ireplaced the worn carpets and put in a Leather seat reupholstry kit.

In 1984 I moved to Florida as I took up a civilian career and the Z continued to be my daily driver. In 1986, I deemed the 150K point proper for a valve job because leaded gas was going away and valve recession with unleaded can be a problem. It also gave me the opportunity to put in a Clifford Research 0.495 lift, 278 deg street cam. I also ported and polished the entire intake system. Unfortunately, this led to a string of "problems" in that the machine shop installed hard seats without the use of an oven and liquid nitrogen (hard learned lesson #1). Two weeks later, an intake seat came loose trashing a piston and the head. The shop got a used E88 head and re-did all the custom work and basically made good on the deal except for the cost to bore the cylinders 0.020 over and the other 5 pistons and rings.

About that time, my wife Katie was working for an after market parts company and I got a set of Koni adjustable inserts for one Christmas and an absolutely gorgeous Mahogany steering wheel for a Birthday present. I also installed a set of Suspension Techniques sway bars (1" front and 3/4" rear) and purchased a set of ARE 2-piece 15X7 rims with the powder painted black "wire mag" style centers with 215-60/R15 front tires and 225-60/R15 rear tires. In 1990, I put a 1982 ZX 5 speed in and I get 29-30 MPG on the open road at 70 mph.

After years of fighting with the clunky "york" air conditioning compressor at the end of the boiler plate bracket (that complicated maintenance) and the demise of R-12 refrigerant, I salvaged a rotary compressor and bracket from an 80 Datsun 810 wagon (uses the L24 block) and a condenser coil from an 82 ZX. The compressor was rebuilt, I pieced the system together then charged it with R-134. I have been complimented on the installation as looking “factory!

In the mid 90s I got to hard learned lesson #2. I was driving away from the house one day and noted the peculiar and pungent smell of ethylene glycol. Turns out the replacement head looked like Swiss Cheese on the inside when I probed it carefully with a strong flashlight - a "prior owner" had used straight water. I purchased an early E31 head (higher compression) and had it blueprinted. While spending money, the cylinders went to 0.040 over as well.

What have all those mods done? The 1973 Z was the slowest model ever produced. The weight had grown from just over 2300 pounds in 1969 to right at 2500 pounds (that's close to 10%!). The 0-60 time when I purchased the Z was near 10.5 seconds. I am now right at 7 seconds and have been accused of having a V-8 under the hood. I pull it open to show the doubters my 2449.5 cc straight six! It is not the fastest car on the street, but is is no slouch. It gets great mileage and is fun to drive. With the fat tires, Konis and ST sway bars, I hang in there very well.

The car continued to be my daily driver until 2002 with some 322,000 miles when I purchased a 1986 300 ZX to be my daily driver with the 240Z relegated to car events (05 - 2010 May - Blue Ridge Parkway.jpg, 06 - 2010 July - ZCon Show @ Nissan HQ, Nashville, TN.jpg), club meetings and weekend (fair weather) drives. It remains a very reliable vehicle which I attribute to being consistent on the maintenance and staying with moderate modifications rather than "going for broke". Since 2002, I have been collecting sheet metal parts for the full frame off restoration and all those rubber parts that fit between the metal parts and around the openings.

In the meantime, I have continued to upgrade the engine with a custom cold air inlet being the major change, and this past year updated the look of the wheels and brakes with 17 inch rims, 40 profile ultra high performance tires and very generous brakes (13” front with 4 piston calipers and 11.5” rear). Driving US 129, my favorite twisty road (www.tailofthedragon.com; 09 - 2014 May - US129 - The Dragon - near Deals Gap, NC.jpg) is even more enjoyable now!

Consolidated list of countries visited:

USA, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland

Consolidated list of states visited:

Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming

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