Whenever Japanese cars are being discussed, a small four-pot engine that might or might not be glued to a turbo comes into mind. Japanese muscle cars aren’t in most cases the gas-guzzling 8-cylinder monsters that America adores. They are fast, but not in a torque churning, burbling spitfire kind of a way. And while today they have their own appeal as endlessly tuneable machines that can melt tyres at the drop of the clutch, they weren’t what the performance-minded American buyer was looking for back in the 60s and the 70s, until the Datsun 240Z came along.
While you could argue that the Toyota 2000GT would technically be the first Japanese muscle car, it was made in an insignificantly small number (351 units total) to make its impact felt on the American market. It was two years when another similarly style Japanese muscle car would present itself to the world to break Japan out of the stereotype of making horrid econoboxes. When the Datsun 240Z (Fairlady Z for Japan) was introduced to the American Market in 1970, it instantly created a disruption towards how cars coming from Japan were perceived. It had the signature muscle car long bonnet and a beautifully sloping coupe body that was in reality inspired from European and American cars. The disruption was so huge that dealers had a hard time filling in the orders as waiting lists kept on getting bigger and bigger.
Above image: The 240Z also proved to be hugely successful at the Safari Rally.
While the Series 1 S30 Datsun 240Z didn’t quite have the oomph of the American V8 muscle, it was plenty for most. It had a straight-six cylinder engine for the American market that produced 140bhp and was priced competitively to its British rivals like the MGB-GT. With a strong performance and staple Japanese reliability, the Datsun 240Z became a huge success throughout the 70s. And to capitalise on its success, Datsun kept offering better performance throughout the decade with its successor, the 260Z and later with the 280Z.