Op-Ed: It’s Time To Accept The Datsun 240Z As One Of The Best JDM Tuner Cars

Blame it on “The Fast and the Furious” franchise or the United States’ ban on importing vehicles newer than 25 years old, but enthusiasts in the country have always had a love affair with the Toyota Supra and Nissan Skyline GT-R.

Unfortunately, getting your hands on one of those cars to modify is expensive and nearly impossible. But there is one Japanese sports that’s affordable and takes well to modifications that’s gone overlooked for years – the Datsun 240Z.

Unlike the Supra and Skyline GT-R, which are pricey and hard to come by in the U.S., the 240Z – and the larger, more powerful 280Z – is more readily available. Checking out Bring a Trailer’s old auctions reveals that a 240Z can be had for somewhere between $5,000 for a rough example and $38,000 for one in pristine condition.

That may sound like a lot of money, but it’s important to note that Supras sell for more than $50,000 regularly. And the case doesn’t look good for the R34 Skyline GT-R either, as the sports car won’t be legal in the U.S. until 2024.

The 240Z is available now and we recommend going with a mid-priced offering, as project vehicles can be in extremely rough condition. Still, after obtaining an example, the possibilities are pretty endless. All you have to do to get an idea of what’s possible with some love and a lot of money is to look at some of the 240Zs that have been featured on Jay Leno’s Garage.

One of the earliest 240Zs we saw the Denim King drive belonged to Sung Kang. The “Fast and Furious” star’s 1973 240Z is one beastly machine. The classic sports car is wearing a Rocket Bunny body kit and has some JDM touches, which are a necessity when modifying the machine. Power for his heavily-modified rocket comes from a naturally-aspirated RB26DE engine that sounds magnificent.

Kang’s good-looking 240Z isn’t a one-off either, as other enthusiasts have managed to complete builds that are just as amazing. Dominic Le brought an equally-as-impressive 240Z to Jay Leno. The sports car was fitted with wider fenders, JD touches, massive tires, a stripped out interior, and a turbocharged SR20 engine.

What both of these modified 240Zs reveal is that the classic Japanese lightweight takes well to modifications and can handle a variety of components. The engine bay will even accommodate a S50 engine from an E36 BMW M3. And for the truly insane out there, people have managed to shoehorn a V8 into the compact sports car.

The 240Z looks great with and without modifications, can be transformed into a sports car that is insanely fun to drive, and is relatively affordable to purchase. But the classic also has another trick up its sleeve – it’s easy to work on.

A quick search on ZCAR.com reveals that the 240Z and 280Z are relatively easy to fix. You don’t have to be a fully trained and licensed mechanic to wrench on the vehicle and the most important aspect of finding a good model to own is finding a rust-free chassis. If working on cars isn’t your thing, you can get a restomodded one for around $30,000. After spending upwards of $50,000 on a Supra, you probably wont want to work on it.

At the end of the day, every enthusiast would love to have a modified Supra or Skyline GT-R in his or her garage. But that’s out of the question for 90 percent of enthusiasts out there. Getting a 240Z and turning it into a modified work of art is a possibility.

Its classic sports car lines, emphasis on driving pleasure, and ability to accept various modifications make the 240Z one of the best tuner cars on the market today. Buy one while you can because prices are going up for the vehicle and you’re not getting any younger.

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  • Zed68

    Every car lover will say it’s also time to stop butchering classics

    • Jake

      As a car enthusiast myself, I say that not enough classics are butchered and people need to stop being so uptight about this nonsense. All the world really needs is one pristine example to show what the thing was. Otherwise, have at it. Someday the sun is gonna explode and every inanimate object people hold in some sort of borderline holy reverence will be reduced to a pile of ashes. So who gives half a crap. Have fun.

      • LWOAP

        Who gives half a crap? A lot of people because originals are getting increasingly hard to come by and those that do pop up on the market are getting pretty expensive. It may get to the point where the only affordable classics are going to be the ones that have been murdered out to hell and back. And you’ll end up spending more money and time undoing the previous owner’s work – and dealing with all the problems that may come with it – than actually driving it.

        Ok, granted it’s the owners car and they can do with it as they please. But “butchering” classics just for the hell of it? I wouldn’t do it.

        • I’m a classic car enthusiast and I love originality more than ever. But I endorse people who retsomod classic cars if only the base were deemed uneconomical to repair or the car is the least popular model (318, 320 and 325 E30 for example).

          And well 240Z is already quite expensive so I guess you need to move to Plymouth Cricket/Dodge Colt haha.

      • Zed68
  • Yobobjm
    • annon

      beauty is in simplicity, am truly envious Yobobjm, congrats on a fine JDM classic

      • Yobobjm

        Thank you! This car never fails to make me happy 🙂

    • TheHake

      Gorgeous car, mate!

    • SteersUright

      I think yours is much more beautiful than any of those heavily modified ones on display in the article. Nice car! Love the color too!

  • nastinupe

    Meh… Porsche 944 Turbo’s provide a better base.

    • SteersUright

      Agreed. But, a used BRZ provides an even better base.

      • nastinupe




    As much as I love modified cars, I’m really swinging more towards keeping some of them stock. A car can only be original once.

    • Martin

      Agree. In the heat of trying to “individualize” a car produced in limited numbers, people are willfully ignoring the gravity of destroying something that cannot be replaced. Especially troubling if you consider that the riveted fender look (as with all aesthetics) has a limited shelf life. So in essence, people are destroying something at one moment that they will be revolted by in another moments time.

    • True, or at least modified the car that would be uneconomical to restored or scrapped cars instead.

  • jaykit

    Such a good article and topic for me. Thumbs up!

  • TheHake

    The 240Z is not a JDM car. It was sold in plenty of countries. I want one so bad, but they are becoming ridiculously expensive.

    • Yeah typical misunderstanding, people thought JDM refers to any Japanese sports car while 240Z ironically is USDM version. In Japan it was called Fairlady Z.

      • TheHake

        JDM = Japanese Domestic Market. That refers to the cars only sold in Japan.

        • I meant wrongly what I want to say is, many people refers to JDM as any Japanese sports car. Maybe I should revised my words next time. Posting that comment too fast without fact check lol.

          • TheHake


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