You know you’re behind the wheel of something unusual when sitting next to you on the passenger seat is an A4 sheet of paper explaining how to fire the thing up. What you see here might look like a relatively ordinary Datsun 240Z on the outside, but it’s had an incredible amount of work done under the skin.
Bought new by one Nancy Vaughn in 1972 from Datsun Palm Beach, it remained in the same family in Florida right up until 2012. At some point in its life, though Mr Vaughn, a retired engineer, decided some changes were necessary. Big ones.
Out went the original 2.4-litre ‘L24’ inline-six, replaced with the 2.8 L28 from the later 280Z. Added to this was a Garrett T3 turbocharger with T4 internals. The usual thing to do at this point would be a conversion to fuel injection, but apparently, that was too obvious for Vaughn. Instead, this 240Z runs a 45 Weber carburetor.
That’s where the slip of paper comes in. Much like waking up a teenager at any time before 11 am, bringing that L28 to life takes a little effort and patience. Fuel needs to be squirted in before you do anything, a task completed using a button on the end of the right-hand stalk which was once operated the windscreen washer jets. Then you crank it over, let it fire up, and tap that button again to keep the inline-six going. You can’t go anywhere until 10 minutes have passed and the car has warmed up.
It’s worth the wait, though. The worked-over L28 is good for around 300bhp, an incredible amount of power to give a car from the 1970s that weighs a little over a tonne. After quite a bit of turbo lag, the 240Z shoots forward at an almost alarming rate, dainty nose pitching upwards in the process. The ‘woosh’ of the Garrett turbo dominates the experience, damn near drowning out the sweet six-cylinder noise.
We’ve only a brief stint in the car, but even in our short drive, the 240Z is able to equally impress in other areas too. It’s a nicely sorted car that stops and steers brilliantly for something so old, which doesn’t come as a surprise given the rest of the spec.
It’s been treated to adjustable coilovers along with brake upgrades including four-piston calipers at the front. Those gorgeous 15-inch Enkei split rims, meanwhile, are wrapped in Toyo Proxes TR1 tyres.
It’s not a car that’ll be winning any concourse showdowns any time soon, not just for the absence of originality but also its condition. It’s smart enough, but there are some bodywork blemishes and a few less than tidy elements in the cabin. In a way, though, that’s part of the charm.
The 240Z spent a little time in storage following Vaughn’s death, before being imported to the UK in 2012. The car and its original engine will be auctioned at Historics’ Windsorview Lakes event near London this weekend, with an estimate £16,000 - £22,000. We also drove a bonkers Maserati 420 Monoposto, a near-immaculate S12 Nissan Silvia and (of all things) a Hummer H2 from the same sale - more on those at a later date.
We could see the temptation of using around £20k to instead buy a standard 240Z and modifying to your own, perhaps more conventional tastes. This would be perhaps the more sensible route, but anyone who fancies taking the plunge on this 300bhp rocketship from Florida will surely have one hell of a time after taking the keys.