Jeremy Swiger is our Blog Editor-at-Large, living in Germany and experiencing life in the land of little or no speed limits. Here’s his latest ramblings.
At the end of January, a series 1 Datsun 240Z sold on Bring A Trailer (BaT), the online auto auction site, for an unprecedented $310,000. While obviously an outlier in early Z-cars sales, this particular example was an unmolested, original example with an extremely well documented history. For the most part, series 1 240Zs in good driver condition can be purchased in the low to mid $20’s, with the cream of the crop pushing $50k. To go north of $50k, the car must be really special, such as a Nissan factory restored car which also sold on BaT for a mere $105k.
All of this recent attention to old Datsun Z-cars got me reminiscing. Z-cars were a part of my family for a long time. In the mid ‘80s, I remember my mom lusting over the Z31 300ZX when it was new. When I turned 16 and took over the helm of her hand-me-down ‘87 Accord, she and my dad went on a search for the perfect car, settling on an ‘87 300ZX model with only two previous owners and a long history of love. The purchase of this car occurred in the mid ‘90s, near the end of production of the Z32 300ZX, which as a teenager of the ‘90s was the stuff of dreams, the marketing poster typically displayed on bedroom walls, sharing space with the likes of Vipers, Countach’s and 911s.
On occasion, I was allowed to drive it. T-Tops out, cruising the streets of my hometown of Maitland, Florida. Yeah, it was cool!
But back to the series 1 cars that started it all. The 240Z is part of my earliest automotive memories. My uncle daily drove a 1970 model for around 20 years. In his younger days, Uncle Ray, a bachelor, lived in a custom waterfront A-frame stilt house, owned big sailboats and drove a cool car. When I was 4 years old, he declared I was old enough to help drive! Forever imprinted in my memory, one upon which I look very fondly, was the day I got to do the shifting. Picture it: early ‘80s. There were seatbelt laws but who knows if they were enforced. Normally we, the kids (my brother and I) were restrained, be it in a backseat (of another car) or the front seat with the should strap pulled behind the headrest to keep it from catching us in the neck. On this day, with Uncle Ray manning the steering, clutch and throttle, his girlfriend riding shotgun, my brother on the package shelf in the back, I got to ride on the transmission hump and when prompted, move the gear lever to the next gear.
Much of my love of cars comes from my dad. There is no disputing that. But certain memories stick with you and this is one of mine… feeling the weight of the shifter moving between gears; the diamond-patterned vinyl cover of the transmission tunnel, the triple gauge pod in the center of the dash; rolling through the streets of Tampa helping do the “driving”. I can’t help but think of this every time an orange 240Z pops up on BaT.