RE: Fourways Engineering | PH Meets

RE: Fourways Engineering | PH Meets

Thursday 13th June

Fourways Engineering | PH Meets

With the 240Z 50th this year and business booming, we visit one of Britain's leading Datsun Z specialists



It's the smell that gets you first. Not the eggy 21st century whiff of catalysed exhaust fumes, but the potent 20th century pong of unburnt hydrocarbons billowing out of the tailpipes of the cold-started car that's now reversing out of this brick and timber garage.

Then the car's back end angles into view. If you didn't know you were at the Borough Green, Kent home of Fourways Engineering, one of the UK's leading Datsun 240Z specialists, you'd swear that those exquisite curves belonged to some obscure example of 1960s Italian exotica, the sort of thing PH forumers would happily spend years trying to identify.

But this is Fourways, and the car that is enjoyably poisoning your coughing PH representatives is a totally original and very early J-reg 240Z in dark green. Coincidentally, that's the same colour as the 240Z that did the first UK road test rounds back in spring 1972, a few months after the car's British debut at the October 1971 Motor Show. The 240Z had been on sale in Japan for a full two years before that, illustrating the leisurely timescale of car launches back then and also allowing mathematicians to proudly shout that 2019 must therefore be the 50th anniversary of the 240Z.


You'd be forgiven for not noticing that. Although the brand has recently been resuscitated in Japan for city squirters, there hasn't been a Datsun presence in the UK since the mid-1980s. Even when Datsun was going strong in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, the 240Z was a bit of an oddball choice.

Almost all of Datsun UK's sales back then were of cheap runarounds like the Cherry and Sunny, grudgingly purchased by a suspicious British public that still thought a Japanese car was about as durable as a cake left out in the rain. A performance coupe marooned in a range of character-free tin boxes was a jump too far for many potential buyers. Why would you get a tinny 240Z when you could buy a proper British sporting vehicle like the highly reliable Lotus Elan 4+2S, the delicate, will o' the wisp MGC GT with its pig-iron 2.9 litre six from the 1961 Austin Westminster saloon, or the not at all incendiary fibreglass Reliant Scimitar GTE?

Skeptics fearing a new Japanese invasion had their opinions conveniently reinforced by the opinions of British road testers, some of whom told them that certain aspects of the 240Z weren't so great. This was surprising, because the Datsun had won the previous year's murderously difficult East African Safari Rally and would go on to win it again in 1973. Hardly the hallmark of a poor car, even one that had been rally-prepped.


It turned out however that most of the 240Z's perceived shortcomings were down to a combination of misguided press expectations, crappy ancillaries that weren't really Datsun's fault, and the shocking state of the solitary (and heavily-abused) UK press vehicle. The unwillingness of Datsun UK's PR department to fix the test car's serious transmission faults (reported to them by more than one magazine) was quite likely a result of the, shall we say, unusual management style of Datsun UK founder and fortune-builder Octav Botnar.

The road noise noticed by even the most Mutt and Jeff of muttering rotters could well have been down to the famously liquorice-like Japanese Dunlop tyres of the era. As for expectations, those 1970s journalists thought they would be getting a grunty, low-revving six in the style of an Austin-Healey 3000, whereas in fact the Datsun's single overhead cam twin SU-carbed motor was a high revver that needed to be stirred beyond a then-outlandish (for a six) 4000rpm to get the best test figures.

If you were prepared to do that, the Z would hit 60mph at the top of second gear in 8.5sec and go on to 125mph in fifth. Maximum power was 151bhp at 5600rpm, not much less than Triumph's state of the art injected 2.5 PI inline six was producing at the time. 6000rpm was the Datsun's realistic limit, with a cutout at 6500. In everyday use, however, the 146lb ft maximum torque at 4400rpm meant you could row the Datsun along quite nicely without crossing the 4000rpm mark. In hardish use you could expect mpg figures in the low-20s, which as Calvin Harris nearly said was Acceptable In The Seventies.


But forget all that numbery stuff. Just look at it now. Wow. How well has that bodyshape matured? While everything else has become so big and bloated, the 240Z has become gorgeous simply by staying the same as it was in 1969. If, in some weird fantasy world, you opened a pop-up Datsun dealership tomorrow and the 240Z was your only offering, surely folk would be queuing round the block? Given the choice between a 2.4 carburetted six-banger weighing in at not much over a tonne and a new 1520kg Supra, which one would you pick?

Sitting in that showroom-spec green car, twirling the impossibly slender steering wheel, firmly coaxing the baulky gearstick around the gate and drinking in that uniquely matured aroma of petrol and plastic, the rock-solid investability of the Datsun makes this seem like a no-brainer choice. The thing is, it's a choice that you can actually make now, because thanks to the likes of Fourways Engineering you can get a beautifully restored/original 240Z for pretty much the same money as a new Supra, and a very acceptable one for not much more than half that. As long as Fourways are around - and that looks like being for a long time yet - you've got access to one of the deepest pools of 240Z knowledge and experience anywhere.

Fourways have been working on Zeds for almost as long as the car has been around. Founder Geoff Jackson was so taken by the 240Z on its launch that he flogged his E-type to get one. He loved the looks, layout and evident tunability of the Datsun, but there were no tuning parts for it, so Jackson spent the next forty-odd years developing his own cam, head, exhaust and chassis mods with a view to unlocking the car's motorsport potential. He passed away fairly recently but his good work is now being continued by James Carter, who spent four and a half years at Jackson's side, learning the ways of the master.


You don't have to do a lot to a 240Z to make it look, sound or go a whole lot better than Botnar and his whimpering acolytes ever imagined possible. Just take a little of the narrow-tyred, high-riding 1970s stance out of it, then play around with the mechanicals if you want. Or just leave it like it is. Either way you will be pleasantly surprised by the way it rolls.

'The weight distribution is great,' says James. 'You've got five of the six cylinders behind the front axle. They rust for fun though, which is why there aren't many UK cars left. They rust everywhere.

'In the 1990s these cars were worthless, so repairs were mainly on the "patch it up for the MOT" basis, but then they started to get a bit more popular so Geoff would import one from America and use a right-hand drive car as a donor. That way you'd get the ideal combination of a rust-free Californian shell and right-hand drive.'


James reckons that the perfect market for restored 240Zs is Australia, where they're snapped up for twice the price of US examples. Customer Paul's green car that was choking us earlier was originally brought over from Australia, where it cost the equivalent of just over £16,000 plus the 5% tax on historic vehicle imports. It was then subjected to a bare-shell, soda-blast restoration with all the original parts refurbished. And they mean all.

'I've always loved cars,' says happy owner Paul. 'I'd never really looked at a 240Z, but then I saw the ones here. I've had expensive cars but the massive premium you pay for them almost discourages you from using them. I had a Porsche 918 Spyder but it was just sitting in the garage.

'I started to look at other cars and I can honestly say that I've fallen in love with the 240Z. I bought mine to use. I have as much satisfaction driving this as I did the 918.'


The engines can be stroked to 3.2 litres using a 280Z block. 'They're generally really nice to work on,' says James. 'Fitting window regulators is the worst job ever, but getting engines and gearboxes in is easy and the rear suspension is so simple. The rear wishbones look different, but they're actually the same, it's just that one is upside down. That's how they did it. The number of people who ring us up saying they're looking at a car to buy but that one of the rear wishbones is wrong. It isn't. That's how they were. All four flexible brake pipes are the same too. That sort of thing is nice.'

The 240Z has other examples of Japanese ingenuity that you only notice when you look closely at the car, like the two inspection panels cut into the wing tops to allow access to the battery and screenwash bottle, and the nifty underbonnet light on a lead. Imagine a modern manufacturer fitting such a thing. No, neither can we. It would be a tacit admission of impending mechanical failure. Another pleasing design quirk appears in the 240Z cabin, where the crazily-low placement of the door releases almost makes you think you're in a gullwinged car.

So, you're looking to get into an early Z. Which one should you go for? The 260Z followup of 1974 was much the same car as the 240, its minimal power credits largely swallowed up by its emission debits. You could get a 2+2 version of the 260, adding some useful practicality without ruining the shape too much, but by the time of the 1978 280Z (which we didn't get in the UK) and the 1979 280ZX (which sadly we did), most of the Z's clean-cut appeal had been extinguished.


'A lot of people think the 260 is a slightly better driving car, with the extra four years of refining it had,' says James. 'But I'd always go for a 240. It's the icon. Always buy on the condition of the shell.' Such is the value of a good 240 now, however, even grotty ones are worth rescuing. 'We've done a UK car recently that needed £20,000 of bodywork. It looks stunning now.

'It's getting hard to find parts for the original gearboxes, so we do a nice 200SX gearbox conversion. It just takes a bit of machining.'

So, how much is 240Z ownership going to cost you then? A really good, ready to go restored car like Paul's green 54,000-miler would be in the region of £60k to buy. How about at the other end of the scale? 'A cheap, usable American LHD car with bad paint, interior and wheels is going to be around £15k. To get it restored properly, as opposed to just repainting it, you can add forty grand to that.'

Fourways don't just do 240Zs. They've earned their restoration spurs over the years on a raft of projects, including converting Aston DB4s to Zagato spec. While we were there, a rather spectacular '60s Mustang GT was being primped and honed for the owner who had just rolled up in his other car, an Aston DB11. Now he's thinking of getting Fourways' James to build him a nut and bolt bottom-up build of a 240Z. Eeeh, it's a tough life.


Thanks to all at Fourways for the hospitality and for persevering with the warm 'family business' approach to motor fettling. That means Nathalie Aldridge, James Carter, the Baker Brothers Jeff and Brian, apprentice James White, Mini-owning work experience lad Remy, and Teddy, the rescue Cavapoochon doggie.















Author
Discussion

donkmeister

Original Poster:

1,604 posts

42 months

Thursday
quotequote all
"crappy ancillaries that weren't really Datsun's fault"... Not sure I agree that it wasn't their fault, motoring history is packed with cars that were great save for a couple of bought-in parts, but it's the manufacturer who signs off a design with those parts and sells the results to the public.

Loving the restoration and the enthusiasm of Four Ways. The MCM 240 Fairlady with an RB26 is an interesting car too, for anyone who likes a Restomod.

macdeb

7,300 posts

197 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Beautiful car, love them.

pidsy

4,809 posts

99 months

Thursday
quotequote all
240 is firmly in my lottery garage.

Lovely things.

GAjon

2,954 posts

155 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Always liked these, very similar in shape to the TVR M series cars.

aeropilot

18,000 posts

169 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Pretty much the only Japanese car I have any real interest in.........and that restored early green Zee is lovely.


Advertisement

s m

17,508 posts

145 months

Thursday
quotequote all
If you like this article then you might also like this one

http://www.speedhunters.com/2019/06/metal-perfecti...


aeropilot

18,000 posts

169 months

Thursday
quotequote all
s m said:
If you like this article then you might also like this one

http://www.speedhunters.com/2019/06/metal-perfecti...
Not for me, I just see a ruined Z.


runnerbean 14

52 posts

76 months

Thursday
quotequote all
I bought a Datsun new in 1973 - it wasn't a Z but a B110 1200 Coupe. They raced 'em at Fuji and rallied them all over the world - a couple of mates also had them and they were a great deal cooler than any offering from Ford or BLMC for the price at the time.

V8 FOU

2,612 posts

89 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Octav Botnar.....Forgot about that theiving individual.
There's a few stories to be told about him.

Meanwhile, always loved the 240Z!

unsprung

2,783 posts

66 months

Thursday
quotequote all
PH article said:
James reckons that the perfect market for restored 240Zs is Australia,
This may be true if RHD is your absolute greatest priority, but that's a bit viewing the world through a keyhole. The US market is tops for 240Z cars, restorations, NOS parts, newly-manufactured parts and much else.

The Z car and its younger siblings were created primarily for the US market. It's miles and miles of zee car (and very little zed car).

Circa 2000 units were sold, each, in Australia and Britain. The US gobbled up the better part of 150,000 units!
http://zhome.com/History/240ZProduction/240ZProduc...


s m

17,508 posts

145 months

Thursday
quotequote all
unsprung said:
This may be true if RHD is your absolute greatest priority, but that's a bit viewing the world through a keyhole. The US market is tops for 240Z cars, restorations, NOS parts, newly-manufactured parts and much else.

The Z car and its younger siblings were created primarily for the US market. It's miles and miles of zee car (and very little zed car).

Circa 2000 units were sold, each, in Australia and Britain. The US gobbled up the better part of 150,000 units!
http://zhome.com/History/240ZProduction/240ZProduc...
In the late 90s Nissan over in the U.S. would restore one of their old Datsun 240Z's for you

Article reckons they did about 40

https://jalopnik.com/what-happened-to-all-the-dats...

Cable

216 posts

125 months

Thursday
quotequote all
I'm awaiting for my rust free, California 260Z, to come back from the paintshop after a full bodyshell strip. I can't wait to start putting it back together!

unsprung

2,783 posts

66 months

Thursday
quotequote all
s m said:
In the late 90s Nissan over in the U.S. would restore one of their old Datsun 240Z's for you
you've probably seen how other brands, the Germans in particular, are doing such restorations full-time now, for customers globally

more of a high-end endeavour than the Datsun scheme, but for the very same reason: the brand

very inspiring; after all, there's no such thing (yet) as a "heritage Lexus"


PZR

518 posts

127 months

Thursday
quotequote all
unsprung said:
PH article said:
James reckons that the perfect market for restored 240Zs is Australia,
This may be true if RHD is your absolute greatest priority, but that's a bit viewing the world through a keyhole. The US market is tops for 240Z cars, restorations, NOS parts, newly-manufactured parts and much else.

The Z car and its younger siblings were created primarily for the US market. It's miles and miles of zee car (and very little zed car).

Circa 2000 units were sold, each, in Australia and Britain. The US gobbled up the better part of 150,000 units!
http://zhome.com/History/240ZProduction/240ZProduc...
Quoting zhome.com as a reference will get you nowhere nearer to the truth on the matter.

"...created primarily for the US market..." would be better phrased as 'volume sales targeted at the north American market', just like the majority of Nissan, Toyota, Honda and - yes - Jaguar, MG, Triumph, Porsche and even Ferrari products were at the time.

But 'volume sales targeted' doesn't equate to 'designed expressly for'. New safety and emissions regulations for the north American market were taken into account, along with ergonomics, but there were natural design concessions due to such things as the origins of the drivetrain. If you were designing a sports/GT expressly for an LHD market, would you use an engine with the carburettors and exhaust on the left side of the engine, so that the steering shaft has to avoid the exhaust manifold and the accelerator pedal has an exhaust pipe right underneath it?

The truth is that Nissan's designers, stylists and engineers put just as much effort into the the whole S30-series range of models as they did for the north American market version. At launch - in October 1969 - that meant the S30-S 'Fairlady Z', S30 'Fairlady Z-L', PS30 'Fairlady Z432', PS30-SB 'Fairlady Z432-R', HS30 Export market RHD 'Datsun 240Z', HLS30 LHD Euro Export market 'Datsun 240Z' and HLS30U LHD north American Export market 'Datsun 240Z'. They did a great job on a whole family of variants, not just one of them.

The north American market 'Datsun 240Z' was arguably dumbed down and softened up for that market. Only available with a wide ratio 4-speed transmission and 3.3:1 diff ratio (Auto version was available later in 1970), softer springing and damping than other market models, a skinny front ARB and no rear ARB at all. They even had a slower steering rack ratio. All other markets had the choice of a close ratio 5-speed O/D transmission and 3.9:1 (or 4.44:1 and LSD for the S20-engined models) diff, with firmer springing/damping/ARBs (at both ends) and faster rack ratio. Euro and UK market cars had the addition of factory-developed aero aids. All other markets had the option of a more powerful and faster showroom model than the north American market 'Datsun 240Z'.

Numbers sold was more about economics than design and engineering. Nissan effectively piled 'em high and sold 'em cheap, with the - mostly independent - franchised dealers in the USA adding all sorts of extras to bump up the price and take advantage of waiting lists full of cashed-up baby boomers. UK imports - by contrast - had much further to travel, a steep import duty and a national franchise holder who didn't really want to get behind the model.

Japan always had the best models.



unsprung

2,783 posts

66 months

Thursday
quotequote all
PZR said:
Quoting zhome.com as a reference will get you nowhere nearer to the truth on the matter.
If you would like to believe that the conception of the 240Z and the narrative of the Z franchise in general, the aftermarket, the forums, the entire future of this ageing platform, are largely dominated by RoW consumers, be my guest.

70 times more sales in the US -- with only (at the time) 3.5 times more population than the UK.

The car wasn't just priced more affordably stateside; the Americans also had more disposable income (not unlike today: 45 percent more disposable income than a UK household). As well as lower operating costs.

Almost nobody, anywhere in the world, begins a 240Z restoration by saying, "Well, what I don't have to hand here domestically, I'll be sure to delve into finding in Australia."








PZR

518 posts

127 months

Thursday
quotequote all
unsprung said:
s m said:
In the late 90s Nissan over in the U.S. would restore one of their old Datsun 240Z's for you
you've probably seen how other brands, the Germans in particular, are doing such restorations full-time now, for customers globally

more of a high-end endeavour than the Datsun scheme, but for the very same reason: the brand

very inspiring; after all, there's no such thing (yet) as a "heritage Lexus"
Of course, Aston Martin Works Service and Bristol Cars to name just two were doing it before the Nissan Motor Co USA 'Vintage Z' project.

Mazda and Honda are doing similar in Japan now.

Charlie Boy

133 posts

123 months

Thursday
quotequote all
A mint car in the US is hardly a bargain these days even with the far higher volumes. Makes a mint RHD car at £60k seem like good value.

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1970-datsun-240z...

yonex

14,296 posts

110 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Gorgeous cars that sound absolutely brilliant.

Hol

4,999 posts

142 months

Thursday
quotequote all
I used to pass by their premises every day.

I will be honest, I always assumed they were an aged MG/jag/british car restoration shop, based purely on their proximity to the Morgan dealers in the same village.

I should've looked further as I always like the fast Japs like the 240 and early Celica GT, back when I was messing with Escorts.
Sadly, I have missed the boat completely to get a bargain classic from that era.

PZR

518 posts

127 months

Thursday
quotequote all
unsprung said:
PZR said:
Quoting zhome.com as a reference will get you nowhere nearer to the truth on the matter.
If you would like to believe that the conception of the 240Z and the narrative of the Z franchise in general, the aftermarket, the forums, the entire future of this ageing platform, are largely dominated by RoW consumers, be my guest.

70 times more sales in the US -- with only (at the time) 3.5 times more population than the UK.

The car wasn't just priced more affordably stateside; the Americans also had more disposable income (not unlike today: 45 percent more disposable income than a UK household). As well as lower operating costs.

Almost nobody, anywhere in the world, begins a 240Z restoration by saying, "Well, what I don't have to hand here domestically, I'll be sure to delve into finding in Australia."
I'm not advocating Australia (?), apart from the fact that they have been - up to now - a good source of reasonably priced RHD cars of a good specification in standard form. And I'm not talking about S130-series, Z31, Z32, Z33 or Z34 series 'franchise' or the future of an "ageing platform" because they are another topic altogether. One I can't honestly say I care about.

You're talking about sales numbers as though they prove something about concept, design, styling and engineering. I'm saying they don't.

The fact that you're talking about '240Z' and not 'S30-series Z range' already shows you're not looking at the wider picture, and probably ignoring the Japanese side of the story (do you know the Japanese market sales figures? Hint: You won't find them on zhome.com). If you're classifying the Japanese market as "RoW" then, well...

If you put all the 1969 at-launch models in a line and compared them in design, engineering and construction detail, you'd see that just as much effort was put into the ergonomics of the LHD models as was put into the RHD models, but - despite the fact that both LHD and RHD work very well - there's more design concession on the LHD version than there is the RHD version. That's natural for a 1960s Japanese production car.

You said that the 240Z was "created primarily for the USA market", but that misses the wider point. The HLS30U variant was aimed at the USA/Canada market, but the HLS30U was only one variant of an S30-series Z range that was conceived, styled, engineered and produced at the same time.