If there is one constant in the collector car market, it’s that the best cars will always find willing buyers for strong money. Exhibit A: A series-1 Datsun 240Z worthy of consideration as possibly the finest original example in the world just sold for $310,000.
The car in question sold earlier today on Bring a Trailer, hovering around the $100,000 mark until last minute bids catapulted it to its final sale price. It is not only an early production 1971 model, but a 21,000 original-mile survivor that until very recently remained in the custody of a single family.
Chassis HLS30-04686 was purchased new by James Munson, owner of Munson Datsuns in Marion, Indiana, and the car was displayed in his dealership showroom before being given to son Ronald upon the latter’s graduation from dental school. The car received regular service from the same mechanic from the moment it arrived at Munson’s until Dr. Munson’s passing last year. Hugely original and nearly flawless, the Munson car is perhaps as close to a brand new 240Z as one could hope to find.
Even in basically mint condition and with a bulletproof provenance, however, it’s hard to deny that $310,000 is a monster of an auction result for a high-volume car like the 240Z. Around 45,000 Zs left the factory for model year 1971, and while few (if any) can match the condition of the Munson car today, very nice cars can be found for sale pretty much on demand, with many good examples selling in the $35K range.
Recently, however, there have been a few outliers. Last July, one of the 37 Nissan Vintage Restoration Program 240Zs brought a tick over $100,000 in another BaT auction, while in June another museum-quality restored car achieved a sale price of over $124,000. A concours-quality, original car with an unimpeachable history is no doubt worthy of a premium over even those lofty results, but a premium of two to three times as much?
Our take on the situation is this: we believe that the recent surge in prices for the best 240Zs reflects that the collector market has finally come to appreciate how special these cars really are, much the same way it woke up to air-cooled Porsches ten years ago. A contemporary 911 of similar quality and low miles like this Z would probably bring around $300,000, though that market has cooled.
In these first-generation Zs, we have not only a pure sports car with great performance, gorgeous looks and reliability (catnip for the vintage rally set), but also a car of incalculable historical significance.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Datsun 240Z once and for all established the Japanese motor industry as a force to be reckoned with the in the US, making it arguably the milestone car of the 1970s. Consequently, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more excellent-quality, restored 240Zs breach the $100,000 threshold as major collectors take increased notice, with true museum pieces like the Munson car continuing to bring multiples of that (if any more of them emerge, that is).
Does this mean that a rusty, high-mile Z with a replacement block and a janky Audiovox head unit is now a six-figure car? It absolutely does not. As with any other collector car, condition is everything. It’s worth noting, however, that the rise in 240Z values is happening while prices in the broader collector car market are trending downward, which suggests that the days of relatively affordable Zs may be coming to an end.
Images: Bring a Trailer