PRE-PRODUCTION NORTH AMERICAN ROAD TESTING FOR THE DATSUN 240Z

For years, Z Car Fan’s wondered; how did “ROAD & TRACK” Magazine manage to get a photograph of the then brand new DATSUN 240-Z, being driven in L.A., for their January 1970 Cover. Knowing that the January issue hit the news stands in early Dec. 1969, the photographs had to have been taken at least a month or two earlier to make the publication deadline.

That “R & T” Cover Car very well could have been one of the two Production Prototypes sent from Japan for extensive road testing here in North America.

Boxed up for shipping from Japan, the two Silver Datsun 240-Z’s arrived here in time to start extensive road testing by the 2nd of October, 1969. Produced in September of 1969, we believe that they were HLS30 00004 and HLS30 00005. One with standard transmission and one with automatic transmission.

Pictured below: Mr. Katayama, President Nissan Motors USA, with the Road Test Crew and one of the Production Prototypes sent for initial road testing.

Above: Mr. Katayama, President Nissan Motors USA, with the Road Test Crew and one of the Production Prototypes sent for initial road testing

The Test Drivers were from Nissan Shatia Koki, a company partly (16%) owned by Nissan Motors Ltd., that specialized in building the more limited production vehicles. Nissan out-sourced the production of the Z’s to Nissan Shatia Koki from the beginning and on though the production of the 90+ 300ZX.

Mr. Hitoshi Uemura, Mr. Eiji Osawa and the road test team made two major loops with the Production Prototype 240-Z’s though America, accompanied by a Red Datsun 510 used as the chase car. Leaving L.A. they traveled East to New Orleans, then West back to L.A.. On their second loop for cold weather testing, they traveled North from L.A. to Dawson Creek, Canada then returned South through Calgary, Canada and back into the U.S. toward L.A. again. They also made a more minor loop from L.A. though Death Valley and back to L.A. for Hot Weather Testing (see red loop on Map Above). In all some 14,000 hard miles were spent wringing out the test cars.

Above: Road Test Crew Gathered At BRASSO DATSUN in Calgary, Canada. Note Gift Of Five Gallon Hat From Texas Trip to Dealer.

Problems identified along the way were reported back to the factory by the Test Drivers. Problems identified included road noise, vibration from rear axle and steering wheel kick-back. The fiberglass headlight nacelle also developed cracks. As a result of unacceptable vibration, regular production of the Datsun 240-Z that had been ramping up from 52 units in Oct., to 388 in Nov. at the production facility, was slowed to all but a complete halt in Dec. 69 with only 97 240-Z’s being produced that month.

Above: Photo Courtesy of Digital Manga Inc.

The angle between the differential and half-shafts was determined to be too great, resulting in the unacceptable vibration. The solution was to move the differential rearward, but that presented a problem of interference with the gas tank. As a result the gas tank had to be made smaller, but to maintain the driving range necessary for America, the Z had to be made lighter. Every aspect of the construction of the Z was thus reviewed with the goal of making it lighter without sacrificing strength.

Above: Photo Courtesy of Digital Manga Inc.

A crack developed during US Road Testing so the fiberglass headlight nacelles were doubled in thickness and thus strength. Which solved the problem but added some weight back to the car.

With the early results from the US Road Test Cars, Nissan had the problems mostly corrected by the end of Dec. 69 and regular production began to ramp back up in January 1970.

If you would like to read more about the design and development of the Datsun 240-Z, I highly recommend the book “Project X 240Z” by Akira Yokoyama as published by Digital Manga Publishing. You can find sales outlets listed at the URL given.

Presented in the traditional Japanese “Manga” format (comic book drawings in American terms) you will have a greater appreciation for not only the Datsun 240-Z and the men that made it happen, you’ll be introduced to an entertaining art form for story telling. (make no mistake, this is an exceptionally well researched and accurately reported account, even if some artistic license has been taken..cjb)

Not only is it the most reasonably priced Book about the Datsun 240-Z you’ll ever buy, it is in my opinion, the one that lays out the story of the Z Car in the most accurate manor. Order a couple of copies and give one to a fellow Z Car Enthusiast.

Source: zhome.com