Imagine seeing the 240Z for the first time when it was revealed in 1969. That long hood, the sleek curves, and the sporty rear haunches of the S30 looked unlike any other Japanese car on the road at the time, perhaps save for the contoured surfaces of the recently-released Toyota 2000GT — a car which cost more than a contemporary Jaguar E-Type or Porsche 911. The Z-car would set you back roughly half as much as this, yet when equipped with the L24 inline-six it produced just a hair more power: 151 horses compared to the 2000GT’s 150. For these and many other reasons, the 240Z had everyone’s attention in 1969. Five decades on, it still does.
British-based MZR Roadsports is keenly aware of this, and has set out to create the most refined examples possible. In their own words, “A 240Z equally at home on a spirited drive on a summer evening or a long distance adventure.” Leaning on just a bit more history, this goal is beautifully in line with the original vision of the Z. The brainchild of Mr. K — formally, Mr. Yutaka Katayama, who had been sent to the United States for market research and to establish the Nissan/Datsun brand there — the 240Z was built on the idea of selling the driving experience to Nissan’s customers. Before this, Mr. K was involved in developing the 510, which was Nissan’s first real foray into producing a fun and engaging driver’s car for the masses. The 510 was successful in that regard, and the new 240Z was meant to improve on that boxy little chassis in every way.
And improve it, they did. So much so, in fact, that the 240Z was the best-selling Japanese sports car ever produced until the Mazda Miata eventually outsold it in the 1990s. But today, 240Zs are old. There’s no way around that. Even fully-restored examples still retain some of the pain points of any vintage motoring experience, but MZR Roadsports aims to eliminate the bad while keeping the good. So, you might ask how you get from a tired, worn-out chassis to what MZR classifies as “a very bespoke and tailored classic sports car, befitting amongst even the most exotic of car collections.”
First, clean donor chassis are sourced — often from the dry western regions of the United States — and sent to their UK workshop for disassembly before being acid-dipped and stripped back to bare metal. Only then can the process of rebuilding commence. Three distinct models are available: the Sport-Design, the MZR 50 Anniversary, and the Evolution. Thankfully, all offerings stick to an ethos that is very important when it comes to an icon like the 240Z: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Externally, the original design overseen by Yoshihiko Matsuo of Nissan’s Sports Car Styling Studio is maintained. This is critical, as any attempts to re-pen the S30 would surely go awry. Instead, MZR Roadsports turns their attention to the things that should be updated: the materials, the engineering, the technology, and, ultimately, the experience.
MZR 240Z Sport-Design
The MZR Sport-Design 240Z is restored to the highest of standards externally, with subtle modifications like a front lip and a twin-tipped exhaust that exits through the center of the rear bodywork. Meanwhile, the cabin is entirely overhauled but retains the general shapes of the early Z cars. High-back bucket seats with bolsters; a center stack with a stereo and tactile switchgear; two main gauges ahead of the steering wheel supported by a trio in the center of the dash; textured upholstery on the rear strut supports, which harks to the diamond-patterned trim that the cars received when new. The squareweave carpeting that extends to the rear cargo area is a huge improvement over the haphazard carpets that the Z originally shipped with, and the Sport-Design is also appointed with air conditioning, an updated heater, upgraded wipers, central locking, Bluetooth connectivity, and other present-day amenities. You could easily spend a full day taking in the elegance of the exterior and interior, which exude a vintage presence while being stealthily modern.
The same is true under the hood, where you have a selection of inline-six engines that displace between 2.8 and 3.1 liters. Output is rated at up to 280 horsepower thanks in part to a stunning set of independent throttle bodies and a fuel-injection system that was designed in-house. Again, like the rest of the car, the engine bay simply looks updated rather than replaced or redesigned. It still retains the overall aesthetic of the original L24, while cleaning up various wires, hoses, and vacuum lines that the cars utilized from the factory. Unsurprisingly, power is routed to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.
Finishing off the main ingredients is an MZR-designed 30-way adjustable coilover suspension system that is paired with even more refinement in the form of adjustable control arms. Rack-and-pinion steering and an upsized four-wheel disc-brake system round off the chassis improvements, but we’re still only scratching the surface here. Pricing is available on application, but starts at over $100,000 before bespoke additions.
MZR 240 Z 50 Anniversary & Evolution
If the Sport-Design doesn’t go quite far enough for you aesthetically, the limited-edition 50 Anniversary takes everything up a notch in this department. The nose of the car is redesigned for better aerodynamic properties, carbon-fiber pieces are utilized, the track width is increased, and the body lines are very subtly muscled-up. The cockpit is further overhauled with more supportive seats and more-heavily contoured panels. The engine bay receives a similar modernized treatment with a blacked-out aesthetic, while power delivery and chassis upgrades remain consistent with the Sport-Design.
If you’re still itching for more, the Evolution model has you covered. A full carbon-fiber shell replaces the original steel bodywork, and plenty of carbon-fiber finds its way into the cabin as well. More serious motorsports hardware is also installed on these examples, which are produced with exclusive clients on a case-by-case basis.
Again, critically, everything is upgraded in tandem and manages to not feel out of place within the original profile of the Z. As MZR Roadsport themselves say: “The simplest appearance often belies the most complex thinking.”