Datsun scored a major breakthrough in the American perception of Japanese cars with the launch for 1970 of its 240Z. Here was a sophisticated and powerful sports coupe that rivaled the European competition, but was available at an affordable price.
Popular and plentiful, Z cars from the 1970s long have filled a niche among hobbyists seeking satisfying, durable sports cars to drive – especially the first-generation 240Z. But the cars never have achieved much traction as valued collector cars.
At least until now. Datsun Z cars should get a major dose of respect this year with another breakthrough: an entire class all their own at the 42nd annual Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance in July.
“The time has come,” said Jim Crisp, treasurer for the prestigious Oregon concours. “The Z cars are kind of unique and there seems to be a lot of interest in them.”
The featured class will be comprised of six select cars from 1970-79, years that cover three successive models — the original 240Z, the 260Z that was developed to comply with new U.S. regulations, and the 280Z that followed. However, the Z cars chosen for the concours will not necessarily represent each generation, Crisp said.
The Z class came about at the urging for several years by active Datsun Z club members in the Portland area, Crisp added. Finally, the Forest Grove Concours committee wondered, why not?
Leading the efforts to organize the class and to choose the six cars is Don Homuth of Salem, Ore., who has been a Z-car enthusiast for more than four decades and highly regarded for his knowledge of the brand. Crisp said Homuth is contacting Datsun Z clubs around the country to submit applications. The emphasis will be on pristine unmodified cars in their original configurations without custom or performance touches that have become so prevalent with these cars.
Homuth also has chosen a trio of experts who will judge the Datsuns under stringent concours standard for awards, Crisp said. Senior judge for the Forest Grove Concours is Glenn Mounger, well-known among classic car enthusiasts and a frequent judge and past chairman at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
The Forest Grove Concours d’ Elegance (www.forestgroveconcours.org) takes place July 20 on the campus of Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., with more than 300 antique, classic, sports, race, modified and collector cars expected.
The concours theme for this year is “The Art of Italian Motoring.” Besides the special class for Datsun Z cars, the event will celebrate the 50th anniversaries of the Ford Mustang and Pontiac GTO.