240Z vs 280Z: Which One is Actually Better?

When Nissan initially came to the US market, they operated under the name “Datsun”. This was done in case of failure, which would damage the Nissan name. Fast forwards to 1970 and Datsun is producing the 240Z. The 240Z was an answer to Toyota’s 2000GT which ultimately failed. The 240Z was a massive success, and has created an entire Z family. If you’ve ever been into 240Zs or 280Zs, then you know that the debate between them is tense. Which one of them is actually better? Let’s dive in and compare 240Z vs 280Z.

240Z

In 1970, the 240Z was introduced to the American market by the president of Nissan Motors USA Operations. The early 240Zs were known as the Series 1. The Series 1 had subtle differences from later cars such as badges in different locations. The 240Z came standard with a 2.4L inline six, with a four speed manual transmission. The 240Z also came standard with fully independent suspension front and rear. This was very different from the standard US sports car which was solid rear axle.

280Z

Fast forwards to 1975 and Datsun is making the 280Z. The 280Z featured a larger 2.8L engine. This was done by enlarging the bore of the L24 engine to create the L28 engine. The 280Z also featured a much more reliable Bosch L–JETRONIC fuel injection. Due to popular demand the 280Z was more luxurious than the outgoing 240Z, and it had a much smoother ride. The 280Z was heavier than the 240Z, but with the increased engine size it was just as fast.

240Z vs 280Z: Exterior

The 240Z and the 280Z share identical bodies. The only differences would be badges, blinkers, and others very small details. Even the 260Z shares nearly everything on the outside. Overseas the 280Z was available as a 2+2, which looks far different than it standard two-seater configuration.  Overall both at 240Z and the 280Z are incredibly good looking vehicles.

240Zvs280Z1

RELATED: 350Z vs 370Z: Which One is Actually Better?

The most talked about difference between the 240Z and the 280Z are the bumpers. Most people absolutely hate the bumpers on the 280Z, and understandably so. The bumpers on the 280Z are massive compared to the bumpers on the 240Z.

240Z vs 280Z: Powertrain

As you might have already figured, the numbers in Z car names have a meaning. “240” refers to the 2.4L engine that it came with from the factory, and “280” refers to the 2.8L engine. Like I mentioned before, the 280Z’s engine is a bored out version of the 240Z’s engine.

The 240Z made an impressive 150 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 148 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm. By todays standards those numbers are pathetic, but in 1970 these numbers were incredible. The 280Z makes 149 horsepower at 5,600 at 5,600 rpm, and 163 lb-ft at @4,400.

240Zvs280Z2

RELATED: G35 vs 350Z: Which One is Actually Better?

I know what you’re thinking; “how does the 240Z make just as much power as the 280Z?”. The reason they make the same horsepower is for various reasons, but mostly the lowered compression ratio. Interestingly enough the 280Z makes 15 lb-ft more than the 240Z. That extra torque makes the 280Z more fun to drive from stoplight to stoplight.

The 240Z was carbureted, whilst the 280Z used a Bosch fuel injection system. This fuel injection system is said to be nearly maintenance free. Later 240Zs have carburetors with emissions restrictions, which many people complained about.

240Z vs 280Z: Suspension

Both the 240Z and the 280Z share the same suspension system. They both use a fully independent MacPherson strut setup. The 240Z and the 280Z had minor differences such as metal thickness, tube thickness, spring rates, etc. Other than a few minor differences they shared completely identical suspension setups.

So Which One is Better?

Up to this point the 240Z and the 280Z are basically identical. Other than the engine size they are extremely similar. Most people prefer the 240Z because it weighs less, and can make a slightly better track car. I personally agree with that; I would prefer the 240Z simply for the weight advantage. Which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below!

About Bryce Cleveland 278 Articles
Bryce founded Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 as a way to write about the cars he found interesting. He currently owns a 2003 Honda CRF450R Supermoto, 2006 Nissan 350Z, and a 2018 Yamaha MT09. Follow him on Instagram for more @bryce.cleveland.

13 Comments

  1. The 2.8l makes 170-175hp at the fly wheel depending on the cylinder head. The power was rated differently in 1975 compared to the early 70’s.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_S30
    I’ve owned both. When I was you ger I liked the idea of the 240z being lighter. I swapped the L28ET motor into it. That’s the turbo motor found in the ’81-’83. It developed 200hp stock. The car was slighlty faster than a stock 350Z.
    I prefer the later s30’s now. They are more comfortable, quieter, the drive train was ‘beefed’ up, such as the stub axles. I used to have to chamge the U-joints in the 240z fairly often. Never have an issue with the u-joints i the drive shaft, nor the stub axles in the 280z.
    They’re both wonderful cars.

  2. I agree the one you own is awesome. And, in my ’77 280Z the u-joints are not replaceable so I just bought a new drive shaft ($$$) with another non-replaceable U-joint on it. However, if you’ve driven both, the 280Z seems more solid, stable and quiet. My AC hasn’t needed Freon-12 since the 80s and works brilliantly. It seems that the door panels are thicker, the roof liner appears thicker and the rear deck is more solid. As a driver, the 280Z is best but if you’re on the track, use a 240Z. Ideally, I put 240Z bumpers on it and that little rail across the front (nice Euro touch).

  3. Owned the ’75 280, wonderful car. With the fuel injection, if you left it to warm up, it would ramp the throttle down. Try that with the carbuerated versions.

  4. Yo just a heads up that yellow car is a 280z. 240z’s didn’t have the hood vents and the turn signals at the front were located in a different spot. I love my l28et swapped 1976 280z.

  5. Back in the day, it was generally accepted that 240Z (Fairlady Z in Japan) was a rocket. Light, fast and nimble. Raw sports cars/GTs. The 260Z (bored) was an interim ‘smog car’ for 74 or 75 that most people hated (compared to the faster 240). I seem to recall twitchy new carbs, lower compression and gobs of smog crap. So when the bored and stroked FI 280Z came out, we all cheered and faith was restored. Except they did get heavier, jazzed up, smogged out (too) and had those UGLY oversized bumper ‘shelves’. Yuk! But everybody body back then had to comply with those *@&#$ed up gov ‘5MPH safety bumpers’. (hence, the ruined MGB rubber bumper cars) But the 280Z got fast again! And we were happy. Just needed a 5-speed, which “Katayama-san” later provided as an option until last year of 280Z when it became standard. But there was ONE car from Nippon faster back then. A Madza Rotary Coupe (RX-7?). Anyway, if you want a poor man’s 250GTO, Toyota 2000GT or perhaps even an XKE coupe, any early Z will do! Amazing cars.

    • Further to my base post/comment, Nissan (aka, “Datsun” for foreign OR domestic lower end cars back then) seemed to follow Kawasaki Aircraft Company (later Kawasaki Motorcycles) with their Z line-up. That’s to say, the original/amazing (and affordable!) Kawasaki H1 MachIII triple 2-stroke street shredder was — like the 240Z — a no-frills, cheap entry offering with amazing raw performance, styling and value that crushed the competition. The early H1s (69 thur 71) were uncivilized beasts, and needed taming down for marketing and government reasons. So like the 240-260-280Z ‘lineage/transition’ during the 70’s that got tamer, more refined and civilized, so did the H1 triples up till 76 or 77 when they were finally phased out in favor of 4-strokes. But back then, Japan INC’s strategy was ALWAYS to enter a new export market (for them) with a striking, high performance and breakthrough machine/product for “cheap money” compared to the competition. Then, as they got market share and ‘refined the product’, they’d raise prices or tame the edginess to appeal to broader customer base (and their shareholders).

  6. I am fortunate that I have owned a 76 280z, a 78 280z, and an 85 rx7. I loved all these cars. Got my first z when I was just 17 years old (1983). I feel the 280’s had more power and classic lines but the rx7 was rather nimble and quick handling. I am 51 years old now and looking at getting a 78 280z black pearl edition project car. It needs a lot of work but I am getting ready to tear into it. Plan on putting the L28ET engine into it. Its been nearly 30 years since I’ve owned a z. You may notice the value and recognition of these cars seems to be raising quite a bit in recent years.

  7. Back when they were new cars and I was but a tyke my mother had owned a 280ZX and I remember the car quite fondly. Recently I found myself in the market for a car and one of the S30/S130 lineage really appealed to me. I studied on what I wanted from, and considered important in, a project car. I decided on the 1983 280ZX 2+2 Turbo for a few reasons.

    One of the important reasons is that the ’83 has refinements over earlier cars like a power assisted rack-and-pinion over the earlier recirculating-ball. Several optional features became standard by ’83 and a 5-speed manual over a three and four speed automatic really appealed to me. I’ve owned a three-speed transmission and I always worried about driving it at higher speeds on the highway.

    The 2+2, while the least track car esque of the options, makes for a more accessible daily driver and comes standard with the GL trim level. The turbo helps a little to counteract the additional weight and keep the car ‘sporty’.

    They’re also far and away the black sheep of the line making them much less expensive than the 240’s and parts are more readily (-ish) available because fewer people find them appealing. Perhaps its childhood nostalgia, but I think the 81-83 were some of the better cars of the line.

  8. The bumper alone makes the 240z look way, way better. Maybe not safer — but better. The 280z is otherwise great. The ZX, though? Too much gaud. The lines and thin bumpers on the 240z are amazing.

  9. Having owned a 260z , with a few more horses and virtually the same weight and better carbs , I’m going off the board for 1000 please alex

  10. I had both s 1973 240z and a 1978 280z. Both great cars and fun to drive. Hard to day but maybe the 240z for sure more luggage space. I would like to have another one either 240z or 280z

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. 350Z vs 370Z: Which One is Actually Better?
  2. VQ35DE: Everything You Want to Know | Specs and More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*