A question I commonly see floating around the internet is whether or not it is possible to daily drive a vintage Z car such as the 240Z, 260Z, 280Z, 280ZX, or 300ZX. Of course daily driving a classic car is definitely possible, but an affirmative answer of “yes, you can daily drive one” certainly comes with some caveats. In this article, I will go over a few things to consider when making this decision — routine and unexpected maintenance, theft prevention, depreciation, and much more, including my own experience daily driving a 240Z in college!
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My Experience Daily Driving a 240Z
NOTE: Below is a story of buying my 240Z and why I was so dead-set on daily driving it. If you’d just like to skip to tips and advice on daily driving a Z-car, you can just scroll past this section.
In high school, I fell in love with the feeling of driving my dad’s 1970 Z28 Camaro. He let me drive it whenever I wanted during the summer months, so as soon as I learned how to drive a manual transmission, I’d take it out nearly every night to drive around town while the streets were quiet and uncrowded. That experience was cathartic for me. The excitement of a powerful V8 and the close connection you have driving an older vehicle is a special feeling in itself. There is little else you end up focusing on apart from the road.
After graduating, I moved 400 miles away to attend college in another state. Among all the changes and stresses of becoming a college student, I realized how much I missed driving an old car all the time. I couldn’t bring the Z28 to college of course, so I began to look for alternative cars that would give me that same feeling I missed. I grew up around American muscle cars, so I may have never even seen a 240Z until this YouTube video popped up one day. Instantly, I fell in love with the look and sound of the 240Z. I began to research prices and whether or not I could afford such a car. Earlier in my search, I found that most cars in my price range wouldn’t have the vintage feeling I knew from the Z28. I had some money saved up from working throughout high school, but not $30,000 for a second-gen Camaro! When I discovered the 240Z, I thought that if I looked hard enough, I could find a decent one to enjoy.
So I began my search, and quickly became frustrated at the amount of rusty 240Zs that would otherwise be excellent cars. I kept at it though, checking the classifieds around the country daily. A lot of what I learned is detailed in the ZCarGuide 240Z Buyer’s Guide and Pricing Guide. Eventually, I found a dry 240Z in Arizona while on vacation with my family. It was priced very fairly, looked great from the pictures, and the owner seemed trustworthy over the phone. I begged my dad to go look at it with me, and we took off to Flagstaff, AZ.
It ended up being a fantastic car. Low miles, absolutely no rust, and the owner had kept up with all maintenance you could possibly want on the car — with corresponding receipts and notes saved! Window sticker, original Datsun dealer plate frame, even a can of 918 New Sight Orange touch up paint from 1971!
The car was so nice, that I actually had a new problem… it might have been too nice for what I planned to do with it! I knew that back at college, I’d have no indoor storage for it. A car that had enjoyed garaged life in dry Arizona for 40+ years, would suddenly sit outside in an East Coast college town for two years? Maybe not such a great idea. Even before I began my search, I decided that I’d bring it home where I could garage it, long before the first snowfall hit, so that wasn’t much of a concern. My main concern was possible rust and theft.
I decided that I would not let my good luck ironically spoil my plans of treating this car the way I intended. Instead, I took it as a sign that I should enjoy this car regardless of environment. Looking back, I’m really glad I made that decision. Although I definitely took some precautions to make sure big issues didn’t occur (which I’ll detail below) I never had any problems with theft, breaking down, or really anything major. In fact, the car served me exactly how I wanted it to — I got my nights of driving once traffic had calmed down in town to relax and unwind, and always loved being “that guy” on campus driving around in the orange 240Z (actually, the “orange Porsche” depending on who you asked).
Maintenance and Rust Proofing
A cheap battery tender is a great investment so you’re never stuck with battery issues.
Ask anyone who drives a vintage car regularly, and you’ll get the same answer in some form or another — you need to keep up with regularly scheduled maintenance. Add in the rust prone nature of the 240Z, and you really need to be on your toes. For me, this meant regularly changing and topping off oil, keeping the tires full of air, charging the battery with a good tender charger like this one when I could, swapping in some fresh spark plugs, among other tasks.
Another aspect of maintaining your 240Z that I felt was important was making sure I was protected from rust as best I could manage. I personally found a local Line-X store which offered protective coating for the underside of my 240Z. Originally I was afraid to even drive the car in the rain, fearing water spraying into nooks and crannies of the underside where rust would start. However, with some protective coating, and garaging the car long before any salt made its way onto the roads for the winter, I still do not have even the beginnings of rust underneath my 240Z.
As I said earlier, due to my relatively meticulous maintenance, I never had any major issues. I had to replace the clutch slave cylinder once but that was actually an inexpensive and easy repair. I also replaced the ignition switch as it started to get really finicky and I suspected it was going to break on me completely at some point. I bought this replacement ignition switch on eBay and was blown away by the level of quality in that replacement part. For $50, you can’t beat it.
Another potential issue of driving a classic Z car regularly is that there are definitely some convenience problems that will arise. While it was always fun to take along a passenger for a ride, not being able to take any other passengers was sometimes difficult. This probably won’t be an issue for you, and to be honest it wasn’t that big of a deal for me, but being a college student it sometimes would’ve been really handy to be able to take even one additional passenger. I’d be lying if I said I never had a smaller passenger lie down in the cargo area for some short trip, but again, not convenient.
Another issue, especially in some very humid summers, was the lack of air conditioning. Although I was fortunate in that my 240Z was one of the rare few that came from the dealership with an installed A/C unit, it certainly didn’t blow too cold. I had it professionally repaired once and even before it broke again, it never provided that much comfort. I may consider buying a modern A/C conversion kit like this one from ZCarDepot some day. Overall, I had to rely on good ol’ 280 air (2 windows down, 80 miles an hour) and made do with some extra USB fans that I connected to the cigarette lighter. Certainly not an ideal situation (I showed up to my first job interview literally drenched in sweat because of this) but still worth it.
There are a few other miscellaneous convenience issues with driving a classic Z car. Many Z-cars have the infamous gas leak through the interior side of the rear hatch vents, but I taped them shut and never had an issue again. I’d imagine I won’t be happy with the state of that panel when I remove the tape, but I also enjoyed not getting a headache every time I had to drive more than an hour.
One positive that you won’t expect: The 240Z gets incredible gas mileage in my opinion. I had to drive hundreds of miles back and forth from home to college, and I regularly got over 25 mpg.
The SpyTec GL300 is by far the most comprehensive anti-theft approach you can take to securing your classic car.
My absolute biggest fear with the Z-car was that it would be stolen while I had it at college. Because the single most effective automotive theft prevention technique is keeping your car garaged, I felt like I was really leaving myself vulnerable in this regard. Not to mention, the college town I lived in was a super high-crime area. I spent a lot of time researching this and actually wrote a complete guide on Classic Car Theft Prevention but I ended up focusing on two key precautions:
GPS Tracker — After shopping around, I decided to buy a SpyTec GL300 tracker which served me well. The device itself is very cheap and the tracking service offered by SpyTec is similarly inexpensive. I originally thought I would have issues with charging the device, but it lasts at least two weeks on a full charge and only takes an hour or so to charge up to full. I would just charge it every week or so, and then stash it away inside the storage area behind the driver’s seat. SpyTec offers geofencing so you can get alerts when the car leaves a specified area.
Removing the distributor rotor — Anytime I had to leave my 240Z for more than a little while, or felt sketchy about the area I was parking in, I would remove my distributor rotor. Simply pop the hood, snap off the retaining clips on your distributor cap, and pull the rotor directly off. Good luck to anyone who wants to start the car at that point. Of course, this doesn’t prevent anyone from loading it on to a flatbed or something, but it is a nice additional layer of security.
What kind of Z?
A nice 280ZX would be a fantastic car to daily drive.
Another factor that you should consider if you are in the position I was — wanting to daily drive a 240Z — you may want to consider broadening your search to the entire Z-car spectrum. You can still find 280Zs, 280ZXs, and 300ZXs that would work fantastically for this purpose. Of course, the older the Z, the less it will give you that “old car feeling” I was after. However, I recognize how lucky I was to find such a great 240Z at the price I bought it for, and I realize that the market has changed drastically since then.
If I were to be back in the market again for a Z car I could daily drive, I might look more for a 280ZX. A well kept 280ZX is a fantastic car to drive and has many of the creature-comforts you may not find in an older Z-car. I’m not saying that the 280ZX isn’t a wonderful car, because it is, but it may offer you an enjoyable ride without some of the headaches and worries a 240Z or 280Z would come with. Best of all, 280ZX prices are very affordable at the moment. If this interests you, I recommend you check out our 280ZX Classifieds Page.
Overall, I’d say: DO IT!
Moving out of my dorm sophomore year was certainly interesting.
The internet is full of naysayers, and the online car community is no different. After reading tons of advice from people who say driving a decades old car is simply impractical and stupid, and that my car would be stolen within 20 minutes, I decided to go for it because I had done my research. I’d probably feel differently if my Z car had been stolen, or ran into by some drunk college kid on campus, but none of that happened, and I had an absolute blast. While I fully respect and love the collector car community, not every classic car should spend its life in a garage, only seeing the light of day when it’s 70 and sunny with a 0% chance of rain. Do your research, make the right preparations, but know that it is not only possible, but recommended if you ask me!