Fairlady 240ZG Street-Custom
Nissan’s Fairlady Z, more familiarly known as the Datsun 240Z in the United States, debuted in late 1969 (as a 1970 model) to wide acclaim. The US market 240Z was equipped with a 151 hp 2.4-liter straight-six motor fed by twin SU-style carburetors. The Z’s four-wheel independent suspension, manual transmission, and light weight made it a very capable sports car package, while its reliability and ease of ownership ensured it was a sports car that could be counted on to start every time and complete every trip.
While the US market Datsun 240Z featured the 2.4-liter six from the start, the Japanese home market Fairlady Z debuted with a 2.0-liter six in consideration of the Japanese system of taxation based on displacement. Even the fearsome Fairlady Z432 and Z432R made do with a 2.0-liter six-cylinder from the original Skyline GT-R, although this S20 engine featured an exotic (at the time) dual overhead cam setup and an extremely high redline. However, in late 1971 the 2.4-liter was added to the home market’s Z-car lineup in the form of the Fairlady 240Z and the now range-topping Fairlady 240ZG (since the Z432 and Z432R, with their less-than-ideal-for-the-streets S20 engine, had ostensibly been discontinued).
The Fairlady 240ZG (the G standing for Grand) was born as an homologation special to legalize several new racing parts for the Z. Most prominent was the G-nose, an aerodynamic fascia that added nearly eight inches to the Z and featured clear headlight covers. The G-nose added significant stability and speed advantages in racing when compared to the standard Z’s blunt nose, and it was ultimately offered as a post-sale add-on for American Zs to support the US racing efforts. The Fairlady 240ZG was equipped with more than just the nose, featuring riveted fiberglass fender flares, a five-speed transmission, and a few cosmetic tweaks. The ZG was offered in three colors: Grand Prix White, Grand Prix Red, and Grand Prix Maroon (a ZG exclusive color).
The core of Tamiya’s 1/12 scale Fairlady 240ZG kit dates from 1972, released initially as the Datsun 240Z Safari Car kit. The original release of the 240ZG followed in 1973, and even today’s reissue includes many of the pieces used only on the Safari Car. This latest release of the ZG is part of Tamiya’s growing number of Street-Custom editions. These kits feature newly tooled performance parts to enhance reissues of existing models. In the case of the ZG, these Street-Custom parts include:
- A Nissan factory rear spoiler (an option on the ZG).
- An aftermarket strut tower brace.
- A set of three, two-barrel side-draft carburetors and the matching intake manifold (unbranded parts, but visually similar to the common triple-Mikuni carb upgrade found on many Zs).
- Six turned-metal air intake funnels (horns) for the carburetors.
- A sheet of pre-cut fabric seat belts.
- A photo-etch fret with seat belt hardware and a heat shield for the triple-carb setup.
- Licensed RS Watanabe wheels.
The ZG kit is huge! I’ve provided a photo of the body next to Hasegawa’s 1/24 scale Z-car for comparison. Tamiya’s ZG arrives in a nearly 1.5 x 2-foot box. The finished model is just over a foot long, and the ZG is a true multi-media kit. In addition to the Street-Custom photo-etch, turned-metal parts, and fabric seat belts, the basic kit is molded in styrene, a hard-rubber material, a soft-rubber material, and includes (working) metal suspension springs, rubber tires, aluminum stickers for mirrors and reflectors, rubber tubing for wiring, and screws.
The kit includes 20 sprues, and the traditional styrene trees are molded in black, metallic gray, chrome, satin chrome, clear, clear red, and clear orange. The hard- and soft-rubber sprues are molded in black. The instructions are provided in a 20-page booklet, and the kit includes a single decal sheet. The decal sheet provides the needed instrument and license plate decals, however, it also includes a partial set of decals for a period 240ZG race car. The instructions state simply to “use extra stickers as you wish.” As a final touch, Tamiya provides a second, clear hood that allows the detailed engine to be showcased, if so desired.
A kit this size is ideal for super detailing, and Tamiya’s design already offers several interesting features to kick start that effort. First, there are a great number of moving and opening parts. The doors and rear hatch all open, and the hatch features a simple sliding piston that allows it to stay in the open position. The engine bay features two removable inspection hatches near the cowl, although the real hatches are hinged. The hood itself is designed to open forward on hinges, as on the real car. However, I found the fit to be quite tight when I installed the hood and hinge rods at the very end of the build. If you’d like to retain the opening hood, it would be best to temporarily attach it before painting so that the fit could be adjusted with a bit of sanding. Since the kit includes a second, clear hood, I chose to leave the hinges off, allowing the two hoods to be swapped.
Below the car, the kit not only offers the previously mentioned functional suspension, it also features a full steering system, rotating wheels and brake discs, and rotating half shafts linking the rear wheels and differential. The driveshaft can be rotated manually, but it is not linked to the remainder of the moving driveline.
Moving to the engine bay, the L24 engine is a model in its own right. Tamiya provides rubber tubing in two diameters to represent spark plug and coil wires, the PCV vent hose, the engine block’s radiator tube, and the triple-carb fuel lines. The instructions helpfully provided diagrams to allow quick and easy cutting of the tubing to length. With the size of the model and the relatively uncluttered engine bay on the Z, it would be easy to add the other tubing and wiring (electrical, brakes, clutch, etc.) found in the engine bay.
Looking inside the ZG, the interior is extremely well represented. The doors are hinged, and feature accurately detailed hard-rubber door cards. Stock and custom racing-style bucket seats are provided, with fabric seat belts for the latter. The console, dash, and gauges are accurately reproduced, and the steering wheel is connected to the front wheels. The kit provides a simple roll bar and a spare tire for the rear hatch area. The interior tub and side walls are provided in hard-rubber and look very much like typical automotive plastic, however, they are missing the very distinctive crosshatch of the Z’s vinyl upholstery found on the transmission tunnel and rear shock towers. I didn’t attempt to cut the pattern into the rubber, but it may be possible.
If you follow the instructions, the ZG is built mostly around the chassis, progressing from the suspension, to the engine, and finally to the interior. The body shell is then built separately, and it’s attached over the completed chassis. In general, I followed the chassis-then-body construction method; if I were to build the kit again, I would work on the bare chassis and body first, to ensure that everything aligned and fit correctly, and then apply my paint.
Overall, the fit of the kit is excellent, and construction is fairly straightforward. Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of the assembly, I’ll simply provide some notes on a few tricky areas.
No matter how you chose to build the ZG, the chassis needs to be painted before its components can be installed. Be sure to read ahead in the instructions and attach the handful of parts that need to be body color before painting begins, such as the spare tire well (part B11), suspension arm bushing holders (parts A19 and A23), and windshield washer tank bracket (part A10).
Also prior to painting the chassis, there are a few areas that could benefit from some scratchbuilding. First, the frame rails in the engine bay are open to the top (see photo). In the typical Z, these are fully boxed in. It’s difficult to find accurate photos of the real 240ZG as most were raced and modified and there are many clones, however, my research turned up nothing about open frame rails and no photos of them on any Z, so in my opinion it’s highly unlikely something so structurally important would be modified. Thus, I used sheet styrene to close the tops of these rails, ensuring that I left the mounting peg for the PCV catch tank base (part T6) exposed.
Beyond the rails, the front radiator support structure is pure fiction, and could be modified to match the real Z with some work. Finally, the firewall is split horizontally between the chassis and body shell, which leaves a fairly prominent seam in the engine bay. In my mind, the most practical solution would be a very thin veneer of styrene sheet applied to the body’s upper portion of the firewall, extending downward to cover the chassis firewall, with a cutout to fit around the steering shaft/master cylinder support plate (part A6). This would hide the seam, and the veneer’s lower edge would fall behind the majority of the engine for a nearly seamless look when the two sections are brought together.
With the chassis painted, the multitude of semi-gloss black suspension components can be added. It’s important to clear the paint from the attachment points on the chassis and use a styrene glue, as a strong bond is required for the working suspension parts to move and flex; superglue did not stand up to the forces involved. When building the working struts, the spring caps (part E1 on all four assemblies) need to be firmly secured in place with glue. Otherwise, any twisting motion may cause the cap to unseat allowing the spring to pop free. Fixing this is a major annoyance if it occurs in the later stages of the build. I also chose to paint the springs and sway bars red to offer a bit of color and aftermarket flare. For the red, I used a paint designed for Lexan R/C car bodies, as it’s designed to flex without cracking which is ideal for the springs.
The engine and transmission assembly was trouble free and amazingly detailed. The provided diagrams made cutting tubing and wiring the distributor easy. The only challenge was cutting strips from the included aluminum stickers to bundle the spark plug wires. The material was challenging to cut and work with, and ultimately I only used one loop near the distributor. So long as you position the wires around either side of the oil cap, they won't interfere with the hood or strut tower brace. I used Scale Motorsport’s Faux Fabrix black spray on the chrome engine cover to recreate a black crinkle finish commonly seen on Z-cars. I sprayed the coating on and waited a few minutes, after which I was able to use a toothpick to remove the slightly damp coating from the raised lettering and lines. Once dry, the texture looked exactly right and was fairly robust when handled.
The triple-Mikuni carb setup was very impressive. The pieces are newly tooled and look accurate, albeit with a few seam lines to remove. The included turned-metal intake horns really make the setup stand out (provided you black out the mounting pegs once the horns are installed). The carb setup includes its own set of fuel lines (that terminate out of view in the transmission tunnel, yet another superdetailing opportunity), and helpfully Tamiya provides a block-off plate for the location of engine block’s unused mechanical fuel pump. As best as I could tell, the stock twin-SU carb setup parts are all included, along with the distinctive orange air filter housing, to allow a stock Fairlady 240ZG engine to be built.
With the engine and transmission completed and installed on the soft-rubber engine mounts, the ancillary details were ready to be installed. These details include working brake and clutch pedals, a detailed battery, and the steering linkage. The clutch and brake master cylinder assemblies mount to the firewall support plate (part A6), however, the once the plate is installed in the chassis, the brake master cylinder fouls slightly against the wheel arch. It may be possible to sand down the master cylinder or brake booster mounting pegs a bit, but I discovered the clearance issue too late.
The final step in the chassis assembly is the interior. Overall, it’s a really easy build process. I didn’t try to add the aforementioned crosshatch quilting to the hard rubber interior tub or the basic carpeting found in the Z, as I had my doubts that the rubber would readily accept the necessary carving or glue applications, respectively. The spare wheel and tire can be left out; the wheel well cover is almost impossible to remove with the body on, so the spare is better served in your own spare parts box. The cargo straps found in the trunk are not included with the kit, but the slots for the straps are present in the floor covers. The fabric seat belts are self-adhesive, and require some patience and skill to thread through the photo-etch buckles. Once applied to the optional racing-style seats, they look fantastic and will remain positioned in a natural drape thanks to the adhesive.
The dashboard is cleverly designed with detail parts inserted from the rear of the one-piece molding. A slight sink mark on the dash’s gauge faring will need to be filled. The decals for the five gauges are troublesome. First, the excess carrier film is enough to ensure they decals won’t fit precisely into position. This is compounded by the second issue: the decals are fairly fragile and didn’t stand up to much manipulation. The key to an easier application is trimming the excess carrier film off completely.
Once the dashboard is complete, it is mounted onto the center console. There is a slight amount of play between the mounting surfaces, and it’s important to ensure the dashboard is affixed leaning back, towards the firewall, and not leaning forward, towards the rear of the car. The body shell meets the dash’s cowling (part C38), and a gap will appear if the dashboard is leaning towards the rear of the car. Although the door cards are assemble later, it’s worth noting that they are made of the same hard-rubber material as the interior tub. The door cards have a thin trim line molded on that should be silver. I found this exceedingly difficult to paint because of the rubber material, so I carefully used superglue to attach Bare Metal Foil (its own adhesive backing failed to stick to the rubber) to the trim line.
The instructions sequence for assembling the body should largely be ignored. To achieve a good fit and finish, it’s vital that all of the body-colored components be fitted together first, before any paint is applied or any details are added. This is particularly true for the multi-part upper nose. Be sure to fit the hood, including hinges, in place before tackling the nose, as sanding and adjustment will be required. It’s also important to use the lower, gray-painted portion of the nose (parts P1, P12, P13, and P14) to ensure the fit. I did not, and the fit of lower fascia was slightly off in the final assembly.
Before painting, you’ll want to ensure that the body’s door hinge assemblies are attached. These assemblies are a significant portion of the body’s door frame and door sill, and in my build, once the assemblies were squared and attached, there was a small gap left in the door sill. This was easily filled with a bit of sheet styrene and sanded smooth.
There are a couple of notes on preparing the body for painting. There are a few sink marks that should be filled on the hood, the engine inspection hatches, and on the inside and outside of the rear hatch. These sinks may not be visible until you’ve applied a coat of primer. There are four nubs around the rear hatch area the need to be removed and sanded smooth (these are identified in the instructions), and there are several mold seam lines that should be sanded smooth. On the rear of the body, there are two vertical seams (one next to the exhaust cutout, the other in the same position on the opposite side) that actually appear on the real Z; these seams should not be cleaned up (or should be replaced with an engraved line). However, if you’re entering a contest and chose to leave the lines in place, you should note on your entry form that these are correct for the Z-cars to help avoid judging issues.
You should also consider the fender flares (parts P17, P18, P19, and P20) before painting. These are contoured to fit the specific wheel arches, so you’ll want to ensure that you don’t mix them up while cleaning them up and painting; I lightly scribed the part number onto the back to ensure there were no mixups. The fit is good, but not perfect, and the flares have no positive mounting location, so they can be tricky to fit evenly. Thus, you may want to consider fitting them before painting, and then masking them off later to apply their metallic gray color. This will ensure a tighter fit, however, I applied my flares with superglue after painting. This method is easier in some ways, but will require great care to avoid marring the body’s paintwork.
A final note for superdetailing, on the stock ZG these fiberglass flares were simply riveted on over the steel arches. On a customized Z, often the steel arches of the fender, below the added fiberglass flares, will be cut out to allow fitment of a larger and/or wider wheel. Although this Street-Custom edition comes with aftermarket RS Watanabe wheels, they match the stock steel wheels in size, so they wouldn’t require the steel arches to be cut, but the possibility to do so is there.
Bumpers, glass, marker lights, the rear spoiler, the three-piece tail finishing panel (parts C15, C16, and C17), the lower front fascia, etc., can all be attached after painting. The three-piece tail panel is actually three pieces on the real Z, so the seams are correct (another note for your contest entry form, although they are mostly hidden by the rear license plate). The three-piece chrome rear bumper is also appropriately split, however, press photos of the ZG show this assembly as painted in the same metallic gray as the rest of the add-ons. The front bumper does not appear to be a three-piece assembly (parts P2, P15, and P16) on the ZG, so I filled and sanded the seams to give it a one-piece appearance.
The Fairlady 240ZG was only offered in three colors, including the box art’s ZG-exclusive Grand Prix Maroon, but I decided to stick with the Street-Custom theme of the kit while still offering a nod to the original by selecting a 2006 Nissan 350Z limited-edition color: Interlagos Fire. This is a color-shifting paint, with a color spectrum ranging from a deep purple through a metallic maroon and ending with a golden bronze. The color shift is created by special particles in the paint, which reflect differently based on the lighting and viewing angle.
While the paint sounds exotic, it is readily available from ScaleFinishes.com. ScaleFinishes provides airbrush-ready paint matched to actual factory car colors. Interlagos Fire is a base coat, meaning that it requires a clear coat over the base color to achieve a glossy finish. I used a full two ounce bottle of the paint on the ZG, and although I didn’t need it, I was very glad that I had ordered a second bottle as the painting was drawing to a close.
I started by using Tamiya’s Fine Surface Primer (Light Gray) to check my bodywork. After wet sanding with 2000-grit paper, I was ready to apply the base color coat. ScaleFinishes recommends starting with a 50% coverage layer. After five minutes, a full-coverage coat can be applied. If additional coats are needed, they can be applied in five minute intervals. I found that I needed about three coats for even coverage. The key to the full-coverage coats is ensuring that the paint goes on wet without running. This can be a fine balance, but I practiced on styrene sheets first. If the paint does not go on wet, you’ll quickly end up with streaks as your paint dries unevenly. ScaleFinishes recommends using a drop coat (a final, misting coat over the last full-coverage coat) to help even out the look of metallic paints. I followed this advice and it seemed to help in areas where I had mild streaking.
I also feel that it’s important to paint all of the body parts at once, even if they’re separated from the main assembly (like the hood, hatch, and doors in my case). With each coat, I started with the edges of the body, then painted the body, then painted the door edges, the door exterior, the hatch edges, hatch interior, hatch exterior, and then the hood edges, interior, and exterior. By following a set sequence with each coat, you’ll ensure that you’ll build up a consistent color depth and coverage across all of the parts.
The paint is fairly forgiving in reality, although I had some challenges applying it to the large, curved roof. This surface collected paint in the edges, and my wet coats went on too wet. I tried my best to even out the application with subsequent coats, but I was left with some visible streaking, even after some light sanding. In hindsight, I should have sanded the mistakes out fully, re-primed the roof, and tried again.
I chose to use Testors Wet-Look Clear, a lacquer-based product in a spray can, to provide a clear coat, although essentially any gloss clear could be used. The clear coat needs to be applied within a week, but can be applied as soon as 20 minutes after the last color coat. I found it’s best to apply the clear coat as soon as possible to avoid the base coat picking up dust.
As with the base coat, you’ll want to ensure that the Wet-Look Clear goes on evenly, wet, and quickly. If it’s not applied wet, the overspray will settle on adjacent areas that are already drying and texture the smooth surface, spoiling its luster.
Dust is a challenge for the clear coat as well. Even with the lacquer-based clear’s quick drying time, you’ll want to protect the wet body for at least 20 minutes to avoid the clear picking up dust. I use a plastic storage bin, wiped clean with a rubbing alcohol and a lint-free cloth, to protect the drying finish. I kept the ZG’s cleared body boxed overnight, and then used Novus #2 Fine Scratch Remover paste, followed by Novus #1 Plastic Clean & Shine liquid, to help bring out the clear coat’s full shine. If you end up with dust spots in the clear, carefully wet sanding with extremely fine sandpaper may remove or reduce the appearance of the dust. I progressively use a set of MicroMesh 3200- to 12000-grit cushioned sanding sheets for this task.
Tamiya recommends their TS-38 Gun Metal spray for the ZG’s metallic gray details. This went on easily over the Fine Surface Primer and dried to a nice, glossy finish after two coats. The Watanabes are called out in semi-gloss black, but I chose to use Testors Burnt Iron Metalizer sealed with Future to give them a complimentary bronze color which is offered as an available finish on their magnesium wheels. The interior roll bar is also called out in semi-gloss black, but I used the exterior’s Interlagos Fire to bring an accent to the interior. Also inside the cabin, the roof and rear hatch area should be painted black to represent the headliner.
The doors attached window frame, the body’s molded lips above the doors, the edges of the rear-quarter windows, and the headlight cover edges should be chrome. I contemplated masking them and using Alclad Chrome, however, I decided to use Bare Metal Foil since the areas being covered on this 1/12 scale kit were large enough to be very easy to work on.
With the painting complete, I started to add the final details to the ZG. Building the car had been trouble free until this point, however, a few issues started to show up here. For a model dating to 1972, the engineering of the kit is fairly remarkable. It’s easy to see why Tamiya has developed into the gold standard today. That said, the kit does not show the same attention to detail found in a modern Tamiya kit. For example, most of the beautiful chrome exterior details are attached to the sprue in visible areas, leaving you to touch up these flaws as best you can or repaint the entire piece, defeating the point of the chrome. Although only a real problem on the chrome parts, these less-than-ideal attachment points are found on most of the sprues. I won’t fault Tamiya for this issue as it’s found in nearly every model kit, but it’s interesting to note that their state-of-the-art 40 years ago is pretty much equal to most other manufacturers’ typical product today.
The major problem area in final assembly is the glass. The glass was not particularly clear, and could use a bit of polishing and a coat of Future, although the size makes this last step difficult. Tamiya designed the windshield and hatch glass to be edged with soft-rubber gaskets. To accomplish this, these two glass panels are slightly smaller than the opening, and held on with only four small attachment tabs that simply butt against the surrounding plastic. These flat tabs with no corresponding mounting pegs or brackets were hardly enough to hold the glass in place, even when I ensured that I removed the paint below them and applied Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. Despite my trepidation, I felt the need to use superglue to cover the attachment points for some extra security. Fortunately, the Future-coated glass did not fog. The rubber seals fit in the gap between the glass and the body, although they are too long and will need to be trimmed to meet in the middle.
Really, I wasn’t a fan of these gaskets, although I’m sure they were an impressive feature when the kit was originally released. They seem more gimmicky today, and I still don’t feel the glass is particularly secure. In addition, the front windshield seal on the actual Z-cars has a thin chrome strip. This is obviously absent, and I personally don’t know how it could be replicated on the surface of the soft-rubber seals. The remaining, non-gasketed, glass pieces fit securely, and were easily held in place with Testors Clear Parts Cement.
The spoiler, wing mirrors, badges, door hardware, and wheel arches were easily secured in place with superglue, although only the door hardware, mirrors, and a few of the badges have any sort of positive location pins. You’ll need to take your time to ensure everything is even without letting the superglue damage the finish. The bumpers pop on easily enough, and you may be able to avoid gluing them altogether. The body slips over the chassis fairly easily, with chassis-mounted tabs securing the rear and a pair of press-fit plugs in the wheel arches securing the front. These plugs have a tight, precise fit, enough so that my strut tower brace popped free as the chassis spread slightly when the plugs were inserted. The brace end was easily reinstalled with superglue.
The final assembly step is using the provided screws to attach the four wheels. To really make the ZG pop, I picked out the lug nuts and the rivets on the flares with silver paint applied using a toothpick. I didn’t want to use the extra markings, so the only decal to apply was the “FairladyZ” license plate marking to the blank plate on the rear of the car (I skipped the front plate and bracket, although these are required on cars in Japan). Before calling my project done, I applied a Flory Models Black wash to the various badges to replicate their real-world look. The excess was removed with a damp Q-tip, and the finished Fairlady 240ZG was given one more application of Novus #1 Plastic Clean & Shine.
Building Tamiya’s 1/12 scale Fairlady 240ZG was an exciting experience. I’ve owned a 1972 Datsun 240Z for many years, and it was fascinating to see all of the familiar features scaled down. But then, 1/12th scale can hardly be called “scaled down.” It’s an impressive display when completed. Despite being far narrower, it seems to dwarf Tamiya’s own large 1/32 scale P-51D when they are on the shelf together. This ZG cries out for super detailing beyond what is offered with Tamiya’s included multi-media parts, and with the cost of the kit (a street-price of around $175), it’s likely that it will be a once-in-a-lifetime build that you’ll want to make the most of.
I would certainly highly recommend this kit to intermediate or experienced builders. The large amount of gloss paintwork, the modeling experience needed to assemble the working functions, and certainly, the tricky glass would make this a challenge for true beginners. Still, Tamiya’s instructions are crystal clear, and the kit is superbly engineered overall, so this may be the perfect first large-scale build for someone with a few kits under their belt; especially if you’re passionate about the Z-car. My only personal disappointment in the kit was the lack of the standard Z-car nose from the Safari 240Z kit, as I’d have preferred to create a customized version of a more typical looking Z. Overall, though, this is an amazing kit you’ll have a blast putting together and you’ll easily be proud of the results.
My sincere thanks go to Tamiya USA for providing this impressive kit for review, and my thanks go to IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it.